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Hydropower Dams
A once thriving area for fishing and agriculture, the Mekong River Delta sports a dramatically different look than it did just a century ago. The river, historically wide and abundant, is characterized by large jigsaw puzzles of cracked earth where water has dried up and emptied villages where fishermen once thrived. The place has recently seen a mass exodus, with a million people resettling from southwestern Vietnam alone in the last decade.

Harmful Effects of Hydropower Dams

The region has long been one of the world’s largest inland fisheries, supporting 60 million Cambodians, Vietnamese, Thai and Laotians. It provides Vietnam with 50 percent of its food and 23 percent of its GDP, and Cambodia with 80 percent of its protein intake and 12 percent of its GDP. However, over the last couple of decades, hydropower dams have emerged along the river, threatening local communities and ecosystems while creating large amounts of renewable energy.

According to a UNESCO report, dams on the upper Mekong have resulted in a 70 percent reduction in sediment in the delta. By 2040, estimates determine that these and future dams will block 97 percent of the sediment that moves down the river. This sediment is critical for both rice production and fish life in the Mekong. The loss has been devastating.

Hydropower Dams are Detrimental to the Environment

Even with the detriment to rice production and fishing in the area, the lower Mekong region may still see more hydropower dams. Several countries have created plans to use the area for power, and not without reason. Estimates have determined that dams in the region should be able to produce 30,000 megawatts of electricity, which would be a massive boost to the power capacity of the lower Mekong.

Dams are also an opportunity for foreign investment and could be a huge boost to the GDP of these countries. In fact, the Mekong River Commission’s initial studies estimated that countries in the region could gain $30 billion from dam development, though more recent studies suggest that the area could lose as much as $7 billion from this construction. Despite this, the Mekong River Commission has advised a postponement on the building of these dams until it can further evaluate the risks, and because of the inequitable effects of building the dams, which would likely benefit urban elites while hurting rural farmers and fishermen.

Are there Positive Effects?

Some argue that the presence of these dams may have positive effects on fishing and rice production in the area due to an increased flow of water during dry seasons as dams release water, combatting the effects of drought. Whether this makes up for the loss of nutrient-rich silt and fish life is debatable. However, farmers have recently resorted to using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which can be potentially harmful in the long-run, to boost their crop production.

Though it is unclear whether or not countries in the Lower Mekong Region will continue their plans to build hydropower dams, it is certain that farmers and fishermen will continue to suffer as long as the delta is victim to the already present dams in China and the effects of climate change. However, on a lighter note, there has been a recent increase in international aid and development to the Lower Mekong Region, as well as an effort to maintain biodiversity and create sanctuaries for fish and new fish reserves. Hopefully, these countries will manage to balance the poverty-alleviating industrialization that comes with hydropower, and a shift to industrialized agriculture with the interests of rural farmers, fishermen and biodiversity in the region in mind.

– Ronin Berzins
Photo: Flickr

eLearning Can Help Developing Countries
Education is a human right and a basic need that children and adults alike do not always receive in developing countries. In 1820, only 12 percent of the people in the world could read. By 2016, the percentages reversed and only 14 percent of the world population was illiterate. However, in countries like Niger, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, the rate of literacy is below 30 percent. With eLearning or electronic learning, these countries might be able to hope for a better future and potentially change their country’s path into a better economy and education system. Here is some information about how eLearning can help developing countries.

eLearning and its Benefits

eLearning is a form of learning through electronic devices like computers, tablets or any other electronic device that one can connect to the internet. Essentially, it is education online. 

eLearning can help developing countries because it is not only incredibly adaptable but also cost-effective as it removes the need for buying printed course materials. It also helps improve performance and productivity as it gives the user flexibility to learn at their own pace as they can repeat lectures as many times as they desire. It also facilitates students by cutting the transport factor when countries struggle with public transport and other logistics.

The Department of Higher Education and Training in South Africa said that it has committed itself to “an expansion of online resources” for more colleges and universities to adapt to and reach rural communities so students study and learn at a time and place convenient for them. There are 14.8 million people without access to transport in rural areas.

eLearning is also environmentally friendly. In fact, it consumes 90 percent less power and has generated 85 percent less CO2 emissions compared to onsite education.

Costs of eLearning

However, while eLearning has many benefits for developing countries, it also comes at a cost. The biggest setback is that some developing countries cannot adapt to eLearning due to the lack of access to high-speed internet, trained IT personnel or access to electrical power.

Another setback is that governments need to approve and adapt their education system to deploy eLearning, which relies heavily on investing. According to Market Research, some states in Africa have been investing heavily in eLearning, growing at a rate of 15 percent per year.

South Africa has the largest open distance eLearning institution, The University of South Africa, with a student headcount of over 300,000. In 2011, 91 percent of its students were from South Africa.

UNESCO and other GNO’s initiatives have been aiding countries to obtain access to the internet to be able to utilize eLearning. Senegal and Zambia should grow up to 30 percent in the developing and deployment of eLearning. 

India and Latin America are Catching Up

With a population of over 1.2 billion in India, the customer size should grow from 370 million to 500 in 2020.  Another factor of this growth is that eLearning has also reached rural areas, promoting India’s economical and educational growth, booming the market.

One can greatly attribute much of this to India’s government work on promoting online sources and eLearning. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said that eLearning is one of the “key tools for imparting education.”

According to Business Wire, Latin America is expecting to create revenues of $3 billion by 2023, a growth of more than 4 percent in the use of eLearning.

Countries like Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Argentina have adopted eLearning and overall, revenues should reach $2.2 billion and are growing at an annual rate of 14.6 percent. The increase in these percentages of eLearning use has also been possible with the help of the increasing rise in the use of smartphones and the exchange of audio and text-based applications.

From this revenue, Brazil has been investing in eLearning to adapt it into the educational curriculum, and now 51 percent of institutions utilize eLearning. Overall, technology and innovation are at the forefront of investments in Brazilian schools.

 With the help of governments and NGOs, eLearning can help developing countries by helping education reach children and adults alike. Subsequently, this could aid the growth of country’s economies and education systems with eLearning as a key tool as more and more countries adapt to online resources, adding themselves to the eLearning market.

– Merlina San Nicolás Leyva
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in Cuba
Although the Cuban Communist Party has relaxed some aspects of the nation’s government-directed socialist economic policies, Cuba remains one of the world’s only communist states. Cubans face many economic challenges due to their somewhat politically isolated status, especially since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and subsequent loss of Soviet aid. Despite this, Cuba perseveres and continues to address domestic quality of life concerns. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Cuba.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Cuba

  1. Water Shortages: The extreme drought in 2017 highlighted the limitations of Cuba’s outdated water infrastructure and revealed the Cuban government’s inability to quickly mitigate water shortages. Urban residents without water could request government water delivery, but the overburdened government struggled to respond adequately. Instead, citizens often turned to the black market to acquire water.
  2. National Hydraulics Program: The second point among these 10 facts about sanitation in Cuba is that the country’s ancient water pipelines are prone to leakage and inconsistent water flow, often resulting in flooded streets and homes without running water. Even in periods of drought, water loss and inefficient water distribution are more of an obstacle than a straight lack of water. To correct these problems, Cuba implemented a national hydraulics program funded with loans from OPEC, Saudi Arabia, China and others. So far, workers have installed 227,000 new water meters and cut water loss by 10 percent.
  3. Water and Sanitation Improvements: As of 2015, access to drinking water and sanitation facilities had improved drastically. Many (94.9 percent) of the population has improved access to drinking water sources in the form of safely piped water, clean public taps and rainwater collection while 93.2 percent have better access to sanitation facilities. These improvements are more apparent in urban settings, as 96.4 percent of city-dwellers and only 89.8 percent of the rural populace have benefited from refurbished water infrastructure. Droughts have disrupted the available and consistent delivery of clean water, but Cuba continues to revamp its water and sanitation infrastructure.
  4. Environmental Challenges and UNESCO: Decades of periodic oil spills and the release of wastewater into the historic Bay of Cienfuegos has harmed Cuba’s fishing industry, damaged the environment and threatened tourism. UNESCO’s designation of the bay as a protected World Heritage site spurred some environmental recovery efforts. Cuba’s government estimates that restoration will cost approximately 1 million pesos.
  5. Class and Demographics: Despite frequent shortages and infrastructure issues, Cuba’s drinking water supply is safe in most parts of the country. However, there are class and demographic divides in water access as the urban poor and rural populations are the most likely to go without, while Cuba often caters to tourists. The goal of Cuba’s hydraulics program is to completely supply the entire population with adequate amounts of clean water so that the Cuban government actively engages itself in fixing these problems.
  6. Water Treatment Facilities: Cuba’s surface water treatment facilities use rapid sand filtration methods, which are not always effective due to a shortage of chemicals and equipment. Consequently, only 62 percent of Cuban citizens have access to clean water. Aiding domestic efforts aimed at fixing Cuba’s water issues, China installed fourteen water purification plants in central Cuba.
  7. Water Affordability: Although clean water is not as readily available as Cubans might desire, it is always affordable. As is the case with most social institutions in Cuba, water utilities receive government subsidies and are therefore cheap. As of 2018, a household of four paid less than $0.25 USD for water service.
  8. Sanitation Infrastructure Improvements: Much of Cuba’s sanitation infrastructure is decades old and does not serve most of the rural population. Cuba is in the process of modernizing its wastewater treatment facilities with assistance from the United Nations Development Program. Additionally, Italy’s TECOFIL is responsible for opening 300 functional and environmentally sustainable wastewater treatment plants.
  9. Benefits of Tourism: Tourism is a critical component of Cuba’s economic activity, so the nation sometimes caters to tourists at the expense of the native populace. While tourists have ready access to clean bottled water, ongoing droughts and other troubles sometimes leave the locals rationing a limited supply of available drinking water. On the bright side, tourism brings international attention to Cuba and may lead to beneficial foreign enterprise along the lines of TECOFIL’s operations.
  10. The EU and UNDP: The EU pledged 600,000 Euros to Cuba in order to combat the effects of the 2017 drought. This fund is to preserve Cuba’s capacity for agricultural production and maintain drinking water supplies. Between 2014 and 2018, the UNDP spent 25.4 million Euros on 46 environmental and biodiversity focused projects in Cuba, including improvements to water quality and quantity. The UNDP plans to intensify its efforts in this regard.

