Team Europe
On April 8, the European Union announced that they were launching an initiative called “Team Europe,” which would secure €15.6 billion of financial support toward nations seen as highly vulnerable to the potentially devastating effects of COVID-19. The “team” is coming up with resources from the EU, its member states, and major financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

What Is Team Europe?

The funding for this will come from a variety of places. One source is the reorientation of existing funds to programs that cannot currently be carried out due to the pandemic, as well as programs making pre-existing programs more relevant to handling the virus. Another is the European Investment Bank, which will be providing €5.2 billion of aid in emergency response, funding medical research to help find a vaccine and providing those on the ground with PPE (personal protective equipment).

Finally, the EU will be partnering with aid charities such as Oxfam and Caritas who are currently on the ground in these nations, providing much needed medical care and first aid experience to help treat those who have become infected.

Who Are They Helping?

“Team Europe” has decided to focus their aid on relief for nations in “Africa, the Western Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa, parts of Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.” They are specifically centering their attention on those most at risk: women, children, the elderly, and disabled people, as well as migrants, refugees, displaced persons and their host communities. The EU also wants to provide economic support for small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed persons in the private sector.

What Is The Plan

There are three parts to “Team Europe’s” funding for at-risk nations. Part one is sending €502 million immediately for emergency response actions. This includes supporting the WHO and the UN to continue work on the ground that they have already been doing, as well as appealing to the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement to increase emergency preparedness and response. They are also ramping up production of PPE in European factories and ensuring that everyone has access to health, water, sanitation and proper hygiene.

Part two will utilize €2.8 billion to increase communication and awareness for protective measures and hygiene advice to limit the spreading of the disease. The EU will accomplish this by funding global health initiatives such as “Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the Global Financial Facility to be used to respond to the coronavirus.” Finally, this phase of the plan will emphasize the importance of equal access to healthcare for migrants and refugees who have been living in refugee camps to escape war-torn nations.

The final phase is the largest, with €12.28 billion being set aside to decrease the long term social and economic consequences that the pandemic will have on the previously stated nations. This involves working with these nations to adopt reforms for “socio-economic development and poverty reduction”, as well as taking measures to protect workers during the crisis to keep the maximum number of people employed. The EU will also be providing loans from the European Investment Bank for healthcare equipment and other medical supplies, and finally, providing debt relief by the International Monetary Fund in affected countries.

Why Are They Helping?

During the announcement of “Team Europe,” Vice President of the EU Joseph Borrell stated that in order to overcome the pandemic, it would require a united, global action to take place. If the virus continues in other parts of the world, it will return to Europe. Moreover, European nations that make up “Team Europe” saw the devastating impact COVID-19 had on many of their own nations, which have some of the best healthcare in the world. They are aware that “the crisis could have consequences of an entirely different scale in other parts of the world,” according to Borrell. It is the duty of the EU to help other nations escape the horrific and deadly fate that COVID-19 has already had in many places across the globe.

– Sophie van Leeuwen
Photo: Flickr

Obesity in the Pacific Islands
Picture this: it’s trivia night, and one question confuses the teams: “What country has the highest rate of obesity in the world?” When the whiteboards come up, the answer “the United States,” floods the guessing pool. The real answer? Nauru, a tiny country in the Pacific Ocean with only 12,704 people. The next nine countries are also all Pacific Island nations – and the problem of obesity in the Pacific Islands is getting out of hand.

Obesity in the Pacific Islands is an epidemic. While Pacific Islanders used to live off traditional island diets – fresh fish and vegetables – the introduction of processed fast food set the countries on a dangerous path of malnutrition. According to the CIA World Factbook, obesity levels are above 45% in all 10 of the Pacific island nations, topping the world’s BMI index. In addition, “about 40 percent of the Pacific island region’s population of 9.7 million has been diagnosed with a noncommunicable disease, notably cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension.” These obesity-related illnesses account for “three quarters of all deaths across the Pacific archipelago.”

How America Plays a Key Role in the Pacific Islands

While the United States ranks number 12 behind Kuwait, the Pacific Islands still dominate the world in obesity rates. However, guessing America to be the world’s most obese nation is not naive; world obesity rates have skyrocketed in recent years due to the mass exports of American diets and products. Worldwide free trade organizations are allowing America to export fast food, sugary sodas and foods rich in high fructose corn syrup to other countries which is causing a “globesity” epidemic.

According to the World Health Organization, “worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.” This is largely attributed to the invention of high fructose corn syrup, a cheap sweetener that makes foods last for long periods of time. U.S. soda and processed food companies quickly integrated the ingredient into a majority of their recipes due to the high trade costs of real sugar.

In another snowball effect, cheaper ingredients created cheaper products. Therefore, Americans began to buy more processed food, succumbing to a wicked combination of addictiveness and low price. Noticing the high profits from this processed food, the U.S. started to export it to developing countries via various worldwide trading organizations.

A Slippery Slope

As developing countries plagued by the various contributing factors of poverty (most notably major infectious diseases, population density, environmental poverty and lack of fertile agriculture), the Pacific Islands are vulnerable nations. Due to their isolation within Oceania and a lack of economic wealth and resources, these nations are often perfect targets for wealthy nations to sluff off unwanted, cheap and highly profitable products like processed foods.

International trading organizations are often seen as the key to climbing out of poverty in developing nations. Through worldwide trade, Pacific island nations can buy cheap food for their people who struggle so immensely from a lack of food and unsustainable agriculture. While this agreement sounded idyllic, in its unregulated form it has caused these countries to suffer from devastating obesity.

However, the Pacific island nations are now caught between a rock and a hard place with trade organizations. Due to their lack of power and money, they cannot request better food from more powerful countries, and they also cannot afford to pull out of these organizations due to the helpful non-food goods that the organizations give them.

Let’s take Samoa as an example. After WWII, the country’s obesity rates skyrocketed due to “turkey tail” meat sold to them by the United States. This backend of the turkey, after being outed in America for its “fat,” “cholesterol” and “far from nutritious” nature, was shunned by the U.S. and sold to Samoa.

In 2012, the University of Michigan published a report on the problem of obesity in the Pacific Islands.  After eating this fatty turkey for years, many Pacific island nations banned the product in their countries due to the rapid increase in obesity. However, “the bans [were] lifted in order for these nations to join the World Trade Organization.” Samoa is now the eighth most obese country in the world and serves as a perfect example of how poorer countries can sometimes be manipulated for economic growth in richer nations.

Helping Obesity

Combating obesity in the Pacific Islands also becomes difficult after its initial onset. Since healthy food is often not available at cheap prices, in-school nutrition campaigns often do no good when there is no healthy food being offered in the cafeteria. In addition, nutrition labels are often not written in English, the language most widely read and spoken in the Pacific Islands.

However, many Pacific island nations have implemented ways to decrease obesity. Nauru “introduced a 30 percent tax on imported sugar, confectionery, carbonated soft drinks, cordials, flavored milks, sugar-sweetened drink-mix beverages, and high-sugar foods” in 2007. Tonga also places higher taxes on sugary drinks and lowered “import duties” on fresh fish and food goods.

While malnutrition, obesity and diabetic health issues plague the Pacific Islands, taxes on unhealthy foods and potential obesity education programs are looking to aid the situation in Oceania. However, WHO states that “tackling such widespread health problems in the region will require changes in food imports and agricultural policy.” In addition, wealthy countries must aid in systemic change to limit their exports of unhealthy, processed foods in order to combat malnutrition for their trading partners.

Grace Ganz
Photo: Wikipedia

Improving Access to Clean Water and Sanitation in ZimbabweAccess to adequate clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe continues to be an issue, especially for those living in rural areas. While many organizations have been working together to improve these issues, inadequate access threatens to worsen the spread of COVID-19. In order to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19, the Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe has increased funding for “resilience-building” in the country.

Clean Water and Sanitation in Zimbabwe

UNICEF reported that only about 35% of Zimbabwe’s population has access to adequate improved sanitation in Zimbabwe. This mainly impacts rural areas. In addition, CARE reported that 67% of people living in rural Zimbabwe don’t have access to safe drinking water. Inadequate access to sanitation and clean drinking water has a great impact on low and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 827,000 people in those countries die every year from a lack of access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene.

In 2015, the U.N. released a report by WaterAid on the impacts of improved water, sanitation and hygiene on poverty. Additionally, the report stated that improving access to clean water and sanitation could help increase incomes for people living in poverty. It could also decrease the strain on healthcare systems and the impacts of malnutrition and disease, which would improve health outcomes for the poorest people.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Program (WASH Program)

Many organizations, including UNICEF, have been working to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene through the WASH program. The program provides education and builde things like handwashing stations. In addition, the WASH program provides people with access to clean water. Since June 18, 2020, the program has helped 1,859 people in Zimbabwe access adequate sanitation. Also, it helped 3,781 people gain access to clean water. Moreover, a total of 2.1 million people in Zimbabwe has been reached by the program so far.

Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic

In a press release on June 4, 2020, Sweden’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Åsa Pehrson said that COVID-19 has increased the need for access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. This need is not specific to rural areas. Additionally, Human Rights Watch reported that people living in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, and the surrounding metropolitan area are struggling to access adequate sanitation services and clean drinking water. More than 2 million people are in need of access. People who have to wait in long lines to access wells with clean water.

“Resilience Building” in Zimbabwe

In June 2020, The Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe announced that it is putting 15 million Swedish Kroner ($1.6 million) towards helping those in need of access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. The embassy is increasing an already existing investment in “resilience-building” for Zimbabweans. In addition, the Swedish Embassy plans to put the money toward strengthening water, sanitation and hygiene activities. These activities are implemented under the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund. Furthermore, the program will focus on water sources that already exist and aims to rehabilitate them. One part of the investment focuses on clean water, sanitation and hygiene needs. Another part will be dedicated to agriculture and livestock water sources in order to protect the food supply.

Zimbabweans continue to struggle to gain access to clean water and adequate sanitation, especially those living in rural areas. The WASH program has helped improve these conditions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to endanger those who still lack safe drinking water and sanitation. People living in big cities without access may be at risk while waiting in lines for wells with clean water. To help alleviate these problems, the Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe is increasing an existing investment in the country. They are putting money toward both improving access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe, as well as protecting water sources for livestock and agriculture.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Namibia Namibia, neighbored by Zambia, Angola, Botswana and South Africa is a West African country home to one of the world’s largest deserts. The legacy of colonialism and apartheid in Namibia has contributed greatly to the population’s present social struggles. The extreme inequality and dispossession are the cause of the bleak circumstances for Namibia’s poor. One of those circumstances today is homelessness in Namibia.

Facts About Poverty in Namibia

Namibia’s rate of unemployment is 33.4%, and 20% of the population lives in the slums. In 2017, Namibia has rated the second most unequal country in the world, second only to South Africa. A 2018 study showed that greater than 90% of Namibians do not qualify for a housing loan, and thus are unable to buy houses. Additionally, the price of housing continues to skyrocket, excluding low-income households from purchasing homes. It was estimated in 2016 that nearly 90% of Namibians earned less than N$2,700 a month, which in itself excludes them from mortgage eligibility.

Homelessness in Namibia

In Namibia, there is an alarmingly high number of people who have dwellings but no formal houses. The rate of shacks to brick houses rose to 4:1 by 2016. The informal settlements that have arisen out of peoples’ need for housing lack potable water, electricity or toilet facilities. This lack of resources increases the population’s susceptibility to diseases such as cholera, polio and Hepatitis E. In addition, shack fires are common occurrences, often resulting in loss of life. Homeless people in Namibia often take refuge in unused city buildings, on park benches, in abandoned houses and under bridges.

In the age of COVID-19, the Namibian government has rounded up hundreds of Namibia’s homeless people. Additionally, the government provides tent shelters for homeless people and encourages them to seclude themselves to prevent the spread of the virus. Moreover, concerns over sanitation have arisen, especially as certain members of the population have tuberculosis (TB). Food is provided by churches, but it is not enough. The beds are reportedly too close together to comply with social distancing.

Solutions to Help Reduce Homelessness in Namibia

On the bright side, in 2018, Hage Geingob, Namibia’s president,  issued a statement addressing the housing crisis. He called the state of affairs a “humanitarian crisis.” The president announced that a N$10 million donation would be given to the Namibia Shack Dweller’s Federation by Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC) to build 270 low-cost houses throughout the country. The Namibia Shack Dweller’s Federation is a group of Namibians seeking adequate housing for themselves and their communities. The Shack Dweller’s Federation is able to secure land for community members in need through community savings and government contributions. In addition, the group had about 25,000 members as of March 2020. Most of the members are women making under N$4,000 monthly. The Shack Dweller’s Federation has built over 3488  houses to date, which has been distributed to new homeowners.

