Posts

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Côte d'IvoireCôte d’Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast, is a West African country with one of the fastest-growing economies in the continent. However, its life expectancy at birth is one of the lowest in the world. Here are seven facts about life expectancy in Côte d’Ivoire.

7 Facts About life Expectancy in Côte d’Ivoire.

  1. According to the CIA World Factbook, Côte d’Ivoire’s life expectancy at birth is 60.1 years. Out of the 223 countries measured, Côte d’Ivoire ranks 209. This is 30 spots lower than its GDP per capita ranking.
  2. One of the main causes of Côte d’Ivoire’s low life expectancy is its alarmingly high infant-mortality rate. An estimated one out of every 16 babies born in Côte d’Ivoire dies, making it the number one cause of death in Côte d’Ivoire. This is the 14th highest rate in the world, but over the last 20 years, there has been a considerable improvement. According to Niale Kaba, Côte d’Ivoire’s planning and development minister, the country’s infant mortality rate has fallen from “112 for every 1,000 births in 1998 to 60 per 1,000 in 2016.”
  3. Côte d’Ivoire’s life expectancy is also being suppressed by its high birth rate and lack of quality health care for both newborns and mothers. The average age of a mother’s first birth in the Ivory Coast is roughly 19 years old and each woman will bear almost four children, on average. However, only 59 percent of births are overseen by a skilled birth attendant. The young age of mothers and the lack of health professionals guiding them through their pregnancies contribute to the Ivory Coast’s ranking of 12th highest maternal mortality rate in the world.
  4. A considerable lack of accessible sanitation facilities and clean water makes much of the Ivory Coast’s population susceptible to disease. Around half of the schools in Côte d’Ivoire do not have toilets or water, forcing students to walk up to a kilometer just for clean water. Additionally, 60 percent of families do not have the means to regularly wash their hands with soap and water. These dangerous conditions increase the likelihood of death from preventable diarrheal diseases, which are the sixth deadliest condition in Côte d’Ivoire.
  5. Alarmingly, 24,000 people die from HIV/AIDS in Côte d’Ivoire each year, the 10th highest rate in the world. While it no longer causes the most deaths in the Ivory Coast, every day five teenagers are infected with HIV/AIDS. Modern scientific treatments like antiretroviral therapy have been remarkably successful at combating this crisis, but less than 30 percent of HIV-positive children in Côte d’Ivoire are receiving the medication they need to survive. The lack of health care for these children is one of the main drags on the country’s life expectancy, with more than 50 percent of HIV-positive children not on medication dying before the age of 2.
  6. Education is one of the main drivers of increased life expectancy. Unfortunately, only 65 percent of Ivorian children are completing primary school. Additionally, less than half of the country is literate mostly due to prohibitive fees associated with schooling which excludes poor families. This lack of education severely limits the economic opportunities for the entire country. Experts agree that improving education in Côte d’Ivoire would increase the number of skilled laborers and lead to higher wages, a better quality of life and improved life expectancy. The International Cocoa Initiative has worked with over 600 communities to help get more children out of the fields and into school. They have seen a remarkable 20 percent increase in school participation rates, showing that there is hope for the future generations of Ivorians.
  7. UNICEF has been crucial in helping the people of Côte d’Ivoire, funding numerous programs that have produced a substantial quality of life improvements. Whether it be offering HIV/AIDS testing, providing community wells or helping children escape dangerous working conditions, UNICEF is making a difference throughout the Ivory Coast. Groups like Action Against Hunger have followed in UNICEF’s footsteps, partnering with Côte d’Ivoire’s government to help run 12 community health establishments and providing 29,900 families with access to clean water.

While these seven facts about life expectancy in Côte d’Ivoire can be hard to grapple with, there is evidence that conditions are getting better. Improving access to education, medicine, healthcare and many other necessities will undoubtedly help pull millions of Ivorians out of poverty. With help from the international community, 20 years from now an article titled 10 facts about life expectancy in Côte d’Ivoire might not look so glum.

– Myles McBride Roach
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Panama
Situated as the southernmost country in Central America between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Panama has a population of nearly four million people across 29,000 square miles and a terrain which includes rainforests, mountains, beaches, wetlands and pasture land. The capital, Panama City, has a population of under half a million. Panama’s strongest industries include import/export, banking and tourism. It has enjoyed economic stability and growth, which can translate to good health and long life expectancy when residents can access education, health care, water and sanitation resources equitably. Here are the 10 facts about life expectancy in Panama.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Panama

  1. The first of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Panama is that currently, the average life expectancy of a man in Panama is 76.1 and 81.9 for a woman. This averages to 78.9 for the entire population. Panama ranks 58th worldwide for life expectancy.
  2. In Panama, the leading causes of death are chronic, noncommunicable conditions such as circulatory diseases (diabetes and heart disease). Diet, high blood pressure or smoking can cause these. Panama has taken action by implementing the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and passing legislation guaranteeing smoke-free environments. The United Nations suggests dietary guidelines for healthy eating and recently added recommendations for children under 2 years of age.
  3. Traffic accidents in Panama are on the rise. The World Health Organization reports a road traffic death rate of 14.3 per 100,000 in 2016, while that number was only 10 per 100,000 in 2013 with 386 actual deaths. While the law in Panama requires seatbelt use, hazardous conditions due to lack of road maintenance, poor signage and overly congested highways are causes of this increase in accidents. Investment in roads and highway infrastructure could lower the number of deaths.
  4. The WHO reports that homicides in Panama are decreasing. In 2010, there were 23.4 homicides per year per 100,000 and in 2015 that number went down to 18.7. More than six times as many men suffer homicide in Panama than women (32.3 men per 100,000 compared to 4.9 women per 100,000). Young people between ages 15 and 29 are the most frequent targets of homicide (40.5 per 100,000). Strong laws are in place to combat violence in relation to firearms and alcohol and the WHO reports effective enforcement of laws against intimate partner violence and elder abuse. Panama could make improvements in the areas of enforcement of sexual violence and child maltreatment laws.
  5. Because of Panama’s tropical climate and wet, forested areas, mosquito-transmitted illnesses such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever pose a risk for Panamanians. Death is more likely in vulnerable people, such as infants. When new outbreaks arise, such as with the Zika virus, the WHO monitors transmission and infections closely in case they become widespread or pose a risk to travelers in the region. People can transmit the Zika virus sexually and it can also pass from mother to fetus. Microcephaly, a severe birth defect linked to Zika, poses a risk to the fetus of pregnant women, though death is rare. The WHO reports one death of a premature infant. Another disease that has limited impact in Panama is the hantavirus (linked to contact with rodents). The WHO reports approximately 100 cases with only four total deaths occurring. There is no treatment or vaccine for the hantavirus. Recommendations state to control the rodent population to prevent it.
  6. Panama saw 1,968 new cases of tuberculosis in 2017 (co-occurring with HIV in 90 percent of patients). TB and HIV are amongst the leading causes of premature death in Panama. People with HIV have more compromised immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to contracting TB. Panama spends $1.9 million each year treating and combating TB and HIV. Relapse of patients and drug-resistance pose particular challenges. Tuberculosis affects twice as many males as women, and the greatest incidence is among people ages 25-34 years.
  7. Mortality in young children has steadily declined in recent years. Deaths of children under 5 in 1990 were 27.2 per 1,000 live births, and in 2017, 17.2.  Deaths of children under 1 per year in 1990 were 20.9 per 1,000 live births, and in 2017, 13.4. Between 2007 and 2017, neonatal disorders dropped from number one to number three as a cause of premature death, and congenital defects dropped from number four to number six. These statistics are a result of a dramatic improvement in maternal and infant care for non-indigenous rural Panamanian women through a program called Health Protection for Vulnerable Populations, instituted in collaboration with the World Bank and the Minister of Health.
  8. The education of girls in Panama is important to life expectancy and maternal health. UNICEF reports that girls with no education receive 30 percent less antenatal care compared with those who have received a secondary education. The antenatal care is beneficial to learn about life-threatening risks in childbirth such as eclampsia, as well as immunization against tetanus and HIV testing and medication to prevent perinatal transmission of HIV. UNICEF calls for increased equity in antenatal and postnatal care particularly for indigenous women and infants in Panama.
  9. The upcoming Burunga Wastewater Management Project will address the serious health risks posed by untreated wastewater. The World Bank cites the lack of Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) as a major risk to public health. Currently, people dump untreated water into several rivers in the areas of Arraijan and La Chorrera. Despite economic growth in Panama, impoverished people will continue to be vulnerable to reduced life expectancy because of waterborne illnesses such as giardiasis and cholera, especially without updates to infrastructure in rural areas with attention to access to clean water and sanitation.
  10. In 2018, The World Bank approved an $80 million project in Panama called the Comprehensive National Plan for the Indigenous Peoples of Panama. This project has the aim of improving health, education, water and sanitation for indigenous people who are more vulnerable to natural disasters, for example. Built into the plan is a goal to develop the cultural relevance of programs. In order for life expectancy measures to continue to improve, Panama must equitably address the needs of indigenous as well as rural groups.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Panama show that the country faces ongoing challenges in health care, but measures of life expectancy are hopeful and improving. With follow through on projects to assist the indigenous and rural people, and ongoing investment in infrastructure, Panama should continue to rise in the ranks amongst the world’s flourishing, healthy and stable nations.

– Susan Niz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

10 Facts About Hunger in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is a small country that was formerly a part of the Soviet Republic. Some call it the Land of Fire due to a continuous, naturally burning mountain fire in its Caucasus mountains, and the country consists of both urban and large agricultural areas. Over the past 19 years, Azerbaijan has been steadily addressing its hunger issues and making important improvements. The proportion of undernourished citizens has decreased from 22 percent to less than 1 percent since 2000. Along with this advancement, here are 10 facts about hunger in Azerbaijan.

10 Facts About Hunger in Azerbaijan

  1. Azerbaijan has a global hunger index of 9.5, which is a low level of hunger. The global hunger index is a scale ranging from zero to 100, with zero being zero hunger and 100 being the most severe hunger. Numbers below 9.9 indicate low levels of hunger and numbers between 10-19.9 represent moderate hunger levels. On the other hand, numbers between 20-34.9 represent serious hunger levels, 35.0-49.9 reflect alarming hunger levels and anything above 50.0 refers to extremely alarming hunger levels. The global hunger index is based on four factors – child stunting, child mortality, undernourishment and child wasting.

  2. As of 2018, Azerbaijan ranks 40 out of 119 countries on the global hunger index scale. In 2000, the country’s global hunger index was 27.0, placing Azerbaijan in serious hunger levels. As the years have passed, Azerbaijan’s partnerships with UNICEF and the United Nations have developed programs addressing its hunger issues. As a result, the country has made significant progress, allowing its hunger index to decrease to 9.5.

  3. Child stunting refers to the proportion of children under the age of 5 who experience low height as a result of undernutrition. The percentage of child stunting in Azerbaijan has decreased by almost 5 percent since 2000. This improvement is partially because of one of UNICEF’s health programs that creates more educational resources and services for new mothers. Through the memorandum that UNICEF signed in 2019, mothers should receive more breastfeeding counseling in a baby-friendly hospital environment. Breastfeeding children for the first six months is the most effective method of ensuring a child’s healthy development and preventing child stunting.

  4. Child wasting is the number of children who are underweight for their age, reflecting undernourishment. Similar to child stunting, the percentage of children who undergo child wasting has dropped by nearly 5 percent in Azerbaijan since 2000. Although this is positive, 4.9 percent of children still experience child wasting. UNICEF has found that iron-deficiency anemia is a major cause of this problem.

  5. Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition in which a person does not have enough red blood cells. A leading cause of iron-deficiency anemia is the lack of iron in one’s diet. This can often lead to headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness and cold hands or feet. Iron-deficiency anemia in Azerbaijan affects 38.2 percent of women of reproductive age and 39.5 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11. A solution to combat this problem is flour fortification, which is the addition of nutrients such as folic acid and iron to flour. UNICEF is currently working with Azerbaijan’s government to pass legislation that will mandate flour fortification in hopes of reducing child wasting and improving overall health.

  6. The United Nations created a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in 2015 to end poverty and achieve peace around the world by 2030. The second SDG is to achieve zero hunger by ending malnutrition and providing nutritious food. In October 2018, Azerbaijan hosted the first forum to discuss methods and solutions towards meeting these goals, especially targeting hunger in Azerbaijan. This forum covered issues mentioned in these 10 facts about hunger in Azerbaijan. Its government will focus on renewable energy sources to reduce oil use. The country will also aim to increase business and individual participation within a circular economy viewpoint, encouraging continuous resource reuse and waste elimination.

  7. An important aspect of a circular economy is creating sustainable farming methods that will allow a country’s lands to stay healthy, resulting in more food production in the long run. Azerbaijan recognizes that one of its struggles is the sustainability of its natural land ecosystems. The government claims there is not a high awareness among the general population about protecting the environment, which poses a barrier in progressing with the SDGs. Fortunately, there has been a recent push to engage the population with the first national innovative contest in which young citizens submitted over 220 proposals with economic and sustainability solutions. With initiatives and positive mindsets like these, Azerbaijan is getting closer to its zero hunger goal.

  1. Azerbaijan has historically been an agricultural country with a high percentage of genetic diversity in its local seeds and plants. However, the country produces only 15-20 percent locally, while the rest come from imported plants. This poses a risk to food security, so the U.N. created a three-part program in November 2016 to protect biodiversity and increase food production. This is a five-year plan that should end by December 2021. The U.N. hopes that the construction of bigger agricultural institutions and the improvement of the skills of local farmers will allow for the planting of crops from native species.

  1. So far in the first year of the agrobiodiversity program, two field gene banks have emerged for cereal plants and forage crops, and there has been an increase in wheat varieties (1.5 percent), vegetable crops (0.7 percent) and forage crops (0.3 percent). The Agrarian Science and Informational Consulting Services buildings received vital repair works that will enable the institution to host farming seminars. Most importantly, two vegetable farmer-farmer networks constructed in the Goranboy region. The next steps will be to maintain the established field gene banks and the specified, conserved farm areas. While Azerbaijan is meeting these goals, the country will continue to grow the farmer networks it developed to teach them sustainable farming techniques with native crop species. The program will release more information regarding the number of farmers involved and the areas it reaches once the U.N.’s baseline study finishes.

  2. In Azerbaijan’s Shaki region, over half the population works in agriculture, contributing to 14 percent of the country’s wheat harvest. Since this region plays a vital role in Azerbaijan’s food production, the country intends to implement another agricultural program the UNDP Agro-Biodiversity funded to introduce new technology to traditional practices. In 2019, farmers are receiving new irrigation methods, small grants and training in the Shaki region. UNDP predicts that after receiving these resources, farmers can efficiently harvest more produce using less water. There will be economic benefits that enable farmers to buy more food themselves while providing more food for citizens. So far, four farming families have changed their irrigation methods to the drop-by-drop system and are using fewer pesticides.

With the rise of innovative programs and worldwide discussions, Azerbaijan has improved the state of its population’s hunger levels. By working with the United Nations and UNICEF, the country has been able to incorporate important research regarding child nutrition and farming techniques into achievable goals and programs. These 10 facts about hunger in Azerbaijan show the government’s dedication to further reducing hunger levels through educational resources and economic changes.

– Jane Burgan
Photo: Flickr

 

Top Seven Blockchain Projects
Traditional perceptions of blockchain technology involve uses in financial technology and under the table transactions. Blockchain, however, has possibilities far beyond finance and digital currency. By its nature, blockchain provides unparalleled security and transparency. By creating a decentralized network of highly-encrypted blocks, a blockchain system creates a secure, unchangeable ledger. No one person can make changes and the encryption means that it is extremely difficult to hack, thus making blockchain one of the most secure and transparent technologies in the world. This technology has the power to revolutionize poverty reduction. Below are the top seven blockchain projects that represent the most successful blockchain for poverty projects that address real, pressing global issues.

Top 7 Blockchain Projects for Poverty

  1. Agri-Wallet: Agri-Wallet is a mobile app that allows farmers to remotely and securely receive payment for their produce and save money on business expenses. The majority of smallholder farmers do not have enough funding, both due to delayed payments for goods and a lack of access to credit. This is because banks are hesitant to lend to poor farmers that do not have a strong credit history or collateral. Through the blockchain financial ecosystem, Agri-Wallet allows farmers access to small loans and guarantees payment the first week of every month, which has been a major boon to Kenyan farmers. Agri-Wallet has already seen extensive success in Kenya, with approximately 4,000 farmers, 14 suppliers and 25 buyers using the app only one year after its large-scale release.
  2. Mojaloop: In developed countries, some may take access to banking for granted, but 1.7 million adults around the world do not have access to a secure banking system. The Gates Foundation sought to change this by releasing Mojaloop, an open-source solution that allows anyone to build financial services software, providing financial security through blockchain-based encryption. The key to Mojaloop’s importance is its egalitarian nature – a developer does not have to be connected to a major company or bank to develop technology using Mojaloop, and the code bridges all financial products and applications in any given market, providing unprecedented access to financial services for poor populations. The app has already gained the confidence of two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and the Gates Foundation estimates that it will reach 338 million existing mobile money accounts through the entire continent of Africa. In other words, this blockchain for poverty app could provide a flexible, universal banking system to 338 million people in Africa.
  3. Diwala: As of June 2019, there are more than 70 million displaced people worldwide fleeing war, persecution and conflict. The ability to join the workforce of refugee’s new home is critical for their integration into their new community and to rebuild their lives. However, when fleeing a war-torn country, it is difficult for refugees to retain certifications or diplomas. Diwala provides a secure, unchangeable digital resume that verifies a person’s skills, education and certifications that employers can rely on to provide an accurate record. The organization currently works with multiple organizations and universities to help issue credentials via Diwala to further verify education and certifications. Diwala is already bringing digital employment verification to Kenya and Uganda.
  4. BitGive: BitGive’s goal is to provide better transparency and accountability between donors and charitable organizations. The company’s blockchain for poverty product, GiveTrack™, allows donors to trace their donations in real-time to see exactly where their money goes. BitGive’s use of blockchain technology provides high-level security while also providing an unalterable ledger that donors can refer to at any time to ensure their money goes to the cause they want and see the real impact they are having on a community. The use of cryptocurrency also means that BitGive can quickly and efficiently transfer funds across the globe. The organization has seen amazing success, including partnerships with Save the Children and The Water Project.
  5. Goodr: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans waste approximately 30-40 percent of the U.S. food supply, while 820 million people around the world suffer from hunger. Goodr provides blockchain-based supply chain management tools that allow companies, such as airlines, convention centers and other food operations, to redirect surplus foods to food-insecure communities. As an added incentive, Goodr provides companies with blockchain-based ledgers that allow them to track their food and identify areas of waste. During the 2019 Superbowl alone, Goodr rescued over 100,000 pounds of food.
  6. OneSmart: The World Bank considers government corruption a significant challenge in reducing global poverty, particularly because corruption disproportionately affects poor populations. In 2018, UNICEF funded OneSmart’s OS City project to combat corruption and bring more transparency to local and national governments. OneSmart created a blockchain platform that is flexible enough to be integrated with existing city management platforms, allowing for the implementation of blockchain and artificial intelligence throughout government to avoid waste and increase transparency.
  7. SOLshare: SOLshare seeks to help the 1.1 million people worldwide without consistent access to electricity. It is the first-ever peer-to-peer electricity trading network, allowing villages to create mini-power grids by connecting houses with solar panels to other homes in the neighborhood. The blockchain-based platform allows for the fast, efficient and safe transfer of funds between neighbors, allowing for local, independent electricity grids. SOLshare has already brought electricity to 65 million people in Bangladesh and is helping helps poor villages shape a greener future.

People limit the use of blockchain technology by relegating it to banking or shady online transactions alone. The above top seven blockchain projects show that blockchain has value as a tool to develop solutions for multiple global issues. A blockchain is a useful tool that can address multifaceted issues in fighting poverty. Though it is still an emerging technology, blockchain deserves widespread research and support.

– Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mali
In 2020, the country of Mali will celebrate its 60th anniversary of independence from French colonial rule. However, since 1960, Mali has had a tumultuous history filled with numerous civil wars, coups and failed revolutions. Despite these setbacks, Mali is making strides to improve the quality of life for its citizens. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mali

  1. According to the CIA World Factbook, the life expectancy of a citizen of Mali is 60.8 years on average or 58.6 years for males and 63 years for females. This puts Mali at a rank of 206 out of 223 countries for life expectancy. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali will explain why.
  2. Mali reported 43 births per 1,000 people in 2018, the third-largest figure in the world. Many expect the country’s population to double by 2035. This has led to overcrowding in the capital city of Bamako. In response, the World Bank has begun to invest in the infrastructure of Malian cities via performance-based grants for communities.
  3. Despite this massive population growth, Mali suffers from extreme infant and child mortality, which adversely affects life expectancy in Mali. In 2015, 114 out of 1,000 Malian children died by the age of 5. Recently, organizations like WHO and UNICEF have begun to sponsor community case management initiatives that focus on improving health conditions in impoverished areas. Areas where these initiatives occurred, such as Bamako’s Yirimadio district, have been able to reduce child mortality rates to up to 28 deaths per 1,000, about a quarter of the national rate.
  4. In Mali, the maternal mortality rate is very high. The U.N. estimates that there are 630 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This is partly because only one in four births in Mali have someone with proper birthing training, but deep-rooted societal attitudes that restrict women’s rights may also be a cause. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization fighting against maternal mortality in Mali, child marriage and female genital mutilation are both common in Mali, which both cause higher risks to the mother during birth. The organization has called upon the Malian government to “meet its national and international commitments and take the necessary steps to reduce maternal mortality.”
  5. The leading cause of death in Mali is malaria, which accounts for 24 percent of deaths in the country. To address this, the Malian government has partnered with global organizations such as the CDC to distribute anti-malarial medications during the country’s late autumn rainy season, in which most cases of malaria appear. This partnership was established in 1995 as part of the CDC’s global initiative to stop diseases in other countries before they can reach the U.S.
  6. Illnesses that often stem from a lack of access to clean water, such as meningitis and diarrheal diseases, cause a significant number of deaths in Mali. Twenty-three percent of the population of Mali overall and 35.9 percent of the rural population lacks access to clean drinking water, and 78.5 percent of rural Malians lack access to proper sanitation. This leads to the spread of the diseases mentioned above. An organization called Charity Water has invested over $9 million to give rural Malians access to clean water and sanitation by building wells and pipe systems, allowing Malians to tap into the country’s rich aquifers for clean drinking water.
  7. Malnutrition causes 5 percent of deaths in Mali. According to the World Food Program, 44.9 percent of the country live in poverty, which is a significant cause of food insecurity. To combat this, programs like the World Food Program have been working on distributing nutritious meals to Malian families, as well as setting up long-term programs to create infrastructures such as roads and dams.
  8. HIV and AIDS cause 3 percent of deaths in Mali. Although HIV infections in the country have risen by 11 percent since 2010, deaths from the disease have gone down by 11 percent in the same period. Efforts by the CDC and other organizations have focused on treating HIV to prevent victims of the disease from going on to develop AIDS, as well as improving blood safety measures.
  9. Mali suffers from a significant shortage of physicians, with 0.14 physicians and 0.1 hospital beds per 1,000 people, compared to 2.59 physicians and 2.9 beds in the U.S. Despite that, the country has recently taken significant steps forward on providing universal health coverage via a $120 million initiative from the government, which will focus on training more doctors, broadening access to contraceptives and improving care for the elderly.
  10. Eighty percent of Mali relies on agriculture for a living. Although Malian farmers have been fighting soil degradation and lack of access to modern equipment, initiatives like Feed the Future have been working to improve conditions for Malian farmers. As a result, Mali poured $47.34 million into its agriculture industry in 2017.

As these 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali show, life expectancy in Mali is significantly lower than in other parts of the world, but the country is making strides forward to combat illness and poverty. With help from the global community, Mali is moving forwards towards a brighter future.

– Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr

polio eradication in Nigeria
For the last three years, Nigeria has not had one case of polio. As the last country in Africa to still record the wild polio disease, this new health milestone of the eradication of polio in Nigeria has proven the success of public health campaigns for the entire continent of Africa.

The Decline of Polio

Back in 1988, polio paralyzed more than 350,000 children in over 125 countries around the world. Although the devastating disease infected children in almost every country, cases of wild polio decreased by 99 percent after 1988. While the wild polio disease exists in nature, several vaccine-derived outbreaks have occurred in six African countries. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Nigeria held more than half of polio cases worldwide. Total immunization then became the primary goal for the eradication of polio in Nigeria to ensure that the population has protection from the vaccine-derived and wild virus. Persistent efforts of immunization have helped immunize over 45 million children under the age of 5 in Nigeria. An estimated 200,000 volunteers in Nigeria have aided in giving polio vaccines in the last five years.

Children and Polio

At the start of the polio epidemic in Nigeria, 600,000 children did not have the polio vaccine and an estimated 90 percent of polio cases were within northeast Nigeria. Due to this area encompassing largely scattered communities, satellite imaging has aided volunteers with finding unvaccinated children. Vaccinators will also frequently set up clinics within local markets to find all the unvaccinated children.

Dr. Pascal Mkanda, the leader of the eradication of polio in Nigeria for WHO, set out to eradicate the disease within three years by first vaccinating children under 5 years of age. The poliovirus remains highly infectious and mostly affects children. In the worst cases, polio causes irreversible paralysis. No cure for polio exists, but the eradication of the disease through immunization has prevented outbreaks. Estimates determine that the eradication of polio in Nigeria has saved 16 million children from paralysis.

Women and Vaccinations

Many Nigerian women are at the forefront of the battle against polio. UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hire mostly young Nigerian women as vaccinator volunteers because Islam is the most prominent religion in northern Nigeria, and it prohibits men that are not family members from entering a Muslim home. The women volunteers go door-to-door to educate families about the vaccine and receive clinical training to give vaccinations.

Today, more than 30 million Nigerian children have received the polio vaccine. The volunteers are also in a continuous battle with skeptical anti-vaccination parents and the militant group Boko Haram. Boko Haram intentionally spreads misinformation about the vaccine and violently targets volunteers in order to keep Islam pure in Northern Africa. Some Nigerian people still have doubts about the vaccine, but now only 1 percent of people refuse the vaccination.

Overall, the eradication of polio in Nigeria represents an achievement for global health. The commitment of global health organizations and neighboring communities to the eradication of polio proves that investing in foreign aid can have a worldwide benefit.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Foreign Aid Freeze
On August 3, 2019, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered two federal agencies to temporarily freeze billions of foreign aid funding. This decision ordered the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide accounts for all unobligated resources of foreign aid. Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Budget Office, said the order aims to ensure accountability. According to the Associated Press (AP), the letter lists 10 areas that the U.S. foreign aid freeze targets, including development assistance, global health programs and United Nations peacekeeping. In total, the freeze puts $2 billion to $4 billion of congressionally-approved funding on hold.

Subsequent Response

The U.S. foreign aid freeze has met with bipartisan criticism. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel said that the Trump administration has amounted to contempt and emphasized that congressionally-approved foreign aid is law and backed by the Constitution. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticism was harsher, labeling the freeze insane. In a letter to the OMB, lawmakers from both parties agreed that cutting foreign aid and development spending would not be in the interest of national security.

Critics of the OMB’s decision point to the fact that foreign aid spending makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget. Before the freeze, the U.S. spent $30 billion annually on programs to reduce global poverty. Liz Schrayer, the chief executive of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, claims the OMB is cutting one of the smallest portions of the federal budget, but one that could have catastrophic impacts on U.S. economic and national security interests.

Impacted Countries

The U.S. foreign aid freeze will directly affect Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries. The nation consistently ranks very low in various health indicators, such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. In addition, an estimated one million people or 9.2 percent of adults in Malawi live with HIV/AIDS with an estimated 13,000 deaths annually. In Malawi, USAID works to improve the quality of life by supporting development, education and health programs, especially those that prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Due to the Trump administration’s order, Malawi may not have aid for the remainder of this financial year. According to documents that Foreign Policy obtained, the freeze could also affect foreign aid to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Funding for UNICEF projects to protect children account for a large portion of the U.S. foreign aid freeze. One of these programs involves early childhood education and development in Uzbekistan. According to UNICEF, only 30 percent of Uzbek children attend preschool while 70 percent are unable to achieve their full potential due to a lack of early education. UNICEF is rolling its program out across six regions in Uzbekistan and it has designed it to increase access to quality education for children. Regional instructors have trained 2,159 preschool teachers in child-centered learning and model schools, which have increased enrollment by 2,841 children. The U.S. foreign aid freeze will have a direct impact on similar programs across the globe.

Bipartisan Solution

On August 15, 2019, the OMB sent an official rescission request to the State Department to cut foreign aid funding by more than $4 billion, yet canceled the request a few days later. Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to cut foreign aid funding, and in some cases by as much as 30 percent. Members of both parties in Congress firmly rejected all attempts. Daniel Runde, former director of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) in the Bush administration, says development, diplomacy and defense experts are in full agreement that the Trump administration should work collaboratively with Congress to create a more robust and sustainable approach to foreign aid and development.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

Curing Polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan
In 1988, polio existed in more than 100 countries and infected close to 1,000 children daily. Due to advocacy efforts and the implementation of preventable vaccinations, cases of polio have significantly dropped at a rate of 99 percent. In 1988, about 350,000 children had polio while statistics indicated that in 2017, only 22 documented illnesses existed. However, children are still struggling as Pakistan and Afghanistan attempt to eliminate polio their countries.

Children are most vulnerable to contracting polio between birth and age five. One in 200 contagions result in irreparable paralysis, most commonly in the legs; five to 10 percent of those infected die from this disease due to the disabling of their breathing muscles.

Most children that are living with polio do not experience manifestations; however, polluted water and food can still spread the disease. Polio is preventable through several doses of vaccinations, but there is no treatment.

Modernized Vaccines to Prevent Polio

In 2013, all countries began to implement one dose of the new vaccines and terminate the use of the oral vaccines by 2018, which the Polio Eradication & Endgame Strategic Plan instructed.

In order to eliminate polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan is terminating the administrations of oral vaccines which only protected against type 2 of the virus; instead, Afghanistan and Pakistan are implementing doses of the inactivated polio vaccine, which should be more effective in preventing the disease as it prevents all three types of polio. The modern vaccine can also enhance immunity and inhibit further epidemics of polio.

Efforts to Eliminate Polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan

In 2018, The Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan partnered with UNICEF and The World Health Organization to initiate the country’s third nation-wide polio vaccination campaign. Nearly 9.9 million children below age five received the vaccination.

Regions such as Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul contained nearly 1.2 million children who did not have access to the vaccine. However, this past program and future programs will ensure that these children can also receive the necessary dosages.

Vaccinated children also received Vitamin A capsules to strengthen their immunity and decrease diarrhea. This also strengthened their immune systems from respiratory infections. Immunity can increase their chances of survival by nearly 24 percent. Nearly 70,000 health workers visited every household to administer vaccinations. This was to ensure that other children received the preventable medication as well. Because polio is contagious, each family’s chances of surpassing the disease increases if every child receives a vaccination.

In Pakistan, the number of polio infections is at a low rate. Further, improved immunity has also begun to increase. While this country has made progress in battling polio, many children have not received the preventable vaccines in high-risk areas. Therefore, Pakistan has begun to implement various solutions such as customized vaccines. Additionally, the country has partnered with the Emergency Operations Centers to administer effective prevention techniques.

Polio is most common in Karachi as well as the federally administered tribal areas, the Quetta block and the Khyber-Peshawar corridor. While the disease is highly present in these areas, other areas nationwide are susceptible to contracting the virus due to travel and migration.

The Partnership Between Pakistan and Afghanistan

To eliminate polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two nations plan on partnering to identify children who are vulnerable to the disease and provide vaccinations, while also administering health campaigns to promote advocacy about the prevention of polio. Environmental surveillance has discovered the presence of polio. This serves as evidence that children with weaker immune systems are present in these areas. Consequently, this enables the disease to grow and infect other children.

– Diana Dopheide

Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Burundi
Located in Africa’s southeastern region, Burundi, a heart-shaped nation bordering Lake Tanganyika and Rwanda, is one of the poorest countries in the world. With a poverty rate of nearly 75 percent, the nation is largely underdeveloped. In terms of women’s rights, life in Burundi could be better, as many of the country’s citizens cling to discriminatory perspectives that hold their women back. Despite this, the country has made great strides toward cultivating a more equal nation, such as in 2005 when it included gender equality in its reformed Constitution.

Pregnancy and Sexual Health

In Burundi, discussing sex is generally viewed as a taboo subject. Without the occurrence of these necessary conversations, sexual education is often replaced by false information, and many of the country’s citizens fail to understand their own bodies; an issue most dangerous when it comes to young women and girls. Without knowing the way their bodies work, many Burundian women experience unplanned extramarital pregnancies, and because of Burundi’s negative prejudice toward non-marital pregnancy, many of these girls are often ostracized from their communities, kicked out of their homes and forced out of their schools.

Pamella Mubeza, a native to Burundi, fell victim to this system at a young age. Though, after seeing the prevalence of her issue among other Burundian women, she began an organization known as l’Association des mamans célibataires (the Organisation for Single Mums). Through the organization, Mubeza travels to some of the most impoverished places in the city of Bujumbura, such as Kinyankonge and Kinama, and works with young single mothers to not only re-enroll them in school but to rebuild the self esteem their homeland formerly shamed out of them. By 2019, Mubeza’s organization was able to re-enroll 40 young women in schooling and instilled 250 with a newfound desire to learn.

CARE Burundi, a non-profit organization that works to improve the impoverished realities of women and young girls, is also working to help solve the issue. In 2016, the organization launched an initiative known as the Joint Programme, a 4-year-long project that provides Burundian girls with comprehensive sexual and reproductive education through a comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) curriculum called “The World Starts with Me” (WSWM). The program educates young women about their rights and their bodies, and after its first year of implementation, it was taught in 76 Burundian schools and educated 6,007 young women.

Access to female hygiene products is another one of Burundi’s sexual health problems. With sanitary napkins costing up to 2,000 Burundian francs and the country regarding menstrual periods as shameful, many of the nation’s women turn to unhygienic sources, such as grass and plastic bags, during their menstrual cycles. However, the Organisation for Single Mums is working to combat the problem, as they hand out 1,500 free sanitary napkins to Burundian women each month.

Gender-Based Violence

Sexual violence against women is a growing problem in Burundi. With nearly 23 percent of Burundian women experiencing sexual abuse, and 50 percent of these victims being under the age of 13, the prevalence of gender-based violence in Burundi is undeniable.

Due to the nation’s connection between shame and sexuality, many sexual abuse cases often go unreported, so the number of women experiencing them is likely much higher.

However, through the help of UNICEF and NGO partner Caritas Burundi, Burundian sexual violence is being challenged. Through an initiative known as the Giriteka project, UNICEF and Caritas Burundi are bringing together the nation’s doctors, psychologists, nurses, community leaders, local authorities and religious leaders and teaching them how to best care for their nation’s sexually abused women. From training psychologists on how to prevent gender-based violence to working with religious leaders on how to direct victims toward help, thanks to these organizations, women’s rights in Burundi are not only being protected but defended.

Economic Opportunity

When it comes to the workforce, Burundian women make up 90 percent of the country’s food and export jobs and  with 55.2 percent of the nation’s workforce being female, Burundian women are making substantial contributions toward the advancement of their national economy.

However, this same level of equality cannot be seen in the country’s distribution of land.

Access to property ownership is the largest barrier Burundian women face when seeking economic equality. While 80.2 percent of the country’s people own land, women make up only 17.7 percent of them since the country lacks proper legislation that prohibits male succession traditions from overriding women’s rights.

Public opinion may be partly responsible for these discriminatory practices since 57 percent of the nation’s people believe women and men should not have equal land rights when it comes to inheritance.

Despite this prejudicial reality, U.N. Women is making women’s pathway to land ownership easier by providing them with monetary loans.

Also, the Zionist Organization of America has created an initiative meant to advocate for female land rights in Burundi by urging the nation’s women who do own land to register it.

By working at the community level, these organizations are advocating for the economic endeavors of Burundian women, and actively challenging the misogynistic gender norms that have been placed upon these their lives.

While women’s rights in Burundi are far from equal, the good news is that great work is being done to better them. Thanks to organizations like U.N. Women and initiatives such as the Giriteka project, women in Burundi are not only being cared for but heard. By advocating for women’s rights, these organizations are not only providing Burundi’s women with the freedom to hope for a better life but also to live one.

– Candace Fernandez
Photo: Flickr

Venezuelans Fleeing
As the beneficiary of the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela was once the wealthiest nation in Latin America. However, in 2014, the economy began to collapse. The Bolivar, its currency, has gone into free fall, leaving millions unable to afford even the most basic necessities. According to Bloomberg’s Café con leche index, a cup of coffee today costs the same as 1,800 cups in January 2018. As food and health care become more difficult to come by, many Venezuelans are faced with the decision of struggling to get by or fleeing the country.

Why Flee?

Every day, thousands of Venezuelans leave their country in search of safety and stability, many of them arriving in Colombia. The International Rescue Committee has been supporting families in need in Cúcuta, a border city, since April 2018.

Venezuela is millions in debt while the only commodity that the country relies on is oil. Unfortunately, the value of oil has plummeted. In 2014, the price of oil was about $100 a barrel. Then several countries started to pump too much oil as new drilling technology could dredge up what was previously inaccessible, but businesses globally were not buying more gasoline. Too much oil caused the global price to drop to $26 in 2016. Today the price hovers around $50, which means that Venezuela’s income has been cut in half.

At the same time, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s hostility towards foreign business has created a corporate exodus. Companies such as United, General Motors and Pepsi have left entirely and unemployment in Venezuela could reach 25 percent this year. To try and keep up, Maduro has raised the minimum wage three times in 2019 in order to provide a little short-term relief to the poor. Currently, the minimum wage is at 18,000 bolivars per month, which is around $6.70 U.S.

How Many Venezuelans Have Left?

According to the U.N., more than three million people have already left Venezuela since the crisis began, and that number is increasing at a rapid rate. Approximately one million people, several lacking official documentation, have gone to neighboring Colombia. However, Peru is the second most popular destination country for Venezuelan refugees, with over 500,000. Ecuador follows, with over 220,000, Argentina with over 130,000, Chile with over 100,000 and Brazil with 85,000 immigrants.

By the end of 2019, the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country should reach 5.3 million. Nearly 300,000 children have fled the homes and lives they once knew, and approximately 10 percent of the country’s total population has already left.

The Way Out

The majority of those fleeing Venezuela do so on foot, and the road begins close to Cúcuta. Many people pay smugglers to use a trocha, which is an illegal border crossing through a river. On the Colombian side of the border has become a huge open-air market for all the things that people cannot get in Venezuela anymore. Vendors advertise medicines and cigarettes, candy and phone minutes for people to call home.

Sadly, some do not make the journey on foot. In Cúcuta, the temperature can hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, on other parts of the route, the road climbs to 10,000 feet above sea level and temperature can drop below freezing. Walking this route takes approximately 32 days. The mountain pass, La Nevera, translates to the Refrigerator. Aid groups and residents have opened their homes and set up shelters along the path. However, the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country has surpassed the number of shelters available along the way, making space for only the lucky few.

The Impact

The emotional wellbeing of children who have fled Venezuela is of high concern. Sometimes traveling alone, boys and girls disrupt their education and are in great danger of falling behind in school and never catching up again. On the contrary, some parents leave their children behind when they leave the country. These children often gain material benefits from their parents’ migration, because sending hard currency to relatives provides greater access to food, medicine and other lacking necessities.

Furthermore, tensions between Venezuelans fleeing the country and citizens of other countries is often high. Colombia has had to reach out to the international community for help in dealing with the influx of migrants. Hospitals and elementary schools in Cúcuta have been overwhelmed, and administrators complain about the central government’s failure to reimburse them for the cost of caring for migrants. The national government has suspended the issuance of temporary visas, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, has promised $30 million in assistance.

In Ecuador, anti-immigrant sentiments reached a highpoint when a Venezuelan allegedly stabbed to death his pregnant Ecuadorian girlfriend, Diana Ramirez Reyes, in front of police and scared residents of the city of Ibarra. Since then, President Lenin Moreno decreed a tougher immigration policy that requires incoming Venezuelans to present a document certifying they had a clean criminal record in Venezuela. However, such documents are costly to obtain in Venezuela.

Similarly, Peru and Chileans have developed hesitation toward Venezuelans fleeing the country. People cannot renew work permits in Peru and as of 2018, the country decided to stop issuing them. A recent survey in Chile found that many natives disapprove of the number of immigrants coming in. Seventy-five percent of those responding to the survey thought that the number of immigrants was excessive.

Who is Helping?

Since April 2018, the IRC has been working in Cúcuta supporting Venezuelans and vulnerable Colombians with specialized services for women and children, cash assistance and health care. Aid organizations and families are also working to help immigrants along the route. The Colombian Red Cross has a small aid station on the outskirts of Pamplona, a city in Colombia’s Norte de Santander region.

The U.S. government has also helped by providing about $200 million in humanitarian aid to address the crisis in the region. Most of this money has gone to Colombia as do the majority of Venezuelans fleeing the country.

UNICEF has appealed for $69.5 million to meet the needs of uprooted children from Venezuela and those living in host and transit communities across the LAC region. It is working with national and local governments, host communities and partners to ensure access to safe drinking water, sanitation, protection, education and health services for Venezuelans fleeing the country.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr