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Disability and Poverty in Zimbabwe
In 2013-14, the national survey Living Conditions among Persons with Disabilities recorded that out of Zimbabwe’s population of 13 million, more than 900,000 people had disabilities, amounting to nearly 7% of the population. The survey also found that 53.5% of the disabled population were disabled before the age of 20 with about 27% being present at birth. With a disability, a person often experiences exclusion from government resources. This exclusion adds to the link between disability and poverty in Zimbabwe, and so some are placing focus on aiding the disabled population.

Children with Disabilities

In Zimbabwe, it is difficult to gain accurate statistics of children with disabilities because of the lack of routine data collection. This creates a problem because organizations are not able to aid with proper services. The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Annual Statistics Report 2016 stated that 52,232 in-school children had impairments, increasing by nearly 50% from 2014. These children are not able to participate within the community in ways others can, which leads to exclusion in social services such as conventional health support, education, legal aid and more.

Socioeconomic Challenges

From 1996 to 2005, there was a major decline in Zimbabwe’s social and economic condition. Poverty is often due to a lack of resources and the inability to access the resources because of a person’s belief or location. In 2019, a Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee reported that more than 5.5 million people needed humanitarian assistance, showing a link between disability and poverty in Zimbabwe and around the world.

As mentioned, people with disabilities are often unable to contribute to certain aspects of social and economic life, thus contributing to the community’s poverty. Additionally, poverty can affect disabilities because of poor living conditions, health care and malnutrition. In fact, about 52% of people with disabilities stated that they did not receive the necessary medical rehabilitation.  Excluding the disabled population from social services causes them to become more prone to malnutrition and diseases. This exclusion stems from the discrimination of people with disabilities and adds to the community’s poverty.

Solutions for Children with Disabilities

The UNICEF Zimbabwe Country Office (CO) created a Disability Strategy 2018-2020. According to the Zimbabwe, Disabled Persons Act, Chapter 17:01 Acts 5/1992,6/2000,22/2001 disability is a human right and developmental issue. The Disability Strategy will assist in the equality and dignity of children with disabilities as well as create equal opportunities. UNICEF writes that this strategy hopes to help by “ensuring the best interest of the child, independence, freedom of choice, full and active participation in all areas of life and society.”

UNICEF’s Life-Cycle-Approach will focus on all stages of a child’s life where disabilities can or may occur. This approach will aid in prevention and assistance to the population by focusing on the prevention of a disability from conception to birth. From birth to 4 years old, the strategy will help with early detection and intervention, and inclusive access, development and protection until the child is 18. Through the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Phase II, UNICEF has managed to distribute up to $25 monthly cash transfers for 20,000 households, including households with disabilities. To help decrease the link between disability and poverty in Zimbabwe, the national budget in 2017 provided $800,000 to help support people with disabilities.

Advocating for Disability Rights

Exclusion is a big focus when discussing people with disabilities. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) uses the phrase “Leave no one behind” in its Agenda 2030. UNESCO focuses on inclusions for all. In 2019, UNESCO was able to produce four advocacy and tools to raise awareness for increasing disability rights and the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Through these strategies, the hope exists that there will be a decrease in the link between disability and poverty in Zimbabwe.

– Sarah Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid  in South Sudan
As the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan has amazing potential to be an emerging economy in East Africa. Unfortunately, conflict has plagued the newly formed country, as it emerged as a result of a war for independence, and continues to see regional conflicts as it remains politically unstable, resulting in weaker public institutions and infrastructure. Due to this instability, it has been difficult for a strong and developed economy to take hold. However, with South Sudan’s access to natural resources and untapped human capital, a strong economy is definitely possible if there is enough of an investment in humanitarian aid in South Sudan.

Many nations and organizations, such as the United States and UNESCO, have planned solutions and committed resources to help South Sudan remedy its largest issues. The most prominent issue facing South Sudan is the continued conflict the fledgling country faces. These issues cannot be fixed purely from foreign donations and humanitarian aid but there has been a concentrated effort to help relieve the worst impacts the continued fighting has caused.

Peacekeeping

In a U.S. backed mandate, the U.N. has committed to providing humanitarian aid in South Sudan by maintaining a peacekeeping force in the country till at least March 2021. These peacekeeping forces have the task of maintaining the stability of the new peace agreement as well as assisting the roughly 3.9 million displaced South Sudanese citizens. The U.N.’s forces will have the job of monitoring the new transitional government for abuses of international humanitarian law.

While a lack of political stability is the root cause of most of South Sudan’s economic struggles, a lack of dependable infrastructure also hampers the country’s ability to combat poverty. Humanitarian aid workers have found difficulty reaching rural populations in South Sudan during regular flood seasons. Roughly 70% of South Sudan’s population lives in rural areas and as many work in the agricultural sector, meaning that for a lengthy portion of the year, they are inaccessible to humanitarian workers in addition to not having access to urban centers.

Education

Another difficulty facing South Sudan is a lack of a comprehensive education system. In 2018, South Sudan had the lowest rate of adult literacy in the world at 27%. This is partly due to its reliance on agriculture and the sparse rural communities where many South Sudanese people live. As a response, UNESCO is promoting non-formal educational spaces to not only educate South Sudanese youth but also illiterate adults. Expectations have determined that over 2,000 learning spaces will emerge by the year 2023, which will serve 330,000 children who cannot attend a traditional school due to displacement from conflict.

As of 2018, 70% of South Sudan’s population was under the age of 29 years old which has the potential to lead to exponential growth in the country. The young nature of the country’s population means that they can receive training in specialized skills and can create a sudden surge of development in certain sectors of industry. Combined with developing a stronger educational network for young adults, South Sudan can see a major increase in educated and skilled workers.

The United States, recognizing the potential for South Sudan to become a strong economy in East Africa, has continued to provide humanitarian aid in South Sudan as it develops. The United States has dedicated $97 million from the State’s Department’s Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration as well as an additional $11 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance in an effort to aid those displaced due to the conflict in South Sudan.

Looking Forward

South Sudan has all the makings of a stable and prosperous economy, a substantial amount of natural resources, access to undeveloped land and a population that is young enough to receive thorough training and education. All the country needs to do is to create and maintain political peace within its borders and continually receive humanitarian aid from global leaders such as the United States.

Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

effect on educationFor years, Lebanon has been a great place to go to school. In math and science education, the country of Lebanon ranks fourth in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. The explosion that occurred on August 4th, 2020, however, destroyed about 120 public and private schools in Beirut. The obstruction of schools will inevitably result in the obstruction of the Lebanese right to education and upwards movement in society. This article analyzes the blast’s effect on education, and how a lack of education resources in Beirut may lead to further concerns of poverty.

The Explosion

A lethal blast occurred at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon in early August. The explosion killed at least 200 people, according to the BBC, and injured around 5,000. It began as what seemed to be a warehouse fire, but it soon evolved into a catastrophic, supersonic blast that penetrated a large portion of the city. Before the explosion, Lebanon was already in an economic crisis. Nearly half of the population (45%) lives under the poverty line; the explosion has only worsened this number. Beirut’s governor stated that the financial damage to the city is $10-15 billion. The tragedy’s effect on education is a pervasive concern.

How Schools Are Impacted

Beirut was the education, publishing, and cultural capital of Lebanon, as asserted by Al-Fanar Media. With its well-known universities, Beirut was a place for locals and tourists alike to admire. The destruction to the city, though, is causing a major halt to the flourishing academic hub. The damages done to these universities amount to millions of dollars, according to the media advisor at the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Albert Chamoun.

Lebanon’s only public university, Lebanese University, has seen the worst damage out of all of Beirut’s universities. Given the financial status of Lebanon before the blast, the tragedy has only worsened the state of the university. Permanent closures may cost faculty their jobs, thus threatening them with potential poverty. Moreover, Collège du Sacré Coeur-Frères, or the Sacred Hear-Brothers College, founded in 1894, is another school affected by the blast. Considering that the school had 1,300 students enrolled, the destruction of the building hinders students’ ability to go back to school anytime soon, leaving them at home. The effects on education extend to faculty, students, and students’ families.

Future Poverty

In a country already riddled with poverty, “Lack of access to education is a major predictor of passing poverty from one generation to the next”. Schools and universities, like Lebanese University, are oftentimes young people’s only hope in moving up socioeconomically. Attaining literacy and numeracy skills greatly aids a young person’s ability to get a job in the future. Coupling this with the COVID-19 pandemic, online-learning is also not accessible for all students; many depend on in-person teaching simply because they do not have access to technology nor the internet while at home. The blast only furthered this technology gap, resulting in worse poverty for those involved in the tragic event.

According to Governer Marwan Abboud, about 300,000 people are currently without a home in Beirut. Without the reconstruction of schools, Lebanese children and young people face the lifelong threat of remaining in poverty. Therefore, the blast’s lasting effect on education directly relates to its’ effect on poverty levels in Lebanon.

