Black PantherWhen Black Panther graced the big screen in 2018, it altered the landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans marveled at the rise of T’Challa, played by the late Chadwick Boseman. He claimed his birthright amid civil dispute and protected his people from colonization. Fans from every background admired their new hero and shouted “Wakanda Forever” upon leaving the theater.

In the wake of Chadwick Boseman’s death, Black Panther’s influence moved to the forefront of public conversation. At the same time, Marvel fans mourned the loss of their beloved hero and debated possible replacements for the title character, Black Panther-inspired Africa, to reassess its development strategies. Wakanda might be a fictional country, but the World Economic Forum claims it represents a technologically driven and socio-economically responsible vision for Africa.

An Ideal Africa

Wakanda embodies the United Nations 2020 Sustainable Development Goals as it presents an Africa with gender equality, no hunger, no poverty, good health, well-being and clean energy sources. While Africa cannot thrive on the fictional substance of “vibranium,” the World Economic Forum believes it can realize Wakanda’s “4.0 Globalization” by investing in its people, industries and governments. Here are three ways Black Panther is inspiring Africa’s development.

Youth Employment Opportunities

Like Black Panther, African communities see younger people as a developmental asset. T’Challa believed in youth, like his sister Shuri, and the African Development Bank Group does as well.

A 2019 study by the African Development Bank Group found 420 million unemployed young people in Africa, making them a valuable, untapped resource. The World Economic Forum suggested that Africa create over 130 million jobs for young people, doubling the number of opportunities currently available to spur economic growth across the continent. Indeed, the working-age population could increase productivity in industries, ensure economic prosperity and lower poverty rates.

Government Support of SMEs

Wakanda’s economy rivaled that of the most developed countries in our world. Again, “vibranium” will not stabilize African economics as it does not exist. However, the World Economic Forum believes that creating government-backed investment funds might ensure Africa’s economic prosperity.

African governments seem to be getting on board with this plan. They are investing in technological businesses as well as smaller SMEs, like startups. African governments already invested in SMEs within the agricultural industry, like FaLGates rice farms. They also funded healthcare SMEs, like Jamii Africa’s micro-health insurance group.

The World Economic Forum believes that investing in smaller companies could recycle and increase the African nation’s capital. The capital might never meet Wakanda’s gold standard, but it will improve Africa’s poverty rate and stimulate technological advancements.

Protecting Public Interests

Black Panther depicted an idealized version of politics. The film presented T’Challa as a leader who valued his citizens’ feedback and acted on their best interests. However, our political world does not always operate in this way, and corruption often surfaces.

The World Economic Forum claims that one-fourth of Africa’s GDP goes to “disguising” corruption. It suggests that governments become transparent about their programs and practices. Like Wakanda, African governments are fighting corruption and putting their people’s needs first. They are supporting medical programs and clean energy projects.

Black Panther projected a bright future for the African continent: one without poverty, disease or corruption. It also gave hope to a new generation of comic book fans. Chadwick Boseman’s passing once again prompted fans to cry, “Wakanda Forever.” However, Africa’s youth employment opportunities, SME investments and public interest projects will help it realize Wakanda today.

Kyler Juarez
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

gender gap in Latin AmericaRanked the third-highest after Western Europe and North America, Latin America has an average gender gap of 29%. Many Latin American countries are seeing improvements in education, healthcare and shortening the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum in their Gender Gap Report for 2020, Nicaragua was ranked 5th globally, with 80% of its gender gap closed. On the lower-ranking end of the gender gap in Latin America, Guatemala and Belize have closed 66% and 67% of their gap, respectively. While these percentages are promising, the current COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to gender equality.

Looming COVID-19 Crisis

Decades worth of progress toward eliminating the gender gap in Latin American could potentially reach a halt or decline with the impending COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, stay at home orders have caused an increase in domestic violence. A few examples from Latin America expose the enormity of the issue. In Colombia, the domestic violence helpline has risen by 9%, and by 36% in Mexico. Also, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a city in Bolivia, has reported the highest number of cases of both domestic violence and COVID-19. The issue is exacerbated as women avoid reaching out to health services in fear of getting the virus.

The other obstacle COVID-19 leads to is losses in jobs, more specifically, the availability of jobs for women. According to the World Bank’s Gender Dimensions of the COVID-19 Pandemic brief, women engaged in informal work such as self-employment and domestic works are unable to receive unemployment insurance. Since COVID-19 has restricted travel, Latin American countries that depend on retail, hospitality and tourism will see half of their working population lose jobs. Additionally, the effects of COVID-19 will force women to stay at home to care for children and the elderly, thus reducing working time and possibly excluding them from the labor market.

Lastly, the COVID-19 crisis will cause setbacks to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. The shift in resources can interfere with health services for women and girls, including reproductive and sexual health services and family planning. In similar crises, lack of critical resources led to a surge in teen pregnancy and maternal mortality. Although COVID-19 causes a lot of complications surrounding the future of gender equality, there are actions regarding the gender gap in Latin American that governments and institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations can take to continue progressive efforts.

Thus, The World Bank has outlined the following four methods to approach gender equality.

  1. Improving Quality of Life: Latin American countries need to reduce teen pregnancy and maternal mortality, improve water and sanitation services, secure women’s access to healthcare and close educational gaps. The World Bank Group (WBG) supports removing negative gender stereotypes in curriculums and is helping train teachers to create classroom environments that encourage inclusivity. The WBG is also backing programs aimed at supporting girls to enter STEM fields.
  2. Increasing Female Employment: Latin American countries should change gender norms about career choices, provide adequate child care services, create connections for women entrepreneurs and allocate time-saving resources. In Mexico, the WBG partnered with the National Institute of the Entrepreneur to devise and evaluate the institute’s first national program to promote female entrepreneurs, Women Moving Mexico. The pilot was launched in five states and “provided close to 2,000 women with a mix of hard skills (better management and business literacy), and soft skills (behaviors for a proactive entrepreneurial mindset)”.
  3. Removing Barriers to Women’s Financial Independence: The WBG supports efforts to provide land and property titles to women and to increase access to capital and financial services. In partnership with indigenous women’s organizations in Panama, the WBG designed a pilot intervention in six indigenous communities. The pilot supports training designed for indigenous women, technical assistance for women’s producer organizations and financial inclusion through the founding of community banks and financial management training.
  4. Enhancing Women’s Voice & Agency and Engaging Men and Boys: Latin American countries can support gender equality by acknowledging a woman’s right to control her own life. For example, giving women control over income and the capacity to move freely and have a voice in society, including the ability to “influence policy and family formation, and have freedom from violence.”

Bettering COVID-19 Response

The United Nations has also developed a response to the pending COVID-19 and its effect on gender equality. The U.N. seeks to recognize the “impact of COVID-19 on women and girls and ensure a response that addresses their needs and ensures that their rights are central to strengthening prevention, response and recovery efforts.” Institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations make it possible for girls and women in Latin America to aspire for more for themselves in education and career, despite the current setbacks prompted by COVID-19. Within the next couple of years, the gender gap in Latin America could be significantly reduced by promoting women’s rights and giving them access to education and career opportunities.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Covid-19 Crisis
The COVID-19 crisis or coronavirus pandemic continues to grow as the number of global cases rises. With U.S. President Donald Trump approving a fiscal stimulus package of $2.2 trillion, the dire economic ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis grow more significant. Yet, there are disproportionate economic impacts on the world’s poor that highlight the implications of COVID-19 on global poverty.

What the COVID-19 Crisis Means for Global Poverty

Unfortunately, the aftershocks of COVID-19 will destabilize the world economy even further during the beginning of 2020 and beyond. The Asian Development Bank already estimates that the collective global impact of the COVID-19 crisis will be between $77 billion to nearly $347 billion in economic output costs worldwide.

The World Economic Forum calls the COVID-19 crisis a “pandemic in the age of inequality” as it especially impacts countries lacking universal health care or adequate health care systems. Many workers have lost work and are cannot even take paid sick leave of any kind.

“[I] fear hunger will kill us before coronavirus,’’ says Momanned Sabir, a young street entrepreneur in Delhi who owns a yogurt-based drink shop. Her words come in response to the three-week lockdown that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed. Poverty and unemployment impact many daily wage earners and workers in informal and unorganized sectors. This is particularly evident in nationwide lockdowns from India, China, the Philippines, the Middle East and European countries.

Among the 50 countries under the United Nations’ Least-Developed Country Status (LDC), more than 900 million remain vulnerable to the risk of COVID-19. This is due to the poor health care infrastructure and resources to support a large-scale health crisis. Most importantly, many countries continue to be in short supply of testing kits.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for $2 billion to help the world’s poor who have been impacted by COVID-19. World Health Organization director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus implores G20 nations to offer aid and support low and middle-income countries.

Future Course of Action

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharamn has proposed an economic stimulus package for financial relief to women and vulnerable groups. For example, there are welfare systems that distribute free gas cylinders, wheat and rice for up to three months. For women in India’s Jan Dhan banking system, the government offers compensation of 500 rupees for the next three months. In addition, India has issued a bailout package of $22 billion to help cushion the economic impacts of its lockdown, especially as several daily wage and unorganized workers have lost out on work and pay during this period.

The number of testing kits will also increase soon due to the invention of a new working test kit by Dr. Minal Dhakave Bhosale. India will thus rely less on more expensive imported kits. There will be a distribution of more than 100,000 kits every week from now on.

Moreover, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has provided $50 billion to control the COVID-19 crisis in low-income countries that seek support through its emergency financing facilities. Along with the IMF, the World Bank is also providing debt relief to poor countries through loans and grants. The group is also working with more than 35 countries to address the economic implications of the pandemic. The World Bank also plans to spend a whopping $160 billion over the next 15 months and is already securing fixed amounts for wide-scale mitigation efforts and projects.

Oxfam International is working on ways to use its knowledge and expertise in public health to better address the ongoing crisis, especially after its work during other outbreaks like Ebola and the Zika virus. Oxfam is also assisting in the delivery of sanitation services and offering accurate information to people.

Looking to the Future

To help those who have lost jobs due to COVID-19, the Asian Development Bank recommends focusing on strengthening social assistance. It also urges attention to upgrading labor market policies and programs.

The COVID-19 crisis could also impact the way the world addresses global poverty going forward, especially given the potential global impacts. It will take long-term development strategies to get low-income workers and poorer communities back on their feet.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about living conditions in Paraguay
According to the World Bank report in 2017, Paraguay has achieved impressive economic and shared prosperity over the last 15 years. From 2014 to 2017, Paraguay’s economy grew by 4.5 percent per year on average. In 2015, the middle class made up 38 percent of the total population, almost doubling since 2003.

For Paraguay’s poor, though, living conditions have remained difficult. Indeed, the country ranks fourth in extreme poverty, after Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, according to a 2016 ECLAC report. In the article below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Paraguay are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Paraguay

  1. Inequality is widespread. Though the country’s GINI coefficient, that indicates economic inequality, has dropped from 0.51 to 0.47, there is still a significant gap between rich and poor Paraguayans. According to the General Statistics Surveys and Census Bureau (DGEEC), the poorest 40 percent of Paraguayans earn only 12.5 percent of the nation’s revenue, while the richest 10 percent earn 37.1 percent of the total income.
  2. Underemployment is high and working conditions are poor. In 2017, underemployment was recorded at 19 percent, while 20 percent of Paraguayans worked less than 30 hours per week. In the Chaco region of Paraguay, region dominated by large-scale cattle agricultural facilities, some workers characterized their working conditions as a form of slave labor.
  3. Small-scale farmers are losing their jobs due to the big agricultural companies. Almost 90 percent of the land belongs to just 5 percent of landowners. The rural-urban economic gap is the result of large-scale agriculture steadily monopolizing the market in Paraguay. Studies have confirmed that, between 1991 and 2008, when the last National Agricultural Census was conducted, the number of farms and homesteads covering less than 100 hectares has shrunk, while those between 100 and 500 hectares has risen by almost 35 percent, and massive plantations covering more than 500 hectares are up by almost 57 percent. In late March 2017, 1,000 farmers converged on Asunción, country’s capital, in an annual march, demanding agrarian reform.
  4. Paraguayan democracy is lacking in social components. It consists almost exclusively to ensure that institutions function, elections are held regularly and transparently. A steady stream of scandals has revealed widespread fraud and corruption.
  5. One-fifth of the people who live in Asunción live in slums. Although complete official accounting of informal settlements is not available, the National Housing Bureau, SENAVITAT, estimates that there are 1,000 slum areas around the city. Slums along the flood-prone riverbanks of the city sometimes house up to 100,000 people. There has been a dramatic increase in the production of social housing for low-income families living in Asunción. In 2016, the Ministry built more than 10,000 low-income housing units, compared to less than 2,000 units built in 2014.
  6. Paraguayans face hunger and malnutrition. Only 6 percent of agricultural land is available for domestic food production, while 94 percent is used for export crops. According to the Food Security Index, around 10 percent of children under the age of 5 currently suffer from stunting. Nearly 27 percent of pregnant women are underweight, while 30 percent are overweight.
  7. Educational attainment is lacking. The 2016-2017 Global Competitive Index of the World Economic Forum ranked the overall quality of Paraguay’s primary education system at the 136th place out of 138 countries. Around 65 percent of children do not complete secondary education which is one of the highest dropout rates in Latin America. The latest 2017 household survey showed that about 5 percent of the adult population, or roughly 280,000 people, are still illiterate. This number has not decreased over the past decade.
  8. The rates of poverty and extreme poverty among indigenous people are at 75 percent and 60 percent, respectively. Factors such as corruption, the concentration of land ownership and environmental degradation combined with institutional weaknesses hinder progress in alleviating poverty and create obstacles for the indigenous people to maintain access to their fundamental rights, such as water, education and health care. The rate of chronic malnutrition among the indigenous population is 41.7 percent. Some indigenous communities have seen improvements, though, in regards to increased food security. A food-security cash-transfer program, Tekoporã, expanded to cover more indigenous population- from 3 percent in 2013 up to nearly 70 percent in 2018.
  9. Health care is not accessible to everyone. An estimated 40 percent of the population is unable to afford health care of any kind. Around 7 percent have private health coverage and 20 percent are covered by the health services of the social security institute, the Instituto de Previsión Social. The rest depend on the public health system.
  10. Paraguay has made giant leaps in increasing access to clean drinking water. The country triumphantly achieved almost complete access to safe drinking water among its rural population, from 51.6 percent in 2000 to 94 percent in 2017.

These 10 facts about living conditions in Paraguay provide a snapshot of the experience of Paraguay’s poor and exemplify that economic growth does not always translate to improved living conditions for everyone.
Photo: Flickr

Women's empowerment in Kazakhstan
Since gaining independence in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has come to have a population of 17.8 million. Its president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been in power since independence. Not only is the country’s population large, but so is its geographic size, being no smaller than Western Europe. Though the country may face issues in some areas, the issue of women’s empowerment in Kazakhstan is better than it is in some other countries.

The percentage of women in the national parliament in Kazakhstan is equivalent to that of France, ranking Kazakhstan 47th in the world. This ranking is nearly 30 spots higher than the U.S., which is ranked 76th when it comes to the country’s percentage of women in national parliaments.

Similarly, 66 percent of entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan are women and in 2011, 34.4 percent of businesses in the country were either owned or partly-owned by women. Statistics like these are what contribute to Kazakhstan’s rank of 43 out of 142 countries when considering gender equality.

The country’s effort to support entrepreneurship among its female population is evident with its support of the UNDP Country Development Programme Document for 2016-2020, which aimed, among many other things, to provide more specialized support to female entrepreneurs. This document was created with the help of Kazakhstan’s government.

However, the country still faces problems when it comes to the issue of violence against women. In 2016, there were 2481 registered cases of violence against women and young girls, though this number does not account for undocumented violence. In the same year, 778 women died because of sexual assault, 742 of those being due to suicide.

Despite this setback, U.N. Women in Kazakhstan has funded a project that aims to provide survivors of this trauma with the help they need, which is a positive step regarding women’s empowerment in Kazakhstan.

The country views women as important contributors to its economic, political and social success and even recognizes International Women’s Day, March 8, as a national holiday.

Though Kazakhstan may still struggle with gender inequality and violence against women, the country has made significant efforts to remedy these issues, such as providing $56 million for the development of programs that will support women’s entrepreneurship. As with many other countries, women’s empowerment in Kazakhstan can improve, but improvement is hardly implausible with the number of resources Kazakhstan dedicates to improving gender equality.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in Sri LankaOn November 2, the World Economic Forum released the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report. The report did not reflect well on the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka.

The Global Gender Gap Report grades 144 countries on their progress toward attaining gender equality in four areas: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. Sri Lanka has been declining from its position in the top 20 since 2010. The country slipped from closing 74.6 percent of the gender gap in 2010 to 66.9 percent this year.

The country’s gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity increased because it failed to improve conditions of wage inequality for similar work. Additionally, Sri Lanka now ranks 86th among 144 countries in the gender gap in Educational Attainment.

In Political Empowerment, Sri Lanka ranked 65th. The country compensated for low scores on the Women in Parliament and Women in Ministerial Positions indicators with high marks on the Years with a Female Head of State indicator. Sri Lanka has had a female head of state for 21 out of the last 50 years.

Despite these discouraging statistics, efforts to advance the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka persist. Aitken Spence PLC, Jetwing Hotels Ltd., MAS Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. and the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (Pvt.) Ltd. have signed on as partners of Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Developed through a partnership between U.N. Women and the United Nations Global Compact, the two organizations designed the principles to help companies review existing policies and practices and establish new strategies to promote women’s empowerment.

The principles include:

  • Establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Treating all women and men equitably at work by respecting and supporting human rights and non-discrimination
  • Securing the health, safety and well-being of all female and male workers
  • Promoting education, training and professional development for women
  • Implementing enterprise development and employing supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
  • Nurturing equality through community initiatives and advocacy

Participating companies must measure and publicly report their progress toward achieving gender parity.

In addition to economic measures, non-government organizations are implementing social programs to enhance women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka. Emerge Centre for Reintegration is the newest program sponsored by the Emerge Lanka Foundation, which supports survivors of sexual abuse aged 10-18. For 12 years, the foundation has helped countless exploited young women by providing training in life, financial and professional skills. Now, through the Centre for Reintegration, it offers assistance to young women who are over 18 as they face the challenging transition stage from living in shelters to thriving on their own.

Enabling women to participate fully in communities builds stronger economies, helps attain internationally agreed-upon objectives for development and sustainability and improves the quality of life for women, men, families and communities. The work being done in Sri Lanka can help counter its decreasing rankings and ensure empowerment for all women.

– Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr

Tech Solutions That Improve Humanitarian Service Delivery

With natural disasters like the recent earthquakes in Mexico and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria wreaking untold havoc, the question of how to improve humanitarian service delivery is all the more pertinent. Technology is quickly changing the way we respond to crises and will continue to transform our responses in the future.

According to the GSM Association, increased mobile connectivity is a lifeline that has made service delivery more efficient. Network operators can get in touch with anyone connected to a mobile device to warn them of incoming disasters and provide them with strategies to prepare for the worst. The rise of social media has given political leaders and news organizations similar powers to connect with their citizens and audiences.

In addition, mobile devices make humanitarian cash transfers easier—it is far more convenient and quicker to send digital money than cash—and improve access to energy. Especially in the developing world, many people live off the traditional “grid” but are covered by pay-as-you-go energy providers, who partner with mobile services, to ensure easy and orderly digital payments.

According to the World Economic Forum, robots are making a difference in how humanitarian aid is deployed, and they will likely do so to an even greater extent in the future. Certain areas become too dangerous during disasters for human responders to be able to assess needs or deliver aid, and robots (including drones) have the potential to mitigate that. Indeed, drones are currently being used, albeit in a limited manner.

With the number of people affected by humanitarian crises nearly doubling over the course of the past decade, technological solutions like these will be vital to minimizing the effects of the growing displacement crisis and the security risks and poverty it causes.

Gisli Rafn Olafsson believes one of the most important effects of technology on humanitarian service delivery is its potential to encourage a “bottom-up” approach that will soon replace the current, unwieldy “top-down” paradigm. With technology, the beneficiaries of humanitarian response can organize their own responses to wars and natural disasters rather than wait for help to arrive. A grassroots network is invariably the strongest tool and the best solution to improve humanitarian service delivery.

Chuck Hasenauer
Photo: Flickr

In early May, South Africa hosted the 27th World Economic Forum on Africa, which promised, “achieving inclusive growth through responsive and responsible leadership.”

Various business and government leaders gathered in Durban, South Africa to discuss some of the economic challenges that Africa is facing, as well as Africa’s stance on the global economy and the fourth industrial revolution.

It is estimated that over 40 percent of people on the continent of Africa are living in poverty. The World Bank states that even the most optimistic calculations show about 330 million poor Africans in recent years. Additionally, the host nation, South Africa, has experienced sluggish economic growth recently. With all of the progress to be made in Africa, “inclusive growth” being the staple of this forum is vital, as sub-Saharan growth is at the lowest levels seen in 20 years.

This year, South African President Jacob Zuma urged the youth in Africa to aid in the realization of the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063, as it has been a focal point that the younger generation holds the key to the future of Africa.

Another key point made from this World Economic Forum on Africa was from South African’s Finance Minister, Malusi Gigabi. Gigabi warned that the Brexit and an increase in protectionism could reduce growth in Africa by reducing international trade.

One of the highest profile speakers was actor and UNESCO Special Envoy, Forrest Whittaker, whose message was regarding the young people who save lives in war-ridden communities in South Sudan.

Benedict Oramah, President of the African Export-Import Bank, pushed for an increase in intra-regional trade, as only 15 percent of African trade is region-to-region. He went on to say, “we are poor because we are not trading amongst ourselves.”

Overall, the acknowledgment of the current economic problems and the multiple plans on trade and increasing jobs for African youth are good for the reduction of poverty long term. It is necessary that these plans are held up, as some of the countries in Africa have seen the least rates of growth and poverty reduction over the past 30 years in comparison with the rest of the world.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

water pollution facts
Water is one of the most important natural resources that is essential to sustain every form of life, but it is becoming increasingly scarce in many parts of the world. According to the World Economic Forum, rising water pollution is the foremost global risk in terms of its potentially devastating impact on society. Below are ten interesting water pollution facts.

Water Pollution Facts

  1. One of the prominent causes of water pollution is extensive eutrophication caused by agricultural, sewage, animal, human and industrial runoff, resulting in excessive concentrations of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen. This results in enhanced plant and depleted animal life due to lack of oxygen, creating a dead zone. Lakes and reservoirs, two freshwater sources, are particularly prone to the negative impact of eutrophication due to their proximity to pollutant-generating sources and the water’s relative stillness.
  2. Personal care products and pharmaceuticals, including birth control pills, antibiotics and painkillers, are washed into water reservoirs and lakes, contributing to the rising water pollution. They have a damaging effect on the aquatic ecosystems and cause hormonal imbalances in humans and animals.
  3. About two million tons of sewage is dumped into the world’s water bodies daily. Annually, 14 billion pounds of garbage containing mostly plastic is thrown into the world’s oceans, causing large-scale destruction of marine life.
  4. Millions are consuming contaminated or chemically adulterated drinking water due to a lack of adequate treatment of urban wastewater. More than 80 percent of human activity generated and about 70 percent of industrial untreated wastewater is dumped into rivers, lakes and oceans. In the U.S. alone, about 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage and industrial waste is discharged into the water bodies.
  5. At least 70 percent of lakes and rivers in China are polluted, and more than half are too polluted for human use. The Yangtze River, China’s largest and the world’s third-largest river, is inundated with approximately 25 billion tons of sewage and industrial refuge.
  6. Many do not have access to clean drinking water, including the 663 million people reliant on precarious sources — with 159 million relying on surface water and 1.8 million dependent on drinking water potentially contaminated with human waste.
  7. Sanitation facilities are a luxury not enjoyed by 2.4 billion people across the globe. Approximately 946 million people are forced to defecate in street gutters and near water bodies, exacerbating the rising water pollution. Wastewater is sometimes used for crop irrigation and at least 10 percent of the population globally consumes food grown using wastewater.
  8. The scarcity of water instinctively causes people to conserve water and avoid its use for hygiene, leading to preventable diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, typhoid and polio. Approximately 842,000 people, including 361,000 children under five, die yearly from diarrhea. Contaminated drinking water and inadequate sanitation cause more deaths annually than violence from the ongoing wars. Debilitating diseases including schistosomiasis, intestinal worms and trachoma prevalent in tropical regions are also a result of inadequate sanitation services and hygiene habits.
  9. Currently, about 40 percent of the world’s population is facing water scarcity and 1.7 billion are living in river basins where water usage exceeds renewal. Without immediate action, by 2025 half of the world’s population will be experiencing a water shortage, and by 2050 one in four people will be living in a country with an insufficient fresh water supply.
  10. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set forth by the U.N. to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all” by 2030. Reducing water pollution by restricting the disposal of garbage and other hazardous chemicals into water bodies and adapting more effective means of treating wastewater, is part of the SDG’s six targets to ensure equitable access to safe drinking water.

There is ample water for everyone, but these 10 facts about water pollution illustrate how it is becoming scarce due to insufficient infrastructure. Safe, clean water is a human right, yet rising water pollution is a serious health threat for the world’s poorest.

Preeti Yadav

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Trinidad and Tobago
Since 2014, Trinidad and Tobago has taken a special interest in improving human capital through the On-the-Job Training Global Initiative (OJT).

Human capital consists of the skills, knowledge, values and health of a population. An investment in human capital would, for example, come in the form of education benefits, medical care, job training or other ways that add value to a person. On a small scale, these intangible assets are everyday factors to singular individuals. On a large scale, the amount and quality of human capital can make dramatic changes to a country’s economic status for generations. This is especially seen in the increase of entrepreneurs.

The OJT Global Initiative, a partnership between the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) and Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training (MTEST), initially resulted in 21 individuals being selected to take part in the U.N.’s competitive internship. The program teaches a specially designed curriculum with the goal of creating global citizens.

Richard Blewitt, U.N. Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Trinidad and Tobago, described the importance of the program in an official statement released with its induction. He said, “As you are aware, today’s youth and adolescents are faced with many new and emerging challenges. To effectively respond to and address those challenges, the U.N. seeks to ensure our programming work encompasses; promotes and facilitates opportunities for employment, and entrepreneurship, political inclusion, citizenship, protection of rights, education and reproductive health, and advocacy, to name a few.”

The OJT Global Initiative was first announced in January of 2014 as a two-year initiative. However, since then, the MTEST has maintained the program by pairing up citizen trainees between the ages of 16-35 and employers in a variety of careers — including culinary, agriculture, environmental, finance, engineering and other industries. In addition to gaining valuable experience in their chosen fields, trainees also receive competitive stipends and opportunities to work with new technology and network with industry peers. The program benefits local businesses as well by offering them reimbursement of stipend rates, access to suitable candidates and the chance to practice corporate social responsibility.

The World Economic Forum publishes annual reports of the Human Capital Index (HCI) by country. From 2013 to 2016, Trinidad and Tobago went from ranking 76th in the world to 67th. Programs like the OJT Global Initiative and the MTEST’s strong focus on training, education and entrepreneurship could be a heavy contributor to this rise in HCI over just three years.

The most recent numbers, published by the UNDP in 2007, show that the rate of poverty in Trinidad and Tobago is 16.7% for a population of 1.3 million citizens. This published rate is above the 34% given in 1992. However, The Guardian attributes this reduction to the fact that squatters, students, taxi drivers and the homeless are not accounted for in the labor force. Another major contributing factor to this is expressed in the large wage gap between men and women — with women having an average income of TT$9,000 to a male’s average of TT$18,000. This is attributed to women holding a substantially higher portion of low-wage jobs. The hope of programs like the OJT Global Initiative is to facilitate opportunities for better employment and entrepreneurship, thus reducing problems like the gender wage gap.

Fighting poverty around the globe is a combination of factors. By developing and sustaining programs such as the OJT Global Initiative, countries strive to provide higher levels of education, training and experience for their citizens. Like this program, investments in human capital have the ability to provide a country with economic benefits for generations.

Tammy Hineline

Photo: Flickr