NamibiaNamibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990. However, it is still dealing with the result of socioeconomic inequalities that came from the apartheid system during colonization. The government has achieved the UNDP Millennium Development Goal of cutting its poverty rate in half, but has unfortunately failed to eradicate hunger in Namibia.

Namibia has a Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 31.4, as reported by the International Food Policy Research Institute. This shows an alarming level of hunger in Namibia. What makes it more serious is the fact that Namibia has the lowest percentage reductions in GHI scores since 2000. Though child stunting, child wasting and child mortality have declined, undernourishment has increased to 42.3 percent. The factors that lead to hunger in Namibia include frequent droughts and flooding, putting pressure on the country’s agricultural and livestock production.

Chronic droughts, lack of agricultural land and water shortages result in crop failure. This means that agricultural production is severely low, even though about 70 percent of the population depends on the agricultural sector for their subsistence.

15.8 percent of Namibia’s population lives on less than $ 1.25 per day. Its economy is largely dependent on extraction and limited processing of minerals like diamonds, gold and zinc. It is also one of the largest producers of uranium in the world. However, only 10 percent of the labor force is employed in the mining sector.

Poverty is the most important of the causes of hunger in Namibia, limiting access to food. Another problem is that Namibia is heavily reliant on food imports (60 percent of all its food requirements), which means it is subject to high prices. The proportion of food insecure individuals was estimated at 25 percent in 2016.

Recently, the World Food Programme and Namibia’s National Planning Commission launched a five-year Country Strategic Plan (CSP) with an aim to end hunger in Namibia. The CSP is aligned with the Fifth National Development Plan and the Zero Hunger Roadmap, meant to achieve two strategic wins: enabling the vulnerable population to meet their food and nutrition requirement and ensuring government policies and programme designs are more informed of hunger issues. The support includes implementation of food-based safety net programmes, food management and monitoring system as well as capacity development to sustain the improvements and achieve zero hunger in Namibia.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

UNDP Supports Universal Immunization Program in IndiaWith high risks of communicable diseases like bacterial diarrhea, malaria, hepatitis A and E and typhoid, there’s a rising necessity for a proper immunization program in India. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with the Indian government and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to design and put into effect an Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN). This project, known as Improving Efficiency of Vaccination Systems in Multiple States, has already run since 2014 and is to run until 2021 to strengthen the evidence base for policy-making related to vaccine delivery, procurement and planning, and ensure equity in availability.

As the world’s largest immunization program, eVIN technology has already shown results in enabling real time information on cold chain temperatures and vaccine stocks and flows in all 371 implementing districts in India. It has managed to achieve over a 98 percent reporting rate from vaccine storage areas, with over 2 million transactions logged each month, and developed the skills of over 17,000 government staff in store keeping, data operating or cold chain handling in over 550 batches of training programs.

The eVIN is setup on a mobile application that easily allows cold chain handlers to log stock positions at the end of each routine immunization day, which is then relayed immediately onto a web interface for assessment by health officials. In India, this can come to play an important role as geography and communications can pose an issue, like in the small hill-state of Manipur, where vaccine vials are carried over extensive distances to session sites by auxiliary nurses and midwives. Instances of stock-outs have decreased by more than six times here, and eVIN has enabled staff to learn how to use a smartphone and other technology, improving quality of work and management in the process.

This immunization program in India has also significantly empowered women health workers, giving them the opportunity to work with technology after attending regional and district eVIN training sessions. This allows them to manage stocks and temperatures themselves, bridges the digital divide in rural parts of India and ensures transparency alongside accuracy. Over 50 percent of cold chain handlers are women, and many are from older age groups.

EVin has taken India out of the unproductive days of delayed decision making, shortages and expirations, and has created an efficient health system that allows for valuable state-wide geographic, stock-out or excess stock and temperature overviews on each district’s centers. It also allows for large savings by reducing vaccine wastage and allowing for timely and quality injections, as in Rewa, where around $70,000 was saved after six months of eVIN activation.

Though led by the UNDP and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India, the Universal Immunization Program is largely supported by GAVI, a global vaccine alliance established in 2000. With support from GAVI and the Indian government, the Universal Immunization Program in India has immunized at least 65 percent of India‘s children and expects to immunize 27 million more each oncoming year.

Zar-Tashiya Khan

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Years of war and a fragmented economic system have resulted in high rates of unemployment and hunger in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As far back as the early 1990s, the republic has faced hunger issues and has yet to resolve them.

Restless demonstrators and the hungry have joined together to protest the idea that there is “no hunger” in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. 17 government buildings have been set aflame in frustration as the government works to find solutions to the unemployment and hunger epidemic. Iconically spoken in the country’s three official languages, the protests have attracted demonstrators from more than 30 cities.

Most of the demonstrations are addressing the up-and-down economic trends over the years that have caused a spike in unemployment. Between 1992 and 1995, the country faced an 80 percent drop in production, which improved until the worldwide economic crisis of 2008. In 2013 the country recovered again, with the private sector slowly growing.

In 2016, the country’s GDP was estimated at $42.23 billion, an increase from 2015’s $41.2 billion. However, unemployment in 2016 was estimated at 28 percent, an increase from 2015’s 27.7 percent, while the population below the poverty line in 2011 was at 17.2 percent.

Despite these economic trends, undernourishment and hunger rates in Bosnia and Herzegovina have fallen. Starting in 2000, the undernourishment percentage was reported at 4.1, then decreased to 2.2 in 2008 and 0.9 percent in 2016. The prevalence of wasting in children and the mortality rate have also followed the same trend.

To address the unstable economy and the ever-present hunger in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has created 17 sustainable development goals. The second goal directly tackles the hunger epidemic the country has faced in the past decades. The goal is to end hunger by 2030 by promoting sustainable agricultural practices such as supporting small-scale farmers and allowing access to land, technology and markets.

As hunger rates continue to fall, the country along with the UNDP will continue to find solutions to end hunger in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Additionally, by creating an economic system to lower the country’s unemployment rates and increase the overall GDP, the country will continue to see a drop in hunger rates.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr

Social Good Summit 2017Against the backdrop of a bustling New York City, several celebrities, social media influencers and representatives came together to discuss sustainability, technology and the future of the world. On September 16, 2017, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 92Y and Mashable hosted the sixth annual Social Good Summit. The theme of the event #2030NOW evoked the question: what kind of changes await the world in 2030?

The 2030 theme serves as a benchmark for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) first agreed upon in 2015. All 193 member states of the U.N. signed on to work towards goals such as eradicating poverty, encouraging sustainable economic growth and taking action against climate change. The Social Good Summit 2017 takes a look at the ways the world can make these achievements.

Attending the summit were some influential and familiar faces including actress Whoopi Goldberg, activist Deray McKesson and U.N. Youth Observer Munira Khalif.

Positive Change via Technology

A hot-button topic at the Social Good Summit 2017 was technology and the changing face of connection around the world. Many speakers specifically mentioned the role of technology in fostering movements around the world. Founder of Care2, Randy Paynter, led a talk concerning social good technology. Care2 is a platform that allows its users to sign petitions of causes they support.

Randy demonstrated how the platform he helped create makes strides in the fight against global poverty. With Amazon Alexa’s new social good skill, he showcased the Care2’s donation capabilities and ended up donating to the U.N. Foundation. Throughout his presentation, he stressed how easy it has become to play a part in the movement to help the 800 million people living in extreme poverty.

Pushing for Equality

Another important issue at the summit revolved around SDG #5: gender equality. Speakers discussed everything from health to religion. SafeCity developer Elsa Marie D’Silva and director Ilwad Elman spoke about the importance of creating spaces for women at risk of violence. Within the context of the shocking statistics surrounding rape and sexual harassment around the world, the women detailed their ways of trying to end gender-based violence.

Elsa Marie D’Silva developed a nonprofit and an application that maps sexual violence and harassment in India. Ilwad Elman created one of the first rape-crisis centers in Somalia, which has now turned into a human rights center. Both women emphasized how important it is to create a dialogue around sexual violence and harassment in different countries. Elsa Marie D’Silva stated that normalizing the topic will help create change from the bottom. At the same time, Ilwad Elman made the point that even audience members could do their part and spread the messages through advocacy.

Help for Humanity

Another notable segment of the Social Good Summit 2017 featured Khaled Khatib and Mounir Mustafa, members of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the “White Helmets.” The White Helmets are a group of civilians on the ground in Syria, who risk their lives to help rescue victims of attacks in the country. The men stated that the war in Syria took lives regardless of people’s political affiliation, so they choose to save lives regardless of their political affiliation.

Mounir Mustafa made the point that, because of the way the war captured the country, saving citizens is necessary, not optional. Khaled Khatib, only 22 years old, felt that he needed to be involved in the work in order to document the things they see. Both the men stressed that hope is important for victims in this war and any war around the world. This segment showcased both the importance of the Syrian conflict to the world and the resilience and persistence of the people in the middle of it.

The Social Good Summit 2017 created a space for people from all walks of life and careers to come together and speak on how they would like to see the world in 2030. It helped take another step in the direction of creating a collaborative, open-source conversation about sustainable development.

Selasi Amoani

Photo: Flickr

 IndonesiaSeptember 23 marked the 50 year anniversary of the formation of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN was created in 1967 by the leaders of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines in order to promote cooperation in economic, social, technical and educational growth. While ASEAN has expanded to include more than just these five Southeast Asian states, the coalition has been very successful in its efforts to reduce poverty.

According to Adam Steiner, the United Nations Development Programme administrator, the combined poverty rate of ASEAN countries dropped from 47 percent in 1970 to 14 percent in 2015. This was well beyond the ASEAN Millennium Development Goals for 2015, and the 2030 goal is now to completely eradicate poverty from ASEAN nations.

One thing that is noteworthy about the way ASEAN countries are working to reach the Sustainable Development Goals is the unprecedented participation from the citizens of these nations. The governments of these countries are working very hard to involve the people in the processes of poverty reduction, mainly with the launch of the ASEAN My World survey by the UN Member States. The My World Survey asked for the opinions of over 10 million individuals worldwide regarding their hopes for the future. There were a quarter of a million participants from the ASEAN region, and the survey results were used to shape the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

The My World survey asked subjects to choose which goals were most important to them, with the options ranging from “freedom from discrimination and persecution” to “a good education.” The data was also split up by demographics such as gender, age, level of education and HDI. The data is quite comprehensive and will allow for more impactful policymaking.

The development of ASEAN countries is already becoming much more inclusive of citizens, and this is a great step towards more sustainable governance and development in any nation. The survey was launched in 2015, and the results have already been used to create the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the Agenda for 2030, which shows the dedication of ASEAN nations to a more people-centered future. Additionally, the My World survey is the largest survey the United Nations has attempted in over 70 years, showing a potentially significant shift in the future of global governance.

While the eradication of poverty, among the other 2030 goals, is very ambitious to attempt in 15 years, ASEAN, as well as the U.N. Member States, has shown a commitment to achieving the goals that citizens consider important. The ASEAN My World survey has presented a new attitude towards access and participation in government and policy in the Southeast Asian region.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr

UNDP & Italy Support Italian G7 Presidency & UNDP ReformWhile the Ministerial Meetings continue under the current Italian Group of 7 (G7) Presidency in Italy, the Summit meetings concluded in May setting the organization’s 2017 mission as “Building the Foundations of Renewed Trust”. On September 18, 2017, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Italian Minister of the Environment, Land and Sea (IMELS) signed an agreement to support the Italian G7 Presidency commitments and reform objectives with EUR €7 million.

Since Italy holds the Italian G7 Presidency, which rotates every year between member states, it must host all the G7 meetings. The member states include France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Canada.

Italy is also charged with preparing draft documents and proposing thematic priorities, especially those to be decided on by heads of state and government. Even more importantly, Italy must negotiate language and terms of decisions by leading dialogue, mediating and finding common ground between partners. On behalf of the entire group, it must maintain relations with civil society, international organizations and countries outside of the G7.

This year Italy chose to focus on goals addressing (1) citizen safety, (2) economic, environmental, and social sustainability and reduction of inequalities and (3) innovation, skills, and labor in the age of the next production revolution.

The Italian G7 Presidency commitments require forming a number of recommendations related to climate change, environmental degradation, agriculture and food security, water availability and economic growth in Africa. The Italian government has supported their proposal for a centre in Rome that will facilitate exchanges of information on increasing the effectiveness, synergies and complementarities of continuing projects in Africa.

The Italian Minister of the Environment, Land and Sea will also be getting together with the UNDP and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in Rome to facilitate the exchange of information on development interventions alongside the aforesaid Italian G7 Presidency interests and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The UNDP is looking to realign its own Strategic Plan for 2018 to 2021 around these initiatives, which it will present to G7 member states.

Zar-Tashiya Khan

Photo: Flickr

How to Help Georgia: Social Assistance and Corruption
Georgia, a former Soviet state, has dealt with a massive civil war, corruption, poverty and strife since the fall of the USSR. A struggling economy has been hindered by conflict in the region, and Georgia has had to move from a model that favored international assistance to an increase in social spending, which led to an increase in the bottom 40 percent of income but not much else. The big issue in Georgia is poverty, which is driving citizens towards cities and away from the countryside, leaving those in rural areas without resources.

Social Assistance and Rural Strife
One organization, Czech Republic’s People in Need, has recognized the struggles that rural citizens face. It has extended its developmental support to rural people and internally displaced persons within Georgia that do not benefit from state-run social programs. In addition to developmental support, People in Need has helped bring immediate humanitarian assistance to the area and launched programs that aim to develop regions such as the Samegrelo region after their need for humanitarian assistance has waned. This includes promoting positive relationships between law enforcement authorities and the citizens, and civic initiatives that help youths learn life skills and get job training.

The United Nations Development Program stated “The unemployment rate in Georgia is 12 percent, while 68 percent of the population regard themselves as unemployed.” Many of the people in question come from rural areas, which have a declining job market as people move to city hubs. In order to improve the circumstances of these people, an effort needs to be made to develop accessible sectors such as agriculture. While farming cannot create an overwhelming expanse of new jobs, it would be enough to bring hope to an area that is in need. In order to get enough support to develop the agricultural industry, the government needs to step in, but Georgia struggles with high levels of corruption and an inefficient bureaucracy.

Government Reform
Another way to help Georgia is to rid it of the corruption that permeates the Georgian government. Georgia currently ranks highest in corruption in eastern Europe, and while it has taken steps to decrease this level of corruption by requiring greater transparency in elections and higher standards for publishing information, there is much that can be done to make the government run more smoothly. Some of these options include creating an efficient anti-corruption body, legal systems that are designed to prevent conflicts of interest, an independent investigatory mechanism and regulatory institutions.

Corruption has become such a widespread problem in Georgia that bribing public officials in order to make the government run more smoothly is just a fact of life for Georgian citizens. This makes it harder to develop industry, since the citizens who need new jobs may not be able to afford to bribe the public officials that can help with development and job creation in a timely manner. Bureaucracy, in this case, is too slow for citizens to get the help they need to create a better economic environment and help Georgia succeed in the region and world market.

Ultimately, the key to helping Georgia is putting efforts into eradicating corruption in the government and establishing a job market in the rural areas that hold the highest unemployment rates. While a history of corruption will be difficult to overcome, with time Georgia can rise to become a power player in its region and provide for its citizens.

Rachael Blandau

Photo: Flickr

Maldives Poverty Rate

Maldives is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean. While the country was a life expectancy of 77 years and a literacy rate of 98.4 percent, the Maldives poverty rate still allows room for growth.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported that by 2016, only two percent of the nation’s citizens lived under the international poverty line. Similarly, Asian Development Bank reported 2015 that 15 percent of people in Maldives lived under the national poverty line.

Though this seems a bit higher, other South Asian countries show even greater numbers for the same statistic. For example, India’s is almost 22 percent, Nepal’s is over 25 percent. Bangladesh ranks higher than all of them, coming up at over 31 percent.Bhutan and Sri Lanka fall below Maldives—at 12 and 6.7 percent, respectively.

When looking at the death of infants in Maldives, 2015 data indicated that seven out of 1,000 babies die in live births. This country ranks the lowest when put side-by-side with Sri Lanka (8), Bhutan (27), Nepal (29), Bangladesh (31) and India (38).

When looking at 2012 data on the percentage of “employed population below $1.90 purchasing power parity a day,” Maldives settles in at 6.6 percent. This means that it still ranks below Bangladesh (over 73 percent), India (almost 18 percent) and Nepal (over 12 percent).

Similar to the statistic regarding the national poverty line, only Bhutan and Sri Lanka fall below Maldives in the list of six nations—both resting at slightly over four percent.

The Maldives tout an unemployment rate slightly below 12 percent, a GDP per capita at about $11,282 and tourist activities accounting for a quarter of its GDP.

However, it is important to note that a variety of issues still impact the nation.

The UNDP points out a lack of opportunities for female autonomy, a need for greater answerability within governing bodies and the dangers of environmental degradation.

Rural Poverty Portal also touches on problems the nation struggles with. It indicates that much of the country’s poverty exists on islands where fishing and farming predominate. Focusing on the less urbanized areas, it highlights that insufficient supply of natural resources, low credit and poor farming techniques all contribute.

Still, in relation to many of its counterparts, the Maldives poverty rate suggests much promise for the South Asian country. Although the nation must make improvements in a variety of aspects beyond those listed, its current status reflects its well-being.

Maleeha Syed

Photo: Flickr

China's Poverty Reduction Plan
The 11th ASEAN-China Forum on Social Development and Poverty Reduction took place in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province. During the meeting, over 120 government officials, experts and scholars from China and ASEAN countries gathered together. They discussed China’s poverty alleviation plan and most successful practices.

The Country Director of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Cambodia, Nick Beresford, praised China for their poverty-reduction methods, which have lifted “hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.” According to the China’s State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, more than 700 million Chinese citizens have transitioned out of poverty. In addition, the rural poor population in China has declined to 43.35 million in December 2016.

The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Gilbert Houngbo, also believes that China’s poverty reduction plan presents an excellent model for other countries to implement within own their economies. China’s economy is the second largest and accounts for 14.8 percent of the world economy, right behind the U.S. economy. With 1.38 billion people, China also has the largest population in the world.

“Even as a symbol,” President Houngbo stated, “China’s economic transition offers hope to other developing countries that want to do the same thing.”  The primary component of China’s poverty reduction plan is steady income growth for the bottom 60 percent of households in rural China. This plan has four underlying factors:

  1. Increased industrialization and urbanization throughout the country has transformed an agricultural surplus labor force into urban employment in China.
  2. Equally distributing land between the bottom “quintile households” and the top income households is another goal. The equal distribution of land enables the lower income households to proportionally benefit from the payments the state provides to support agricultural development.
  3. Universal social development programs are making contributions to increase income growth for bottom households. China has successfully implemented several social development programs designed to improve educational, medical and income growth.
  4. Targeted poverty reduction programs will develop the physical infrastructure and increase social development. They will also generate income to assist poor households.

A global market research and consulting firm called Ipsos conducted an international survey titled, “What Worries the World.” The 2017 survey documented answers from 26 different countries. They asked a random sample of 18,557 adults, aged 16 to 64, if they believed China had been making the right decisions for its citizens.

China has the highest percentage (87 percent) of people believing their country is going in a positive direction. In the survey, China was the only country to list “moral decline” as their top issue. A majority of the other 25 remaining nations listed “health care” or “unemployment” as their country’s top issue.

In a distant southern Chinese village, China’s poverty reduction plan is being tested. The Yi ethnic group has a unique language and culture from mainstream China. They reside in a geographically remote location. Many of them are illiterate and have a value system distinct from traditional money and prospects. Years of government intervention have failed to alter the Yi ethnic groups way of life.

In the village of Liangshan, more than 400,000 people are “classified as poor, meaning their yearly income is less than 340 dollars.” The Communist Party of China believes that lifting the Yi ethnic group and others out of economic hardship is critical to achieving the country’s goal of ending poverty by 2020.

While insufficient schools and language barriers present large issues, many locals believe that job creation for minority groups would be more successful than simply giving them money.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr

Stability in IraqAs fighting continues in cities like Mosul, which formerly served as a strong base for the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), there is a growing need to rebuild newly liberated areas and infrastructure for stability in Iraq. In an effort to address this, recent pledges were declared by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for an additional $150 million in funds to go to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). This brings the total U.S. contribution to stability in Iraq to $265.3 million.

The UNDP manages to work with the Iraqi government, with backing from the prime minister and members of the Coalition to Degrade and Defeat ISIS, to assist retaken areas with the creation and subsidy of the Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS). The FFS provides essential services like water and electricity, plus temporary employment opportunities and support for small businesses to help spur economic growth in the region.

Its approach is calculated, with teams dispatched into cities within days of them being approved as safe to consider damages and plans of action together with local authorities. They work to quickly repair water systems, electricity grids and other public infrastructure, employ youth in work brigades to remove rubble and clear transport routes, support businesses with cash grants and restore education, health and municipal centers.

The FFS grew to work in 28 areas cleared by the Stabilization Committee, with more than 1,100 projects in Nineveh, Anbar, Salah al-Din, Diyala, Kirkuk and Mosul, Iraq — the largest project yet. In Mosul, close to 300 schemes are being executed to fix central water treatment plants, electrical substations, schools and health facilities.

The program was initially capitalized at $7 million from the USAID and is now supported by around 23 donors and $420 million in funding. The United States was joined by the United Kingdom government, which contributed an additional $5.2 million to the Funding Facility for Stabilization, bringing the total U.K. contribution toward stability in Iraq to $15 million.

With the funding of the FFS, two million or so displaced Iraqis were returned home and cities are once again flourishing as hubs of development since the conflict started in 2014.

Zar-Tashiya Khan

Photo: Flickr