Taking Action

The tragedy that occurred in Beirut is one that will permeate throughout the country for years to come. The effect on education is just one consequence of the deadly blast. Luckily, there are fundraisers and other efforts in place to help those affected by the Beirut blast, many of which involve education. Linked here is a GoFundMe to raise money for computers for students at Sacred Heart-Brothers College that do not have access to technology at home. In addition, UNICEF is helping reconstruct the damaged buildings in Beirut and aid Lebanese people across the country. They have delivered close to 20 shipments of PPE, nutrition supplies, and other hygiene necessities. They have also provided psycho-social first aid to children affected, along with caregivers that offer health referrals and counseling.

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has proposed a fundraising appeal called Li Beirut, or “For Beirut.” The purpose of this fundraising is to reconstruct schools and museums that were affected by the blast. This proposal has the potential to help many children and adolescence retain their right to education and to move up in their economic class.

Anna Hoban
Photo: Pixabay

gender discrimination in niger
Niger is a country located in West Africa that spans more than 1.3 million square kilometers and is home to approximately 22.3 million people. It is ranked the lowest out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI). A prominent issue is its weakened education system, where children in Niger spend a mere two years on average. Additionally, there exists a gender gap that exacerbates discrimination against girls’ education. To combat this burgeoning issue, a variety of organizations have been working towards eliminating gender discrimination in Niger to provide better quality education for girls.

UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been focusing on reform of Niger’s education system for five years. Starting in May 2015, the project targeted several schools in the town of Torodi. While this small town has been left out of many national development programs, UNESCO is working to successfully implement accessible schooling services to all girls in the region. The program also facilitates tutoring sessions and encourages female teachers to be employed in local schools.

UNESCO recognized that due to the rapid population growth, empowering the youth through education would go a long way towards improving the country’s socioeconomic standards. Moreover, with organizations like UNESCO teaming up with the government of Niger, the country is seeing positive developments in girls’ education. They reported a jump from 27 % to 65 % in girls’ primary school enrollment between 2000 and 2014.

UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also played an active role in reducing gender discrimination in Niger’s education system since 2012. Through significant investments and thorough management, enrollment into primary schools has increased remarkably, especially with girls. Approximately 66% of the 71% of children enrolled in primary schools are girls. While these numbers are promising, factors like child marriages and safety concerns remain to be a significant barrier to girls’ education. UNICEF has laid out several objectives and solutions to overcome these issues.

According to a UNICEF representative in Niger, “only one in two girls goes to primary school, one in ten to secondary school and one in fifty to high school.” UNICEF partners with Niger’s government at the ministerial level to ensure that that access to girls’ education is a policy priority. In doing so, UNICEF monitors how Niger is meeting its education goals. Additionally, UNICEF works at the community level to monitor that both boys and girls receive quality education. For girls, UNICEF realizes the cultural and societal issues at play, like the expectation of housework and child marriages, and works with those effected to overcome these obstacles.

USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has signed a ten year deal  (2014-2024) with Niger’s national education sector to help decrease the gender discrimination present in its education system. USAID also promotes parental education to the community as a whole. Well-educated parents are more likely to enroll their children in school as well as encourage the completion of their curriculums.

International organizations are continually working to help Niger’s government through funding and managing the country’s education sector. Reform of the country’s education system has been progressing over two decades and has made notable improvements in terms of enrollment rates. As the country progresses into the next decade, organizations like UNESCO, UNICEF, and USAID plan to further support children in Niger by working to provide them with equal and quality education. Such improvements in education and gender discrimination can have a ripple effect, bringing positive change to Niger’s social, political, and economic systems.

– Omer Syed
Photo: Flickr

Jamaica's First Skatepark
Will Wilson, the co-founder of nonprofit organization Flipping Youth, is building Jamaica’s first skatepark. Wilson and his nonprofit are building Freedom SkatePark in an effort to make action sports an accessible recreational opportunity for Jamaican youth.

What Is Flipping Youth?

After an exposure to international poverty while volunteering abroad, passionate skateboarder Will Wilson came up with the idea for Flipping Youth — a nonprofit organization driven by the mission to “empower young people from challenging environments internationally through action sports, creative arts and entrepreneurship.” This unique idea has propelled Wilson to accomplish great acts of service in impoverished countries, specifically Jamaica. In addition to fostering strong skating communities, Flipping Youth seeks to promote youth entrepreneurship, teach business skills and improve employability.

Flipping Youth in Jamaica

After watching a viral skate video that showcased a talented, Jamaican skater and a budding skateboarding community in 2016 — Wilson decided to bring Flipping Youth to Kingston, Jamaica. The idea was to help grow the skateboarding community even more. Since then, Flipping Youth has developed both local and international relationships to better understand what sort of aid is most needed in Jamaica. Flipping Youth’s main goal at the time was to decide the best way to implement the Freedom SkatePark, in an effort to foster a strong community of Jamaican youth. Also, safety is an important feature of the program for Wilson. He wants to ensure that the skatepark will become neither a place for drugs nor other criminal activities.

Progress Through Partnerships

Though the planning and building process has been slow, the future looks promising for Jamaica’s first skatepark. Thanks to funding from popular skate brands such as Supreme New York and a partnership with a nonprofit called Concrete Jungle Foundation, the Freedom Skate Park is nearly complete. Notably so, Concrete Jungle Foundation helped to complete over half of the project, including the construction of the park, itself.

Kevin Bourke, a member of the Freedom Skatepark team, celebrated overcoming many obstacles throughout the project’s duration, stating “It shows that a project that was rooted in love [can’t] be stopped.”

Improving Communities Through Sports and Activities

Flipping Youth is not the only organization using recreational opportunities to empower youth, globally. In the past, UNESCO has used youth sports programs to encourage social cohesion in areas of conflict. Organizations like Flipping Youth understand the value of recreational opportunities for youth in struggling communities. Recreation is not just for fun; according to Dr. Seiko Sugita of UNESCO Beirut, “Sports [have] proven to be a cost-effective and powerful tool for promoting peace and human values such as respect for others, teamwork, discipline, diversity and empathy.”

Recreation and Youth Empowerment

Working from a similar approach, Will Wilson’s project to create Jamaica’s first skatepark is an example of international development rooted in recreational opportunities and youth empowerment. Flipping Youth and other organizations look to sports and activities as a means of creating strong, vibrant communities and thus — a better future for younger generations and society as a whole.

Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Pixabay

Gender Gap in STEM CareersDigital technology has become a core asset to everyday life. The mind-boggling contributions that it affords the world are the closest to magic that we can get. This rapid progress has required the world’s workforce to evolve as well. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is crucial to supply every member of the future workforce with the skills needed to occupy future careers. Despite this necessity, many countries –particularly those in Africa–experience a gender gap in STEM careers and education, leaving female workers far behind their male counterparts.

According to the United Nations World Population Prospects, over 60% of Africa’s population is currently under the age of 25. Because of this, countries in Africa have the incredible opportunity to elevate their economies by producing a workforce of skilled STEM professionals. Despite this opportunity, there is still a worrisome gender gap in STEM careers in Sub-Saharan Africa–in order to take full advantage of advances in technology, this must be rectified. Here are five things to know about this gender gap in STEM careers.

5 Things to Know About the Gender Gap in STEM Careers in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Inconsistent Access to Electricity: Only 22% of primary schools have reliable access to electricity. This instability in electrical infrastructure makes it difficult for teachers and students to utilize technology to facilitate learning. This is a missed opportunity to expose children, including young girls, to technology and to spark a potential interest in STEM careers.
  2. Lackluster Enrollment Rates: Many children are out of school. According to the 2018 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Global Education Monitoring Report, 21% of children in sub-Saharan Africa are not enrolled in primary school. The rate of unenrolled students surges up to 57% for upper secondary education.
  3. Gender Gap in Leadership Positions: There are few examples of women in leadership positions. In most African countries, leadership positions for universities and research facilities are occupied by men. Men employed in these positions of power influence the decision-making process and tend to enjoy a higher salary than their female counterparts. Women in science typically work primarily in academic and government institutions as lecturers and research assistants. Very few women become professors or are able to contribute to major studies.
  4. Household Burdens: There aren’t sufficient frameworks or policies in place to encourage and protect women in science. Women are less likely to enter and more likely to leave STEM fields than their male counterparts. In many African societies, women shoulder the majority of the household burdens. They don’t receive the support they need to simultaneously juggle their academic ambitions and care for their families. Many women find it difficult to find adequate childcare. Additionally, if a woman decides to take a break to start a family, she may find it difficult to resume her career because of a lack of re-entry programs.
  5. Weak Support Systems: There are a lack of female mentors. In a challenging career path dominated primarily by men, it’s necessary for women to have a support system. Mentorship helps provide the potential to establish networks and grow professionally. The absence of this support system is a big deterrent for women who may find themselves feeling isolated or diminished in their field.

A country’s ability to fight disease, protect its environment and produce necessary products for its citizens is largely dependent on its citizens’ technological prowess and skill. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have a wonderful opportunity to tap into their youth and produce a workforce of highly skilled professionals. Women’s participation in sciences and technologies will be a key driver in this development. There are many organizations taking a stance to address the gender gap. The African Ministers of Education adopted the Gender Equality Strategy for CESA 16-25, a detailed strategy and plan to bridge the gender gap. The future is looking brighter with each passing day. If African governments continue to support ambitious young women, the gender gap in STEM careers in sub-Saharan Africa will surely begin to close.

Jasmine Daniel
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in ChadLocated in Central Africa, the country of Chad is the fifth largest landlocked state and has a poverty rate of 66.2%. With a total population of approximately 15.5 million, a lack of modern medicine, dramatic weather changes and poor education have riddled the country with deadly diseases and resulted in severe poverty in Chad.

Poor Health Conditions in Chad Lead to Disease

The most common types of disease and the primary causes of death include malaria, respiratory infections and HIV/AIDS. Malaria, usually spread through mosquito bites, is a potentially fatal disease and is quite common in the country of Chad. Due to poor sanitation, Chadians are more susceptible to malaria; the most recently estimated number of cases was 500,000 per year.

Along with malaria, lower respiratory diseases contribute to Chad’s high mortality rate – the most common and deadliest of those being meningitis.  Lower respiratory tract infections occur in the lungs and can sometimes affect the brain and spinal cord. A lack of available vaccinations in the country has increased susceptibility to meningitis. Meningitis is most deadly in those under the age of 20, and with a countrywide median age of 16.6 years old, Chad has seen a rise in total meningitis cases and overall deaths.

As of 2015, there were an estimated 210,000 Chadians living with HIV. According to UNAIDS, there were 12,000 AIDS-related deaths just last year, along with 14,000 new cases. Those living with HIV/AIDS are at a higher risk of death with their compromised immune systems. They are unable to fight off diseases and, with the preexisting severe risk of malaria and meningitis, they are more susceptible to death.

Harsh Weather and Its Role in Food Insecurity and Disease

Due to its geography, Chad is one of the countries most severely affected by climate change. Approximately 40% of Chadians live at or below the poverty line, with the majority relying heavily on agricultural production and fishing. The drastic change in rain patterns and the consequent frequency of droughts have placed a significant strain on their food supply. Fishing in particular has been sparse. Lake Chad, the country’s largest lake, has diminished by 90% in the past 50 years. The rising temperatures in Chad have caused a decrease in both crop yields and good pasture conditions, placing more strain on those who depend on Lake Chad for food and the nutrients it adds to farming.

In addition to affecting poverty in Chad, intense weather patterns have also increased the number of infectious diseases. The infrastructure of the country has not been able to keep up with the rapidly growing population in urban areas. This results in poor sanitation. The sanitation services are overwhelmed during floods: which contaminates the water supply.

Lack of Education Affects Poverty in Chad

Despite the relatively large population, less than half of school-aged children are enrolled in school. With attendance rates so low, the literacy rates in individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 fall; currently, they only reach 31%.  According to UNICEF, attendance rates are astonishingly low; 8% for children in upper secondary school and 13% for lower secondary school. With education rates so low, income inequality, infant and maternal deaths and stunting in children continue to rise; as a result, the overall economic growth of the country declines.

Enrollment is low in Chad due to the lack of resources in schools. With the country in severe poverty, schools remain under-resourced, both in access and infrastructure. Some schools have no classrooms and no teaching materials. Furthermore, teachers are often outnumbered 100:1. As a result, the quality of learning decreases, as does the overall attendance rate.

As of now, only 27% of primary-school-age children complete their schooling. According to UNESCO, if adults in low-income countries completed their secondary education, the global poverty rate would be cut in half. Even learning basic reading skills could spare approximately 171 million people from living in extreme poverty. Educated individuals are more likely to develop important skills and abilities needed to help them overcome poverty. Education also decreases an individual’s risk of vulnerability to disease, natural disasters and conflict.

Poverty in Chad is widespread, and the rate of impoverished people will continue to grow if it is not addressed. Poor health conditions and a lack of education are just a few of the many problems people face; while the living conditions may seem dire in Chad, a gradual decrease in overall poverty rates proves that there is hope.

Jacey Reece
Photo: Flickr

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