Elderly Poverty in Vietnam
Elderly poverty in Vietnam is a significant issue considering that Vietnam currently has one of the highest rates of aging populations in the world. Right now, Vietnam is still a young country, despite the fact that its elderly population has increased from 4.9% in 1975 to 7.9% as of 2020. There is reason to have some concern over the aging population. Even just between 2009 and 2019, the elderly population older than the age of 60 increased by 2%. The World Bank has calculated that Vietnam could be the country that is aging fastest globally.

A Closer Look at Elderly Poverty in Vietnam

This aging is due to an increase in life expectancy, which rose by 21.6 years from 1950-1955 to 2010-2015, as well as a decrease in fertility rates in developing countries, from 6.1 children in 1950-1955 to 2.7 children to 2010-2015. By 2050, the percentage of Vietnamese people older than 60 could be one-third of the population, doubling from 11.9 million to 29 million. Among other implications, an aging population in Vietnam could devastate the quality of life for elderly Vietnamese people, especially those already in poverty.

The Need to Work

According to a statistic from the United Nations broadcasted by Channel News Asia, 40% of the Vietnamese elderly population are still working in some capacity, well beyond the normal retirement age in comparison to other nations. Even with work, the Vietnamese elderly’s typically low-income salaries cannot provide the benefits of proper care and shelter. According to CNA Insider, about seven out of 10 elderly people in Vietnam work in the “informal sector,” holding jobs such as trash collectors, taxi drivers and street vendors, all of which can be taxing on an elderly person.

The elderly in poverty in Vietnam have even more financial difficulty as they face higher medical costs with their growing ages. About 39.9% of the elderly in Vietnam exhibit some level of poverty and must rely upon pensions from their government for their basic needs. Yet, these pensions have limitations. Only about one in five of the Vietnamese elderly qualify for pensions; a person younger than the age of 80 must “be officially identified as poor” to receive benefits, a very broad title that many in poverty do not obtain. With age, this lack of support pushes into poverty many elderly who were not formerly impoverished.

Specific Vulnerability

According to a study published in the Journal of Population and Social Studies, despite an overall concern for the Vietnamese elderly, specific groups face an increased likelihood of enduring poverty in comparison to others. Elderly Vietnamese people who live in rural areas are more susceptible to poverty than those in urban areas. The elderly who do not identify with the majority ethnicity in Vietnam, Kinh-Hoa, are also more likely to experience poverty. Such disparities in poverty among the Vietnamese population have led to discussions about how Vietnamese policy can better support minority groups and those in rural areas in addressing the overall issue of elderly poverty in Vietnam.

Growing Support

Many organizations and nations are joining in the effort to alleviate elderly poverty in Vietnam. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency recently teamed up with the World Bank to launch an initiative to develop Vietnamese policy aimed at establishing new structures of state elderly care. This plan seeks to establish better social services to address the elderly in poverty in Vietnam. The initiative consisted of three phases of programs from August 2019 to April 2020 and considers the policies of countries like Thailand, which offers case studies of elderly policy. The former programs mentioned educated policymakers in Vietnam about new models of elderly care. Such a move by Japan also brings hopes of further cooperation between the two nations, which have traditionally had tense relations.

The United Nations Population Fund has also begun working with the Vietnam Committee on Ageing in order to offset the rapidly increasing older population’s effects on the economy. In doing so, the U.N. seeks to develop multiple programs that provide socioeconomic development within Vietnam while supporting the elderly who are in desperate need of government assistance. For example, the U.N. worked with Vietnamese leaders on a resolution in 2017 that called for “population work” to examine how people of different ages experience the rapidly aging population in Vietnam. The U.N. is continuing to support Vietnam with its vast data resources to better develop a policy for elderly care.

Furthermore, global institutions are making an effort to support nations’ elderly populations. The future is bright for the Vietnamese elderly in poverty, but much more work is necessary to ensure that they have a good quality of life. Supporting global institutions that aid the elderly in poverty can help in the fight against general global poverty.

– Rachel Reardon
Photo: Flickr

Drones Protect Botswana's MothersChildbirth in Botswana carries high risks, especially because remoteness threatens safe deliveries for women. If complications arise, it can take hours to transport patients to adequate medical facilities. The lengthy travel time to get medical assistance can prove lethal. In response, the U.N. devised a solution involving drone technology. Drones protect Botswana’s mothers by delivering essential medical supplies. Excessive bleeding is a primary cause of maternal mortality and medical drones can now deliver blood to women who need it. In May 2021, Botswana became the third African nation to implement the Drones For Health project in order to improve maternal health.

Botswana’s Maternal Mortality Rate

Prior to Botswana’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, the country had one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Since then, abundant resources and an adept government significantly reduced poverty. Botswana is now considered an upper-middle-income country. However, childbirth risks remain high. Botswana’s 2019 maternal mortality rate was 166 deaths per 100,000 births.

While the worldwide maternal mortality rate dropped by nearly half from 1990 to 2010, progress has been slower in many sub-Saharan African countries. Through projects like Drones For Health, Botswana works toward a 2025 goal of reducing its maternal mortality rate to 71 deaths per 100,000 births.

How Maternal Mortality Impacts Poverty

Maternal mortality harshly impacts poverty as a mother is often a central figure in a household and in society, taking on multiple functions and responsibilities. Surviving children often drop out of school in order to fulfill household obligations or take on employment to compensate for lost household income due to a mother’s death. Children without mothers often have deficient health outcomes because they are less likely to be immunized and often do not receive adequate healthcare when sick. Furthermore, due to the severe economic challenges of losing a mother, some young girls are forced to marry early.

The Drones For Health Initiative

Botswanan academics and government officials worked with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to put the Drones For Health initiative in motion. The medical drones have launch pads in four locations across the country, all situated next to healthcare facilities. The drones protect Botswana’s mothers by completing quick deliveries of blood. As long as the cargo is less than two kilograms, the drones can also carry medications and other medical supplies. Medical drones are also able to bypass infrastructure limitations such as uneven roads or missing bridges. These barriers prevent land-based vehicles from delivering blood to remote areas. In addition to providing a life-saving service, the battery-powered drones cause much less pollution than a land vehicle making the same trip.

Poverty is the main predictor of women’s endangerment during deliveries. Without traveling to medical facilities or hiring a midwife, childbirth becomes exponentially more difficult and risky. Botswana’s medical drone project exemplifies the benefits of creative and tech-savvy strategies to reduce maternal mortality.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Unsplash

Family Planning in ZinderZinder is a region in southern Niger with a population of more than 3.5 million as of 2012. It is one of the country’s most inhabited areas. While women in Niger give birth to an average of 7.6 children, this rate is even higher in Zinder where women have an average of 8.5 children each. Smaller families and slower population growth often correlate with a decrease in poverty. But in Zinder, where 53.8% of people live below the poverty line, large families and frequent pregnancies were associated with higher social status. Women give birth often and usually at young ages. Half of the girls in Zinder marry before the age of 15. This increases the population of a country that lacks the resources to feed, shelter and educate all of these children. Thus, there is a great need for widespread family planning in Zinder.

Global groups are implementing programs in Zinder to help normalize family planning and slow the population boom. Here are some effective programs that have been established to spread ideas and reduce the stigma surrounding family planning in Zinder.

UNFPA Schools for Husbands

Niger ranked last in matters surrounding gender equality in the 2013 Human Development Report. It is men, not women, who primarily make decisions surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. However, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an international organization that focuses on maternal and reproductive health, has dedicated itself to changing that. It has started more than 137 Schools for Husbands in the region since 2004 in order to improve family planning in Zinder.

These “schools” lack official lessons and schoolwork; rather, they are safe spaces for men to discuss possible solutions to reproductive health concerns. The men who attend them help each other understand the importance of family planning. Together they brainstorm ways to encourage “pregnant and breastfeeding women to attend Integrated Health Centers” in their area. These men, all of whom are married, also bring this information back to their wives, encouraging not only maternal health for the women in these relationships but also better communication among couples.

This program has been wildly successfulーthe use of maternal health resources has tripled in areas where these “schools” operate. Rates of prenatal doctors’ visits and safe births have increased. With these successes, the program has recently spread to several other regions in Niger.

The USAID and PSI Partnership

Population Services International (PSI), a family planning organization, has partnered with USAID to research reasons behind the lack of family planning in Zinder. It has made two important observations: the fact that Islam, the dominant religion in Niger guides many decisions around childbirth and pregnancy, and that families often fail to consider financial implications before having children.

Using this information, PSI created a series of programs in Zinder. These included a financial budgeting tool to help men calculate the cost of having multiple children. This initiative also urged religious leaders to speak with their communities about reproductive health. Another program that PSI created was a poster campaign that encourages family planning using verses from the Quran. These programs, which included more than 200 community members in nine villages, normalized family planning from both a financial and religious standpoint. They also encouraged open conversations around pregnancy prevention.

While the childbirth rate in the region remains remarkably high, many are making progress in normalizing family planning in Zinder. Organizations are working together to emphasize reproductive health in the region and slow the population growth rate.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

women's rights in SomaliaSomalia is a country located in the Horn of Africa with a population of almost 14 million people. Although women and girls in Somalia consist of 50% of the country’s population, women and men are far from equal. Globally, Somalia places fourth highest on the gender inequality index. In Somalia, gender inequality is exacerbated by poverty, disability, social class and harmful practices that violate women’s rights in Somalia. Today, women in Somalia are susceptible to gender-based violence and sexual violence, an issue that is heightened in areas of conflict.

Genital Mutilation in Somalia

Common problems that perpetuate gender inequality in Somalia include female genital mutilation, child marriage, maternal mortality rates and a lack of access to fundamental tools for success, such as education, health care, credit and more. Women in Somalia, especially adolescent girls, are susceptible to undergoing genital mutilation. Often, these girls undergo this procedure before turning 13 years old, according to a 2013 report by the World Health Organization.

Somalia has the highest rate of genital mutilation, with 98% of girls undergoing the procedure. With the upsurge in coronavirus cases, girls in Somalia are forced to stay home. This leads to higher rates of genital mutilation. According to the United Nations Population Fund, the coronavirus could contribute to 2 million more instances of genital mutilation over the next decade that could have been stopped. Although genital mutilation remains legal in Somalia, the practice has no health benefits and harms women in girls in a plethora of ways as it poses health risks and robs women of the full capacity of their reproductive organs.

Maternal Mortality in Somalia

Another issue plaguing Somalia that perpetuates gender inequality is the maternal mortality rate, which is the highest of any country in the world. For children in Somalia, four in 100 infants die within the first month of their lives. Women in Somalia suffer high rates of maternal mortality due to poor health care infrastructure within the country and a lack of access to adequate services. In the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda, the central principle is “leaving no one behind.” This commitment from the United Nations involves prioritizing the rights, access and abilities of Somalian women.

Lack of Education and Leadership

In Somalia, there is a lack of women involved in political and social leadership roles. One of the reasons behind this is a lack of education. In Somalia, primary schools have one of the lowest rates of enrollment, with only 30% of children in school. Of the children in school, less than half of them are females. For girls living in rural areas, these numbers are lower. Compared to men, women in Somalia have much lower literacy levels. In Somalia, only 26% of women can read compared to 36% of men.

The Future of Women’s Rights in Somalia

Somalia remains a state of male power but there is hope that the country will become more focused on gender equality. The Somali Provisional Constitution, created in 2012, is undergoing revision. In 2021, the country is participating in a one-person-one-vote election. With the revision of the Somali constitution, there is an opportunity for empowering women and girls across the country by implementing gender equality provisions. It is hopeful that 2021 may promise more widespread opportunities for women and girls in Somalia.

– Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in SerbiaSerbia is a country located in southeastern Europe that has a population of close to seven million people. Additionally, around half of the population consists of women. They often receive unequal rights and treatment. However, women’s rights in Serbia are improving. Acknowledgment and representation of women are increasing significantly.

Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence is one of the main issues that women in Serbia face. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) find that violence against women is not uncommon. Research reveals the 76% of Serbian women in secondary school are victims of gender-based violence. Additionally, a survey reveals that about 20% of Serbian men believe that women “sometimes deserve to be hit.” In particular, domestic violence often occurs in the privacy of homes. Furthermore, women often do not report this violence.

Domestic Violence in Serbia

Serbia also has a history of overlooking incidents of domestic violence incidents. Domestic violence goes unaddressed due to an inadequate police response, minimal prosecutions and judges who are reluctant to issue protective orders against abusive partners. Feminist movements in Serbia started in the late 1970s, fighting for the protection and rights of Serbian women. The first domestic violence hotline came about as early as 1990. This hotline improved the data on domestic violence and supported abused and at-risk women. Several similar hotlines have since been developed in Serbia.

The UNFPA Serbia and the Government of Serbia are working to improve domestic violence information channels for rural women. In addition, healthcare professionals are receiving training to improve their ability to recognize and address incidents of domestic violence.

Women With Disabilities

In a report, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) states that women with disabilities in institutions are insufficiently protected from violence and abuse. The Committee further states that Serbian legislation infringes the rights of women with disabilities. These violations occur concerning legal capacity, the right to make decisions and the right to access justice.

In 2015, Human Rights Watch reported “that when women with disabilities are deprived of legal capacity and held in closed institutions in Serbia, violations of their right not to receive treatment without consent and to be free from violence occur.” The  Committee recommends that Serbia repeal all laws infringing upon the rights of women with disabilities.

Progress and Improvements

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) emphasizes that focusing on ending domestic violence and discrimination is crucial in fighting for women’s rights in Serbia. Thus, additional legislation for the prevention of domestic violence has been implemented. As a result, Serbia’s Council of Suppression of Domestic Violence received a report of around 76,000 cases of domestic violence in 2018. In response, Serbia implemented 18,000 plans for the protection and support of domestic violence victims. Serbia hopes to see an increase in acknowledgment and access to services for women who suffer from gender-based violence.

The political representation of women in Serbia is also significantly improving. There is an increasing amount of female representation in parliament. Currently, around 40% of the National Assembly are women. Women’s rights in Serbia continue to improve and gain traction within the nation. With the help of organizations and the government, the future looks bright for Serbian women.

Jennifer Long
Photo: Flickr

Obstetric Fistula in Nepal
Many women in Nepal are shunned for obstetric fistula, even though they are completely preventable holes in the birth canal. One woman, Dhani Devi Mukhiya, recalls what the villagers in her community told her. They said it was “punishment for a sin” she committed in a previous life. Her relatives ignored her in public and her husband threatened to take a new wife. Unfortunately, this is the story for many women who suffer from obstetric fistula in Nepal, especially in rural areas. Both their communities and families shun them. However, one campaign is working to give them back the lives that have been taken away from them as a result.

What is an Obstetric Fistula?

An obstetric fistula is a small hole in the birth canal that leads to incontinence. The injury often results from childbirth complications, with high frequency in adolescent pregnancies. If left untreated, the hole can cause an infection, pain and depression resulting from severe shunning and social isolation. Obstetric fistula in Nepal is common because of high rates of child marriages, poverty and lack of access to care. The mountainous geography and rough travel conditions prevent many people from receiving the health services they need, as it is difficult to get to a hospital. more than 2 million marginalized women across the globe suffer from this complication. These women include child brides, those without access to money and those without access to maternal services.

Is it Preventable and Treatable?

Obstetric fistula has been practically eliminated in industrialized nations because of how easy they are to prevent and treat with access to maternal care. The main problem is that Nepalese women still lack sexual and reproductive health information and services. Due to this, 4,300 women live with obstetric fistula in Nepal, and there are 200-400 new cases each year. This statistic may not even be accurate; obstetric fistula in Nepal often goes unreported due to its high stigmatization.

The Good News About the Issue

This is the good news: the Campaign to End Fistula is actively working to give these women back their lives. Established in 2010, this program, supported by the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), provides surgery and post-op care for women in rural Nepal. The surgeries take place at B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, the only public, high-tech hospital in the region. Now, it is an obstetric fistula training center.

To these women, the surgery on offer is not just a surgery. It is a life without pain, a life without stigma and a life without isolation; it was like “walking out of prison” for Ms. Rajdhobi. The program resulted in the performance of 487 surgeries since 2012, and the issue is gaining awareness. Because of the efforts of the Campaign to End Fistula, May 23 is now celebrated as the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula in Nepal. The Campaign together with UNFPA has helped the world to recognize obstetric fistula as a public health issue and has enabled numerous advocacy programs. It will take time to end the stigma surrounding obstetric fistula, but great strides have been made.

Fiona Price
Photo: Flickr

Gender Violence and Domestic Abuse in AfghanistanGender violence in Afghanistan has reached epidemic levels. Due to a healthcare system in a state of crisis, victims are unlikely to come forward, and even less likely to receive care for injuries sustained from long-term abuse. Thankfully, many organizations are working to address this problem in Afghanistan.

The Facts about Gender Violence in Afghanistan

Eighty-seven percent of women have experienced one form of gender violence in Afghanistan, and 62% have experienced all 3 forms: psychological, physical and sexual. Impoverished victims are more likely to remain silent because they lack the ability to speak to a healthcare professional. Plus, they are less likely to be taken seriously. Long-term physical abuse can lead to burns, disabilities, internal bleeding and gastrointestinal disorders, among other physical and mental health problems. Sexual violence also often leads to STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

An often overlooked form of gender violence in Afghanistan is child marriage, which is extremely prevalent despite the multiple laws in place to prevent it. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that one in five girls will be forced into a union by age 18, with 5% forced to marry by age 15. The biggest concern for forced child marriages is the chance of a high-risk pregnancy, which often puts the victim’s life at risk and hinders any possibility of growth or education. Child marriage is born of poverty because impoverished families will marry their daughters off in exchange for money, or the chance of the girls marrying someone financially stable enough to provide for them. This practice dehumanizes young girls and effectively denies them human rights.

Working Against Domestic Abuse

The World Health Organization, in a new healthcare protocol for gender-based violence, defines 22 forms of abuse and sets the standards of care for healthcare professionals. The report emphasizes the seriousness of gender-based violence. However, the lack of healthcare workers in Afghanistan limits its ability to respond to this problem. Healthcare professionals are the first witness for most victims, which means that they are extremely important in making sure that the victim doesn’t go home to an unsafe situation. Witnesses are also valuable to the prosecution of the offender.

The UNFPA has trained more than 2,500 new recruits in how to spot signs of violence and respond with sensitivity to victims in Afghanistan. Along with these recruits, the UNFPA trained 875 judges and 850 healthcare staff. The UNFPA has multiple Family Protection Centers with hundreds of trained counselors, whom they dispatch to hospitals and centers for emergency care. These new centers, which allow women and girls to make discreet reports, saw over 1,400 disclosures of violence in just one year after their foundation. This is a big step forward, since Afghanistan’s government did not formally make violence against women illegal until 2009.

The Future of Girls in Afghanistan

Violence against women in Afghanistan not only common but expected. In the current environment, it is up to the country’s health ministry and the public to take women seriously and give young girls a chance to thrive. However, solutions to domestic violence don’t just have to focus on the health care and justice systems. For example, by funding STEM and political programs for young girls, the Girls LEAD Act would give girls a chance to climb out of poverty and craft a future where violence does not belong. In addition to the work being done by the UNFPA and the WHO, this act shows the potential for international action to help reduce gender violence in Afghanistan.

Raven Heyne
Photo: Pixabay

domestic violence and covid-19

More than 50 female celebrities have pledged funds and support to actress Charlize Theron’s Together For Her Campaign. The campaign’s goal is to address additional cases of gender-based violence that could result from the lockdowns around the globe. When quarantine began, Charlize’s thoughts immediately turned to the people in her native South Africa. Theron had concerns regarding women and children experiencing domestic violence and how COVID-19 could potentially worsen conditions for these women and children.

Domestic Violence and COVID-19

According to the United Nations Population Fund, “Significant levels of lockdown-related disruption over 6 months could leave 47 million women in low- and middle-income countries unable to use modern contraceptives, leading to a projected 7 million additional unintended pregnancies. Six months of lockdowns could result in an additional 31 million cases of gender-based violence.” Although estimates, these numbers reveal the startling consequences that women could face.

There are two main ways the pandemic has led to increased domestic violence. The first is through the disruptions in services provided to prevent abuse and help those who have experienced it. The second is that the lockdowns are tying women down at home where their abusers are.

There have already been increases in abuse. In only the first two weeks of quarantine, calls to the National Hotline on Combating Domestic Violence increased by a reported 25%. Ghadeer Mohammed Ibrahim Qara Bulad, the director of the Women’s Development Project at the Islamic Charitable Association in Homs, Syria, has seen cases firsthand. While raising awareness for disease prevention, she witnessed husbands beating their wives, sometimes openly in front of their children.

Together for Her

Charlize’s organization, the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP), partnered with the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) and CARE to address increased domestic violence during COVID-19. Both were very supportive of the cause and Together For Her. So far, the CTAOP has donated $1 million to fighting the coronavirus, with $500,000 going to the Together For Her Campaign.

Funds from the Together For Her campaign are being distributed to “shelters, psychosocial support and counseling, helplines, crisis intervention, sexual and reproductive health services, community-based prevention and advocacy work to address gender-based violence,” said Charlize in an interview with Vogue.

The campaign has united women across the fields of film, entertainment, sports and more. Some figures that have pledged their support include Octavia Spencer, Amy Schumer, Lauren Conrad, Reese Witherspoon and Viola Davis. Many are survivors of abuse themselves. Viola Davis stated “I am a child survivor of domestic violence. It is the last of the acceptable abuses. It thrives on silence and metastasizes into lifelong trauma that can’t be quantified. The abused have been physically, emotionally and financially incapacitated as a result. They stay…. They are continually abused and, in a lot of cases, killed. Providing funds to give them the means to get out and the emotional support to know they are worthy is everything. They are worthy of better, of real love.”

In the midst of a chaotic pandemic, issues like domestic violence are often overshadowed. Fortunately, Charlize Theron’s Together For Her Campaign is working to ensure that victims of abuse can receive the help and protection they need.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr

Honor KillingsThe concept appears as a relic from a distant, barbarous past: “honor killings” of young women. In contemporary Russia’s Northern Caucasus, however, honor-based violence remains a persistent scourge. Honor killings are premeditated murders of young women by close male relatives, committed under the guise of restoring or preserving a family’s “honor.” Honor crimes occur when a woman is perceived to have overstepped established sexual and gender-based boundaries.

 An Underreported Injustice

Incited by rumors, slander and outright falsehoods, honor-based attacks victimize women for trivial, seemingly inconsequential acts. These acts could include a skirt hemmed above the knees, a wayward glance, or an air of obstinance. These murders are generally planned by more than one family member, and carried out in many different forms such as including stonings, forced suicides and acid burnings.

A 2018 report by the human rights lawyer Yulia Antonova found that from 2012 to 2017, there were at least 36 reported honor killings in the Northern Caucasus. That number only includes, however, documented and cross-referenced honor killings. The majority of the killings go unreported, un-investigated, or are dismissed by the authorities. Therefore, there is a lack of accurate data on this type of violence in not only the Northern Caucasus, but the entire world. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 5,000 women are murdered every year by relatives in the name of protecting family “honor.”

 The Intersections between Violence, Gender Inequality and Family Ties

Honor-based violence is a tool to perpetuate gender inequality and a manifestation of female sexuality being coerced and curtailed through brutality. These killings are not spurred by tradition, custom, or sharia law, but rather are motivated by the ambitions of the individual or group. According to Svetlana Anokhina, a journalist and human rights activist in the Northern Caucasus, men hide behind skewed notions of honor to justify cold-blooded murder. These killings are meant to convey the control men wield over women, determining life or death through extra-judicial, subjective reasoning.

The state implicitly condones honor-violence by failing to adequately prosecute cases involving honor killings. These killings are rarely reported, and even the exceptions hold no guarantee that the cases will be investigated and sent to trial. Indeed, another 2018 report found that over a period from 2008 to 2017, only 14 cases involving honor killings went to court. Defendants are often protected by the courts, who justify honor killings by arguing that the accused was acting under a state of emotional duress.

In addition to the state, family members also will frequently protect the murderer, unwilling or unable to give their relative over to the authorities. The family may also rally behind the murderer, believing the honor killing has enhanced their social status in the community.

Thus, the victims of honor killings oftentimes do not get justice or retribution, and the cycle of violence is allowed to continue.

Making a Change

Over the last decade non-governmental organizations, such as the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network (HBVA), have sought to coordinate international groups working to end the scourge of honor-based violence. HBVA is a digital resource center promoting awareness of honor killings through research and documentation, enabling experts to better understand the extent of the issue. In part due to HBVA’s research, the international estimate of 5,000 honor killings per year is now thought to be grossly short of reality. HBVA has also created an international network of experts, activists and NGOs intent on using a collaborative approach to educate the public about and support the victims of honor killings. The training HBVA provides has improved responses to instances of honor violence in migrant communities in Europe and North America.

Honor killings continue to be an underreported and misunderstood phenomenon in many corners of the world. Victims of honor killings are subject to arbitrary fits of violence, intended to perpetuate gender inequality. This form of violence is vastly underreported, with many killings either ignored or lightly prosecuted by authority figures. There are, however, reasons to be optimistic that honor killings in the Northern Caucasus and other parts of the world are becoming less socially acceptable. Non-governmental organizations seeking to end honor killings are working across international borders to pool resources and data, giving hope that this form of violence will one day be better understood, more thoroughly documented and less frequent.

Angus Gracey

Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health in SomaliaLocated on Africa’s easternmost coast, Somalia is among the least-developed countries listed in the 2012 Human Development Index. The country suffers from poverty, internal conflict, human rights violations, environmental degradation and a broken healthcare system. Under these conditions, health is compromised. So far, maternal health in Somalia has been the most vulnerable.

The fate of pregnant women and mothers is particularly precarious in Somalia, as one in 12 women die due to pregnancy-related causes. In 2015, Somalia’s maternal mortality rate was 732 deaths per 100,000 live births, making it the third-highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

Access to maternal health services and antenatal care coverage remain low. Only about 26 percent of Somalis have antenatal care coverage, and the number of necessary emergency care facilities for obstetrics is 0.8 per 500,00 people.  This means the number of facilities is 4.2 facilities short of the international standard of five facilities per 500,000 people.

Pregnancy or childbirth-related complications such as hemorrhage, obstructed labor, infection, high blood pressures and unsafe abortion are the main contributors to maternal morbidity and mortality in developing countries.

Although levels of maternal mortality remain unacceptably high, some efforts to improve maternal health in Somalia have succeeded. There has been a gradual and continuous decline in maternal mortality since 1990. The number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Somalia decreased from 1,210 in 1990 to 732 in 2015.

The United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) methods to improve coverage and health service delivery for emergency obstetric care in Somalia were recently implemented in June of 2017.

“The lives of many Somali mothers are cut short as a result of prolonged labour due to lack of access to life saving services. Many others develop complications such as obstetric fistula,” said UNFPA Somalia’s Dr. Layla Mohammed Hashi. “UNFPA is working with partners and government to ensure that we provide Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) services to women that need the care.”

UNFPA has joined the Somaliland Nursing and Midwifery Association (SLNMA) and the Borama Regional Hospital to help over 130,000 pregnant women requiring emergency maternal health services in the Borama and Awdal regions.

The UNFPA’s efforts complement projects that provide health services for expectant mothers. One such example is maternity waiting homes which offer women care and medical supervision at every stage of their pregnancy. In 2013, 34 maternity waiting homes had been established in Somalia and by 2015, nearly 17,000 women had delivered in these residential facilities. An additional 1,300 were transported to facilities with the adequate infrastructure and clinical capacity to care for women with pregnancy and childbirth complications.

The need for improved obstetric care services and reproductive health interventions as a means for improving female health outcomes continues to be recognized as a priority in Somalia. It will be important to evaluate changes in service utilization and morbidity and mortality ratios, as further investments are made in the development and implementation of interventions addressing maternal health in Somalia.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Google