Posts

Cholera in BurundiThe World Health Organization (WHO) has identified more than 1,000 cases of cholera in cities across the Republic of Burundi. Burundi is an East African country that has been plagued by violence, disease and poor sanitation for years. Most of the population lives in rural areas where drinking water is unsafe and sanitation practices are nearly non-existent. This has created the perfect storm for cholera to spread quickly across the country. It has led to six deaths from an otherwise treatable disease. Below are nine facts about the outbreak of cholera in the Republic of Burundi.

9 Facts about Cholera in Burundi

  1. Cholera is a gastrointestinal infection caused by bacteria. Generally, it is attributed to unsafe drinking
    water and often associated with raw or undercooked fish. It is transmitted from person to person through oral-fecal contamination due to improper sanitation and poor hygiene.
  2. This outbreak started in a time of political peril in Burundi. Rebel forces and the country’s army are fighting across rural areas, which is displacing people. Instability and lack of security make it difficult for people to find safety and sources of income. This has created a high level of poverty for Burundi’s people and exacerbated the poor water conditions.
  3. Most patients are displaced persons (IDPs) from rural Bujumbura. Fighting in Bujumbura became so violent that the government moved the capital to Gitega in February 2019. When the capital moved, many people were left without the support and resources of the government.
  4. Treatment usually takes several days per patient. Patients typically present symptoms related to dehydration. Dehydration occurs because of the excessive vomiting and diarrhea that comes with cholera. Patients are usually treated with an oral rehydration solution made up of a sugar and salt mixture in clean water. In extreme situations, patients may need intravenous fluids and antibiotics.
  5. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has three treatment centers for cholera in Burundi where professionals are trained and supervised. The goal of these facilities is to provide free patient care and increase the local public health staff. These centers provide care when most of the hospitals are unable to respond to the needs of cholera patients. MSF has also set up a 50-person treatment center in Bujumbura.
  6. Sterilization is a very important part of reducing the spread of cholera, so the MSF staff uses a chlorine solution to disinfect the center. This reduces the chances of another outbreak or infecting the staff. This solution can also be used to disinfect the homes of families who have been infected.
  7. Disinfecting isn’t the only solution to preventing the spread of cholera because the problem is directly related to the distribution of water. Without proper containment of poor water sources, the disease will continue to spread. To ameliorate the risks of cholera related to unsafe drinking water, MSF installed two water distribution bladders in the most affected areas. These bladders supply 30,000 liters of potable water.
  8. UNICEF has been providing cholera kits to people in Burundi. There are four different kinds of kits to help with various aspects of need. UNICEF has also established two cholera treatment centers to control the spread of the disease.
  9. To avoid contamination, experts suggest drinking disinfected water and eating a balanced, thoroughly cooked diet. Organizations like WHO are emphasizing the importance of washing hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer to reduce the risk of transmission.

Cholera is an easily treatable and preventable disease that occurs in poverty-stricken areas with poor sanitation. Many organizations have reached out to add potable water sources and aid by training the people of Burundi to treat and prevent the disease themselves. With rebel fighting and insurgent forces crossing the country, the disease is projected to spread to further areas of rural poverty.

Kaylee Seddio, PhD
Photo: Iwacu

Crisis in Yemen
Yemen is currently embroiled in one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. More than two-thirds of the country’s population is in need of some form of humanitarian aid or support, and food insecurity continues to affect large numbers of its citizens. Ultimately, only peace will quell the ongoing crisis in Yemen because humanitarian aid can only go so far.

Despite this, many organizations are still making active efforts to help the state and brainstorm new, innovative efforts to address the crisis in Yemen. As the crisis seems to grow in scope and severity, it appears that various organizations worldwide are becoming more dedicated to both helping the Yemeni people and searching for potential solutions. Here is a list of the organizations aiding those in crisis in Yemen.

Organizations Addressing the Crisis in Yemen

  • The International Rescue Committee: The International Rescue Committee is currently calling upon U.N. Security Council members to encourage diplomacy and peace negotiations between warring groups contributing to the crisis in Yemen. The committee helps more than 21,000 people obtain nutrition services and health care weekly.
  • Save the Children: The Save the Children organization has set up temporary learning facilities and child-friendly spaces in order to foster learning and growth for children that the crisis in Yemen has displaced. So far, the organization has supported over a million children by providing essential training in schools and distributing food to children and pregnant mothers.
  • Action Against Hunger: Action Against Hunger recently joined together with various other organizations in calling on governments to end hostilities in the region and suspend the supply of arms and other weaponry. The crisis in Yemen continuously worsens due to the supply of arms from various sources.
  • Creative Generation: Some Yemeni women have come together to form an organization with technological innovations to aid the crisis in Yemen. The organization is Creative Generation and aims to harness solar power as a guaranteed source of energy in the hopes of combating rising fuel prices and scarce availability.
  • The World Bank: The World Bank currently reports that the solar sector within Yemen is booming and remains promising. Additionally, solar energy systems currently reach up to 50 percent of Yemeni households in rural areas and 75 percent in other urban areas.
  • The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project: The World Bank approved a $50 million IDA-funded grant for The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project in April 2018. The program aims to expand access to electricity through the distribution of solar energy systems with a particular focus on rural areas that the crisis in Yemen heavily affected. Estimates determine that 20 to 30 percent of this investment will create jobs and help boost the country’s economy.
  • UNICEF: UNICEF covers over 75 percent of all water, sanitation and hygienic solutions to the cholera epidemic stemming from the crisis in Yemen. The organization’s recent solar-powered water project has immensely helped the northern governorates Al Jawf and Sa’ada. This project has given these Yemeni communities access to safe drinking water in their own homes.

In spite of the overwhelming crisis in Yemen, it seems that the international community and various aid organizations are managing to not only see the brighter side of things but also put forth innovative efforts to address multiple issues. Some of these efforts are to encourage peacemaking processes, and others have directly impacted Yemeni lives positively by providing life-saving care and aid. The future can still be optimistic; behind-the-scenes talks resembling peace negotiations have recently occurred in Oman between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis.

The country still has divisions with different groups holding control over various areas, so the organizations providing aid must continue in their efforts and mobilize others to do the same. As peace negotiations hopefully proceed and bring an end to the seemingly endless war, the international community must remain ready to help citizens following the crisis in Yemen. The Yemeni people’s resilience and innovation are admirable to a remarkable degree, but the country cannot pull itself out of crisis alone.

– Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Sanitation in EthiopiaEthiopia is Africa’s second-most populated country with more than 109 million people. It is also its fastest-growing economy even though it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Sanitation in Ethiopia is one of the factors proving to be a challenge when it comes to sustaining or improving on the country’s growth and development. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Ethiopia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Ethiopia

  1. Ethiopia is considered water-stressed because the rapid population growth over the last decade has put a strain on its abundant water sources. Despite estimations showing that 13.5 to 28 billion cubic meters of renewable annual groundwater is available per year, only 2.6 billion cubic meters is usable.
  2. Ethiopia is a country of two extremes. Some parts of the country are plagued by constant flooding while other parts experience water scarcity, degraded water quality and food insecurity because of recurring droughts.
  3. The majority of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas and is dependent on subsistence farming; therefore, a lot of water is used for agriculture. The global average for water withdrawals for agricultural use is 70 percent. Ethiopia uses 93 percent for agricultural.
  4. According to the WHO, 43 percent of Ethiopia’s population lacks access to an improved water source. Only around 28 percent of people nationwide have access to improved sanitation. While this is astoundingly low, it is an improvement from 3 percent in 1990.
  5. Women and girls bear the brunt of Ethiopia’s water and sanitation problem as they have to travel long distances daily to fetch water. Consequently, they are often unable to fully participate in community life or go to school.
  6. Open defecation is a daily part of life in 32 percent of Ethiopia’s rural homes and 7 percent of its urban population. Twenty-three million people practice open defecation due to a lack of access to improved sanitation.
  7. UNICEF attributes between “60 to 80 percent of communicable diseases in Ethiopia” to “limited access to safe water and inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.” Diarrhea, for example, accounts for 23 percent of all deaths for children under the age of five. Another report also shows that about 32 percent of health facilities in Ethiopia have access to safe water.
  8. The good news is that change is happening and has been happening. A joint report by WHO and UNICEF shows that Ethiopia has improved its water supply by 97 percent in urban areas and 42 percent in rural areas. Ethiopia achieved its Millenium Development Goal (MDG) target of providing 57 percent of the population with access to safe drinking water. This reduced the number of people without access to clean drinking water since 1990 by half.
  9. The government plans to further improve sanitation in Ethiopia under the One WASH National Program. It hopes to increase access to safe water to 98 percent for rural areas and 100 percent for urban areas. Under the program, all Ethiopians will also be provided with access to basic sanitation.
  10. There are also many international organizations aiding the government to improve sanitation in Ethiopia. Water.org has been working in Ethiopia since 2004 and has reached 243,000 people so far. Others, such as UNICEF and USAID, are supporting the One WASH program in various capacities.

The government and other partners need to continue improving sanitation in Ethiopia if the economy is to continue to grow. Aspects of development like life expectancy, improved opportunities for women and girls to participate in society and food production are dependent on sanitation. It is only by dealing with this that the government can hope for continued growth and development as well as poverty reduction.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Ethiopia
Ethiopia, a country located in the Horn of Africa, is the continent’s second-most populous country. The government has made impressive strides toward eradicating poverty and improving Ethiopia’s life expectancy. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Ethiopia.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Ethiopia

  1. Ethiopia has a high life expectancy rate in comparison to similar countries. The average Ethiopian resident can expect to live 66.34 years while the average resident of the nearby Central African Republic can expect to live to about 53. In the United States, the average life expectancy is 79.
  2. Life expectancy rates took a hit in the 80s. During Ethiopia’s most recent famine, the average life expectancy began to decrease in 1979 and continued to drop until 1983, reducing 1.69 percent in total from 44.26 years to 43.52 years. The United Nations estimates that this famine was the cause of approximately 1 million deaths. 
  3. The life expectancy in Ethiopia has overall been on an upward trend. Its current average life expectancy has more than doubled since 1950 when it stood at 32.53 years.
  4. In recent years, the average lifespan for Ethiopians exceeded the projected life expectancy. In 2017, projections determined the life expectancy for women to be 61.3 years but observed to be 70.4, while projections stated that male life expectancy was 58.2 and observed to be 66.7. One could attribute this to the fast-paced growth of Ethiopia’s life expectancy. 
  5. Malnutrition rates are dropping. The number of Ethiopian citizens suffering from severe malnutrition dropped 32 percent from 2000 to 2010, and those dwindling numbers have aided in the improvement of the life expectancy in Ethiopia. UNICEF has had a significant hand in this reduction by providing health posts and training workers to aid in hygiene, sanitation and nutrition. 
  6. Communicable and noncommunicable illnesses are still a big problem in Ethiopia. The leading cause of deaths in Ethiopia is neonatal disorders. More than 60 percent of infant deaths are due to neonatal disorders as well as 40 percent of deaths among children under 5 years old.
  7. Infant mortality rates are decreasing. While neonatal disorders are the leading cause of death in Ethiopia, those numbers are improving. In 1990, the observed mortality rate for children under 5-years-old was 197.7 per 1,000 live births. As of 2017, that number had dropped to 56.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. This change is no doubt due to the government’s efforts to offer easier access to health clinics to expecting mothers.
  8. The government is working to improve health care. It has been taking steps to align its health care system with the Millennium Development Goals, and this has aided in improving the overall health of Ethiopian residents. UNICEF has led to a surge in the number of health posts from just a handful in 2004 to 9,000 in 2011. 
  9. Unemployment rates have decreased. Since 1999, unemployment rates in Ethiopia have been on a downward trend, dropping from 26.4 percent in 1999 to 19.1 percent in 2018. The number even hit a record low of 16.8 percent in 2015. The overall improvement of employment rates in Ethiopia, giving the poor the opportunity to provide for themselves, has also helped improve life expectancy.
  10. The fight against poverty in Ethiopia is making impressive progress. When one compares Ethiopia to other African countries, it has made the most progress against poverty second only to Uganda between 2000 and 2011. While Ethiopia’s poverty rate stood at 44 percent in 2000 and dropped to 30 percent in 2011, Uganda’s poverty rate went from 38.8 percent in 2002 to 19.7 percent in 2012. 

There is still much that people need to do in Ethiopia. Roughly a third of the population is without clean water and nearly a quarter of Ethiopians have no access to toilets. It has been a long journey recovering from the drought and consequent famine of the 80s, but the government is taking steps to better the daily lives of Ethiopians and lengthen Ethiopia’s life expectancy. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Ethiopia show that the country has a chance to continue its improvement.

– Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Nepal Despite becoming illegal in 1963, child marriage remains a common practice in Nepal. Almost 40 percent of girls in Nepal will be wed before the age of 18, and 10 percent of girls will be married before the age of 15. These statistics place Nepal with the 17th highest prevalence rate of child marriage worldwide. As of 2017, there were 587,000 child brides in the country. The vast majority of these marriages are arranged, sometimes with significant age differences. Furthermore, the brides in child marriages are more likely to experience domestic violence and rape.

Activists claim that prevalence rates are increasing in some districts of the country. This is occurring despite the government announcing in 2014 a target to eradicate child marriage by 2030. However, there are a plethora of organizations working to combat child marriage in Nepal. Many of these organizations are working in tandem with the government to ensure that the 2030 goal is achieved. Keep reading to learn more about the top five organizations fighting child marriage in Nepal.

5 Organizations Fighting Child Marriage in Nepal

  1. UNICEF: The humanitarian branch of the United Nations has been instrumental in both raising awareness and tackling the problem of child marriage in Nepal. In 2016, UNICEF launched the Global Program to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, focusing on Nepal and 11 other countries. This program manifests through training community religious leaders to advise against child marriage. In addition, efforts include building health posts that protect child brides by teaching them about reproductive health, as well as mobilizing adolescent girls.

  1. Girls Not Brides: Girls Not Brides and UNICEF worked in tandem to craft Nepal’s National Strategy to End Child Marriage in 2016. The plan includes six components: implementing laws and policies, empowering girls, providing quality education for girls, engaging men, mobilizing families and communities to change norms and providing services. One tangible action taken thus far includes raising the legal marriage age to 20. Another action includes providing cash incentives for families to support their daughters’ educations. Girls Not Brides also works closely with a variety of grassroots organizations that address the issue on the ground including Sakcham Rural Nepal, Loo Niva Child Concern Group and Janaki Women Awareness Society.

  2. Kapilvastu Integrated Development Services (KIDS): A partner organization of Girls Not Brides, KIDS works in Kapilvastu, a district in Nepal, to improve women’s health services. Some of its projects include Safe Motherhood through WASH. WASH targets recent mothers, including child brides, to promote hygiene mothering practices such as hospital deliveries. Another project is the Women’s Health Program, which informs poor adolescent girls about their reproductive health to protect young brides.

  3. Loo Niva Child Concern Group: Another Nepali organization, Loo Niva specializes in children’s rights. The organization protects vulnerable children from exploitative practices, such as arranged child marriages. In particular, the organization has worked in the southern Lalitpur rural area. There, the organization promotes intervention education programs about the dangers of child marriage and how it contributes to issues such as school dropouts.

  4. Human Rights Watch: Although not involved in grassroots and community efforts, Human Rights Watch plays an instrumental role. The organization’s efforts hold the Nepali government accountable for its goal to end child marriage. Additionally, it has consistently surveyed the Nepali government’s actions and reported when, for example, the Nepali government delayed releasing in its strategic plan in 2016. This exposure is necessary to pressure the Nepali government to achieve its target.

Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

Countries Affected by the Measles OutbreakIn 2019, countries around the world faced a significant increase in measles outbreaks. Besides cases in the United States, people in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Brazil, the Philippines and Somalia have suffered from a resurgence of this preventable disease. There are many causes of the global measles outbreak including the mistrust of vaccines, inadequate access to health care and the global childhood immunization gap.

Measles is caused by a virus and spread through respiratory transmission. It is highly contagious but mostly preventable through childhood vaccinations. Mild symptoms of measles include high fever and a rash. More severe effects of the disease include pneumonia, diarrhea and even deafness.

4 Countries Affected by the Measles Outbreak

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): In the DRC, measles has killed 5,000 people so far in 2019, which is more than twice as many people as Ebola. More than 90 percent of these deaths are children under the age of 5. Further, the measles outbreak has spread throughout all provinces. Lack of access to health care and a shortage of measles vaccines contribute to these deaths. Additionally, weakened immune systems in malnourished children, deficiencies in vitamin A and diseases such as HIV/AIDS also lead to death. UNICEF and other NGOs have distributed more than 1,300 measles kits containing antibiotics, rehydration salts and other drugs to the most impacted areas. UNICEF has also advocated for a longer-term strategy to address the outbreak.

  2. Brazil: Though Brazil had been deemed free of measles in 2015, as of November 2019 the country has had an estimated 50,000 cases of the disease. The highest concentration of measles cases occurred in Sao Paulo, the state with the highest population. Brazilian officials are concerned that people in an isolated tribe in the Amazon may have contracted the disease. This is of particular concern since these people have a low resistance to measles and other diseases. Health officials in Brazil have implemented a measles vaccination campaign to vaccinate millions of young people between the ages of 20-29 in order to contain the outbreak.

  3. The Philippines: Yet another country that has faced a measles outbreak due to distrust in vaccines is the Philippines. The New York Times reports that measles vaccination rates in the country declined from above 80 percent in 2008 to below 70 percent in 2017. Officials have reported nearly 44,000 measles cases in Manila and the surrounding areas as of November 2019. In response to the measles outbreak, along with outbreaks of polio and dengue, the Philippines Red Cross has sought to expand its efforts. This will require recruiting and training some 2,600 volunteers. In the long-term, the Department of Health aims to increase immunization coverage so that 95 percent of children are vaccinated.

  4. Somalia: According to a November 2019 U.N. article, there have been 3,616 suspected cases of measles in Somalia in 2019. In particular, people in IDP camps (for internally displaced people), areas with high population density and nomadic communities are at greater risk. The illness is particularly deadly for children under 5 in Somalia. Unfortunately, one in seven of these children dies before they turn 5. To combat this outbreak, the Somali government has partnered with UNICEF and the WHO to launch a campaign to vaccinate 1.7 million Somali children.

Several countries have faced measles outbreaks in 2019. Increased immunization coverage during childhood could prevent these outbreaks. As these countries affected by the measles outbreak show, access to vaccines and health care is vitally important. In fact, these ailments are often a matter of life and death. Fortunately, NGOs and governments are working together to prevent future measles outbreaks.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Palestine
Despite Palestine’s constant immersion in conflict as a result of Israeli occupation, there are some positives in regards to girls’ education. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Palestine that showcase both the good and the bad of the country’s education system.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Palestine

  1. Literacy Rates: Palestine has one of the highest literacy rates in the world with 96.9 percent of its population being literate. In particular, there have been great strides in improving women’s literacy rates. The literacy rate went from 78.6 percent in 1995 to 97 percent in 2018. Female literacy rates are at their highest in the West Bank and their lowest in Salfit.
  2. School Infrastructure and Teachers: The education system is struggling due to insufficient school infrastructure and a lack of teachers with adequate training, as well as the existence of schools in marginalized areas. During the first 10 years of the Israeli occupation, the government built no new schools and classrooms of existing ones were overcrowded. The lack of schools led to an emergency-like situation in education, which resulted in some positive achievements, such as the regaining of the credibility of the Tawjihi, a secondary school matriculation exam. There has also been an improvement in extracurricular activities for students.
  3. The Effects of the Israeli Occupation: The Israeli occupation is mostly responsible for the struggles of the education system, given that it continually causes the exposure of schools to rockets and bombs. Building restrictions that Israeli rule implemented in places such as Area C and East Jerusalem are primarily responsible for the shortage of infrastructure. There are also movement restrictions, such as checkpoints and the Barrier, which can pose challenges to accessing services like education. The Barrier is an Israel-approved physical barrier in and around the West Bank in Palestine.
  4. Enrollment in Early, Primary, Secondary and Higher Education: There is a comparable amount of enrollment in primary education when it comes to boys and girls. Still, admissions are higher for female students to both secondary and higher education institutions. However, when it comes to Early Childhood programs, only 14.9 percent of girls are enrolled. Therefore, the U.N. has made it a priority to start investing in early childhood education, focusing on funding both teacher education and gender equality awareness.
  5. Raising Awareness About Female Education: Some of the U.N.’s planned interventions include raising awareness about the disadvantages of early marriage and the importance of female education. This effort is on-going, as women still struggle with early marriage, and gaining education and employment in Palestine. A female Palestinian student interviewed by the L.A. Review stated that “we have this thing in our society that is like, your house, your kids are [more] important than anything else. Your job is not so important because it’s like, your husband is working.”
  6. Education and Conflict: Education is critical in Palestine because it can be a non-violent form of protest against the on-going conflict. UNICEF enforces this ideology by using a behavioral change approach towards students. It encourages students, parents and teachers to challenge the acceptance of violence. It enforces this mindset by providing education and raising awareness.
  7. Women and Unemployment: Women in Palestine experience marginalization despite their education, suffering from a high rate of unemployment when compared to the rest of the world. The unemployment rate among women with 13 years of schooling or more was 50.6 percent in 2016, which was a significant increase from the 21.9 percent recorded in 2000.
  8. Women’s Participation in the Labor Market: Palestinian women have the lowest participation in the labor market within the MENA region. When it comes to labor force participation, women have a 19 percent participation rate compared to 71 percent of male participation. There is a joint effort to find and apply solutions to this problem. One solution is the U.N.’s policy to encourage girls to have Technical and Vocational Education Training, which the U.N. has partially implemented to date.
  9. Dangers on Route to School: Approximately half a million children in Palestine require humanitarian assistance to receive a quality education. The violence in the West Bank poses threats and challenges, which lead to children to experience distress and fear, even when going to and from school. This is because they might pass high-risk locations or checkpoints.
  10. Electricity Shortages: Electricity shortages that constant conflict causes are affecting access to education, both at school and at home, by striking study time and concentration. These shortages are a result of the sole electric company facing a lack of fuel, which is a consequence of the closure of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. To reduce the reliance on fuel, organizations such as the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been working on providing alternative energy sources.

Foreign aid and raising awareness about the importance of girls’ education in Palestine have enabled some progress. However, as a conflict-ridden area, there is more that the country requires to ensure long-lasting development and enforce quality education. By looking at these 10 facts about girls’ education in Palestine, one can begin to see some of these efforts and realize how it should be a priority to find additional solutions.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Afghanistan
Following decades of civil war and negligence, Afghanistan has been experiencing a crisis regarding clean water and sanitation. The lack of an internal plan and a water infrastructure deficit had elicited urgent consequences such as various waterborne diseases and diarrhoeal diseases. Many organizations such as UNICEF took notice and decided to address this issue at its core. By providing funding and necessary resources, there has been evident progress within Afghanistan towards clean water and better sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Afghanistan.

 10 Facts About Sanitation in Afghanistan

  1. Limited Sanitation: According to the State of the World’s Toilets 2007 report, about 92 percent of Afghanistan’s estimated 26.6 million population did not have access to proper sanitation. Meanwhile, the number reduced to 61 percent by 2017. With this being said, poor sanitation exposes people, mainly children and elders, to life-threatening diseases. This issue also affects women and girls, putting them at risk for both physical and psychological damage. It affects menstrual, pregnancy and postnatal periods and creates an unsafe environment when in these periods.

  2. Turmoil: One can see the increasing number of cases surrounding poor sanitation as a direct consequence of the damage inflicted by years of war. Beginning in 1992, constant fighting between different mujahidin groups left cities such as Kabul in ruins, further damaging the water infrastructure. Following in 1996, the Taliban took over but did little to nothing to improve the already damaged water infrastructure, including necessary water pumps. Afghanistan, to this day, is still in turmoil, leaving no priority for local governments to improve sanitation and increase access to clean water.

  3. Lack of Reservoirs, Canals and Infrastructure: One major aspect as to why Afghanistan has a difficult time accessing clean water is the evident lack of water infrastructure. Geographically, Afghanistan is a landlocked nation that automatically creates a difficult landscape to receive clean water; therefore, Afghanistan depends on the natural flow of the snow runoff coming from the mountains. There are reservoirs to collect this water, but it is just not enough. Because of the lack of proper water infrastructure, only 30 percent of the water derived from the runoff stays in Afghanistan. Investment towards improving infrastructure is also scarce as the government does not see it as a prominent issue.

  4. Open Defecation: Open defecation is an issue that many countries face on a daily basis; however, it has been an astonishingly prevalent issue in Afganistan. It places many of the individuals and families leaving near waterways in much danger as human waste spreads disease quickly. To combat this issue, UNICEF alongside the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Public Health and Education have partnered to end open defecation by 2025. They are pushing for the Community-Led Total Sanitation approach which advocates for people to build and use their own latrines.

  5. Increase Water Supply: In addition to implementing a plan against open defecation, UNICEF and the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Public Health, and Education have been working to increase water supply to impoverished communities. They aim to steer the public to get clean water through the reliance of rivers, streams, wells, etc. Also, UNICEF aims to increase the government’s capacity to construct local water supply systems. Because of this new agenda, more than 300,000 new people living in Afghanistan received clean water in 2017.

  6. Water Systems: UNICEF is prioritizing gravity-fed piped drinking water systems or systems with solar pumps instead of regular boreholes with handpumps. These methods should provide more water, easy maintenance and close proximity even though they are slightly more expensive. Right now, most of the water comes from the five major rivers in Afghanistan, but this system brings water in an efficient and sustainable way.

  7. Action Within Schools: An important place to advocate for proper sanitation would be in the school environment, and UNICEF has done just that. Working with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF has aimed to create clean school environments and provide proper hygiene information in Afghanistan. This plan includes providing clean water, separate bathrooms and new handwashing stations in schools. This program is growing and is starting to enter more schools.

  8. Sanitation Efforts Aimed at Women: Some have also taken action towards improving sanitation conditions within schools and workplace settings for women and girls. By installing separate bathrooms for males and females, it provides women the opportunity to manage menstruation in a clean environment. Also, the ongoing introduction of curricula surrounding menstrual hygiene promotes rehabilitation and helps girls all around Afghanistan.

  9. Proper Sanitation in Emergencies: Launched in 2005, UNICEF created the WASH emergency center in Afghanistan. This group of various organizations respond during emergencies and help provide clean water, hygiene education and sanitation facilities to the people. For example, they gave hygiene kits to displaced families in the village of Kamalpoor. The kits included soap, detergent, towels, sanitary pads and a plastic bucket to collect water.

  10. Health Centres: Most importantly, UNICEF has aimed to make sure that hospitals and health centers are in proper condition to treat patients. The WASH program implemented focused on improving infection programs and patient safety. It is important to pay attention to the health of patients and to decrease as many cases of disease and death as possible, especially in the case of women and children.

Although Afghanistan still has some way to go, it has made tremendous improvements to its sanitation systems. With continued aid from organizations like UNICEF, it should only continue its progression towards clean water and sanitation for all.

–  Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

top ten malnourished countriesAccording to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 815 million people around the world suffer from malnourishment. Hunger strikes a nation when violence, conflict and any type of instability is present. Here are the top ten malnourished countries based on the malnourishment rates of countries around the world.

10 Most Malnourished Countries

  1. Central African Republic (CAR): CAR is known to be the hungriest country in the world. Half of its population suffers from hunger. CAR has “suffered from instability, ethnic violence and conflict since 2012.” This has disrupted food production and has displaced more than a million people. CAR has the highest malnutrition rate at 61.8 percent.
  2. Zimbabwe: A combination of the economic crisis and the devastating drought from October to May has resulted in Zimbabwe’s 46.6 percent malnutrition rates. About 5.5 million people will need food assistance by 2020. More than two million people are already facing severe starvation.
  3. Haiti: Haiti has gone through hurricanes, floods, political instability and earthquakes that account for its high levels of hunger. About 22 percent of children are chronically malnourished, and 66 percent of children under the age of five are anemic. Half of the 10.7 million people in Haiti are undernourished. Haiti’s malnutrition rate comes in at 45.8 percent.
  4. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: More than 10 million people, around 40 percent of the population, are in need of “urgent food aid.” Due to the drought the country experienced earlier this spring, its crops went through “dry spells” and “heat waves,” leaving one in five children stunted.
  5. Zambia: The drought from 2001-2002 has driven Zambia into a “massive food deficit” that affected more than 2.3 million households who are dependent on rural agricultural. About 58 percent of the population are “classified as extremely poor,” hungry and food insecure. About 25 percent of children under five are underweight, and 6 percent are severely malnourished.
  6. Madagascar: Due to extreme weather conditions, long droughts and locust attacks, 1.4 million people in Madagascar are in food crisis. At least 43.1 percent of its population is malnourished. Deforestation is another key issue since 85 percent of its rainforests have vanished because of “cooking and slash and burn agricultural practices.”
  7. Uganda: Because of issues of land evictions, fake seed supplies and problematic farming methods, Uganda’s malnutrition rate stands at 41 percent. More than 1.6 million Ugandans are in a food crisis. About 82 percent of malnourished children cases go untreated, resulting in many other health problems. About 15 percent “of all child mortality cases” in the nation are related to undernutrition.
  8. Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): The food situation in DRC is so dire that people are resorting to prostitution and joining armed forces for extra money. Due to conflict-related issues, about 15 million people in the nation are going hungry. This is higher than the 7.7 million people in 2017.
  9. Yemen Republic: Yemen has a 39 percent malnutrition rate. More than 2 million children are suffering from malnutrition. Food insecurity in Yemen is due to the “large scale displacement, high food prices, endemic poverty, and influences of refugees and migrants.”
  10. Chad: Chad has been suffering from “political instability, social unrest and conflicts” ever since its independence in 1960. Additionally, its consecutive drought and random rains have resulted in failed harvests. The National Nutrition Survey of 2018 states that global acute malnutrition rests at 13.5 percent, of which 4 percent is severe malnutrition. The U.N.’s Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that about 4.5 million people face food insecurity.

Organizations Combatting Malnutrition

Organizations like Action Against Hunger and UNICEF are trying to combat malnutrition. The World Food Programme helps 86.7 million people in 83 different countries every year. It delivers “food assistance in emergencies” and works with communities to “improve nutrition and build resilience.” It has helped each one of these nations listed above. It had especially helped Yemen in 2013 when it provided food assistance for more than five million people.

IFRC and the DPRK Red Cross have also helped highly vulnerable countries like North Korea. IFRC has given about 77,000 Swiss francs to the national Red Cross efforts to help 22,000 people. Red Cross has also created around 100 community greenhouses to grow vegetables to help feed communities. DPRK has also helped by deploying water pumps during droughts so communities can water their crops.
Malnutrition is a serious issue that affects many countries. Populations in developing countries and countries in conflict are the most vulnerable. Efforts from organizations to combat malnutrition are making a difference. However, the top ten malnourished countries on this list are still in dire need of aid.

Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions of the Muhamasheen
The Muhamasheen (the marginalized) pejoratively known as the Akhdam (servants) constitute a distinct community in Yemen that the broader Yemeni society consigns to the lowest part of the social hierarchy. Though Yemen has officially abolished its caste system, the legacy of centuries of discrimination persists today. Below are eight facts about the living conditions of the Muhamasheen.

8 Facts About the Living Conditions of the Muhamasheen

  1. Over 50 percent of the Muhamasheen population suffers from unemployment. Systemic exclusion from most employment in the agrarian sector, despite the community’s concentration in rural areas, contributes heavily to this unemployment rate. Muhamasheen workers compete for nomadic seasonal labor such as thrashing grain at harvest time. These deeply-embedded exclusionary practices cement the subordinate status of the Muhamasheen.
  2. Entrenched custom relegates urban sanitation jobs, such as street cleaners, to the Muhamasheen. Thus many urban Muhamasheen people encounter and treat waste products that higher castes view as contaminating and taboo. Inadequate compensation and the possibility of pretextual termination with little notice often awaits Muhamasheen sanitation workers employed by the municipal authorities in the cities.
  3. Inadequate housing, vulnerable to destruction by natural disasters, depresses the living conditions of the Muhamasheen. Rather than the solid and sturdy adobe construction characterizing traditional Yemeni home structures, many Muhamasheen reside in homes constructed from cardboard and thatch or even from sheets extracted from empty containers. Exposure to the elements, whether intense heat and cold or inundation during the rainy season, invariably characterizes life in these dwellings. Other Muhamasheen live in small and cramped concrete structures, the living conditions therein little better than those residing in makeshift cardboard structures.
  4. Southeastern Yemen’s October 2008 floods were particularly devastating to the Muhamasheen. In response, UNHCR provided shelters to Muhamasheen reduced to the status of internally displaced persons. The Yemeni NGO al-Dumir implemented this initiative, encompassing the construction of 100 two-room shelters, with financial backing from the Japanese government amounting to USD $300,224. Akhdam also received household items from UNHCR in the course of this relief program due to how flooding affected it.
  5. Regular exposure to the elements and inadequate access to clean water subject the Muhamasheen to increased health hazards. Respiratory and ocular infections and skin diseases all pose a greater risk to the Muhamasheen than to other groups. Muhamasheen children, many coming of age in lowland drainage areas or near landfills, are more likely to die of malaria and chronic infectious kidney disease than of other illnesses. Poor sanitation contributes to a high rate of infant deaths from parasites, while malnourishment worsens both maternal and infant mortality rates. The marginalization of the Muhamasheen limits the willingness of the health care sector to treat them.
  6. In 2014, a UNICEF study concluded that poor literacy rates pervade the Muhamasheen community. A survey sample consisting of 9,200 Muhamasheen households, encompassing 51,406 persons, yielded a literacy rate of one in five among Muhamasheen ages 15 and older. Survey data yielded school enrollment rates of two in four for youths between ages 6 and 17.
  7. In 2014, UNICEF and Yemen’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor administered a survey of 9,200 Muhamasheen households, which revealed significant inequities in education, sanitation, shelter and medical care. The following year, the government of Yemen began designing initiatives for the improvement of the social and economic standing of the Muhamasheen community. These ameliorative programs include the creation of family-targeted financial inclusion programs involving both the Social Welfare Fund Office in Taiz Governorate and nonprofit organizations such as Alamal Microfinance Bank. Other initiatives encompass enforcing the right of Muhamasheen children to attend school without discrimination and providing students with uniforms and school supplies.
  8. Testimony that WITNESS and the Yemeni NGO Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights obtained attests to the epidemic of public abuse of Muhamasheen women by non-Muhamasheen men. Out of this research, the organizations above filmed an award-winning documentary, “Breaking the Silence,” successfully spreading awareness of these endemic attacks. Given the Muhamasheen community’s limitations of access to the full weight of the justice system, such documentaries as “Breaking the Silence” play an invaluable role in revealing the systemic abuses contributing to the living conditions of the Muhamasheen.

The marginal living conditions of the Muhamasheen, a legacy of centuries of caste discrimination, remains a serious issue in Yemen. However, NGOs such as UNICEF have increasingly paid more attention to the community’s plight and designed initiatives to improve the living conditions of the Muhamasheen. These measures, alongside the awareness-spreading efforts of such organizations as WITNESS and the Yemeni NGO Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights, show that there is hope for the future of the Muhamasheen.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr