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Top 10 Facts About UNICEF
UNICEF is an organization which assists children in over 190 countries. The organization focuses on saving the lives of children, defending children’s rights, and helping them fulfill their potential as individuals. Founded in December of 1946 in an effort by the United Nations to support children in post-war Europe and China, UNICEF has been active ever since.

Here are the top 10 facts about UNICEF and how their impact has been felt around the world.

Top 10 Facts About UNICEF

  1. UNICEF is an organization which helps children receive necessary vaccinations. The organization gathers vaccines for 40 percent of children globally. Annually, this amounts to roughly three billion doses of vaccines.
  2. Globally, UNICEF is the largest buyer of mosquito nets which can be used to protect children from harmful insect bites. Malaria is an example of a disease which can be preventable through the use of a mosquito net. In 2006, UNICEF purchased 25 million of these mosquito nets.
  3. In 2006, UNICEF procured 10 million-plus malaria treatments. ACT, which stands for pyronaridine- artesunate, is a form of therapy which has been shown to be just as effective as other drugs for treating Malaria. The WHO recommended that this type be used to treat P. falciparum malaria.
  4. UNICEF embraces a wide variety of social issues. Among these are the protection of children, girls education, HIV/AIDS, immunization, malaria, nutrition, South Sudan child soldiers, and WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene).
  5. In April of 2005, UNICEF released a publication which documented the organization’s work between 1995-2005. Titled ‘A Pivotal Decade’ the publication covered the 10-year span during which UNICEF helped ensure that millions of children survive who could have been lost. The publication explores how UNICEF is well-equipped to handle its main goal; striving to give each and every child a better future.
  6. According to UNICEF, human trafficking has been reported in all 50 US states. The highest rates have been reported in CA, FL, NY, OH, and TX. These are the statistics reported by UNICEF in one of their fast facts publications.
  7. UNICEF’s overarching goal is to achieve worldwide equality. Especially in the lives of children afflicted by illness, hunger, or war, who cannot attend school and receive a proper education as a result. There are also instances where children are prohibited from attending school. Specifically in the lives of young girls, which UNICEF works hard to support.
  8. Vaccines for diseases such as polio and typhus cost one dollar or less per 1 (unsure of currency) per vaccination. Despite the price, many still cannot afford these vaccines which prevent dangerous, if not deadly, diseases. UNICEF gives out free vaccinations to one in three children worldwide.
  9. When first launching in 1946, UNICEF concentrated primarily on supplying food, clothes, and medicine to young children and mothers in post-war Europe, China, and Palestine. Beginning in the early ’50’s, UNICEF sought to create more long-term goals for developing countries. As a result of these efforts, UNICEF constructed health stations in third world countries and began starting projects to ensure children and adolescents attend school.
  10. UNICEF’s long-running history of seeking to make the world a better place has resulted in them putting vast amounts of money towards public health efforts. The organization reportedly sets aside 80 percent of its funds towards public health initiatives.

Since their launch 73 years ago, UNICEF has become one of the most well-known and renowned organizations dedicated to public health and the well-being of children. These top 10 facts about UNICEF are just a few of this organization’s incredible accomplishments. Striving to make the world a better place since December of 1946, UNICEF shows no sign of slowing down.

Jacob Nangle
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in South AfricaEvery single day, in hundreds of countries around the world, human trafficking is taking place. It is estimated that globally, around 21 million people fell victim in 2018, and South Africa is no exception. Human trafficking is defined as “the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation.” While there are many important things to know about this kind of illicit activity, here are the top 10 facts about human trafficking in South Africa.

Top 10 Facts about Human Trafficking in South Africa

  1. Trafficking in South Africa is on the rise. At a press conference in 2018, Lt. Col. Parmanand Jagwa, the Hawks Gauteng coordinator of the illegal migration desk, and deputy director Rasigie Bhika said that human trafficking was a “growing activity” in the region. In response to the rising numbers, the U.S. Department of State released a report criticizing the government’s methodology, noting that “the government made little progress in prosecution of traffickers connected to international syndicates, which facilitated sex and labor trafficking with impunity throughout the country” and that “the government did little to address reports of official complicity in trafficking crimes and efforts by officials.”
  2. Girls are more likely to be trafficked for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Overall, 55 percent of human trafficking victims are women. Additionally, 43 percent of victims were used for sexual exploitation, and 98 percent of which were women and young girls.
  3. Boys are more likely to be trafficked for street vending, food service and agricultural purposes. Around 45 percent of all trafficking victims in the country are boys and men.
  4. South Africa is considered to be on the “Tier 2 Watchlist” for human trafficking. The U.S. Department of State has several methods to track the levels of ongoing trafficking in a given country. There are four tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watchlist, and Tier 3. These standards are outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. Tier 1 represents countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, and Tier 2 represents countries whose governments do not fully comply with TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. The Tier 2 Watchlist is the same level as Tier 2, but these countries have increasing levels of criminal activity. The lowest level is Tier 3, which represents countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
  5. It is estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, according to UNICEF. Traffickers “recruit” children and give them fake identification documents and are most likely part of a network of organized criminals. Additionally, due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, many children are left without parents and in poverty, making them more vulnerable to these diseases.
  6. Traffickers do not fit a single profile. They can range from strangers to a relative or close friend, especially in cases of child trafficking. They can also pose as significant others and try to convince children to leave to “start a new life.”
  7. South Africa is a source, transit and destination country for victims of human trafficking. Source countries are those which supply the victims of the crime, transit countries are mediums/stopping points which the victims travel through and destination countries are the final locations to which they are brought. South Africa is all three. 
  8. Ninety-five percent of victims experience violence in trafficking. This figure represents both physical and sexual violence and applies to both men and women.
  9. Some victims are forced into drug addiction. Law enforcement in South Africa reported that traffickers drugged victims to coerce them into sex trafficking. At the same time, some government-run shelters denied victims of human trafficking because of drug addiction.
  10. The NGO Love Justice International is working to make conditions better in South Africa. The group has 44 different transit monitoring stations around the world in areas where trafficking is likely to occur. The NGO focuses on monitoring and spreading the message to reduce human trafficking and help victims escape.

– Natalie Malek
Photo: Wikimedia

Cholera in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Cholera is a disease that causes diarrhea and severe vomiting which can be fatal if left untreated. Areas that suffer from famine and poor sanitation are particularly susceptible to contracting the disease and the people most likely to become ill with cholera are individuals with low immunity, malnourishment or HIV. Cholera in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is severe and requires immediate attention.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has become one of the worst victims of this disease. Less than one in seven Congolese citizens have adequate hygienic conditions, and less than half have access to clean water. These are contributors to the susceptibility of the Congolese to cholera.

Cholera in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has proved itself to be a fearsome disease. As of Jan 1, 2019, the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared cholera a nationwide epidemic. In March 2019, the Democratic Republic of Congo reported 1,016 EVD cases. These cases had a fatality rate of 62 percent and resulted in 634 deaths.

Organizations Working with the Democratic Republic of the Congo

To prevent the spreading of cholera, it is essential that the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo wash their hands, use clean bathroom facilities, eat thoroughly cooked food, have access to clean water and do not come in contact with contaminated corpses. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has partnered with numerous organizations in the hopes of implementing these changes in the country.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo teamed up with UNICEF to ensure that its people have access to clean water. UNICEF has given more than 460,000 Aquatab water-purification tablets to the country, alongside numerous water-treatment facilities along the river.

Medecins Sans Frontieres has also partnered with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to try to help the country combat its cholera crisis. MSF has set up cholera treatment units in the most affected areas of the country to ensure that constant care is available.

The World Health Organization is yet another organization that has been working alongside the Democratic Republic of the Congo to combat this disease. WHO has been trying to give technological support, send medicine and teach the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo proper hygiene techniques. It has also been attempting to gather data to quantify the disease in the hopes of getting a better understanding of it.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Immunization Plan

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s latest plan of action has been its immunization plan. Government officials have come together to give more than 800,000 individuals cholera immunizations. WHO and the United Nations have both been involved in aiding the country in carrying out this plan.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ministry of Health will carry out this program, along with further assistance from the World Health Organization and the Vaccine Alliance. Dr. Deo Nshimirimana, the World Health Organization’s Democratic Republic of Congo representative, stated, “Cholera is a preventable disease. Vaccinating people at risk in the most exposed health zones in North Kivu against cholera is a massive contribution and will protect hundreds of thousands of people.”

Cholera in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains an imminent threat, but the country has shown that it has no intention of remaining idle in this fight. The country’s ambitious plan, which went into effect on May 27, 2019, is in full swing. Only time will tell if the program is successful, but program officials continue to be optimistic.

– Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Hunger and Malnutrition in Timor-LesteHunger and malnutrition in Timor-Leste are largely impacted by 41.8 percent of its population living on less than $1.54 a day, making it one of the poorest nations. Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is an island nation in Southeast Asia, between Indonesia and Australia. Additionally, only gaining its independence in 2002, it is one of the youngest nations. Among factors impacting hunger and malnutrition in Timor-Leste also include climate variability.

Rate of Hunger and Malnutrition

In the past decade, Timor-Leste has made substantial progress reducing it’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) from 46.9 percent in 2008 to 34.3 percent in 2017; however, hunger remains classified as a “serious” concern. Timor-Leste’s high levels of food insecurity, poor agricultural yields and low levels of disposable income directly contribute to this serious-level GHI.

Malnutrition and stunting levels in Timor-Leste are one of the highest in the world and have been persistent problems. Malnutrition in Timor-Leste is the leading cause of premature death and disability. Quality nutrition is especially crucial for pregnant women and children, up to the age of 2, ensuring proper growth.

That being said, anemia affects over 40 percent of children and 23 percent of women ages 15 to 49, inclusive of childbearing years. The percent of Timorese children under 5 years old with stunted growth in 2013 was 50.2 percent. This is a slight decrease from 55.7 percent in 2002. This shows some progression, but malnourishment and stunting are still at an alarming rate in Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste’s National Nutrition Strategy

Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Health established its first National Nutrition Strategy in 2004. It introduces basic nutrition interventions and nation-wide goals. To increase the government’s effectiveness in addressing nutrition, UNICEF is providing technical support to the Ministry of Health, which has created the Timor-Leste National Nutrition Strategy of 2014-2019.

It is Timor-Leste’s largest nutrition policy, and its overall objective is to reduce malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency among children and women. Additionally, Timor-Leste became the first Asian Pacific country to join the U.N.’s Zero Hunger Challenge in 2014 reaffirming their commitment to reach hunger and nutrition goals.

Intervention of USAID

USAID efforts are also working to combat hunger and malnutrition in Timor-Leste with 2 large programs. USAID’s Avansa Agrikultura Project works to increase agricultural productivity especially for vegetables, fruits and legumes. It also focuses on strengthening agricultural markets, food accessibility and sustainability in the midst of climate change.

Their other program, Reinforce Basic Health Services Activity, currently works to support Timor-Leste’s government in strengthening the skills of health workers to provide effective maternal and newborn healthcare.

Additional Interventions in Timor-Leste

Mother support groups are another common method to reduce malnutrition in Timor-Leste. A partnership between the European Union, UNICEF and Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Health established these support groups to empower mothers and families by supporting them to seek care for their children and themselves.

Similarly, the World Food Programme (WFP) has nutrition programs aiming to improve mothers’ health and, in turn, their children’s health. One of their programs, Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) provides malnourished pregnant and nursing women with fortified meals and treatment. The WFP also has informational sessions on nutrition and cooking demonstrations. This aids in families learning more about the importance of and access to nutrition.

With the combination and collaboration of Timor-Leste’s government, national government organization’s (NGO’s), intergovernmental organizations and international aid, hunger and malnutrition in Timor-Leste are being broken down and addressed. These continued and intensified efforts provide hope for zero hunger Timor-Leste in the future.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has faced many troubles. As of early 2014, Ukraine has been in nearly continual conflict with Russia and Eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists. Ukraine is also home to almost 45 million people. In July 2018, over 1.5 million people were internally displaced, meaning that they had to leave their homes as a result of the fighting. Mental health in Ukraine is affected by the enduring strife in their country.

