Mobile Banking

  • Dial M for money: Can mobile banking lift people out of poverty?, By Nurith Aizenman, December 9, 2016, National Public Radio: “If you live in Kenya there’s a jingle you hear on television and radio a lot.   ‘Things are now modern!’ they sing. ‘Things are now developed.’ It’s an ad for a type of banking service called M-PESA that’s run entirely through your mobile phone. You set up an account with the phone company. You can send and receive funds by text. Or, if you need to make a cash deposit or withdrawal, you do it through a vast network of agents — small-time vendors in kiosks and shops, for example, that the company has set up…”
  • Here’s why mobile money is dramatically reducing poverty in Kenya, By Robert Gebelhoff, December 22, 2016, Washington Post: “For Tavneet Suri, an economics professor at MIT who grew up in Kenya, much has changed in her home country over the past decade. What used to be an economy relatively closed off to the rest of the world is now a one where the vast majority of people are paying bills and sharing money with one another through cellphones…”

Child Poverty Rate – South Africa

More than half of South Africa’s children live in poverty, By Aislinn Laing, May 21, 2012, The Telegraph: “Eighteen years after the end of apartheid, South Africa is now judged to be one of the most unequal societies in the world and its 19 million children bear the brunt of the disconnect. The Unicef report found that 1.4 million children live in homes that rely on often dirty streams for drinking water, 1.5 million have no flushing lavatories and 1.7 million live in shacks, with no proper bedding, cooking or washing facilities. Four in 10 live in homes where no one is employed and, in cases of dire poverty, the figure rises to seven in 10…”

Poverty and HIV/AIDS – Malawi

Cash payments help cut HIV infection rate in young women, study finds, By Sarah Boseley, February 14, 2012, The Guardian: “Regular small cash payments to girls and young women can enable them to resist the attentions of older men and avoid HIV infection, according to a new study. Girls and young women are at the greatest risk of HIV infection in endemic countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, between a quarter and a third have the virus by the time they reach their early 20s. But educating girls about risks and promoting condom use has had little impact in countries where they are struggling with poor education, low status and poverty, and where older men with money offer one of the few ways out of financial difficulties. A team of researchers from the World Bank, University of California at San Diego and George Washington University in the US carried out a randomised controlled trial in Malawi to find out whether monthly payments to schoolgirls and their families would help change the girls’ behaviour and safeguard their health…”

Poverty Rate – Nigeria

Nigerians living in poverty rise to nearly 61%, February 13, 2012, BBC News: “Poverty has risen in Nigeria, with almost 100 million people living on less than a $1 (£0.63) a day, despite economic growth, statistics have shown. The National Bureau of Statistics said 60.9% of Nigerians in 2010 were living in ‘absolute poverty’ – this figure had risen from 54.7% in 2004. The bureau predicted this rising trend was likely to continue. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer but the sector has been tainted by accusations of corruption. According to the report, absolute poverty is measured by the number of people who can afford only the bare essentials of shelter, food and clothing…”

Drought and Famine – Somalia

  • UN declares Somalia famine in Bakool and Lower Shabelle, July 20, 2011, BBC News: “The United Nations has declared a famine in two areas of southern Somalia as the region suffers the worst drought in more than half a century. The UN said the humanitarian situation in southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle had deteriorated rapidly. It is the first time that the country has seen famine in 19 years. Meanwhile, the UN and US have said aid agencies need further safety guarantees from armed groups in Somalia to allow staff to reach those in need. Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group which controls large swathes of south and central Somalia, had imposed a ban on foreign aid agencies in its territories in 2009, but has recently allowed limited access…”
  • Somalis dying in world’s worst famine in 20 years, By Katharine Houreld (AP), July 20, 2011, Denver Post: “Tens of thousands of Somalis are feared dead in the world’s worst famine in a generation, the U.N. said Wednesday, and the U.S. said it will allow emergency funds to be spent in areas controlled by al-Qaida-linked militants as long as the fighters do not interfere with aid distributions. Exhausted, rail-thin women are stumbling into refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia with dead babies and bleeding feet, having left weaker family members behind along the way. ‘Somalia is facing its worst food security crisis in the last 20 years,’ said Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s top official in charge of humanitarian aid in Somalia. ‘This desperate situation requires urgent action to save lives … it’s likely that conditions will deteriorate further in six months.’ The crisis is the worst since 1991-92, when hundreds of thousands of Somalis starved to death, Bowden said…”

Average Height of Poor Women – Africa

Height: Very poor women are shrinking, as are their chances at a better life, By Donald G. McNeil Jr., April 25, 2011, New York Times: “The average height of very poor women in some developing countries has shrunk in recent decades, according to a new study by Harvard researchers. Height is a reliable indicator of childhood nutrition, disease and poverty. Average heights have declined among women in 14 African countries, the study found, and stagnated in 21 more in Africa and South America. That suggests, the authors said, that poor women born in the last two decades, especially in Africa, are worse off than their mothers or grandmothers born after World War II…”

Child Poverty – South Africa

Apartheid-style neglect of kids continues, By Charl Du Plessis, March 24, 2011, Sunday Times: “So says a report, a collaboration between the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the SA Human Rights Commission, released yesterday. It details how the country fails the most vulnerable. The report said that 64%, or 11.9million of the country’s 18.6million children, live in poverty, and four out of 10 children live in households in which none of the adults work. About 1.7million children lived in shacks, 1.4million relied on rivers or streams as their main source of water, and 1.5million had no toilet in their home. African children were 18 times more likely to grow up in poverty and 12 times more likely to experience hunger than white children. The worst-hit areas of ‘multiple deprivation’ were still former homelands, said the report, which drew on data from the Statistics SA general household survey and other surveys. Children are failed primarily by the health and education systems…”

Telecommunications in Developing Nations

Nokia taking a rural road to growth, By Kevin O’Brien, November 1, 2010, New York Times: “On Saturday at dawn, hundreds of farmers near Jhansi, an agricultural center in central India, received a succinct but potent text message on their cellphones: the current average wholesale price for 100 kilograms of tomatoes was 600 rupees. In a country where just 7 percent of the population have access to the Internet, such real-time market data is so valuable that the farmers are willing to pay $1.35 a month for the information. What is unusual about the service is the company selling it: Nokia, the Finnish cellphone leader, which unlike its rivals – Samsung, LG, Apple, Research In Motion and Sony Ericsson – is leveraging its size to focus on some of the world’s poorest consumers. Since 2009, 6.3 million people have signed up to pay Nokia for commodity data in India, China and Indonesia. On Tuesday, Nokia plans to announce it is expanding the program, called Life Tools, part of its Ovi mobile services business, to Nigeria…”

Millennium Development Goals – Africa

U.N. Millennium Development Goals appear out of reach in Africa, By Robyn Dixon, September 13, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “Sub-Saharan Africa will not reduce poverty and hunger and improve child and maternal healthcare to meet the goals set a decade ago by the United Nations unless African and Western leaders do much more, several recent reports suggest. The main reasons: Donors have failed to keep pledges and many African nations have not improved their governments or increased health spending as promised. Only a handful of developed countries have met a pledge to increase foreign aid to 0.7% of their gross domestic product, while in some countries aid is declining. And only Rwanda, Tanzania and Liberia have met their pledge to spend 15% of their budgets on health, while in some African nations – Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa and others – the proportion has fallen since 2000, according to a recent report out of Britain. The average spending on healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa remains less than 10% of GDP. The Millennium Development Goals were adopted by about 190 U.N. member countries in 2000 to tackle poverty, hunger, disease and early deaths in poor countries, with a series of targets set for 2015. The struggling efforts to meet those goals will be discussed at a three-day U.N. summit in New York beginning Monday…”

Multidimensional Poverty Index

  • New poverty index finds Indian states worse than Africa, July 13, 2010, Hindustan Times: “More people are mired in poverty in eight Indian states than in the 26 poorest African countries, according to a new UN-backed measure of poverty. The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) looks beyond income at a wider range of household-level deprivation, including services, which could then be used to help target development resources. Its findings throw up stark istics compared to regular poverty measures. The study found that half of the world’s MPI poor people live in South Asia, and just over a quarter in Africa. There are 421 million MPI poor people in eight Indian states alone — Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal — and 410 million in the 26 poorest African countries combined. The researchers said that the extent of poverty in India had often been overlooked, by figures comparing percentages of poor people in countries as a whole rather than sheer numbers…”
  • ‘Acute poverty in eight Indian states’, July 12, 2010, The Hindu: “Acute poverty prevails in eight Indian states, including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, together accounting for more poor people than in the 26 poorest African nations combined, a new ‘multidimensional’ measure of global poverty has said. The new measure, called the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), was developed and applied by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative with UNDP support. It will be featured in the forthcoming 20th anniversary edition of the UNDP Human Development Report. An analysis by MPI creators reveals that there are more ‘MPI poor’ people in eight Indian states (421 million in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal) than in the 26 poorest African countries combined (410 million). The new poverty measure gives a multidimensional picture of people living in poverty, and is expected to help target development resources more effectively, its creators said…”

National Health Insurance – Rwanda

A dirt-poor nation, with a health plan, By Donald G. McNeil, Jr., June 14, 2010, New York Times: “The maternity ward in the Mayange district health center is nothing fancy. It has no running water, and the delivery room is little more than a pair of padded benches with stirrups. But the blue paint on the walls is fairly fresh, and the labor room beds have mosquito nets. Inside, three generations of the Yankulije family are relaxing on one bed: Rachel, 53, her daughter Chantal Mujawimana, 22, and Chantal’s baby boy, too recently arrived in this world to have a name yet. The little prince is the first in his line to be delivered in a clinic rather than on the floor of a mud hut. But he is not the first with health insurance. Both his mother and grandmother have it, which is why he was born here. Rwanda has had national health insurance for 11 years now; 92 percent of the nation is covered, and the premiums are $2 a year…”

Mobile Banking – Kenya

Mobile banking closes poverty gap, By Jane Wakefield, May 28, 2010, BBC News: “Mobile banking has transformed the way people in the developing world transfer money and now it is poised to offer more sophisticated banking services which could make a real difference to people’s lives. Currently 2.7bn people living in the developing world do not have access to any sort of financial service. At the same time 1bn people throughout Africa, Latin America and Asia own a mobile phone. As a result, mobile money services are springing up all over the developing world. According to mobile industry group the GSMA there are now 65 mobile money systems operating around the globe, with a further 82 about to be launched. Most offer basic services such as money transfers, which are incredibly important for migrant workers who need to send cash back to their families. M-Pesa in Kenya is perhaps the most famous of these and it has attracted 9.4 million Kenyans in just under three years. Now it is ready to move to the next stage. M-Pesa, has recently partnered with Kenya’s Equity Bank to offer subscribers a savings account, called M-Kesho…”

Drought and Hunger – Niger, Africa

Millions face hunger in arid belt of Africa, By Jon Gambrell (AP), May 28, 2010, Modesto Bee: ” At this time of year, the Gadabeji Reserve should be refuge for the nomadic tribes who travel across a moonscape on the edge of the Sahara to graze their cattle. But the grass is meager after a drought killed off the last year’s crops. Now the cattle are too weak to stand and too skinny to sell, leaving the poor without any way to buy grain to feed their families. The threat of famine is again stalking the Sahel, a band of semiarid land stretching across Africa south of the Sahara. The U.N. World Food Program warned on Friday that some 10 million people face hunger over the next three months before the next harvest in September – if it comes…”

AIDS Orphans and Social Services – South Africa

South Africa AIDS orphans overwhelm social work services, By Scott Baldauf, May 10, 2010, Christian Science Monitor: “Lora Doman sees more human drama, suffering, and courage in a single morning than most South Africans ever see. Ms. Doman is not a nun, or a saint. She is one of South Africa’s 12,000 social workers, a front-line soldier in a battle to hold her country together, one family at a time, several families a day, ensuring that abused, neglected, or orphaned children have a home. It’s a monstrous task in a country where an estimated 5.5 million people – roughly 18 percent of the population – are believed to be infected with the HIV virus.The AIDS epidemic not only kills millions of South Africans, it also orphans children. A United Nations and World Health Organization report last year estimated that as of 2007 there were 1.4 million South African AIDS orphans – a tripling of the number estimated in 2001, and the largest concentration in the world. For homes, many of these AIDS orphans must turn to their extended families – many of whom are already living in poverty – and to overwhelmed orphanages and shelters for survival…”

Food Aid Distribution – Somalia

Somalia food aid bypasses needy, U.N. study says, By Jeffrey Gettleman and Neil MacFarquhar, March 9, 2010, New York Times: “As much as half the food aid sent to Somalia is diverted from needy people to a web of corrupt contractors, radical Islamist militants and local United Nations staff members, according to a new Security Council report. The report, which has not yet been made public but was shown to The New York Times by diplomats, outlines a host of problems so grave that it recommends that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon open an independent investigation into the World Food Program’s Somalia operations. It suggests that the program rebuild the food distribution system – which serves at least 2.5 million people and whose aid was worth about $485 million in 2009 – from scratch to break what it describes as a corrupt cartel of Somali distributors…”

Millennium Villages – Africa

Shower of aid brings flood of progress, By Jeffrey Gettleman, March 8, 2010, New York Times: “In the past five years, life in this bushy little patch of western Kenya has improved dramatically. Agricultural yields have doubled; child mortality has dropped by 30 percent; school attendance has shot up and so have test scores, putting one local school second in the area, when it used to be ranked 17th; and cellphone ownership (a telltale sign of prosperity in rural Africa) has increased fourfold. There is a palpable can-do spirit that infuses the muddy lanes and family compounds walled off by the fruity-smelling lantana bushes. People who have grown bananas for generations are learning to breed catfish, and women who used to be terrified of bees are now lulling them to sleep with smoke and harvesting the honey. ‘I used to think, African killer bees, no way,’ said Judith Onyango, one of the new honey makers. But now, she added, with visible pride, ‘I’m an apiarist.’ Sauri was the first of what are now more than 80 Millennium Villages across Africa, a showcase project that was the dream child of Jeffrey D. Sachs, the Harvard-trained, Columbia University economist who runs with an A-list crowd: Bono, both Bills (Clinton and Gates), George Soros, Kofi Annan, Ban Ki-moon and others…”

Child Poverty – South Africa

Poverty hits SA children, February 26, 2010, Times Live: “A new OECD working paper on trends in poverty and income inequality in South Africa has found that more than half of all South Africans (54%) are poor but, among children below 10, as many as two out of three are poor. ‘This implies that among all poor South Africans, one in three is a child,’ said the OECD in the report that was released on Thursday. These high values are based on the national poverty line of 515 rand a month, or about US$ 4 a day, which is used for national policy making. International comparisons of lower-income countries often use the World Bank poverty line which is US$2 a day. Under this lower line, the aggregate poverty rate in South Africa is 30% but if the standard OECD poverty line, which is below half the average income, the poverty rate is 26%…”

Drought and Food Aid – Ethiopia

  • Ethiopia appeals for international aid 25 years on, By Tom Pettifor, October 23, 2009, The Mirror: “It’s been a quarter of a century since the Ethiopian famine which shocked the world – and history could be about to repeat itself. The government of Ethiopia, a country in the grip of a five-year drought, yesterday asked the international community for emergency aid to feed 6.2 million. The request came at a meeting of donors to discuss the impact of the drought, affecting parts of East Africa. The UN’s World Food Programme said £173million will be needed in the next six months and some aid officials say the numbers of hungry could rise. But an Oxfam report to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1984 famine – Band Aids and Beyond – warns that drought will be the norm there for the next 25 years. And it called for a new approach to tackling the risk of disaster in the country…”
  • Is U.S. food aid contributing to Africa’s hunger?, By Dana Hughes, October 29, 2009, ABC News: “Drought-stricken Ethiopia is pleading for food aid again to stave off starvation, but some critics are complaining that the policies of the country’s most generous donor, the United States, is exacerbating the cycle of starvation. A hungry Ethiopia gets 70 percent of its aid from the U.S., but according to a new report by the aid organization Oxfam International, that help comes at a cost. U.S. law requires that food aid money be spent on food grown in the U.S., at least half of it must be packed in the U.S. and most of it must be transported in U.S. ships. The Oxfam report, ‘Band Aids and Beyond,’ claims that is far more expensive and time consuming than buying food in the region…”
  • Oxfam says Band-Aids insufficient, By Peter Goodspeed, October 23, 2009, National Post: “Twenty-five years after Ethiopia suffered a staggering famine that killed more than one million people, the world has done little to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy. A new report by the international aid group Oxfam claims ‘the humanitarian response to drought and other disasters is still dominated by ‘Band-Aids,’ ‘ instead of finding ways to reduce the risks of recurring crisis…”

Trachoma Treatment and Disease Prevention – Africa

Fighting blindness may prevent deaths in Ethiopia, By Carla K. Johnson (AP), September 1, 2009, Washington Post: “An antibiotic widely used in Africa to treat eyesight-robbing infections seems to help prevent Ethiopian children from dying of other diseases. A study in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association suggests an unintended benefit from efforts to wipe out trachoma, the world’s leading preventable cause of blindness. The World Health Organization has set 2020 as the target for eliminating trachoma. The United States has been free of the disease since the 1970s, but it persists in 48 countries. In Ethiopia, a hotbed, 40 percent of children under 10 show signs of active trachoma…”

Hunger and Food Security in Nigeria

Little keeps Nigeria from a crisis of hunger, By David Hecht, August 2, 2009, Washington Post: “The nation blessed with Africa’s largest oil reserves and some of its most fertile lands has a problem. It cannot feed its 140 million people, and relatively minor reductions in rainfall could set off a regional food catastrophe, experts say. Nigeria was a major agricultural exporter before oil was discovered off its coast in the 1970s. But as it developed into the world’s eighth-largest oil producing country, its big farms and plantations were neglected. Today, about 90 percent of Nigeria’s agricultural output comes from inefficient small farms, according to the World Bank, and most farmers have little or no access to fertilizers, irrigation or other modern inputs. Most do not even grow enough food to feed their own families…”