These 10 facts about sanitation show that although the country struggles to provide its citizens with adequate sanitation facilities and consistent clean water supply, the government is taking concrete steps towards improving the status quo. Economic reform and continued foreign investment will contribute to Cuba’s progress.

– Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr

Benefits of EducationMany consider access to education a basic human right, yet education is out of reach for some children and teens in underdeveloped and impoverished countries. But prospects for children around the world are looking better as organizations like the World Bank and USAID continue to fight for universal access to quality education. The following are the top 10 benefits of education.

10 Benefits of Education

  1. Secondary education can cut poverty in half: According to UNESCO, poverty could be more than halved if all adults received a secondary education—that is 420 million people around the globe. Secondary education provides people with skills that open up employment opportunities with higher incomes. When organizations tackle the issue of access to education, they also tackle global poverty which is why this falls at number one on this list of 10 benefits of education.
  2. Closing the education gender gap reduces child marriage: Child marriages force girls around the world to abandon school. But many countries are tackling the issue of child brides in innovative ways. For instance, Uganda’s girls’ clubs run by BRAC Uganda have reduced child marriage rates by providing sex education and vocational training to young aspiring female entrepreneurs. A two-year membership in the clubs makes girls 58 percent less likely to become victims of child marriages.
  3. Education reduces violence: According to the Global Partnership, if the secondary school enrollment rate is 10 percent higher than average, the risk of war decreases by 3 percent.
  4. Education lets children reach their fullest potential: The Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project is providing “safe space” programs for girls and includes financial incentives to encourage them to stay in school. Programs like these allow children to learn without worrying about money and give them the ability to reach their full potential.
  5. Protects children from trafficking: Trafficking affects at least 1.2 million children each year. Global March is working to reduce child trafficking and believes that one way to achieve this is through making education more accessible.
  6. Education helps the environment: The 2010 International Social Survey Programme showed that those who are more educated are more politically active when it comes to environmental issues. In Germany only 12 percent of respondents with less than a secondary education took action, but it rose to 26 percent of those with secondary education and 46 percent with tertiary education. Providing education to all creates healthier earth which is why helping the environment is an extremely important benefit on this list of 10 benefits of education.
  7. Reducing child labor: Child labor often places children in hazardous working conditions to support their families at a young age. Every day an estimated 152 million children work as child laborers. A contributing factor to child labor is the lack of access to education. Global March is assisting governments to reduce vulnerabilities like this that make children more susceptible to child labor.
  8. Education is improving world health: Universal access to education could reduce rates of STDs such as HIV and AIDS. Organizations like SWEDD are working to expand access to reproductive, child and maternal health services as well as education services. Sex education and health services could greatly reduce STD rates and improve world health, especially in impoverished countries.
  9. Universal access boosts the economy: Access to education provides students with skills and knowledge that make job opportunities with higher incomes available to them. In sub-Saharan Africa, women are not encouraged to go into STEM careers, which tend to have higher earnings. This can be explained by limited role models and a lack of information about opportunities in these male-dominated fields. Education can encourage women to join these fields and create a more diverse and flourishing economy.
  10. Inclusive education is giving disabled children a chance: Between 93 and 150 million children around the world under 14 are disabled according to the 2011 World Report on Disability. Many of these children grow up and struggle to make a living for themselves because of their lack of access to education limits their job opportunities. Access to inclusive education would give these children the tools they need to succeed. In 2017, the World Bank and USAID established the Disability-Inclusive Education in Africa Program which is a $3 million fund that aims to make education more inclusive for those with disabilities.

While many areas of the world might be far from achieving accessible education, circumstances continue to improve for children thanks to the work of organizations that are fighting to ensure that education is no longer a privilege but a human right for everyone. These 10 benefits of education provide only a small insight into what amazing gains are made for the world when everyone is able to receive an education.

– Hannah White
Photo: Flickr

Importance of Primary EducationOf all the resources that may cause enrichment of a nation, none are as valuable as the cognitive attainments of its population. The issue of access to primary education remains a critical one for many nations, particularly those in the developing world. Access to primary education and the impediments to its universalization may determine a nation’s trajectory for many years. Below are 10 facts about the importance of primary education.

10 Facts About the Importance of Primary Education

  1. Primary Education Consequences: Major life-long consequences accrue from access to primary education. The cumulative nature of the learning process, whether in literacy or numeracy, requires the early internalization of basic abstractions. Without this process at a young age, children fall behind in the trajectory of cognitive development and fail to reach their potential. Moreover, primary educational access facilitates the identification of, and assistance to, both gifted and struggling young minds.
  2. Nations’ Development: A nation’s development relies considerably on the access of its population to educational institutions. Access to primary education, regardless of class or caste or income, levels the social playing field. Gender equality, another significant marker of national development, improves alongside the universalization of access to educational institutions, including primary schools.
  3. Refugee Children: According to the United Nations, roughly 39 percent of refugee children across the globe do not receive a primary school education. This enrollment statistic contrasts sharply with that of non-refugee children, with 92 percent receiving primary school education. From 2017 to 2018, the number of unenrolled primary-school-age refugee children rose to a total of four million.
  4. Teachers: UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics calculates that ensuring primary education access for all requires roughly 24.4 million more primary school teachers. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers a scarcity of primary school teachers in more than 70 percent of its constituent nation-states. South Asia falls directly behind Sub-Saharan Africa in its primary school teacher scarcity crisis, requiring approximately four million more teachers by 2030 to attain the goal of universal primary education.
  5. Disabled Children: A UNESCO study of 37 countries determined that children with disabilities face a greater likelihood than their non-disabled peers of total exclusion from primary school and are more likely to experience fewer years enrolled in school and suffer major literacy deficits. These disadvantages are more likely to afflict disabled girls, thus sharpening gender asymmetries. Of the studied countries, Cambodia exhibited the most dramatic gap between disabled students and their peers, with 57 percent of the former unenrolled compared to 7 percent of the latter.
  6. Gender Parity Improvements: Data suggests improvements in gender parity in access to primary education. Sub-Saharan Africa features a 2 percent gap between the genders in non-delayed access to primary education, with 29 percent of girls unenrolled compared to 27 percent of boys. However, of children two or more years above the standard enrollment age, girls remain at a disadvantage compared to boys, attesting to the persistent influence of gender expectations on access to primary education.
  7. Violence and Exploitation: Children deprived of access to primary education risk a greater likelihood of suffering violence and exploitation. Where educational deprivation results from conflict or natural catastrophe, the danger of child trafficking intensifies. Conflict and natural disasters impeded educational access for approximately 39 million girls in 2015. As girls face a greater likelihood of impeded educational access than boys in conflict-ridden or disaster-affected regions, girls likewise face an increased risk of child trafficking out of proportion with their population percentage.
  8. Education Cannot Wait (ECW): On December 11, 2019, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced a $64 million educational funding initiative in the conflict-ridden countries of Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria. Though targeting affected youth of all backgrounds, this project places particular focus on girls, disabled children and refugees. This initiative will facilitate teacher training and student enrollment in vulnerable regions. Ultimately, this project anticipates the mobilization of governments, NGOs and civilians for the growth and maintenance of secure and effective educational sectors.
  9. The LEGO Foundation: The LEGO Foundation announced a grant of $100 million on December 10, 2019, for an early learning solutions initiative targeting crisis-affected groups in Ethiopia and Uganda. Play-oriented learning programs will improve the skill sets of both primary-school-aged and pre-school children. These play-oriented learning strategies assist children in surmounting trauma that may otherwise impede their scholastic potential. Roughly 800,000 children will benefit from this project.
  10. The Global Partnership for Education: December 10, 2019, witnessed the grant of $100 million by The Global Partnership for Education for educational initiatives across Asia and Africa. Burkina Faso, for instance, plans investment of its four-year GPE grant of $21 million toward improving primary school enrollment and developing pedagogical infrastructure. The investment of $21 million in Somalia’s Somaliland region seeks to rectify gender imparity in access to primary education.

Access to primary education provides the foundation upon which the talents of a nation’s youth may grow. Moreover, there exists a strong relationship between primary education and the promotion of such values as gender equality and social mobility. Although an indispensable institution in the contemporary age, crises both man-made and natural threaten primary education across continents. Fortunately, initiatives involving NGOs and governments promise to overcome these impediments, the importance of primary education weighs more as a right rather than a mere privilege.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Education in Vietnam
Since the late 1980s, Vietnam has taken various steps to make good on its constitutional promises of free, quality education for all. However, there is still much work to be done for the southeast Asian country to ensure that every citizen has an opportunity to earn a quality education. These seven facts demonstrate the challenges and improvements made in regards to education in Vietnam.

7 Facts About Education in Vietnam

  1. In recent years, the Vietnamese government prioritized quality education nationwide. According to UNESCO, in 2010, the government spent 19.8 percent of its state budget on education alone. This number is significantly higher than the 13.7 percent spent on education across all of East Asia. However, Mitsue Uemura, chief of UNICEF Vietnam’s education section, calls for the government to ensure they are spending their education budget in the most efficient ways possible in order to reach the most vulnerable.
  2. About 95 percent of Vietnamese children are enrolled in primary school by the age of six. However, only 88.2 percent of those children complete their primary education. Historically, primary schools would often charge parents fees for textbooks, sanitation, traffic guards and even building maintenance. These fees made it near impossible for children in disadvantaged and rural communities to stay enrolled long enough to complete primary school. According to a CIA World Factbook evaluation, in 2001, only two-thirds of children were able to complete the fifth grade due to monetary challenges.
  3. Vietnam is successfully closing the enrollment gap between rural and urban regions. Specifically, the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta areas increased their net elementary intake of 58 and 80 percent in 2000 to 99 and 94 percent in 2012. In the same 12-year span, the intake rates for lower-secondary education in these areas grew from 69.5 percent to 92 percent.
  4. Despite various challenges, the percentage of children pursuing a secondary education in Vietnam has grown considerably over the years. In the early 1990s, only 1.7 percent of students 15 years of age and older completed at least a junior college education. That number increased to 4.4 percent within two decades.
  5. The number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education in Vietnam, such as universities, colleges and vocational schools, is increasing. In 2015, 2.12 million students were enrolled in these institutions, a large increase when stacked against 133,000 student enrollments in 1987. 
  6. Literacy among young adults in Vietnam is on a steady upswing. In 1989, Vietnam’s literacy rate for students aged 15 and older was 87.2 percent, and by 2015, the literacy rate for the same demographic was 94.5 percent.
  7. In 2012, Vietnam participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for the first time. The results demonstrated that education in Vietnam has a strong focus on instilling basic cognitive skills in its students, such as numeracy and literacy. Vietnamese students not only performed with the same success as countries like Austria and Germany, but they also outperformed two-thirds of the other countries who participated in PISA that year, ranking 17th out 65 countries. 

Educational reform, closing enrollment gaps, active teaching practices and the like have played major roles in the evolution of Vietnam’s education system over the last two decades. While there is still work to be done, Vietnam has taken large steps in recent years to prove its willingness to make quality education for all a top priority. 

– Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Kio KitHaving access to education is a fundamental aspect of being able to improve one’s life. Children who grow up in poverty are often deprived of an education and therefore have fewer opportunities as adults, which maintains the cycle of poverty. Education has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to break that cycle. Poor countries have the highest rates of children who are not in school, and according to an estimate from UNESCO, universal secondary education would lead to a 55 percent drop in the number of people living in poverty around the world. In other words, if everyone completed secondary education, more than 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty. Here is the story of the Kio Kit, a way of introducing technology for education in rural Africa.

Education Is A Human Right

The United Nations recognized education as a human right in the 1976 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, as of 2015, the UNESCO Institute of Statistics estimates that 37.1 percent of upper-secondary-school-aged children globally are not in school. Barriers to education come in many forms: some children begin working at a young age to help provide for their families, in some places girls are not allowed to go to school and many children live in regions undergoing conflicts or crises that prevent them from accessing education. Additionally, a lack of funding can mean untrained teachers, no school buildings and not enough educational materials.

A lack of access to technology is another barrier to education. Modern technology expands the horizons of what an instructor can teach — perhaps she will download ebooks, or show an educational video about biology, or teach students computer skills that are an asset in the workforce. In many regions, particularly in Africa, internet access is limited. For example, in Chad, Niger and Madagascar, less than 10 percent of the population was using the internet in 2017. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2014 approximately 15 percent of the world population did not have access to electricity, with electricity being less accessible in urban areas. So how can we adapt educational technology to work in regions where there is limited access to electricity and the internet?

How To Adapt Technology

BRCK, an engineering and design company based in East Africa, has developed a solution. BRCK, founded in 2013, focuses on digital solutions that are specific to African infrastructure. The company was named one of TIME Magazine’s 50 Genius Companies in 2018. BRCK’s Kio Kit project was launched in 2015 and consists of a set of forty tablets and a Wi-Fi router that can connect to web content. Kio Kit tablets charge wirelessly, either by connection to a power source or by solar power, and can run for 8 hours on a charge, meaning they can still be used when electricity is unreliable.

The Kio Kit comes in a weather-proof case and is designed to be usable for untrained teachers. The entire kit, including the tablets, is turned on and off with one button. BRCK calls the Kio Kit a “classroom in a box” and promises to expose rural children to “the same information and learning tools available to kids in any city.” As of 2018, BRCK had sold more than 200 Kio Kits to communities in fourteen countries. BRCK does not list prices online, but a 2015 article from QuartzAfrica reports that one kit costs $5,000, to be paid over twelve months without interest. While this is a hefty price and is not possible for some communities, BRCK’s commitment to getting students online is admirable, and the Kio Kit is a valuable step toward accessible education.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Pexels

7 facts about poverty in KabulKabul is the capital of Afghanistan with a population of 37 million people. Although there are efforts for improvements, Afghanistan still suffers from high rates of poverty. Here are seven facts about poverty in Kabul.

7 Facts About Poverty in Kabul

  1. Education: According to UNICEF, 3.7 million children in Afghanistan are out of school, 60 percent of which are girls. A few reasons for the low enrollment rates include poor sanitation systems in schools. Another reason is the lack of female teachers, particularly in rural areas. Female teachers are required for some because it is not allowed for male teachers to teach young girls. In addition, inadequate transportation in certain areas of the country makes it difficult for children to attend school.
  2. Child Labor: About a quarter of children in Afghanistan between the ages of five and 14 work or help their families. Many children are employed in jobs that can lead to an illness, injury or death due to dangerous working conditions and improper enforcement of safety and health standards. Children hold jobs in metal industries, agriculture, shoe shiners, and in the streets as vendors. Unfortunately, some children are forced to take on the pressures of going to school and work while others must quit school completely. In addition, children work long hours with little pay to no pay. However, UNICEF is supporting the National Strategy for Children at Risk, a strategy designed by the Ministry of Martyrs, Disabled and Social Affairs and partnered with UNICEF and other organizations that will help vulnerable families protect and care for their children. The main goal of this plan is for children to be protected from abuse, exploitation or violence in Afghanistan. In addition, the strategy will offer support to communities and vulnerable families. Another policy is the National Strategy for Street Working Children, which provides interventions such as family and community-based support systems for street children and their families to protect, prevent and decrease the number of children that work in the streets.
  3. Sex Trafficking: According to the USAID, Afghanistan happens to be a source, transit and destination country for forced labor and sex trafficking among men, women and children. However, efforts are being made to tackle this issue through the Combating Human Trafficking in Afghanistan project. This project is a collaboration of USAID and the International Organization for Migration that prepares the Afghanistan government institutions to contribute in the prevention of trafficking, prosecution of traffickers, victim protection and to enhance regional coordination in the fight against cross border trafficking.
  4. Literacy Rates: According to UNESCO, in Kabul, the highest female literacy rate is 34.7 percent and males at 68 percent. The difference in rates is due to a few factors such as women not being allowed to attend school, unsafe to travel to school and cultural norms. In addition, rates in urban and rural areas differ to due lack of schools in remote areas and extensive distances to travel for school. However, UNESCO has implemented a project called the which is a national program of the Ministry of Education that helps improve literacy and numeracy skills of the adult population in 34 provinces. The ELA Programme began in 2008 and since its launching, it has increased the literacy for over 600,000 adults and over 60 percent of them are women.
  5. Water: In Afghanistan, 79 percent of the population live in rural areas and only 27 percent have access to upgraded water sources. In Kabul, about 80 percent of people do not have access to safe drinking water. In addition, 95 percent do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. Due to lack of access to sanitation, about 20 percent of the population excretes in public.
  6. Health: According to the World Health Organization, Afghanistan has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Approximately half of children under the age of five are stunted due to chronic malnutrition and 10 percent have chronic malnutrition. Over 60 percent of all childhood deaths and disabilities in Afghanistan are due to respiratory infections, diarrhea and deaths that could’ve been prevented though vaccines such as measles.
    Despite these statistics, USAID has partnered with the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan to make healthcare services more accessible to all. During October 2017 and September 2018, USAID delivered more than 900,000 institutionalized deliveries at public health facilities. In addition, over 1.4 million children were given PENTA3 vaccinations. Furthermore, with the financial help of USAID and other international donors, the World Bank supported more than 2400 public health facilities and 94 percent of the facilities have at least 1 female health care provider.
  7. Child marriages: In Afghanistan, 35 percent of girls are married before they turn 18 and 9 percent are married before their 15th birthday. Child marriages occur due to various factors such as family practices, traditional customs and level of education. However, there are several organizations dedicated to ending child marriages such as Girls Not Brides. This organization is a global partnership of over 1000 civil organizations from more than 95 countries. It was founded in 2011 by a group of independent global leaders called The Elders that aims to raise awareness on child marriages, facilitate open conversations and provide support for victims. In addition, the organization works closely with girls to help build skills, empower them and developing support networks.

These seven facts about poverty in Kabul demonstrate major issues that could use improvement. Nonetheless, with the help and support of organizations little by little change will happen.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in South America
The poverty that affects so much of South America comes from a history of colonialism, which has left the region with extractive institutions including weak states, violence and poor public services. In order to combat these issues, it is vital to understand these top 10 facts about poverty in South America.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in South America

  1. Dependence Theory: According to the Council of the Americas, the South American economy is suffering from the U.S.-China trade war, a drop in crude oil prices and generally worsening economic conditions throughout the region. This poor economic performance has been present in the region for a long time. NYU Professor Pablo Querubín noted in a lecture that this is largely due to Dependence Theory. This theory argues that poorer countries and regions will have to specialize in raw materials and agriculture due to the comparative advantage other countries and regions have in producing industrialized products such as computers, advanced technology and services. Therefore, because Latin America has a comparative advantage in producing agricultural products and oil, it will have much greater difficulty moving into the industrial sector.
  2. The Reversal of Fortune Theory: The South American economy has also had such a difficult time growing because of the history of colonialism and extractive institutions. Professor Pablo Querubín also referenced the Reversal of Fortune Theory which explains how the pre-Columbian region of South America was so much more wealthy than pre-Columbian North America, yet those roles have reversed in the modern era. The reason is that South America put extractive institutions into place to send wealth back to Spain rather than “promote hard work or to incentivize investment, human capital, accumulation, etc.” Yet, in areas with low population levels, such as pre-Columbian North America, settlers had to establish inclusive institutions “designed to promote investment, effort, innovation, etc.”
  3. Political Instability: Political consistency has been rare in the history of South America. New leaders would often change the constitution when they entered office to better suit their political wishes. In fact, while the U.S. has only ever had one constitution with 27 amendments over the course of about 200 years, Ecuador had 11 separate constitutions within the first 70 years of its history. In Bolivia, there were 12 within the first 60 years. This instability and very quick political turnover have been detrimental to the steady growth of the economy and confidence in the government. Understanding the effects of this issue and the other top 10 facts about poverty in South America are integral to fighting poverty in the region.
  4. Inequality: Inequality is incredibly high in South America. As a result, the incredibly wealthy can afford to use private goods in place of public ones. For example, the rich use private schools, private health insurance, private hospitals and even private security forces instead of relying on the police. Therefore, there is very little incentive for the wealthy to advocate for higher taxes to improve public goods such as public education, police or public health initiatives. As a result, the public services available to the poor in Latin America are extremely lacking.
  5. Education: Education in South America is full of inequality both in terms of income and gender. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, an institution which evaluates teenagers on their educational performance in key subject areas, most countries in South America perform below average. In one evaluation it determined that the highest-scoring country in South America, Chile, was still 10 percent below average. Furthermore, poor educational performance highly correlates with income inequality.
  6. Indigenous Women and Education: In addition, indigenous women are far less likely than any other group to attend school in South America. According to UNESCO, in Guatemala, 70 percent of indigenous women ages 20 to 24 have no education. The issue of unequal education spreads further to affect women’s livelihoods and presence in the South American workforce. According to the International Monetary Fund, about 50 percent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean do not work directly in the labor force. However, the International Monetary Fund also noted that “countries in LAC [Latin America and the Caribbean] have made momentous strides in increasing female LFP [labor force participation], especially in South America.”
  7. Teenage Pregnancy: One major driver of the cycle of poverty in South America is the persistence of teenage pregnancies which lead to impoverished young mothers dropping out of school and passing on a difficult life of poverty to their children. The World Bank reported that Latin America is the second highest region in terms of young women giving birth between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Furthermore, a study called Adolescent Pregnancy and Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean interviewed several South American teen mothers including one who noted that sexual education was not the problem: “We knew everything about contraceptive methods,” she said, “but I was ashamed to go and buy.” Thus, the study advised that in addition to preventative methods for pregnancy such as education and the distribution of contraceptives, there needs to be action to “fight against sexual stereotypes.” Fortunately, there are activist campaigns such as Child Pregnancy is Torture which advocates for raising awareness about the issue of child pregnancy in South America and encourages the government to take steps such as increased sex education, access to contraception and the reduction of the sexualization of girls in the media.
  8. Food Insecurity: Hunger is a growing issue related to poverty in South America. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 39.3 million people in South America are undernourished, which represents an increase by 400,000 people since 2016. Food insecurity in the region as increased from 7.6 percent in 2016 to 9.8 percent in 2017. However, the issue is improving with malnutrition in children decreasing to 1.3 percent. Additionally, there are many NGOs such as the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Action Against Hunger and Pan American Health Organization of the World Health Organization (PAHO) that are implementing vital programs throughout the continent to fight hunger.
  9. Migration: The economic instability and rising poverty in South America have caused many people to migrate out of the region. Globally, 38 million people migrated out of their countries last year with 85 percent of that 38 million coming from Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Manuel Orozco from the Inter-American Dialogue think tank stated that “The structural determinant is poor economic performance, while demand for labour in the United States and the presence of family there encourages movement.”
  10. Violence: The high level of violence in South America exacerbates the cycle of poverty in South America. Fourteen of the 20 most violent countries in the world are in South America and although the region only contains eight percent of the world’s population, it is where one-third of all murders take place. Dr. Orozco went on to say that “There’s a strong correlation between migration and homicide. With the potential exception of Costa Rica, states are unwilling or unable to protect citizens.”

Fighting poverty in South America is dependent upon an understanding of the history and realities of the region. Hopefully, these top 10 facts about poverty in South America can shed light upon the cycle of poverty in the region and how to best combat it in the future.

– Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger
Niger, a country in Western Africa, is one of the most impoverished nations in the entire world. While its economy is growing, many children enter harsh jobs to provide for their families. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Niger.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger

  1. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world. On average, a woman from Niger will have around seven children. The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes. It is quite common for large families in Niger to hire underage girls as housemaids where they receive poor treatment and make as little as $6 a month. According to UNICEF, “three out of five girls are working in an environment considered as prejudicial to their health and development.” The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes which makes it difficult for families to sustain themselves solely off their own farming.
  2. The main form of agriculture in Niger is subsistence farming, however, only 11 percent of the land is arable. Even the arable land is extremely dependent on rainfall, with droughts leading to widespread food shortages. When food becomes scarce, Nigerien children, like 12-year-old Oumar Soumana, must drop out of school and look for work to support their families: “It is a painful job for me… I spend the whole day walking. I do not really rest because I have to sell and bring the money back.”
  3. Roughly 48 percent of Niger’s population is 14 or younger. Niger’s population is increasing so fast, its median age is an alarming 15 years old. Food production is not matching the increasing population of Niger. Lack of consistent rainfall makes it very difficult for rural families to avoid malnourishment. When it does rain, families use their children for labor to try and maximize their food production. This is back-breaking work includes hand planting seeds in rough soil during extreme heat.
  4. According to a report by UNESCO, 42.9 percent of Nigerien children between five and 14 are working instead of going to school. This, coupled with only 70 percent of children in Niger completing elementary school, greatly limits their educational opportunities. Article 23 of Niger’s constitution provides free public education, but experts claim that instituting compulsory education would help keep even more children in schools.
  5. The insurgent Islamist group Boko Haram has contributed to Niger’s child labor crisis with its kidnapping of Nigerien children. Boko Haram uses children mainly for menial labor like cooking and cleaning, but in the past, they have used children for suicide bombings. While Boko Haram agreed to stop using children in 2017, there are still thousands of children missing. Additionally, children who formerly worked as child soldiers receive discrimination at an alarming rate.
  6. Many of the children who do not attend school and enter the workforce experience harsh working environments. “Uneducated, these children grow up in very miserable conditions: long working hours, low wages, no food. Furthermore, they run the risk of becoming victims of prostitution, discrimination, abuse, etc.” Additionally, children whose parents did not register them at birth and “lack the appropriate official papers, are not recognized as members of society and cannot exercise their rights.” These children are severely unprotected from life-threatening situations because their rural families were not aware of Niger’s birth registration law.
  7. Part of the reason why child labor in Niger is so prevalent is that the government either lacks regulation prohibiting these practices or it fails to adequately enforce its laws. In 2017, Niger took a significant step forward in combatting its child labor crisis by increasing the minimum age for hazardous work to 18 and increasing the number of jobs under the hazardous label. People under 18 can no longer work at jobs like quarrying, mining, welding and construction.
  8. While article 14 in Niger’s constitution outlaws forced labor, ethnic minorities like the Touaregs have a history of enslavement. Certain Nigerien traditions effectively endorse child slave labor. Whether it be the purchasing of young girls to serve as fifth wives or Wahaya, or koranic teachers forcing their pupils to beg on the streets and surrender their earnings, slavery is still prevalent in Niger.
  9. Niger is not ignoring the unfortunate truth that slavery still exists. With the help of the group Anti-Slavery International, Niger has successfully prosecuted men engaging in the fifth wife practice. This group also joined forces with a local Nigerien organization called Timidria and opened six elementary schools for descendants of slaves.
  10. These 10 facts about child labor in Niger illuminate the issue of child labor that the country must solve. Social programs funded by the Nigerien Government and other nongovernmental organizations like UNICEF are attempting to combat the crisis. In 2017, both of these groups ran 34 centers tasked with providing “food, shelter, education, and vocational training to street children, many of whom are victims of child labor.”

While most of these 10 facts about child labor Niger are disheartening, there is evidence that the situation is improving. For instance, a 45-year-old Nigerien woman named Tatinatt was a slave for the majority of her life, but today she is free and her youngest children are the first ones in her family who are attending school instead of entering the workforce. Hopefully, exposure to this crisis will galvanize more groups into focusing their resources on ending child labor in Niger.

Myles McBride Roach
Photo: Flickr