14 Problems in the World — And Their Potential Solutions

This article is presented in partnership with Project HOPE

Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian organization, working side-by-side with local health workers and communities to save lives and improve the health and well-being of people around the world.

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An illustration of Earth, surrounded by a ring of symbols: A first aid kit, a water faucet, bread, a flag, a brain, a house, a pencil, a plane, and gender symbols
This article is presented in partnership with Project HOPE

Chances are, if you’re a human being living in the world as part of this vast, diverse global community, you care about other people.

When crises strike, and you are heartbroken by the news — whether the culprit is climate disasters, health inequalities, or violent conflict — there’s a little spark inside you that desperately wishes things were different.

Then, you might feel frozen. 

These massive issues are indeed massive. They are big, overwhelming, and often the cause of huge systems — like colonialism, racism, sexism, and more — that many of us had no hand in building. But we do have a hand in dismantling them, and many of these large-scale problems are deeply intertwined with that work — and with each other.

The good news? That means we can solve them.

And solving global issues — or at least confronting them more proactively — starts with knowing about them.

Of course, we’re not asking everyone to become a world-class expert in income inequality or water and sanitation, but it helps to know about the issues we face so we can be part of the solution.

Here is a list of some of the major challenges of our time — and what is being done to change things.

Global Challenges & Their Solutions

Poverty

Poverty is not only a lack of income or resources to live a safe, sustainable life. It intersects with so many other challenges and leads to outcomes like food and water insecurity, health concerns, little to no access to education, and more. 

According to the most recent estimates from the United Nations, as of 2015, 10% of the world’s population was in extreme poverty — living on less than $1.90 a day. 

The largest areas of the world facing extreme poverty are Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and the COVID-19 pandemic only made this issue worse, putting millions more below the international poverty line. 

While progress has certainly been made in eliminating extreme poverty, projections still show a major percentage of the world’s population in extreme poverty by 2030. 

Aside from extreme poverty, about 60% of the world’s population lives on less than $10 US per day. Additionally, the UN shares that about four billion people — a little over half of the global population — do not benefit from any form of social protection or support. 

Possible Solutions:

  • Universal basic income
  • Robust social safety nets
  • Ending social marginalization
  • Investments in equitable education
  • Increased access to food and clean water
  • Ending civil wars and armed conflict 

Why We Have Hope:

Climate Change

It’s hard to sum up the seriousness of the climate crisis in just a few paragraphs. Scientists and leaders around the globe know that the planet is in grave trouble, giving us specific windows and countdowns to reverse the damage of climate change and save the world.

It’s a big ask. 

Whether climate change comes in the form of biodiversity loss, extreme weather events, resource depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, damages to human health, or any number of scary and persistent realities, repairing and restoring the planet should be our top priority.

Seriously, the United Nations calls climate change “the single biggest health threat facing humanity.” 

But before your climate anxiety rears its angry head (stay angry, just maybe a little less anxious!), it’s important to note that huge progress is being made. 

Whether it’s major corporations beginning to shift their unsustainable practices in alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, governments investing in renewable energy or wildlife protections, or simply larger and more accessible cultural awareness about how to be better stewards of the Earth, we can face this.

Possible Solutions:

  • Pro-climate policy change
  • Access to clean energy for all
  • Promotion of sustainable economic growth (perhaps through Doughnut Economics)
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Ending reliance on fossil fuels
  • Halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation
  • Landback initiatives
  • Social equality and justice

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more climate good news

Health Inequality

Regardless of whether it manifests as chronic disease, curable illnesses with vastly expensive treatments, or life-threatening epidemics, health inequality is central to the challenges of the global community.

Shaped by poverty and climate change, as well, health inequality leads to a lack of access to basic essentials, medicine, and economic opportunities, especially in developing countries.

While life expectancy has increased cumulatively in the last century, many countries still face high rates of disease and maternal and child mortality. 

Haiti continues to face cholera outbreaks. In Sierra Leone, one in 20 women die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. And the World Health Organization calculates that 10 million people across the globe fall ill with Tuberculosis — a preventable and treatable disease — every year.

That being said, there is a lot to celebrate. As technological improvements, distribution of care, and funding dollars increase, there is hope for the future of global health.

Possible Solutions:

  • Clean drinking water and sanitation across the globe
  • Improved nutrition and sustainable agriculture
  • Equitable access to healthcare
  • Equitable resources for healthcare providers to succeed

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more health good news

War & Conflict

With violent conflict, wars, and terrorist insurgencies popping up around the globe in places like Sudan, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Somalia, and more, peace feels more and more distant by the day.

Often a result of economic, political, religious, or cultural strife, war is not only detrimental to the soldiers and veterans on the front lines, but also for the civilians, economies, lands, and cultures impacted by violence.

In fact, experts estimate that 90% of wartime casualties are innocent civilians. As of August 2023, at least 940,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan. 

The number of people who have been wounded or fallen ill as a result of war is much higher, and these calculations do not include people who have died as a result of destruction, contamination, poverty, or other war-related issues. 

The human cost of war cannot be underestimated, and the need for peace is paramount.

Possible Solutions:

  • Stopping terrorism
  • Strengthening democracy
  • Protecting free speech and access to information
  • Peace negotiations and treaties
  • Economic penalties for aggressors
  • Disarmament

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more good news in response to war and conflict

Displacement

As of the end of 2022, 108.4 million people have been forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

Of that number, 35.3 million are refugees, 62.5 million are internally displaced, 5.4 million are asylum seekers, and another 5.2 million are in need of international protection. 

What’s even more staggering is that over half of those people come from just three countries: Syria, Ukraine, and Afghanistan. As neighboring countries become generous hosts, others impose strict immigration policies, and more complex challenges present themselves.

Aside from the stress of war, conflict or whatever else may have caused someone to flee their home, they are met with barriers like financial and housing issues, language barriers, lack of access to education or healthcare, and even prejudice and racism. 

The trauma of fleeing is often met with the trauma of resettling, which causes further harm and stress for those most in need of safety and stability.

Possible Solutions:

  • Strong resettlement support systems
  • Safe routes to sanctuary
  • The end of trafficking, looting, and violence for refugees seeking asylum
  • The end of racism and xenophobia
  • Improved international relations and diplomacy 

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more refugee good news

Food Insecurity

According to the World Bank, approximately 9.2% of the world’s population faced hunger in 2022. Moderate or severe food insecurity impacted 29.6% of the global population in 2022. That’s 2.4 billion people.

Hunger has compounding impacts on health, economic well-being, education, and sustainable development. The bottom line? If you can’t nourish your body and mind, you can’t do much else. 

Whether caused by climate change, wealth inequality and poverty, inflation, supply chain issues, war, or all of the above, food insecurity impacts people across the globe at staggering rates. 

In fact, the United Nations currently shares that we are not on track to reach the goal of Zero Hunger, as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, by 2030. 

That said, people are working hard to turn things around. 

Possible Solutions:

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more food good news

Water & Sanitation Insecurity

WASH — or water, sanitation, and hygiene systems — are crucial to the health and development of a country. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water at home, 3.6 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation services, and 2.3 billion lack basic hygiene services, like soap and water, at home — and 670 million have no access to hand-washing facilities at all. 

In addition to the universal detriment to health and safety that comes as a result of WASH insecurity, there is also a large-scale impact on gender equality as well.

A lack of adequate sanitation for girls and women impacts menstrual health and often keeps them from attending school. Additionally, women and girls are more likely to be responsible for collecting water for their families, also making it difficult for them to attend school.

Possible Solutions:

  • Nature-based solutions like wetland restoration, mangrove conservation, and preserving of flood plains
  • Installation of clean water and sanitation systems in areas of need
  • Automation of water treatment and processing
  • Proper disposal of contaminants

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more good water news

Mental Health

There has been a 13% rise in mental health conditions and substance use disorders worldwide over the past decade, and the WHO estimates that one in eight people in the world live with a mental health condition

While mental disorders include a wide variety of conditions and experiences, most all can have a substantial impact on all areas of life, like school or work performance, relationships, and community. Unequal access to healthcare further exacerbates these challenges, as well.

The WHO estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion each year. Despite the widespread nature of mental health struggles, the global median of government health expenditures on mental health is less than 2%. 

Possible Solutions:

  • Investment in the improvement and availability of mental healthcare
  • Widespread access to effective treatment and care
  • De-stigmatization of mental health conditions
  • Improved treatment of mental health conditions through effective research
  • Implementation of prevention programs
  • Improved living conditions on every level

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more good news about mental health

Gender Inequality

It’s certainly no secret that gender plays a major role in how likely you are to succeed and thrive in the world. Gender inequality encompasses all kinds of compounding issues, like economic opportunity, education, health and survival, and political empowerment, to better understand where women and girls require more support.

About 2.4 billion women of working age are not afforded equal economic opportunity, and 178 countries maintain legal barriers that prevent their full economic participation, according to the World Bank.

Worldwide, 130 million girls are out of school, also according to the World Bank. While enrollment rates and parity with male peers are rising, completion of schooling is still low among girls around the globe. 

As far as health and survival, women’s health actually declined in 2021, including sobering data from the pandemic, as well as consistently abysmal maternal health statistics worldwide. This is, of course, not to mention, the increasingly dangerous terrain of reproductive justice in the U.S. and beyond. 

Lastly, although women are increasingly present in political conversations, they still pale in comparison to their male peers. As of the beginning of 2023, 11.3% of countries have women Heads of State, and 9.8% have women Heads of Government, according to the UN. 

Possible Solutions:

  • The end of political persecution of women
  • The end of child marriage and sexual harassment
  • Expanded economic opportunities — especially in the green economy
  • Women’s leadership widely supported
  • Protected and expanded access to women’s healthcare
  • Removal of barriers to success, like clean water and menstrual hygiene
  • Equal human rights and freedoms allowed for all, no matter their gender

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more good news about women

Children’s Rights

Children make up about a third of the total human population, and although their human rights — like the right to speak out and express opinions, and the rights to equality, health, education, clean environment, and a safe place to live — are protected in the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), many still face harm. 

(By the way, the UNCRC is the most ratified human rights treaty in the world, and only one member of the UN’s 197 member states hasn’t ratified it — the United States.)

These harms include physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect; child labor violations; child marriage; genital mutilation; the recruitment into armed conflict; and more. 

In fact, about 1 billion children between the ages of two and 17 are estimated to have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect in 2015, according to the WHO. 152 million children are engaged in child labor, according to World Vision. And, according to UNICEF, 41% of girls in least-developed countries are married before the age of 18

Possible Solutions:

  • End child marriage
  • Enable strict consequences for the violation of child labor laws
  • Invest in and support policies to protect children
  • Ensure access to necessities like clean water, food, and education for all children
  • Eradicate poverty 
  • Reduce violent conflict
  • And if you’re the United States… ratify the UNCRC

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more human rights good news

Disability Rights

The WHO estimates that 1.3 billion people in the world — or one in every six people — have a disability.

While having a disability in itself isn’t a bad thing or a moral failing by any means, it significantly impacts one’s quality of life and social status. 

Disabled folks face many health inequities that arise from unfair conditions like stigma, discrimination, poverty, social exclusion, a lack of education and employment opportunities, and barriers in the health system.

Additionally, disabled people have twice the risk of developing other conditions, such as depression, asthma, diabetes, and more. Plus, the world is simply not built with disabled folks in mind. For example, disabled folks might find inaccessible transportation up to 15 times more difficult to navigate than able-bodied people. 

Possible Solutions:

  • Universal and accessible design in cities and buildings
  • Improved access and affordability of healthcare
  • De-stigmatization of disabled people and disabilities in general
  • Policies that ensure equal opportunity in both education and employment
  • Widespread willingness to provide modifications and/or accommodations to disabled folks
  • Removal of social, physical, communication, and attitudinal barriers

Why We Have Hope:

LGBTQ+ Rights

As of 2022, 68 countries criminalize homosexuality worldwide. Most of them are located in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, and four countries even have legislation that imposes the death penalty for sexual relations between people of the same sex. 

Of course, this is an egregious violation of human rights, and all LGBTQ+ folks should be free to love who they love, without the fear of persecution, violence, or death.

Even in the United States, where LGBTQ+ folks have many more freedoms than queer folks in other countries, these freedoms are under attack. In 2023, the ACLU tracked nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in state legislatures across the country, many of which aimed to criminalize transgender people or gender-affirming care. 

While, globally, the average level of acceptance for LGBTQ+ people has increased since 1980 — especially in western Europe, North America, and Australia — 57 countries and locations have still experienced a decline in acceptance during that time, according to the UCLA Williams Institute. 

Possible Solutions:

  • Decriminalization of homosexuality (or any LGBTQ+ identity)
  • Improved social acceptance of LGBTQ+ folks
  • Creation of agencies and initiatives that protect and improve the well-being of LGBTQ+ people
  • Increased nondiscriminatory healthcare services, economic security, and financial stability across the board
  • Creation of safe, inclusive, welcoming, and affirming schools for LGBTQ+ youth
  • Greater access to safe and stable housing for LGBTQ+ folks

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more good LGBTQ+ news

Education Inequality

A lack of access to education is a large pillar of gender inequality across the globe. According to UNICEF, nearly one in three adolescent girls from the poorest households around the world has never set foot in a classroom. 

And we know it matters! According to the World Bank, one additional school year can increase a woman’s earnings by 10-20%

While global literacy rates have exponentially increased in the last century, education is still widely unequal, and primary school attendance remains a challenge, especially among developing countries. 

Another UN Sustainable Development Goal, ‘Every Child Learns,’ aims to provide equitable access to learning opportunities, improved learning and skills for all, and improved learning and protection for children in emergencies and crises. 

Possible Solutions:

  • Reduced cost of education
  • Free or reduced meals for students at school
  • Improved resources and pay for teachers
  • Improved access to necessities like water and hygiene
  • Flexible modes of learning through technology and modern teaching models
  • Increased accessibility for disabled students

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more good news about education

Homelessness & Housing Insecurity 

While it is difficult to track, the UN estimates that there are approximately 1.6 billion people living in inadequate housing worldwide, with around 15 million being forcibly evicted each year. 

Whether caused by war or conflict, climate disaster, skyrocketing cost of living, or the lack of affordable housing in an area, homelessness touches nearly every region of the world. 

Poverty and homelessness are closely linked, contributing to a cycle of instability that makes it difficult to find and keep work. Homelessness also impacts personal and public health concerns, occasionally leading to the spreading of disease, substance abuse, and poor mental health.

Countries that have successfully confronted homelessness include those like Finland, which have implemented a Housing First approach. 

Possible Solutions:

  • Implementation of Housing First policies
  • Sustainable building models and city planning
  • Improved crisis response
  • Permanent supportive housing for vulnerable populations
  • Increased employment and income opportunities

Why We Have Hope:

→ Read more housing good news

Article Details

September 21, 2023 7:25 AM
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