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Botswana’s Interior Conflict
Botswana is a country that people know for its relatively peaceful and politically stable environment; however, it also has a high prevalence of HIV. It has some of the highest HIV rates of any country in the world, which particularly affects Botswana’s women and children. This reality affects several factors contributing to Botswana’s society and economy, including a drastically fallen life expectancy, the death rate, the effects of the virus on the body and the age of those most affected. For more than 40 years, HIV/AIDs in Botswana has been prevalent resulting in a conflict between HIV/AIDs and economic success. Here is some information about it as well as how the country is tackling HIV/AIDs in Botswana.

HIV/AIDs in Botswana

In its article on the economic impact of AIDs in Botswana, the POLICY Project writes that the virus is “different from most other diseases because it strikes people in the most productive age groups and is essentially 100 percent fatal.” This directly impacts the economy by essentially removing people who would be productively contributing. The economic output then plummets because the loss of young, formerly able-bodied adults limits the workforce. The shortage of skilled, trained laborers impacts income distribution across economic sectors as well.

The life expectancy in Botswana has fallen drastically. Some estimates place it at 60 years in 1990, then 40 years in 2001 and about a projected 30 years as of 2010. In his memoir “When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa,” Peter Godwin explained that AIDs impacts the younger generation in particular. Due to the low life expectancy that the virus creates, there are villages where the oldest members of the community are teenagers. Projections estimated that two out of every five children would become orphans by 2010, subsequently requiring state aid.

The Effects of the Virus

There are several principal costs that many people associate with having AIDs. Direct costs or physical, financial losses include medical care, treatment drugs and funeral expenses. Indirect costs, or more long-term, possibly unforeseen financial losses include lost work time, care of children who have lost their families due to AIDs and time spent searching for and hiring new workers to replace those lost to the virus. These are costs to Botswana’s economy in general, as well as to individuals and their households.

The effects of AIDs on the economy are particularly apparent in Botswana, a country that many otherwise applaud for being a lower-middle-income country that has avoided several other economic downfalls in recent years. Nevertheless, on a microeconomic level, households with AIDs in Botswana struggle to acquire basic necessities such as healthcare, education, food and shelter. Loss of employment and particularly the loss of a family’s breadwinner can begin a downward slope into extreme poverty. This then expands outwards to include the macroeconomy where businesses and firms are understaffed and have to close. Botswana’s conflict between HIV/AIDs and economic success is clearly one of the country’s greatest to date.

Solutions

Botswana has made leaps in tackling its HIV/AIDs in Botswana; however, a “one-size-fits-all approach” does not target specific high-risk groups and means reaching far fewer people. Those most at-risk –men who have sex with men, sex workers, young people and women– require individual strategies to deal with the prevalence of AIDS.

The use of condoms and sex education have played major roles in attempts to control the epidemic. The Ministry of Health and UNDP educate teachers first, who then spread their awareness to their young students. Peace Corps volunteers to Botswana work with the government and with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to better respond to the AIDs epidemic. Volunteers work in small communities addressing and educating on AIDs, with a focus on the youth.

Though no one solution exists regarding tackling HIV/AIDs in Botswana, global and regional efforts work to weaken and reverse a painful national slide. Botswana stands to gain much from meaningful efforts focused on health and the economy.

– Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr

4 Key Facts about Healthcare in Papua New GuineaPapua New Guinea comprises the eastern portion of New Guinea and a plethora of offshore islands. With the highest infant mortality rate in the region, it is evident that the country suffers from poor health outcomes. Here are four key facts to consider to better understand the state of healthcare in Papua New Guinea.

4 Key Facts About Healthcare in Papua New Guinea

  1. Unique Geographical Challenges: Papua New Guinea features mountain ranges on the mainland as well as 600 small islands. This unique geography introduces challenges in delivering adequate healthcare services to the population, as isolated rural and remote communities are often cut off from essential healthcare services. While all countries have particular groups that are geographically isolated, the situation in Papua New Guinea is exacerbated as 80% of the population lives outside of city centers compared to the global average of 54% urbanization.
  2. Hygienic Inefficiencies: Hygenic inefficiencies occur in two ways: education and access. Awareness of proper hygiene and health operating procedures remains low in Papua New Guinea. For example, only 10% of schools in the country promote handwashing. But even if education rates were high, proper infrastructure does not exist in Papua New Guinea. Only 40% of the population has access to clean drinking water, and roughly 28% of schools have access to sanitation.
  3. Scarcity of Doctors and Nurses: For a population of more than nine million, Papua New Guinea has approximately 500 doctors and 400 nurses. The country has 0.1 physicians per 1,000 people, compared to the world average of 1.566 physicians per 1,000 people. The quality of the small healthcare force is further hindered by poor working conditionals, low wages and inadequate infrastructure. These limiting factors, combined with an inefficient training capacity, reduce the scarce healthcare workers’ performance in Papua New Guinea.
  4. Missing Resources: The lack of access to the resources necessary for health care workers to do their jobs serves only to worsen the prospects of an already struggling workforce. Recently, Papua New Guinea could not provide nurses with basic medical supplies resulting in nurses threatening a strike. Concerns regarding COVID-19 served to highlight that the country only possesses 14 ventilators. For reference, the U.S. had 160,000 ventilators before the pandemic. Even if these resources became available, many nurses and healthcare practitioners would use them inefficiently as there is a lack of adequate training regarding equipment and disease control.

The Future of Healthcare in Papua New Guinea

While the current state of healthcare in Papua New Guinea is lacking compared to global standards, there are many plans in place to increase the scope and effectiveness of healthcare efforts. The Provincial Health Authority (PHA), endorsed by Minister for Health Sir Dr. Puka Temu, is a widespread reform movement attempting to revitalize healthcare in Papua New Guinea. According to Dr. Temu, the program “will bring [Papua New Guinea’] district and provincial health systems under one umbrella, and allow [public health officials] to improve planning and funding of primary health care.”

The healthcare situation in Papua New Guinea presents both unique and general challenges. While many countries suffer from under-resourced and staffed facilities, Papua New Guinea has its unique geography to overcome. To address these concerns, the nation is preparing for the future with its Development Strategic Plan 2010-30, which aims to work alongside the National Health Plan to make Papua New Guinea “among the top 50 countries in the U.N. Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) by 2050.” International partnerships and a domestic governmental focus on health outcomes provide hope for the future of healthcare in Papua New Guinea.

– Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in AfghanistanEvery year in Afghanistan, more than 60,000 citizens contract tuberculosis. A bacteria called mycobacterium tuberculosis causes the disease and spreads from one infected person to another through the air. Individuals recover from tuberculosis with antibiotics; however, some people struggle to recover with regular medicine. Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) occurs when individuals develop resistance to the antibiotics isoniazid and rifampicin. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Medecins San Frontieres (MSF) and the Oriental Consultants Global Co., Ltd. (OC Global) work toward diagnosing, treating and improving tuberculosis in Afghanistan.

Medecins San Frontieres

MSF came to Afghanistan in 1980 and strives to serve individuals with critical medical conditions, children and pregnant women. More specifically, MSF started its MDR-TB program in 2017 to improve the quality of life of individuals with MDR-TB. Since the program’s inception, MSF identified over 40 patients with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in Afghanistan and many of them received treatment that lasted nine months, as opposed to the standard 20 months. The short treatment time helped eliminate the negative symptoms the patients endured with regular treatment. During their treatment, MDR-TB patients received one of the two antibiotics called bedaquiline and delamanid.

Some patients reside at the association’s clinic in Kandahar to receive antibiotics every day. During their stay, individuals affected with MDR-TB consume nutritious food to help them recover faster. Also, the patients receive counseling and learn how to stop the transmission of tuberculosis to their loved ones.

United Nations Development Programme

The Government of Afghanistan provides universal healthcare to all its citizens. However, many Afghani citizens with MDR-TB do not receive treatment due to the inability to travel to medical centers in the city. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) noticed the struggle that individuals endured to get medical care and constructed four treatment centers in Kabul, Nangarhar, Herat and Balkh. The UNDP came to Afghanistan over half a century ago and strives to get rid of destitution, establish systemic change and teach citizens to be adaptable. More specifically, UNDP works towards providing better medical treatment for citizens affected with MDR-TB.

With the help of donations from the Global Fund, each treatment center bought over 20 beds and built enough space to manage 200 patients. Next, over 1,000 health care workers learned how to better identify and manage the disease. Lastly, programs teach Afghani citizens about the disease to decrease judgment towards MDR-TB patients.

Oriental Consultants Global Co., Ltd.

OC Global began helping Afghanistan in 2009 and aims to construct innovative projects all over the world. In Afghanistan, the corporation helped build a new hospital in Kabul that aims to reduce the number of MDR-TB cases.

Inside the hospital, a laboratory allows medical professionals to draw blood from patients to diagnose them more efficiently and swiftly. Next, the corporation bought all the necessary equipment needed to provide better medical treatment. Lastly, with the data collected from the patients, the hospital learns more about the disease and spreads this knowledge to others.

Looking Forward

All in all, MSF, UNDP and OC Global assist in lowering the cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in Afghanistan. These organizations strive to provide easy access to medical care, better quality treatment and a quick diagnosis. As more citizens become aware of the services provided by these three entities, complete management of MDR-TB appears achievable.

– Samantha Rodriguez-Silva
Photo: Flickr

International Poverty Reduction Center in China
The Chinese government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other organizations founded the International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC) in 2004. Its goal is to allow for the sharing of knowledge and information to reduce poverty and encourage development throughout the world. It also engages in research on international poverty reduction theories and practices and provides reviews of China’s poverty reduction policies. While its work extends beyond Asia, it participates in poverty reduction in Southeast Asia and takes part in ASEAN forums and conferences.

What the International Poverty Reduction Center (IPRCC) Does

One of the major issues of programs seeking to help raise people out of poverty is that they rely too much on giving people what they need today, rather than ensuring they have the resources and knowledge to provide for tomorrow. The International Poverty Reduction Center is trying to prevent this by focusing on involvement at the village level. It pays attention to ensuring those on the ground have the knowledge, resources and ability to continue to grow sustainably even after the IPRCC leaves.

The Ban Xor Example

In December 2016, Ban Xor, Laos became the site for the pilot program of the IPRCC. There were 2,007 residents at the time and half lived on less than $700 a year. The goal of the involvement in Ban Xor is to share knowledge of farming techniques, assist in the construction of public infrastructure and give people market access to sell their products. The emphasis is on using China’s experiences to help others as well as sharing information between both the Chinese and Lao teams. The Chinese experts learned what people in Ban Xor required and what their living situation was like, and the Lao executives’ team learned management methods as well as how to tackle poverty issues based on China’s experiences.

As a result of this program, the people of Ban Xor have improved their corn and cattle farming techniques and have been able to increase their yields. Additionally, women have been able to sell their traditional weaving to Chinese buyers. Some of the infrastructural changes include the building of a bridge to allow easier travel throughout the village at all times of the year. Furthermore, they constructed a school, which caters to students from kindergarten through secondary school, with 60 teachers and 550 students as of 2019. This school includes a playground and places for people to live. As education is one of the best ways to lift people out of poverty and ensures that the next generation will be better off than the current, this is a vital part of this program.

The use of both “hard methods,” such as building roads, bridges and schools and “soft methods,” such as knowledge sharing, is vital. These methods provide the people with the groundwork and the knowledge needed for sustainable development.

The Importance of the Program

While this program is still ongoing and the results of such programs can take years or even decades to come to fruition, changes have already occurred in Ban Xor and other villages to improve the quality of life.

China is still a developing country but has made incredible strides in decreasing poverty within its own country. In 1990, two-thirds of the population was living below the international poverty line. By 2016, it was only 0.5% of the population. That is not to say that there is no inequality in China, but more to show how quickly China has been able to increase the standard of living. This rapid growth has given Chinese poverty reduction experts the knowledge and experience to help others in the region and globally.

Countries like Laos have been steadily decreasing the number of people living in poverty, due in part to programs such as this which facilitate knowledge sharing and encourage people on the ground to make sustainable change. Regional cooperation is vital to ensuring stability and sustainable growth and this program is just one example of how a country can go from a major aid recipient to a major aid donor and help bring change to a region.

– Harriet Sinclair
Photo: Flickr

Improve Lives in MexicoBefore the COVID-19 pandemic, moderate poverty in Mexico had declined from 25.7% in 2016 to 23% in 2018, although 29 million people continued living in impoverished conditions. Prior to 2018, Mexico’s multidimensional poverty rate, which includes income poverty as well as factors such as access to food and education, had dropped to about 42% of the population, thereby improving lives in Mexico. However, according to CONEVAL, a public agency that measures poverty, the effects of COVID-19 could mean that 56% of the country, or 70 million Mexicans, may not earn enough to cover their basic needs. This number represents an increase of around 50% more poverty in the past 24 months. Mexican women-led associations and businesses are leading the way to reduce poverty and improve lives in Mexico.

COVID-19 and Poverty

The effects of COVID-19 could eliminate decades of poverty reduction. Global GDP fell 5.2% in 2020, but, Latin America’s drop in real GDP was expected to be closer to 7%, according to the World Bank. The IMF calculates an economic recession of 6.6% in Mexico. By June 2002, more than a million jobs were already lost due to the pandemic.

As a result, Latin America’s second-largest economy, Mexico, could be among the countries in the region that are affected worst. Up to 17 million Mexicans may soon be living in extreme poverty — an increase from 11 million in 2019.

Women Entrepreneurs in Querétaro

In the state of Querétaro, Mexico, a women-led and women-founded association is helping to lift women and their families out of poverty. Established in 2010, Mujeres y Ambiente SPR de RL de CV has combined forces with an environmentally-minded Spanish company, along with the Mexican government and Autonomous University of Querétaro, to develop cosmetics based on local medicinal plants. Mujeres y Ambiente helps women entrepreneurs in Querétaro to expand their own agricultural micro-businesses, thereby helping them to become economically self-sufficient.

Eulalia Moreno Sánchez, along with her two daughters, Ángeles and Rosa Balderas, formed a Women and Environment group in the La Carbonera community. Through consolidating micro-businesses such as selling earthworm humus, mushrooms, medicinal plants, vegetables and aromatic plants, the women utilize the cultivated raw materials which they use in their products, to help the community produce a sustainable income.

International Support for Mexican Women

The Nagoya Protocol came into force in Mexico in 2014. This international agreement supports the equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources that come from traditional knowledge. Under the agreement, the women of rural Querétaro signed the first-of-its-kind permit between Mexico and Spain, which provides access to the genetic resources of traditional medicine plants cultivated in Mexico. The agreement fairly compensates local producers for their knowledge and their work, thus improving lives in Mexico. The community gets to preserve its ecosystem’s genetic resources and the women’s traditional knowledge based on medicinal plants. Members of the association are offered jobs as well as research and business opportunities.

In 2016, Sanchez and her daughters began to export lemon balm, or Toronjil, for the Spanish cosmetics company Provital. Since then, they have signed additional agreements to produce other medicinal plants for the company. With support from the UNDP (Global Environment Facility), the project establishes the legal framework for ensuring the right to protect biodiversity.

Preserving Biodiversity and Creating Jobs

In addition to alleviating poverty, the association’s goals include stabilizing the soil, cultivating a nursery and conserving biodiversity. Cosmetic products are developed from the women’s traditional knowledge about local herbs and medicinal plants. The entrepreneurs are part of the cosmetics industry’s sustainable supply chain and they serve as an example of successful conservation through the sustainable use of biodiverse resources. These activities have allowed the women to derive an income, create more jobs and open up markets, offering a way to reduce poverty and improve lives in Mexico.

Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in South SudanSouth Sudan, a country in East Africa, gained independence in 2011. This gave more power and opportunities to women. However, women continue to face struggles due to gender inequality. Therefore, women’s rights in South Sudan is a prevalent issue as the country works toward incorporating gender equality in the country’s development.

Gender Inequality in Education

Schools are a prominent place where gender inequality occurs in South Sudan. This is proven by the difference between the literacy rates of girls, which is 40%, and boys, which is 60%. According to the World Bank, about seven girls for every 10 boys are in primary education and around five girls for every 10 boys attend secondary school. Additionally, as of 2013, a total of 500 girls in South Sudan attended the final grade of secondary school. Moreover, around 12% of teachers in the country are female, which only strengthens gender inequality in education.

To address gender disparities in education, in 2012, South Sudan received grants from the Global Partnership for Education and The United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Through these grants, UNICEF Sudan ran the Global Partnership for Education Program. The Program aims to improve the overall education system by encouraging gender sensitivity and taking measures to prevent gender-based violence in a classroom setting. Additionally, South Sudan plans to build 25 girl-friendly schools in the most disadvantaged regions with the purpose of benefiting 3,000 girls. The Program will give teachers training on gender sensitivity and gender-based violence. Furthermore, South Sudan will implement a new curriculum to further remove barriers to education for girls with the focus of developing solidarity. The updated curriculum will also provide newly written textbooks.

Gender Disparities for Health in South Sudan

Gender disparity is a significant issue in healthcare affecting women’s rights in South Sudan. The WHO categorized South Sudan’s health crisis as the “highest level of humanitarian emergency” in 2014. As of 2015, the maternal mortality ratio was 730 deaths per 100,000 live births. Violence in South Sudan widely limits access to healthcare since international NGOs supply over 80% of the country’s healthcare. Outbreaks of fighting often lead to the destruction of health centers and the cessation of medical centers, especially since medical professionals may be forced to seek refuge in another location. Furthermore, women are often disproportionately impacted by the vulnerability of South Sudan’s healthcare system. Because women tend to be the primary source of care for their families during a time of crisis, while men are on the frontline, they often delay seeking medical attention to avoid leaving their children alone. Therefore, providing greater access to healthcare for women would improve the health of families as a whole.

Gender-Based Violence in South Sudan

Gender-based violence is another challenge women in South Sudan face. An estimated 475,000 women and girls in the country are at risk of violence. Additionally, over half of women aged 15 to 24 have endured gender-based violence. South Sudanese women who have experienced violence also tend to be impacted by stigma, which is a barrier to receiving proper care. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) aims to work with the South Sudan government, along with the Global Fund and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to support women by targeting gender based-violence through support programs.

Awareness of women’s rights issues in South Sudan is a step toward improving the overall quality of life of women in the country. Gender disparity affects many aspects of women’s lives in South Sudan, including education, health and risks of violence.  Therefore, addressing issues disproportionately affecting women in South Sudan is imperative.

– Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

green energy to rural AfghanistanFor many Afghans, the country’s past wars and economic hardships have taken a heavy toll and even with the strides made towards rehabilitating the country over the past decade, the scars of the past remain ever-present in the lives of tens of millions of its inhabitants. As Afghanistan seeks to recover and increase development in the wake of destruction and instability, fortification of critical infrastructure has become more important than ever, with one of the most important priorities being access to energy and electricity. As of 2020, many Afghans, particularly in rural areas, live either with unreliable access to electricity or even no access at all. With best estimates claiming that only 30% of the Afghan population are connected to the country’s central energy grid, finding innovative ways of servicing the remaining 70% and bringing green energy to rural Afghanistan is a top priority for infrastructure development and aid in the country.

Energy Poverty in Rural Afghanistan

According to recent reports, most Afghans have limited access to electricity. Lack of development in areas outside of urban centers continues to severely affect tens of millions of people. In 2017, more than half the population lived below the national poverty line. Afghanistan continues to sustain one of the highest poverty levels in the world. Many of the impoverished population live beyond the reach of integrated energy systems and continue to rely upon burning fuels such as diesel and kerosene to generate power for necessities such as cooking and generating heat. These methods can lead to local air pollution through the production of carbon monoxide and other harmful toxins, which can contribute to respiratory problems and other health issues.

What is a Mini-Grid?

Recent advances in green energy infrastructure have provided an alternative to the more harmful energy sources, with the implementation of renewable-powered mini-grid technology. Mini-grids are self-contained energy networks designed to provide energy and electricity to a small, localized area. These networks can vary in size and complexity and as such can offer a spectrum of energy output levels, ranging from “micro-grids” that produce only a few kilowatts to larger networks capable of producing up to 10 megawatts. Mini-grids can run on numerous fuel sources but over the past decade, renewable networks have gained recognition for their utility in both developed and under-developed areas due to their cost-effectiveness and their low environmental and health impact. Bringing reliable green energy to rural Afghanistan is a fundamental component of poverty reduction, as it provides the ability to build infrastructure for digital communication, transportation and education.

The UNDP’s Energy Goals in Afghanistan

Recently the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a project with the aim of harnessing solar-powered and hydro-powered mini-grids to provide green energy to rural Afghanistan. In early 2020, the UNDP approved the Afghanistan Rural Energy Market Transformation Initiative to be backed by $17.2 million from the organization’s Green Climate Fund and additional support from the country’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. The initiative is projected to span 60 months total and to develop renewable mini-grid networks in central and southeast Afghanistan, with pilot projects in the regions of Kandahar, Parwan and Khost. These preliminary sites are intended to serve as examples of the potential of green infrastructure in the country, with further development already planned for the regions of Uruzgan, Daykundi, Bamyan, Laghman and Paktika. While the initiative has been approved by the U.N. and has the joint support of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, its expansion will largely rely upon future investment from the country’s energy sector, allowing for additional mini-grid networks to be installed over time. If instituted on a wide scale, mini-grids are estimated not only to improve health conditions and provide reliable energy access to millions of people but also to place Afghanistan on track to meet the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal 7.

Though still in the early stages of development, this effort to bring green energy to rural Afghanistan is indicative of a growing trend towards decentralized and renewable energy solutions. Mini-grids are a prime example of how innovative technologies are creating innovative solutions to energy poverty around the world, all while remaining environmentally conscious.

–  Matthew Otey
Photo: Flickr

Domestic violence in the Maldives
In July, the Maldives’ Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services introduced a nationwide campaign to combat domestic violence and encourage women’s empowerment. The campaign is intended to last for a three month period and raise awareness on domestic violence in the Maldives.

The Maldives is considered a “development success” by the World Bank. In the last few decades, the Maldives’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita multiplied by more than fifty. The average life expectancy is the Maldives is now 78 years it has almost achieved full literacy across the nation. Now, the country is turning its attention to women’s rights and domestic violence.

Women’s Rights in the Maldives

The Maldives has improved its Gender Inequality Index score significantly in the last two decades from 0.649 to 0.367. The GII takes into account a variety of factors to measure equality between genders, with nations closer to 0 being the most equal. Women contribute to the nation’s economic and political progress through leadership roles and participation in the workforce.

However, the Maldives today still grapples with structural forms of gender inequality. A byproduct of this is the prevalence of domestic violence. According to data collected by the U.N. in 2017, 56% of women ranging from ages 15 to 49 had experienced physical or sexual violence from their partners in the last 12 months.

To continue furthering socio-economic progress in the Maldives, women’s rights and gender equality must not be sidelined. Recognizing this, the government has begun to make a stronger effort to combat domestic violence.

Women’s Rights and Poverty

Economic inequality between the genders is also a persistent social issue in the Maldives. According to research done by the UNDP, Maldivian women’s Gross National Income is lower than men’s by a staggering 48%.

As of 2016, 8.2% of Maldivians live below the nation’s poverty line. Due to structural inequalities that exclude women from major sectors of the economy, such as tourism and agriculture, women are more vulnerable to poverty in the Maldives. For example, the tourism industry indirectly accounts for nearly 60% of the Maldivian economy, but only three percent of women contribute to this sector, in contrast with nearly 50% of men.

Greater women’s empowerment and gender equality have been shown to boost nations’ economic growth. Gender gaps in employment and access to equal opportunity can cost approximately 15% of a nation’s GDP. Allowing women to access the same employment as men in the Maldives would not only benefit the nations’ path of economic growth but help to lift the Maldives’ most vulnerable from extreme poverty.

Furthermore, women’s economic empowerment can be linked to domestic violence. While it is not the only factor, when women can financially support themselves, they are more likely to be able to leave their abusers. Improving women’s rights and helping raise them out of poverty can improve the overall economy and help women escape domestic violence.

The ‘Geveshi Gulhun’ Campaign

The president of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, participated in the inauguration of the Maldives’ anti-domestic violence campaign on July 15, 2020. This campaign comes after public demands from individuals and civil society groups that the government fulfill its promises to address issues like sexual violence and domestic violence.

The campaign aims to raise further national awareness about gender inequality and change long-standing stereotypes about women. The ‘Geveshi Gelhun’ campaign is a necessary first step to what is hopefully a more equitable future in the Maldives.

At the event, President Solih announced that the government would almost double the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services budget to develop resources to address gender-based violence against women in the nation. In addition, he promised that the government would make legislative changes to further punish cases of sexual violence.

The three-month campaign is mostly administered through various forms of media. This has consisted of live television programming, social media posts and billboards to raise awareness. The Ministry is working with local businesses and artists to develop the campaign’s messaging.

Moving Forward

The ‘Geveshi Gelhun’ campaign is a great step in the right direction. Raising awareness and enacting stronger legislation will hopefully have a significant impact on women’s rights. To continue combatting domestic violence in the Maldives, the government and other humanitarian organizations must make this issue a focus of their efforts.

Leina Gabra
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Moldova
Since its independence from Russia in 1991, the Republic of Moldova has struggled to maintain economic sovereignty and is one of Europe’s most impoverished countries. As the country is rife with poverty, rampant hunger also affects it. Hunger in Moldova is a result of an array of factors that contribute to the multilayered issues that the country faces. Some of these factors include emigration and severe weather.

Natural Disasters

Moldova’s climate creates an ideal environment for extreme weather. In 2007-2015, droughts impacted 90% of the country’s territory and 80% of its population. These natural disasters have proven to be detrimental to the country’s agriculture as they are unpredictable and hinder crop production. As 17.7% of Moldova’s economy is contingent upon agriculture, the prevalence of natural disasters endangers the country’s ability to produce for itself and compete within the international economy. This has resulted in Moldovans suffering from a lack of consistent nutrition and resources that has impacted their overall health. Traditionally, the prevalence of anemia is indicative of hunger. Currently, 26.8% of women in the reproductive stage are anemic.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the progress to eliminate hunger in Moldova is under threat. Developing countries are currently at risk because they lack the proper resources to contain outbreaks and stabilize affected communities. According to the UNDP, 75% of those in the least developed countries have access to soap and water. With no way to effectively sanitize, the COVID case counts in developing countries are much higher than those in developed countries. The high numbers of cases in Moldova have proved detrimental to the Moldovan workforce, thus leaving many without access to the goods and services they require. Moreover, COVID-19 is not just a health concern, it also places fundamental resources in jeopardy. The UNDP predicts that developing countries will lose over $220 billion in income and that only 45% of people in those countries will have social protection. As a result, the reversal of efforts regarding education, hunger and human rights may occur.

Solutions

While poverty and hunger have endured in Moldova since its independence from Russia, many international organizations have made efforts to improve the wellbeing of its citizens. Contrary to popular belief, efforts do not have to be particularly large scale. Some of the most effective mechanisms to lessen poverty are local, though internationally funded. Examples include improving small-scale food producers and promoting disaster-resistant agricultural practices. When implemented correctly these small changes create a ripple effect into the country as a whole. Consequently, larger organizations provide funding which strengthens the country’s ability to compete in the international economy.

Efforts in Moldova have decreased the poverty rate from 30.2% to 12.7% from 2007 to 2012, which was 7.8% over the 20% goal. This decrease is impressive because it displays the importance of community efforts in the fight against poverty and the subsequent hunger. An additional example of community outreach is that in 2013, the local government was able to support projects that contributed to helping over 100,000 people gain access to clean water sources. A specific project is the Global Humanitarian Agency’s water project, which focuses on the application of underutilized water resources like rainwater and improving sanitation. In regards to hunger in Moldova, clean water is an essential resource and is often a factor that contributes to poverty.

Additionally, local groups have also been able to train roughly 80% of their elected officials in order to identify needs within their communities. As a result of allowing elected officials to identify needs, communities can regain a level of autonomy. Different places have different needs as far as financial and food resources are concerned. Thus, training elected officials allows them to serve as educated ambassadors and make intelligent decisions regarding their respective areas. These examples illustrate the ability of small efforts to catalyze large scale development.

How to Help

There are many organizations for one to choose from if they would like to help end hunger in Moldova. USAID and UNDP are some of the most reputable.

USAID has championed a project known as the Moldova Competitiveness Project which partners with the Swiss government and focuses on the expansion of the Moldovan economy. The project emerged in October 2015 and is transparent about its objectives. The project plans to elevate Moldova’s economy by increasing productivity within Moldovan businesses and innovation as a whole throughout the country. The improvement of the products that Moldova produces would connect it to the global economy and allow it to become economically sustainable. This improvement of products will occur through the project’s support of specialized training for workers and industry excellence centers like ZIPHouse, a creativity center.

Meanwhile, UNDP seeks to lessen poverty by applying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Effective since 2016, these goals serve as the primary mission statement for UNDP’s global outreach programs. It prioritizes innovation, sustainability and economic equality in an effort to improve the lives of those impoverished and ultimately end poverty as a whole. In response to COVID-19, the UNDP has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to aid developing countries amid the pandemic. It focuses on stopping the spread of the virus by utilizing adequate medical equipment and providing resources to bar the economy from collapsing. It has already utilized $20 million but predicts it will cost at least $500 million in order to sufficiently aid 100 countries.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

SDG 16 in Burkina Faso
After semi-authoritarian rule for 27 years and the end of the Compaoré regime by a popular insurrection, the people of Burkina Faso had the chance to open the door to a political transition and the creation of a competitive democracy. As a result, Burkina Faso held peaceful elections in November 2015. Since then, the new government and the local communities have been working on addressing the challenges of more inclusive development, transitional justice and a new governance model of security. Here are some updates on SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In that same year, all the United Nations’ Member States adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which emerged as an urgent call for all countries to achieve peace and prosperity for humanity and the planet. The SDGs tackle issues as diverse and relevant for today’s world as to end hunger, eliminate poverty and achieve gender equality. Despite this, the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), the antecessors to the SDGs, demonstrated that to achieve progress in the realms of poverty and development, there must be a greater focus on its root causes. Now, violence, insecurity and conflict play a key role in constraining development.

The SDG 16: “Peace, justice and strong institutions” aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. In many ways, the SDG 16 is one of the most ambitious goals, since it faces many challenges for its implementation, especially in countries with weak institutions and armed conflicts.

Burkina Faso and the SDGs

Since the two events, both the democratization of Burkina Faso and the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals, occurred at almost at the same time, the country quickly decided to include the SDGs in its political agenda. First, the country implemented a five-year National Plan for Economic and Social Development (PNDES) that was almost 90% SDG compliant. Moreover, numerous reforms are underway to promote human rights, improve the efficiency of the justice system and other public institutions, address corruption and guarantee legal inclusion, all of these to achieve the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

Human Rights

In 2016, Burkina Faso established the National Human Rights Commission, as the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (UNOHCHR) recommended and in compliance with the Paris Principles. The members of this commission are administrative and financially independent by law.

Later, in the 2018 Universal Periodic Review, which involved the participation of the government together with the civil society, development partners and U.N. entities (such as UNDP, UNICEF and UNOHCHR), the international community commended the country’s efforts to improve political, social, economic, civic and cultural rights. After the adoption of this report, the Human Rights Council set 184 recommendations that the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Burkina Faso quickly implemented.

That same year, the country’s parliament abolished the death penalty and increased the protection of victims and witnesses by law.

Finally, freedom of the press and plurality of media has played a crucial role in making the country’s leaders accountable. The country ranked 38 in the 2020 Press Freedom Index with a value of 24.53 and, although it is lower than the previous year, it is still considered as a positive trend to achieve this indicator of the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

Justice and Legal Inclusion

The advocacy efforts of a women-led civil society organization, Association des Femmes Juristes, sprung into a law that ensures vulnerable populations’ access to justice. The establishment of a legal aid fund to support women in need of judicial assistance and cover their legal costs soon followed the adoption of this law. As a result, between 2016 and 2018, the fund has helped close to 600 people.

Additionally, great progress has occurred in modernizing civil registration, mainly ensuring registration of children under 5, displaced populations, migrants and refugees. This prevented the classification of many people at risk as stateless. Later in 2018, Burkina Faso ratified the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and adopted a National Action Plan against Statelessness, in which the government collaborated with religious institutions and the U.N. to organize hearings in several regions and allocate citizenship to approximately 40,000 people.

Civic Participation

The government of Burkina Faso created platforms for citizen engagement through annual, two-way dialogues with the civil society to openly discuss numerous policy issues. Some citizen platforms such as Dialogue Citoyen and Presimetre encourage the government’s accountability and the civilian’s interest in public affairs. Since its launch, many political leaders have made appearances on media platforms to respond to civil queries and many surveys have occurred.

The Future is Bright

Overall, there have been significant improvements for sustainable development in Burkina Faso. Specifically, the country has a spillover score (which results from the actions by countries to achieve the SDGs under four dimensions: environment, economy & finance, society and security) of 99.3 out of 100, showcasing that there is Burkina Faso is undergoing a great number of positive actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Unfortunately, recent security threats are negatively affecting the country’s political transition and development, such as terrorism and organized crime. Despite this, the new context of insecurity has raised the redesign of security measures at two levels: first, at a central state-level, and second, at the local state-level with non-state security initiatives (LSIs). These new challenges have highlighted the importance of social cohesion and the promotion of peaceful societies to achieve the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

Finally, the developments on the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso showcase how new democracies can address their structural and social issues in short periods when the actors involved are willing to do so. Today, these efforts combined with international assistance are imperative to support the country’s sustainable development and prevent these achievements from disappearing due to new threats.

– Helen Souki
Photo: Flickr