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HIV in the PhilippinesThe Philippines is designated as a quickly growing epicenter of the HIV epidemic. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, HIV in the Philippines was surging, largely due to their poor healthcare system. There is fear that the COVID-19 pandemic may exacerbate such difficulties due to restricted public transportation, the establishment of checkpoints and consequently, the inaccessibility of treatment.

While the COVID outbreak has many downsides, it may provide an opportunity to improve HIV services in the Philippines. Advocacy groups, community-based organizations and volunteers are now uniting to foster innovative solutions for the HIV epidemic.

The Philippines’ Department of Health Adopts Telemedicine

Travel and physical distancing restrictions have disrupted the supply and distribution of antiretroviral drugs; these drugs are essential for Filipino people living with HIV (PLHIV). Therefore, the Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) recommends HIV facilities adopt an online courier service. This would ensure access to treatment while minimizing the risk of patient and staff exposure to COVID-19. This method allows PLHIV to choose their preferred medicine pick-up location and time through a mobile application.

The DOH’s plan for app-based medication distribution is key to enhancing the quality of HIV treatment and counseling. This app also improves HIV healthcare for the post-COVID world. However, this is not the only way Filipinos are improving HIV healthcare. Officials are working to give community-based organizations opportunities to participate in the DOH’s endeavors. These efforts are a favorable step towards the efficient mitigation of HIV in the Philippines.

Community-Based Organizations Revamping the Philippines’ HIV Healthcare Services

Network Plus Philippines, Pinoy Plus Advocacy Pilipinas, Red Whistle and TLF Share Collective are coordinating to implement a new guideline issued by the Philippines’ DOH. The guideline guarantees that PLHIV will receive their medicine through courier services, focusing on PLHIV in rural communities. Examples of contributions from community-based organizations are listed below:

  1. Red Whistle: Red Whistle mobilized 40 volunteers to collect antiretroviral refills from treatment facilities and deliver them across the country. It has worked with local authorities to avoid disclosure of confidential clientele information and partnered with MapBeks, an online mapping community, to create the #OplanARVayanihan: a map showing the nearest antiretroviral drug centers and delivery options.
  2. TLF Share Collective: TLF Share Collective has helped to deliver antiretroviral therapy to Filipinos. It has developed a tool to monitor medication delivery by community volunteers and created FAQ-cards for patients.
  3. Pinoy Plus Advocacy Pilipinas: PPAP has established a PLHIV Response Center where people with HIV can ask for information about accessible treatment hubs and advice on antiretroviral therapy.

International Assistance

In addition to the community-based organizations’ efforts to eliminate HIV in the Philippines, the international community has also provided guidance through programming and financing.

For example, UNAIDS has coordinated with The United Nations Development Programme to advise the Philippines’ Government on how to manage their HIV problem in the context of COVID. The UN’s creation of an analytical survey has revealed valuable information on the issues affecting PLHIV. These issues range from concerning factors like the feeble safeguarding of human rights to a lack of access to mental health and social protection services.

Similarly, USAID, The U.S. Agency for International Development, is collaborating with the Filipino government to assist them in establishing universal health care. Together, they are addressing legislative and institutional obstacles within their health financing system. The USAID’s services include prevention programming and case identification to strengthen epidemic control; funding streams from the Department of Health and local health budgets that align with UHC Law Provisions; and estimates for total future domestic investment requirements.

While COVID-19 presented a scope of challenges for HIV treatment and care services, it also propelled community-based organizations, the Filipino Government and international institutions to cooperate and execute innovative policies. The Philippines’ healthcare system will continue to combat HIV and become a robust system devoid of the defects that COVID-19 highlighted.

Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

International Aid to El SalvadorEl Salvador faces threats from multiple angles as heavy tropical flooding has been compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. While El Salvador has managed to curtail infection rates by imposing strict restrictions, in October 2020, more than 32,000 people had COVID-19, with around 1,000 deaths. Due to the stringent measures to protect against the pandemic, economic growth has been stifled and poverty reduction efforts have waned. Organizations are stepping in to provide international aid to El Salvador.

Dual Disasters in El Salvador

In May and June of 2020, the tropical storms Amanda and Cristobal wreaked havoc on the people of El Salvador. Nearly 150,000 people were affected by heavy rain, flooding and severe winds. Developing countries such as El Salvador have poor building infrastructure and during natural disasters homes are more likely to be destroyed by storms. The World Food Programme (WFP) has estimated that about 380,000 people in El Salvador do not have sufficient access to nutritious food due to the dual disasters that have weakened infrastructure and the economy. An estimated 22,000 farmers have suffered from the destruction of flooding, with over 12,000 hectares of agricultural crops being destroyed.

COVID-19 Pandemic Increases Poverty

El Salvador has been moderately successful with poverty reduction, marked by a consistent decline in poverty over the past 13 years, as poverty rates plummeted from 39% to 29% between 2007 and 2017. Extreme poverty was cut from 15% to 8.5% over this time period as well. Additionally, El Salvador has increased its level of equality and is now the second most equal country in Latin America.

Despite this positive trend in poverty reduction, El Salvador has suffered from forced economic restrictions due to the pandemic. Its GDP is projected to decrease by 8% this year due to economic restrictions, a weakened international market and diminished funds sent from El Salvadorians abroad in the United States. Additionally, low income and marginalized individuals are becoming more vulnerable to health issues and wage deficiencies and are falling victim to predatory loans. El Salvador’s economic shutdown and destruction from tropical storms have prompted calls for international aid to alleviate the crisis.

Swift Action to Mitigate COVID-19

El Salvador has seen relatively low COVID-19 cases as a result of its swift response to the pandemic. It adopted strict containment measures faster than any other Central American country and invested heavily in its health system. The government has provided cash distributions to the majority of households, food for low income households and payment deferrals for rent and mortgages in order to curb the effects of the pandemic on citizens.

International Aid to El Salvador

Requests for international aid to El Salvador have been granted in the form of assistance from USAID and the WFP. These organizations are providing disaster relief and bringing in resources to those affected by the storms and the COVID-19 pandemic. USAID has donated $3 million to be dispensed by cash in stipends for vulnerable citizens to buy food. This stipend will boost local economies and reinforce food security for impoverished citizens affected by the dual disasters.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Belarus
The eastern European country of Belarus is a hub for human trafficking. In fact, the country ranks as Tier 3 for human trafficking according to the U.S. State Department’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons report, signifying a dire need for improvement going forward. Belarus’ Tier 3 status makes it one of the worst places for human trafficking in the world, despite its consistently slowing rate. Here is some information about efforts to eradicate human trafficking in Belarus.

The Situation

Belarus recorded 128 confirmed trafficking victims and nine potential victims in the Trafficking in Persons report for 2020. Meanwhile, data that NGOs compiled in 2019 has indicated that 91 identified victims comprised of 58 men and 33 women. While victims exist within Belarus, they also exist outside of Belarus’ borders as the traffickers export men for forced labor to Russia and women for sex work to western Europe. Of the 91 victims, 52 experienced exploitation in Russia.

At the moment, human trafficking predominantly affects men in Belarus by way of labor exploitation. In particular, it is common for Belarusian men to find themselves enslaved in Dagestani brick factories. Forced labor also takes place in Belarus through state-sponsored programs called “subbotniks.” These governmental programs force factory workers, civil workers and students to work on farms and clean streets, and anyone who resists experiences threats and intimidation.

Regarding trafficking rates, although they have declined throughout recent years, it would be a mistake to assume that Belarus has solved the problem as it still has a Tier 3 ranking through the U.S. State Department. The people most susceptible to falling victim to human trafficking in Belarus are women from poor families and men from small towns and villages.

Potential Solutions

In terms of where to improve, one of the most direct courses of action that Belarus can take against human trafficking is to put a stop to all subbotniks. State-sponsored forced labor poses a substantial barrier for any country wanting to seriously tackle human trafficking. Additionally, putting an end to subbotniks will help Belarus achieve a better rating from the U.S. State Department. A more broad way to eradicate human trafficking in Belarus would be to minimize poverty in the country. Since many of the people who fall victim to trafficking live in poverty, increased financial stability for those in poverty could provide alternative opportunities for them to escape it and create a recruiting challenge for traffickers.

Unfortunately, Belarus has seen heightened civil unrest and economic displeasure amongst the people under President Alexander Lukashenko’s leadership, specifically regarding stagnating wages and a lack of opportunities to earn more. Belarusian leadership should properly address these grievances in order to help elevate the peoples’ standard of living. Moreover, Belarus’ rural communities should have a specific focus on reducing poverty as they are dramatically poorer than their urban counterparts. Despite the fact that Belarus is one of Europe’s least impoverished countries, rural areas have poverty rates as high as 45.6%. With this in mind, it is essential that programs such as USAID’s Increasing Access to Finance for the Rural Population in Belarus continue in order to further help Belarus’ rural population.

La Strada

NGOs such as La Strada are also doing great work in Belarus to prevent human trafficking. La Strada lobbies, provides resources for victims, grants education for the purpose of prevention and conducts media operations to raise awareness about trafficking.

Crisis Rooms

Crisis rooms are an important part of the victim rehabilitation process and Belarus currently has 136 of them. They are places of temporary residence for trafficking victims which provide protection and resources at no cost to the victims. Belarus needs more rooms, as well as an improvement in the government-run crisis rooms. Most victims try to find private crisis rooms due to public crisis rooms being poorly equipped and short on qualified caregivers. Improving both the quantity and quality of government-run crisis rooms could provide a more accessible and healthy rehabilitation for human trafficking victims.

Belarus’ Efforts

Belarus has continually strengthened its efforts to eradicate human trafficking in Belarus. These efforts have come in the form of increased police training, substantial prison sentences for offenders and more victim protection and rehabilitation resources. The government has rolled out a national action plan which is in place to protect minors from the dangers of sex trafficking. Also, the Belarusian government, with the help of NGOs, has run a large public awareness campaign that utilizes television, radio, print media and billboards. Furthermore, La Strada set up a hotline in 2001 which people can use to help prevent trafficking by identifying illegal recruiting practices and assisting with safe travel for migrant workers.

Ultimately, Belarus has made considerable progress over the past few years in reducing rates of trafficking, but as its Tier 3 designation suggests, it still has considerable progress to make. The next steps Belarus could take would be to end subbotniks, provide assistance to NGOs and ease the difficult political, social and economic circumstances of its people. Economic disparity is a growing concern in Belarus and the implementation of programs such as USAID’s Increasing Access to Finance for the Rural Population in Belarus are crucial to mitigating disparity since poverty is conducive to human trafficking.

– Sean Kenney
Photo: Unsplash

Human Trafficking in Rwanda
Rwanda, the land of mille collines as the French would say, harbors countless picturesque hills. Unfortunately, the breath-taking landscapes of the Central African country are also witnesses of major crimes against humanity. Human trafficking in Rwanda consists of one of the most disquieting concerns for human dignity.

The Situation

Over the years, there has been substantial economic growth in the landlocked Sub-Saharan country. However, Rwanda has still not ceased to be a destination country for human traffickers taking advantage of high rates of unemployment, homelessness and gender inequalities.

Umutesi is one of the many girls who fell victim to human trafficking in Rwanda. In 2018, an elderly woman approached her and offered a job that seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Desperate for a job, she accepted the offer and traffickers sent her to Nairobi, Kenya under strict orders to hide her passport. Instead of the job at a supermarket she expected to find, she found herself in a slave market, called the office, where prospective buyers browsed.

“We were sold off like mere commodities,” is how she described what had happened to her at the office.

She ended up working in heavy labor, experiencing sexual and physical abuse and surviving in inhuman conditions. Additionally, she changed homes three times with each worse than the one before. When she succeeded in reaching a Rwandan diplomat via a phone she kept discretely, she made an escape plan that required patience and incredible endurance.

Finally, with the help of her government, she escaped and was able to fly back to Rwanda. Like many other victims, she also received free access to health care services and a little funding. Now, she manages a local grocery market and always expresses her gratitude for the second chance she got in life.

Unemployment in Rwanda

Umutesi’s story is very common in Rwanda. Men, women and children, especially those who are vulnerable due to unemployment and homelessness, frequently become targets of sexual exploitation and forced labor.

According to the 2020 data, the number of unemployed Rwandans surpassed 900,000 in May 2020. In fact, unemployment numbers were below 550,000 in February 2020. On top of the overall rates, 20.6% of the youth in Rwanda remain unemployed. Needless to say, this situation is likely to only exacerbate human trafficking in Rwanda.

Never Again Rwanda (NAR)

Never Again Rwanda (NAR) emerged in 2002 in Kigali in response to the 1994 Tutsi genocide. The NGO that initially aimed to establish a safe environment for youth expanded its scope to address its current core pillars: peacebuilding, governance & rights, research & advocacy, sustainable livelihood, education and youth engagement. The organization cooperates with USAID, the Global Fund for Children, the E.U. and other counterpart organizations. Recent research that the organization conducted showed that around 77.67% of human trafficking victims in Rwanda are female. Despite employment being higher among women than men in Rwanda, women are still more likely to become targets due to lower rates of education among them and the demand for sexual slavery.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, human trafficking in underdeveloped countries like Rwanda may experience an increase. While many countries are pushing for a digital transformation, human traffickers use aggravated unemployment as an opportunity to pick the most vulnerable. According to the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, the increasing rates of unemployment, malnourishment and school closures will result in increased human trafficking.

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) conducted the RECOVR Survey in July 2020 to provide data and evidence to decision-makers to reduce the detrimental effects of COVID-19. The survey found that 74% of the households in Rwanda consider themselves at high risk during the pandemic, showing the highest rate among other surveyed Sub-Saharan countries. Additionally, 70% of the agriculture-workers reported suffering from altered harvests and sales.

