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POVERTY SPOTLIGHT
INDONESIA: Legal marriage age contributes to mortality
ASIA: Exclusive growth is leaving too many behind
PAKISTAN: Villagers face threat from rising seawater
INDIA: When women come cheaper than cattle
BANGLADESH: Women find liberty in hard labor
LAO PDR: Urban-rural divide over safe water, sanitation, hygiene
INDONESIA: Breaking the farmers' cycle of poverty
SOUTH ASIA: 'Biggest victims' of regional tensions
PRC: Children need critical illness insurance
AFGHANISTAN: Harsh conditions inside woman's prison
KOREA: Rapid economic rise leaves many elderly facing poverty
PAKISTAN: 77 million people food insecure
MYANMAR: Villagers lose land, homes to mining waste
BANGLADESH: Addressing urban poverty
IN DEPTH
INDONESIA: Legal marriage age contributes to mortality
Source: Jakarta Post (April 18)

"Indonesia has one of the highest percentages of child marriage cases in the world and the second-highest in ASEAN after Cambodia. The National Commission on Violence against Women has called on the government to raise the legal minimum age for marriage from 16 to 18 years old for females. The number of married females aged between 10 and 14 years has reached more than 22,000, while married females aged between 15 and 19 account for 11.7 percent.

Young brides are also vulnerable to domestic abuse, which can cause pregnancy complications. A study in Finland found that women who experienced domestic abuse had weaker immune systems, and their chances of surviving labor also significantly decreased. The 2012 Indonesia Demographic and Health Survey found that the maternal mortality rate in Indonesia stood at 359 per 100,000 live births, up from 228 per 100,000 live births in 2007."

ASIA: Exclusive growth is leaving too many behind
Source: South China Morning Post (April 11)

"In two decades of spectacular economic growth and poverty reduction, Asia has nonetheless seen income inequality rising by more than 20 percent -- a growth pattern that cannot be considered inclusive. A shift to more inclusive growth that taps the contribution of people at all income levels, not just the better-off, would not only be socially desirable but also help sustain growth itself.

Overall growth has failed to translate into similar improvements in living standards. One indication that growth is not reaching a broad enough segment of the population is relatively weak household consumption. Estimates suggest this grew only 5.5 percent in the 2000s in the region, even as GDP surged 8.2 percent. Another part of the problem is that many lower-income groups have inadequate access to basic services in health care, education, or safe drinking water and sanitation, leaving them ill-equipped to participate in economic advancements."

PAKISTAN: Villagers face threat from rising seawater
Source: UPI (April 4)

"The intrusion of the Arabian Sea into the mouth of the Indus River on Pakistan's southern coast is eroding land, forcing whole villages to relocate inland, and threatening fishing livelihoods, residents and environmental experts say. As sea levels rise globally, low-lying coastal areas become vulnerable to the incoming saltwater.

A 2012 report by the Pakistan Meteorological Department found the sea level rising at about one-tenth of an inch per year. It said the frequency of droughts and floods in the delta had increased considerably during the previous decade. Increased tidal and storm activity in the Arabian Sea was causing more saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion, hindering agriculture and depleting fish stocks and mangroves."

INDIA: When women come cheaper than cattle
Source: hindustantimes.com (March 28)

"The skewed sex ratio in India and entrenched feudalism has resulted in a flourishing trade in women trafficked from poverty-ridden villages. Less than two hours drive from New Delhi, Mewat is one of the 21 districts of Haryana, which has the most imbalanced sex ratio in the country -- 879 women for every 1,000 men against the national average of 927 to 1,000. More than 30% of men in Haryana between the ages of 15 and 44 are unmarried because of the skewed sex ratio.

Women, who are usually promised marriage, find themselves in places like Mewat where the go-betweens sell them -- sometimes repeatedly -- to men who cannot find local women. Cut off from their native states, they are often confined and forced to work as bonded labor or pushed into forced marriages or prostitution. According to the 2011 census, about 72% of the population in rural Haryana, including more than 60% of the women, is literate."

BANGLADESH: Women find liberty in hard labor
Source: latimes.com (March 14)

"Bangladesh's garment industry has earned a reputation for harsh and sometimes lethal working conditions. According to a BBC report, it is common for workers to be locked into a factory for brutally long stretches of time. The reporter, who went under cover as a buyer for a fake British clothing manufacturer, was told that shifts always ended at 5:30 at night and was even given a doctored time sheet for one that he secretly observed run 19.5 hours, from 7 a.m. to 2:30 the next morning.

Despite the horrific industrial accidents and accusations of labor abuses -- such as forced workweeks of 80 hours -- the picture of the underpaid and over-exploited garment worker gets more complicated when compared with other options available to women. Even labor activists in Bangladesh and the United States agree that the garment industry has given young women opportunities to move from the margins to the center of society. About 5,600 factories in Bangladesh employ more than 4 million people; 90% of the workers are female."

LAO PDR: Urban-rural divide over safe water, sanitation, hygiene
Source: IRIN (March 7)

"Lao, PDR has been growing at 8 percent a year over the past decade but rural areas, where most people still live, are being left behind in terms of access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services, health experts warn. Nearly half of the Lao rural population practices open defecation, the second highest rate in Southeast Asia, says a 2013 UN joint monitoring report.

Urban-rural gaps in clean water and sanitation are widespread in this landlocked, mountainous country of 6.7 million people, where nearly 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas. In 2012, only 64 percent of people in rural communities had improved sources of drinking water and 48 percent had improved sanitation facilities, compared to 88 and 91 percent in urban areas, according to government statistics."

INDONESIA: Breaking the farmers' cycle of poverty
Source: globalindonesianvoices.com (Feb. 28)

"In Indonesia, the welfare of rural farmers, who are the main pillars of the country's economy, continues to be a problem over the last few decades. In order to survive, these farmers have to face countless problems, ranging from weather uncertainty, natural disasters, to competition against imported goods. A range of solutions have been offered, from provision of cheap machinery and fertilizers to the abolishment of the fixed low price policy of rice. Notably, one solution has attracted much attention, which is the use of distant education method to improve farmers' skills and knowledge.

Half of the Indonesian population is still living below or just above the poverty line with agricultural trade as their main income source, which is ironic given that Indonesia is one of the largest agricultural countries in the world. This happens because farmers do not have access to knowledge and methods for effective and efficient farming and thus, they are unable to increase their output. It is crucial for these farmers to be able to produce in bulk if they want to compete against the cheaper imported agricultural products."

SOUTH ASIA: 'Biggest victims' of regional tensions
Source: Dawn (Feb. 21)

"The absence of a bilateral treaty between India and Pakistan on the issue of fishermen breaching maritime borders has allowed the long history of animosity between the two countries. With no money and no connections, the community of fishermen is among the poorest in both countries. When they stray into alien territory, they are apprehended and charged under various laws.

Once sentenced, many spend years waiting for their release, often beyond the time they are supposed to serve. And on release their boats -- their sole means of livelihood -- are confiscated. It takes them a long time to build new ones when they get home. In the legal and political thicket, one often forgets the agony of families who do not always know whether a missing loved one is alive or dead."

PRC: Children need critical illness insurance
Source: China Daily (Feb. 14)

"The first safe haven for abandoned children in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, received 33 infants, who are either ill or disabled, within 10 days of its launch. Accordingly a senior charity worker has been quoted as saying that ill or disabled infants account for a very high percentage of the abandoned children. Since serious illness is the leading reason for children to be abandoned, the state should expedite the introduction of critical illness insurance for children, says a commentary in Beijing News.

In Guangdong and many other provinces, medical insurance still does not cover critical illnesses, and paying for the treatment of such illnesses is beyond the means of ordinary wage earners. The lack of medical insurance for critical diseases has forced not only parents to abandon their critically ill or disabled children, but also led to other tragedies. China is in the process of reforming its medical sector and introducing a critical illness insurance program. But the process, some say, is far too slow."

AFGHANISTAN: Harsh conditions inside woman's prison
Source: IWPR (Feb. 7)

"On a bitterly cold winter's day, the inmates of Badam Bagh prison in the Afghan capital Kabul do whatever they can to keep warm. With no stoves in their cells, some cover themselves with blankets, while others huddle together in a line for soap, washing powder and baby diapers. 'We spend all day and night just wrapped in blankets, as there's no way of warming up our rooms,' said Razia, 22. 'The whole city is short of electricity these days. Officials acknowledge this but don't do anything about it.'

As well as the cold, Badam Bagh's female inmates complain that nutrition and healthcare are inadequate, and that prison warders mistreat them and ignore bullying by other prisoners. Prisoners say medical care is poor, with only a few medicines prescribed to treat a wide range of ailments."

KOREA: Rapid economic rise leaves many elderly facing poverty
Source: The Guardian (Jan. 31)

"There is a dark side to Korea's 50-year rise to riches: The greying generation that is most responsible for that ascent is living in relative poverty. In a fast-paced nation famous for its high achievers and its big spending on private tutors and luxury goods, half of Korea's elderly are poor, the highest rate in the industrialized world.

Over the past 15 years, the percentage of children who think they should look after their parents has shrunk from 90% to 37%, according to government polls. Meanwhile, Korea's government has been slow to provide a safety net. Only a third of retirees have pensions, and the payouts are relatively paltry, analysts say."

PAKISTAN: 77 million people food insecure
Source: Tribune (Jan. 24)

"Increasing poverty levels over the past decade are now affecting 40 percent of Pakistan's population. according to independent research studies. With approximately 77 million food-insecure people, poverty is the most important challenge for the government. At the second annual conference of the Pakistan Strategy Support Program (PSSP), researchers and economists from across the country joined international consultants to present the findings of some recently conducted surveys.

While presenting trends in poverty, Edward Whitey from PSSP said that poverty rates had increased over the last decade, though rural poverty is persistently higher than urban poverty. One expert said that wheat is central to food security in Pakistan but wheat prices have implications for consumers. Wheat accounts for over 55 percent of the total caloric consumption and poor households spend 24 percent of food expenditure on wheat."

MYANMAR: Villagers lose land, homes to mining waste
Source: Irrawaddy (Jan. 17)

"Farmer Kan Aye appears despondent as he talks about the layer of red mud that has built up under his wooden stilt house as a result of the waste produced by nearby pebble mining firm. There was a time when he could keep cattle underneath his home in The Chaung village in the Irrawaddy Delta's Nga Pu Taw Township, but these days he can't even keep piglets there as the 2-meter-high space has almost completely been filled with mud.

The villages of Chaung, Hmawbi and Gyan Kap all suffer from the heavy environmental impacts of the nearby operation of firms that are mining for pebbles, a valuable construction material. Dozens of families in the villages have seen their farmland disappear under the mud-filed waste water and now, even their homes are no longer safe."

BANGLADESH: Addressing urban poverty
Source: Financial Express (Jan. 10)

"Over 90 percent of urban growth has been occurring in the developing world with an estimated 70 million new residents to urban areas each year. During the next two decades, the urban population of the world's two poorest regions, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, is expected to double. Both natural population growth and rural-to-urban migration contribute to urban growth. Cities provide opportunities for many, particularly the poor who are attracted by greater job prospects, the availability of services, and for some, an escape from constraining social and cultural traditions in rural villages.

Yet city life can also present conditions of overcrowded living, congestion, unemployment, lack of social and community networks, stark inequalities, and social problems such as crimes and violence. Many of those who migrate to cities benefit from the opportunities in urban areas. Others, often those with low skill levels, may be left behind and find themselves struggling with the day-to-day challenges of city life. There are many programs for the rural poor but not many for their urban counterparts, whose numbers are on the rise. An integrated approach involving the government, NGOs and private sector is needed to reduce poverty and injustice to the poor."

POVERTY SPOTLIGHT 2013
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