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starvation in Africa
In East Africa, hunger is a major crisis. In fact, about 20 percent of the entire African population experiences hunger daily. While the claim that African children die from malnutrition every few seconds is a bit exaggerated, the true number of deaths from starvation in Africa is still quite alarming. Here are the causes and facts about the African hunger crises, as well as potential solutions to ebbing them.

The Causes

Hunger and malnutrition are not instantaneous, and there are many factors involved, such as poverty, drought, conflict and governance. Historically, famines and hunger crises from drought or war have plagued Africa’s poor since 1968. More often than not, extreme weather and climates will yield unsuccessful crops, which in turn subtracts from the profit that families can make from farming.

People suffering from poverty often cannot afford to purchase food, both in quality and quantity. Conflict and violence further instigate the food crisis by causing food insecurities and lessening the availability of food imports and incomes. Lastly, insufficient access to food can also be the result of poor governance and policies. Without proper leadership and guidance from governments, conflict and poverty can affect the quality, availability and affordability of food.

The Facts

As aforementioned, 20 percent of the African population—257 million people—suffer from hunger and famine. In the Sub-Saharan alone, 237 million suffer chronic undernourishment. As of June 2019, nearly 60 million children in Africa are underfed despite the continent’s recent economic growth.

Statistically, nine out of 10 African children do not meet the World Health Organization’s criteria for a minimum acceptable diet, and two in five children do not eat meals on a regular or scheduled basis. Children who suffer from such hunger also experience stunted growth and impaired cognitive development.

In truth, this is due to malnutrition, which is different from hunger in that while a child can fill its stomach with food and water, he or she will still suffer from a lack of essential nutrients that do not exist in the food they are eating. This is true for adults in Africa as well. While the number of starving, malnourished Africans is alarmingly high and ranging in the millions, however, the number of deaths from starvation in Africa is surprisingly low at approximately 400,000 deaths per year.

The Solutions

In order to prevent these numbers from increasing, the poor and the malnourished require accessible, affordable, good-quality food, as well as innovations to improve the harvests. In fact, the nonprofit World Vision has been doing so for over 40 years, providing emergency aid and long-term assistance to African communities and families.

In the event of a food crisis, World Vision offers food assistance, including emergency feeding those who are starving and treating malnourished children. It also provides fresh, clean water and sanitation to those in need. For the long term, World Vision offers business training and equipment to families to prepare them for another onslaught of adverse weather and gives families cash to support and provide for themselves.

In other words, with the right assistance, families and communities can avoid another hunger crisis and ebb the number of deaths from starvation in Africa. People either downplay or exaggerate the hunger crisis in Africa. The truth about starvation in Africa needs to come out.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Reducing Poverty
Africa has a long and complicated history. From the Portuguese exploration of the continent in 1460 to the Atlantic slave trade and modern-day ethnic conflicts in Sudan, it is, unfortunately, no surprise that the continent has long-standing issues with poverty. Ethiopia and Ghana are changing this trend. New, innovative farming techniques such as flexible growing practices and government-sponsored programs are reducing poverty, and famine rates have been declining in these countries. Worldwide organizations such as Africa Renewal are hoping that the agricultural reforms taking place in Ghana and Ethiopia can spread throughout the rest of Africa to reduce poverty.

While the mining industry is important for African countries such as South Africa, agriculture is by far the most important economic sector for a majority of African countries. Not only does agriculture provide jobs for residents, but it also acts as the main food source for over 1.2 billion Africans.

Farming in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has relied on ox-driven plows for centuries. Ethiopian farmers are primarily field farmers, which means they grow their crops on typical farmland rather than other alternatives such as in water-soaked rice patties. Ethiopia has dealt with severe famine over the past several decades, and farmers have helped alleviate famine by being flexible. Over the past century, Ethiopian farmers have shifted their main food source from enset to tef-based crops. Another change Ethiopian farmers are adopting is more flexible growing practices, which means rather than growing one crop at a time, farmers are beginning to grow as many as 10 different crops at once. Flexible growing practices add diversity to the food supply and help fight against weeds and pests, leading to increased food supplies, ultimately reducing poverty.

Ethiopia’s government launched the Growth & Transformation Plan II in 2015 that aims to significantly increase economic growth by investing heavily in sustainable and broad-based agricultural practices and manufacturing sectors. The end result of this initiative is for the world stage to recognize Ethiopia on the world stage as a lower middle-income country by 2025. While no one will know the full results of this initiative until 2025, the preliminary data shows that the program has been helping with Ethiopia’s GDP increasing from $64.46 billion in 2015 to $84.36 billion in 2018.

These new farming practices, along with government investment into agricultural practices, increased Ethiopia’s GDP by nearly 10.3 percent over the past decade, which is one of the fastest growth rates in Africa. The new agricultural practices that are stimulating the economy are a significant reason why Ethiopia’s poverty rate has also fallen from nearly 40 percent in 2004 to approximately 27 percent in 2016.

Farming in Ghana

Like Ethiopia, Ghana also has a history of poverty, with 24.2 percent of all residents facing poverty as of 2013. Ghana’s approach to reducing poverty is unique because the country is using economic growth. While Ethiopia is also focusing on economic growth, Ghana is not utilizing new farming practices in order to achieve economic growth. Rather, Ghana is using increased GDP to revitalize its agricultural sector.

Ghana’s unemployment rate is 6.71 percent as of 2018. With many residents unemployed, the agricultural sector provides job opportunities. Approximately 40 percent of Ghana’s available agricultural land is still available for use, which means there are many opportunities for agricultural expansion. Today estimates determine that the agricultural sector employs 33.86 percent of all Ghanian workers, meaning agriculture is the country’s main source of income for a third of its residents. Alarmingly, though, agriculture makes up only 19.7 percent of Ghana’s GDP as of 2017, which is the lowest total since 1983, when agriculture made up approximately 60 percent of the total GDP.

World Vision, a non-governmental organization, has worked in Ghana since 1979. Currently, World Vision implements 29 area programs. One such project is the Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage Project that provides instruction to farmers on how to store cowpea without chemicals. Storing cowpea without chemicals helps reduce post-harvest losses and maintain cowpea’s nutritional value.

With vast amounts of land still available and with the GDP increasing by 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2019, the unemployment rate will decline significantly as more residents head to the fields and plant crops. Agriculture’s share of the GDP will also rise, reducing the downward trend since 1983, and ultimately, put more money into resident’s pockets.

Reducing Poverty

Ethiopia and Ghana have made gains in their plans to reduce poverty among their citizens. Poverty in Ethiopia has fallen from 71.1 percent in 1995 to 27.3 percent in 2015, and Ghana’s poverty rate has fallen from 52.6 percent in 1991 to 21.4 percent in 2012. While these countries are making improvements, there is still a lot of work remaining before all of Africa’s citizens are free from poverty.

– Kyle Arendas
Photo: Flickr

annual races against global povertyFor runners (or aspiring runners) who hope to combat global injustices while running, the following annual runs against global poverty are an easy way to combine physical and humanitarian passions. Some occur across the United States, while others are international, bringing together participants thousands of miles apart. Starting with a race in which runners run with the recipients of their donations, this list concludes with an extremely long race for those who don’t want to train for one. Here are seven annual races against global poverty.

7 Annual Races Against Global Poverty

  1. In Kinyarwanda, “Komera” means “be strong, have courage.” The organization by this name sponsors female scholars in Rwanda, paying for their full tuition and school expenses, and provides them a community of support and sport as a form of development. Every June, Komera hosts a fun run in Rwanda in support of empowerment and education for girls. This event is mirrored in Boston and San Francisco on the same day, as well as any other locations where people choose to individually host.
  2. The Aga Khan Foundation is a humanitarian aid organization that works in more than 30 countries in both Africa and Asia. Its initiatives cover integrated development, civil society, early child development, access to electricity and economic inclusion. Not only do they have countless walks and runs across the country throughout the year, but also host golf tournaments.
  3. The global Christian humanitarian organization World Vision has been tackling poverty and injustice, especially affecting children, since 1950. They now help more than 3.5 million children in almost 100 countries. Their mission includes social and spiritual transformation of communities through public awareness campaigns, as well as emergency relief. Their Global 6K for Water occurs annually on May 4 in nearly every state (with almost 100 runs in California alone). Proceeds go to providing clean water to those who don’t have it; according to the organization, “every step you take is one they won’t have to.”
  4. RACE for the Orphans stands for “Raising Awareness Compassion and Education” about what orphans around the world need. Each run raises money in the form of grants for American families to help them afford adopting international orphans. RACE for the Orphans hopes to reduce the staggering number of orphans in the world (more than 150 million). Starting in 2013, the annual race in Georgia backs new adoptive families the first Saturday of May.
  5. Concern Worldwide is a humanitarian organization that works with people across the globe living in extreme poverty. This annual four mile run in New York City started in the 1990s to raise money for programs ranging from development work to emergency response. Dara Burke, the organization’s Vice President for Individual Giving & Events, told The Borgen Project that hundreds of “people from all walks of life show up” each year on a Saturday in April to deliver “tangible hope” to Haiti and other recipients of the run’s proceeds.
  6. Hundreds of people in Illinois participate in the annual 5K walk/run for education to support Food for the Poor and Hope for Haitians in May. Food for the Poor combats issues ranging from malnutrition to lack of medical care in 17 Latin American and Caribbean countries. Their partner, Hope for Haitians, focuses on building houses and establishing clean water sources while establishing community self-sufficiency through education programs particularly in Haiti.
  7. Knowing that it’s difficult to change one’s daily schedule to run a 5K, the American Foundation for Children with AIDS designed a virtual, collective “walk,” called #30000Miles, reaching the capitals of all countries in mainland Africa. The walk starts on September 1 and ends once the participants have reached 30,000 miles. The proceeds help the organization support HIV positive children and their families in four countries in Africa, providing medical and educational support, as well as emergency relief and livelihood programs.

These annual races against global poverty are in the United States, but there are countless races around the world. They are all a great way to combine fitness and poverty reduction and runners can raise much more for the organization by pushing themselves in their fundraising.

– Daria Locher
Photo: Pixabay

Global Illiteracy
The ability to read and write is one of the few skills with the power to completely change a person’s life. Literacy is vital to education and employment, as well as being incredibly beneficial in everyday life. Global illiteracy is extensive. As of 2018, 750 million people were illiterate, two-thirds of whom were women. 

In 2015, the United Nations set 17 goals for sustainable development, one of which included the aim to “ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy” by 2030. Though this is an admirable goal, current progress suggests that global illiteracy will remain a substantial problem in 2030 and beyond, due to challenges such as poverty and a lack of trained teachers in some areas. While eliminating global illiteracy by the 2030 deadline seems out of reach, companies and organizations around the world are taking steps toward improving literacy rates, often with the help of technological innovations.

  3 Organizations Fighting Global Illiteracy

  1. The Partnership-Afghanistan and Canada (PAC), World Vision and the University of British Columbia have collaborated to create a phone-based program aimed at improving literacy rates among rural women in Afghanistan. Women in remote areas who lack local educational resources learn from daily pre-recorded cell phone calls, which teach them how to read and write in Dari, a Persian dialect widely spoken in Afghanistan.  The lessons require only paper, a writing utensil and cell phone service, which are widely available throughout the country.

  2. The World Literacy Foundation operates many literacy-boosting programs, one of which is its SunBooks project. The project provides solar-powered devices through which students can access digital content and e-books while offline. The SunBooks initiative, intended to boost literacy rates in sub-Saharan Africa, helps young people overcome barriers to literacy such as limited access to books, a lack of electricity and limited internet access. Only 35 percent of schools in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, so traditional e-books are not a viable solution to a lack of books. SunBooks’ content is available in local languages and in English.

  3. A collaboration between Pearson Education’s Project Literacy Campaign, the World Bank and All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development has resulted in a project called EVOKE: Leaders for Literacy. EVOKE is a series of lessons on problem-solving, leadership and the importance of literacy, styled as a video game in which the student plays a superhero. EVOKE aims to empower young people to be literacy advocates in their own communities, and more than 100,000 people have participated in the program.  The project has shown promise in getting young people excited about reading and writing.

People generally understand literacy as a necessary part of education and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established it a human right in 1948. Yet still, hundreds of thousands of people cannot read or write. Literacy rates are improving, but not quickly enough to meet U.N. targets. These organizations are making valuable contributions toward fighting global illiteracy so that every person can be empowered.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Pixabay

Enteric and Diarrheal DiseasesEnteric and diarrheal diseases affect 1.7 billion children around the world every year killing over 500,000 children under five annually. The most common enteric and diarrheal diseases are rotavirus, cholera, shigella and typhoid.

Types of Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases

Rotavirus: Rotavirus is a highly transmittable disease and is one of the main causes of severe diarrhea in children. The disease affects millions of individuals around the world every year and is the cause of death in over 215,000 cases. The disease most often transfers via consumption of fecal matter, which can occur when individuals do not have access to proper handwashing and sanitation facilities. The Rotavirus vaccine can help prevent rotavirus. It is effective in preventing severe rotavirus in 90 percent of cases and the WHO has recommended it for use. Typically, children that are two to six months old receive two to three doses of the vaccine. Individuals who do not receive this vaccine and contract rotavirus (or cholera, typhoid, or shigella) most often receive treatment with either zinc supplementation or rehydration therapy or both. Zinc supplementation can reduce the severity of diarrhea in an individual while oral rehydration therapy can help rehydrate an individual that has become dehydrated due to diarrhea.

Cholera: Cholera is another diarrheal illness that individuals can contract by consuming contaminated food or water. It affects roughly three million individuals around the world every year and is the cause of death in nearly 145,000 cases. Furthermore, there have been recent outbreaks in countries like Haiti, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Guinea. Like rotavirus, a specialized vaccine can prevent cholera as well as sound sanitation techniques. Individuals older than six receive the vaccine in two doses while younger individuals receive three doses.

Typhoid: Like rotavirus and cholera, typhoid is transmitted through fecal contamination. It affects 22 million people annually and is the cause of death in roughly 200,000 cases per year. Before recently, no one had developed a vaccine to treat typhoid; however, in 2018, the WHO approved a vaccine called Typbar TCV. Scientists from Bharat Biotech International, a biotechnology company based in Hyderabad, India, developed the vaccine. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have received the vaccine and it has played a key role in stemming a recent typhoid breakout in Pakistan.

Shigella: The last major form of an enteric/diarrheal disease is shigella. Over 165 million individuals contract shigella every year (causing one million deaths), in large part due to the fact that there is no preventative vaccine for the disease. Because of this, much of the effort that has been given to prevent Shigella recently (as well as rotavirus, cholera and typhoid) have focused on ensuring proper hygiene and sanitation in areas that are at risk for fecal contamination. Listed below are some promising solutions to improve hygiene and sanitation in developing countries around the world.

Solutions to Reduce Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases

Janicki Omni Processor (JOP): The Janicki Omni Processor is an innovative solution that can help turn waste into clean drinking water. To do so, wet waste enters the JOP which dries and burns the waste in a controlled fashion. The JOP filters and condenses the resulting steam from the burning process, distilling the water. This water then receives treatment in order to meet clean drinking water standards. The JOP is environmentally friendly (the entire process is self-sustainable) and, through heavy funding from NGOs such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it is a cheap and efficient way to provide clean water to communities throughout the developing world.

Nano Membrane Toilet: The Nano Membrane Toilet is a promising solution with regards to sanitation practices throughout the developing world. The toilet is sustainable and requires no water or electricity to function. It works like this: after an individual uses it, the toilet utilizes a waterless flushing system to separate the urine from the feces. The feces are then chopped up into small bits and placed into a combustion chamber. After roughly a week, the feces will turn into a substance similar to ash and people can safely deposit it in the trash. The water, meanwhile, enters a separate tank to purify. The purified water then enters a tank at the front of the toilet for the purpose of outdoor irrigation and cleaning. The Nano Membrane Toilet is a promising solution to help reduce feces contamination because it does not require water to function and is easily implementable in many communities around the world.

Hand Washing: Hand washing isn’t a new technology, but it can go a long way towards preventing a multitude of enteric and diarrheal diseases. Research indicates that diarrheal deaths could decrease by as much as 50 percent if the prevalence of handwashing increased around the globe. NGOs such as The Global Handwashing Partnership and World Vision have done great work in recent years to lead handwashing programs in developing nations and increase awareness about the importance of handwashing.

Looking Ahead

The prevention and treatment of individuals with rotavirus, cholera, typhoid and shigella are some of the biggest challenges facing the world in the coming years. The transmittable nature of these diseases makes them difficult to eradicate, and people cannot fix many of the reasons that they are prevalent (lack of sanitation, poor water quality, etc.) overnight. Continued investments from governments and NGOs around the world in promising technologies like the Janicki Omni Processor and the Nano Membrane Toilet are a step in the right direction towards the prevention of enteric and diarrheal diseases in individuals around the world.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Pexels

Recovery from Cyclone FaniCyclone Fani made landfall in India on May 3, 2019. Puri City, located in the Odisha state, was hit the hardest and experienced heavy rain and wind speeds in excess of 130 mph. This was equivalent to a Category Four hurricane. It was the worst cyclone to hit India since the 1999 super-cyclone that impacted the coast of Odisha for nearly 30 hours, killing 10,000 people. Over one million residents were evacuated ahead of the storm in Odisha. Finally, nearly 10 million people were impacted by severe weather conditions across India’s most northern states. This incredible amount of damage has resulted in a long road to recovery from Cyclone Fani.

More Damage from Cyclone Fani

Cyclone Fani caused widespread power outages and significant infrastructure damage in Puri. Many homes and businesses were completely destroyed. So far, 77 people died due to the cyclone.

The severe damage to infrastructure, homes and agricultural land has displaced millions of people from their homes. They sought refuge in shelter locations. There are also problems with accessing basic utilities such as clean water and food in the hardest fit areas. Over 4.8 million children have also been displaced in the Odisha state alone.

Government Relief Efforts

India’s government has pledged its full support toward recovery. Besides the thousands of shelters that have been set-up across the country, relief ministers have been touring the hardest-hit areas. More than 100,000 government officials, 45,000 volunteers and 9,000 shelters have been mobilized. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been working with international aid groups and countries around the world that are wanting to provide aid. Odisha’s Chief Minister has also created the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund where people can donate to relief efforts.

Organizations Offering Relief

The United Nations has stepped in to ensure that at-risk refugees in India and Bangladesh are protected from the after-effects of Cyclone Fani. Fani impacted many Bangladesh towns, such as Cox’s Bazar. These towns are home to nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees. They are a high-risk group because of an ongoing genocide crisis in Myanmar.

International aid groups and NGOs such as Christian Aid, World Vision and ActionAid have created relief funds that focus on providing essential supplies such as food and water. These groups have also sent recovery teams to India to help with relief efforts. Churches and local communities have also organized relief groups.

Issues Impacting Recovery

While efforts are being made to speed up recovery, there have been protestors in Odisha’s state capital, Bhubaneswar. They are demanding reducing costs of high food and water prices, along with ensuring a fast recovery.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, an international aid group, has identified the most important recovery efforts. Some of these efforts are:

  1. Emergency shelter
  2. Nutritional supplies
  3. Rebuilding schools
  4. Restoring electricity

How to Help the Recovery from Cyclone Fani

International residents are encouraged to take the following steps in order to help India recover:

  1. Join ActionAid’s on-ground relief – ActionAid is recruiting people for its on-ground recovery operations. Volunteers are working in the highly-impacted areas, including Puri City.
  2. Contact local representatives – Contact local government officials in court area and voice concerns about helping India recover from Cyclone Fani. The more times local representatives are contacted, the greater the chance that action will be taken.
  3. Organize members in local communities – Organize members in local communities and help spread awareness. Bake-sales, car washes and social media are great ways to spread awareness and raise money. The more people who are involved in relief efforts, the faster India will recover from Cyclone Fani’s devastating after-effects.

Recovery from Cyclone Fani will not be an overnight process, but with collaboration through India’s government, international organizations, NGOs and citizens from all over the world, the hardest-hit areas will be able to make a full recovery.