Human Trafficking in Rwanda increased to 96 cases in 2019, whereas there were reports of only 33 cases in 2018. Considering the aggravated unemployment and declined social standards with the arrival of the pandemic, 2020 likely give way to increased human trafficking in Rwanda.

The Rwandan Government

Though there is light at the end of the tunnel for girls like Umutesi, the Rwandan government has assumed a plan called Vision 2020 to tackle poverty through strategies to boost sustainable economic growth. Additionally, Rwanda aims to boost its knowledge-based economy, investments in the private sector, agriculture and infrastructure development. The Government of Rwanda adopted policies to make labor recruitment companies register for a license from the Ministry of Labour and submit monthly reports. The anti-trafficking law that Rwanda introduced in 2018 penalizes sex and labor trafficking with up to 15 years of imprisonment, although the President of Rwanda is yet to sign the legislation for it to undergo full enactment.

There have been notable constructive developments to combat unemployment and human trafficking in Rwanda, yet scarce resources, lack of testimonies, capacity and cooperation continue to complicate the situation. As such, there are still several commitments that the Rwandan government ought to strengthen to reach the minimum standards in eliminating human trafficking. These include:

  • Participation and communication with international communities to increase awareness campaigns and information sharing.
  • The development of a more centralized systematic screening mechanism to identify victims.
  • The provision of training to anti-trafficking units and divisions.
  • Cooperation with the international community to boost education and employment opportunities.
  • Work to ensure gender equality in access to education.

Currently, Rwanda remains at Tier 2 status according to the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report for 2020. This shows that Rwanda has still not fully complied with the minimum standards to reduce trafficking, though it has implemented positive efforts. Through increased commitment and consistent assistance from the international community, the risks of Rwandan girls like Umutesi should reduce so that they do not become victims of human trafficking in Rwanda.

– Berrak Rasool
Photo: Flickr

Suaahara II ProjectIn Nepal, 36% of children who are under the age of five remain underdeveloped in terms of growth and health despite progress in recent years. Through cooperation with USAID, the Nepalese Government and local private sector groups, Hellen Keller International (HKI) has provided impactful services that have helped rectify the systematic obstacles causing these health issues. Hellen Keller International is a non-profit organization that aims to reduce malnutrition. The Suaahara II project takes a pivotal role in these efforts.

What is the Suaahara II Project?

One of HKI’s most notable services is the Suaahara II project, which started in 2016 and was initially set to end in 2021. However, it will now extend to March 2023 due to COVID-19. Operating in 42 of Nepal’s districts with a $63 million budget, HKI partnered with these six organizations for the project:

  • Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc. (CARE)
  • Family Health International 360 (FHI 360)
  • Environmental and Public Health Organization (ENPHO)
  • Equal Access Nepal (EAN)
  • Nepali Technical Assistance Group (NTAG)
  • Vijaya Development Resource Center (VDRC)

Hellen Keller International’s primary role in the Suaahara II project deals with the technical assistance of child and maternal nutrition. This means that its tasks are oriented around building the skills and knowledge of health workers. This includes teaching health workers how to adequately measure and evaluate assessments; additionally, another technical facet relies on promoting governance that invests in nutrition.

A Multi-Sectoral Approach

Kenda Cunningham, a senior technical adviser for Suaahara II who works under HKI, told The Borgen Project that the Suaahara II consortium has taken a “multi-sectoral approach.” She believes in the importance of this as it pushes individuals to “learn and think beyond their sector.” The Suaahara II Project’s demonstrates its integrated strategy in the initiatives below:

  1. The WASH program focuses on water, sanitation and hygiene through WASHmarts, which are small shops dispersed across districts that sell sanitary products like soap and reusable sanitary pads. Kenda explained how this has helped “bridge a gap” so that poorer households can access hygiene enhancing products. This also allows assistance from private actors, who can expand their markets in rural areas.
  2. The Homestead Food Production program (HFP) encourages households to grow and produce micronutrient-rich foods through vegetable gardening and raising chickens, for example. As a result, 35 districts have institutionalized HFP groups.
  3. The Bhancchin Aama Radio Program is a phone-in radio program that runs twice every week. It hosts discussions among marginalized communities and demonstrations for cooking nutritious foods. It has encouraged the Nepalese to socially and behaviorally alter their health habits.

Advancements from Suaahara I

The Suaahara II project’s contribution to improved health and nutrition in Nepal is also illustrated in its progression from the Suaahara I project’s framework. In addition to understanding the changes made in household systems and at a policy level from Suaahara I, Cunningham told The Borgen Project that technological developments have elevated the Suaahara II Project’s impact in Nepal.

Specifically, smartphones expedite the data collection process when studying trends pertaining to the 2 million households across the districts. The development of new apps provided more households with access to smartphones and key information. This therefore allowed officers to transition from pursuing “a mother-child focus to a family focus” in terms of the Suaahara II project’s accommodations and services.

Challenges with Suaahara II

While the Suaahara II Project has led to institutional and social enhancements regarding health and nutrition, some districts had access to the project earlier. This created a dissonance in the rate of health improvements amongst the districts. Cunningham reported that “far western areas are much more remote and therefore disadvantaged and food insecure.”

This inconsistency was largely due to the “Federalism” that took place in Nepal in 2017, which was a decentralization process that created 42 municipalities for 42 districts. Since every municipality has a different political leader, some districts had the advantage of assistance from foreign NGOs while others did not because their leaders rejected involving foreign NGOs. In these cases, as Cunningham explained, it is like “you are creating your own NGOs from the ground up.”

Suaahara II Achievements

These obstacles, however, have not been pertinent enough to counter the consortium’s efforts in fulfilling the Suaahara II project’s objectives. For example, a primary objective for Suaahra II is to increase breastfeeding amongst babies under six months of age. Exclusive breastfeeding of children under six has increased from 62.9% in 2017 to 68.9% in 2019, according to data that Cunningham shared with The Borgen Project.

Expanding children’s access to diverse and nutritious foods is another objective that has been achieved under the Suaahara II project. The dietary diversity among women of reproductive age (WRA) has increased from 35.6% in 2017 to 45.3% in 2019, according to Cunningham. Given the efficient rate of improvement in women and children’s health, governance and equity in only the first two years of the Suaahara II project, it can be inferred that the consortium will continue to progress in achieving its targets among the Nepalese in the three years that remain.

Regarding how HKI has responded to challenges with the Suaahara II project, Cunningham said  “[We] don’t use a one size fits all approach.” The advancements in Nepal’s health and nutrition systems can be largely attributed to HKI’s multifaceted and integrated strategy, a model that could yield prosperity in the rest of the developing world.

Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

7 Education Reforms Happening in EgyptEgypt has the largest school system in the Middle East with more than 18 million students. Additionally, the school system’s gender attendance rate is nearly equal due to Egypt’s open access to primary schools. However, as Egypt’s population rapidly grows, the quality of its education system decreases. The World Bank created the term “Learning Poverty” to describe children who lack basic reading comprehension skills by the age of 10. Egypt has had a significant problem with learning poverty. As a result, the Egyptian government has created the “Education 2.0” system to tackle this issue.

The Egyptian Ministry of Education has worked closely with the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) to create seven education reforms in Egypt. This is a $500 million reform investment and its reforms stretch from kindergarten to secondary school.

7 Education Reforms in Egypt

  1. Expanding Access to Early Childhood Learning: The Education 2.0 program works to build schools that include an early education program in students’ villages. The aim is for students to have an adequate grasp on the essential skills of reading, comprehension, writing, math and English by the third grade. These skills are especially critical for children to learn in their early childhood.
  2. Remedial Reading Programs: Egypt’s education reform stretches beyond incoming students by seeking out students in grades 4-9 who have fallen behind on the essential skills mentioned above. These programs intend to bring these students up to the same educational standard as the rest of their grade level.
  3. Implementing Learning Villages: Egypt has adopted the innovative approach of intergenerational education reform in vulnerable rural areas by teaching primary-aged children how to read as well as their mothers. This allows children to be able to be engaged in literacy work at school and at home.
  4. Improving General Assessment Skills: Previously, students were asked to directly memorize exam answers and the exams were often leaked beforehand. This severely limited long-term comprehension. The reformed education program endeavors to test students on understanding as opposed to memorization capacity.
  5. Revamping Teacher Training Programs: Teachers will be re-trained and re-licensed because it is crucial that their methodology changes to match education reform programming. Teachers must help convince students and parents that it is imperative for the education system to have a goal beyond passing exams. They also need adequate resources to focus their attention on students who are falling behind.
  6. Linking Education and Technology: While the Education 2.0 program was initially stagnant, the COVID-19 crisis has actually accelerated technological advances due to social distancing guidelines. Two companies, Promethean and the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, have also aided in digitizing education resources by respectively creating free online spaces to get educational content and providing educational technology to 26,000 classrooms.
  7. Educating Refugees: Of the 200,000 refugees who have sought asylum in Egypt, 40% of them are children who become reliant on the Egyptian education system. The Egyptian government is using the model created by the U.N.’s Refugee Resilience Response Plan to help these vulnerable children. The government plans to give refugees a combined formal and informal, community-based education system that can bring stability to their lives.

Education 2.0 focuses on bringing children out of learning poverty by focusing on vulnerable communities, re-training teachers and giving students greater access to education through technology. Education reform is essential to the long-term growth and success of a country, so programs like Egypt’s Education 2.0 is incredibly important.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

impact of conflict on poverty
Conflict can be a catalyst for an array of poverty-related events. It can impact poverty by depleting resources, interrupting supply chains, destroying infrastructure, taking lives and much more. Unfortunately, this trend has held in the country of Mali, which currently shows the significant impact of conflict on poverty.

Conflict Background and Economic Impact

The Mali War is an ongoing conflict that began in January of 2012. Since then, violence between the North and South of Mali has ebbed and flowed in severity but never subsided. Malian people, including the Tuareg, in the North of Mali, have expressed resentment and concern, as they feel that governmental groups and political factions have been neglecting their concerns and treating them unfairly. Ethnic divides, fundamentalist fighters and an unstable political system are a few issues that have caused this conflict.

There have been thousands of deaths and thousands of more people fleeing the conflict. As mentioned previously, many connect the weak economic sector in Mali to the outbreak of unrest and violence. Almost cyclically, this violence is now negatively impacting the economic sector. Before the conflict broke out, tourism accounted for more than 40% of Mali’s GDP. Researchers estimate that 8,000 people lost their job due to the drastic decrease in tourism after the conflict began. The economic connection highlights the ranging impact of conflict on poverty.

Many of those living in the North of Mali, mostly Tuareg and Arab groups, depend on the agricultural sector for their income. The government has invested very little in this sector and focuses primarily on tourism and the export of gold and cotton from the South. This has led many agricultural producers in the South to grow jaded towards the government due to their increased likelihood of experiencing extreme poverty.

The Impact on Public Health

Roughly 1 in 3 children in Mali are facing chronic malnutrition. An annual average of nearly four million people in Mali do not have access to an adequate amount of food. More than half of Mali’s children and young adults are illiterate and have been pushed out of school due to displacement. Many children in Mali are at great risk of being recruited into militant groups, further threatening their safety, educational resources, and ability to climb from poverty.

At its base level, the conflict in Mali threatens public health by the sheer loss of life it has caused. In 2018, hundreds of civilians were killed by armed groups. The byproducts of this violence caused even more people to experience extreme poverty, malnutrition and death. Additionally, more than 200,000 people have fled Mali altogether to avoid the violence. This stunts Mali’s economic growth, which reaffirms the dangerous impact of conflict on poverty.

Current Aid and Support Efforts

A military coup ousted the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, on August 19th, 2020. President Bah Ndaw became the interim leader of Mali and will hold the position until an election can be held. Some are hopeful that if a legitimate election can be held, much of the conflict in Mali will subside. In the meantime, many local and international nonprofit organizations have mobilized to aid in poverty-reduction efforts throughout Mali.

  1. For example, World Vision began providing aid in Mali in 1975, even before the conflict. In 2012 during the height of the conflict, World Vision provided aid in the form of food, clean water, and shelter to more than 150,000 people throughout Mali. Additionally, more than 60,000 children in Mali are currently benefiting from World Vision’s child sponsorship program. The program allows donors to provide monetary assistance to and communicate with an impoverished child. Many of these sponsored children in Mali reside within conflict-ridden areas.
  2. Peace Direct, another nonprofit organization, focuses on peacebuilding efforts in Mali. They support communities in their implementation of peacebuilding; in 2019 alone, they supported more than 20 projects throughout Mali. Peace Direct realizes the importance of community growth, both physically and emotionally, to peacebuilding. A lack of communal trust can be detrimental to poverty reduction, as teamwork makes progress more effective and efficient. Additionally, the building of trust and understanding among conflict groups is essential to support continued growth and stability throughout Mali. This trust will prevent future conflicts and allow Mali to focus on joint economic growth and poverty-reduction tactics throughout their country.

    3. “The Peacebuilding Stabilization and Reconciliation Project,” run through USAID, began in April of 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in March of 2023. This project focuses on rebuilding many of the conflict-ridden areas throughout Mali, providing rehabilitation resources to those impacted by the violence, increasing civic engagement and helping Mali’s government introduce barriers to prevent violent outbreaks in the future. USAID believes that providing community members with an active role in their governance will decrease dissent, enhance democratic values, reduce the likelihood of future conflict and decrease the joint poverty level throughout Mali. Success will also ideally increase GDP and overall well being while mitigating the impact of conflict on poverty in Mali.

The Future of the Region

The domino effect that violence can have on the prosperity of a nation is not a surprise. Violence decreases an individual’s ability to focus on economic growth or public health. It overtakes governmental initiatives and attention from the media, forcing poverty-related issues to take a backseat. The importance of the international community supporting peacebuilding efforts in Mali remains essential. The path toward peace will trickle-down benefits for many subsets of Mali’s society and will decrease the occurrence of extreme poverty throughout the nation.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: UN Multimedia

Child Poverty in India
Millions of Indian children live in extreme poverty, putting their lives, as well as the development of their bodies and minds, at risk. Global efforts have made significant progress towards combating child poverty in India, and further funding will allow this success to continue.

An Overview of Poverty in India

India is one of the most populated countries in the world, with a population of 1.366 billion. Second only to China, with a population of 1.398 billion (a mere 2.3% greater), India alone accounts for more than 17% of the world’s population. With a population of such magnitude, there are not enough resources to go around.

India has historically struggled with poverty, with 63.1% of its population living on less than $1.90 a day in 1977. Since then, this number has diminished drastically to 22.5% in 2011 – but this still indicates that an astounding 296 million people are living in extreme global poverty.

Children in India feel the burden of extreme poverty the most. They are the most likely to be impoverished and to lose their lives due to poverty. Global efforts have made a substantial amount of progress in fighting child poverty, but it is still nowhere near eradicated. Here are six crucial facts about child poverty in India.

6 Facts About Child Poverty in India

  1. India accounts for 30% of all children living in extreme global poverty. South Asia accounts for 36% of children in extreme poverty, but India alone covers almost all of this. India is home to the greatest number of impoverished children on Earth.
  2. Children are more likely to live in extreme poverty than adults. A recent study conducted by the World Bank Group and UNICEF, titled “Ending Extreme Poverty: A Focus on Children,” found that children are disproportionately affected by extreme poverty. Despite making up only a third of the studied population, children accounted for half of the extremely poor. Children are roughly 50% more likely to live in extreme global poverty than adults.
  3. Children are also most damaged by the effects of living in extreme poverty. The development of the body and mind is stunted when a child is deprived of basic needs. Children in extreme poverty generally lack more resources than others in extreme poverty as well, a deadly combination. As UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake puts it, “They are the worst off of the worst off.”
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged millions more Indian children into poverty. Globally, 150 million additional children have been pushed into poverty since the start of the pandemic. Since India accounts for 30% of children in extreme global poverty, this means that as many as (or even greater than) 45 million more children in India have been impoverished in the last several months.
  5. The United States government is fighting child poverty in India. The United States Agency for International Development has made it a priority to fight child malnourishment and death in India. In the last 30 years, USAID funding has helped save the lives of more than 2 million Indian children by providing resources for extremely impoverished children.
  6. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) around the world are saving the lives of Indian children as well. Save the Children, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending extreme child poverty across the globe, is one organization that has prevented poverty-related death for children in India. Thanks to their efforts in providing resources to India’s poor, they have lifted more than 86,000 children from poverty.

While extreme child poverty in India continues to cost Indian children their lives every day, the situation is improving significantly thanks to these global efforts. In order to continue these efforts and eradicate child poverty from India, further funding for poverty-fighting programs, both current and new, will be necessary.

Asa Scott 
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in South SudanSouth Sudan, a country in East Africa, gained independence in 2011. This gave more power and opportunities to women. However, women continue to face struggles due to gender inequality. Therefore, women’s rights in South Sudan is a prevalent issue as the country works toward incorporating gender equality in the country’s development.

Gender Inequality in Education

Schools are a prominent place where gender inequality occurs in South Sudan. This is proven by the difference between the literacy rates of girls, which is 40%, and boys, which is 60%. According to the World Bank, about seven girls for every 10 boys are in primary education and around five girls for every 10 boys attend secondary school. Additionally, as of 2013, a total of 500 girls in South Sudan attended the final grade of secondary school. Moreover, around 12% of teachers in the country are female, which only strengthens gender inequality in education.

To address gender disparities in education, in 2012, South Sudan received grants from the Global Partnership for Education and The United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Through these grants, UNICEF Sudan ran the Global Partnership for Education Program. The Program aims to improve the overall education system by encouraging gender sensitivity and taking measures to prevent gender-based violence in a classroom setting. Additionally, South Sudan plans to build 25 girl-friendly schools in the most disadvantaged regions with the purpose of benefiting 3,000 girls. The Program will give teachers training on gender sensitivity and gender-based violence. Furthermore, South Sudan will implement a new curriculum to further remove barriers to education for girls with the focus of developing solidarity. The updated curriculum will also provide newly written textbooks.

Gender Disparities for Health in South Sudan

Gender disparity is a significant issue in healthcare affecting women’s rights in South Sudan. The WHO categorized South Sudan’s health crisis as the “highest level of humanitarian emergency” in 2014. As of 2015, the maternal mortality ratio was 730 deaths per 100,000 live births. Violence in South Sudan widely limits access to healthcare since international NGOs supply over 80% of the country’s healthcare. Outbreaks of fighting often lead to the destruction of health centers and the cessation of medical centers, especially since medical professionals may be forced to seek refuge in another location. Furthermore, women are often disproportionately impacted by the vulnerability of South Sudan’s healthcare system. Because women tend to be the primary source of care for their families during a time of crisis, while men are on the frontline, they often delay seeking medical attention to avoid leaving their children alone. Therefore, providing greater access to healthcare for women would improve the health of families as a whole.

Gender-Based Violence in South Sudan

Gender-based violence is another challenge women in South Sudan face. An estimated 475,000 women and girls in the country are at risk of violence. Additionally, over half of women aged 15 to 24 have endured gender-based violence. South Sudanese women who have experienced violence also tend to be impacted by stigma, which is a barrier to receiving proper care. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) aims to work with the South Sudan government, along with the Global Fund and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to support women by targeting gender based-violence through support programs.

Awareness of women’s rights issues in South Sudan is a step toward improving the overall quality of life of women in the country. Gender disparity affects many aspects of women’s lives in South Sudan, including education, health and risks of violence.  Therefore, addressing issues disproportionately affecting women in South Sudan is imperative.

– Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

How Agriculture is Ending Poverty in IndonesiaIndonesia has struggled with poverty since the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s. However, the rate of poverty has been steadily decreasing over the years. In 1999, Indonesia’s poverty rate was a staggering 24%. In 2013, it had dropped to 11.4% and in 2019, it stood at 9.4%. Below are the ways agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia.

Palm Oil Production in Indonesia: Providing Jobs and Alleviating Poverty

Palm oil is one of the most commonly used vegetable oils around the world and is found in half of grocery store items. Its popularity has skyrocketed globally since 1990, with global consumption growing from 14 million tons in 1990 to 63 million tons in 2015, 80% of which is supplied by Indonesia. After the Asian Financial Crisis, millions of Indonesians relied on the palm oil industry to relieve poverty. Between the years 2001 and 2010, 10 million Indonesians saw relief from poverty directly from working in the palm oil industry.

In 2017, 3.8 million Indonesians were working in the palm oil industry. Today,  17 million Indonesians rely on the palm oil industry for work, and 7% of Indonesia’s land is used for its production. Palm oil agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia because it directly helps farmers in rural areas. Indonesia’s rural areas are most affected by poverty. However, by maintaining and increasing funding for palm oil production, families living in these rural regions can lift themselves out of poverty.

Indonesia’s COVID-19 Farmer Support

Farmers in Indonesia play a significant role in stabilizing the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Agriculture saw the necessity of supporting the many farmers of Indonesia—who make up 30% of the population—by providing necessities such as seeds and fertilizer.

The government is also providing 34 trillion Indonesian Rupiahs, or $2,284,494,000, in loan subsidies. The 2.7 million farmers also received 300,000 Indonesian Rupiahs, or $20, which is typically one week of wages, for three months.

USAID: Partnering with Local Farmers

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partners with farmers in Indonesia to help build a better livelihood, reduce poverty and help the economy. USAID ensures that farmers have a consistent supply of necessary resources needed to produce food at a high quality. This food security ensures that people see long-term benefits and avoid issues of malnutrition, weakened immune systems and cognitive health issues. At the same time, USAID is committed to achieving these goals in an environmentally-friendly way.

In its 2019 Annual Report, USAID clarified how its assistance with agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia. USAID gained 2.9 hectares of farmland, which supports the livelihood of 11,400 people. Rubber farmers also received training on environmental sustainability and reducing the risk of forest fires, which have reduced by 74%. Additionally, 30% of farmers are now producing government-certified rubber products at a higher quality, which have increased in price from $0.50/kg to $0.80/kg. In addition, productivity has increased by 2.5%. USAID is focused on long-term goals and is expected to acquire 100 million hectares of forest land by 2030.

Agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia at such a high rate because the agriculture industry is most effective at raising incomes compared to other industries. In a 2016 study by the World Bank, 65% of impoverished workers were able to make a living by working in agriculture The agriculture industry has made great efforts to eradicate poverty in Indonesia. Improvements in the practices of agriculture have correlated in better incomes and lifestyles for farmers, and are projected to steadily increase.

—Karena Korbin
Photo: Flickr