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Healthcare in Samoa
Samoa consists of nine volcanic islands in the South Pacific with a population of about 196,000. The country’s healthcare system provides the Samoan people with access to routine medical treatment. However, the country relies on outside assistance to provide aid and education to supplement people’s knowledge regarding anything more than standard medical practices. In recent decades, healthcare in Samoa has focused primarily on combating the increase of Type 2 diabetes, but several factors have hindered these efforts.

Lifestyle and Eating Choices

After World War II, the Samoan population grew dramatically, and the Samoan people’s lifestyle and eating choices began to mimic a more Western way of life. Samoa now faces some of the highest diabetes and obesity rates in the world. The United Nations Development Program, which measures countries’ well-being based on income, education and health factors, ranked Samoa 111th out of 189 countries in its 2019 report. About 20% of the people fall below the poverty line.

Many Samoans feel the need to appear as well-off as their neighbors. Bringing processed foods to social and family gatherings conveys an image of wealth. Many Samoans choose these products over local foods like fresh fruit and fish that are healthier and more nutrient-dense. As a result, many Samoans struggle not only with obesity but also anemia because they do not receive enough iron. In a 2017 study, 16% of Samoan toddlers were overweight or obese. Being able to provide more expensive, imported foods can also denote status. As a result, more Samoans eat less-healthy, processed foods that increase their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Increased Need for Education 

A 2010 study funded by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disorders found that many Samoans do not consider diabetes a major contributor to poor health. Because diseases like obesity, diabetes and hypertension are newer to their country, many Samoans do not recognize their severity. Educational efforts related to the study helped Samoans learn about the management and prevention of these diseases. Simple flip charts with large pictures and minimal text helped illustrate basic preventative measures. Although these measures were not especially thorough, they gave the people the first steps toward being more aware of the effects of their lifestyles and having better healthcare in Samoa.

In 2018, a small group of students from the Pacific Islands attending U.S. universities joined a Yale research project to learn more about solutions to these health problems so they could bring this knowledge back to their homes. With both local and overseas efforts, Samoans are becoming more educated about these diseases. This should, in turn, result in better healthcare in Samoa.

Lack of Local Health Professionals

Healthcare in Samoa is free, and several hospitals are available for people needing services. However, the country does not have enough medical professionals. From 1997- 2010, there were only 48 doctors per 100,000 people. Many of the specialists who primarily treat diabetes do not live in the country but travel there for a limited time. Although over 21% of adults have Type 2 diabetes, there is no established endocrinologist in the country. Healthcare staff have expressed a desire for more training for themselves, as well as outreach programs for their patients.

For decades, Samoans have been asking for the placement of full-time physicians in district hospitals. Just in 2020, full-time doctors were finally assigned to all of the hospitals in Samoa. Although this is a huge improvement, the community needs to continue to focus on adapting its social and cultural practices to prevent the disease from spreading. With limited healthcare staff available, an increase in knowledge and a sharing of that knowledge is the best bet for success.

Type 2 diabetes cases will continue to increase as long as Samoans make choices that increase their risk. Until they can get more support from medical professionals, the most effective way to combat diabetes seems to rely on increased education and understanding. Without adequate medical staff and proper education about nutrition, healthcare in Samoa will likely continue to focus on obesity and the diabetes epidemic.

– Tawney Smith
Photo: Flickr

IMF in JordanJordan, bordered by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Israel, is an Arab country in the Middle East. The country is on the East Bank of the Jordan River yet relatively landlocked. It has accordingly received a massive influx of Palestinian and Syrian refugees. Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Jordan provided two different forms of economic relief to people in light of the ratio of debt to its gross domestic product (GDP) and the current pandemic. Read more about the IMF in Jordan below.

The Effects of the Pandemic on Jordan

Jordan’s economy will experience contraction in 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19. The pandemic-induced lockdown significantly impacted 250,000 daily-wage workers and businesses facing a liquidity crisis. It also delayed foreign investment, trade and tourism. The latter industry generates $5 billion annually for Jordan.

Only 11.3% of respondents in a UNDP survey claimed that their income was unaffected by the pandemic, which has significantly impacted young adults. In the survey, 38.3% of respondents experienced challenges getting clean drinking water, and 69.3% struggled with accessing basic healthcare.

Countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Jordan, will experience a 4.7% drop in its constant-price GDP, adjusted for the effects of inflation, in 2020. Additionally, the average size of economic relief programs in the Middle East was smaller than in other regions in the world. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) oil-importing countries’ ratio of debt to income will reach 95% in 2020. Thankfully, the IMF provided $17 billion in aid to the area since the beginning of 2020. It also helped catalyze $5 billion from creditors.

The IMF in Jordan

Jordan’s four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) is a partnership between the Jordanian government and IMF staff, which focuses its $1.3 billion on growth, jobs and social safety nets. The loan program, approved on March 25, 2020, will create more jobs for women and young people. EFF funds finance the general budget, including health, education and social support, while also providing support to Jordan’s Syrian refugees.

Although the IMF in Jordan created the EFF funds before the pandemic, it changed the program to support spending on emergency outlays and medical equipment. The IMF in Jordan also helped secure congressional grants to ease annual debt, as public debt increased in the past decade to an amount equivalent to 97% of its GDP.

In addition, the IMF in Jordan approved $400 million in emergency assistance under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020. Due to the fall of domestic consumption during the outbreak, these funds answer companies’ and consumers’ borrowing needs. The government will spend the RFI funds through the national treasury account, where specific budget lines track and report crisis-related expenditures.

The emergency economic assistance allows for higher healthcare budgets, containment and support to vulnerable households and businesses. Moreover, it will ease external financing constraints and avoid loss in official reserves. The $1.5 billion balance of payment gaps, however, will emerge with increased public debt and a widened fiscal deficit.

Moving Forward

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Jordan’s tech start-ups, global supply chains and exporting masks have helped its economy. Tech literacy, in particular, has been especially vital for Jordanian youth to find remote jobs. Moreover, the EFF program can ensure support for the people in Jordan by easing access to basic needs. The program will also help reduce the impacts of poverty by increasing social protection coverage on poor families.

Monetary and fiscal authorities in Jordan have reduced interest rates and delayed bank loan installments and tax payments due to the outbreak, injecting over $700 million in liquidity. Additionally, the country implemented a cash-flow relief program for companies. It also activated the National Aid Fund cash transfer program for daily wage workers.

Jordan has prioritized human safety for its citizens and refugees in the fight against COVID-19. So far, it has only had low to moderate numbers of per capita COVID-19 cases. Thanks to the help of the IMF in Jordan, the country seems to be on track to recover from pandemic.

Isabella Thorpe
Photo: Flickr

landmines in yemenYemen is experiencing several crises within its borders. One such problem is the large number of landmines and improvised explosive devices scattered throughout the country. Houthi militias placed many of these landmines in Yemen, often in busy areas containing hospitals and schools. The Yemeni government believes that landmines are so widespread that it could take multiple decades to remove all of them. Currently, experts believe the death toll of landmines falls somewhere above 9,000. To make matters worse, some landmines are configured to be more deadly. For instance, an anti-tank mine that normally needs 220 pounds of weight on it to detonate may only need 22 pounds of pressure to detonate with modifications. Despite this dire situation, the country and international institutions have begun to remove landmines in Yemen.

The Negative Effects of Landmines in Yemen

The landmine problem within Yemen is preventing people from living normal lives and keeping impoverished people from receiving the aid that they need. Yemen was already impoverished before the presence of these landmines, and they have only exacerbated the problem. In 2019, the U.N. estimated that 80% of the population was in danger of suffering extreme hunger and disease.

Unfortunately, landmines can prevent relief aid from coming into parts of the country that need it. Landmines also prevent humanitarian organizations from traversing distances to reach people and areas in need. According to an article by Human Rights Watch, Yemeni people could not complete simple tasks needed for survival such as raising crops and obtaining clean water due to the presence of landmines. As such, landmines in Yemen have serious consequences for citizens’ daily lives, preventing them from overcoming the many negative effects of poverty.

Removing Landmines in Yemen

One international institution removing landmines in Yemen is the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The UNDP has been using its Mine Action Project to map out terrain where the landmines are located, clear the landmines, inform communities of the seriousness of the landmines and help those who have been injured. So far, the UNDP has cleared up to three million square meters where landmines previously sat. During the UNDP’s operations, it removed around 66,000 undetonated landmines.

The United States has also provided funding for landmine removal to Yemen in the Red Sea Mills area. U.S. funding has aided Yemeni de-mining teams working for the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center, directed by the UNDP. During two months of operations, 58 de-miners funded by the U.S. cleared 1,239 explosives including landmines and improvised explosive devices. Both the UNDP, the U.S. and Yemen itself are all working in conjunction with landmine removal. Importantly, the U.S. provided landmine removal funds to the Red Sea Mills to allow Yemeni people to have access to agriculture once again. This illustrates the positive effects of landmine removal in Yemen.

In short, landmine removal is not just necessary to prevent death and injury. Landmine removal is necessary so that Yemeni people can provide for themselves. It also allows Yemeni citizens to receive the help they need from international citizens, at a time when the country is facing so many overlapping crises.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Laos
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, or Laos, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia. One of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the country has halved its poverty rate in the past 20 years. This is an impressive feat for the import-heavy country given that less than 5% of its land is suitable for agriculture. Poverty in Laos, however, remains a formidable issue. Laos faces a significant wealth gap between its capital Vientiane and poorer rural areas. Foreign aid and international efforts strive to reduce poverty in Laos.

The World Bank and the Poverty Reduction Fund

Created in 2002, the Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF) linked Laos to the international community through the World Bank, aiming to reduce poverty in Laos. The goals of the PRF have progressed over time, reducing poverty at a grassroots level and helping the Laotian poor achieve self-sustainability.

PRF has positively impacted more than 10,000 Laotian women and their families – self-help groups in different villages provide microloans, monthly household income has increased exponentially over the years and nutrition centers, roads and schools are constantly improving and serving Laotian villagers.

In December 2019, the World Bank approved additional funding of $22.5 million as a soft loan to Laos. This loan supports the Laotian government’s National Nutrition Strategy, which seeks to improve rural conditions by developing agricultural infrastructure.

The Asian Development Bank

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) grants loans, technical assistance and equity investments to promote development in Asian countries. The ADB has assisted poverty-reduction operations in Laos since 1968 and still finances assistance to the country. As of 2019, it has provided Laos with a total of $2.91 billion.

The ADB generally focuses on sustainable development in Laos but also funds education to achieve social and economic development. Because of its early involvement in Laos, the ADB’s efforts have yielded impressive results, having connected more than 20,000 households to electricity and water and providing education facilities to more than 100,000 Laotian students.

The United Nations Development Program’s Brand Laos Initiative

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) fights global poverty, seeking sustainable development and global equality. The UNDP has several ongoing projects in Laos supporting gender parity and government transparency. One notable initiative is a project it calls Brand Laos – a mission fighting for a unique Laotian brand and niche.

Brand Laos researches Laotian economic niches in order to create a unique marketable perspective for the country, finding viable products for farmers, producers and service providers. This economically benefits Laos, raising income for agricultural workers and producers. A Laotian niche could reduce poverty while bringing spurring development.

In particular, these types of projects seek high-quality products for international markets where consumers pay extra for ethically produced foreign products. Brand Laos has looked into products and services such as tea, silk-based clothing and ecotourism.

Conditions in rural Laotian households have improved drastically in recent decades, thanks to these international efforts. The Laotian national poverty rate was 46% in 1992 and fell to 23% in 2015. Additionally, households have greater access to electricity, water and even extraneous symbols of development like smartphones. With continued work, the poverty rate in Laos should continue to go down.

Maggie Sun
Photo: Flickr

Wealth Inequality and Poverty
Wealth inequality is an issue that plagues many developing nations, causing a widening distance between the wealthy and the poor in those nations. When a country distributes income among its people in an unequal manner, even a country with a growing economy can advance slower. Impoverished people are often unable to improve their situation due to the number of barriers they face, and some people may even be more prone to falling below the poverty line when a country’s economy advances without them. Here are examples of how severe wealth inequality contributes to poverty and how these issues can be corrected.

The Challenges of Inequality

The country the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) lists as having the highest wealth inequality is South Africa, according to its GINI index of 63 percent (a measure of inequality, with zero percent representing perfect equality and 100 percent being maximum inequality). Though South Africa has a high GDP compared to the world average, it still has a large number of people below the poverty line. In 2014, 18.9 percent of the population was living on less than $1.90 per day. In many cases, the poorest workers in South Africa are living on wages of $50 per month. Many of these issues are due to the country’s history of apartheid, which entrenched economic differences between different groups of people. Though South Africa removed that system 25 years ago, its legacy still impacts the country today.

Brazil is another country where wealth inequality contributes to poverty in a significant capacity. Despite others earmarking the country as one quickly moving towards becoming a developed nation, 10 percent of the population still lives in extreme poverty. Though the country’s economic growth is significant, 61 percent of that growth from 2001 to 2015 has gone directly to the richest 10 percent of the country. This means that the majority of Brazil’s population has only seen 39 percent of all of its economic progress.

This inequality contributes significantly to the problem of poverty and prevents the poorest of the country from improving. Progress in Brazil on this issue with regards to specific groups of people is slow. By current projections, women in Brazil will not close the wage gap until 2047. As for black Brazilians, estimates determine that they will not earn as much as white Brazilians until 2089 by the current rate.

What Can Countries Do?

One should note that while wealth inequality contributes to poverty, the exact causes behind wealth inequality can vary greatly and come about as a result of many different social, political and economic factors. South Africa’s inequality as a result of historical institutions may be an issue more difficult to tackle. According to experts, however, a good start would be to offer more opportunities to those who those institutions have systematically excluded.

In Brazil, access to education remains seriously dependent on one’s family income. As a result, the majority of Brazilian adults have no secondary education. Expanding access to more education opportunities may be key to alleviating income inequality and poverty in Brazil.

Inequality is a serious issue in countries like South Africa and Brazil, and the issues that connect with it contribute to poverty’s continued existence and expansion. According to a study published by members of the U.N., there is a strong link between income inequality and poverty. In order to reduce poverty, it follows that countries must also correct inequality. With more legislation and NGOs assisting individuals severely disadvantaged by income inequality, ending poverty seems a lot more accomplishable.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

Ways to Improve Health in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s healthcare system is in need of reformation. Since 2000, approximately three million health workers have fled the nation, and the health of the society has suffered since then. Non-governmental organizations around the world are currently working together to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe.

NGOs are working hard to fix the issue of lack of adequate healthcare; here are ways to improve health in Zimbabwe.

Ways to Improve Health in Zimbabwe

  • Investing in disease treatment and prevention: Zimbabwe suffers from a lack of health workers; there are only about 1.23 health workers per 1,000 citizens. Because of this, it is difficult to treat epidemics of communicable diseases like cholera and HIV. A cholera outbreak in 2008 killed 4,000 people due to the small number of available doctors. USAID recognizes this as a problem, and every year, the organization donates nearly $100 million to disease treatment programs in Zimbabwe.  The prevalence of HIV has lowered from 14 percent to 13.3 percent in one year, but more can be done to treat other infectious diseases.
  • Improving clinics: Another way to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe is to invest in the advancement of medical clinics. Most clinics in Zimbabwe are overcrowded and undeveloped, but the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) plans to renovate 52 clinics in the region. The renovations include storage for crucial medications and space for sanitation and hygienic facilities. Additionally, UNDP’s Global Fund implemented a new health information system to hasten responses to outbreaks and epidemics. These positive changes have contributed to steady rates of health workers’ job retention.
  • Aiding expectant mothers: Pregnant women are one group that is most reliant on Zimbabwe’s healthcare system. Since 2014, World Bank’s Global Funding Facility has helped rebuild the deteriorated system. One revamping program, the Urban Voucher Program, provides free maternity care to women living in the bottom 40 percent of average annual income. Before the UVP, women would have to pay a $25 fee to visit a health clinic, and most of them were not able to afford it. After the implementation of the vouchers, family planning and neonatal services have strengthened in low-income communities, significantly reducing the amount of money that families spend on healthcare. While maternal mortality rate was 614 deaths per 100,000 births in 2014, it decreased to 443 deaths per 100,000 births during the first year of the UVP.

More can be done to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe. The success of these NGOs can mobilize others to join in on the efforts against disease and poverty.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

Malawi's Poverty RateMalawi’s poverty rate has been a critical dilemma, especially in its rural areas. Although the following issues below contribute to Malawi’s poverty rate, a great focus remains on promoting growth and improving Malawians’ standard of living.

7 Facts about Malawi’s Poverty Rate

  1. Malawi’s poverty rate has remained stubbornly high. More than half of the country’s population, about 52 percent, live on less than $0.32 per day.
  2. Malawi has a population of 6.8 million children, which is about 51 percent of the total population. Around 4 million of those children are among the poor, and poverty hits them the hardest. Intense poverty threatens their health, education and safety.
  3. The average life expectancy for Malawian’s has improved in recent years. Life expectancy for women increased from 49 years in 2005 to 63 years as of 2016. For men, life expectancy has increased from 47 years to now 58 years.
  4. As of 2013, Malawi, also known as the Republic of Malawi, is the 18th least developed country in the world. Despite this status, Malawi has improved its rural poverty rate from 44 percent in 2011 to 40.9 percent in 2013– an especially admirable feat considering the presence of conflicts that undermine years of progress.
  5. Malawi’s poverty rate in urban areas is 20 percent. However, the country ranked 170 out of 188 countries on the 2016 Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Program.
  6. Malawi’s people living in rural areas make up 85 percent of its population, making its economy largely based on agriculture. A decline in agriculture production due to droughts caused Malawi’s gross domestic product growth to slow from 5.7 percent growth to 2.5 percent in 2016. An estimate of 6.5 million people will require food assistance due to recent droughts.
  7. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, has dedicated more than $160 million to 11 programs in Malawi to promote agricultural growth in an effort to reduce poverty.

Malawi is slowly developing despite its many conflicts. Malawi’s poverty rate is decreasing and progress is being made towards improving agriculture more and more every day. With these developments, Malawians have the potential to achieve economic independence.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr