Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Missing Pieces: Education and Health in Pakistan, Poverty in Haiti, and More

by Isobel Coleman
August 31, 2012

A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a nationwide drive against the disease in a hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan, August 8, 2007 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters).


In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow reviews two scholarly works, as well as news on Haiti and a range of development innovations. Enjoy the reading and the holiday weekend.
  • Education and Health in Pakistan: While better educated parents are known to raise healthier children, the role of each parent and the exact reasons for the correlation remain unclear. A study in World Development seeks to clarify the issue. Using a survey of almost 1,200 households in two provinces of Pakistan, the authors find that a mother’s level of schooling significantly affects children’s height and weight. However, only a father’s education impacts immunization. The authors speculate that fathers may guide certain health behaviors, “particularly if they require travel to a health clinic,” while mothers govern “day-to-day decisions” that affect “longer-term measures of health such as height and weight.” But it is not parents’ “education per se” that drives better child health. Instead, the authors find that immunization responds to fathers’ health knowledge (rather than overall schooling). Mothers’ impact on height and weight, meanwhile, seems driven by their health knowledge and “empowerment within the home.” Based on these findings, the authors write that “policies aimed at achieving better health awareness and knowledge” might give Pakistan the biggest development boost.
  • Poverty in Haiti: The Washington Post explores an effort to alleviate poverty in Haiti. Under the program, 5,000 families will receive a “household development agent” who will act “as a health educator, vaccinator, epidemiologist, financial analyst, social worker, scheduler, and advocate all at the same time.” The agents will offer services such as immunizations and educational sessions, along with help navigating Haiti’s maze of government agencies and NGOs. With “on average a ninth-grade education,” agents are being trained in everything from injections to human rights. Controversially, they will receive bonuses if their families fare well. After two years, families will be evaluated against a control group of 5,000 others who do not receive agents. Time will tell whether the program makes a dent in Haiti’s longstanding woes.
  • Development Innovations: The Guardian lists fifteen “imaginative new ideas that are tackling Africa’s old problems.” Some are low-tech, like the Hippo Water Roller, a drum that eases the transport of water, and KickStart’s foot-powered irrigation pumps, which Isobel Coleman recently profiled. Others use mobile devices, such as the iCow app for dairy farmers; the Cardiopad, a tablet-based device for diagnosing cardiovascular disease; and M-Pepea, a short-term loan service that operates through Kenya’s M-Pesa. Still others focus on agriculture, including an orange sweet potato rich in Vitamin A and a Mozambican facility that turns cassava into ethanol for cooking fuel. Finally, there are ideas like Refugees United, an online database that helps refugees find their relatives, and Advance Aid, which sources humanitarian relief supplies from African producers. Overall, the Guardian piece makes a concise and inspiring read.
  • Democracy and Colonialism: An article in the American Political Science Review (available in a free working version here) tests the link between the early development of statehood and the emergence of democracy. With a sample of 111 non-European countries, the author finds counter-intuitively that strong early statehood has often led to autocracy today. Europeans, he explains, generally could not directly rule or extensively settle countries with strong pre-colonial governments. “Older states were therefore less likely to have European institutions transplanted and to have an influx of settlers carrying the ideals of parliamentarianism.” This helped “traditional, authoritarian rule” endure. Countries illustrating this principle include “old states such as China, Ethiopia, or Iran;” exceptions include Japan, India, and Swaziland. The author’s statistical analysis “implies that if the United States had had the same state history as China,” it would be some one-third less likely to be democratic.

Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Edna Bowser

    Good points concerning Missing Pieces for improving the lives of people in our world, and for “the development of democracy”

    Could I humbly add:
    * D.U. birth defects in Afghanistan are becoming “epidemic”.

    Democracy depends on the ability to choose from a wide selection of candidates and for fair elections. Neither of those was complete in the USA or Canada in any of the federal elections so far in the 21st C.
    When candidates are nominated by the main two or three political parties there is little room for unscripted candidates to enter the race.
    Canada’s voter misdirection [“robocalls”] and America’s courts stopping vote counting are examples of election fraud.

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