– Kyle Arendas
Photo: Flickr

worst earthquakes and the human toll
While the death toll and size of an earthquake can provide logistical data, other factors influence the devastation victims face and the rate they can recover. For communities already struggling, these disasters can be particularly devastating. Ranked below are the 15 worst earthquakes and the human toll of each.

15 Worst Earthquakes

  1. Haiti (2010): At the top of the list of 15 worst earthquakes and the human toll, Haiti suffered an initial 7.0 magnitude quake followed by two aftershocks killing 316,000 people. Due to a lack of adequate reinforcement, buildings across the country crumbled. A loss of power and phone lines interfered with efforts to provide aid. After nine years, Haiti still attempts to repair itself.
  2.  Nepal (2015): After crumbling landmarks and 10-story buildings, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake added landslides and avalanches to its path of destruction. An estimated 9,000 citizens died and 22,000 more suffered injuries. More than 600,000 people lost homes and began facing extreme poverty. However, its government and humanitarian organizations responded quickly. Temporary education centers and shelters helped the displaced, and over the last three years, facilities are recovering.
  3. Sumatra, Indonesia (2004): The 9.1 magnitude disaster in the Indian Ocean produced severe casualties and devastation. The earthquake itself likely killed 1,000 but the tsunami that followed left 227,898 dead or missing. Because of the short time span between the earthquake and tsunami, no one could create separate death tolls. Indonesia had damages of $4.4 million.
  4. Sichuan, China (2008): Whole villages lay flattened after a massive 7.9 quake. Schools and other facilities collapsed, trapping people inside. Estimates determined there were around 90,000 dead, 5,300 of them being children attending class. Buildings injured an estimated 375,000 more citizens and rescue teams attempted to find missing children after the chaos.
  5. Tohoku, Japan (2011): An unfortunate 15,703 deaths occurred after an earthquake and tsunami struck the east coast of Japan. The total economic loss racked up to $309 billion to provide reconstruction and services. A nuclear power plant near Okuma suffered damages to its reactors, causing a radiation leak. Thanks to evacuation efforts, the leak did not harm anyone. Several fires occurred after and the event destroyed docks.
  6. Izmit, Turkey (1999): Lasting less than a minute, an earthquake striking southeast Izmit left 17,000 dead and 500,000 homeless. Thousands of buildings and an oil refinery were among the destruction. There was a large outcry of people persecuting contractors for their poor workmanship and their use of cheap materials. Authorities found very few of them guilty, however. The 7.4 magnitude earthquake caused an estimated $3 to 6.5 billion in damages.
  7. Rudbar, Iran (1990): A 20,000 square mile earthquake devastated homes and farms at midnight. An estimated 50,000 people died and 135,000 injured, some living in simple houses that lacked support. An aftershock the following day caused a dam to burst, adding to financial losses and further loss of farmland. Estimates determined that the reconstruction of the region cost $7.2 billion.
  8. Kashmir, Pakistan (2005): Kashmir, the disputed area between India and Pakistan, suffered a loss of 80,000 people after a magnitude 7.6 earthquake. Four million others became homeless. Sections of towns completely slid off sides of cliffs; landslides also created a blockade for relief workers. In addition, the fact that it occurred just before winter worsened the conditions of those seeking shelters.
  9. Mexico City, Mexico (1985): Mexico City fell to chaos when 400 buildings crumbled, and the power and phone systems blacked out. Public transportation also halted, leaving panicked citizens without communication or instructions. An estimated 250,000 people were without shelter, and a final death count totaled 10,000.
  10. Yunnan, China (2014): Around 4.7 in magnitude, this earthquake killed 398 citizens. The earthquake injured an estimated 1,000 people and displaced over 200,000. Several homes and infrastructure susceptible to earthquakes faced damages as well. The Committee for Disaster Reduction had issued its highest-level response to provide aid: emergency responders prioritized search-and-rescue and the organization directly allocated resources for this purpose.
  11. Puebla, Mexico (2017): A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico on the anniversary of its 1985 earthquake. Since the 1985 quake, people underwent earthquake drills which helped limit the damage in the 2017 earthquake although 225 deaths still occurred. Additionally, the earthquake damaged buildings and Mexico had to evacuate its people. Nearby, homes had also crumbled.
  12. Norcia, Italy (2016): After suffering multiple previous quakes in a short timeframe, another 6.2 magnitude earthquake occurred between two towns: Norcia and Amatrice. Numerous aftershocks, magnitudes 5.5 through 7 then followed. Because of its unfortunate location between cities and mountain villages, the quake took 247 victims. Rubble from mountains trapped others and blocked roads.
  13. Ecuador (2016): After this earthquake, 100,000 people needed shelter, 6,000 suffered severe injuries and 700 died. The earthquake destroyed schools and homes along with health care facilities. Flooding following the crisis worsened an outbreak of the Zika virus, but World Vision helped lessen its impact. It provided information on mosquito control and provided activities to teach sanitation in order to prevent the spread of Zika.
  14. Balochistan, Pakistan (2013): The largest province in Pakistan, Balochistan felt an immense tremor from an earthquake with a 7.7 magnitude. Awaran, one of six districts affected, lost 90 percent of its houses. The death toll stood at 328 with more than 440 wounded. Excessive mud that the earthquake brought in buried food, water and houses.
  15. Chile (2010): In 2010, a severe 8.8 magnitude earthquake damaged 400,000 homes. Copper production, crucial to Chile’s economy, halted until power resumed. Including loss of exports, the damages totaled $30 billion. The government estimated that the earthquake directly affected 2 million people, while another 800 had died.

Sporadic and unrelenting, earthquakes affect both coastal and inland areas. However, all of the 15 worst earthquakes and the human toll experienced in each have a uniting factor in that they received aid. Despite the severity, government programs and humanitarian bodies rushed to the scene, supplying temporary homes and rations to those suddenly without a place to live. Also, even though most major cases take years to restore themselves, organizations and governments often do not stop giving aid.

– Daniel Bertetti
Photo: USAID

Girls' Education in Papua New Guinea

While primary school enrollment rates in Papua New Guinea are low for girls and boys, there is a significant disparity between the two. Several factors contribute to the worse girls’ education in Papua New Guinea, some of which governments and organizations are working to change.

Factors Contributing to Gender Inequality

  • Political Factors – Women’s social status in Papua New Guinea is below men’s, limiting female positions of leadership. To combat some of this inequality, the country attempted to create legislation that would reserve seats for women, but it was defeated in parliament. As a result of this, initiatives to promote gender equality often have difficulty in receiving funding.
  • Economic Factors – School fees dissuade parents from enrolling their daughters, as they feel it is more beneficial to enroll their sons. Although, many boys do not receive an education as well: about 64 percent of boys and 57 percent of girls attend primary school. Hunger also contributes, as starving students are less likely to attend school. In urban areas, food shortages are common because of less gardening land. Malnourished children often develop illnesses, also causing them to miss school. Additionally, a lack of appropriate water and sanitation facilities negatively impacts girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. They are often not private enough, and sometimes there isn’t even running water. Once girls reach puberty, they often leave school because they cannot maintain menstrual hygiene at school.
  • Social and Cultural Factors – Girls do not enroll in school because they are required to take care of their younger siblings while their parents work. Child marriage also contributes to poor girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. Married girls do not continue to attend school, and approximately 22 percent of girls in Papua New Guinea get married before the age of 18.

Safety is another serious concern for girls. Gender-based violence and harassment are prevalent in schools. Just under 50 percent of girls reported feeling safe at school, with 31 percent feeling unsafe. These feelings were strongest near toilets, sports fields and school gates, with only 2 percent of girls feeling safe around toilets.

Girls are harassed by male students and teachers, thereby afraid of physical and sexual assault. The high number of male teachers contributes to low enrollment rates, with male teachers out-numbering female teachers in primary schools. While the number of female teachers doubled between 2002 and 2012, there is still a significant lack of them.

Efforts to Decrease Gender Inequality in Education

World Vision launched a project targeting girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. They established community learning centers (CLCs), which provide early childhood care for girls and boys between three and six. Education improvement classes for children under 14 are also offered. The goal is to make it easier for children to succeed in school, as well as encourage parents to take a more active role in the children’s education. Between 2014 and 2017, approximately 6000 children attended classes at CLCs and 4o00 people were involved in community awareness efforts. After attending CLCs, 90 percent of children were prepared to begin primary school, significantly higher than the baseline of 80 percent.

The National Education Plan (NEP), developed in 2015, is also aiming to improve education, with a focus on gender equality. In their most recent $7.4 million grant, their goal is to better student achievement in math and science by improving pre-service and in-service teacher education, especially for women, and increasing access to textbooks.

Notable Progress

Due to these projects being implemented, some advancements have been made. A study by the National Research Institute found that the number of girls enrolled in school increased by almost 150 percent between 2001 and 2012. Additionally, primary school completion rates for girls rose by approximately 5 percent between 2014 and 2016.

While there is still a long way to go, Papua New Guinea has begun to decrease the differences between male and female education.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone Effects on Mozambican Students
Six weeks after Cyclone Idai ripped through central and southern Mozambique in March, Cyclone Kenneth added further destruction in the northern portion of the country. Having these consecutive disasters is highly abnormal in the region, and the impact of both storms has left over 650 people dead in Mozambique alone. Time Magazine reported that Mozambique would need $3.2 billion in order to recover after the damage caused by the storms.

The Cyclones

Mozambique is already a developmentally challenged country, suffering from high poverty rates due to high population growth, low agricultural productivity, illnesses and unequal distribution of wealth. These storms have left many citizens with nothing, further impoverishing the country. One of the most impactful yet overlooked aspects of the storms is the influence they have had and will continue to have over students. Cyclone effects on Mozambican students have made it difficult — and sometimes simply impossible — for the young population to continue their educations.

Impact on Students

More than 600 schools in Mozambique were damaged, impacting more than 300,000 students’ access to education. School records have been destroyed, roofs are missing from schools, and the water damage to classrooms is significant. School supplies have also been destroyed, meaning students have no access to notebooks, textbooks or writing utensils. Because of the damage to many classrooms, students are being forced to overcrowd classrooms, forcing multiple teachers to use the same room. This has proven to be highly distracting for students, and their focus is not fully on the content they are learning.

Along with schools being damaged and inadequate, other cyclone effects on Mozambican students come from the storms’ impact on their lives outside of school. With the devastation of the cyclones, many students come from families who have lost their homes, or even someone who had lived with them. As a result, children are unable to attend school, and both the ones who do and don’t attend school are suffering from lack of proper food and water — often going without either.

Additionally, the psychological toll that these storms have taken on kids has led to disruptions in their learning abilities. Many kids have seen the effects of the storms firsthand, having lost family members, neighbors and friends in the floods. School attendance rates are already low, with less than half of children under 15 fulfilling the country’s mandatory primary school program. That number decreases to less than 20 percent when it comes to high school attendance because many families cannot afford to pay school fees.

Aid Organizations

Various organizations have stepped up to provide relief and spread awareness about the disastrous effects of the storms, both in general and specifically for students. The Red Cross was among the first groups to arrive in areas of Mozambique severely affected, providing immediate aid to people in need. World Vision is another organization that has been active in its media coverage of what’s going on within Mozambique, in addition to its relief efforts. In Mozambique specifically, its focus is on providing food, water, child protection services and further education. It has also established two Child-Friendly spaces where kids are sheltered and given activities to do.

Save the Children, an organization based in the U.K., has consulted children and their families on their experiences with the storms. Affected children have shown varying sign of psychological stress, ranging from general anxiety that another storm will come to bedwetting. The organization has been in Mozambique since before the first cyclone made contact, and it has been providing child protection, emergency shelter and healthcare.

Overall, there is much to be done in terms of relief when it comes to Mozambique’s recovery. Much of the aid will go toward providing people with the essentials: food, water and shelter. However, attention should be paid particularly to the cyclone effects on Mozambican students. Access to education should be afforded to all children, regardless of socioeconomic status. Thankfully, there are a number of organizations that recognize that education needs to be prioritized in the aid they give.

— Emi Cormier
Photo: Wikimedia Commons