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7 Facts About Poverty in Yemen
Yemen demonstrates extremely poor standards of life expectancy, education and overall living. Yemen’s ongoing political unrest has been a major cause of the country’s poverty. Regardless of the cause, poverty in Yemen is frightening. Here are seven facts about poverty in Yemen.

7 Facts About Poverty in Yemen

  1. Even prior to its political instability, Yemen was already the poorest country in the region spanning the Middle East to North Africa. It exhibits the lowest rank on the Human Development Index (HDI) among Arab states. Yemen also ranks 178 out of 189 countries on the HDI.
  2. The U.N. estimates that approximately 80 percent of Yemenis are vulnerable to hunger. About 14.3 million are in need of medical assistance to combat malnutrition along with other issues. Starvation, cholera, measles and dengue fever are some of the main culprits. Roughly two million children in Yemen are in immediate need of medical help because of acute malnutrition.
  3. Poverty in Yemen contributes to its remarkably high infant mortality rate of 55.4 deaths under age 5 per 1,000 births. To compare, the United States has a healthier infant mortality rate of 5.8 deaths per 1,000 births. Malnutrition contributes in large part to this statistic.
  4. Almost 18 million Yemeni citizens simply have no access to clean water. UNICEF reports that only around 30 percent of the population uses piped drinking water services. Contaminated water results in many infant deaths. UNICEF does its best to keep this issue to a minimum in Yemen. It maintains the operational water supply systems in Yemen. It also monitors and disinfects the water supply in urban areas and provides WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) humanitarian aid to displaced Yemeni citizens.
  5. Consistent waves in currency depreciation continue to chip away at Yemen’s economy. As a result, inflation threatens and terrorizes the economy and its consumers. It also exacerbates this humanitarian crisis. The Yemeni rial, the official currency of Yemen, lost 75 percent of its value in the past four years. With a GDP of around $27 billion, Yemen must rely on humanitarian aid.
  6. As poverty in Yemen continues to worsen, about two million children remain out of school. Unfortunately, this is due to a lack of teachers and schooling facilities. Without an educated population, Yemen will continue its impoverished conditions. Thankfully, UNICEF secured approximately $70 million for cash incentives for teachers in Yemen. In its efforts, UNICEF also provided access to education for more than 200,000 Yemeni children through the reconstruction of 18 schools and 218 school latrines.
  7. Such a blow to the economy devastated Yemeni citizens on an individual level as well. The World Bank reports that more than 40 percent of households lost their main source of income, placing people under the poverty line. The country is struggling to lift its people out of impoverished conditions. However, the World Bank has several large- scale emergency grants dedicated to Yemen during its crisis. These grants will work with health and nutrition as well as electricity and agriculture.
Poverty in Yemen stems from a range of unfortunate events, primarily its state of political instability under Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Such instability affects sanitation, infrastructure, economy and medical assistance. These seven facts about poverty in Yemen demonstrate areas of weakness where humanitarian aid can effectively assist. Organizations like UNICEF and the U.N. are already doing their part in the pursuit of aiding and providing for not only Yemen but many countries in similar situations. With UNICEF and the U.N.’s help, Yemen has a better chance of sustaining itself.

Colin Crawford
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Djibouti
The life expectancy of a country deeply intertwines with various factors, such as economic status, living conditions and nutrition.  People living within these countries often find themselves short on food, stable living conditions and consistent employment which may lead to a higher mortality rate.  These 10 facts about life expectancy in Djibouti will show the myriad of factors playing into Djibouti’s low life expectancy, and how NGOs and Djibouti’s government are making a difference in the region.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Djibouti

  1. Djibouti’s life expectancy is 66.81 years as of 2019. Djibouti’s death rate is 7.5 deaths per 1,000 people while its birth rate is 23.3 births per 1,000. While Djibouti’s life expectancy is dramatically lower than the global average of 72 years, 66.81 years is a 0.4 percent improvement from 2018.
  2. Djibouti’s life expectancy ranks 191 out of 223 countries, putting it on the lower end of worldwide life expectancies. Diabetes may cause many deaths and general disabilities in Djibouti, which causes the most death and disability of any disease.  This goes hand in hand with malnutrition, which also causes the most death and disability in Djibouti combined.
  3. Djibouti receives 90 percent of its food as imports, which is because of the arid conditions in the region that makes successful agriculture difficult. This, in turn, causes food insecurity to be a major problem, as 62 percent of the rural population has inadequate access to nutritious food.  However, malnutrition rates have dropped from 18 percent in 2015 to 7.5 percent in 2016.
  4. Sixty-two percent of rural Djiboutians have insufficient access to healthy food.  In order to counteract this, the World Food Programme and the Government of Djibouti teamed up to create the Humanitarian Logistics Hub, a facility built to house large quantities of food and goods for the Horn of Africa region.  The Humanitarian Logistics Hub can store 25,000 metric tons of food, making access to nutritious food easier for the Horn of Africa region.
  5. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been a force for good in Djibouti. IFAD has spearheaded multiple projects devoted to the betterment of Djibouti. One of these projects is the Programme for the Mobilisation of Surface Water and Sustainable Land Management which began in 2007.  This project intended to develop the Djibouti Ministry of Agriculture and local communities’ abilities to manage natural resources in a more effective manner and give practiced guidelines that would help spread clean surface water to local communities as well as guidelines for sustainable land management. IFAD considered this project a success and ended in 2013.
  6. Djibouti’s GDP (which is $5,307 per capita) should increase by 7 percent in 2019 with much of the economic growth coming from transportation and logistics due to the Port of Djibouti’s importance in the region. None of the countries with a GDP per capita around $50,000 have a life expectancy below 74 years. Conversely, no country with a GDP per capita around $500 has a life expectancy above 64 years.
  7. Djibouti’s drinking water sources are among the most modernized and widespread of all the nations in the Horn of Africa with 97.4 percent of the urban population having access to improved water sources (i.e protected springs, rainwater collection, tap water, etc.) Only 64.7 percent of the rural population has access to these water sources, though, which is due to the droughts that have plagued the country since 2009. This has effectively eliminated surface water in some rural areas. There is hope, however, as the IFAD’s ongoing project, the Soil and Water Management Programme is working towards ensuring that rural households gain access to sustainable sources of water. It intends to add to the network of hydraulic structures that the previous program implemented.
  8. Only 51.8 percent of Djiboutians have access to electricity. Much of the urban population (67.4 percent) has access to electricity and a paltry two percent of rural areas have access to electricity. However, Djibouti does have options in the form of renewable energy, primary in the form of wind, geothermal and solar.  Djibouti’s rural areas having inadequate access to electricity is because of the uneven distribution of energy resources.  The country can rectify this with power grid integration, however.
  9. Most people living in Djibouti are between the ages of 0-14 (30.71 percent) and 25-54 (39.63 percent) with less than 5 percent making it to the 55-64 age range. As of 2017, Djibouti’s most frequent cause of death is HIV/AIDS followed by heart disease and lower respiratory infections.  As of 2016, Djibouti has a Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ) of 35.0 which is a massive increase from the 24.3 HAQ in 2000.
  10. Only 47.4 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities while 52.6 percent of the Djiboutian population have unimproved sanitation facilities. Waterborne illnesses like hepatitis A, hepatitis E and typhoid fever thrive in areas of low sanitation, as they often spread when fecal matter and waste come into contact with drinking water. To combat this, USAID has enacted the Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) project that aims to educate the Djiboutian public on important hygiene practices, along with modernizing boreholes and ring-wells in more rural areas to prevent water contamination.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Djibouti show that while Djibouti has many issues contributing towards its abnormally low life expectancy, none of these issues are insurmountable.  What Djibouti lacks in resources it more than makes up for with its favorable geographic location that makes it a hub of local and international maritime trade.

An in-depth look at these 10 facts about life expectancy in Djibouti makes it plain as day that Djibouti can and will overcome the factors hindering the population’s low life expectancy.  Djibouti’s GDP increases every day thanks to its bustling port that provides jobs and goods; the Humanitarian Logistics Hub is a step in the right direction for Djiboutian nutrition and its water sources are second to none. Djibouti has shown that with a little help from NGOs and government agencies like the IFAD and USAID, it can become a thriving maritime hub where no man, woman or child goes hungry, thirsty or destitute.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

BARKA Foundation

Burkina Faso is a small, land-locked country located in western Africa. Due to recurring droughts and the lack of efficient infrastructure, access to clean water remains an issue in Burkina Faso, especially during the dry winter months when two of the country’s three rivers dry up. In addition to water scarcity, many areas still do not have the sanitation facilities necessary to ensure drinking water is clean and safe. An organization called the BARKA Foundation is working to change that.

Barka is an African word meaning gratitude, blessing and reciprocity. These three words embody the mission of the BARKA Foundation, an American non-profit that strives to bring clean water to all parts of Burkina Faso. In 2015, 93.3 percent of the rural population and 80.3 percent of the total population did not have improved sanitation facility access. Nearly half the country still lives without clean water. Dirty water can spread diarrheal diseases and other infections to the public. Below are descriptions of the BARKA Foundation’s current clean water projects, and the positive effects these projects have had on communities in Burkina Faso.

WASH

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (WASH) is a long-term initiative that not only supplies rural villages with clean water but also educates the villagers on important sanitation and water purification practices. The goal here is sustainability. By giving village members lifelong sanitation skills, BARKA can be confident that their positive impact will continue after they have left. WASH objectives include digging wells, building latrines and educating members of the community.

Part of what makes the BARKA Foundation special is its culturally sensitive and community-based approach to clean water. Before any project starts, BARKA makes sure it is in accordance with the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). This principle ensures that all beneficiary communities agree to the non-profit’s presence and initiatives, have the right to negotiate the terms of the agreement and can withdraw consent at any time.

BARKA also makes a point of developing sustained personal relationships with each village, so the two groups can develop trust and collaborate effectively. The foundation establishes water and sanitation committees in each town, which are run by the villagers and must be made up of equal parts men and women. These principles are central to WASH’s desire to create a sustainable system of clean water and sanitation. So far, more than 25,000 rural villages have been improved by WASH. The organization has drilled 6 wells and built 14 bathrooms in 5 primary schools in rural areas.

Social Art

BARKA recognizes the cultural importance of song, dance and performance in Burkina Faso. Therefore, to engage village members, the BARKA Foundation uses theater to relay information to the public. These performances involve a portable stage along with light and sound equipment. The plays often contain themes such as female empowerment and sustainable agriculture. After a performance, the audience and the actors on stage have a lively debate where questions may be asked or points challenged. The goal is to create an immersive and interactive learning experience in which everyone can participate.

The adult literacy rate in Burkina Faso is only 34.6 percent. For this reason, engaging and participatory education is extremely important in rural areas. BARKA wants to get the necessary information out there in an effective way that does not exclude illiterate members of society. BARKA has involved 10,023 people in villages and public performances to date, benefiting more than 16,000 people. The average audience size per performance is 432 people.

Walk for Water

A great way for people in their home countries to get involved with the BARKA Foundation is to do a Walk for Water. When there are no wells close by, villagers must travel to a water source to fill up heavy jugs of water and lug them home. The chore typically falls on the shoulders of women and girls in the village, so they usually have to attend to small children while making the journey. Often, those going to get water are barefoot or equipped with poor footwear. This practice is physically tiring and time-consuming and takes time away from girls’ education.

Walks for Water are an imitation of this daily burden. Classrooms, schools and clubs raise money and awareness by carrying water jugs and walking for a set distance (usually 6 kilometers). The fundraiser engages the entire community and is a great way to get everyone involved in an important cause.

Ceramic Filters

Ceramic water filters are a cheap, environmentally sustainable and generally effective way to purify household water. The CDC found that people who used ceramic filters were 60 to 70 percent less likely to contract diarrheal diseases from their drinking water. While these filters are useful for removing most protozoa and bacterial pathogens, they are typically not as effective at removing viruses. For this reason, filters should not be considered a long-term solution but rather an important step.

The BARKA Foundation uses a “cross-subsidization” model to distribute filters to impoverished areas. Essentially, BARKA sells the filters to NGOs and the Burkinabe middle class that can afford them. They then use those profits to distribute ceramic filters to poor areas, often visiting rural villages with little to no sanitation facility access. These filters represent a simple and effective way to ensure every household has at least some method of water purification.

The Future of Clean Water in Burkina Faso

Although the federal government recognized the importance of clean water distribution with the Water Act in 2001, Burkina Faso’s local governments largely do not have the money or resources to maintain filtered water and sanitation practices. The BARKA Foundation seeks to fill these gaps, and its efforts have no doubt resulted in success on the ground.

While it can be difficult to quantify exactly how much improvement BARKA has brought about, they are headed in the right direction. In 2005, a year before BARKA was founded, the life expectancy in Burkina Faso was 53.3 years. Today, the country’s life expectancy is about 61 years. BARKA’s various projects will continue to fight poverty by bringing clean, safe and sustainable water to Burkina Faso.

Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Water and Sanitation in Nepal

The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, or Nepal, is a landlocked South Asian country located mainly in the Himalayas and between China and India. Nepal is the third poorest country in Asia with a GDP per capita of $2,690. Around 21 percent of Nepal’s 29.3 million residents live below the poverty line which is the equivalent of 50 cents per day. Poverty has been a contributing factor to the nation’s long-standing issues securing clean drinking water and proper sanitation. However, Nepal has made tremendous progress increasing its population’s access to improved water sources to 91.6 percent in 2015 compared to 65.9 percent in 1990.

Background

Still, while more people have access to improved drinking water, the quality of the water remains alarming. In 2014, 81.2 percent of household drinking water from improved water sources and 89.6 percent from unimproved water sources tested positive for fecal contamination.

Thirty-seven percent of Nepal’s rural areas practice open defecation. This is a huge decline from 93 percent in 1990. Open defecation perpetuates a cycle of disease, poor sanitation and poverty. Exposure to human waste through open defecation and fecal contamination in drinking water leads to waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid and trachoma. Children under 5 are especially susceptible to increased health issues, stunting and even death due to these diseases. Since the end of 2017, 47 of Nepal’s 75 districts have eliminated open defecation which is great progress. Nepal aims to soon be entirely free of open defecation with universal sanitation and improved hygiene.

Sixty-two percent of households in Nepal use an improved sanitation facility compared to only six percent in 1990. This is substantial progress, but there is still more to do to secure improved sanitation in Nepal. Twenty percent of Nepal’s public schools lack improved water and sanitation facilities and 19 percent lack separate toilets for girls and menstrual hygiene management facilities.

Uncontrolled industry discharge, domestic waste and untreated sewage flowing into Nepal’s bodies of water have worsened the water and sanitation crises in Nepal. The 2015 earthquakes also destroyed many of Nepal’s clean water systems and networks.

Nepal’s National Water and Sanitation Goals

The Government of Nepal set the national goal of providing 100 percent of the population with basic water and sanitation services by 2017. Nepal created around 40,000 water schemes to achieve these goals. Its first priority project is the Melamchi Water Supply Project that transfers water from the Indrawati River Basin to the Bagmati River Basin to provide clean drinking water for the people of Kathmandu. The Bagmati Area Physical Infrastructure Project is another big project that aims to clean and save the Bagmati River and its Kathmandu tributaries to become a source of clean water.

Efforts to Improve Water and Sanitation in Nepal

USAID’s Safaa Paani (WASH Recovery) project helps improve sustainable drinking water in the two districts where the 2015 earthquakes disrupted water systems the most—the Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha Districts. From 2015 to 2019, the Safaa Paani project is collaborating with Nepal’s Department of Water Supply and Sewage and other stakeholders to lead the reconstruction of water and sanitation infrastructure in Nepal. Its key outcomes are to renovate or construct water supply systems for 200 communities, map water sources, conduct microbial water quality tests, create water safety plans and create 10 public latrines in public areas.

UNICEF’s WASH intervention programs for Nepal are also multifaceted. These programs work to improve access to safe water at schools and health care facilities, strengthen water safety with regulations and plans, develop strategies to ensure clean water and sanitation to unreached areas and support the government to develop new WASH legislation. They emphasize gender equality by gender-friendly sanitation facilities and by promoting proper menstrual hygiene. UNICEF credits its programs successes to intersectoral collaboration.

The nonprofit Splash supports 101,149 kids daily to receive clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene programs in Nepal through sites in the city of Kathmandu’s 500 public schools. It focuses on water filtration purification, improving sanitation with safe and secure toilets, hygiene education and behavioral change. Splash helps improve water and sanitation in urban areas of Nepal by leveraging existing markets.

Overall, Nepal and various nonprofits have made rapid strides to improve water and sanitation in Nepal. The country has made progress in increasing the access to clean water and sanitation facilities as well as eliminating open defecation in many areas. This momentum of progress must continue to address Nepal’s remaining water and sanitation issues. The intersectoral collaboration of NGOs, the Nepalis, the Government of Nepal and businesses will continue to address these issues and reach towards improvements in water and sanitation in Nepal.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Health care in Yemen

Yemen is currently in the midst of a violent civil war. The war has had a destabilizing effect on Yemen’s health care system. The Yemeni people face high rates of malnutrition, a cholera epidemic and a lack of access to necessary medical resources. This article provides 10 facts about health care in Yemen, the war’s effect on health care and the role of foreign aid in addressing the country’s health problems.

10 Facts About Health Care in Yemen

  1. Because medical facilities in Yemen lack access to necessary resources like clean water, diseases that are treatable elsewhere become deadly. Approximately 80 percent of Yemeni people are malnourished, forced to drink unclean water and cannot afford health care, making them more susceptible to diphtheria, cholera and other diseases. The current civil war has also been greatly destructive to infrastructure and health care in Yemen.
  2. Bombing frequently damages hospitals in Yemen and it is difficult for hospitals to maintain electricity and running water in the midst of airstrikes. Continuous fighting leaves little time to address structural damage and meet the needs of the Yemeni people. Families are often required to bring the sick and injured to hospitals without the aid of ambulances. All but one of Yemen’s 22 provinces are affected by fighting.
  3. Within less than a year of fighting in Yemen, airstrikes hit 39 hospitals. Troops from both sides of the conflict blocked outside access to the country, preventing the flow of medicine needed to treat diseases, such as cholera. This puts the Yemeni people, especially children, at risk; 144 children die from treatable diseases daily and more than 1 million children are starving or malnourished.
  4. Yemen’s rural populations lack easy access to hospitals and medical care. Rural facilities, such as those in the northern mountains, cannot provide adequate food to patients. The lack of food in many hospitals prevents successful treatment of malnourishment.
  5. The cholera epidemic began in Yemen in 2016, a year after the beginning of the civil war. By 2017, the disease spread rapidly. In 2019, cholera is still a serious problem in the country. It caused 2,500 deaths in Yemen within the first five months of 2019.
  6. Nearly one million cases of cholera were reported by the end of 2017. Yemen’s cholera outbreak is more severe than any other outbreak of the disease since 1949. Poor water filtration and sanitation triggered the outbreak’s severity.
  7. Around 80 percent of Yemen’s population, including 12 million children, require aid. During the first half of 2019, cases of cholera in children rose dramatically. 109,000 cases of cholera in children were reported between January and March of 2019. Nearly 35 percent of these cases were found in children below the age of 5.
  8. Between 2015 and 2018, Doctors Without Borders provided aid to 973,000 emergency room patients in Yemen. Volunteers for Doctors Without Borders treated about 92,000 patients injured by violence related to the war, treated 114,646 cases of cholera and treated 14,370 cases of malnutrition. Doctors Without Borders provides vital support to the health care system in Yemen.
  9. USAID cooperates with UNICEF and WHO to provide health care aid to Yemen, with a special emphasis on the health of mothers, infants and children. In 2017, USAID trained 360 health care workers at 180 facilities to treat child health problems. The facilities also received necessary resources from USAID. They also work with the U.N. Development Program to improve working conditions throughout Yemen, including the health care sector.
  10. During the 2018-19 fiscal year, USAID provided $720,854,296 in aid to Yemen. This aid funded a variety of projects, such as repaired water stations to ensure improved access to clean water. The U.S. also funds WASH, a program intended to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene. The ultimate goal of WASH is to improve health care in Yemen, especially for the rural poor.

Yemen’s health care system is in dire need of aid. The country’s government, overwhelmed by war, cannot serve the medical needs of its people, especially in light of the ongoing cholera epidemic. The efforts of USAID and other relief organizations can provide the support that Yemen’s health care system needs at this time.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

period poverty in India

Period poverty is often described as a lack of access to menstrual education and sanitary products. With 800 million women and girls menstruating daily, this is a subject that concerns half the population around the world. However, the issue is particularly prevalent in India where only 42 percent of women have access to sanitary pads. What is being done to alleviate this common problem? Here are the top five facts about period poverty in India.

Top Five Facts About Period Poverty in India

  1. Increased risk of disease: In India, an estimated 70 percent of all reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. Women often use dirty rags as a replacement for sanitary pads. Even rags that are cleaned can still develop bacteria if not dried properly. Furthermore, 63 million adolescent girls in India, do not have access to a toilet in their homes. Without a clean and private space to change menstrual products, girls are less likely to properly manage their own hygiene
  2. Cultural stereotypes have a huge impact: Menstruation in India is often seen as a shameful conversation. Studies estimate that 71 percent of girls have no knowledge about menstrual health until after their first period. Women are often described as “dirty” while menstruating and are commonly separated in the home when dining, praying or participating in other activities. Some studies suggest that this is due to gender norms that become more prevalent at puberty. In addition, there is no required curriculum surrounding menstrual health in school.
  3. The high cost of sanitation facilities: Third on the list for the top five facts about period poverty in India is the expense of menstrual products. Approximately 70.62 million people in India live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 dollars per day. The average Indian woman needs 300 rupees ($4.20) per month for menstrual products. For low-income households, the cost of sanitary pads is often unattainable. Furthermore, Since most adolescents do not have access to toilets at home, girls are more likely to pay for restrooms in public, which is another unaffordable expense.
  4. Period poverty in India affects education: On average, girls miss six days of class each month due to shame surrounding their periods or a lack of sanitary products. This contributes to the number of girls in India who drop out of school each year, around 23 percent. Girls that leave school are stunted in their careers and are more likely to become child brides. India has the highest number of child brides in the world, with 15.5 million children being married by the age of 18.
  5. Removal of taxes: While some parts of period poverty seem daunting, other parts seem hopeful. In 2017, the Indian government labeled menstrual products as luxury goods. Quickly after the announcement of the new tax, the public gathered to campaign against it. In July of 2018, the government removed the tax, thus making sanitary products more accessible to low-income households.

Working to Improve Conditions

The good news doesn’t end with the removal of taxes. Many positive strides have been taken to address the issues of period poverty. Binti is one organization in India (as well as 11 other countries) aiming to minimize the issue. The nonprofit is fighting for menstrual equality through education, distribution of sanitary products and government advocacy. The World Bank and WASH partnered together to create Menstrual Hygiene Day to spread awareness about the importance of sanitary products for women and girls around the world.

Documentaries have also aided in global education surrounding period poverty. For example, “Period. End of Sentence.” partnered with Action India (a nonprofit aiming to create gender equality) to create a documentary about the situation. The Netflix original was successful in fundraising enough money to install a vending machine of menstrual products in Hapur, India. It was also awarded an Oscar for “best documentary short film, gaining public recognition for its efforts.

Ultimately, when looking at the top five facts about period poverty in India, one can see it is a very prevalent issue. Menstrual inequality is often caused by shame around the conversation as well as the high cost of feminine products. This creates challenges in education and an increased risk of disease. However, many positive strides are being made, and governments are starting to see that this is a cause worth advocating for.

Anna Melnik

Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty
With pertinent issues like gender-based violence and discrimination coming to the forefront, period poverty is becoming a key aspect of fighting gender inequality globally. Period poverty, another key facet that one can classify as the feminization of poverty, is the inaccessibility and lack of adequate menstrual hygiene products and supplies for women and girls.

The Status Quo of Period Poverty

Even though period poverty is a significant issue to tackle, unlike other women’s issues and struggles, the stigma attached to period and menstruation remains a rather strong barrier to remediating the problem. In May 2018, the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) reported on the menstrual stigma and taboo in East and Southern Africa, highlighting impacts like women’s health risks and human rights violations.

Among developing countries, in particular, the stigma against menstruation deeply entrenches in culture and religion as the taboo regarding periods has been a long-term stigma for many years. The patriarchal dominance that continues to exist among communities across the world is aggravating the problem further.

For example, countries like Nepal still practice Chhaupadi, which is a regressive yet common practice where women must confine themselves to a specific part of the house during their menstrual cycle. Furthermore, over 60 percent of teachers in Sri Lanka perceived menstrual blood as impure in some way. Women and girls in sub-Saharan African countries also face the impacts of this issue.

Impacts on Education

Most importantly, period poverty can be a major social impediment to girl’s education as young girls from poorer social-economic backgrounds often miss a lot of school as they face difficulties in coping with their cycle.

According to a 2014 study conducted by UNESCO, one in every 10 girls face menstrual problems and have to miss out on school. Often women and girls use mud, leaves, paper and animal skins to stem menstrual flow as resources are often scarce. In countries like Sri Lanka, pads and other sanitary products often receive a heavy tax, despite the fact that the taxation on menstrual products has decreased to around 63 percent in recent years.

Current Progress and Initiatives

Yet, more recently, in a revolutionary move, India’s Supreme Court was proud to declare a renouncement of the ban on menstruating women, citing not only its constitutional immorality but also the religious and social constraints it imposes on women. The announcement stated that the state had the duty to protect and safeguard the rights and freedoms of women.

Additionally, Alstons Marketing Company Limited (AMCO) recently embarked on the End Poverty Initiative to distribute over 115,000 pads to girls in Trinidad and Tobago. The Kenyan government is offering assistance to girls by subsiding menstrual hygiene products and removing the imposition of the VAT (Value Added Tax).

The U.K. has additionally launched a global fund to eliminate period poverty by the year 2050. The government is pledging over 2 million pounds to aid international organizations and assist in other global initiatives to tackle the stigma associated with menstruation and the period taboo.

As advocacy and awareness-building remain pivotal, May 28 is now Menstrual Hygiene Day. Globally, organizations like Period Equity are helping to bridge the gaps and make menstrual hygiene and care more affordable.

Community-based initiatives and grassroots activities may be a long-term solution to the problem. The provision of WASH services is also essential as it ensures greater menstrual hygiene and will eliminate health risks among communities by monitoring waste management systems and building functional toilets.

Preventing the debilitation of period poverty is of paramount importance for future social development and progress to improve the overall status of women. It will help solve other associated issues like girl’s education, mobility and health care and ensure greater participation of women in the economy and the workforce.

– Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid Helps Ethiopia

Though Ethiopia is still one of the world’s poorest countries, its poverty rate has been cut in half. Initially, more than 50 percent of the population living below the poverty line. This has since been reduced to about 25 percent. In the last 20 years, Ethiopia’s gross domestic product has risen from $8 billion to $80 billion. How did the once third-poorest country in the world do this?

Highly dependent on foreign aid, Ethiopia has received $3.5 billion in assistance in recent years from countries like Germany and the United Kingdom. The United States recently launched a 5-year, $40 million program, the Health Financing Improvement Program. This U.S. launched this program to invest in increasing Ethiopia’s ability to provide quality and affordable health care to its citizens. And it’s a prime example of how foreign aid helps Ethiopia. This investment will improve efforts to support maternal health, AIDS prevention and care, malaria treatment, nutrition and WASH. Programs like this have helped Ethiopia’s poverty rate fall from 44 percent to 30 percent in just over 10 years.

Below are some ways investment and foreign aid helps Ethiopia reduce extreme poverty.

Fast-Growing Economy

Many people think of Ethiopia as a country riddled with poverty. However, Ethiopia possesses one of the fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa as of 2018. In the last decade alone, Ethiopia witnessed an average economic growth of 10 percent. This growth is due to public investments in infrastructure, agriculture and education, combined with foreign aid.

Agriculture

Forty-three percent of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product comes from agriculture. Foreign aid helps Ethiopia and its agriculture sector through different programs. Feed the Future is one such program, focusing on food security and connecting vulnerable peoples to markets. Other ways foreign aid helps Ethiopia is through strengthening sustainable natural resources and watershed management, adapting to climate change and improving food and nutrition security.

Health

Foreign aid also improves health Ethiopia, which struggles with nutrition and disease. Improvements in the health sector include slashing the mortality rate of children under five by two-thirds. Similarly, between 2004 and 2017, AIDS-related deaths have dropped from 83,000 to 15,000. This focus on health reduced the fertility rate from 7.0 to 4.6 children per woman between the years 1995 and 2011. This is crucial because high fertility rates contribute to stillbirth and mortality rates. While nutrition and food security are still problems in Ethiopia, malnourishment fell from 75 percent to 35 percent from the 1990s to 2012.

Education

According to the World Bank, Ethiopia was one of the most educationally disadvantaged countries in the 20th century. This was mostly due to low access to schooling. But with the help of foreign aid, Ethiopia’s primary school enrollment rates have doubled over 10 years. Foreign aid has improved curriculum, teaching, school inspections and teaching methods. Additionally, Ethiopia has seen an improvement in the number of textbooks and other materials available.

During the creation of the United States Agency for International Development, former President John F. Kennedy said, “There is no escaping our obligations: our moral obligations as a wise leader and good neighbor in the interdependent community of free nations – our economic obligations as the wealthiest people in a world of largely poor people, as a nation no longer dependent upon the loans from abroad that once helped us develop our own economy – and our political obligations as the single largest counter to the adversaries of freedom.”

And this statement still holds true today. Powerful countries like the U.S. and China prosper, but countries like Ethiopia are still disadvantaged. Foreign aid helps Ethiopia, improving many lives, but there is always room for improvement.

Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Faecal Sludge and SeptageIn 2010, the U.N. formally recognized the human right to clean water and sanitation as crucial to survival, but this recognition only ensures that countries do their best to provide clean water to communities with the resources available. And in some cases, the resources are extremely limited. Although there are strategies being developed to improve these issues, the newly published book “Faecal Sludge and Septage Treatment: A Guide for Low and Middle Income Countries” by Kevin Taylor may be beneficial.

What is Faecal Sludge and Septage?

In order to understand how to help low and middle countries discard waste, it must first be explicitly stated what this waste is and how hazardous it is to the environment. Fecal sludge and septage are the two most abundant and environmentally damaging types of waste excreted by the entire global population. Fecal sludge refers to the excess solids and slurry from the storage of blackwater or excreta. Septage refers to the liquid and solid material pumped from a septage tank or cesspool, containing urine and feces.

When unregulated, fecal sludge and septage are key contributors to environmental pollution. In primarily agricultural societies, such as those in low and middle-income countries, the treatment of sludge is unhygienic because there is no access to proper ways of disposal. Across the globe today, 4.5 billion people lack access to safely managed disposal services of waste. The effects of improper sanitation facilities have extremely harmful impacts on not only the environment but also overall human health.

How Does This Book Help?

Taylor worked alongside the Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to publish the book in order to make it unique from other published books on waste treatment.

This book, in particular, focuses on how to build affordable sanitation facilities for low-income countries, whereas other guides are aimed at building more expensive technologies with resources unavailable to low and middle-income countries. Improper disposal of fecal waste can be life-threatening when it affects water content, and lower income countries often do not have the resources available to prevent contamination.

The overall goal of the book is to break down the process of the sanitation of fecal sludge septage for lower income countries with expanding cities and towns. As a result, the guide is flexible to many different environments and resources. The aim of Taylor, GWSP and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is not only to reverse the damages to health and the environment as a result of improper treatments of waste, but also to stop these problems before they start.

According to worldatlas.com, the top three countries with the lowest access to sanitation facilities are South Sudan with 16 percent of its population having access to improved sanitation facilities, Madagascar with 18 percent and the Republic of Congo with 20 percent. Access to clean water and sanitation is recognized as a human right, though not legally. “Faecal Sludge and Septage Treatment: A Guide for Low and Middle Income Countries” is being published with the goal of helping these countries claim this right because they need help. The book will launch at Stockholm World Water Week on Wednesday, August 29, 2019.

– Sara Devoe
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Madagascar
Even with the 2013 election of a new president that ended a five-year political deadlock, poverty in Madagascar was still a huge problem. Electing Hery Rajaonarimampianina brought fresh hope to the people of Madagascar. However, the National Assembly voted to impeach him after just 18 months of his presidency because they did not feel that he was following through with his campaign promises. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful, but the political situation remains unbalanced. Even though Madagascar has rich soil for crops and a wide variety of wildlife, it has been damaged by years of political turmoil, so poverty remains an ongoing issue.

Political and Economic Instability

If political stability can be restored, it could mean great things for Madagascar. John Stremlau, the vice president of peace programs at the Carter Center in the United States said after the 2013 election, “It has great resources, it has great promise, but it has been hurt by the sanctions that have been in place now for five years. The per capita income is very low, down to less than a dollar a day for 90 percent  of the people, so that this is a new beginning, an opportunity, but the hard work of building a democratic process has only just begun.”

The best way for Madagascar to reduce poverty is by utilizing economic growth. Multiple cities were hit by harsh weather in 2017, which affected agriculture in the areas. Rice crops, a popular trade food and export item, were ruined. The production of rice fell while the price of it increased. While working on repairing the damage from lost crops, the country has increased economically in other ways.

Besides rice, items like cloves, vanilla, cocoa beans and essential oils have flourished, increasing the performance of goods exported to other countries. Economic growth has increased from 4.2 percent to 5.0 percent from 2017 to 2018. With this growth, the country is more likely to achieve its goal of reducing the number of people living below the poverty line by the year 2020. The next step is to provide financial inclusion to those without access to financial services to further ensure the rise out of poverty.

Poverty and Malnutrition

Food poverty affects the children of Madagascar much more than the adults of the country. More than half of Madagascar’s children are chronically malnourished, creating an effect called “stunting”. They are half the size they should be, and some children will not even make it to secondary school, let alone adulthood. Malnutrition damages the body and mind, sometimes irreversibly.

Malnutrition is an increasing concern for parents. “They are seven, they should be much bigger,” says Rasoanandranson, a mother of five children. Her boys at eight years of age resemble five-year-old children. Families grow small quantities of crops rich in nutrients like sweet potato, avocado and maize, but the harvest only lasts two to three months tops. Unfortunately, mothers like Rasoanandranson are eventually forced to sell their food for other much-needed household items, hygiene items an school supplies.

There is still hope for these families and in the near future. In May 2017, the country set out to achieve their goal of reducing malnutrition from 47 percent to 38 percent by 2021. The goal can be achieved by building more nutrition centers and recruiting more volunteers to educate villages on proper nutrition. There is another player to this game that will help fight malnutrition, and that’s clean water and sanitation services.

Hygiene and Sanitation

Poverty in Madagascar has affected the water and sanitation systems as well. More than half of the people in Madagascar do not have sanitation systems or access to clean drinking water. There seems to be plenty of water in the capital city of Antananarivo and other nearby cities, but the water is severely contaminated. Trash lines the edges of rivers and streams, and heavy rains wash away street debris into the water supplies. Waste from households without proper sanitation systems also gets washed away into the water supply.

On top of contaminated water, the piping systems that were previously installed are defective and leak at least 40 percent of clean water. With the population rising, conditions will only worsen; however, volunteers are working improve the piping systems and to educate people about safe water practices and sanitation. They have even started facilities to wash clothing to prevent people from further polluting the river by washing their clothes in it.

Programs like USAID, WaterAid and WASH are trying to improve conditions by first educating the community about food security and environmental programs. Secondly, they plan to improve local, community-based governance of water and sanitation resources. Thirdly, they will roll out a program called Triggering Health Seeking Behavior Change to promote good hygiene at the household levels. The final process is access to credit for the people to microfinance products for clean water and sanitation systems. With all the issues from malnutrition and contaminated water, how is Madagascar’s healthcare?

The Healthcare System in Madagascar

In the capital city Antananarivo, there are public and private hospitals that provide basic medical treatments and small operations. However, for more complex surgeries, patients are transferred to a hospital in South Africa. Although Medical services are actually free to the community, people who can afford it are advised to take out private, international health insurance for situations involving being transferred to a larger hospital for more extensive surgeries.

The most common diseases in Madagascar are malaria, leprosy and tuberculosis. The healthcare system is working to combat these diseases and, going back to the lack of clean water, it is strongly advised that people boil tap water before drinking or using it to cook. Though most of the hospitals are in cities and towns, Christian missionaries run hospitals in rural areas in case some people can not make it to town, but they cannot reach all areas.

Nonprofit organizations and volunteers are currently working to improve access to proper education about nutrition, sanitation and financial stability. Madagascar is on its way to becoming a better country for its people. Hopefully, the political situation will improve, and the government will begin doing its part to end poverty in Madagascar.

– Kayla Cammarota

Photo: Flickr