MTC is Namibia’s leading digital enabler. MTC announced a performance competition, “MTC Knockout Project,” among 30 public personalities. Additionally, corporations will have the opportunity to pledge N$50 thousand on behalf of any of the competing personalities. The goal is to raise N$1 million to combat homelessness in Namibia.

The housing situation in Namibia is in crisis. This is due to high land prices, low wages, high unemployment rate and high mortgages rates. Luckily, the government and other organizations are working to combat these issues. Additionally, with the building of affordable housing, the increase of viable job opportunities and the support of food banks, homelessness in Namibia will sharply decrease in the coming years.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in South SudanSituated in Central East Africa, South Sudan holds the title of the newest country in the world. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, an agreement ending the longest recorded civil war in Africa. In the midst of conflict, people were forced out of homes and into the streets. This created a large population of poverty and homelessness in South Sudan.

The Effect of the Civil War

Rampaged by civil war and the aftermath of independence, 20% of South Sudan has been homeless since 2013. After the falling out between President Salva Kiir of the Dinka ethnic group and former Vice president Machar of the Nuer ethnic group, violence exploded throughout the newly founded country.

The conflict created 2.2 million displaced people within the country and forced one million people to become refugees. Because of the eviction from homes, people lacked access to their fields, starting a severe famine. Many homeless people reside in camps because they have a bit of food. Although the civil war ceased in 2018 with a mutual peace agreement, there are 1.76 million displaced people in the country.

Children in Need

4.2 million children need immediate assistance due to homelessness in South Sudan. Many children live on the streets after losing their families in the war, being forced into the workforce to sustain themselves. Due to the chaos, the education rate rests at 28%. Education provides students the ability to become professionals in their chosen route of study. It also starts a “brain gain” effect within the country. Students could earn money for their household and start building homes for their families.

Famine and Healthcare

As a result of the war, six million people lack proper water and meals. The United Nations estimated that around 12 million people are hungry every second in South Sudan. Without nourishment, there isn’t enough energy to suffice labor-heavy work. This makes them unable to sustain their household.

According to WHO, South Sudan has one of the world’s weakest healthcare systems. It also has the weakest poor quality treatment and limited resources. Along with malaria and other common diseases, the country reported over 2,000 cases of COVID-19. This puts a toll on the healthcare system, lacking both facilities and skilled healthcare workers. Homeless people live shorter lives when stripped from proper healthcare. With the body prepared and treated to bounce back from viruses, homeless people have the energy to make a living.

Change in Action

Despite the dire situation of the country, many organizations have volunteered their efforts to rehabilitate this promising country. For example, the International Rescue Committee provides over 1.1 million people in South Sudan with medical treatments and healthcare facilities. The organization has been at the country’s aid for over two decades, rehabilitating sanitation systems and giving out food. World Concern has set out to rebuild villages by providing people with food, shelter and clean water. It does this in hopes of creating a sustainable way of life. In 2018, World Vision sponsored 700 children to return to education, reuniting them with their families along the way. With help like this, homelessness amongst children can be reduced drastically and prevented in the future.

 

It may seem pessimistic at times for these communities, but homelessness is close to disintegration. Helping people gain access to their basic needs supplies them with the foundation to rise above homelessness and poverty. The country is full of potential; once chaos runs through homelessness in South Sudan, their light will shine.

Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

Violence in ColombiaThe Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) formally ended their armed conflict with a peace agreement in 2016. This was after more than 50 years of conflict between the government and the guerilla group. Despite the agreement’s plans for peace and a hopeful future, there were still illegal militant groups and members of FARC who refused to obey the government. They continued to perpetrate violence in the country as they fight for political and economic control over different Colombian regions. As a result of continued conflict, violence in Colombia remains a public threat and results in mass displacement, deaths and disappearances.

Links Between Violence and Poverty

Violence in Colombia sustains the country’s extreme poverty. A study conducted in rural Colombia found that those who experience violence are more likely to remain in a cycle of poverty as a result of economic loss, trauma and fear. The country’s unparalleled amount of internally displaced people also contributes to poverty. 139,000 people were displaced within Colombia due to violence in 2019 alone. Most of the people displaced come from rural areas where 70% of the population lives in poverty. This makes them particularly susceptible to violence. Violence prevails in the nation and continues to keep people in poverty. However, nonprofits are committed to reducing violence by promoting a culture of peace. These 3 organizations are working to reduce violence in Colombia.

Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)

GPPAC aims to motivate Colombian youth as changemakers by promoting dialogue between different generations. The organization addresses the lack of youth community and political engagement in Colombia. GPPAC recognizes that young people’s faith in their country’s social fabric is essential to promoting peace over violence. By inspiring a new generation of peacemakers that learn from the past and are excited about the future, GPPAC quells violence in Colombia.

The organization’s Intergenerational Project in Colombia in 2017 and 2018 resulted in dialogues in 15 regions most affected by violence. GPPAC organized conversations that took place in schools and included the participation of teachers, parents, students and members of several social organizations. The diversity of people participating built trust between different generations and social groups. This empowers young people to continue fostering a culture of peace in their communities.

Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps aims to address violence in Colombia through prevention and intervention. The organization strengthens networks between teachers and parents to keep children in school since parents often take their children out of school to work. However, children who do not attend school are more likely to experience violence. Mercy Corps tends to students’ individual needs and equipping schools with the tools to address students subjected to violence. By doing this, it puts an end to the cycle of violence that is correlated to a lack of education. The organization also tends to former child soldiers by teaching them how to generate income. It also empowers them with leadership skills. Since its founding, Mercy Corps has served more than 62,000 children in areas most affected by violence in Colombia.

Interpeace

Interpeace builds a culture of peace in Colombia through the Peacebuilding Model of National Police, a program that began in 2017. In partnership with nonprofit Alianza para la Paz, Interpeace works with the Colombian National Police to promote peacebuilding responses to violence and conflict.

One Interpeace program focuses on violence prevention and management in 5 regions that are particularly prone to violence. Police are encouraged to resolve conflict in socially violent situations rather than exacerbating the situation with an aggressive response. Another program aims to improve police response to gender-based violence in areas most affected by armed conflict in Colombia. Interpeace strives to improve the government’s preparation and response to these types of violence. Ultimately, these programs will improve the local trust of police and other government figures. At the same time, they will reduce violence in Colombia’s most vulnerable communities.

 

Overall, the 2016 peace agreement provided a foundation for a hopeful future. However, the Colombian government needs to address violence in the country’s most vulnerable rural areas more effectively. The Colombian government could reduce poverty in Colombia’s rural areas to bridge the urban-rural gap. By doing so, it could more successfully quell violence in the nation. This renewed government response is integral to strengthening Colombia by reducing violence. By following the lead of GPPAC, Mercy Corps and Interpeace, the government can successfully move Colombia forward. These 3 organizations are instrumental in fostering a culture of nonviolence in Colombia.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in BhutanThe small kingdom of Bhutan dedicates itself to maintaining the happiness of its people. It created the Gross National Happiness Index, a tool for measuring the comfort of the population. With this tool, Bhutan’s government aims to provide a particular quality of life for the population. In order to do so, the country remains isolated in the modern age. It allows only a select few tourists to enter the country annually and monitors what kind of technology makes it past the borders. In a country that dedicates itself to ensuring the wellbeing of its people, what is the homeless population like? Many view Bhutan as a beacon of admirability, believing that there are practically no homeless people. International reporting often focuses on how homelessness in Bhutan is virtually nonexistent.

The Hidden Issue

There is another side to the topic of homelessness in Bhutan though. Kuensel is the national newspaper of Bhutan and has published multiple articles covering cases of homelessness within the country. The newspaper has continuously attempted to source the reasons behind why some people in a country so focused on happiness find themselves on the streets. Kuensel uses its inside perspective to try to shift focus away from shining solely on Bhutan’s successful numbers. Instead, he shifts it toward what still needs to be done.

Environmental Disasters and Accidents

One reason that Kuensel found has to do with environmental disasters and accidents. In 2013, a landslide destroyed the home of a family of five and subsequently forced them to live in a small shed. Three years following the incident, the family claimed that Bhutan’s Department of Roads helped to restore some of their land. However, it did not restore their home despite contacting them multiple times. Their story highlighted the lack of congruence between the disenfranchised population and the government’s actions.

Some do not own any land though and find themselves unable to acquire any. Elderly residents that did not inherit land from their parents work trying to scrape by enough money for rations. Often times, they have to beg when they aren’t able to make enough. A 70-year-old man reported to Kuensel that his parents died when he was young with no land to pass down to him. He lives in a rundown makeshift hut, scrounging up firewood and doing what he can to make money for food. He worries that one day, he will lose the few resources he has and have nothing left.

Mental Illness and Unemployment

Mental illness has also become an issue regarding homelessness in Bhutan. Many of the homeless people in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, are mentally ill. Abandoned by their families, they subsequently end up in the streets. One case details the suffering of a woman with schizophrenia. Her family supported her as she was a child, but could no longer care for her as an adult. As a result, she ended up living in an abandoned hut in dismal conditions with little to no food. With few mental health resources in the country, mentally ill homeless people often end up neglected and alienated by society.

There is also an issue with rising unemployment rates, particularly among the female population of Bhutan. The overall rate is approximately 2.7% but rises to 7.3% when specifically looking at youths and women. Only 55% of women are literate. When paired with the unemployment numbers, the women of Bhutan are forced to face the threat of poverty and potential homelessness.

Bringing Awareness

There are groups that aim to bring awareness to homelessness in Bhutan though. All for One and One for All (A11A) is a group that assists those who find themselves on the streets by linking them with healthcare workers. Lhak-Sam, an organization originally meant to aid those with HIV in Bhutan, has also opened a care house for the homeless population. It hopes to develop the center so that it can provide mental, physical and emotional aid to those who rely on its services.

However, these efforts are not sustainable in the long-run without assistance. Bhutan may not have a large homeless population, but the suffering of those who find themselves with nowhere to go is generally unheard. With more international awareness, groups such as A11A and Lhak-sam may be able to receive the aid from both the Bhutanese government that they need.

Nicolette Schneiderman
Photo: Pixabay

COVID-19 in ChileChile is a small, narrow country in South America blessed with magnificent mountains and gorgeous Pacific Ocean views that attract tourists from all over the world. The World Bank estimates that Chile has a higher life expectancy than the United States and classifies it as a high-income country despite its many impoverished regions. Like many other countries, however, Chile has experienced substantial economic distress in the wake of COVID-19 due to the high infection rates. In fact, Chile has one of the highest COVID-19 rates in the world with more than 364,000 confirmed cases as of 5 August 2020 in a population of only 18.7 million. Fortunately, in an effort to quickly recover from the crisis, the National Police formulated an unconventional, yet clever plan to combat COVID-19 in Chile.

Poverty & COVID-19 in Chile

Confirmed cases in Chile have steadily risen since May, beginning in high-income neighborhoods and slowly infiltrating low-income communities where the virus has caused the most damage.  The country has remained under a national state of emergency since mid-March and is now experiencing Phase 4 of the outbreak, which includes “uncontrolled and widespread community transmission,” forced quarantine in some areas and even a nationwide curfew. The Chilean government closed the country’s borders on 18 March 2020 to all tourists, cruise ships and other unnecessary traffic, excluding citizens and permanent residents who must be quarantined for 14 days upon re-entrance.

Tourism prevention has been particularly harmful to Chile’s economy since the country shut down in March. The country was named the 2017 Best Destination for Adventure Tourism in the World with more than 5.6 million people visiting each year, a group that has consistently stimulated the economy by nearly 13% annually. Jorge Rodriguez, Chile’s Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism stresses that tourism “is strategic for the growth of Chile,”  but COVID-19 is decelerating the progress tourism has made in the last decade.

The World Bank identifies Chile as one of Latin America’s “most unequal countries” because there are two socioeconomic extremes: incredibly impoverished or wonderfully wealthy. There is no middle class, forcing socioeconomic status to determine whether a person hopelessly struggles under government dependence or flourishes in their own monetary independence. Because people living in poverty must rely on assistance from the government, poor Chileans are suffering now more than ever as COVID-19 devastates the economy.

Retrievers to the Rescue

Luckily, the Chilean government, in partnership with the Catholic University of Chile, has constructed a strategic recovery plan that relies on retrievers. Chile’s National Police has embarked on a journey to teach K-9s to find COVID-19 in crowds. Three highly trained pups, with experience in drug and bomb detection, are learning to sniff out human odors specifically emitted by prospective patients.  COVID-19 itself does not have an odor, but minor metabolic changes can be detected as well as “volatile organic compounds” according to Fernando Mardones, professor and epidemiologist at the Catholic University of Chile. Those distinct markers enable the K-9s to intelligently track and discover people who are either asymptomatic or just entering the earliest stages of infection. Once a target is located, the “bio-detector dogs” do not scratch or use their killer bites. They simply sit by the COVID-19 carrier for discrete identification that prevents panic.

K-9s to Conquer COVID-19

The program currently remains in pilot stages but should be fully implemented by mid-September where the K-9s will be immediately deployed to high population centers. By the end of the training, one K-9 will be able to search more than 250 people in one hour with more than 95% accuracy. After the K-9s successfully memorize how to detect the virus in humans and remove COVID-19 patients from densely populated areas, confirmed case numbers in Chile should steadily decline. The country will then be able to reopen its ports and borders. Reestablishing its rightful place as one of the world’s most sought after tourism destinations will allow the economy to heal as travelers renew their plans to enjoy Chile’s beautiful scenery and exhilarating adventure sites.

Economic stability boosted by tourism revitalization will ease the concerns of people in poverty because the government will return to adequately assisting low-income regions as it did before COVID-19. Hopefully, extinguishing the virus in Chile will begin to bridge the gap between the country’s seemingly untouchable upper class and its disadvantaged lower class, giving impoverished people a chance to thrive.

-Natalie Clark
Photo: Unsplash

Conservation and PovertyConservation efforts aim to preserve nature and ensure the proper utilization of natural resources. In recent decades, conservation has grown in popularity as the number of organizations fighting for it has increased substantially. Global poverty alleviation is another big cause with a large number of organizations fighting for it. Typically, conservation and poverty alleviation are considered conflicting forces; however, these three organizations are bringing the two together by turning environmental education into a poverty alleviator.

Aid for Africa

Aid for Africa is a network of many poverty organizations working to improve the communities in Africa. This alliance work aims to make a difference in every area of life in Africa, including fighting against environmental issues in the continent.

In its mission, the organization stresses the importance of finding solar solutions to fix environmental issues to ensure it will not hinder the economic development of the continent. Combining its efforts in conservation and poverty alleviation allows Aid for Africa to simultaneously take multiple approaches towards helping communities in need.  It focuses on fixing environmental problems on a broad scale through community-based programs to protect the rich biodiversity on the continent.

Children in the Wilderness

Children in the Wilderness focuses its efforts on conservation and protecting wildlife in multiple African nations; however, it is more specific in its cause than the previous organization. The non-profit centers around preserving the environment in Africa by educating young children, promoting leadership positions, and training programs. These opportunities help African children economically as it could connect them to job options and provides assistance programs and scholarships to those participating in the organization.

The organization shows success in uniting conservation and poverty relief as it changes the trajectory of many youths’ lives through scholarships and leadership positions. For instance, in 2018, Child in Wilderness awarded 602 scholarships to children at different education levels. Its leadership program also shows its success as the non-profit trained 249 individuals to become Eco-Mentor leaders within Children in Wilderness.

Solar Sister

Solar Sister is an organization that brings together conservation and poverty eradication by empowering women. It focuses on rural African communities and provides women entrepreneurs with education on clean energy. The organization encourages community-based leadership as the entrepreneurs go back to their communities to share solar technology with others in their towns.

The organization’s work creates a cycle of poverty alleviation. When the organization teaches individuals to run businesses in their communities, it increases women’s economic independence, allowing them to escape poverty. As a result, their rural communities benefit as clean energy gives them a safer power with helping the environment. For example, 90% of those who received solar power felt safer after buying it and the equipment reduced their cookstove fuel usage by over 50%. It also allows customers to become entrepreneurs themselves. For instance, 14,000 of those who bought solar products became Solar Sister entrepreneurs.

Although the organizations have different plans of approach, all are making a difference in the fight for conservation and poverty alleviation. Thus, revealing how fighting two distinct issues can be solved together in a mutually beneficial way.

– Erica Burns

Photo: Flickr