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2016 - a year of progress

2016 was a year of progress. Despite the negative events that have sometimes dominated headlines, we have seen huge shifts towards a healthier, greener and fairer world.  Here's why:


The number of women dying from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth has almost halved since 1990 (Lancet via Guardian).

Dr Titus Livigha scanning a pregnant mother. Masasi Hospital, Mtwara region. Tanzania © Andrew Aitchison / VSO


Since the year 2000, global malaria deaths have declined by 60%. (World Health Organisation 2016). 

Rural Health centre Malawi ©VSO/Georgie Scott


The Ebola outbreak in Liberia was declared over. Ending the West African epidemic that started in 2013.

Volunteer Laura Woods in Sierra Leone


Average life expectancy in Africa has increased by over nine years since 2000. (WHO Health Statistics 2016 via Quartz).

Jennifer Kamara and grandmother Sama Mansaray from Sierra Leone


AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 45% since the peak in 2005.  As of June 2016, 18.2 million people living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral therapy, up from 15.8 million in June 2015. 

Materials that are used to test for HIV ©VSO/Adriane Ohanesian



More children are learning to read and write than ever before - nine out of 10. Literacy levels and school enrolment are both on the up.

Pupils of Cyangugu  Nurserly School, Rwanda ©Alice Kayibanda


More girls are in school than ever before.

Children from Murehe Primary School, Rwanda ©VSO/Peter Caton

Reducing poverty

For the first time ever the amount of money it would take to end extreme poverty dipped below the total spent on foreign aid (OECD and World Bank data via Vox).

Teacher in class with boy with intellectual disabilities in Rwanda | VSO VSO/Lucy Taylor


There are less hungry people in the world. World Hunger estimates malnourishment levels have reduced from 18.6% to 10.9% since 1990.

Rice in the hands of Pech Boeun, a farmer in Cambodia © VSO/Andrew Aitchison


Global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels did not grow at all in 2016. It’s the third year in a row. 



The Paris Climate Agreement was ratified. This agreement is signed by 196 nations and demonstrates a global commitment to tackle climate change.

 Flood affected villages, Assam, India © VSO/Anubhav Da


In July, more than 800,000 volunteers in India planted 50 million trees in one day.

Tree planting



The Gambia and Tanzania banned child marriage, following sustained lobbying by civil society groups.

Khadija from the Kama Primary School, Tanzania © VSO/Jennifer Barker


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