Food security for refugeesAround the world, a record number of people have become forcibly displaced due to violence, natural disasters or a variety of other reasons. According to the U.N. Human Rights Council, 70.8 million people are forcibly displaced, and 25.9 million of those are considered refugees. At the same time, millions of people lacked food security around the world. The Peace Corps defines food security as “when families are able to afford and obtain enough nutritious food.” In 2018, more than 700 million people faced severe food insecurity.

Food security and refugee issues are deeply intertwined, as refugees are particularly vulnerable to becoming food-insecure. Worldwide, millions of refugees face food insecurity. Thankfully, many organizations are using their resources to create innovative solutions to provide healthy food to refugees who are not able to afford or access it. Here are three organizations that are improving food security for refugees:

African Women Rising

The Palabek refugee camp in northern Uganda hosts more than 38,000 refugees who have fled the brutal civil war in South Sudan. Humanitarian organizations have been struggling to find a long-term solution to food insecurity in the camp. While the Ugandan government allocates plots of land for refugees to farm on, these plots of land are usually too small for traditional farming techniques to work. However, the NGO African Women Rising (AWR) thinks it has found an innovative solution to malnutrition among refugees. In 2017, AWR introduced the camp to 30 by 30-meter plots of land known as “permagardens”.

AWR’s permagardens are specially cultivated in a way that allows them to maximize the number of crops, trees and plants that can be grown in them. It can take anywhere from a few months to a year to teach someone permagarden farming techniques. The total cost of developing, training and supporting a permagarden is just $85. The gardens primarily grow various fruits and vegetables, which provide vital micronutrients and vitamins that are not present in their monthly World Food Programme portions. Many other organizations are already starting to replicate the microgarden approach in refugee settings, including the U.N., the Danish Refugee Council and USAID.


Sunrise-USA was founded in 2011 by a group of Syrian-American professionals and claims to be one of the world’s leading humanitarian aid organizations focused on victims of war inside Syria and in refugee camps in neighboring countries. In addition, to providing food security for refugees, Sunrise-USA provides refugees with healthcare, orphan sponsoring services, education, water and sanitation. The organization also helps Syrian refugees, who are mostly Muslim, observe Islamic religious traditions such as Ramadan, Udhiya and Zakat.

Within Syria, Sunrise-USA works to deliver badly needed food baskets to besieged cities. These baskets typically contain chicken, eggs, dates, oils, margarine, tuna cans, sugar and powdered milk, and only cost $45 to produce. While the city of Aleppo was under siege, the organization delivered over 5,000 food baskets, as well as two containers of jackets, sweaters and mattresses. Sunrise-USA’s “Feed Them” campaign has delivered food aid to 30,000 families in need and has provided milk and baby formula to 20,000 vulnerable families with children.

Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger)

Action Contre La Faim (ACF) is a French organization that works in more than 45 countries to treat and prevent malnutrition. For more than 40 years, it has provided various forms of food aid where it is needed most. Its 7,500-member staff currently assists 21 million people worldwide. The organization has responded to various humanitarian crises that have generated large numbers of refugees, including the civil wars that have taken place in South Sudan and Syria, as well as the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

In Bangladesh, ACF works to increase food security for refugees who have escaped into the country from Myanmar. Every day, the organization provides 83,000 hot meals and 551,497 liters of water to Rohingya refugees. The organization has also conducted malnutrition screenings for 100,000 Rohingya children and has diagnosed over 11,000 malnourished children. These malnourished children were then referred to ACF’s emergency nutrition programs for treatment through mobile clinics.

As the global refugee crisis continues to intensify, more and more organizations will need to come together to provide both short-term and long-term solutions to food security for refugees. These organizations have shown they are more than willing to rise to this task and have each made a measurable impact on the wellbeing of refugees around the world.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

Drought in ZimbabweThere has been a severe, ongoing drought in Zimbabwe for the past few years. Zimbabwe is a particularly sensitive country to drought. Because it already has issues with food security, low amounts of rain and other water sources make the situation even more difficult. Due to the fact that most agriculture in Zimbabwe relies on rainwater, the crop harvests in the region have suffered severely as a result of the drought. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, nearly 5.3 million people in the country (about a third of the country’s full population) face food insecurity due to low rainwater killing crops. With about 63 percent of people in Zimbabwe living below the poverty line, they will feel the impact of this drought the most.

Drought conditions are worse than ever

Temperatures as of late have been several degrees higher than average. The years 2015-2018 were the hottest ever recorded around the globe. These hotter, drier conditions have effected Zimbabwe. The heat intensifies the drought’s impacts on crops and livestock, resulting in a decrease in available food. The main crop which Zimbabwe relies on is maize. Typically, Zimbabwe’s annual maize consumption is about 1.8 million tons. However, due to droughts, the harvest in 2019 may be closer to 1 million, which is nearly half of the usually available amount. Experts say this could be the worst drought Zimbabwe has faced in over 30 years, with the country seeing 15 to 45 percent less than average rainfall.

Zimbabwe Flash Appeal program and other solutions

To combat this issue, the UN has launched the Zimbabwe Flash Appeal program, working to provide 234 million USD in aid. The program offers much-needed resources like food, water, sanitation and overall protection to over 2.2 million people in the country. With food prices increasing as a result of new governmental policies, people will be needing this aid more than ever.

There are other potential solutions to this issue, as well. Dispersing silver iodide into clouds (effectively “seeding” them) causes the clouds to thicken. This makes it more likely for the rain to occur, as water droplets are super-cooled and made heavier. Silver iodide mimics the chemical structure of ice. This causes other water droplets that are already cold enough to freeze to attach themselves and fall as rain.

Zimbabwe is one of 56 countries in the world that uses cloud-seeding technology, budgeting about $400,000 for it in 2018. The science is new and uncertain, and whether it effectively alleviates drought conditions is still disputed. However, it could provide one option to help correct the drought in Zimbabwe.

Another avenue to explore is diversifying crops and livestock in the midst of changing environmental conditions. One adaptation undertaken in some regions is an increased reliance on poultry livestock, such as quail and other indigenous birds.

Despite challenges, local farmers are working together to overcome the challenges in the area due to the drought. Economic and environmental crises are severe, but with efforts by the UN and local people in the country, there is still hope amid the drought in Zimbabwe.

-Jade Follette
Photo: Pixabay

Kamala Harris's foreign policy

With such a broad field of candidates in the Democratic Primary, twenty in all, it is difficult to identify and to process the political positions of the various candidates. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has spoken on her positions on many topics including a $15 minimum wage and tax-cuts to the middle class. One issue that has not yet been discussed at length is Senator Kamala Harris’ foreign policy platform. Like many of the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, Harris does not have any direct foreign policy experience. As a former district attorney of San Francisco and later the attorney general of California, Harris holds strong experience and policy stances in regards to domestic policy. Harris currently holds opinions on the following issues: U.S. and Israel Relations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, direct U.S. involvement abroad, and North Korea.

U.S. and Israel Relations

Harris is a long-time supporter of strong relations between the U.S. and Israel, a topic that has become contentious within the Democratic Party. In 2017, Harris cosponsored a Senate resolution that challenged an earlier resolution from the U.N. Security Council which called for an end to the expansion of Israeli settlements into the West Bank region. This particular Senate resolution stated that it felt that the U.N. resolution condemned the state of Israel as a whole and not just the actions of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. In the past, Harris has stated that she believes in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and that she supports U.S. backed discussion between the two states. It is too early to tell, but Kamala Harris’s foreign policy platform will likely include a continuation of her support for a two-state solution with an emphasis on a continued relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Senator Harris, along with senators from both parties, opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP was introduced at the end of Obama’s presidency in 2016 and was promptly withdrawn by President Trump in Jan. 2017. The deal would have connected the U.S. in a formal trade agreement with Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. The agreement had the potential to increase U.S. trade and investment abroad. Harris’ own reasons for voting against the TPP include her belief that the agreement was not as apparent as it should have been to garner the full support and trust of the U.S. and that she found its intended changes to invalidate “California’s landmark climate change and environmental laws.” It is currently unclear if Harris intends to advocate for a re-entry of the U.S. into the TPP under revised conditions.

Direct Involvement Abroad: Syria and Yemen

In February of 2019, Harris voted against a Senate resolution proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that admonished President Trump’s removal of U.S. troops from Syria. Senator Harris did not publically explain her vote but may have been motivated by a desire to remove U.S. troops from Syria or a reluctance to be associated with a military presence that had not been authorized by Congress. Harris has also been vocal in her disapproval of U.S. support of a Saudi-led intervention in Yemen stating that she “believes we must reassert our constitutional authority to authorize war and conduct oversight.”

North Korea

Senator Harris has not made any direct statements regarding her planned approach to the rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea but has declared that she disapproves of President Trump’s current approach to the situation. Along with eighteen other senators, Harris signed a letter to President Trump in 2018 stating that he did not have the legal authority to declare a strike on North Korea. From such a statement alongside her other positions in regard to U.S. foreign involvement in conflict abroad, Senator Harris’ foreign policy platform will likely include an emphasis on the power of Congress.

Though it is still early in the Democratic primary and many of the candidates have not yet discussed their foreign policy platforms, the above descriptions of the history of Senator Harris’ foreign policy positions will certainly guide the debates to follow.

– Anne Pietrow
Photo: Flickr

living conditions in mauritania
The country of Mauritania is located in West Africa. It encompasses a land area of 1,030,700 square kilometers and has a population of more than 4,600,000. This makes it the 11th largest African country in terms of land area and 40th in terms of population. Despite its vast size, Mauritania is experiencing a devastating food and nutrition crisis, along with a horrific drought, that is making hunger in Mauritania more acute than it has been in years. The following is a list of the top 10 facts about hunger in Mauritania.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Mauritania

  1. Hunger is a serious problem: According to the 2018 GHI, Mauritania ranks 88th out of 119 qualifying nations in regard to the number of malnourished citizens within its borders. It has a score of 27.3 on the GHI Severity Scale. Thus, Mauritania is in the category of other countries, like Bangladesh and Burkina Faso, with serious levels of hunger.
  2. Drought cycles: Mauritania is located in the region of Africa south of the Sahara called the Sahel. This region consists of semi-arid grassland and has provided the continent with cash crops like cotton and millet. However, the Sahel receives extremely inconsistent rainfall and has suffered cycles of drought for thousands of years. The drought the Sahel currently endures has occurred since the 70’s. Because this drought is a regional problem, the lives of millions in countries outside Mauritania – like Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal – are struggling through this drought as well.
  3. Managing drought: In a national report for Integrated Drought Management, Sidi Bobba, Director of Operations and Weather Forecasting and Sid El Kheir Ould Taleb Ekhyar, General Manager of M’Pourié Farm, say that Mauritanian authorities are employing strategies to minimize the impact of Mauritania’s current drought. Some of these strategies include encouraging Mauritanians to diversify their crops and use organic manure. Other strategies are using crops that are resistant to drought and focusing on farming techniques that promote the economy of the soil water.
  4. Reliance on imports: While fish, iron, natural gas, oil, copper, wild animals and gold are all natural resources that Mauritania has in abundance, many Mauritanians specialize in farming and pastoralism. Unfortunately, these sources of income are vulnerable to environmental shock. And because 80 percent of Mauritania’s land is desert that cannot be used for agriculture, this lack of arable land, combined with drought, has made Mauritania into a nation that depends on foreign imports to feed its citizens. In a good agricultural year, 70 percent of Mauritania’s food supply is imported, but in a bad agricultural year, 85 percent is imported.
  5. Cases of acute malnutrition: In January, UNICEF reported that 130,000 children, including 32,000 children with severe acute malnutrition, would require nutritional care and treatment this year. UNICEF also reported in a Humanitarian Situation Report that 24,521 children with severe acute malnutrition (11,770 girls and 12,751 boys) were admitted for treatment throughout Mauritania. This is 76 percent of the estimated 32,244 cases of severe acute malnutrition for 2018.
  6. Pregnant women and malnutrition: UNICEF also reported that 31,000 pregnant and lactating women would require nutritional care and treatment this year. The same report that reveals the number of Mauritanian children treated for severe acute malnutrition also reveals that 32,876 pregnant and lactating women have been offered aid at community health facilities. And 4,373 pregnant and lactating women were treated for acute malnutrition.
  7. Extreme poverty: Mauritania is one of the poorest nations in the world, with a GDP per capita of $4,500. As one of the poorest countries in the world, around 25 percent of Mauritanians live on less than $1.25 per day. This extreme poverty hinders many Mauritanians from accessing health and education services.
  8. Water production: Even though Mauritania is now working towards a solution to its water shortage, the African Development Bank Group reports that Mauritania has been able to meet only half of its estimated daily drinking water requirement of 100,000 m³/day for more than a decade. Its production level is only around 55,000 m³/day from the only available aquifer in the southwestern Mauritanian city Trarza.
  9. Malian refugees: Thousands of Malian refugees, escaping the 2012 coup and civil unrest, have entered Mauritania and the ongoing conflict in Mali continues to bring even more. The UN reported that in March there were 58,000 Malian refugees in Mauritania. In addition to needy Mauritanian citizens, these refugees also rely on food assistance. The UN World Food Program (WFP) and USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) give cash-based food assistance to around 55,000 Malians who live in the Mbera refugee camp in southeastern Mauritania.
  10. Malnutrition a key issue: The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has formed a chart that reveals the risk factors that drive the most death and disability combined in Mauritania. This chart ranks malnutrition as the chief risk factor from 2007 to 2017.

When one considers these top 10 facts about hunger in Mauritania, one might not be able to see a bright future for this country arising any time soon. But with the work of organizations around the world who are both providing aid to Mauritania and raising awareness of its food and nutrition crisis, one can hope that one day hunger in Mauritania will no longer be an issue.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Flickr

Census Technology in GhanaGhana is a country with a complex history and a rich culture. Located on the west coast of Africa, it carries the distinction of being the first sub-Saharan country to achieve the milestone of halving their extreme poverty rates by the year 2015, the number one mission of the Millennium Development Goals plan proposed by the U.N. It has consistently been moving up the poverty index list as well, currently sitting at 133 out of 181 on the World’s Richest and Poorest Countries list in 2019.

Why Change is Needed

With the clear and strong strides that Ghana is making towards achieving economic stability, the country is developing innovative ways in which to continue the positive progression of change. One of their first and foremost goals is to achieve an accurate nationwide census by 2020. Census technology in Ghana has up to this point been nonexistent with data collection previously done through written surveys by hand. Hosting a quickly growing population of over 30 million people, the process has been tedious and error marked, leaving out up to three percent of the country’s citizens during every effort attempted.

It is impossible to assess a country’s population and effectively distribute help without knowing exactly how many people are in need of aid. Recognizing the true necessity of new census technology in Ghana, the country’s government has allocated a budget of $84 million towards the project and begun investing in brand new technology that will gather data about the population.

How It Will Help

The new census technology in Ghana primarily involves the use of tablets and satellite imagery to accurately survey residents. The information collected will provide a more accurate assessment of population demographics, a vital tool in poverty aid and assistance. In addition to information on age, gender and income status, the data will be used to assess general access to basic needs such as water, housing and educational resources.

This data-based development strategy will not only give Ghana more resources to fight extreme poverty but to hopefully tackle economic inequality as well. Accurate household financial data allows for government tax programs and welfare opportunities to be put into place, benefiting the country’s poor. Ghana’s Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia asserts the importance of balancing the population’s economic status overall, “We must count everyone, and make everyone accountable to pay their fair share in taxes that would be used to target assistance to those who may not have had access to critical social services previously.”

Census Technology and The Future

Census data and technology is slowly becoming a more prevalent tool in the fight against poverty. The U.N. Population Fund considers census data and population statistics to be a major resource, calling it “critical” in the development of remote countries. With access to a country’s statistical data, aid of all kinds can be more efficiently and effectively distributed. Census data is not only the wave of the future but a true testament to the good that can come from technology. Census technology in Ghana is one of the tech pioneers, finding a new and innovative way to fight—and hopefully end—the war on global poverty.

– Olivia Bendle
Photo: Flickr

Helping street childrenToday, there are an estimated 100 million homeless children in the world. Many more children, due to family instability, poverty or abuse, spend the majority of their days on the street either working or begging. The U.N. defines a “street child” as any child for whom the street has become his/her habitual abode and/or source of livelihood and who is not sufficiently supervised or protected by adults.

Street children are at high risk of verbal, physical and sexual abuse; girls are highly vulnerable to sexual assault, sex trafficking and may resort to commercial sex work. Street life poses other risks such as hunger, drug abuse, violence, disease, labor exploitation and police brutality. Worse yet, many street children are viewed with contempt by the public; they are seen as dirty, criminal, and are subject to discrimination.

Street children are in desperate need of guidance and support. Fortunately, there are many nonprofit agencies and organizations around the world helping street children through advocacy and outreach. Here are five organizations fighting for justice and rehabilitation for street children:

I Care in South Africa

I Care is a small nonprofit organization based in Durban, South Africa that provides support, rehabilitation and education for street children. The main goals at I Care are to help children learn crucial life skills like honesty, good work ethic and a collaborative attitude. These skills will help them get off the streets and live successful lives. The organization has been helping street children since 2002, directing donations to rehabilitation and skills programs. Rather than giving directly to children, I Care urged the public to direct funds to its programs, which include safe-houses, free meals and skills training for kids living on the streets.

The Africa Educational Trust

The Africa Educational Trust (AET) recognizes the severe problem that homeless and street children pose in Africa. Street children are at high risk for disease, drugs, exploitation, physical and sexual abuse. The AET believes that education is key in improving the lives of street children. The organization works with schools to help them understand the unique needs of street children, who have trouble successfully integrating into classroom settings. By partnering with local organizations, the AET provides psychological and academic support to children beginning or re-entering school. “School starter kits,” which include uniforms, textbooks, and other materials are prepared and distributed to children in need.

Railway Children

This U.K. based organization works to find children in abusive, neglectful, and/or impoverished conditions in order to prevent them from running away and living on the streets. Railway Children works in India and East Africa, where millions of orphans and runaways fill the streets. They also work in the U.K., where hundreds of children run away from home each year to escape violence and neglect. Railway Children makes a point to partner with local authorities and civil society because “[local partners] know the area, children, and local culture best.” Outreach workers reach out and gain the trust of street children, return them home when possible, and tailor to the needs of each unique case. The organization also works with policymakers, advocating for children on the street and making sure they are prioritized in the creation of legislation.

The Consortium for Street Children

This NGO unites member organizations around the world to fight for homeless children through international advocacy, legal services, outreach, research, grassroots casework and policy analysis. The global network consists of more than 100 NGOs, lawyers, researchers and individuals helping street children in 135 countries. The organization facilitates cooperation between members and adopted a five-year plan in 2019 to mobilize global action for street children’s rights by pressuring U.N. member states to amend policies and protect children. In 2018, the Consortium for Street Children hosted an international conference focused on equality and inclusion. The organization asserts that every single person on this planet matters and that street children should be afforded the same rights and opportunities as their peers.

Street Child

Founded in the U.K. in 2008, Street Child has helped over 200,000 street-associated children and families by providing educational opportunities and poverty relief. The organization believes that universal basic education is crucial in the elimination of global poverty and recognizes the many obstacles to education facing street children. Street Child creates low-cost, sustainable solutions informed by research in 1o countries across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Millions of children around the globe have to live and work on the street to survive. This dangerous environment makes them vulnerable to violence, exploitation, hunger and disease. Helping street children should be a global priority. Luckily, organizations providing outreach, advocacy, education and protection for street children have made great strides in the global fight against poverty.

– Nicollet Laframboise
Photo: Flickr

Established during the 1940s, the United Nations has been responsible for the distribution of international aid funds for decades. As the need for aid increased, the U.N. developed programs to assist in the way they distribute aid across countries in need.

United Nations Refugee Agency

There are four subdivisions, or entities, within the U.N. that regulate the distribution of international aid funds. Following the mission of the U.N., the subdivision, United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), focuses on the well-being of persons identifying as refugees, returnees, stateless people, internally displaced or asylum-seekers. The goal of this subdivision is to ensure the safety and security of those seeking refuge. International aid in this department helps stabilize and rebuild the lives of people forced from the place they call home.

UNICEF and the World Food Programme

There are two entities whose focus is centered around the welfare and well-being of children. History has shown that children displaced by poverty, war, famine or other uncontrollable circumstances, often fare the worst. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) center their international aid efforts around providing food and other services for children and families unable to secure resources in traditional ways. UNICEF helps secure medical resources for countries where hospitals have been destroyed and which have insufficient resources and manpower or where hospitals and medical centers are too far from underserved communities.

UNICEF, however, distributes more than just medical resources. Last year, UNICEF offered mental and psychosocial services to thousands of Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh.

The war-torn country of Yemen illustrates the need for the distribution of international aid to fund programs like WFP. Due to the war, men find it challenging to find work, which makes it difficult for fathers to provide for their children. Without food and proper nourishment, death is often the bleak future for young children, as was the case for a young boy named Mohamed in Hajjah. Shortly after being photographed, he passed away due to malnourishment. WFP works diligently to provide children around the world with food so that stories like Mohamed’s are anomalies, not the norm.

The United Nations Development Programme

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the fourth entity which provides strategies and plans to help implement sustainable change. This subdivision acts as an accountability partner for countries across the world, to ensure that governments are actively participating in the rebuilding and stabilizing efforts being produced through the U.N. The UNDP currently has a strategic plan in action supporting government partnerships with businesses. This three-part plan encourages economy growth within underprivileged communities.

Over 70 years later, the U.N. continues to handle the distribution of international aid funds by helping citizens, families, communities and countries across the globe.

– Christina Taylor
Photo: Flickr

Child RecruitmentThe Democratic Republic of Congo’s national army recently became child-free after being removed from the U.N.’s “list of shame” of armed forces recruiting and using child soldiers. This list details all of the parties in armed conflicts that have “committed serious violations of international humanitarian law against children”.

However, even with their history of abuse and child recruitment, the Congolese army, also known as the FARDC, made considerable progress by releasing 8,546 children from their ranks between 2009 and 2015. The mission was conducted with the help of MONUSCO, the U.N. peacekeeping unit in the country.

Since its creation in 2003, Congo’s national army has experienced a long period of violence and conflicts with multiple Congolese militias. Those conflicts were the scene of several human rights abuses such as sexual abuse, child recruitment and deaths, perpetrated mostly by the FARDC armed forces.

Even though child recruitment has been decreasing, sexual violence against children is still at the top of the list of violations committed by the FARDC. It affects mainly girls, who represent 40 percent of Congo’s child soldiers, according to a MONUSCO report. While some of those girls are forced to join, many of them enlist voluntarily, since being in the army gives them better opportunities than living in neighborhoods prone to poverty and a lack of educational resources.

MONUSCO also revealed that documenting the percentage of girls in armed groups has always been a challenge, as the number of girls is often underreported. Out of the 8,546 freed child soldiers registered by MONUSCO, only 7 percent of girls were documented, which is a radical difference from the 40 percent figure estimated by hundreds of witnesses.

Being delisted by the U.N. is, however, a major win for the Congolese armed forces, whose efforts in stopping child recruitment have led to a positive change towards respecting human rights. Training armed groups on child protection issues and creating standard operating procedures have both helped to free child soldiers and eradicate the practice of child recruitment. Eliminating sexual violence within armies is the U.N.’s next mission to better the lives of thousands of soldiers.

Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr

CommCareTechnology has a direct association with the globalization and development of countries across the globe. Access to new technologies can give developing nations the means to build and sustain economies by providing access to global communication and new business information. Arguments against the integration of rising technology make points about forcing technologies that are not suitable for the communities asked to implement them. However, when applied with user awareness, it has contributed to the rise of democracy and reduced the occurrence of extreme poverty.

Countries with a lack of Internet access and low percentages of computer owners make certain technologies virtually useless. The last few years have shown tremendous growth in cell phone and smartphone ownership, making it more necessary to improve the connectivity of these areas. Successful integration and improvement of Internet and emerging technologies relies on public opinion of how they might influence areas culturally. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey of residents in 32 developing nations about attitudes toward Internet effects on culture. Of the 32 nations, 64 percent of those surveyed believe the Internet is a good influence on education.

At the U.N. Second Committee Debate, a representative speaking on behalf of the “group of 77” developing nations and China talked about the influence of information and communications technologies on areas like health, education, agriculture, early warning systems, disaster risk reduction and even humanitarian response. The representative of Bangladesh said that information and communications technologies are integral to sustainable development. In addition to praise for these technologies, the representative of Brunei believes there is a widening gap between developed and developing countries that needs to be overcome.

Dimagi has created an open source evidence-based mobile platform designed for low-resource settings. The platform is called CommCare and is currently being used in more than 50 countries. The platform is used to create apps for data collection, user updates and workflow management. The solution of CommCare puts the power of globalization and economic growth and communication in the hands of individuals. The platform can be used to create apps for business development in multiple sectors.

The apps designed with CommCare can be used offline, with multiple platforms like Android and iOS as well as multiple languages, making it an ideal solution for remote areas in developing nations that lack reliable Internet connections. The greatest achievement of CommCare is that it is free and open source, making it accessible to anyone who can get to a computer. If companies take note of these types of user-based technologies, the U.N., WHO and USAID goals of poverty reduction are within reach.

Rebekah Korn

Photo: Flickr

Global Education RatesThe United Nations Children’s Fund has recently put out a call for more funding after a report from the U.N. indicated that improvements on global education rates are stalling. Widespread poverty, humanitarian crises and ongoing military conflicts have been pointed to as the main causes for this significant stagnation. Although a quality education for all is one of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals signed by world leaders in 2015, the on-the-ground campaign for this goal has been considerably lacking in recent years.

Today, the UNICEF reports, around 123 million children are missing school, which represents 11.5 percent of school-age children; in 2007, this number was at 135 million, or 12.8 percent. This 1.3 percent decrease in a decade, the UNICEF indicates, is not nearly enough in order to attain education targets set for 2030. In fact, international aid for education, now standing at about $12 billion, has declined 4 percent since 2010. This is the sixth year in a row in which education has been a diminishing proportion of the overseas aid budget, further evincing that improvement on global education rates are stalling and are possibly at a risk of stopping altogether. By June 2017, UNICEF had only received 12 percent of the funding it needed to provide education for children in areas of crisis.

Although children in poorer countries are disproportionately affected, the latest U.N. report highlights that they are not necessarily the regions getting the most help. Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, accounts for around 50 percent of the global out-of-school children population, but only receives about one quarter of the budget destined for education aid. This is primarily due to more international support going to areas submerged in conflict. This has made ongoing military campaigns and war main factors in the denial of education to millions of children across the world, especially in poorer countries.

Overall, the overwhelming tendency is that improvement on global education rates are stalling. Irina Bokova, director of UNESCO, recently stated that, “Aid would need to be multiplied by at least six to achieve our common education goals and must go to countries most in need.”

In spite of this global stagnation, significant progress has been made in some areas. Ethiopia and Niger, two of the world’s poorest countries, have had respective increases of 15 and 19 percent in enrollment rates for primary school children. This was the largest recorded increase in the latest report given by the U.N.  It is evident that the international community, which signed on to the U.N Sustainable Development Goals, needs to build on the progress made in these countries to help others in need.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr