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Fighting radicalization in MauritaniaThe Mauritanian government, with the help of outside organizations, has been working to decrease radicalization in Mauritania since the early 2000s. While Islamic terrorist attacks have been effectively stopped, there are still concerns about the spread of extremist views throughout the nation as well as in the surrounding countries. Several Islamic extremist groups have bases in Mauritania, including Al-Qaeda. Fighting radicalization in Mauritania requires a multi-faceted approach that tackles the factors contributing to radicalization and proactively dissuades extremist views from being able to gain traction.

Factors Contributing to Radicalization

The common problems many impoverished countries face include high unemployment, food insecurity, violence and political turmoil, all of which cause great suffering. These issues can sometimes make individuals more likely to adopt extremist views.

In Mauritania, unemployment is high, particularly for the youth with approximately 18.6 percent of 15 to 24-year-olds unemployed. Combined with poverty and a disconnect from political and civic life, this creates a population of young people who feel disillusioned by the options available to them. These individuals may then look for alternative and sometimes extreme methods through which they can exhibit their frustrations.

A majority of the Islamic jihadists in Mauritania are middle or low-income people, the majority of whom are below the age of thirty. Underemployment and delinquency are two additional factors common in the experiences of these individuals.

Racism in Mauritania

Another contributing factor to radicalization in Mauritania is ethno-racial tension. Conflicts between Arab and black Africans go back as far as the 1960s with the government giving preference to the Arab population. For example, when Arab leaders gained control of the nation’s education system, they reformed the system according to their values and mostly excluded black Africans from administrative positions.

Black Africans are also excluded more generally from society. Even those who have assimilated to the Arab culture are more likely to be illiterate, viewed as second-class citizens and sometimes denied basic rights. In combination with the poverty that many black Africans face, these genuine grievances contribute to the appeal of extremist views.

Additionally, it is important to note that much of what Islamic extremists are protesting – authoritarianism, torture, corruption and Mauritania’s relationship with the West – are genuine grievances. While extremism is never tolerable, the presence of these significant problems will continue to create a context in which extremist ideas are considered attractive.

Fighting Radicalization in Mauritania

The government’s efforts to combat terrorism have included arrests, raids, strengthening border control, improving military and intelligence capabilities and cooperating with the United States. While this is an important part of reducing the threat of terrorism, it is also important to implement programs and policies intended to prevent radicalization in Mauritania.

In 2015, the Ministry of Youth and Sport and UNDP created the National Strategy for Youth and Sport to encourage youth participation in society as a method for preventing radicalization. A youth center in the city of Nouakchott began providing opportunities for young people to discuss the problems as well as their aspirations for the future. Young people also participate in educational programming that teaches them important skills for employment. Discussion forums hosted by the center help train young people to recognize and resist extremist rhetoric and give them the tools to engage in productive dialogue in their communities.

One high school student indicated that her goal is to become a surgeon, but without the support of the youth center, she wouldn’t be prepared for this level of education. Another student expressed the desire to become a teacher and noted that he was “struck by the ignorance that still exists in poor suburbs, and by the lack of teachers in rural areas.” His hope was to be able to help by teaching in those communities.

Another participant noted that being unemployed and religious, he had been “tempted in the past by extremist ideas because of intense frustration,” but the center steered him away from radicalization through training sessions and debates. Over time, he recognized that he had a place in society and began to feel less disillusioned. Centers like the one in Nouakchott are essential for preventing extremism amongst Mauritania’s youth by providing an opportunity to engage in dialogue as well as prepare for a successful future.

Moving Forward

UNDP is also working with the government to create other projects aimed at fighting radicalization in Mauritania. It is focused on tackling the root causes. Starting with the youth is important, but based on the contributions poverty and ethno-racial tensions play in promoting extremism, these issues also need to be addressed more fully in counter-terrorism efforts.

Moving forward, extremism needs to be more fully recognized as a product of poverty and inequality. Efforts to decrease radicalization in Mauritania, therefore, should focus on decreasing poverty more broadly as well as promoting human rights for all Mauritanians. Only through a multi-faceted approach that seeks to tackle the factors contributing to extremism in the nation will fighting radicalization in Mauritania become truly successful.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

top ten facts about life expectancy in Uzbekistan The top 10 facts about life expectancy in Uzbekistan reflect the many changes that the nation has endured since gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. An evolving healthcare system, which now technically includes primary care for all, still struggles to meet the needs of the country’s poorest inhabitants.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Uzbekistan

  1. The average Uzbek person has a life expectancy of approximately 66 to 72 years. However, the last 9 of those years are typically not spent in good health. When one accounts for the years lived in failing health, it changes the picture considerably.  It is an unfortunate fact that for too many Uzbek people, their final years are characterized by pain and sickness, most often due to heart disease and respiratory infections.
  2. Uzbek women, on average, live about 5 years longer than their male counterparts. Maternal mortality is at a 20 year low, down from 380 deaths for every 697,000 births in 1990, to 240 deaths for every 667,000 births in 2015. Prenatal care is also on the rise in Uzbekistan, up from just less than 95 percent in 1996 to more than 99 percent in 2015.
  3. The top 10 facts about life expectancy in Uzbekistan cannot exclude the leading cause of death, which is cardiovascular disease.  In Uzbekistan, where many traditional dishes are laden with bread and meat, the dietary risk is the number one cause of heart disease. Stress is another mitigating factor, unsurprising because in Uzbekistan the norm is to work 6 days a week.
  4. The Uzbek people are suffering from the adverse effects of polluted water. It is due to the prevalence of water-borne diseases and an overall scarcity of drinkable water. More than 30 percent of households lack drinkable water, thanks to an infrastructure that cannot properly purify drinking water or treat sewage.
  5. The good news is that Uzbekistan is now one of the 7 countries participating in a pilot program with the UNDP, called “Piloting Climate Change Adaptation to Protect Human Health in Uzbekistan.” The mission of this project is to provide medical personnel and the greater population with the information and tools to reduce the negative impact of climate factors on the health of the Uzbek population. The success of this project will be tracked by the decline of intestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses connected to climate.
  6. Another one of the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Uzbekistan is that many people in the country do not earn enough to access healthcare and fitness centers which would keep them healthy. Having financial resources makes it possible to buy healthy foods, pay for medical services and engage in activities that are optimal for a long and healthy life. A monthly gym membership in Uzbekistan is the equivalent of 20 American dollars, a considerable sum when the average Uzbek citizen earns only about $124 a month.
  7. The World Health Organization estimates that a typical 20-minute medical visit cost about 8 American dollars in 2005. While all citizens ostensibly have access to primary and emergency healthcare regardless of their ability to pay, the resources of the public sector are severely limited and medical personnel often prioritize patients who can pay for private care, often informally with cash or a bartering of services.
  8. Uzbekistan became independent of the Soviet Union in 1991, relinquishing a great deal of financial assistance. This has resulted in hospitals having fewer beds to spare and a decline in the number of doctors per population. The decline has been from nearly 350 physicians for every 100,000 population in 1990 to fewer than 250 in 2012.
  9. Out of a population of approximately 32 million, an estimated 52,000 people in Uzbekistan are living with HIV. The number has increased sharply in the last 30 years, which is attributed to the new mandatory reporting system and increased drug use. There are state-funded facilities dedicated to servicing HIV/AIDS patients in Uzbekistan, and outpatient pharmaceuticals are covered by the state, but there is still a tremendous stigma attached to an HIV diagnosis, which hampers treatment.
  10. Climate change has already impacted life expectancy in Uzbekistan.  An increase in dust storms has caused serious health issues for people exposed to an excess of dust particles, especially in the region of Karakalpakstan, which has an approximate population of 1.8 million.

The Uzbekistan government is working toward reinforcing the country’s preparedness for climate issues. It is doing this with the support of The Green Climate Fund (GCF). GCF, which is a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project, is focused on accessing funds for climate financing and increasing private engagement. These recent strides demonstrate that Uzbekistan is well on its way to improving the stations of its individual citizens and the health of the nation as a whole.

– Raquel Ramos
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Eritrea
Eritrea is located at the Horn of Africa in the Sahel Desert that is dominated by arid and semi-arid climatic conditions. The country is, therefore, vulnerable to adverse effects of climate variability, recurring droughts and environmental degradation. The World Bank estimates that 69 percent of Eritrea’s population lives below the poverty line. The economy is largely based on subsistence agriculture, with 80 percent of the population depending on farming and pastoralism.

Eritrea has no free press and political repression of the opposition is rampant. After a severe drought in the Horn of Africa in 2015, president of the country, Isaias Afwerki, polemicized that the country had magically evaded the drought, denying a food crisis. A 2016 U.N. report documents that the president rejected U.N. food aid during the 2015 drought.

The proceeding 10 facts about hunger in Eritrea provide a snapshot of the political climate in the country that ousted humanitarian aid agencies over the last decade, while hunger persisted. The facts also highlight advances in sustainable agriculture and projects that have increased food security.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Eritrea

  1. Since gaining independence in 1993, Eritrea has had tense relations with humanitarian agencies. In July 2005, the country asked the USAID to terminate its operations and leave the country. It continued expelling other international organizations from working within the country in 2006.
  2. Beginning in 2000, Mercy Corps carried out more than $40 million worth of assistance that alleviated hunger until they closed their operations at the request of the Government of Eritrea in June 2006.
  3. According to the BBC report in 2011, emaciated Eritreans were crossing the heavily militarised border at the rate of almost 900 people a month, despite official denial of food crisis by President Afwerki.
  4. In 2013, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 60 percent of the Eritrean population was reported to be undernourished in the period between 2011 and 2013.
  5. Eritrea currently meets only a third of its estimated food and the other two-third needs are being met by international food aid programs.
  6. Data from the Nutrition Sentinel Site Surveillance system indicate an increase in malnutrition rates since 2015 in four out of six regions of the country, and projections estimate that 23,000 children under the age of 5 will need treatment for severe acute malnutrition in 2018.
  7. In May 2018, the Government of Eritrea donated 40,000 tons of food to South Sudan. The country has already pledged 50,000 tons of food aid for the people of South Sudan in 2017.
  8. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aimed to increase collaboration with Eritrea to promote sustainability and food security. There has been a success with projects that aim to increase sustainable agriculture in Eritrea, specifically in the small village of Keih-Kor. With the help of the UNDP, the village was able to regain the use of 45 hectares of farmland.
  9. In the Central Region, UNDP helped build three micro-dams in the Gala-Hefhi sub-region. Over 1,200 villagers benefitted from the dam constructed in Lamza Village, with improved food security and stronger productivity.
  10. In 2018, UNICEF treated 15,000 children under the age of 5 that had severe acute malnutrition and 40,000 children under the age of 5 with minor acute malnutrition, provided 477,000 children aged 6 to 59 months with vitamin A supplementation and 70,000 children aged 6 to 59 months. Pregnant and lactating women also benefited from supplementary feeding.

Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Five years later, the war between the two countries broke out and lasted from May 1998 to June 2000. The conflict saw hundreds of millions of dollars diverted from development aid to arms procurement.

In July 2018, Eritrea signed a historic peace agreement with Ethiopia. Four months following these good measures of social reunification in the Horn of Africa, the United Nations Security Council unanimously lifted international sanctions against Eritrea that have been imposed continuously since 2009. The measures were based on concerns that the Eritrean government was funding and arming the Somali extremist group, Al-Shabaab.

The 10 facts about hunger in Eritrea provide hope that hunger may turn around in the Horn of Africa due to Eritrea’s reconciliation with its neighbors, as the reconciliation could also mean a more open attitude towards humanitarian agencies. There is evidence that suggests that Eritrea could also be a friend in alleviating hunger in the future, across other nations in the Horn of Africa.

Sasha Kramer
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in MicronesiaLocated in the northern region of Oceania, the Federated States of Micronesia is comprised of the island country, Nauru, and four prominent island states: the Marshall Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Caroline Islands and the Mariana Islands. Modern education in the islands has grown leaps and bounds from its initial introduction via Japan during World War I, especially once the region became Americanized at the conclusion of World War II. With this American aid, the development of girls’ education in Micronesia began to grow swiftly and has continued ever since.

Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)

According to a status report released by the United Nations Development Programme in 2010, the gap between male and female enrollment in Micronesian schools began to close after signing the Millennium Declaration. In 2009, the ratio of girls to boys in primary education was 0.96, compared to the ratio of 0.92 in 1994. In the same year, the ratio of girls to boys in secondary education was 1.02, and the ratio of girls to boys enrolled in the College of Micronesia was 1.14.

Despite this improvement, girls still scored lower than their male peers, though not by much. The same study shows that in the 2008-2009 school year, while boys garnered an average 65 percent test score, girls scored an average of 61 percent, pegging the overall test score at 62 percent.

Chuuk Women’s Council

Chuuk, one of the four Federated States of Micronesia, had become home to many different non-governmental organizations all throughout the 1980s. In 1984, these organizations began to congregate; by 1993, they had totally coalesced to create bigger waves and to form what is known as the Chuuk Women’s Council (CWC).

Currently, the council is spearheaded by Christina “Kiki” Sinnett. In an Office of Minority Health blog post, Sinnett wrote, “The biggest challenge for women in Chuuk is access to education. Unfortunately, in many Chuukese households, girls are overlooked by parents when it comes to education decisions, meaning that they may do whatever it takes to educate their sons, often at the expense of their daughters’ education.”

She further elucidates that many programs the CWC offers are engineered for disenfranchised women who never got the chance to complete their schooling.

Although Chuuk has the highest student populous of all the Micronesian states, the mean amount of time a Micronesian adult spends in school 9.7 years; the United States’ mean amount time spent in school, however, is 12.9 years. This contrast means that while education globally falls short, girls’ education in Micronesia is utterly abysmal.

Promoting Female Wellness

The CWC doesn’t restrict itself to traditional educational lessons. The Shinobu M. Poll Memorial Center triples as a rendezvous for the council’s annual conferences, an educational domain and a wellness center for women. Within the premises, cancer screenings are performed, a dialogue regarding reproduction/reproductive safety is alive, and the doors to HIV tests are open.

In their Healthy Lifestyles Program, the CWC combats tuberculosis as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis promotes abstinence — Chuuk has the highest teen pregnancy rate of all the federated states. The organization also provides reading material for those in need of health-related education.

Another major staple of the CWC is advocacy work, especially regarding violence surrounding women. The establishment lobbied heavily for the age of consent to be legally altered from 13 years old to 18 years old within the nation’s regions.

With much work still left to do and many left uneducated on the harsh realities women face daily in the Federal States of Micronesia, the CWC also stands for “community policing” in their areas. Community policing is, essentially, the spreading of information and reporting of sexual misconduct to expel ignorance and miseducation from the community.

Girls’ Education In Micronesia

Sinnett, who succeeded her mother (the memorial center’s namesake) as CWC president, grew up an active fly on the wall of the nursing lifestyle. “I got to watch her go to work every day,” Sinnet told the Rural Health Information Hub, speaking of her late mother, “care for others, and be a valuable member of our local community.”

This conduct acted as a catalyst for her to become involved herself, and push to ameliorate girls’ education in Micronesia.

– Jordan De La Fuente
Photo: Flickr

UNDP Provides Legal Aid in Egypt for Impoverished and Illiterate
For those who are poor or illiterate, understanding and using legal services is often difficult and preventative from obtaining justice. Since 2008, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has worked with the Ministry of Justice to provide free legal aid in Egypt for the impoverished and illiterate, establishing 35 Legal Aid Offices as of 2016.

Free Legal Aid in Egypt

This project focuses on disputes in family courts and handles cases that do not require an attorney. Without this help, those who are impoverished generally cannot afford legal services and the illiterate do not have the skills to successfully fill out the required paperwork. These two populations often intersect, as the poor are more likely to be illiterate.

Financed by UNDP and Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), over 50,000 cases in Egypt have now been assisted by free Legal Aid Offices.

The project also trains staff, holds roundtables for family court judges and assists with digitizing family court records. Approximately 17 training sessions and workshops for family court judges have been organized, reaching over 500 judges and legal aid employees.

Dispute Settlement offices have been upgraded as well, and employees have received training on dispute settlement skills, child rights and personal status laws. Additionally, efforts have been made to influence lawmakers to amend laws that would make the processing of cases more efficient and lead to cases being resolved more quickly.

New Goals, New Connections

Beginning in 2013, new goals were added to the project after an evaluation by an independent consultant of the free legal aid in Egypt. These goals include:

  • Developing adequate training programming
  • Improving court and case management
  • Modernizing hotlines in order to get feedback
  • Increasing dissemination of legal information
  • Designing outreach programs for both literate and illiterate women

The Ministry of Justice is working to establish a central electronic database of court decisions to link electronically to Egypt’s national bank. This connection would make payments awarded by the courts easier to collect.

In December 2014, UNDP, the Egyptian Ministry of Justice, the National Center for Judicial Studies, and the French Cultural Center in Egypt organized a workshop for legal aid employees. This workshop was “to strengthen participants’ knowledge of French legal framework for family mediation and introduce practical tools for mediation based on international best practices and relevance to local family courts.”

Legal Aid in Egypt Empowers Egyptian Women

Approximately one million cases are filed in Egyptian family courts each year, and 80 percent of those are brought by women. Therefore, the UNDP’s legal aid in Egypt is often for women in desperate need of legal services. In fact, over 70 percent of the 50,000 cases handled by the project were filed by women.

Without this support, women — particularly poor and illiterate women — often do not have the resources to settle marital or family disputes. Male family members or spouses can often get away with violent behavior or criminal acts if the woman they’ve harmed is barred from legal aid by a system not amenable to vulnerable populations.

Incidents of Personal Distress

For example, “Yasmin” is an Egyptian woman who faced legal difficulties after her ex-husband kidnapped her oldest daughter. She went to the court on multiple occasions, unable to find a resolution to this problem. However, with the free legal services provided by UNDP, Yasmin was finally able to file her claim in the family court system.

Another woman, Omaima Abdel Khaleq, utilized free legal aid in Egypt to file a domestic violence case against her husband. She explains, “The legal aid office made me aware of what exactly I should do instead of being lost among lawyers.”

Situations like these are not uncommon for women, and the project’s Legal Aid Offices help women complete the required paperwork, as well as provide legal advice about their rights and claims.

Helping the Impoverished and Illiterate

If an individual is illiterate, they are far less likely to be knowledgeable about the laws that protect them (or the person they wish to file a claim against). Without the help of an oftentimes unaffordable attorney or legal services, these people will not be able to access the information they need to correctly file a claim and obtain justice.

Project manager Gihane El Batouty states, “We are helping people themselves — and women themselves — with their legal rights.” UNDP wants to continue to grow this project, as it has become essential to helping the impoverished and illiterate, many of whom are women, access legal aid in Egypt.

Across the globe, UNDP supports similar initiatives in 54 other countries. This support reflects the organization’s commitment to making legal services available to vulnerable populations.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

poverty in TibetDespite political tensions, Tibet has seen marked improvements in everyday life for its average citizens. The central government in Beijing and other nations may have ulterior motives behind their funding, but the result is the same: a more prosperous Tibet. Aid is flowing in from the Chinese government, the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and Nepal, to name a few.

According to the regional authority, over the course of the past five years, over 530,000 people have escaped poverty in Tibet. It comes as no surprise that with a falling poverty rate, there is a rise in registered capital. Currently, the number stands at over $162 billion, a 39.4 percent increase from the previous year.

Tibetan Politics: A Delicate Situation

Tibet and China have been in a tense struggle over Tibet’s autonomy since the 1950s. Many Tibetans wish for independence, and in the past, the Chinese government has acted forcefully.

The most notable example of this is the situation with the current Dalai Lama who has been living in exile in India since the Tibetan Rebellion. Despite the Dalai Lama’s tension with Beijing, it seems even he believes that remaining with China is in Tibet’s best interest. Couple that with the many development projects China has enacted in Tibet, and it appears that their relationship is looking up.

China Tries to Tackle Poverty in Tibet

The government in Beijing gives the impression that its best path to quieting Tibetan independence talks is to tackle the region’s poverty problem. One such project that China has funded is in Amdo County, where once-nomadic herders who lived in adobe huts are now receiving homes paid for by the government with a market rate of approximately $47,000.

The Shopko family, one of the recipients of these homes, have gone on the record to express their heartfelt thanks for their new home. Their old hut sat at 16,000 feet with no heating or roads to connect them to the nearby villages.

To help with the move, the Chinese government is giving migrants jobs at local tourism centers, hotels and car washes. It follows up on this guarantee with monthly bonuses for locals who manage and protect the essential grasslands, as well as 5,000 yuan a year to residents who enroll in university.

While the Shopkos serve as an ideal for how the government attempts to tackle poverty in Tibet, the program has only reached 121 families so far, but in the previous five years, the government has spent more than $9 billion to try to alleviate poverty in Tibet. Seemingly, Beijing is looking for answers to its political issues.

Foreign Aid to Tibet

Foreign countries are investing in Tibet as well. The Nepalese government has been distancing itself from its neighbor, India, in favor of China. This political posturing could be for a host of reasons; however, the projects Nepal is planning in Tibet are apolitical for the Tibetan people.

Gobinda Karkee is a Nepalese diplomat who oversees development projects with China. The most famous of these is the Friendship Bridge, which was renovated in 2016. The plans are not all symbolic, though. By 2020, Nepal plans on finishing a rail network that will connect with Tibet and lessen its reliance on using Indian ports. The $226 million project is jointly funded by Nepal and China. Along this rail line will be multiple trading points and border checks. The two nations hope the plan will boost the local economy and help rebuild much of the infrastructure that was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake.

Poverty in Tibet has often gone unnoticed in the media because when the region is in the news, it is being celebrated for its rich culture and history. The UNDP sought to take advantage of this by building tourism infrastructure in rural areas, which in turn provides higher paying jobs for the impoverished people in the Tibetan Steppe.

Much like the Chinese government’s program, UNDP has put a heavy focus on preserving the local ecology and economy. The bulk of the project focuses on Old Lhasa City. The city is famous for its courtyards, which UNDP is mapping, landscaping and organizing the foundation of to make Lhasa a tourist destination. Old Lhasa has become an exemplary case of the economic and cultural benefits of the UNDP program.

Tibet rests in a political hotbed in South Asia, and the effects of the decisions made by its neighbors can have unintended consequences on the proud region. Throughout the religious and diplomatic dilemmas, poverty in Tibet has long been a debilitating issue. Thanks to organizations like the UNDP, this problem is now being dealt with and has already improved the lives of half a million people.

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr

SomaliaThe debate over the efficacy of humanitarian aid in impoverished countries has been a hot topic in recent years. Some people believe that humanitarian aid breeds dependence, while others argue that it can exploit some of the most vulnerable people in impoverished countries. To provide better and longer-lasting aid, the U.N., the U.N.’s International Children’s Emergency Fund and the World Health Organization, among others, are taking a new approach to humanitarian aid. The new method, dubbed “A New Way of Working,” combines the short-term aid for emergency relief with long-term development efforts. The organizations are testing this model for development in Somalia, one of the more embattled nations on Earth.

Finding a Solution

Whether it’s disaster relief or funding for infrastructure projects, foreign aid does help people who need it. Despite the horror stories in the news concerning corruption, mishandled aid only accounts for an estimated 9 percent. Not perfect, but not as bad as some purport.

Many issues still plague not only the development in Somalia but in humanitarian aid and global investment around the world. One reason is modern humanitarian assistance finds its roots as a disaster response mechanism, whether it’s man-made or natural, and funds need to be spent within 18 months. Conversely, developmental aid sprung up as a result of colonialism and seeks long-term solutions such as education and agriculture, with funding plans structured in three to five years cycles. So, the projects needed to accomplish these varying goals are often very different.

Development in Somalia: A Guide for Others

Somalia is a country recovering from a two-decade civil war and a 2011 drought that killed over 260,000 people. With the government declaring 2017’s drought another national emergency, aid organizations realized a different approach was necessary.

In January 2018, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the U.N.’s Development Program (UNDP) set out to provide immediate assistance to those in desperate need of water. It also tried to identify the root of the emergency and establish projects that will allow everyday people to tackle the problem on their own when the next drought inevitably comes along.

While this sounds great in theory, there needs to be a practical element for improving development in Somalia. The current drought has lasted three growing seasons and is killing crops and livestock at alarming rates, which precipitates into a nationwide famine. In response, the OCHA-UNDP project built a sand dam in Bandarbeyla.

This dam allowed farmers to maintain their livestock, a vital resource for the agricultural economy in Somalia. Farmers say they can now save up the money they used to have to spend on water. Finally, these aid groups no longer have to focus solely on subsistence and can invest their energy and resources on education and security projects that will make Somalia stronger and more stable as it progresses as a nation.

Where Will It Be Seen Next?

The success of this project for development in Somalia is giving hope for other nations dealing with similar environmental and security-related emergencies.

  • South Sudan:
    The world’s youngest nation has over 1 million people at risk of famine. Luckily, the massive humanitarian response has kept the situation from getting worse.
  • Nigeria (Northeast region):
    Due to the Boko Haram insurgency, more than 5 million people need housing and food assistance.
  • Yemen:
    A brutal civil war has left more than 75 percent of the population in need of humanitarian aid.

These three nations face similar problems to Somalia in that they endure a vicious cycle of drought and insecurity. The UNDP and other organizations are hoping to implement strategies similar to what is occurring in Somalia with the goal that “A New Way of Working” will allow these countries to flourish on their own.

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr

OssetiaDiscussing poverty in Georgia is difficult to do without also acknowledging the sensitive subjects of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is extensive debate over how best to describe these regions, but they are described as anything from disputed territories to de facto Russian client states propped up and recognized by few other than Russia itself. As such, poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia comes with its own special set of circumstances.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a major turning point in the history of this part of the world and it has left lingering trauma in the region. Abkhazia and South Ossetia were relatively well-off parts of the Soviet Union, but following its collapse, they both saw their populations and their standards of living decline. The effect of this collapse is lingering poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia such that a majority of residents view the dissolution of the USSR in a negative light.

The current political situation in both of these territories is far from stable, even after nearly two decades of violence, suspected ethnic cleansing and political turmoil. This presents a unique set of obstacles for addressing poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, particularly in Abkhazia.

Most residents of Abkhazia, regardless of ethnic group, seem to favor total independence with the exception of ethnic Armenians, who support integration into the Russian Federation. If anything, however, Russian influence is strongly cemented into the Abkhaz political sphere, which means that any changes in the status of Abkhazia will lean heavily toward deeper integration with Russia.

South Ossetia is also finding itself pulled more and more into Moscow’s orbit. However, this is less of a problem than in Abkhazia as an overwhelming majority of its ethnically homogenous population is in favor of joining the Russian Federation.

The international community continues to debate whether and how to handle this political situation, but few are confident that a solution will be reached anytime soon. Meanwhile, however, poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains a problem and residents are finding that few in the midst of this great power struggle are attentive to their real and pressing needs.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia face particular challenges when dealing with poverty because of their disputed political status. It is difficult for them to access international markets, but Abkhaz and Ossetian products do not necessarily fare well in Russian markets. It is also worth noting that Georgia also suffers as a result; it has lost access to Russian markets as a result of this political dispute, where prior to the conflict 70 percent of its trade volume was with Russia. The complicated political situation makes it difficult for aid to reach these regions and hinders efforts to collect accurate data.

The 2014 Winter Olympics were a beacon of hope to relieve poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The goal was for tourism to nearby Sochi to help shine a light on these locales and promote tourism there as well. However, this ended when Russia, prioritizing security above all else, closed the Abkhazian and South Ossetian borders.

That being said, there are a number of actors trying to improve the situation and promote economic development in this troubled region. The UNDP in Georgia has made combating poverty, and specifically youth unemployment, a key feature of its work. Promoting youth employment is key because it not only promotes economic growth, but can also discourage young people from becoming involved in political violence.

While Abkhazia and South Ossetia face many challenges that will not abate any time soon, efforts are being made to work around the political situation to bring real change to the lives of the people in these regions. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are just two reminders that even in seemingly intractable conflicts, poverty reduction is still critically important and can make a huge difference.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

Plans to Improve Sustainable Agriculture in TurkmenistanSustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan has been difficult to implement due to a lack of resources and an effective way of maintaining agricultural plans. Improvements to the country’s agricultural systems are currently being discussed by activists and governments across the globe.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) cites lack of management and effective irrigation systems as barriers to the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices. To address these barriers, aid organizations will not only need an effective irrigation plan in a country where, according to USAID, 80 percent of land is classified as desert, but will need to outline a sound managerial plan for maintaining it.

According to Support for Further Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Turkmenistan (SARD III), the European Union has drawn plans for a four-year project. This complex initiative to improve sustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan required presentations in addition to a lengthy outline. In addition to government plans, aid organizations have chosen to address the issue through education and new technology.

Last fall, a partnership between The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility and the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Economy of Turkmenistan resolved to construct a water pipeline to assist with the issue of sustainable agriculture. According to UNDP, a seminar was given in Ashgabat to outline the plan for the pipeline, explain its success in the past and discuss the importance of daily water conservation practices.

Education about effective agricultural methods has been adopted by other agencies as well. In a statement on the USAID Turkmenistan website, the organization claims to “…prioritize greenhouse horticulture, helping high-value fruit and vegetable growers, processors and marketing specialists connect with local and international markets.” Although the actions and projects by aid organizations as well as plans for improvement are important, aid organizations also emphasize education and explain ways people can make a difference in their everyday lives.

Although activists are doing what they can to address their concerns about sustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan, citizens also consider agriculture a priority and referenced agriculture in a 2015 UNICEF report about goals for the future. Aid organizations and volunteers aim to make sustainability projects a priority and to make sustainability plans a reality.

– Gabriella Evans

Photo: Flickr

28. Cooperative Market Development Program for Farmers in Nepal
On February 2nd, the government of Nepal and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed an agreement to launch the Cooperative Market Development Program throughout the South Asian country.

According to the press release on the UNDP website, the aim of this program is to help farmers in Nepal by increasing the quality and stability of agricultural production. The program would accomplish this through improvements in infrastructure, training on new, updated farming techniques and development of marketing methods.

 

Importance of Agriculture

Agricultural production is crucial for the majority of Nepal’s population, where it serves as a form of occupation for 68 percent of the people.

Although agriculture is the main livelihood for a majority of the population, Nepal still faces certain challenges when it comes to producing enough food for its population. USAID reports that Nepalese citizens do not receive a sufficient amount of food.

 

Food Deficiency

This food deficiency has led to 36 percent of children under the age of five to suffer from malnutrition and its accompanying effects; however, the situation in Nepal is more optimistic then these statistics make it seem. The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that in the last decade, poverty in Nepal has gone down from 42 percent to around 24 percent.

The Cooperative Market Development Program will further contribute to this decline in poverty by helping farmers in Nepal innovate their practices.

 

Development of Farming

The duration of the program will be five years, and will primarily assist six districts in the Kathmandu Valley. While cooperative markets are not new to the farming community in Nepal, a variety of obstacles exist that affect the success of this method.

The UNDP press release states that cooperative farming markets have been hindered by “poor infrastructure, including transport and storage facility, inadequate access to market information and regulatory and institutional bottlenecks.”

The Cooperative Market Development Program has the potential to boost Nepal’s economy by working on a local level throughout the country. This is significant and would benefit Nepalese farmers because currently one-third of supplies for the farming community are imported from other countries, as reported by UNDP.

 

Long-Term Benefits for Nepal

It is estimated that the program will directly help 14,000 farmers in Nepal, who live throughout the six districts of the Kathmandu valley. The government of Nepal plans to contribute $5 million dollars to the program, while UNDP will contribute $2 million dollars.

The program will take some specific steps to achieve its goals: provide training on various farming-related activities such as production enhancement, branding and marketing, and create 90 collection centers.

 

Eliminating Poverty and Hunger

Furthermore, the Cooperative Market Development Program will contribute towards Nepal’s achievement of two of their Sustainable Development Goals: eliminating poverty and hunger.

In addition, improved food production and enhanced quality of fruits and vegetables could help combat malnutrition and food shortage.

Farmers in Nepal will be able to increase their incomes and update their farming practices through this program, which in turn will have a lasting impact on the continued reduction of poverty in Nepal.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Flickr