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hunger in France
Recently, France has made consistent progress towards eliminating hunger within its borders, throughout the European Union and in developing nations. However, with worsening global health conditions as an added stressor to those who suffer from food insecurity, it is imperative to end hunger in France and around the world.

Who Does Hunger in France Affect?

The majority of France’s most food insecure are the 200,000 plus homeless and those living in the outskirts of Paris.

Globally, one in nine people go hungry every day, and global hunger is increasing. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that around 10.7% of the world’s population suffers from chronic undernourishment. Additionally, over 26.4% of the world’s population is food insecure.

The standard of living in France is relatively high due to the country’s inclusive social security systems. Access to basic needs and services such as food, water, health care and education are mostly available to all. However, while many reap the benefits of this system, disenfranchised minorities and essential workers in some parts of France have lost their jobs and access to meals. For example, in the lower-income districts that surround Paris, residents in cities like Clichy-sous-Bois require the generosity of food banks to get by.

Why Does Hunger Persist Today?

In France and on the global scale, poverty, climate change, poor public policy and food waste drastically increase hunger. These factors manifest in several ways. Some communities, like Clichy-sous-Bois, do not have equal access to resources and become stuck in cycles of poverty. Environmental degradation from unsustainable agriculture and increasing natural disasters negatively impacts crop yields, access to and distribution of food. Food waste exacerbates climate change by releasing dangerous levels of methane in landfills. Furthermore, food waste also deprives hungry people of quality food.

Furthermore, estimates determine that by the year 2050, the world will need to produce enough food to feed over 10 billion people. The Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs stresses the need to transform the “agricultural and food systems” in France. According to the Ministry, “agriculture must be more sustainable and effective from economic, social and environmental perspectives to ensure food security and the health of individuals.”

The Strategy to End Hunger in France

Luckily, France has stepped up to reform the current food systems and agricultural practices that aggravate hunger and malnutrition locally and internationally. Through the Ministère de L’Europe et des Affaires Étrangères, France wrote the International Strategy for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture. This strategy works out a five-point plan that France will carry out between 2019 and 2024. This plan tackles the causes of hunger and serves as a leader in ending hunger in Europe and the world.

The five points of the International Strategy for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture are:

  1. To Strengthen the Global Governance of Food Security and Nutrition: France wishes to improve the effectiveness and coordination of international actors involved in the global governance of food security and nutrition.
  2. To Develop Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems: Agriculture is currently a leading cause of climate change and biodiversity loss. As a result, France wishes to confront these issues by promoting sustainable agricultural practices.
  3. To Strengthen France’s Action on Nutrition: Multiple factors lead to undernutrition in young children, pregnant and/or breastfeeding women. These include access to quality food, clean water and conditions for good hygiene.
  4. To Support the Structuring of Sustainable Agri-food Chains to Promote the Creation of Jobs in Rural Areas: Targeted at younger generations and striving to be inclusive of family agriculture, agri-food chains are a good source of employment.
  5. To Enhance Food Assistance Actions to Improve the Resilience of Vulnerable Populations: The goal is to help struggling populations regain food autonomy in the face of recurring food crises.

More Solutions

In addition to this international plan, more immediate solutions in France aim to combat food waste locally. For example, Guillaume Garot, a member of Parliament in France, authored a food waste bill. This bill requires grocery stores to donate food that they would otherwise throw away. Additionally, this bill is the first of its kind, and the European Union quickly followed suit with similar goals.

The European Food Banks Federation (FEBA) works with the U.N. to use the 88 million tonnes of food that the E.U. wastes annually. A new set of sustainable development goals seek to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” in France. As a result, FEBA transforms unnecessary food waste into vast quantities of food donations for the hungry.

FEBA builds connections with existing food banks and global partners to strengthen the food bank networks in France and across Europe and help mediate the donations. This organization works to alleviate food insecurity by distributing the equivalent of 4.3 million meals every day. That is 781,000 tonnes of food that it delivers to 9.3 million food-insecure people. In France, the Banque Alimentaires annually donates 73,000 tonnes of food products to those in need.

Through persistent actions like the International Strategy for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture and food bank networks, the process to end hunger in France and worldwide is an ever more attainable goal.

– Rochelle Gluzman 
Photo: Flickr

healthcare system in Jordan
Jordan is an Arab country located in the East Bank of the Jordan River. It has a population of 10 million people. Although one of the smaller countries in the Middle East, many know Jordan for its advanced healthcare system. The international community, along with the World Health Organization, are consistently taking notes from the Jordanian healthcare system in the hopes of applying some of its stronger elements, such as widespread insurance coverage and increased investment, to countries with weaker systems.

Facts About Healthcare in Jordan

The healthcare system in Jordan includes public and private sectors. The public sector provides a majority of Jordan’s 12,081 hospital beds. The private sector contributes to the country primarily through the provision of home healthcare. There is a total of 106 hospitals, public and private, in Jordan. Due to recent shifts in the political climate in the Middle East, Jordan has accepted a high rate of refugees. More refugees, coupled with an increase in the domestic population, has greatly increased the demand for hospitals. To keep up with the growing population and improve the healthcare system in Jordan, lawmakers implemented a national e-health system. This e-health system intends to connect all public and university hospitals, maintain organization and establish easily accessible health records for all.

Primary clinics supply rapid access medical care along with vaccinations, maternity and childcare and quick treatment for chronic conditions. Until recently, healthcare in Jordan lacked a formalized home healthcare system. Without this system, patients needing long-term care must remain in acute care facilities for weeks, even months, at a time. Since the implementation of Jordan’s home healthcare initiative in 2017, the industry has trained 300 health professionals and gained the participation of 28 healthcare facilities, both public and private. The country is currently expanding home healthcare policy while other countries in the Middle East lack a structured home healthcare system, putting Jordan at one of the most modern healthcare systems in the region.

Infant Mortality in Jordan

The infant mortality rate, one of the lowest rates in the region, stands at 13.9% and has steadily declined over the last 10 years. Furthermore, the maternal mortality rate is 62 per 100,000. This rate is much lower than the average of 420 per 100,000 live births in the Eastern Mediterranean region. The consistent betterment of the health conditions of children and infants is in part due to the universal child immunization that the country achieved in 1998. Since then, Jordan has made it a significant priority to improve the conditions of healthcare that it provides to women and children. Unfortunately, this priority does not stand true in most countries surrounding Jordan.

National Health Policy and Organization

Given Jordan’s sectoral organization of the healthcare system, the country has one of the most modern systems in the region. Its high expenditure in healthcare goes toward developing newer methods of treatment and expanding healthcare accessibility sets Jordan apart from other countries. In 2003, the healthcare expenditure comprised about 10.4% of Jordan’s GDP. Each sector has its own independent financial and managerial systems that reflect the regulation and delivery of services. This distribution of regulation allows for the country to target and improve specific elements of its healthcare system.

In the last decade, Jordan has reformed and improved its health information systems and human resources teams. Additionally, Jordan’s government introduced a National Health Insurance system to provide large-scale accessibility to health insurance to a large part of the country’s population. Overall, the net population of insured individuals in the last four years was around 55%. However, in other countries surrounding Jordan like Egypt, healthcare insurance coverage relies heavily on an individual’s financial status and income. As a result, only those who are very well-off receive effective coverage.

Given the recent changes in prioritization of the healthcare system in Jordan, the country has improved its standard of care greatly in the last 10 years. Compared with other Middle Eastern nations, Jordan stands out with its advanced healthcare system. Currently, though, the healthcare assistance that Jordan provides to Syrian refugees begins to decline due to financial burdens on its budget. Therefore, continued support from the U.N. is necessary to sustain refugee healthcare accessibility.

– Taleen Avitsian 
Photo: Flickr

facts about child marriage in Africa
Child marriages have been occurring for thousands of years. While child marriage is more commonly seen between female children and much older men, child marriage is defined as marriages where either one or both partners are younger than the age of 18. According to UNICEF, Africa has the highest rate of child marriages in the world. Specifically, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates where every four in 10 girls are married before the age of 18. Within this region, the country of Niger has the highest child marriage rates, with 77% of girls married before the age of 18. Here are seven facts about child marriage in Africa.

7 Facts About Child Marriage in Africa

  1. Children marry as young as 7 and 8 years old. The U.N. estimates that every day around 37,000 girls under the age of 18 are married. Of the girls forced into marriage, one in three girls experience child marriage before the age of 18 and one in nine experience it before the age of 15. UNICEF estimates that if no change occurs, the rate of child marriages in Africa alone may double by 2050.
  2. Girls often experience suppressed education. Most girls who are in a child marriage do not get an education higher than the mandated primary education of grades one through nine. This is due to social stereotypes that categorize girls as domestic wives who stay in the home to cook, clean and bear children. Another reason is that most child marriages take place in poverty-stricken areas and they cannot afford to pay for an education or do not have access to education near them.
  3. Children involved in child marriages are at greater risk of domestic violence. A high percentage of girls in a child marriage experience domestic and sometimes sexual violence. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), girls who marry before the age of 18 are twice as likely to experience domestic violence when compared to girls who marry after the age of 18. Many girls cannot escape this violence because of poverty and the lack of education.
  4. Having a daughter is seen as a burden in Africa. Most child marriages take place in poverty-stricken areas where families consider daughters to be economic and financial burdens. Many families, wanting to make up for the money they put into raising a daughter, require a dowry for their daughter’s marriage. The high cost of a dowry means that most men will work for years to save up for a wife. As a result, most child marriages are between a young girl and a much older man.
  5. Child brides have a greater risk of contracting HIV and other STDs. Since men are typically much older when they marry a child bride, they tend to have had multiple partners before they are married. As a result, girls involved in child marriages are more susceptible to contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, research found that many young people lack the proper knowledge of HIV and other STDs and safe sexual education. Sex education is a mandatory curriculum in Africa, but religious and cultural taboos prevent schools from properly teaching this curriculum. In 2015, the Department of Basic Education began developing lesson plans for grades seven through nine that properly educate children about safe sex and STDs.
  6. Many child brides face high-risk pregnancies. Since girls marry at such young ages, many girls have high-risk pregnancies due to their underdeveloped bodies. As a result, they often have a difficult childbirth. Additionally, pregnancy lessens the body’s immune system, leaving young girls easily susceptible to illnesses such as malaria. Malaria is harder to treat when one is HIV positive and can lead to death in young pregnant girls.
  7. Ultimately, child marriage violates human rights. Child marriages involving boys is significantly more rare than those involving girls. The primary difference in a marriage involving young boys is they do not pose the same health risks as girls. However, child marriages between both sexes take away a child’s basic human rights. In 1948, in an attempt to discourage child marriages, the U.N. declared child marriage an act against human rights, as stated in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These seven facts about child marriage in Africa explain the difficulties young girls face every day. While child marriages around the world have been in a steady decline, Africa has been the slowest progressing area. According to the U.N., child marriages in Africa could actually continue to grow rather than decline. A continued growing awareness around the world helps to end child marriages. A group of girls in Africa started a petition to change the laws and raise the age of consent. So far, the petition has received over 245,000 signatures. Efforts like these continue to help bring an end to child marriages in Africa.

– Chelsea Wolfe 
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Cyprus
Cyprus is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Turkey, with a population of 1.2 million. The Republic of Cyprus, the country’s only internationally recognized government and part of the European Union, controls 60% of the southern region of the island. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus controls 36% of land in the north region of the island. The division between the North and South republics of Cyprus has created a power struggle of high tension, leaving the island politically unstable. Despite this instability, Cyprus has seen an improvement in decreasing poverty rates, as well as an expanding economy. Here are seven facts about poverty in Cyprus.

7 Facts About Poverty in Cyprus

  1. Cyprus’s economy is growing and expanding. Its tourism sector saw a significant boost in 2018 when over four million travelers visited the island, a 7.8% increase from 2017. This increase in tourism correlates to its increase in GDP per capita, rising from 25,957.85 to 28,341.05 in 2018. Experts expect Cyprus’s GDP per capita to increase even more in 2020, with models estimating a 1.03% increase.
  2. When Cyprus gained independence in 1960, it began transitioning to a service economy. Cyprus’s economy started focusing more on its tourism and service sectors instead of agriculture. This allowed the GDP to rise. As of 2020, Cyprus’s GDP is $34.5 billion, a 3.9% growth since 2019.
  3. Cyprus’s unemployment rate has decreased. With the expansion of Cyprus’s economy came more jobs in the tourism and service sectors. As a result, unemployment rates have decreased.  Since 2015, the country has cut its unemployment rate almost in half, from 14.91% in 2015 to 7.92% in 2019.
  4. Education in Cyprus is growing. Today, Cyprus has five private universities and three public ones. Both are rapidly expanding and connecting with other institutions across the globe. These schools continuously put millions of dollars back into the local economy, thus, providing thousands of jobs for the community.
  5. Life-expectancy is increasing in Cyprus. As of 2020, the island’s life expectancy is 81.05 years, a 0.19% increase from 2019. Future projections from U.N. data predict a continuous upward trend.
  6. Cyprus does not have a standard minimum wage law for all workers. However, some occupations do have certain wage requirements set by the cabinet. These requirements are reviewed and revised annually in an effort to be fair to citizens. Since there is no countrywide minimum wage, however, this leaves room for many disparities in poverty and wealth.
  7. The Economic Interdependence Project is a partnership between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Cyprus Chambers of Commerce. Created in 2009, the project’s goal is to intervene and encourage partnerships between businesses of both parties. The project hopes to reveal the benefits of the two communities working together to improve Cyprus’s economic stability and growth. They have been able to open the first island-wide business directory with over 200 businesses. Additionally, the project also gave Market Research Grants to some businesses. 

Despite Cyprus’s political tensions between the southern and northern regions, the country has expanded its economy, increased tourism and implemented programs that encourage business relationships. These factors have allowed for an overall decrease in poverty in Cyprus. Hopefully, this progress will continue in the coming years.

– George Hashemi 
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty in Iraq
About 22% of Iraqis live in poverty. Poverty in Iraq is a dynamic issue, the facets of which have changed with the country’s progress and efforts at modernization. Urbanization and the discovery of vast oil reserves have adversely impacted Iraqis with corruption and conflict driving poverty rates up. The following are four exceedingly relevant facts about poverty in Iraq and what the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a nongovernmental organization that emerged in 1933 to respond to international humanitarian crises, has done to help since entering Iraq in 2003.

4 Facts About Poverty in Iraq

  1. Urbanization and Food Shortages: Recent conflict and economic change have caused Iraqis to concentrate in urban areas. Iraq is 70.7% urbanized and is nearly unrecognizable in comparison to its agricultural past. Poor agricultural policies have catalyzed this shift toward urbanization and overcrowding in cities. This, combined with military and economic crises, has resulted in as many as one in six households experiencing some form of food insecurity. Iraq has a universal food ration program called the Public Distribution System (PDS), which is its most extensive social assistance program, but it has not been enough. Many Iraqis who have either lost access to the PDS or find that it does not cover enough, have turned to humanitarian agencies like the IRC for aid. Since 2003, the IRC has helped hundreds of thousands of people: in 2018 alone, it assisted 95,000 Iraqis, providing financial, familial, educational and professional support.
  2. Corruption and Oil: According to Transparency International, Iraq is the 13th most corrupt country. The Iraqi government often subsidizes inefficient state industries, which has led many Iraqis to view government and business leaders as corrupt. With the rise in oil prices over the past decades, Iraq’s government had sufficient funds to complete significant reconstruction and aid projects. However, poverty in Iraq has not improved. The oil sector provides an estimated 85 to 95% of government revenue. High-level corruption in Iraq impedes the development of private, non-oil business sectors, spurring overdependence on oil. Protests were rampant in 2019 with Iraqis indignant that their economy was flush with oil money but their government was too corrupt to provide basic services. Average Iraqi citizens never see oil profits due to the corrupt nature of the Iraqi government, which empowers politicians through informal agreements and patronage. Leaders hand out government jobs to build their support networks and stifle dissent, making the public sector inefficient and draining oil profits such that there is little left over for investment in social programs. While federal social programs are lacking and corruption is still serious, NGOs like the IRC have stepped in to pick up the slack and somewhat lighten the suffering of many Iraqis.
  3. Poverty and Unemployment: Roughly 95% of young Iraqis believe they need strong connections to those in power in order to obtain employment. Overall, unemployment is at 11% with one-third of Iraqi youths unemployed and 22% of the population living in poverty. The aforementioned protests in 2019 involved young Iraqis frustrated at being unable to find work, and projections determine that unemployment and poverty will worsen even further in 2020. The United Nations expects the poverty rate to double to around 40%, with monthly oil revenues falling from $6 to 1.4 billion between February and April 2020 due to the recent collapse in global oil prices. To combat these figures, the International Rescue Committee has provided over 40,000 people with emergency supplies, business training and funding to help Iraqis rebuild their lives.
  4. War and Internal Displacement: Conflict with ISIS led to the displacement of over 6 million Iraqis from 2014 to 2017, and about 1.5 million Iraqis remain in camps despite the recent territorial defeat of the terrorist organization. The rise and conquest of ISIS was a primary driver behind the increase of the poverty rate to the current level of 22%, with forced displacement and brutal violence leading to the destruction of Iraqi homes, assets and livelihoods. The above factors have struck internally displaced persons (IDPs) the hardest — few IDPs have employment and most have to support an average of six other members in their household. On top of all this is the fact that many IDPs have lost access to what little the PDS food program does supply, illustrating the true humanitarian challenge of poverty in Iraq. While the displacement and refugee issue is still serious today, the International Rescue Committee has aided over 20,900 women and girls to recover from the violence, providing hope for a battered people.

Despite expansive oil profits flooding into the Iraqi system, this money does not reach ordinary Iraqis who struggle to provide for their families. The failure of urbanization, stark unemployment and violent conflict with ISIS have exacerbated the lack of action from corrupt business and political leaders to address the systemic issue of poverty.

Experts expect global poverty to worsen during the current COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Iraq. Combined with the recent crash in oil prices, this will likely lead to serious unrest in a country that has struggled for decades to bring about some semblance of effective governance. Despite the ongoing issues that these four facts about poverty in Iraq show, hope continues to live on thanks to organizations like the IRC that are able to provide aid.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

Hunger in Singapore
With one of the highest concentrations of millionaires in the world and a reputation for being a “Food Paradise,’” it is difficult to imagine that food security is an issue in Singapore. However, hunger persists despite Singapore’s reputation as an affluent and food-secure nation. This hidden hunger in Singapore is a result of food insecurity and has caused malnutrition throughout the country.

Hidden Hunger in Singapore

Singapore is ranked as the world’s most food-secure nation, yet many Singaporeans still struggle to access a sufficient and nutritious diet. This “hidden hunger,” or the high rate of malnutrition, has created a significant issue for the nation. According to the U.N., about 4.1% of Singaporeans experienced moderate to severe food insecurity between 2016 and 2018. Food security is more than having access to the amount of food needed to survive; it is having nutritionally adequate food that is vital for a person’s growth and development.

A large part of Singapore’s population experiences food insecurity first-hand. Researchers from the Lien Center for Social Innovation reported that only 2.5% of the survey respondents from four low-income neighborhoods had no food insecurity, while 80% of respondents experienced mild to moderate food insecurity. The researchers found that within the last 12 months, one in five low-income households in Singapore had to go a whole day without eating or could not eat when hungry due to a lack of resources.

However, food insecurity is not limited to low-income households. In fact, approximately 27% of the study participants had an average monthly income of $2,000 and above. This suggests that financial constraints are not the sole cause of food insecurity in Singapore.

Food Insecurity Leads to Malnutrition

This widespread hunger in Singapore leads to a high rate of malnutrition, especially in children and the elderly population. ONE (SINGAPORE) reported that one in 10 Singaporeans lack sufficient access to essentials, including healthy and nutritious food. This makes access to healthy food an unattainable reality for many.

Malnutrition as a consequence of an unhealthy or insufficient diet creates even more health-related issues for at-risk populations. ONE (SINGAPORE)’s website reports that upwards of 23,000 children in Singapore are malnourished as a result of food insecurity. This is a staggering number for such an affluent country. Around one in three elderly Singaporeans are at risk of being malnourished. In 2015, about half of the elderly population admitted to hospitals “were eating poorly,” making them more vulnerable to medical complications and other adverse outcomes.

Food Support Systems: Lacking Coordination

Despite the abundance and diversity of food assistance groups in Singapore, including nonprofit organizations, charities, soup kitchens, Meals-on-Wheels providers and informal volunteer groups, many people experiencing food insecurity remain hungry. According to the Lien Center for Social Innovation, more than half of the survey participants who experienced severe food insecurity received infrequent or no support at all.

In spite of the support systems in place (approximately 125 in 2018), the results of this report suggest they may be inefficient in addressing Singapore’s hidden hunger. Some attribute the inefficiency to the lack of coordination between systems. Many of these food support groups operated independently and there was no information-sharing network in place. This often created more problems: duplication of assistance, food waste and in some cases, little to no aid. In order to better coordinate efforts, stronger communication between different food aid organizations is needed.

Finding Common Ground

In 2018, officers from the Ministry of Social and Family Development started engaging several food aid organizations informally. This created the foundation for a multi-agency workgroup in 2019 which brings together food support organizations and agencies. The purpose of this workgroup is to provide a platform for collaboration to end food insecurity and food waste in Singapore.

While the workgroup is still in its infancy, it has made headway in coordinating efforts among the groups. The stakeholders have worked together to address food waste by compiling a list of sources that are willing to contribute unwanted food. In addition, they are working to map food groups and their needs in order to eliminate duplication of assistance and sourcing issues. These efforts make Singapore’s food assistance programs more efficient and effective.

 

Many helping hands devoted to alleviating hidden hunger in Singapore. However, the lack of coordination among these well-intentioned groups sometimes leads to mismatches between the providers and the beneficiaries. By recognizing the “hidden hunger” in Singapore and coordinating governmental efforts, the nation and its charities may be able to more efficiently address food insecurity in the nation.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Child Mortality in Yemen
With a population of 28.25 million people, Yemen has been through more turmoil than many other countries. It is currently ranked as the country with the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. This crisis threatens the lives of children through increased malnutrition, inadequate hygiene and other significant health and safety risks. Here are 10 facts about child mortality in Yemen.

10 Facts About Child Mortality in Yemen

  1. Approximately 50,000 infants die in Yemen each year. These deaths are the result of violence, famine, a lack of crucial medical care and widespread poverty. World Food Program USA has been working with Islamic Relief to provide 2 months of life-saving food to families and conducts nutritional programs to malnourished children.
  2. According to the U.N., there are 400,000 children under 5 years old who suffer from severe malnutrition. Some of these issues are the result of longstanding war and conflict. City blockades and airstrikes sometimes make it difficult or impossible for food aid to reach the children who need it the most. One organization working to bring food aid to children and families affected by severe malnutrition is called Save the Children. Save the Children has been working with the children of Yemen since 1963.
  3. Millions of Yemeni children are in desperate need of food to stay alive. Around 85,000 children have died from starvation or health complications caused by starvation since the war escalated in Yemen. In an effort to save Yemeni children from starvation, Save the Children provided food to 140,000 children and treated 78,000 children who were on the brink of death due to severe malnutrition.
  4. In Yemen, 30,000 children under the age of five die every year due to malnutrition-related diseases. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) works to save the lives of malnourished Yemeni children by distributing a nutritional peanut-based paste. With 500 calories per packet, children suffering from severe malnutrition can recover in matters of weeks.
  5. Violence is still a grim reality for Yemeni children. Airstrikes and mine explosions killed 335 children since August of 2018. Many are pushing for the war in Yemen to end so that children can live normal and safe lives. The U.N. estimates that if the war in Yemen continues even until 2022, more than half a million people will have been killed.
  6. Airstrikes are the leading cause of death for children in Yemen. The Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP) reports that between March 2018 and March 2019, air raids killed 226 children and injured 217. These numbers average out to 37 deaths of Yemeni children due to airstrikes per month. Save the Children is working to help children recover from airstrike injuries. They assist with medical bills and provide emotional support to help manage their trauma.
  7. Conflict in Yemen has caused the destruction of many water facilities, leaving children vulnerable to deadly diseases. Around 5.5 million people in Yemen are currently living in areas at a higher risk for cholera due to a lack of clean or sufficient water. UNICEF is working with the local water corporations to restore Yemen’s water supplies. In 2017, UNICEF installed the first-ever solar-powered water system in the city of Sa’ad.
  8. According to ReliefWeb, 17 million people in Yemen are in need of sanitary drinking water. One potential solution to this is the Life Straw, a small, hand-held straw that filters out 99.9 percent of waterborne bacteria and 98.7 percent of waterborne viruses. Though they have mainly been distributed in Africa, these straws could have a significant impact in Yemen.
  9. More children have been killed by waterborne illnesses and poor sanitation than conflict. Poor sanitation is one of the leading causes of diseases. Many children also lack the proper hygiene supplies needed to stay healthy. Having access to soap would significantly reduce the chances of obtaining hygiene-related diseases. To improve access to hygiene supplies in developing countries around the world, including Yemen, a company called Clean the World recycles partially used pieces of soap from hotels. More than 53 million bars of soap have been distributed in over 127 countries to those who need it.
  10. Diseases caused by mosquitos also contribute to child mortality in Yemen. The country has heavy rainfall and many people collect rainwater as their main water source. Collected water standing idle is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. An outbreak of mosquito-borne illnesses in Yemen killed 78 children under the age of 16, as of the end of 2019. There are 52,000 cases of mosquito-borne illnesses across the country. One potential solution is Kite Patch, which creates a mosquito repellent patch that sticks to the skin and protects against mosquito bites.

Child mortality in Yemen remains a persistent problem for the nation. For long-term improvement, the conflict in Yemen must be resolved. However, with continued efforts by humanitarian organizations, Yemeni children will still become safer, healthier and able to live longer lives.

Amelia Sharma
Photo: Flickr

Laos' Growing Economy
Laos is growing rapidly thanks to high economic growth since the early 2000s. Its GDP growth rate has hovered around 7 percent since 2000, which makes Laos one of the fastest-growing countries in Asia. The infrastructure and tourism sectors have developed at a fast rate since 2017, which makes poverty reduction a possible side effect. As an economy grows, poverty tends to decline. Poverty in Laos was 46 percent in 1996 and around 23 percent in 2015. This cut in the poverty rate is partially due to Laos’ growing economy. Key sectors such as agriculture, tourism and infrastructure continue to be strong focus areas in Laos’ development.

A Commercialized Agriculture Industry

Agriculture remains important to Laos’ growing economy. About 70 percent of all workers have employment in the agriculture sector. Although the service sector is growing while agriculture is declining, the agriculture industry remains an important contributor to its GDP and the main source of employment for many Laotians. Most of the cultivated land consists of rice, and, as is common in developing countries, the main type of work is subsistence farming. There is a shift toward commercializing the agriculture industry, though, and this emphasis remains important in increasing wages and pulling more Laotians out of poverty. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Agricultural Development Strategy 2011-2020 outlines the goals in increasing productivity and transitioning the industry toward commercialization.

Rural Infrastructure Growth

Infrastructure, which includes bridges, roads, schools and hospitals, remains an important foundation to a country’s livelihood. Without the necessities, a country may have difficulty helping its people and increasing its development and trade. Laos’ infrastructure is developing at a fast rate. Infrastructure growth remained around 8 percent for 2017, 2018 and 2019. While infrastructure is growing, there are still issues in rural areas that people tend to overlook. Electrification is about 80 percent in rural areas, though the country could resolve this in the future. The challenge to electrifying rural areas relies on navigating the rough and mountainous terrain of Laos. While Laos is growing rapidly, a higher emphasis on rural infrastructure development could help pull more Laotians out of poverty.

The Rising Tourism Industry

The tourism industry in Laos has grown fast since the 1990s. In 1995, about 350,000 international tourists visited Laos, yet that number grew to more than 4 million in 2018. Tourism contributes almost $2 billion to its GDP, so Laos has big stakes in the industry for its current and future economic well-being. China and neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, comprise most of the tourists visiting Laos.

The tourism industry is yet another reason why Laos is growing rapidly. More than 100,000 jobs are related to tourism, and many expect that number to grow to 121,000 by 2028. The tourism industry grew by 9 percent in 2019, and Laos’ goal for 2020 is to reach 5 million international visitors. Job growth and GDP growth are two major effects of the rise of tourism in Laos, but there is also the effect tourism has on infrastructure. Hotels, resorts, entertainment venues and parks receive revenue and expand thanks to tourism growth.

Future for Laos’ Growing Economy

Laos’ high economic development could simultaneously transform its economy and continue to reduce its poverty. Poverty in Lao reduced by half while it was developing its economy since the 1990s. Thanks to its key sector developments, Laos is growing rapidly and poverty is continuing to decline. Rapid economic growth since 2000 shows that it may become a developed country in the near future, even though it is one of the least developed countries in the world currently. According to the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council and due to meeting two of the three criteria for development, Laos will leave the Least Developed Countries list by 2024.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Disaster Risk in Pakistan
Locust swarms ravaged Pakistan in early 2020, overwhelming the agricultural industry. Like many less developed countries, agriculture composes a large portion of Pakistan’s economy. Agriculture alone creates 24.4 percent of GDP and 42.3 percent of the total labor force. Pakistan’s exports also rely on agro-based industries, such as cotton textile processing. As the fourth largest cotton producer in the world, cotton related products in Pakistan provided $11.7 billion of $24.7 billion in total exports last year. Improving preparedness and reducing disaster risk in Pakistan is crucial for national poverty eradication.infrastructure.

Disaster Risk Reduction in Less Developed Countries

Less developed countries (LDCs) are particularly vulnerable to disasters. One study suggested that the efforts aimed at reducing poverty and mitigating disaster risks are interconnected. Removing the loss from natural disasters would remove 26 million people from living in extreme poverty (defined as those who live on $1.9 per day). Poor people and poorer countries are highly vulnerable during natural disasters as they cannot regain societal norms back as effectively as more affluent nations.

Another report from the U.N. OHRLLS summarizes the measures of disaster risk reduction in LCDs and deduces that aims should minimize vulnerabilities and strengthen resilience in LDCs. The initial step taken by most LDCs to reduce the devastating impact of natural disasters is integrating the institutional infrastructure.assessment.

Disaster Risk Reduction in Pakistan

Before the recent locust swarms, natural disasters, including floods, earthquakes, landslides, drought and monsoons have already been an issue in Pakistan’s development. Monsoon season in 2018 alone caused 134 deaths and 1,663 houses to be damaged. Earthquakes in 2005 caused over 80,000 deaths in Pakistan. This staggering number was largely attributed to the low capabilities of emergency services after the earthquakes.

In 2007, Pakistan established the national disaster emergency system. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was placed in charge of general operations for disaster response.

Five years after the foundation, NDMA’s investment in disaster assessment reached $1.4 billion. That large amount of funds generates plenty of room for reducing disaster risk in Pakistan. Specifically, it allows the development of a monitoring and forecast system across the nation, which collects and consolidates data for disaster assessment.

International Efforts

International organizations developed projects for reducing disaster risk in Pakistan based on the Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction. This framework sets four priorities to embrace an improved disaster response: a better understanding of disaster risks, wider governance in risk management, improved ability in ex-post disaster recovery and greater investment in resilience development.

Based on these principles and priorities, the projects for disaster risk reduction in Pakistan cover varied issues. The World Bank offered $4 million to establish early forecast systems, ensuring Pakistan would have access to crucial disaster assessment information. Further international aid (£1.5 million) was offered from the U.K. to promote local safety and resilience culture through education and innovation. The U.N. provided the largest investment of $46 million to ensure disaster preparedness and other measures are the priority in policy implementation at every level.

Moving Forward

These efforts by the Pakistani government and other international organizations have improved the nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. This work has reduced the significant impact disasters generally have on the impoverished. Moving forward, it is essential that disaster risk reduction projects continue to grow, as new methods and technologies become available.

– Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Kuwait
Kuwait, or the State of Kuwait, is a country between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. After obtaining its independence from Britain in 1961, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq in Aug. 1990. In Feb. 1991, a U.S.-led U.N. coalition liberated Kuwait in four days. After their liberation from Iraq, Kuwait’s many tribal groups staged protests demanding their political rights. The oppositionists, mainly composed of Sunni Islamists, tribal populists and liberals, won nearly half of the seats in the national assembly in the 2016 election. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Kuwait.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Kuwait

  1. There are no permanent rivers or lakes in Kuwait. While there aren’t any permanent water sources in Kuwait, there are Wadis, also known as desert basins. These basins fill with water during winter rains, which occur from Dec. to March. However the low amount of rainfall, which is about 121mm per year, and the high evaporation rate of water in Kuwait’s climate make rainfall an unreliable source of water.
  2. In 2015, Kuwait was on the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) list of countries with the highest water risk by 2040. Countries such as Bahrain, Palestine, Qatar, UAE, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Lebanon were on the same list. The WRI pointed to the Middle-East’s already limited water supply and climate change as criteria for their country rankings.
  3. In Kuwait, 99 percent of people have access to improved drinking water. Kuwait also has a well-developed water infrastructure. However, the country’s rapidly growing population since 2000 is putting a toll on Kuwait’s water supply. Even as early as 1946, Kuwait was importing 80,000 gallons of fresh water per day.
  4. Kuwait’s over-reliance on groundwater led to its reliance on desalinization for drinking water. Even during the early 20th century, the shallow wells that collected rainwater were drying out. According to the 2019 U.N. report, these desalination plants produce around 93 percent of Kuwait’s drinking water.
  5. Desalination is expensive. While some might think that desalination plants are the answer to Kuwait’s water supply problem, the cost of operating desalination plants can’t be ignored. Per cubic meter, desalinated water can cost up to $1.04. Adding on to this the price of energy, which accounts for three-fourths of the cost, and transportation, it is easy to see how expensive desalination is.
  6. In 2017 and 2018, the WHO recognized the excellent water quality in Kuwait. This recognition is a testament to the Kuwait government’s commitment to water quality in its country. However, the Director of Water Resources Development Center emphasized the importance of landlords, who are responsible for the quality of water for their buildings, in keeping water storage tanks free of bacterial infection.
  7. The Water Resources Development Center (WRDC) uses real-time GIS (Geographic Information System) to monitor water quality and sanitation in Kuwait. While desalination plants produce clean water, multiple factors such as damaged water pipes or an aging water infrastructure can lead to water contamination. The GIS allows WRDC to collect and process water data from numerous sensors throughout Kuwait in real-time.
  8. The CIA estimated in 2015 that 100 percent of the Kuwait population has access to improved sanitation facilities. This reflects the Kuwait government’s commitment to public health and sanitation. In 2013, for example, Kuwait invested $5.28 billion in its water sector. Water treatment plants received the highest investment of $3.4 billion.
  9. Kuwait is expanding its sewage treatment facilities. In 2018, a German-Kuwait consortium closed a $1.6 billion contract to expand Kuwait’s Umm Al Hayman (UAH) sewage treatment plant. When the facility’s expansion finishes, experts estimate that the new plant will process 700,000 cubic meters of sewage per day, compared to the original capacity of 500,000 cubic meters.
  10. Kuwait is working on more efficient usage of water. In 2011, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) stated that Kuwait had the highest water consumption in the world. UNDP’s 2019 report indicates that efficient usage of water in Kuwait rose from zero percent in 2012 to 15.1 percent in 2016. MOEW (Ministry of Electricity and Water) achieved this by conducting community awareness-raising activities or building water tanks and wells to ensure long-term water conservation.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Kuwait highlight the success the nation has had in maintaining and providing sanitary water. However, Kuwait must now turn its attention toward securing stable sources of water. With the ever-looming threat of climate change, the UNDP recommends that Kuwait focus on sustainable development.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr