When we think of countries that are likely to be miserable and unhappy to live in, a few obvious places come to mind. We think of third-world countries, or those recently affected by war, and other violence. However, there are a number of other countries where the people are suffering every single day that we hear very little about, if at all.
Every year for the last three years, Gallup has conducted a poll that determines which countries have the most suffering within their borders. They ask the citizens to rate their current and future lives on a scale from zero to ten based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. Gallup considers anything below a 4 to be suffering, although the residents themselves, for obvious reasons, are not directly asked to label themselves or their lives with such a term. The countries are ranked by the percentage of citizens polled who reported their daily experiences as 4 or below on the striving scale.
Many of these suffering countries have things in common with one another. Several are still recovering from civil wars that rocked their land within the last decade, others face government corruption and multiple human rights violations at the hands of those who are supposed to help them. And many suffer from poverty the likes of which the Western world can barely fathom, with people living in tents and huts without adequate sanitation or clean water.
Lack of education, jobs, and medical care is also a common feature in many of these countries. When you add in violence, discrimination and economic uncertainty, well, it’s no wonder that so many people in these countries are suffering.
12. Tanzania – 28% Suffering
Financial struggles are enough to get most people down, but in Tanzania, it goes beyond struggling to make ends meet. According to UNICEF, one in three Tanzanians live in poverty and are unable to afford food, clothing, or even shelter. In fact, one in six say that providing food is a real challenge. Many Tanzanians are faced with poor health and nutrition due to the lack of healthcare, clean water, and sanitation. Children are especially vulnerable, and are oftentimes exploited or abused, while also dying prematurely from common ailments. Given these circumstances, it’s perhaps surprising that the country’s level of suffering is at just 28%.
11. Lebanon – 29% Suffering
While Lebanon remains in relative peace, Northern Lebanon borders Syria, meaning it’s near the strife. A quarter of Lebanon’s citizens are Syrian refugees, which causes added stress to the country’s already fragile systems. Not to mention that many of these refugees lost everything, and are now living in shacks and sheds, unable to find work.
Lebanon is still recovering from its own civil war, and the added strain of the refugees is causing some tension within the small country. While there are acts of extraordinary kindness, there are those who are cynically making money from the suffering of the Syrians, such as landlords who charge prohibitive rents for otherwise uninhabitable buildings and refugees who are being exploited as a source of cheap labor. Tension and resentment though, are rising amongst both refugees and locals.
10. Afghanistan – 29% Suffering
Even as Afghans prepare for a future without international forces within their borders, life still appears bleak to many of its citizens. They may be looking forward to an election, but few people are thriving in this war-torn country. The casualty rates are horrendous, topping more than 100 per week. And Western forces are training the police and army, but there are still grave concerns about whether or not the country will be in good shape for years to come. One other major concern is the health of the nation’s children. It has recently been discovered that over half of the nation’s children suffer damage to their minds and bodies due to malnutrition – this is damage that can’t be undone.
9.Syria – 29% Suffering
Syria has been in the news a lot these days, and it’s no surprise to see this war-torn country on the list of countries who suffer the most. The death toll just keeps on rising amidst the ongoing civil war, and currently it’s estimated that over 140,000 have died. 7,000 of them are believed to be children, while many more are injured or just disappear entirely. But even children who are not killed in the conflict may find themselves being abused and tortured while in government detention. Others have been outrightly executed, while it’s believed some have been recruited and trained as combatants.
8. Iran – 31% Suffering
Poverty in Iran skyrocketed from 22% to 40% in just over a year and a half. The value of their currency has dropped by at least 40% while the price of food continues to go up. Along with all of this, lack of access to Western medicine has meant the health of many Iranians is suffering. When you look at the quality of life for the average Iranian, it’s no wonder the country is suffering as much as it is.
7. Macedonia – 31% Suffering
In 2001, the Republic of Macedonia came close to civil war. The country may not have experienced the inter-ethnic violence that raged in other parts of the Balkans after Yugoslavia was split up, but rebels were demanding greater rights for the ethnic Albanian minority. The government has been slow in prosecuting for war crimes committed during the 2001 conflict, and discrimination based on ethnicity and gender continues to be a large problem. Not to mention, there’s a bad case of the people’s freedoms being stripped by the government. In a recent protest again building a church on the central square of Macedonia’s capital, the group of protesters was outnumbered by counter-demonstrators and was viciously attacked. The police were noted as “passively observing the clash” and failed to intervene.
6. Madagascar – 31% Suffering
Possibly the scariest issue facing Madagascar is the unlawful killings that have taken place over the years. According to Amnesty International. there have been several cases where entire towns and villages were burned to the ground and all of the inhabitants killed. In one instance, at least 250 people were killed around the southern town of Fort-Dauphin. Authorities say it was caused by communal clashes over cattle thefts, and witnesses reported that in one village, at least 86 people were hacked to death by machetes.
In the Elonty district, at least 11 people were killed, including a six-year old girl, when security forces attacked the area, destroyed crops, burned 95 homes to the ground and razed a school. Of course, officials deny any wrongdoing and report that only cannabis farms were destroyed… But with this level of strife and conflict, the 31% level of suffering in Madagascar is far from surprising.
5. Hungary – 32% Suffering
In 2012 Hungary enacted a new constitution which came under fire because it was adopted without sufficient input from the opposition or even society at large. It’s said to reflect the ideology of the ruling party while ignoring beliefs from those outside of the party. The new constitution is said to be rooted in conservative Christian ideology despite Hungary not being a particularly devout country.
Discrimination and racial attacks are still happening, and the Roma appear to be especially targeted. Government authorities have been slow to respond to such attacks. In August 2012, the far-right party Jobbik and other vigilante groups held a march in Devescer where pieces of concrete and other objects were thrown at the houses of the Roma. The police failed to intervene.
4. Haiti – 32% Suffering
Haiti has had a difficult time recovering from the 2010 earthquake that left thousands of people homeless. As of 2012, 320,000 people were still living in tents and remained displaced. The camps they are forced to live in lack adequate water, and violence against women and girls is all too common. Tropical storms Isaac and Sandy caused the displacement of even more people, and also contributed to a cholera outbreak which killed around 900 people in 2012. The recovery efforts from the earthquake are still slow, and there have been delays in the disbursement of funds pledged by the international community.
3. Cambodia – 34% Suffering
Excessive use of force, lack of freedom of expression and forced evictions are three of the biggest issues facing Cambodia today. There have been protests over land and housing rights which were met with increasing violence. According to Amnesty International, three women were shot by the governor of Bavet town in Svay Rieng province during a protest against working conditions. And a 14-year old girl was shot and killed in Kratie as security forces entered her village to carry out a forced eviction of 600 families. The forced evictions stem from land disputes and land-grabbing measures that has affected thousands of people. These evictions often turn violent, killing people during the ensuing clash. The evictees are taken to relocation sites that lack adequate sanitation, housing or work opportunities. Those who choose to stay are, largely, homeless, and remain in squalid conditions near their former homes.
2. Armenia – 37% Suffering
Freedom of expression is mostly unregulated in Armenia… except in cases where those expressions can be construed as being unpatriotic. Unpatriotic expressions are often met with widespread hostility and violence, and police and local authorities are often said to participate in these hostile acts rather than prevent them from happening.
In May 2012, a gay-friendly bar was attacked in the capital city of Yerevan. Two people threw Molotov cocktails though the windows and they were even caught on camera. However, it took police 12 hours to arrive at the scene. While two men were arrested for the attacks, they were bailed out in no time by two MPs for the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation who condoned the attacks, saying it was in line with their beliefs. With the consequent lack of confidence in law enforcement engendered by this sort of behaviour, it’s perhaps understandable that Armenians suffer more than most.
1. Bulgaria – 39% Suffering
Discrimination and hate crimes are big issues that Bulgarians face everyday. Roma continue to face discrimination on a daily basis, with limited access to education, employment, health care and housing. The discrimination doesn’t stop there, though. Bulgaria doesn’t criminalize hate crimes perpetrated on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, leaving LGBT people vulnerable to violence. And for those who are unfortunate enough to be detained in a Bulgarian prison, their suffering only gets worse. Bulgarian prisons have been criticized for their conditions, including the use of torture and degrading treatment of prisoners. Bulgaria has ranked as the country with the most suffering for three years in row, and things don’t appear to be getting any better for its citizens anytime soon.
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