Change Font: A A A A Contact Us      What's New      FAQs      Sitemap      E-Notifications      Help           ADB.org home
HomeE-mail NotificationsADBI E-Newsline

ADBI E-Newsline

POVERTY SPOTLIGHT 2011
NEPAL: Former rebels reveal wartime scars
PAKISTAN: Rural girls desperate for education
AFGHANISTAN: For street kids, abuse lurks on every corner
ASIA-PACIFIC: More than 30 million children lack essential services
BANGLADESH: Women living with climate fear
PAKISTAN: Lack of funds threaten flood relief
PHILIPPINES: Grinding poverty rampages through Bicol
TAJIKISTAN: Borrowing bride-theft idea from neighbors
INDIA: Poverty drives thousands into child labor in Kashmir
SRI LANKA: Struggling to survive beside the shiny new road
VIET NAM: The path to school thorny and rocky in border areas
BANGLADESH: Flowers power poor out of poverty
BANGLADESH: Poor and pensionless
INDONESIA: Poor flock to capital to beg from new rich
INDIA: Home-based workers fall through safety net
NEPAL: Millions of children risk statelessness
ARMENIA: Struggling against illegal child labor
AFGHANISTAN: Village is a model of dashed hopes
NEPAL: Emerging from menstrual quarantine
HONG KONG, CHINA: Poorest living in 'coffin homes'
TAJIKISTAN: Corruption drags down quality of higher education
PAKISTAN: Post-flood blues
INDIA: Four burgeoning suburban slums dwarf Dharavi
SOLOMON ISLANDS: The challenges faced by disabled girls
BANGLADESH: Slum population in Khulna burgeoning
INDONESIA: Bali's riches expose wealth gap
PRC: Child poverty must be alleviated
SOUTH ASIA: Twenty years of debt bondage
ASIA: Looking deeper into child marriage
NEPAL: Malnutrition crisis looming in remote areas
INDIA: A trade not worth its salt
VIET NAM: Poor laborers desperate to return to quarries, despite risks
PRC: When will the poor get a break?
PAKISTAN: Temporary learning centers give girls opportunities
BANGLADESH: Parents still not heeding child marriage warnings
INDIA: Leprosy in India only eliminated on paper
ASIA: Poorest workers fall further behind
PAKISTAN: Disabled -- and at risk of being trafficked
INDONESIA: Land planning in Jakarta squeezing out the poor
AFGHANISTAN: Reaching out to hidden war widows
INDIA: Limbless singer gives voice to rural poor
PRC: Poverty drives one million Beijing workers underground
CAMBODIA: Families face grave situation
AFGHANISTAN: Illegal rubbish dumping causes health concerns
AFGHANISTAN: Painful struggle to earn a living
BANGLADESH: Arrest uncovers evidence of children forced into begging
ASIA: Not all countries are flush with luxury
IN DEPTH
NEPAL: Former rebels reveal wartime scars
Source: AFP (Dec. 16)

"As Man Bahadur Chhetri contemplates life away from the squalid camp in which he has languished with hundreds of comrades for five years, his thoughts turn to the horrors of war. Chhetri is among 19,000 Maoist fighters who have been confined to makeshift rural cantonments since 2006. Chhetri and his colleagues have bided their time in a ramshackle township of tiny tin-roofed wooden and concrete houses while their future was put on ice by five years of wrangling between Nepal's powerbrokers. Around 40 share a kitchen, taking turns to cook with basic rations. They sleep in sparse living quarters, six to a room, and have little but volleyball, table-tennis and chess to help them pass the time.

Forty percent of camp inmates are women. One of them, Tulku Syangtan, 22, was first persuaded to join up by the Maoists' avowed goal of ending violence against women. But former rebels voice concerns that not much has changed in the country since the war and their aspiration to end inequalities and lift millions out of poverty remains a distant dream. Under the final peace accord struck between the Maoists and the three other major political parties last month, the former rebels are being offered places in the army they fought for a decade. The alternatives are a retirement package of up to 800,000 rupees ($10,000) or rehabilitation that includes vocational training but no government cash."

PAKISTAN: Rural girls desperate for education
Source: soschildrensvillages.ca (Dec. 9)

"Insecurity and government resistance in Pakistan has led to a lack of educational facilities, impacting the ability for girls in rural villages to access basic education. In some rural areas of Pakistan, illiteracy rates among women remain at 90 percent, with some villages 150 km from the nearest school. Reasons for a continued lack of education is a lack of investment in schools and the reluctance of teachers to venture into areas of the country which they deem to be dangerous.

Official statistics give a desperate picture of education, especially for girls. The overall literacy rate is 46 percent, while only 26 percent of girls are literate. Some independent sources and educational experts place the overall literacy rate at 26 percent and the rate for girls and women at 12 percent, contending that the higher figures include people who can handle little more than a signature. According to UNICEF, 17.6 percent of Pakistani children are working and supporting their families."

AFGHANISTAN: For street kids, abuse lurks on every corner
Source: Eurasia Net (Dec. 2)

"Poverty and insecurity are forcing an increasing number of Afghan children to work and beg on the streets. And with the rising number of street kids -- estimated at 50,000 in Kabul alone, according to the United Nations -- comes an increase in cases of child abuse. Mohammad Yousif, head of the Afghan nongovernmental organization Aschiana, which provides services, support, and programs to underprivileged children, says his organization has witnessed a significant rise in the number of working street children who have been sexually assaulted. Yousif says the number of street children has risen from 38,000 in 2003 to over 60,000 this year, and attributes the spike to mass influxes of refugees fleeing Iran and Pakistan, drought, and insecurity, which has forced many families to leave their homes. And in many cases, Yousif says, the burden of supporting the family has fallen on children."

ASIA-PACIFIC: More than 30 million children lack essential services
Source: news-medical.net (Nov. 25)

"More than 30 million children in seven countries in East Asia and the Pacific are deprived of at least one essential service such as basic health care, safe drinking water or access to education, according to a United Nations study. UNICEF's 'Child Poverty in East Asia and the Pacific: Deprivations and Disparities' report said more than 13 million of the 93 million children in Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vanuatu and Vietnam suffer from two or more such deprivations.

The lack of services for children is fueled by inequities between rural and urban areas, between ethnic minorities and general populations, by geographic disparities, family size and the education level of heads of households. Instead of the traditional practice of using the parents' income to determine how deprived the children are, the report takes a broader look at their access to shelter, food, water, sanitation, education, health and information."

BANGLADESH: Women living with climate fear
Source: OneWorld (Nov. 18)

"Thousands of women in Char Nongolia village of Bangladesh are living without basic amenities as frequent cyclones, extended droughts and increasing salinity have affected lives and livelihoods. Yet, the 40,000 people of this village, sitting on a delta that drains the sub-continent's major river systems, have endured the creeping devastation of their homeland in southeastern Bangladesh with no help from anywhere. There is no drinking water supply, no land to grow food crops on, no healthcare facility, no roads, no jobs and absolutely no sign of any security or authority. Any natural protection afforded by forests has long ago been stripped away.

Past promises on reforestation and the construction of embankments, to mitigate natural disasters and the effects of climate change events remained unfulfilled. Such is the air of helplessness in the coastal regions that Bangladesh's junior minister for environment, Hasan Mahmud, admitted at a recent public meeting that close to 30 million people are likely to be displaced soon by the relentless loss of land. Most of the able-bodied men have migrated to the port city of Chittagong to find jobs, leaving the women to fend for themselves. Even the microfinance institutions that have helped women across Bangladesh is missing from these parts."

PAKISTAN: Lack of funds threaten flood relief
Source: OneWorld (Nov. 11)

"Flood relief programs in Pakistan will shut down in next few months owing to lack of funds, warn aid agencies. Over 9 million people were affected by this year's floods in Sindh province and over 3 million are in urgent need of food assistance. Flood relief programs in Pakistan could be forced to close in the next couple of months because of a lack of funds, aid agencies warned on Wednesday.

The UN, which has raised just $96.5m of the $357m it wants for flood relief, called the appeal 'distressingly underfunded'. The agency has warned that if more funding is not received, relief supplies would run out within weeks. The Pakistan government is also facing a funding crisis and might have to scale down its relief efforts. According to the aid agencies, more than three-quarters of the affected households have not received any shelter, while 800,000 people are still displaced. Around 3 million people are estimated to be in need of emergency food assistance. At least 2 million adults and 3 million children are at risk of disease, they said. A lack of media coverage has been blamed for the sluggish response to the funding appeals."

PHILIPPINES: Grinding poverty rampages through Bicol
Source: Manila Times (Nov. 4)

"In the Bicol region of the Philippines, more than 45 percent of the 5 million residents live in poverty. To escape the clutches of poverty, a Bicolano family of five needs P7,144 a month or about P85,730 annually. However, this is hardly enough to meet basic needs and provide children with a public education. Margie Canicula of Malinao town, whose husband earns P18,000 a month, points out that the pay is not enough to meet the needs of their family of four even with two children enrolled in a public elementary school.

Based on 2009 data, all provinces in the Bicol region experienced more than a 24 percent increase in poverty since 2006. Albay posted the highest increase of 26.2 percent as the value of goods and services are the steepest in Bicol. Josephine Chua, a NSCB statistical coordination officer, said the value of goods and services in Albay is higher because it is the capital of Bicol where the center of government, trade and commerce are located aside from being a tourism hub. If Albay breadwinners are unable to increase their earnings, numerous families are likely to fall into grinding poverty as the value of goods and services continues to rise."

TAJIKISTAN: Borrowing bride-theft idea from neighbors
Source: Institute for War and Peace Reporting (Oct. 28)

"Abducting the woman you want to marry -- with or without her permission -- is a well-known if illegal tradition in Central Asia, but typical only among the Kyrgyz and Kazaks. Now it is taking off among Tajiks, apparently borrowed from their neighbors. In the eastern Jirgatal district of Tajikistan, bride-theft survives among the Kyrgyz who form the majority population here, despite every effort to stamp it out under Soviet rule. Tajik authorities do not seem to be addressing the issue as it appears that most cases, as Qaisiddin suggested, are really consensual elopements. In any case, parents are reluctant to report cases to the police -- however unhappy they are about the marriage -- because of the shame that publicity would bring down on the family. A Jirgatal resident who did not want to be named described how his brother abducted his childhood sweetheart, returning to the village three days before her arranged marriage and eloping with her. The couple went to a Muslim cleric who performed the religious wedding rite."

INDIA: Poverty drives thousands into child labor in Kashmir
Source: OneWorld (Oct. 21)

"Kashmir's handicrafts industry, which has long served as the backbone of the state economy, has recently gained more sinister recognition as one of the state's leading employers of child laborers. The decades long conflict in the Indian state has forced over 175,000 children into child labor in automobile workshops and handicrafts industry. Poverty and exploitation are rife and children work in unhygienic conditions. The shawl industry is a particularly ravenous employer of children, especially young girls, whose small hands are useful for the intricate work of shawl making.

Over half the working children earn an average of one to five hundred rupees a month. In U.S. dollars, this works out to about 33 cents a day. According to one study, nearly 34% of child laborers have only received a fifth grade education. Given that 9.2% of child laborers are between five and 10 years old, while 90% of them are between 11 and 14 years old, these trends foretell a grim picture of an entire generation of impoverished and uneducated youth."

SRI LANKA: Struggling to survive beside the shiny new road
Source: Inter Press Service (Oct. 14)

"The sun's rays bouncing off the A9 highway give it a shining glow. Once known as Sri Lanka's 'highway of death', the road has come a long way from those horrid associations. Development is taking place at great speed on either side. Small hotels, shops and eateries dot the highway at frequent intervals. But not so far from the A9, life is still a bitter struggle. The United Nations' latest statistics indicate that over 380,000 civilians had returned to the region by the end of August. But while projects like the A9 highway are swallowing up millions, precious little has been allocated to resettlement and rehabilitation. Sixty percent of the population in the North are food insecure and half live below the national poverty line. The Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development warned that severe food shortages in the region could compound the precarious humanitarian situation. The agency said that nearly half the population of the Vanni is currently facing moderate to severe food insecurity."

VIET NAM: The path to school thorny and rocky in border areas
Source: VietNamNet (Oct. 7)

"Hundreds of students in Vietnam's border district of Muong Lat in Thanh Hoa province, have to walk dozens of kilometers of forest road to reach their schools. After the school hours they stay in the short-lived cottages. Rice, salt and forest vegetables are the main kinds of food in their meals. The poor students only have frugal meals. Located 300 kilometers away from the Thanh Hoa City, Muong Ly is considered the poorest commune of the remote mountainous district of Muong Lat. The commune is having most of the 'nos' in Thanh Hoa: no roads into the town center, no electricity grid, no telephone wave, and no markets.

Most of the students of the Muong Ly Secondary School have to travel tens of kilometers of forest roads to reach to their school. Since their houses are too far from school, Mong minority children have to go to the forest to chop down trees, stretch canvas tents along the streams or rivers on the Ma river's upstream, where they stay and learn every day. The national electricity grid has not reached the remote area, while they do not have money to buy candles or kerosene for paraffin lamps; therefore, the students have to complete reviewing the lessons before it gets dark."

BANGLADESH: Flowers power poor out of poverty
Source: China Daily (Sept. 30)

"Flowers sell cheaply on the streets of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. Yet flowers are becoming an important source of income for many in Bangladesh as demand for blossoms for everything from social occasions to national holidays soars. The new interest is helping many in this nation where nearly one-third of the nation's 160 million population survive on just $1.25 a day slowly inch their way from poverty.

When Montu Miah, a 50-year-old flower seller in the northern town of Bogra, began his business 15 years ago as a flower vendor, he earned at most 100 taka a day. Now his daily income is 30 times that, allowing him to pay for a home of his own and put his son and daughter through a local college. Similar success stories abound from around the country, with flowers being used to wish someone well, and congratulate students over success in exams or in finding a job. People now take flowers on hospital visits, instead of the traditional fruit, and flowers are also popular as presents at weddings."

BANGLADESH: Poor and pensionless
Source: trust.org (Sept. 16)

"In a village on the flood plains of central Bangladesh, an older woman in a yellow sari huddles outside a hut on stilts. The bare interior contains a cooking pot, a board covered with a mat and a rack holding a few neatly folded saris. Mumtaz, 64, lives alone and seems resigned to the fact that when the flood water, which laps around the palm trunks a few meters away, reaches her hut, she will move to the local cyclone shelter. She survives on her widow's pension of $3.00 a month.

India and Bangladesh have the second- and third-largest populations of poor older people in the world, yet both spend less than 0.5 percent of their GDP on social pensions, benefiting less than 20 percent of over-60s. India and Bangladesh both offer means-tested, non-contributory pension schemes for poor older people, but low literacy levels, geographical remoteness, lack of information and confusing bureaucracy mean the majority of such people do not know they are eligible."

INDONESIA: Poor flock to capital to beg from new rich
Source: Reuters (Sept. 9)

"Kusniwati traveled more than 300 km to visit one of the gleaming malls in Indonesia's capital. But she's not shopping, she sits outside and begs. On a good day she can earn up to $3.50. Thousands of people like Kusniwati poured into the capital during Ramadan in August, with beggars lining up on roads outside malls, offices and at traffic lights, hoping a growing middle class would share some wealth.

Southeast Asia's largest economy may be steaming along at more than 6 percent growth, but at least 30 million people are still classed as poor -- more than 12 percent of the people in the world's fourth most populous country. Such poverty levels present a policy problem for a government aiming to make the G20 country a world top 10 economy by 2025. To meet that goal, it will need to divert spending to subsidize rice and energy towards better infrastructure and skills training. The government has tripled spending on poverty alleviation in the past decade, but poverty levels in the archipelago have only dipped by about six percent in that period."

INDIA: Home-based workers fall through safety net
Source: Women's eNews (Sept. 2)

"Every day, after the household chores are done, Naseem Bano, 45, sits on the floor with her bowl of bone beads and threads them into necklaces. They will be marketed as an example of India's rich handicraft tradition. But for Bano there is no hint of richness in her own life. No matter how hard or long she works on any given day, she'll earn only about 50 cents, far below the statutory daily minimum wage of about $5.50 for workers in New Delhi.

Women like Bano provide a window into the country's 'unorganized enterprise' sector. About 32 percent of this work force is female, half of whom work out of their homes, according to a 2007 government study. The All India Democratic Women's Association has been petitioning both the national and Delhi governments to formally recognize this category of workers, provide them with identity cards, ensure guaranteed employment and comprehensive social security."

NEPAL: Millions of children risk statelessness
Source: OneWorld (Aug. 26)

"The proposed constitution of Nepal will deny citizenship to millions of children with mixed parentage leaving them with a bleak future, says the United Nations. Nepal has decided to grant citizenship only to children having both parents as Nepali nationals. With no official documents, children of mixed marriages will not be able to go to college, have a passport or driving license, own land, vote or participate in elections or be entitled to a government pension. They would also face difficulties in seeking jobs, despite being born and brought up in Nepal.

Aid workers say the new criteria, if approved, will further exacerbate Nepal's statelessness problems, adding that inhabitants of the country's southern plains known as the Terai region -- home to nearly half of Nepal's 28 million people -- are most at risk. The United Nations estimates 86 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, partly due to a decade-long civil conflict with Maoist rebels which killed thousands, destroyed infrastructure and devastated the economy. The United Nations launched a campaign on Thursday to highlight the plight of the world's 12-15 million statelessness people, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1961 UN convention on reducing statelessness."

ARMENIA: Struggling against illegal child labor
Source: armeniadiaspora.com (Aug. 19)

"Poor social and economic conditions in Shirak -- Armenia's most impoverished region -- hamper the struggle against child labor. Poverty is the major driving force that prompts children to work. Labor market analysis conducted in Armenia last year shows adolescents aged 15-19 years composed 1.2 percent of the workforce. In reality, teen employment rates are often hidden. Very often minors don't get registered legally.

Daniel Shahinyan is known all over the Gyumri market. Every day, the teenager with unusually rough hands carries a heavy wheel barrow piled high with various household goods to the market stores. While talking, Daniel looks away in embarrassment and says he's 19, but his naive childish eyes give away the truth; he's younger, perhaps about 15 years old. Adolescents in Armenia are often involved in construction work, seasonal farm work, porters in stores, mini bus drivers aides, and market sellers. Hardship forces children to go out to work, and consequently, children don't get a chance to receive education. The use of child labor is not uncommon in Central Asia. In Uzbekistan, 1.5 to 2 million schoolchildren are sent by central and local governments for 2-3 months every autumn to the fields to pick cotton under hazardous condition. This results in severe injuries to children and deprives them of their right to education."

AFGHANISTAN: Village is a model of dashed hopes
Source: New York Times (Aug. 12)

"The tiny Afghan village of Alice-Ghan rose from the rocky soil with great hopes and $10 million in foreign aid, built to shelter some of the hundreds of thousands of Afghans set adrift by war and flight. Five years later, the village of Alice-Ghan and those good intentions are tilting toward ruin. Most of its 1,100 houses have been abandoned to vandals and the lashing winds. With few services or jobs within reach, hundreds of residents have moved away -- sometimes even to the slums and temporary shelters they had sought to escape.

The settlement, a little more than an hour's drive north of the capital, Kabul, is one of 60 scattered across the country. It has become a demonstration of the miscalculations and obstacles that have thwarted so many similar efforts to tackle huge problems like poverty, hunger, illness and dislocation in Afghanistan. More than 150,000 Afghans have been displaced during the past 12 months, a 68 percent increase compared with the same period a year earlier, according to the United Nations refugee agency. In all, there are about 437,810 displaced Afghans within the country."

NEPAL: Emerging from menstrual quarantine
Source: Integrated Regional Information Network (Aug. 5)

"Every month, for one week, 14-year-old Kamala Vishwarkarmas returns from school to sleep alone in a dark, windowless mud hut. She is forbidden from entering her family's house during her menstrual cycle for fear of what might happen. 'I'll stay here in the 'goth' for seven days total,' Kamala said. 'Of course I feel afraid when I go inside by myself. It's so scary during the rainy season when all the snakes come.' 'Chhaupadi', Nepalese for the practice of segregating menstruating women from their houses and men, was outlawed by Nepal's supreme court in 2005. But locals say the practice is only now beginning to wane in the western region of Nepal, the only part of the country where the tradition is observed. A three-year-old initiative in Achham District to create 'chhaupadi'-free zones is slowly catching on, but remains stalled by a division between younger and older generations: the latter warn of disastrous consequences if menstruating women, considered toxic, step inside their houses."

HONG KONG, CHINA: Poorest living in 'coffin homes'
Source: CNN (Jul 29)

"Hidden amid the multi-million dollar high-rise apartments and chic shopping malls of Hong Kong's urban centers are scores of tiny, unseen tenements -- some no bigger than coffins -- that many people call home. Nicknamed coffin homes for their physical similarities, a typical 15-square-foot enclosure is just one incarnation of the city's distinctive low-income housing alternatives. Others include the city's cage homes, which resemble livestock coops.

There are now 1.2 million Hong Kong residents who currently live in poverty, according to a government advisory group. More than 300,000 people in Hong Kong are currently waiting for public housing. And although the average waiting time is three years, many wait in cramped spaces, like coffin homes, for as many as 10 years. In the past year, the rent for coffin homes has increased by roughly 20 percent."

TAJIKISTAN: Corruption drags down quality of higher education
Source: Eurasia Net (Jul 22)

"When applying to university in Dushanbe, Tajikistan's capital, 23-year-old Temur could try to win a scholarship that would cover his expenses and fees, or pay the annual $600 tuition. But there was a third, more practical option, too. 'I paid $100 to the dean to enter the university on a government-funded scholarship,' he said. Graft in higher education has long been common throughout the former Soviet Union, where instructors' meager salaries and a culture of corruption have made paying extra fees for the right grade, or the right entrance exam score, a preferred option for many young people.

Some education experts in Tajikistan estimate that only few students obtain a university diploma without paying bribes somewhere along the way. The trend is having long-term adverse effects outside the classroom: The lack of qualified experts in every field will cause 'a very big problem' for Tajikistan, said Oynihol Bobonazarova, who runs a legal-support clinic in Dushanbe."

PAKISTAN: Post-flood blues
Source: Dawn (Jul 15)

"Nearly one year after devastating floods swamped vast tracts of land across Pakistan, affecting over 20 million people, many survivors are still struggling to rebuild their lives as this year's monsoon season is about to start. In Sindh Province, the Indus river has already risen. Coupled with melting glaciers and snow in the mountainous north, the situation is threatening 30,000 people in 30 villages in Ghotki District.

The province was the worst hit by the floods, but media reports say 57,000 people have not received assistance. Many have been unable to rebuild or fully repair homes mainly due to large-scale mismanagement in the running of government schemes to help them. The 2010 flood had a severe impact on the economy, wiping out about 2 percent off Pakistan's annual GDP and $10 billion damage to economic infrastructure."

INDIA: Four burgeoning suburban slums dwarf Dharavi
Source: India Times (Jul 8)

"Dharavi, spread over 557 acres and housing nearly 300,000 people, is no longer Asia's largest slum. Mumbai has at least four larger contenders for the dubious distinction, some of them three times the size of Dharavi. Strikingly, though, the island city is now largely free of slums except for a few fringe pockets. The smaller slums in the suburbs have metamorphosed into contiguous, large slums.

While the profile of the suburban slum sprawls is still to be established, the Mankhurd-Govandi slums that have sprung up at the base of the Deonar dumping ground are known as a 'dumping ground' for the city's poor. It has the lowest human development index in the city and is constantly in the news for malnutrition deaths. Moreover, following earlier trends, the slums have come up on hill slopes and mud flats."

SOLOMON ISLANDS: The challenges faced by disabled girls
Source: Islands Business (Jul 1)

"Like many Pacific Island nations, traditional Solomon Islands society operates in close knit, mostly patriarchal communities, where the 'unfortunate' are cared for by community members. This creates an environment of charity towards those with disabilities, and while this can be positive, it is a subtle form of discrimination. This kind of attitude promotes pity for disabled individuals, and strips them of fundamental human rights -- like pride, dignity, and the opportunity to shape their own lives.

The idea that disabled girls and women could participate in community or country scale decision making that is vital to improving their lives is unlikely to be fulfilled. Disabled girls face discrimination in various forms. Not only because of their gender, but also because of their disability, and yet again because they are children. This is known as intersectional discrimination. However, when policies and frameworks are drawn up by governments and aid donors, this isn't usually considered and issues are addressed separately - Gender. Disability. Children. According to a 2009 UNDP study, only 18 percent of disabled girls attend school in Solomon Islands, compared to 37 percent of non-disabled girls."

BANGLADESH: Slum population in Khulna burgeoning
Source: Financial Express (Jun 24)

"More than 80,000 people are living in 120 slums in Bangladesh's Khulna city. Of the slums, 66 are squatter slums, mainly on railway department land, and 106 are on private land. The closure of mills and factories in Khulna within a short span of time has created an adverse impact on the economic and social life in the region. Thousands of workers and employees who lived in slum areas have been rendered jobless with their families facing a bleak future with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Lower income people living in the slums suffer from various types of diseases like diarrhea, influenza, measles, pox, pneumonia and other types of stomach diseases. A report says that slum dwellers are mostly outsiders. People from different districts are still coming to Khulna city in the quest for a better life. According to one estimate, about 1.5 million people are now living in the metropolitan area. The report pointed out that the condition of the Khulna city slums are better than those of Dhaka and Chittagong."

INDONESIA: Bali's riches expose wealth gap
Source: Global Post (Jun 17)

"On a large island southeast of Bali, Ibu Astuti spends her days sewing coconut palm fronds together to make delicate baskets called canang. Unlike the women in Bali who benefit from the island's booming tourism industry, Astuti sees hardly any of the wealth wash her way. Astuti's home of Nusa Penida has very little infrastructure. It is hilly and dry, with limited fresh water. Residents rely on nearby islands for food. There are few jobs and little schooling. Skin rashes, runny noses and undernourishment are common.

The stark contrast between Bali and Nusa Penida, islands separated by a 90-minute boat ride, illustrates a wealth gap that is one of the starkest in Southeast Asia. Though the number of people living below the official poverty line in Bali is among the country's lowest, at less than 5 percent, it sits just next to the Nusa Tenggara islands, where nearly a quarter of the population are poor, according to official statistics."

PRC: Child poverty must be alleviated
Source: People's Daily (Jun 10)

"Children hold the promise of a country's future, so there can never be too much importance attached to the question of child poverty. However, despite various aid programs, China's central government has yet to make an overall detailed plan to help children living in poverty. But the inclusion of child poverty as one of the 10 major target groups for the government's poverty alleviation efforts in the coming 10 years is an important step in the right direction.

It is estimated that the total number of children living in poverty is around 9 million nationwide, especially in the central and western regions. Whether these children will be able to get access to what they need for their healthy growth both physically and spiritually will have a great bearing on the future of poverty alleviation in the country."

SOUTH ASIA: Twenty years of debt bondage
Source: CNN (Jun 3)

"A bonded laborer named Haresh in West Bengal, India, once described how he took a loan of approximately $110 from the local landowner to get married to his beloved wife, Sarika. Two decades later, his entire family is still in debt to the landowner. One day his grandchildren will work for the landowner. There is no way to repay these debts. Haresh had no real sense of what his outstanding debts were. Since his initial loan, he had taken numerous loans from the same landowner for basic subsistence, medicines, repairs to his hut and other reasons.

Haresh's story is an example of the millions of bonded laborers across South Asia. Like Haresh, many bonded laborers have been in bondage for much of their lives. Others enter in and out of bondage several times; and still others enter in and out of bondage every year for seasonal industries, such as agriculture and brick-making. Bonded labor remains an ever-evolving, highly complicated mode of labor exploitation. It is estimated there are approximately 18.5 to 22.5 million debt bondage slaves in the world today, almost 90 percent of whom are in South Asia."

ASIA: Looking deeper into child marriage
Source: nl-aid.org (May 27)

"According to UNICEF, some 60 million children have been forced to enter into marriages before they are of legal age, half of which are in South Asia. The problem of child brides is the greatest in Rajasthan, India, where 15 percent of girls are under 10 years old when they married. Child marriages lead to higher instances of domestic violence and early pregnancies, which leave girls at high risk for death in childbirth, complications, and low birth weights. There are a multitude of reasons that societies continue to practice early marriage and feel the benefits out way any undesirable consequences. For example if a girl is married young her virginity is more likely to be guarantee, but the main reason is that with early marriage come increased economic and social benefits.

A wedding in a rural community is a great source of joy and pride for a family, especially the family of the bride, for they can now see that their child is cared for and has a future. Marriage is also of social importance, as the family receives a great standing in the community, based on the family of the groom or bride. Economically the families of the bride additionally benefit with the increase in social status and having one less mouth to feed, and often benefit from a dowry. In rural agricultural societies once families are joined they often pull their resources together to increase their output and probabilities."

NEPAL: Malnutrition crisis looming in remote areas
Source: OneWorld (May 20)

"Remote western Nepal faces a malnutrition crisis owing to low indigenous food production and marginalization by the government. In one isolated community in western Nepal, the rate of chronic malnutrition is 70 percent. The average life expectancy is only 47. International aid agencies are unable to continue relief in the region due to insufficient funding.

The Nepali government say they are aware of the crisis and that they are committed to long-term development projects such as building roads and modernizing agriculture. But for the moment, while politicians vie for power in Kathmandu, there is very little government presence in this region. For the past decade, international agencies like the UN World Food Program (WFP) have been flying food into this region to prevent starvation. But the WFP has said that within the next two months it will drastically scale down aid to Nepal."

INDIA: A trade not worth its salt
Source: One World (May 13)

"Most saltpans in Kothapatnam village in the coastal Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh are family-run. But the price that the salt fetches in bulk sales is extremely low -- anything between Rs 25 and Rs 35 ($1=Rs 39.90) for 75 kg. This means that the task of the women traveling door-to-door selling the salt is tedious. Their sales expertise is crucial to the family finances: retail sales fetch one rupee per kg of salt -- pathetically low, but nevertheless desperately needed. The Prakasam District Salt Farmers' Forum has been largely responsible for organizing the salt-makers and helping them with their bulk marketing of the salt. Furthermore, the women have to pay dearly with their health. Says Battala Seetharamamma, 50, 'What we earn from all our hard work is not even enough to treat all the ailments that come with it, let alone cover other expenses. We live and die in sickness.'"

VIET NAM: Poor laborers desperate to return to quarries, despite risks
Source: Thanhnien News (May 6)

"Nguyen Thi Nhung couldn't speak a word in the days after a rockslide at the Len Co Mountain quarry in Nghe An Province buried her and several of her co-workers. After the dust settled, the 44-year-old woman managed to crawl out from under the debris. She left behind several of her toes and doctors later removed a hand and a foot that were badly crushed in the accident. As many as 18 quarry employees were killed and six others, including Nhung, were injured in the accident.

She was not particularly happy to learn that work stopped at the quarry, pending a police investigation into safety violations. Throughout the mountainous communes in the central provinces, many work as day laborers at the quarries, loading load stone onto trucks and tractors. They work without contracts and earn around VND60,000 ($2.90) per day. Each night, they return home with cuts all over their hands."

PRC: When will the poor get a break?
Source: eeo.com.cn (April 22)

"Recently, there have been reports of a 'demolition of slums' in Hainan's Sanya and residents are said not to have been compensated. In Shenzhen's Nanshan district, forced demolition of a shantytown known as the 'the farm' also left more than 200 residents without compensation. Those most in need of protection, are not only still being neglected in some areas, they are also having the makeshift homes they have built with their own hands knocked down in the name of development.

China has a huge 'illegal resident' population. The cause of China's new poor is the same as in other countries such as Cambodia. It is urbanization, industrialization, and the great wave of rural migrants these processes cause to flood into cities. But other countries do not have a 'hukou system' or do not use the term 'rural migrant workers.' Today, China's 'floating population' exceeds 100 million, though some say the number is now closer to 200 million."

PAKISTAN: Temporary learning centers give girls opportunities
Source: UNICEF (April 15)

"Pakistan's catastrophic flooding last summer is leading to a change in attitudes toward sending girls to school. The floods damaged approximately 10,000 schools, of which more than a third were completely destroyed. Thousands of parents in rural areas have traditionally declined to send their daughters to school. But the flood waters forced them out of their villages into areas where UNICEF has set up temporary learning center (TLCs) to try to minimize the impact of the disaster on children's education.

Their coming into contact with education for the first time has been extremely encouraging, explained UNICEF Deputy Representative in Pakistan Karen Allen. UNICEF is targeting 1.3 million children aged between four and 12 with education response activities, and is aiming to strengthen education institutions by training over 12,000 teachers."

BANGLADESH: Parents still not heeding child marriage warnings
Source: Integrated Regional Information Network (April 8)

"Despite various government and non-governmental initiatives to stem child marriage in Bangladesh, parents are continuing to marry off their underage daughters, health experts say. Some efforts are being made to curb the problem. Bangladesh has been offering secondary school scholarships since 1994 to girls who postpone marriage, and a UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) program for adolescent empowerment conducts training in over 25 of the country's 64 districts. According to UNICEF, about a third of women in Bangladesh aged 20-24 are married by the age of 15, and 66 percent of girls will wed before their 18th birthday -- up 2 percent from 2009. The root causes of child marriage -- the prospect of reduced dowry payments, and fears of sexual harassment -- are continuing to prompt parents to marry girls off before they reach adulthood, according to Plan International, Bangladesh."

INDIA: Leprosy in India only eliminated on paper
Source: OneWorld (April 1)

"Narsappa was just 10 years old when he was told he had leprosy, but the news changed the course of his life forever. People in his Indian village immediately began to shun him and told his parents that he had to leave. He says his mother started grieving for him 'as if I was already dead'. Shortly afterwards, his father took him to a hospital two hours away from home and left him there. No one ever came to visit him and Narsappa never went home again.

India may have one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but 130,000 Indians are diagnosed with leprosy every year -- more than every other country put together. It's partly because the country's population is so huge but also, campaigners say, because the Indian government and some international donors are neglecting the fight against the disease. Hundreds of thousands of Indians suffer from leprosy and its debilitating after-effects. Given the number of new cases, it may come as some surprise that India announced it had eliminated leprosy in 2005."

ASIA: Poorest workers fall further behind
Source: Bangkok Post (March 25)

"Scavengers, street vendors and other informal workers are falling further behind as the global economy recovers, amid rising competition from hordes of new working poor, a study released Wednesday said. A survey of people struggling in the so-called 'informal job sector' in nine Asian, African and Latin American countries found they had largely missed out on the benefits of the rebound from the 2008 financial crisis.

Home-based subcontractors did see stronger demand from the big manufacturing companies for their products, but this was largely offset by the rising prices of fabrics, dyes and other raw materials, according to the study. Street vendors reported no increase in local demand, while scavengers said the amount of useful waste they could source had not returned to pre-crisis levels. To help their plight, the report said that street vendors needed low-cost loans and a secure place to sell their wares, home-based workers wanted cheaper electricity, and waste pickers needed more recyclable waste volumes."

PAKISTAN: Disabled -- and at risk of being trafficked
Source: IRIN (March 18)

"It is tough enough living with a disability in the Pakistani city of Karachi, but being targeted by traffickers has added a new challenge: Hundreds of people with disabilities are being trafficked to neighboring countries to beg there, according to the police. Many come from the southern province of Sindh, and are destined for Iran.

In 2009, the government said there were only 6,789 disabled people in Pakistan, but this number could be inaccurate. A study by the Japanese development agency, put the figure at 2.49 percent of a population of 165 million. Two percent of jobs in government are reserved for those with disabilities, but they must be registered. But many are not registered and have no stable source of income, often surviving by begging on the roadsides or other public places."

INDONESIA: Land planning in Jakarta squeezing out the poor
Source: Jakarta Globe (March 11)

"Rail operator PT Kereta Api has had enough of squatters being hit by trains every few months. It wants them to leave and will offer them a free ride back to their hometowns. Such evictions have made the news in Jakarta in the past month, a consequence of developers and corporations -- driven by an economic boom -- jostling for already-scarce land in the congested capital.

Jakarta's government wants to tidy up the dirty sprawl in the city, where poorer folk have set up home next to rivers, under bridges and outside train stations. They cannot afford housing in the capital but stay in Jakarta to earn their living. Many protesters feel they have been lied to when told to clear their 5,000 sq m land in 2008 for a park. Instead, they saw condominium towers being erected."

AFGHANISTAN: Reaching out to hidden war widows
Source: BBC (March 4)

"In rural Afghanistan women are invisible, locked behind doors in the safety of their compounds. Reaching such women is a huge challenge for the International Security Assistance Force, but one that is considered vital. It is also viewed as an important part of the wider counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan. Most of the women live in poverty and are dependent on financial handouts from relatives.

Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of widowhood in the world, proportionate to population size. The United Nations Development Fund for Women placed the number of 'war widows' in the country at more than two million, out of an estimated population of 31 million people in 2006, with between 30,000 to 50,000 widows residing in the capital, Kabul."

INDIA: Limbless singer gives voice to rural poor
Source: AsiaOne (Feb. 25)

"Bant Singh, a scarred survivor of class violence in rural India, has an indisputable claim to be a voice for India's impoverished and muted millions. The folk singer lost both legs and an arm in an attack five years ago after he dared to challenge high-caste landlords in his area of northwestern state of Punjab who had raped his 17-year-old daughter. Singh knows the grinding poverty and discrimination felt by hundreds of millions of poor rural Indians and members of the lowest castes, placed in eternal inferiority to their higher caste and richer brethren.

Crimes against the poor and low-caste 'dalits' are routinely hushed up or ignored in isolated rural areas, but Singh's tenacity and refusal to keep quiet led to the conviction of the seven men accused of raping his daughter. Singh, who says he is now in his early 40s, began singing folk songs in his Punjabi dialect at the age of 10 when he said he already knew he did not want to be exploited as a laborer -- the destiny of most men born in his position. He became a shepherd and part-time singer before the attack in 2006 catapulted him to national fame when his story began appearing in newspapers and magazines."

PRC: Poverty drives one million Beijing workers underground
Source: The National (Feb. 18)

"There are thought to be as many as one million workers in Beijing living in old air-raid shelters. These buildings comprise a vast subterranean world of low-cost housing, attracting migrants known as 'mice' driven underground by sky-high rents. With typical monthly rents of just 300 yuan to 400 yuan per room, basements are affordable even to the lowest paid.

As rampant food price inflation eats into salaries, and with rents seeing close to double-digit percentage point annual increases, some migrants have little hope of living above ground. But Beijing's mice could find their days are numbered. Just as the authorities have moved to clear out the 'ant tribes' of struggling graduates living in basic rooms on the city margins, so they want the mice to abandon their subterranean burrows. After 58 people died in November when fire engulfed a Shanghai block of flats, officials have reportedly decided underground residences are a safety hazard."

CAMBODIA: Families face grave situation
Source: Phnom Penh Post (Feb. 4)

"In a village only a 20-minute drive south of Phnom Penh, hundreds live among and around decades-old tombs. Prak Vanna moved next to a graveyard about six years ago. 'From the first day that I moved in to my new house, I felt scared and dreamed about ghosts,' she said while chopping firewood. Houses crowd the area, leaving it hard to tell where the cemetary ends and the neighborhood begins. People can often be seen sleeping in hammocks between the tombs.

'I am sickened by them, but I don't have a choice to move from here because I am poor,' the 46-year-old grandmother said. When she first moved in, she became sick. It took her about a year to get over her fear of the ghosts, and she even went to a local church to pray for help. Prak Vanna used to live along the Bassac river, but she said her house collapsed in 2005 after sand-dredging eroded the bank. She then bought a house for about $500 in the village."

AFGHANISTAN: Illegal rubbish dumping causes health concerns
Source: IWPR (Jan. 21)

"Many Kabul residents and public health officials are complaining that illegal rubbish dumping and inefficient waste disposal systems are leading to an environmental crisis in this overcrowded city. The public health department calculates that Kabul's residents produce some 3,500 metric tons of rubbish daily. Around 3,000 containers are placed around the city to collect waste, which is then collected and transported to the Gazak area, 30 kilometers away, for burial.

But the current system cannot cope with the needs of the city's five million inhabitants; its population swollen by migrants from Afghan provinces seeking better security and employment prospects. According to governmental officials, more than 60 percent of the houses in Kabul are illegal, adding to the problem of rubbish disposal. It's not just that the heaps of waste blocking streets and alleyways are unsightly and emit a rank smell. The problem is leading to serious public health problems, experts say."

AFGHANISTAN: Painful struggle to earn a living
Source: IWPR (Jan. 21)

"Shahbaz stands at the Kotai Sangi junction with a set of builder's tools, just as he does every day, hoping someone will take him on. 'I have nine family members and I need to earn some money to feed my children,' he told IWPR. 'But there isn't any work. I come in the morning and leave in the evening just like that.' Hundreds of men like Shahbaz, 60, spend their days at intersections in the Afghan capital Kabul offering their labor to anyone who will hire them.

Their plight is shared with millions across Afghanistan who are unable to earn a living in a country impoverished and devastated by war. Their government says it understands their situation and is doing all it can to provide training to help people into work and to create jobs for them, but that ultimately it cannot control the way the private sector operates. Critics, however, say the government has itself contributed to the employment problem through laissez-faire policies that have allowed businesses to import rather than manufacture goods, crushing local industry."

BANGLADESH: Arrest uncovers evidence of children forced into begging
Source: guardian.co.uk (Jan. 14)

"The arrest of a senior gang member in Bangladesh has revealed details of how criminals abduct and maim children before putting them to work as beggars. The existence of such practices has been reported frequently throughout south Asia, and featured in the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, set in India. But details and hard evidence have been rare. The case in Bangladesh was uncovered by human rights campaigners and a local television company late last year.

The arrested man told interrogators how he and his accomplices abducted children, kept them for months in confined spaces or even in barrels and deprived them of food. Permanently disabled by their confinement and virtual starvation, the children were then sent on to the streets of the city either accompanied with a woman posing as their mother or alone, according to police. Some estimates put the number of people living from begging in the country as high as 700,000. In 2009 the Bangladeshi government imposed a ban on begging, saying they hoped to eliminate the practice within five years."

ASIA: Not all countries are flush with luxury
Source: afrik-news.com (Jan. 7)

"In 2008, around 40% of the world's population was still without good quality sanitation. More than a billion men and women across the world defecate out in the open. Although this practice -- the most unhygienic of all -- is generally in decline, it remains firmly rooted in Southeast Asia. For 44% of the population, improvised toilets are the only option. Seven times out of ten, rural areas are affected by the lack of sanitation systems.

Access to improved sanitation is a long way from becoming as widespread as access to drinking water; 87% of the population now has access to this. With respect to drinking water, the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved by 2015. The WHO agrees that this will probably not be the case with sanitation, where the threshold of a billion new connections seems elusive. Yet every year these problems -- poor water quality and lack of sanitation systems -- cost the lives of 1.5 million children under the age of 5. This clearly requires global consideration."

POVERTY SPOTLIGHT 2010
Back to Top 
©1998-2010 Asian Development Bank Institute. All rights not expressly granted herein are reserved.