Issues Impacting Mental Health in Ukraine

Many of those living in Ukraine deal with problems like anxiety and depression, that negatively influence their mental health. These conditions are exacerbated by turmoil. Citizens of Ukraine have dealt with the consequences and brutalities of war, including casualties of friends and family members. Some have had to leave behind the places they call home.

In addition, physical threats are also often an issue. Those living in war zones or even partial cease-fire zones, such as the line of contact through Donetsk and Luhansk, are in constant danger. Roughly 3,300 civilians were killed from 2014 to 2018.

Mental health care is also taboo in Ukraine. During the Soviet era, mental health issues were used as an excuse to imprison in asylums those with differing political beliefs from those in power. The ramifications of this injustice persist today, with many skeptical of psychiatry.

This taboo worsens the effects of anxiety and depression. One survey of 1,000 internally displaced individuals found that 20 percent of those internally displaced suffer from moderately severe to severe anxiety. Also, 25 percent suffered from moderately severe to severe depression. These numbers are significantly higher than the percentage of people suffering from anxiety or depression in the United Kingdom.

The stigma surrounding mental health deters some from voicing their struggles. The matter is further complicated as people who prefer to speak with Church leaders are now unable to do so because many leaders have also fled out of necessity. Those living in separatist territories are denied access to a psychological help hotline. Also, up to 77 percent of the internally displaced are completely deprived of any and all forms of professional help.

Organizations Working to Improve Mental Health in Ukraine

UNICEF has a mobile outreach program that aims to provide psychosocial support to the people of Ukraine. These individual and group activities are designed to focus on relieving anxiety and fear, issues that are abundant in the turbulent areas. UNICEF’s efforts are near the line of contact and provide help for children and their caregivers; 1,792 people were helped by these efforts during January 2019.

Also, UNICEF established the aforementioned hotline for both legal and psychological relief. In 2017, over 43,000 calls were made to the hotline. This outlet for help provides much-needed support to those in need.

The WHO, in cooperation with Ukrainian health authorities, also created a mobile mental health center to provide psychological services, support and education. The program is community-based. Based on the success of the four mobile units across the conflict areas, this system may be implemented on a larger scale as a measure to reform mental health care in Ukraine.

Johns Hopkins University, along with USAID, recently completed a project that started in March 2015 in Ukraine. The design sought to improve the mental health of community members and research the effects that conflict has had on the population.

With the help of these organizations and more, hopefully, the effects of the Ukrainian struggle on mental health can be alleviated. The programs are working to find workable solutions to mental health stigmas and to provide relief for those facing issues with mental health in Ukraine.

– Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation and Hygiene in India
There is a restricted amount of water, sanitation and hygiene in India on a daily basis. Therefore, the lack of these resources leads to disease and death.

Diseases, Defecation and Lack of Sanitation Facilities

India is one of the world’s most heavily populated countries with more than half residing in suburban neighborhoods. Due to the country’s vast population growth and its limited accessibility to water, people have limited access to sanitation and hygiene in India.

  • Nearly half of Indians defecate into the environment, which pollutes water and leads to the number one cause of diarrhea-associated deaths in children. Yearly, 117,000 children younger than five pass away due to diarrhea as a result of unsanitary environments and contaminated water.
  • Research indicates that a little over half of India’s population washes their hands after defecation. Only 38 percent of people wash their hands before eating and as little as 30 percent wash their hands prior to handling food. Young children are most susceptible to diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections; yet, using soap to wash hands can reduce the likelihood of contracting these illnesses.
  • Nearly 600 million people do not use toilets, and as a result, their waste enters the environment which leads to a higher likelihood of water contamination and diarrhea. Children who suffer from diarrhea are more susceptible to malnutrition and other illnesses, such as pneumonia. Malnutrition afflicts nearly 50 percent of children.
  • Nearly 10 percent of countryside households discard waste properly, while people leave more than half of the waste out in the environment or put it into the trash. As little as six percent of children under the age of five use sanitation facilities.
  • For adolescent females, it is necessary to provide the essential facilities, products and education to allow for proper menstrual hygiene. Many girls are likely to not attend school due to the lack of seclusion in the sanitation facilities. Other times, females feel discomfort when there is no facility available at home.

The Water Crisis

Nearly 200,000 Indians pass away each year as a result of insufficient accessibility to consumable water, while 600 million people are water-stressed due to the limited availability of 1,700 cubic meters of water yearly.

Research published in June 2018 predicts that India will undergo an acute lack of availability to water within two decades. The report approximates that the need for water will duplicate the obtainable supply by 2030.

The Government’s Partnerships to End Open Defecation and Increase Sanitation Efforts

In 2014, India’s Prime Minister, Narenda Modi, began advocating to enhance cleanliness efforts by October 2019. Since he announced this objective, there has been significant progress in making clean water and hygiene amenities available.

In 2014, the amount of people living in agricultural areas who defecate openly has decreased from 550 million to 320 million. Overall, clean drinking water and proper sewage disposal have improved from 39 percent in October 2014 to over 90 percent in August 2018.

UNICEF Action endorses the federal and local governments in providing water, sanitation and hygiene in India. UNICEF’s Child’s Environment Programme advocates for the government’s Total Sanitation Campaign, which has the goal to enhance the availability and utilization of sanitation facilities. The National Rural Drinking Water Programme works to implement clean water to each and every family in India; the Child’s Environment program collaborates with Integrated Child Development Services to ensure that proper hygiene facilities are present in schools.

USAID collaborates with India’s government to implement healthful towns by growing access to safe water and cleanliness. Together, USAID and the Government of India assess and distinguish various models to enable consumable water and toilets, which they can put into effect for various localities.

In order to eliminate defecation by 2019, India began the five-year Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission to cease open defecation. USAID promotes the commission by educating others about these matters and initiating action from the people and government officials.

The overall goal of USAID is to implement techniques to have safe, clean water access that is inexpensive. The organization also collaborates with civilians to compose sanitation facilities as well as encouraging hand washing along with refraining from defecating in the environment.

In 2017, 300,000 citizens had access to water, sanitation and hygiene in their homes. As a result of the community efforts, 25,000 communities have stopped defecating in the environment, while 175,000 people are able to obtain clean, consumable water.

– Diana Dopheide

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Swaziland
In Swaziland, a relatively small, landlocked country in Southern Africa, a surprising trend has emerged: girls are receiving education at a higher rate than boys. According to the latest count on gross enrollment rate, the percentage of girls at every level of schooling has been higher than boys. However, due to the high rate of poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancies, the education of girls in Swaziland still has a lot of room for improvement.

Girls’ Education in Swaziland

Currently, although 97 percent of girls enroll at some point into primary school, only 37.7 percent of them continue into secondary education. Beyond that, only about 5.5 percent enroll in tertiary education.

One of the biggest obstacles in the way of girls’ education in Swaziland is poverty. Primary education in Swaziland currently operates under the Free Primary Education grant, launched in 2010, which stipulates that families send all children to public primary schools up to grade seven from the ages of six to 11. As of 2014, this program has enrolled about 80 percent of primary school-aged Swazi children. However, schools charge annual top-up fees, averaging at $76 per year, to cover running costs. With 58.9 percent of Swazis living below the national poverty line, defined as $2 or less per day, higher education becomes out of reach for many girls. This has resulted in many families withdrawing from educational programs in order to pay for the ever-growing costs of basic necessities such as food and medications.

Health Care, HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy

Next, the health care issues that have plagued Swazis for decades often disproportionately affect girls. The country experiences a significant HIV/AIDS gender gap which has been widening in recent years, with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 being almost twice as likely to have contracted HIV/AIDS than boys of the same age. HIV/AIDS inhibits children from attending schools as income initially used for school fees often becomes redirected toward medications.

Premature parental deaths caused by HIV/AIDS has also led to record-high numbers of orphans in the country. With few institutions in place to cope with the crisis, many of these minors, especially girls, become heads of families. As a result, they must forfeit their education in order to care for their siblings.

In addition, the country has a high rate of teenage pregnancies, many of them resulting from sexual abuse by close male relatives. One in three girls report having experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. With less than 30 percent of sex occurring with contraceptives, many of these sexual relationships result in teen pregnancies. Although there are no explicit laws in the country to exclude pregnant students from schools, local communities often ridicule and stigmatize these young mothers, which, often in combination with the needs of their children (schools rarely offer childcare or support), frequently results in them dropping out. The numbers indicate this because although 98 percent of Swazi children enroll in primary school at some point in their lives, only 27 percent enroll in secondary school.

UNICEF, Children’s HopeChest and mothers2mothers International

There is, however, much hope for the future for girls’ education in Swaziland. For example, UNICEF is currently actively collaborating with the Swazi government as well as the U.N. to decrease teenage pregnancy and to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The organization has dedicated human resources to Swaziland starting in 1968 and has since then engaged the Parliament to adopt better legislation regarding health and education issues and have supported strategies reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS through changes in community behaviors. Many NGOs are also invested in the issue, including Children’s HopeChest, which has been working to empower orphans in Swaziland by constructing housing and other facilities for them. Since 2004, the organization has impacted over 7,000 children. Furthermore, mothers2mothers International operates in Swaziland with the goal of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV as well as providing support for individuals and families who have contracted the disease. Between its inaugural year of 2008 to its last data count in 2017, the program has enrolled 68,796 clients.

Conclusively, although the girls’ education in Swaziland still has many obstacles to overcome, including poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancy, there is much hope on the horizon. Today, over 95 percent of female Swazis are literate and that number should grow. With new educational and health programs being put in place by both the government and NGOs, teenage pregnancy and HIV rates are almost certain to decrease within the next decade.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Croatia
Croatia is located between central and southeastern Europe and includes a multitude of small islands that are scattered alongside its maritime coast with the Adriatic Sea. Despite being a member of the wealthy European Union, Croatia is economically unstable and wide-reaching poverty affects much of the population. Here is a list of 10 facts about poverty in Croatia that will illustrate living conditions today.

10 Facts About Poverty in Croatia

1. High poverty rates: In 2008, Croatia experienced a sharp rise in poverty that exceeded the rates recorded by other EU members. About one-third of all citizens live in conditions of extreme material deprivation and just over 15 percent are unable to afford the basic necessities needed to lead a comfortable life. Furthermore, there is a correlation between poverty and inequality in Croatia. A higher income is necessary as the world around develops. This makes it difficult for uneducated workers to afford the goods needed to increase their standard of living.

2. The country faces a significant debt burden: In 2018, the national debt in Croatia accumulated to $45.3 billion, which is equal to 74.1 percent of the country’s GDP. This amounts to $11,048 of debt for each individual living in Croatia. While the ratio has been improving since 2014, central government spending outweighs government revenues by a considerable margin. This will ensure that foreign debt will continue to burden Croatian citizens in the foreseeable future.

3. Croatia has the fourth highest youth unemployment rate in the EU: Statistics showed the Croatian youth unemployment rate at 23 percent in January 2019. According to Marijana Petir, a member of the European Parliament, the Croatian government has thus far created “improper employment conditions.” This has driven educated Croatian youth to seek jobs in wealthier European countries that have entrenched stable job opportunities into their economies.

4. Children are disproportionately affected by poverty: When the national debt peaked in 2014, about 2.6 million Croatian children were living in destitution. These vulnerable groups of individuals suffer the most due to a lack of necessary nutrients needed to grow and an adequate government infrastructure needed to secure future prospects of upward mobility. UNICEF is a leading organization working to improve the lives of impoverished children. In 2017, UNICEF entered into a partnership with the Croatian government in which both parties agreed to focus on improving children’s rights across the country.

5. Croatia is experiencing a massive emigration wave: Records show that far more individuals have left Croatia since the recession than previously estimated. While Croatia had recorded the number at 102,000, foreign statistics indicate that the number accumulates to 230,000 individuals. Many of these emigrants are in fact refugees and asylum seekers hoping to find better living conditions in other EU states.

6. Croatia struggles with underdeveloped regions: Small towns and settlements on the eastern and southeastern borders experience the highest rates of poverty. Economic struggles are attributed to the effects of the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s. This war to separate from Yugoslavia led to massive destruction in these regions, as it cause $36 billion worth of damage and destroyed thousands of houses.

7. Education decreases the risk of poverty: Among those who attend primary school in Croatia, the risk of poverty is 37.1 percent. This number drops by 16 percent for those who attend secondary school. The chance of attending even basic levels of education is unlikely for impoverished children in Croatia, as families struggle to afford the necessary supplies needed to excel.

8. Health care is in need of reform: The European Commission released an assessment of the Croatian health care system at the end of 2017 indicating their concerns. Some issues include low spending on health care, an insufficient number of nurses and doctors and an unhealthy general population. Croatians struggle with drinking, smoking and obesity, which all harm the immune system and increase the risk of attracting disease.

9. Croatia’s Human Development Index (HDI) rate is increasing: Croatia’s HDI is steadily increasing, showing that the country is bettering its economic standing. Indicators in 2017 show that life expectancy at birth, years of schooling and GNI per capita are all on the rise. While Croatia’s HDI value of 0.831 puts it in the very high human development category, it is still well under the average HDI value for the European Union.

10. The Programme for Fighting Poverty and Social Exclusion: The EU created this initiative in order to combat the coupled problems of poverty and exclusion. The Croatian government adopted this program in 2015 as a strategy to halt the expansion and mitigate the effects of these two issues. The Croatian government has taken a regional approach when implementing the program, as it has allocated resources based upon which areas are in most need of aid.

These 10 facts about poverty in Croatia detail the hardships endured by the Croatian population; however, they also present a few avenues the central government is taking in order to alleviate these issues. Croatia has experienced slow yet impactful progress since 2014. Croatia needs to do more work if it is to become among the most affluent European states.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Seven Facts About Girls' Education in Paraguay
The Republic of Paraguay, one of the smaller South American countries, is in the center of the continent, landlocked by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. Although the country’s economy has improved in recent years, the poverty rate in Paraguay was 28.8 percent as of 2017. In rural areas, the figure increased to nearly 40 percent. The U.N. states that educating girls, helping them become empowered, enabling them to work and become community leaders are powerful ways to fight poverty. While girls’ access to education in Paraguay is better than in many other countries, the country still displays disparities in opportunity between male and female Paraguayans. These seven facts about girls’ education demonstrate the barriers to education access that girls in Paraguay face and some efforts to remove these barriers.

Seven Facts about Girls’ Education in Paraguay

  1. Girls’ and women’s literacy rates are rising. According to UNESCO, the literacy rate among the female population aged 15 years and older has risen from 75.85 percent in 1982 to 93.84 percent in 2016. The female literacy rate remains below the male rate, which was 81.83 percent in 2016, but the gap between them has narrowed over the past decade.
  2. Illiteracy rates are higher in rural areas than in urban areas. According to the Pan American Health Organization, the illiteracy rate in Paraguay differs between men and women as well as between people living in urban and rural areas. As of 2010, the illiteracy rate was three percent for urban men, 6.8 percent for rural men, 3.9 percent for urban women and 9.5 percent for rural women. While women’s illiteracy rates are higher than men’s in both areas, rural women are at a particular disadvantage.
  3. As of 2012, 42,490 school-aged girls did not attend school. Girls’ school attendance drops sharply from primary school to secondary school. For both male and female students, the percentage of eligible people who attend school is significantly lower for secondary school than for primary school. Based on survey data collected from 2008 to 2012, UNICEF reports that 83.9 percent of eligible girls enrolled in primary school compared with only 63.4 percent enrolled in secondary school.
  4. More girls than boys enrolled in secondary school. Despite the drop off in female school enrollment from primary to secondary school, a slightly larger percentage of eligible girls enroll in secondary school than eligible boys of the same age.
  5. Many girls stop attending school due to marriage and having children. According to UNICEF data from 2017, 18 percent of girls in Paraguay married by the age of 18 and two percent married by the age of 15. This is a particularly prevalent issue for girls living in poverty. According to Girls Not Brides, a global organization with the goal of ending child marriage, rural girls in Paraguay married before age 18 more than 35 percent of the time in 2017. In addition to high marriage rates for girls, UNICEF data from 2006 to 2010 show the adolescent birth rate to have been 63 births per 1,000 adolescent women and girls. In 2002, 12 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 were mothers.
  6. Despite girls having some access to education, Paraguay still has a long way to go in reaching equality for women. In 2018, only 10.4 percent of elected mayors in the country and 15 percent of legislators were women.
  7. The Paraguayan government has presented a plan to advance the cause of gender equality. The plan, called the National Equality Plan, calls for more women in government and a fight against gendered violence. Specifics of the plan include the elimination of gender discrimination in law and the establishment of a governmental body with the intention of preventing and monitoring gendered violence. The plan, which will be supervised by U.N. Women, aims to achieve its goals by 2030.

While these seven facts about girls’ education in Paraguay indicate that gender equality has advanced significantly, girls and women in the country do not yet have opportunities equal to those afforded to boys and men. Some people, however, have worked hard to put a plan in place to work toward a solution. These facts about girls’ education emphasize the work that will be necessary to make further strides toward gender equality in Paraguay.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Unsplash

Eight Facts About Education in Turkmenistan
As a post-Soviet nation, Turkmenistan has taken strides over the last few decades in building autonomy and developing its social service sectors like public education. Here are eight facts about education in Turkmenistan today.

8 Facts About Education in Turkmenistan

  1. Turkmenistan has an impressively high literacy rate. Within the last few years, UNICEF has tallied Turkmenistan’s literacy rate at about 99.8 percent for both males and females ages 15-24.
  2. Public school is only compulsory through 10th grade in Turkmenistan. At this point, students take tests to determine whether they should go to a trade school or enter the workforce immediately. Well-scoring students may continue on for further schooling that is paid for by the state.
  3. Turkmenistan faces a severe shortage of qualified teachers, especially at the higher education level. This is a result of inadequate educational resources and unrealistic expectations like double shifts and Saturday classes. Of course, as poor conditions drive teachers away from the field, the issue only compounds. The lack of educated teachers is probably the largest threat to Turkmenistan’s education system right now. The government is cognizant of this issue and the last two Presidents have made significant efforts to absolve it with relatively little success. In 2007, President Berdimuhamedow reformed teacher working conditions by raising salaries by 40 percent, reducing class sizes and decreasing number of hours worked. The state also introduced competitions for Teacher of the Year and Educator of the Year to promote quality teaching. Unfortunately, the increase in incentives has found little success. Berdimuhamedow claimed in 2009 that the country would continue to rely on sending graduates to foreign universities until “the country gets fully staffed with specialists with high qualifications.”
  4. The process for admission into higher education institutions is extremely difficult. With a severe shortage of teachers, universities have room for less than 10 percent of high school graduates. Not only do students need remarkably high scores on entrance exams, but bribery on acceptance decisions is commonplace, which crowds out spots for deserving, lower-income students.
  5. Turkmenistan now requires that Turkmen be the standard language of instruction in all of its schools although at least four primary languages are spoken across the country. This has led to increased challenges for schools in regions where the traditional language is Russian or a local dialect. Many adults are also pursuing further education to become fluent in the national language, which takes up valuable teacher time.
  6. Women experience social pressure to start families instead of pursuing higher education. Many girls have become discouraged from finishing higher education due to the cultural expectation that they marry by their 20th or 21st birthday. The percentage of female students in higher education has actually gone down in the last decade, despite rises in female enrollment nearly everywhere else in the world. In 2009, the proportion of higher education students that were female was only 35 percent, a two percent decrease from the prior year.
  7. There are no private universities in Turkmenistan; all higher education is state-run and strictly monitored. Researchers Victoria Clement, from the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, and Zumrad Kataeva, from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, posit that this may be an attempt to control the information nationals acquire as a form of protecting the current political regime.
  8. There is an unequal regional distribution of higher education with all but three institutions located in the country’s capital city. This contributes to cyclical lower income levels for those living in the more rural regions, who have fewer opportunities to attend a higher education institute due to a long commute.

These eight facts about education in Turkmenistan reveal that while access to quality education in Turkmenistan is significantly better than in other areas of the world, it is not free of flaws. Opening up higher education to more people through increasing admissions, encouraging women to stay in school longer and providing more opportunities to those living in rural parts of Turkmenistan are goals to move toward in the future. Moreover, the addition of private schools would inspire more free thinking within the country that could result in citizens pushing for a more democratic society.

– Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr