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Promoting better nutrition in Bhutan

Izabela Leao's picture
 Izabela Leao / World Bank
School children singing and dancing in Samtse Dzongkhag. Photo Credit: Izabela Leao / World Bank

Bhutan is no ordinary place.

A landlocked Himalayan kingdom tucked in a mostly rugged mountainous terrain between India and China, it measures prosperity by assessing its citizens’ level of happiness by way of a Gross National Happiness index.

Equally striking, Bhutan’s constitution mandates that 60 percent of its national land be preserved under forest cover, making Bhutan the world’s only carbon-negative country.

Bhutan’s geography – with land rises ranging from 200 meters in the southern foothills to 7,000 meters in the high northern mountains – consists of three major agro-ecological zones that allow for a rich biodiversity and seasonal foods.

This natural wealth, however, comes with its caveats as Bhutanese living in isolated rural areas can’t access a reliable diverse diet throughout the year.

"Many families in rural Bhutan practice two meals rather than three meals a day," reports Ms. Kinley Bidha, Tarayana Foundation Field Officer in Samtse Dzongkhag. "Some for cultural reasons, others due to a shortage of food, others due to a shortage of land too farm," she adds.

Overall socio-economic development in the last three decades has led to a rapid improvement in health and nutrition outcomes in Bhutan – the country’s infant mortality rate declined to 30 per 1,000 live births in 2012 down from 90 per 1,000 in 1990; while the rate of stunting in children under 5 years declined 24 percent from 1986 levels.

Nonetheless, the lack of variety of foods in diet remains a key concern, especially for pregnant and nursing women as well as young children. And while most families feed their children complementary food, fewer than a quarter of parents provide them nutritious meals essential to their health.

In addition, 67 percent of Bhutanese adults consume less than the recommended five servings (or 400 grams) of fruits and/or vegetables per person a day [National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2015].

When consumed, vegetables consist for the most part of two national staples, potatoes and chilies, which hardly provide essential vitamins and minerals.

Keeping regional variations in mind, between 16 and 34 percent of children under 5 are stunted—or too short for their age—seven percent of children are underweight, 35 percent of children of age 6-59 months and 44 percent of women of reproductive age are either anemic or iron deficient. Exclusive breastfeeding rates for six-month-old children remain at a low 50 percent (NNS, 2015).  

Damages caused by malnutrition during pregnancy and the first years of a child’s life are irreversible and contribute to stunting and lower immunological and cognitive development, and predispose to adult-onset diseases (including metabolic syndrome).

Thankfully, the negative impact of malnutrition on Bhutan’s economy is now better understood and has become a priority to promote its national development.

Investing in waste management to create job opportunities for Malawi’s Youth

Hestings M’bawa's picture
With increased urbanization, Malawi’s cities produce a high amount of solid waste, but lack the resources to process it all. Photo Credit: Faith Tsoka.


Malawi, a small country in Africa, has a population of over 18 million. According to World Bank estimates, Malawi had 52.2% of the total population between 15 and 64 years as of the beginning of 2017. However, Malawi has a high level of unemployment among the productive population which is largely composed of young people.

The latest poverty numbers for Afghanistan: a call to action, not a reason for despair

Shubham Chaudhuri's picture

The just-released Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey (ALCS) paints a stark picture of the reality facing Afghanistan today. More than half the Afghan population lives below the national poverty line, indicating a sharp deterioration in welfare since 2011-12.[1]  The release of these new ALCS figures is timely and important. These figures are the first estimates of the welfare of the Afghan people since the transition of security responsibilities from international troops to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in 2014.

While stark, the findings are not a surprise

Given what Afghanistan has gone through in the last five years, the significant increase in poverty over this period is not unexpected. The high poverty rates represent the combined effect of stagnating economic growth, increasing demographic pressures, and a deteriorating security situation in the context of an already impoverished economy and society where human capital and livelihoods have been eroded by decades of conflict and instability.

The withdrawal of international troops starting in 2012, and the associated decline in aid, both security and civilian, led to a sharp decline in domestic demand and much lower levels of economic activity. The deterioration in security since 2012, which drove down consumer and investor confidence, magnified this economic shock. Not surprisingly, Afghanistan’s average annual rate of economic growth fell from 9.4 percent in the period 2003-2012 to only 2.1 percent between 2013 and 2016. With the population continuing to grow more than 3 percent a year, per capita GDP has steadily declined since 2012, and in 2016 stood $100 below its 2012 level. Even during Afghanistan’s years of high economic growth, poverty rates failed to drop, as growth was not pro-poor. In recent years, as population growth outstripped economic growth, an increase in poverty was inevitable.

Madagascar, a Country of a Thousand Hopes, a Country of a Thousand Vulnerabilities

Claudia Navalonirina Raobelina's picture



In 2018, Madagascar is said to be one of the poorest countries in the world. Antananarivo is said to be the third dirtiest capital. Some diseases like the plague persist in the country, even in 2017. Moreover, more than 35% of adult Malagasy people are still illiterate. One can witness corruption on every level. Every morning, a new political scandal can be read through newspapers’ headlines.

Bringing together the next generation of digital innovators in Pakistan: Meet Asra Nadeem

Priya Chopra's picture
The Digital Youth Summit (DYS) is a technology focused conference that takes place annually in Peshawar, Pakistan.  As an introduction to some of our experts, we bring to you the third Speaker Spotlight featuring the young Vice President at DraperU, Asra Nadeem. The upcoming DYS is on April 27-28, 2018. Register now here
 
Asra Nadeem


Asra Nadeem (AN) heads up the entrepreneurial programs and partnerships at Draper University, a pre-accelerator for global startups tackling the world’s most intractable problems. She is also a Venture Partner at DraperU Ventures, an early stage venture fund. Apart from designing and delivering programs, she works directly with governments, universities and international incubators to establish local entrepreneurial hubs, investment opportunities and corporate innovation initiatives.

Before working at Draper University, Asra worked on product and market development for startups in the Middle East, North Africa and South-East Asia. She was the first female product manager in Pakistan for Rozee.pk, where she not only worked with the CEO to secure venture funding from DFJ but grew the product and company to 150+ employees.  She is a space technology enthusiast who reads avidly about space and the future of humanity.

Tell me a little about what you are working on now?  How did you get started?

Bringing together the next generation of digital innovators in Pakistan: Meet Aurelie Salvaire

Priya Chopra's picture

The Digital Youth Summit (DYS) is a technology focused conference that takes place annually in Peshawar, Pakistan. In the lead up to the summit, we bring to you the first of our Speaker Spotlights featuring Aurélie Salvaire. The upcoming DYS is on April 27-28, 2018. Register now here.  

Aurelie Salvaire

Aurélie Salvaire (AS) is a French author and social entrepreneur passionate about gender and narratives. She has been working for the past 10 years in the social innovation field, collaborating with Oxfam, Ashoka, Unreasonable Institute and Impact Hub.  She is also a very active speaker and trainer, promoting greater diversity and shedding light on lingering stereotypes through her platform Shiftbalance.  She recently shot a 28 minutes documentary on masculinity in Pakistan called Maard Ban (Be a man).

Tell me a little about what you are working on now?  How did you get started?

AS: Majority of my activities is now on Shift balance – Our NGO was initially registered in Spain, but our activities are worldwide. We do lot of trainings and workshops mostly on leadership and empowerment for young girls around the world. 

We have been working mostly in Pakistan the last year with different schools, universities, and companies, teaching young girls about storytelling - how to tell their stories, how to be more confident in the public and how to believe in themselves.

I recently shot a documentary on masculinity called “Maard Ban” as a part of the “Be a Man” series.  Our book, “Balance the world”, published and designed in Pakistan, is an anthology of solutions to balance the world. The idea of transforming everybody into a balance maker is what drives me -  to be sure that everybody at their own level can contribute to gender equity.

What do you think is the future for youth in the tech industry?

AS: We know that 80% of the jobs will require technological skills.  We know that technology is shaping our future, so it’s extremely important that young people get involved in tech so that the technology in future is shaped for their needs.  For me, one of the great assets is that technology breaks hierarchies. 60% of the population is under 30 years old in Pakistan.  This makes them very accessible to technology and open to what is going around in the world, and they will shake the structures of power.

Bringing together the next generation of digital innovators in Pakistan: Meet Zaki Mahomed

Priya Chopra's picture

The Digital Youth Summit (DYS) is a technology focused conference that takes place annually in Peshawar, Pakistan. In the lead up to the summit, we bring to you the first of our Speaker Spotlights featuring Zaki Mahomed. The upcoming DYS is on April 27-28, 2018. Register now here.  



Zaki Mahomed (ZM) is founder & CEO at Pursuit, a new startup based in San Francisco. Pursuit helps people build the lives of their dreams through easy access to skilled immigration programs. Having lived in Karachi, Singapore, Toronto and San Francisco before turning 30 has given him a global perspective on the art and science of building great companies.

Tell me a little about what you are working on now?  How did you get started?

ZM: I recently founded and am the CEO of Pursuit. We help highly skilled immigrants access global job opportunities with companies that will sponsor their work visas. We want to live in a world where borders are not barriers to opportunities and employers can seamlessly hire perfect candidates from anywhere in the world.

I started Pursuit because I’ve lived and worked in 5 cities over my career. One of the most satisfying experiences of my career has been hiring immigrants who took a risk on my ideas and companies and moved their entire lives to join us. While fraught with risk, I’ve rarely regretted giving an opportunity to an immigrant and always gotten a committed and loyal worker in return. We want to make it easy for other businesses to be able to provide such opportunities to the type of talent they desperately need!

Specifically, through Pursuit, qualified skilled workers can apply for their immigrant visas and upon approval, get matched with vetted employers looking for their skills. Currently we work with Software Engineers and Developers and we primarily operate in Canada, which is our first market.

What do you think is the future for youth in the tech industry?

Amp up your 2018 Spring Meetings experience

Bassam Sebti's picture


Our 2018 Spring Meetings is just around the corner and it’s time to get organized. Mainstage speakers include representatives from top-notch institutions such as LinkedIn, Oxford University, Financial Times, Brookings Institution — in addition to influencers Bill Gates and Jeff Weiner.

Connect, engage and watch to take full advantage of everything the #WBGMeetings has to offer. 

Creating opportunities for young women through youth employment programs

Jose Manuel Romero's picture
Innovative programs can respond to gender disparities in youth employment. Photo: Dominic Chavez/ World Bank. 

The disadvantages young women face in the labor market and in entrepreneurship in developing countries are not only substantial and complex, but they quickly compound. A plethora of forces drive gender disparities in youth employment: lack of opportunities to develop the skills demanded by the labor market, family or social pressure dissuading them from entering desirable jobs or male-dominated sectors, a detrimental work environment, or a lack of available services such as childcare might make achieving success an uphill battle. Yet innovative youth employment programs can respond to gender issues. Below are three examples presented in a recent virtual workshop held by the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) coalition with members of its Impact Portfolio community.

Millennials Welcome! Young women are revolutionizing the startup scene despite conflicts in MENA

Tobias Lechtenfeld's picture


Our team at the MENA Youth Platform recently had a conversation about women-and youth-led entrepreneurship in the MENA region, and for which emerging trends to look for. One thing is very clear: the next revolution could look very different.

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