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Top 10 facts About Living Conditions in the Central African RepublicThe Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Africa with 16 prefectures. The Central African Republic is among the poorest nations in the world even though the country has an abundance of natural resources. Roughly 90 percent of the population lives in poverty, with little access to food, decent housing, water or sanitation. One of the main causes of poverty is the ongoing conflict that shattered the country. This conflict caused the living conditions in the Central African Republic to deteriorate along with the way of life for many citizens. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in the Central African Republic.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Central African Republic

  1. The country and many humanitarian organizations are making a desperate call for aid. Around 2.9 million people of the current 4.8 million living in the Central African Republic will need assistance. This is more than half of the population. On Jan. 7, the country’s government teamed up with the U.N. to launch the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, requesting nearly $431 million to provide humanitarian assistance.
  2. For a majority of the population, the living conditions in the Central African Republic are too dangerous. Many were displaced from their homes and thrown into chaos. As of January 2019, the current number of people displaced from their homes inside the country is 640,969 people. Living mainly in churches, mosques, public buildings and the airport, the conditions the displaced live in are not any better. Refugees are often forced to sleep in the open, making them vulnerable to harsh weather conditions. They have little access to clean water, food or medical aid.
  3. For those who are able to cross the borders to refugee camps, the conditions aren’t much better. Over 598,000 refugees from the country are forced to live in crowded villages or scattered along the borders. The neighboring country to the west, Cameroon, hosts the largest population of Central African refugees according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Approximately 275,700 refugees took refuge in the country as of December 2018.
  4. Nearly half of all Central Africans are under the age of 14 years. Of note, 370,000 of these children are orphans who will grow up without one or both their parents. The SOS Children’s Villages in Bangui and Bouar are home to thousands of children, many orphaned by AIDS or civil war.
  5. Malnutrition is a major problem in the Central African Republic. A USAID survey conducted in January 2019 found that 10 of the country’s prefectures have excessive levels of severe acute malnutrition. Around 1.9 million people in the country face severe levels of food insecurity. In efforts to help, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) distributed food aid to more than 5,000 people at the Saint Jean de Galabadja parish in Bangui. In December 2018, the USAID partnered with the U.N.’s World Food Programme to provide emergency food assistance to more than 628,000 food-insecure people.
  6. Diseases such as malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis, nutritional diseases and sexually transmitted diseases are major health concerns in the country. Unfortunately, there is little support offered by clinics and first-aid posts available. The capital of the country, Bangui, only has one hospital and there is little to no health aid outside of the city.
  7. As the violence continues and more and more citizens are displaced, access to clean water is becoming harder to achieve. In rural areas, clean water is often not available at all, which allows the spread of numerous diseases. In response to this issue, the ICRC helped established 11 taps connected to the municipal water network and three water tanks fitted with a total of 24 taps for around 35,000 displaced people gathered at the airport in Bangui. The ICRC plans to have more taps and latrines set up at different sites to increase access.
  8. Transportation can be hard in the Central African Republic. The country only has about 400 miles of paved roads and no access to railways to the sea. However, most of the country rely on the rivers passing through for communication and trade. Because it is hard to navigate the unpaved roads or the lack of access to ferries, the displaced live scattered throughout the country and around the borders.
  9. Many NGOs try to improve living conditions in the Central African Republic. One of them is the Mercy Corps which worked in the country since 2007. The Mercy Corps helps the residents in various ways. It gives immediate assistance to displaced families and orphaned children fleeing from the violence that plagues the country. It also operates as a survivor support center that offers linkages to medical care, counseling and legal services for survivors of gender-based violence. Other services include the Corps’ members training vulnerable people in income-generating activities, constructing wells and leading play therapy and child protection committees that help kids heal from traumatic violence.
  10. The World Food Programme also works in the Central African Republic alongside the UNHCR, UNICEF and NGO partners to provide vulnerable communities basic food and nutrition by distributing food. The WFP also helps to support smallholder farmers in restoring and enhancing their productive assets. When school meals and general food distributions programs purchase from smallholders, it will be benefiting 46,000 farmers. 60 percent of them are women.

As the country currently stands as one of the world’s poorest countries, there is still a lot of work to do. However, there is still hope for the improvement of living conditions in the Central African Republic.

Madeline Oden
Photo: Flickr

BeyGood Fellowship ProgramLast December, Beyoncé performed at the Global Citizen Festival in South Africa, a festival aimed at ending global poverty. The 2018 festival was in honor of Nelson Mandela, former South African president and activist who died in 2013. Over 90,000 people attended the festival, which raised $7.1 billion worldwide. The highly anticipated performance garnered high viewership and engagement worldwide, and parts of the performance were streamed online. However, this was not the beginning of Beyoncé’s charity work in South Africa. Her foundation, BeyGood, has spotlighted local organizations for years. Now, BeyGood plans to return to South Africa twice a year to help develop and execute its community outreach plan. In doing so, BeyGood created the BeyGood Fellowship Program.

BeyGood Fellowship Program in South Africa

The BeyGood Fellowship Program in South Africa is being executed in partnership with Global Citizen. The two organizations are working to empower local youth in helping end world poverty by 2030. Each youth fellow receives a paid, yearlong job opportunity and will focus on one of four pillars of activity from Global Citizen: creative, campaigns, rewards or marketing.

In late March 2019, the BeyGood foundation reviewed applications and returned from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa. Once there, BeyGood representatives met with four fellows who have been working on the project since the Global Citizen Festival in December. They also met with local partners to see how their work has been going and what is needed to ensure future success.

BeyGood Foundation Partnerships in South Africa

In addition to the organization’s work in South Africa, the BeyGood Foundation is partnering with UNICEF USA and Chime for Change on a campaign called Every Drop Counts, bringing clean water to Burundi. The BeyGood Foundation also works with an organization in Johannesburg, IkamvaYouth. This organization aims to pull children out of poverty through after-school tutoring. Founded in 2003, IkamvaYouth is youth-driven and offers career advice and psychological services. It impacts 5,000 youths per year across 15 branches.

Moreover, BeyGood is partnered with 9-year-old arts organization Lalea, whose mission is to support youth through after-school art programs. The organization helps students manifest their dreams and think creatively to accomplish their goals. BeyGood’s visits to South Africa enabled them to check in with all of these programs and more. More importantly, it allowed BeyGood to ensure they are engaging the communities they serve and maintain and create future success.

Though the BeyGood fellowship program in South Africa is relatively new, the organization has continuously worked with various South African organizations to aid youth development. The program has executed on their promises to the community. Ultimately, BeyGood is an example of how to incorporate youth in the fight to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Ava Gambero
Photo: Google Images

girls education in SyriaThe ongoing civil war in Syria has had a serious impact on many aspects of Syrian life. Syria once contained a highly educated middle class, but since the start of the civil war, this has significantly declined. Women have experienced a large reduction in their access to education. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Syria.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Syria

  1. During the 1990s, primary and preparatory schools were built to combat low literacy rates in Syria. Parents were legally required to send their daughters to school. This created equal enrollment ratios in primary schools for male and female students that reached around 92.61 percent enrollment in 1996. The war in Syria has drastically decreased opportunities for children to attend school, dropping the overall enrollment rate in secondary schools down to 44 percent by 2013 from 72 percent just four years before in 2009.
  2. Conflict in Syria has caused countless families to flee from rural areas to neighborhoods of 1070, Tishreen and Al-Riyadeh. These are areas where urban planning has worked to create apartments. A need for more classrooms arose due to a population increase and people taking refuge within these neighborhoods. UNICEF built a new 1070 school in 2013, the only girls’ intermediary school in the neighborhood, providing safety for students from the conflict in their neighborhood. However, in 2016, residents of the neighborhood fled due to an increase in mortars and bombardment. The school was abandoned and destroyed. This is common in Syria, where one in every three schools are damaged or destroyed, severely limiting student’s access to educational facilities.
  3. With 2 million children out of school due to the war, the amount of young displaced Syrian girls who get married before 18 has reached 41 percent. Education limits girls’ vulnerability to early marriage. However, with limited opportunities for girls to attend school, they have no way to learn the skills and obtain knowledge to advocate for themselves against child marriage.
  4. Regions controlled by Islamic extremists follow a curriculum outlined in “Women of the Islamic State”, a manifesto defining the role of women in society. This curriculum discourages women from attending institutions of higher education. It also supports a domestic-based education and marriage by the age of 16.
  5. Under the guise of an educational opportunity, young girls are often recruited for armed conflict. In 2017, 89 girls were recruited and used for armed conflict. Recruitment removes children form educational opportunities and puts them at severe risk.
  6. The Syrian Government has also worked to diminish the role of female teachers in the education system by denying the salaries for women teachers located in conflict zones. This often eliminates the primary income of a family and disproportionately affects young girls working towards achieving an education. Without female role models as teachers, young girls are often displaced from the education system, putting them at a higher risk for sexual and economic exploitation.
  7. Efforts made by the Malala Fund are working to provide technology that does not require internet access for Syrian girls to continue their education after seeking refuge in surrounding countries. Specifically, the Malala Fund paired up with Fadi Hallisso, the CEO of Basmeh and Zeitooneh, a Lebanese organization that works with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey. The organization works to expand educational opportunities for Syrian refugee girls in those regions. The Malala Fund and Basmeh and Zeitooneh have worked to create accelerated learning programs and cultural centers to assist girls in getting up to speed on the educational standards of the local schools.
  8. U.N. Women started working to increase skills building and educational opportunities for girls displaced by the conflict in Syria. Sixteen-thousand female Syrian refugees benefit annually from the Oasis centers created by U.N. Women. These centers offer 400 cash-for-work opportunities as well as skill-building training to improve their opportunity for increased incomes. Syrian girls are also benefiting from the “SADA Women-only Centre,” which teaches technological skills, provides language courses, offers counseling services and connects women with jobs. U.N. Women is also working to build advocacy and leadership by Syrian women. A meeting was convened in June 2018 where 200 Syrian women convened to discuss the advancement of women’s rights in Syria.
  9. UNICEF started working to increase educational access for children in Syria, providing more than two million children with textbooks, stationery and school bags. UNICEF has also provided almost 80 thousand children with informal education opportunities. UNICEF’s focus on educational access for young Syrian children reaches across Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey with the goal of providing equitable educational access to 1.2 million children.
  10. Countries with high numbers of Syrian refugees are actively working to lift restrictions for school enrollment that disproportionately affect young Syrian girls and implement systems that are accessible for Syrian refugees. In 2014, Jordan recently lifted the requirement for Syrian refugee children to hold a residency card to attend their schools. Syria also introduced a temporary education system that offers Syrian students an education taught in Arabic.

These 10 facts about girls’ education in Syria present the lack of access and safety for Syrian girls attempting to obtain an education in Syria and in refugee areas. Many organizations are working to improve the educational inequality for Syrian girls. These efforts are improving educational conditions; however, as the conflict in Syria persists, there is still a necessity for progress towards equitable education in Syria.

Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in South Sudan
South Sudan has experienced widespread political conflict and insecurity in recent years. Working towards a more peaceful and inclusive future, the South Sudanese government has set out to completely restructure its education sector. Despite some growth in this area, education remains inaccessible for women and girls due to the nation’s dedication to maintaining traditional gender roles. This has grossly affected girls’ livelihood, quality of life and educational opportunities. Below are the top 10 facts about girls’ education in South Sudan.

Closing the Gender and Socio-Economic Gap in Education

  1. South Sudanese women and girls are less likely to complete primary and secondary education than boys. According to the World Bank, it is estimated that seven girls per ten boys attend primary school. Meanwhile, only five girls per ten boys enroll in secondary education.
  2. Although some girls do manage to make it to secondary school, not many of them are able to
    finish. In 2013, only 500 girls in the entire country were in their graduating year of
    secondary school.
  3. Gender inequity in the South Sudanese education remains an issue. Females make up only 12 percent of the country’s teaching population.
  4. According to Fiona Mavhinga of Zimbabwe, “extreme poverty and gender inequity drive the injustice” preventing girls’ education in countries like South Sudan. Fiona was one of the first girls supported by Camfed, an international educational charity.
  5. Cultural notions that women are child-bearers and homemakers drive inequity. Meanwhile, men dominate the educational, business, and political sectors of society. In fact, South Sudanese women and girls are more likely to die during childbirth than complete primary education.
  6. South Sudan partnered with UNICEF in 2007 to help more children get to school. The initiative also created alternate forms of education for women and girls unable to travel to school every day.
  7. In the northern states, almost five percent of students travel more than one and a half miles to and from school each day. In southern states, educational sites average from one for every five communities to one for every 15 communities.
  8. The student to teacher ratio in South Sudanese schools is overwhelming. Urban classes often exceed 100 students under the direction of just one teacher.
  9. While education is technically free for South Sudanese students, there are many expenses that the system does not cover. Families are expected to pay additional fees if they want their children to have an education. This includes charges for textbooks, uniforms, school fees and more. Thus, socio-economic status plays a major factor in access to education.
  10. South Sudan is working with global partners such as UNICEF and Plan International to restructure the education system and expand girls’ access to education. Organizations based within South Sudan like Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS), work to remove those barriers that block women and girls from study.

While organizations such as UNICEF, Plan International, and GESS are working to open access to education for girls, South Sudan is still struggling to close the gender gap in education. Regardless, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in South Sudan show that the movement to support girls’ education is more prosperous than ever.

– Morgan Everman
Photo: Flickr

Children with Disabilities in China
China, one of the most populated countries in the world, is home to many children with special needs. According to statistics from China Disabled Persons’ Federation, there are 80 million people with various disabilities living in China today, constituting six percent of the total population.

More than one million babies are born with birth defects annually and a baby is born with a disability every 30 seconds in China. To aid these children, various organizations are fighting to improve how children with disabilities in China can receive an education.

Regulations of Education of Persons with Disabilities

In 2017, Human Rights Watch reported that the Chinese government released an updated Regulations of Education of Persons with Disabilities to replace the out-of-date 1994 regulations.

According to the Watch’s report, the regulations mandated local governments to plan and fund resources to the education of people with disabilities as an encouragement to enhance education for children with disabilities in China. The Watch further reported that the regulation examined teacher training, evaluation and required schools to develop individualized educational plans for students with a disability.

Human Rights Watch stressed that it is vital to identify and remove barriers to learning and changing practices in schools. The nonprofit further reported that it is essential to provide reasonable accommodations that meet the individual needs of each student, including those with disabilities.

The Watch defines reasonable accommodation in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as “necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden.” In this aspect, children with disabilities in China can receive such accommodations, if they so require.

Community-Based Day Care Centers for Children with Disabilities in China

UNICEF works with the China Disabled Persons’ Federation to expand access to necessary social services for children with disabilities. According to UNICEF, they developed a model for community-based day care centers.

The centers meet the social service needs of children with disabilities in China and help parents cope with the additional childcare responsibilities, according to UNICEF. At these centers, UNICEF reports that disabled children can access rehabilitation services and participate in sports, games and activities fulfilling education and awareness-raising purposes.

In addition, UNICEF assists with annual surveys that gather data for policy recommendations to improve the lives of the families and children with disabilities in China. The rise in enrollment reflects UNICEF’s efforts to support these children so they can complete the entire nine years of basic education in China.

Learning in Regular Classrooms

According to the World Bank, the educational policy for children with disabilities in China is unique in that it admits several disabled children with specific educational needs into regular schools. The World Bank reported that in China, this method of special education is referred to as “Learning in Regular Classrooms”(LRC).

In LRC practice, the World Bank reported that resource rooms allow students with specific educational needs to study in regular classroom environments. The rooms mimic regular classrooms but supply additional resources for children with specific educational needs, such as extra teaching equipment and accommodations, textbook resources and aides.

International China Concern

International China Concern (ICC), was founded in 1993 by David Gotts after witnessing firsthand the suffering of abandoned Chinese children with disabilities in desperate conditions. ICC seeks to empower and train local staff to save lives, support families, transform communities and change public attitudes towards children with disabilities in China. According to ICC, the organization’s reputation and relationships in China place it in an excellent position to aid through family-style group homes and provide specialist services for the neediest children.

Michele Harris, Board Chair of USA Office at China Concern, voiced her outlook on the foundation’s success.

“I am inspired by ICC’s ability to sow the seeds of regard within the children and young adults they love and care for, the welfare officials they respect and work beside, and the caregivers they train and mentor. We must feel pride in their accomplishments and see every individual as a unique and powerful piece of God’s image.”

According to a newsletter by American Friends of ICC, students like 12-year-old Suisui are determined to overcome their obstacles, in his case, cerebral palsy.

The newsletter highlights that while some students might complain about school, Suisui not only attends with delight but he wheels himself to class 30 minutes each way. The article reflects how Suisui thoroughly enjoys going to daily classes and works hard, an embodiment of his learning potential. The newsletter attributes that Suisui can count, recognize numbers and perform simple math.

Through ICC’s Child Sponsorship Program, people can volunteer and get matched with a child and embark on a life-changing journey to transform lives.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities

To aid the fight for equal education, The World Bank has signed the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to affirm their commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4). SDG4 ensures equal access to all levels of education for persons with disabilities by 2030.

Children with disabilities in China need as many people as possible to make a difference. UNICEF provides different ways to aid and uplift those with special needs, whether it be in your area or overseas in China.

Carolina Chavez
Photo: Creative Commons

As conflicts in Libya move towards the capital, Tripoli, humanitarian organizations are working to help refugees in Tripoli. Thousands of residents in Tripoli are deserting their homes as the impending fighting poses safety concerns.

Since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, factions in Libya have battled for control of the country. The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by commander Khalifa Haftar is on the march to take territory from the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. Now the LNA is moving closer to Tripoli, at times as close as seven miles south of the city.

The international community, such as the United Nations (U.N.), the U.S. government, and the European Union (EU) are concerned about Tripoli. In fact, these organizations are appealing for a ceasefire to avoid a bloody battle for the Libyan capital. The U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, told reporters “We have a very dangerous situation and it is clear that we absolutely need to stop it.” U.N. workers have been meeting with faction members in an attempt to bring together a peace process that eventually results in elections.

Increasing Refugees in Tripoli

Meanwhile, refugees in Tripoli, many of whom were in detention centers, are moving away from the capital to safe zones. The U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has already relocated more than 150 refugees.

In general, Libya is a major transit point for refugees from Africa trying to relocate to Europe. As a result of the conflicts in Tripoli, migration to Europe is increasing, as displacement is also increasing. In total, the U.N. reports 6,000 displaced peoples from Tripoli.

Humanitarian Efforts Addressing Food Stability

The U.N. is increasing the humanitarian response to help refugees in Tripoli. So far, 58 families have been evacuated. Additionally, the U.N. has established 12 shelters across Tripoli. They are working with the municipalities to find spaces for additional facilities. They anticipate that as the frontline shifts, some shelters will end up inside the conflict zone.

Together, the U.N. and the World Food Program (WFP), has collected enough food supplies to sustain 80,000 people for two weeks. That being said, as part of the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM), the WFP and other humanitarian partners are planning to distribute two-week dry rations to 100 displaced households.

Humanitarian Efforts Addressing Health

The U.N. has medical supplies stockpiled in four sites to provide treatment for up to 210,000 people. Six EMT teams are working across Libya to assist various hospitals. So far 15 civilian casualties have been recorded and verified by the U.N. A branch of the U.N., the U.N.’s Water Sanitation and Hygiene team (WASH) have hygiene kits stocked for up to 24,000 people.

Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) is providing field hospitals, ambulances, and medical supplies. Dr. Sayed Jaffar Hussain, the WHO representative in Libya, implored the global humanitarian community to help, saying, “We fear that prolonged conflict will lead to more casualties, drain the area’s limited supplies and further damage health infrastructure… We call on the international community to ensure adequate funding to support the current crisis.”

U.N.’s WASH is also working on the logistics of treating, storing and transporting water to different areas of Tripoli. Addressing these goals include utilizing collapsible water tanks, water trucks and purifying tablets. They are also working to negotiate with armed groups for the protection of water shipments, advocating that water should not be used as a weapon.

Humanitarian Efforts Addressing Safety

UNICEF is monitoring detention centers and providing child protection services. Additionally, the U.N.’s Population Fund (UNFPA) is providing safe spaces and psycho-social support to help prevent gender-based violence and provide treatment for victims.

In unison, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is working with the U.N. to find places for displaced people. In addition, the IOM and the U.N. are helping some families set up private accommodations or relocate to family members.

The safety and well being of refugees in Tripoli are progressing, as the conflict rages closer to the Lybian capital. However, as the international humanitarian community recognizes Libya’s need for aid, they are working to prepare a multi-faceted response to help those in need.

– Peter S. Mayer
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in LaosThe both ethnically and linguistically diverse country of Laos is a landlocked, independent republic in Southeast Asia. It is home to about 7 million people, representing just 0.9 percent of the world’s total population. The average life expectancy in Laos is currently 65.8, but the number has gone up in recent years. The information below will provide 10 facts about life expectancy in Laos and what action is being taken to improve it.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Laos

  1. Currently, the life expectancy of the total population in Laos is 65 years. Men in Laos have a lower life expectancy than the average rate at 62.9 years, and women’s life expectancy is approximately 67 years.
  2. The maternal death rate in Laos is one of the highest in the Western Pacific Region. According to the Laos Maternal Death Review, 54 percent of maternal deaths were caused by complications from postpartum hemorrhage. In 1990, 905 women per 100,000 live births had died. Given this statistic, the primary focus of the ministry and WHO has been developing a voucher program that ensures free delivery of pre and postnatal care for women.
  3. In conjunction with WHO, the ministry is providing free health services to women and children in 83 districts in 13 provinces. As of 2015, the mortality rate has dropped to 197 deaths for every 100,000 live births. This drop can also be largely attributed to the work being done by the UNFPA, which is providing counseling on family planning and training midwives to match international standards.
  4. Assisted childbirth was almost unheard of in 2007, and death during childbirth was considered common if not likely. Since 1995, the Ministry of Health has begun to recognize the importance of having trained and skilled professionals present during birth and is working to decrease the number of home births in the country. As of 2015, the maternal mortality rate had decreased 75 percent. Only eight other countries had been able to accomplish that goal.
  5. As of 2017, heart disease and stroke accounted for 22 percent of deaths in Laos. Since 2007, the number of deaths from stroke has risen 5.6 percent, and deaths from heart disease have risen 3.3 percent. Most cardiovascular and respiratory problems stem from smoking and high rates of air pollution.
  6. In March of 2019, the Pollution Control Department reported that there had been a large number of wildfires in Laos and neighboring countries. Forest fires in Thailand had caused air pollution levels to become hazardous. Currently, air pollution levels are more than 20 times the safety limit. Residents have been advised to wear safety masks to prevent smoke inhalation, and officials are working to bring down toxicity levels by spraying water into the polluted air.
  7. Malnutrition has also been a persistent problem in Laos and can lead to cognitive difficulties, delayed development and high mortality rate. In 2015, 17 percent of the population was considered malnourished. Additionally, 45 percent of deaths of children under five are linked to undernutrition. Food security, diet diversity and water and sanitation all contribute extensively to the malnutrition issues. Fortunately, UNICEF has been able to advocate for nutritional programs and interventions with the hope of lowering the mortality rate.
  8. In September of 2018, Ministries of Planning and Investment, Agriculture, Public Works, Transport and Health teamed up with the World Bank to tackle the malnutrition problem in Laos. These organizations have developed a program that is focused on the critical development that occurs in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. The ministries and World Bank intend to establish welfare programs, diversify food production and improve hygiene and sanitation by ensuring clean water is accessible in rural sectors of Laos.
  9. Drinking water in Laos is often contaminated with dangerous chemicals and waste, particularly in rural areas and schools. Only 66 percent of the nearly 9,000 primary schools in Laos have functional water supply systems and latrine facilities, causing widespread health complications. UNICEF has been working with the Ministry of Education and Sports to implement a program called WASH, which improves water, sanitation and hygiene in conjunction with one another. Through the program, UNICEF is implementing effective hygiene practices, providing access to safe water and ending the practice of open defecation in rural communities.
  10. Government health expenditures have gone up more than 2 percent in the last four years in an effort to provide universal health coverage by 2025. The nation continues to work towards protection from infectious disease, and while the progress has been slow, with continued government funding health coverage is likely to expand.

Many of Laos’ SDG’s are still far from being accomplished, but the 2018 country profile from the WHO suggests that improvements have been made that will eventually lead to an overall increase in life expectancy. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Laos provide insight into what steps toward improvements have already been made and what still needs to be accomplished. The hope is that Laos will continue to increase its overall life expectancy, reaching an average age of 70 by the year 2030.

Anna Lagattuta

Photo: Everystock

al otro ladoMore than 4,000 asylum seekers in Tijuana have written their names on a waitlist in hopes of presenting themselves at the U.S. port of entry. It is unclear how the list began since the U.S. government doesn’t claim jurisdiction and neither does Mexico. Regardless, the waitlists are followed and migrants’ names are slowly crossed off as they are brought to state their cases. Most asylum-seekers are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, many of whom are fleeing gang violence, political instability and extreme poverty. Al Otro Lado and other nonprofits are helping the migrant crisis.

The Migrant Crisis

Central Americans from the caravan have been labeled everything from refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants to invaders, aliens and criminals. However, despite widespread disagreement and confusion about the caravan, U.S. immigration and international laws dictate that people have the legal right to seek asylum. Asylum seekers’ have the right to present their cases to an immigration officer, but with so many asylum-seekers to process, thousands of individuals and families are left waiting in limbo.

As Policy Analyst at the American Immigration Council Aaron Reichlin-Melnick explains, “The government would argue that high [asylum] denial rates indicate they’re fraudulent asylum claims… the more likely answer is that people are genuinely afraid for their lives–they may not know the ins and outs of a complex asylum system.” For many nonprofits, the situation is clearly a refugee crisis, and they treat it like one. Since caravans began arriving at the border, humanitarian organizations have been on the ground providing shelter, medical care and legal assistance. This is one way that Al Otro Lado is helping.

Al Otro Lado

Al Otro Lado is a legal services nonprofit based in Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijuana. Over the last four months, Al Otro Lado has helped more than 2,000 migrants in Tijuana while also fighting larger battles to protect the legal rights of asylum seekers. Operating out of an Enclave Caracol, a three-story community center turned migrant shelter, Al Otro Lado provides legal orientation and know-your-rights training to asylum seekers waiting in Tijuana.

Though Al Otro Lado is focused on upholding international and U.S. law, it is not immune to the controversy and violence that has accompanied the migrant caravan. The organization and its staff have received death threats, and co-directors Erika Pineiro and Nora Phillips were detained and forced to leave Mexico in January. Still, Al Otro Lado continues their operations in Tijuana, but now they just unplug their phones between calls to cut down on the death threats.

Other Notable Organizations Helping the Migrant Crisis

  1. In April 2018, Food Not Bombs served food to migrants out of the Enclave Caracol community center. They accepted donations of food, spices and reusable plates among other items.
  2. UNICEF works with the Mexican government to provide safe drinking water and other necessities to asylum seekers. The organization also provides psychosocial services and trains authorities on child protection.
  3. Save the Children provides emergency services, legal representation, case management and works to reunite migrant families.
  4. Amnesty International, like Al Otro Lado, is concerned with upholding immigration law. The organization monitors the actions of Mexican authorities at the border and also documents the situations and conditions that migrants face.

Organizations like Al Otro Lado, Save the Children and Amnesty International see the migrant caravan as a humanitarian issue beyond party politics. They have wasted no time supporting migrants and asylum-seekers who have risked their lives journeying to the border. However, unless governments and organizations address the larger issues that led the people to leave in the first place, they will continue migrating. Faced with violence, persecution and poverty, it’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t do the same.

Kate McIntosh

Photo: Flickr

children in venezuela
In a nation experiencing an economic crisis, the children of Venezuela are suffering. Poverty is on the rise, including an increase in the malnutrition of children due to limited access to resources. Families fleeing to Peru have traveled quite far. Along the way, many have faced discrimination due to their migrant status. UNICEF and Plan International have developed a strategy for aiding children who are experiencing rapid changes in their home lives. They are helping children in Venezuela find a “Happiness Plan.”

Conditions in Venezuela

At one time, Venezuela was part of a wealthier portion of Latin America. However, with new officials and underdevelopment, poverty is now abundant. A large number of resources were focused toward developing the oil industry while other developments were delayed. With the newfound prosperity that oil brought, the economic gap grew further and further apart. The consequences of such destitution can be easily seen in the adults and children of Venezuela. Food, medicine, water and other resources are greatly lacking. This leaves people desperately searching for food.

The desperation associated with poverty was significantly increased in March due to a five-day blackout. Resources like food and water were even more scarce than usual. Some resorted to collecting water from sewage pipes. Multitudes of people were left without food. People rushed to stores to find food but discovered that the stores were already stripped. Some stores were even trashed and burnt in the chaos that ensued with riots. The riots were also the cause of several deaths from untreated medical conditions to gunshot wounds. Hospitals operated under less than ideal conditions, with limited access to electricity and supplies, such as soap.

The Effects of This Crisis On Children

In a press release, UNICEF stated, “ While precise figures are unavailable because of very limited official health or nutrition data, there are clear signs that the crisis is limiting children’s access to quality health services, medicines and food.” Statistics about conditions in Venezuela can be hard to come by, and the ones that are available are often disheartening. Malnutrition is becoming a larger issue for the children of Venezuela. While the government has attempted some measures of addressing the problem, such as monthly packages of food for sale, more still needs to be done to provide for the Venezuelan people.

As a result of the continued crisis in Venezuela, many have fled the country. As of 2018, two million people had already left Venezuela; without a doubt, numerous others have left since. For those who are awaiting refugee status or to be reunited with lost family members, UNICEF has created a safe place to help children with this difficult time.

The Happiness Plan

The “Happiness Plan” is a safe space for children that has been set up in a tent in the country of Peru. Filled with games, coloring pages and books, this tent provides an outlet for children to be children while awaiting their official entry into Peru. In addition to the fun activities, the “Happiness Plan” offers psychosocial support from professionals for children struggling with these difficult transitions they are facing.

Some of the children passing through the tent have been separated from their families. They are awaiting the chance to rejoin their families in Peru. Others are with some members of their nuclear family but had to leave the rest of their family and friends behind them in Venezuela. One survey taken by UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration stated that 73 percent of Venezuelan families in Tumbes, Peru, had to leave behind one or more of their children.

In such a dismal time for Venezuela, it is reassuring to know that organizations such as UNICEF and Plan International are implementing programs to help these children who have experienced such abrupt change. They will undoubtedly need physical and psychological support to heal from the trauma they have experienced in their home country.

Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Djibouti
Djibouti’s location in the Horn of Africa makes it a prime port for trade. The diverse population has taken an increased interest in this country’s urban areas bordering the coast. The country’s GDP is rising, but 16 percent of the population was still living under $1.90 per day in 2017. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Djibouti reveal the status of the country as well as the effects of welcomed foreign interactions.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Djibouti

  1. Although one-third of the population’s main income is livestock, it contributes only 3 percent to Djibouti’s GDP. On average, the country only gets 130 millimeters of rain each year. Because of this, only a small portion of the land, about 1,000 square kilometers, can be used for agriculture. This leaves Djibouti with no choice but to rely on affordable international market prices to import 90 percent of its food commodities. The World Food Program (WFP) is supporting the government with a school feeding program and food security for the families affected by drought.
  2. Currently, the poverty rate in Djibouti is at 21 percent. However, in the last 15 years, the country’s GDP has been growing by more than 3 percent per year. There is work to be done to bring a living wage to the people.
  3. Djibouti provides a gateway to the Suez Canal. Acting as a stable bridge between African and Middle Eastern areas draws trade, foreign military bases and foreign assistance. Djibouti is the host to NATO and other foreign forces, proving it to be a neutral country even in the midst of surrounding conflict.
  4. In 2019, Djibouti may be responsible for an estimated 42,100 displaced people under the National Refugee Law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is helping to ease this burden through socio-economic integration. Their efforts aim to include refugees in the education and health systems and to assist with voluntary resettlement.
  5. Although many people moved to urban areas in search of economic opportunity, droughts over the last 30 years and conflict in the region forced many out into extension slums. The International Development Association’s (IDA) Slum Upgrading Project has gained support in the amount of $20 million. The development will mitigate the overpopulated areas by establishing a system of transportation for the public, their goods and emergency assistance.
  6. The enrollment rate of Djiboutian students in 2017 was less than 50 percent across the board. Fortunately, the completion rate of children in primary school has improved from 22 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2018 for females and from 31 percent in 2000 to 60 percent in 2018 for males. These percentages in enrollment and completion rates are projected to rise.
  7. The cost of electricity in Djibouti is double that of the African average. Currently, electricity is available to half the population, and the percentage of consumers is expected to double in the near future. As a result, USAID is launching two projects, the Power Africa Transaction and Reform Program (PATRP) and the East Africa Geothermal Partnership (EAGP), which will develop Djibouti’s natural resource potential into sustainable energy in order to power the country.
  8. Cybercafes offer online access to counter the high cost of the internet. More than 105,000 Djiboutians, who cannot afford internet, utilize these cybercafes, although access does not guarantee the availability of all sites and information, especially in regards to media. Authorities will block access to websites they find unfavorable to the government.
  9. Djiboutian male family members do not curb their women away from work opportunities, and there are no laws forbidding female entrepreneurship. However, the difficulty of accessing the market is in part due to social norms, family duties, education or skill barriers and transportation issues. The World Bank understands the vital role female empowerment plays in improving their society. For this reason, they have launched the 3.82 million dollar project, “E-commerce for Women-led SMEs.” Their contributions will provide Djiboutian women with the tools to access e-commerce platforms. The project’s connections to financial institutions, such as IFC’s Banking on Women network, lending specifically to women, will alleviate the struggle women have had trying to finance their small firms through disinterested creditors.
  10. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is practiced on more than 90 percent of women and girls in Djibouti. Some have endured this under qualified medical practitioners. But, medicalizing the act does not mean there are health benefits to removing the tissue. The tradition is practiced for different reasons, such as to represent a transition to womanhood or to discourage sexuality in women. Some communities associate it with religion, believing it fosters virtuous women, although there is no support for that belief in religious scriptures. FGM leads to severe pain, prolonged bleeding, higher risk of infection or HIV transmission and death. Women can also experience infertility or multiple complications in childbirth. UNICEF and the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) have spearheaded a program to advocate for legislation banning FGM, provide victims with access to health care professionals and open the discussion to voice declarations against FGM in communities, like Djibouti, being affected.

Djibouti’s cosmopolitan port keeps it a central location for foreign affairs; however, an overpopulation of displaced people and drought have put a strain on food security. Equality is a work in progress. Though FGM still poses a threat to Djiboutian girls, there are organizations working to end the barbaric practice. Furthermore, women are on the rise towards entrepreneurship. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Djibouti show the continued external support that contributes to the country’s infrastructure in order to create a stronger country.

– Crystal Tabares
Photo: Flickr