Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in MaltaLocated in the middle of the Mediterranean, south of Italy, Malta is a country made up of a small set of islands full of life and unique culture. Geographically, Malta is just smaller than twice the size of Washington, D.C. and home to nearly 450,000 inhabitants. From 1814 to 1964, Malta was a British colony but has since established itself as a republic, become a member of the European Union and adopted the euro as its currency. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Malta.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Malta

  1. Malta was the only member of the EU not to have legalized divorce up until 2011. Until then, if married couples wanted to divorce, they had to leave the country to do so. This is largely due to the Roman Catholic Church’s influence over the country’s more than 95 percent Catholic population. The legislation went into effect beginning October 2011, despite opposition from even the prime minister, who worried legalizing divorce would “weaken the family structure in Malta.”
  2. The most common form of transportation in Malta is driving by car. The country permits tourists to bring cars over to the islands for a maximum of six months. There are also rental cars available for those of age. Subsequently, traffic is highly congested. Alternative modes of transportation include taxis, buses and the karrozzin, traditional horse-drawn carriages that have been in use in Malta since the mid-19th century.
  3. Malta’s government offers comprehensive varieties of health care, as well as high-quality dental care, to citizens. People can find multiple pharmacies as well, along with two main hospitals and many health centers. Although Maltese is the main official language of the islands, people speak English across all hospitals, health care facilities and pharmacies.
  4. While Malta is not really a point of conflict or transnational problems, it does have a military branch named the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM). This military branch includes all aspects; air, naval and land. While there are not any real international relations issues, Malta does serve as a transshipment point for transportation of hashish — coming from cannabis — from North Africa into Western Europe.
  5. Britain’s military presence in Malta had a massive impact on the country’s economy up until its independence in 1964. Because Malta lacks enough natural resources and has a small, domestic economic market, it relies heavily on other nations for imports. The Maltese economy also leans on the shipbuilding and repair industry, but even that is becoming depleted further and further since gaining independence.
  6. In Malta, 29.8 percent of the population is obese, causing the country to rank 28th in the world for obesity. This is likely due to Maltese citizens’ heavy reliance on cars as opposed to walking or cycling. While some use bicycles, bicycling is largely unpopular due to the poor road conditions and heavy traffic. When not on main roads, it is a bit easier to navigate the streets on a bicycle, making it an increasingly popular mode of transportation.
  7. Literacy rates among citizens 15 years and older are essentially the same at 88 percent. The Maltese Constitution warrants that both men and women have equal rights in terms of employment. Malta established The Ministry of Social Development and Equal Status for Women and has allowed for more married women to participate in the workforce.
  8. Malta expanded education systems to include compulsory schooling for children ages five to 16 in the mid-1980s. As of 2005, Malta further reformed its the education system to include regional colleges that incorporated primary and secondary school educations in addition to a junior college. Malta also has two forms of higher education, the University of Malta at Msida and the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology.
  9. Malta imports an abundance of fossil fuels in order to supply its energy. As Malta’s only natural mineral resource is limestone, used in construction, it has extremely limited clean energy resources.
  10. The youth unemployment rate in Malta is 10.30 percent as of April 2019. While this is not a huge portion of the population, youths (those under the age of 24) make up 11.44 percent of the Maltese population.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Malta highlight that, in spite of the country’s tumultuous history, it has persisted. While there are aspects Malta must improve upon such as transportation reliance and employment rates, Malta is a tiny country with an impressive development story.

Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

danceforchangeIt is not always easy to capture the attention of political leaders. Often, inspiring action requires a creative approach, unique storytelling and personal anecdotes. In May 2019, the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched a dance challenge on TikTok called #DanceforChange designed to do just that. The award-winning choreographer Sherrie Silver paired up with African recording artist Mr. Eazi to use the immense power behind dance and self-expression to communicate the need for increased agricultural investment; this will play a significant role in the fight against global hunger and food insecurity.

With increased awareness and assistance from the IFAD, the duo intend to create opportunities for young people living in rural areas around the world. Since 1978, IFAD has provided $20.9 billion in grants and loans for international projects that have affected around 483 million individuals.

Numbers of Impoverished Children

The number of youths living in areas with extremely high levels of poverty remains high today. Almost 385 million of the world’s children live in extreme poverty. Around 260 million youths around the world do not receive a formal education, and children are considered twice as likely as adults to live in a state of extreme poverty. Global hunger is also rising; one in nine people in developing nations go to bed hungry each night. The dance challenge supports creating opportunities for youth to combat hunger and poverty, and is becoming an integral piece of the fight for change.

Sherrie Silver and Mr. Eazi

Silver and Mr. Eazi believe that the current generation has both the capacity and resources to put an end to global hunger. Their mission is to spark that change by reaching world leaders and establishing sustainable agricultural investment for current and future farmers. Silver was born in Rwanda and received a formal education in the United Kingdom. She has been recognized for her choreography in Childish Gambino’s award-winning video, “This is America,” which went viral in 2018. For the current campaign, she created a unique dance move for participants to mimic and believes that young people living in rural areas are beneficial and influential resources. According to Silver, “they have the power to feed the world and transform food systems if given the opportunity to succeed.”

Her partner, Mr. Eazi, is a singer, songwriter and entrepreneur from Nigeria. He recorded the song “Freedom,” written for and molded specifically towards the initiative. He wrote the song with the intention of portraying the agricultural industry in a positive light and enticing young people to get involved in farming. In a recording posted on TikTok, Mr. Eazi said he believes that “more investment in young people and farming means more food, more jobs and more freedom for us all.”

#DanceForChange

The global dance challenge creates opportunities for youth to advocate for sustainable agriculture and employment outlets. Young people around the world are encouraged to record a dance video that is up to 15 seconds long on short-form video app TikTok. For the challenge, Participants must download the app and create an individualized dance routine inspired by Silver’s choreography to “Freedom.” They then upload the video with the hashtag #DanceForChange to help spread the message and gain a wider reach. In June 2019, the IFAD released a Rural Development Report focused on developing opportunities for rural youth across Africa. The report is designed to identify what impactful roles young people can play in economic transformation and will be central to advocating for increased investment.

Sustainable Agriculture

In rural areas in Africa, agriculture is considered one of the largest sources of livelihood. It is not only a widespread source of income, but a means of food generation and familial support. Across the continent, it is estimated that 11 million young people will enter the job market over the next 10 years, and supporting sustainable agriculture can develop opportunities for rural youth searching for employment in urban areas. Agriculture accounts for 44 percent of all land use across sub-Saharan Africa, therefore designating the farmers that work on the land as key contributors to the international economy. Political figures and branches of government play a vital role in enforcing continued investment in agricultural systems and maintaining natural resources such as soil, water, forests and wildlife.

Success on TikTok

In May, the TikTok app ran a pre-launch promotion for #DanceforChange to project how widespread their reach may be. Nearly 5,000 individuals around the globe uploaded creative dance videos or memes with the hashtag to express their support for creating youth employment opportunities and fighting global hunger, proving that the unique dance challenge creates opportunities in a number of domains. Canada, India, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. had the highest levels of engagement.

Simply utilizing a creative initiative such as the #DanceForChange challenge can help spread awareness toward issues like global hunger, poverty, unemployment and other difficulties facing youth in developing nations. Through an art form as universal as dance, individuals across the globe are speaking to the combined power of media engagement and self-expression.

– Anna Lagattuta
Photo: Flickr

African Immigration to Spain
While Eastern and Central Europe have been dealing with the brunt of the refugee crisis—thanks to conflicts in Syria and the rest of the Middle East—Western Europe is far from unaffected. However, a large number of immigrants in Spain originate from West Africa, and they come to Spain for a variety of different reasons; both as refugees, and in search of economic opportunity unavailable to them in their home countries. This article takes a look at the causes of African immigration to Spain, as well as the living conditions immigrants experience in their new host country.

Five Questions and Answers

1. Why are People from Western and Central Africa Leaving their Home Countries?

The short answer is a variety of reasons. While the overall volume of immigrants to Europe has dropped to pre-2015 levels, African immigration to Spain is still spurred by more than just garden-variety economic migration—though that certainly still plays a large role. The reasons for migration vary greatly by gender, with most men emigrating for economic reasons while most women are leaving due to threats of violence.

2. Why Spain?

Spain has a labor shortage and is more welcoming to migrants than other European countries. While geography is a major factor in emigration from Spain to Africa (the Strait of Gibraltar is slightly over seven nautical miles from the African mainland to Spain), Spain has—until very recently—been a notable exception to the anti-immigrant sentiment overtaking much of Europe. The current Spanish government is center-left, with over 80 percent of adult poll respondents saying that they would be in favor of taking in irregular refugees. New agricultural sectors in the south of Spain—mainly greenhouse farming—have also created an unskilled economy that few Spaniards find attractive, but looks promising to refugees.

3. How do Immigrants get There?

Refugees arrive in Spain either by the Spanish enclaves in Morocco or the dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean. The most immediate destination for African immigration to Spain is the enclave city of Ceuta, which is politically Spanish and geographically Moroccan but is governed more or less autonomously, like Catalonia or the Basque Country. Some also arrive via ship, in the infamously choppy Mediterranean. The first decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration was to admit the Aquarius, a ship of more than 600 migrants, into Spain after Italy turned it away.

4. What Kind of Life is Waiting for Immigrants Once they Arrive?

“Nobody talks about what it’s really like.” Many of the African migrants in Spain live in the southern regions, doing seasonal agricultural work. This is especially true for the men who emigrated to Spain for economic reasons, trying to send money back home to their loved ones. Despite the supposed greater economic opportunity that comes from a Eurozone nation, many of the African migrants in Spain live in ramshackle chabolas, makeshift shacks comprised of wood and plastic leftover from agricultural scrap. In these settlements, more migrants have mobile phones than access to a toilet or kitchen.

5. Is Spain’s Generosity Towards Migrants Coming to an End?

The short answer is yes. The majority of African immigration to Spain comes through Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar, but the path of many migrants does not end there. Recently, Spain has come under fire from other European leaders for being the exception to an otherwise-ubiquitous tight border policy, which has put pressure on the Spanish government to somehow stem the tide. In response, Spain has outsourced its border security to Morocco, the country that processes most migrants to Spain. This has alarmed left-leaning political groups and human rights NGOs, who claim that Morocco’s human rights record is inadequate.

While Spain has upheld the Sanchez government’s initial promise of being more accepting of migrants, large-scale African immigration to Spain and pressure from other European leaders has prompted a tightening of the flow of migrants through Morocco and the Mediterranean. While the conditions African migrants find in Spain are far from luxurious, the work is good enough for them to continue to migrate. What Spain ultimately decides to do in regard to the influx of immigrants from Africa could either continue to serve as a lone exception to the rest of Europe or join the continent in its increasing anxiety over immigration.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Eswatini, formerly called Swaziland, is a small, mountainous, landlocked country surrounded on all sides by South Africa and in close proximity to Mozambique. While Eswatini is classified as a lower-middle-income country, it is still plagued with severe poverty and high unemployment rates. One demonstration of this poverty can be seen by the approximately 900,000 individuals who were recorded to have no access to electricity in 2017. This is due in large part because Eswatini does not produce much of its own electricity. Rather, they get much of it, along with many other imports, from South Africa. In recent years, organizations like the World Bank have been working to improve Eswatini’s electricity supply, but there is still much work to be done.

Governmental Efforts

In Eswatini, The Eswatini Energy Regulatory Authority (ESERA) regulates the country’s electric supply industry, while The Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) acts as the national utility. The Eswatini Electricity Company is state-owned and controls hydropower stations in Maguga, Ezulwini, Edwaleni and Maguduza. Despite this, Eswatini is a net importer of electricity due to the fact that its domestic electricity generation is insufficient to meet national demand. This can be attributed in large part to a lack of water storage, which has led to severe variations in annual domestic generation output over the years.  However, the Eswatini Government is looking to become more energy independent in the near future and has implemented the Rural Electrification Program (REP), which has increased the percent of Eswatini residents with access to proper electricity from 5 percent in 2003 to 75 percent in 2017.

The World Bank’s Role in Eswatini’s Electrical Supply

In conjunction with the REP, the World Bank has also aided in improving Eswatini’s electricity supply. One of the World Bank’s most notable projects in Eswatini is called the Network Reinforcement and Access Project.  It contains four parts. The first two components focus on strengthening the transmission and distribution network in Shiselweni and building upon the REP program to finance additional household connections. The third component provides analytical support by financing technical aid, and the 4th component is designed to improve Eswatini’s ability to respond to major economic or social emergencies. These efforts by the World Bank have proved to be extraordinarily helpful in Eswatini’s efforts to become a nation that produces its own energy.

Final Steps

Eswatini has taken major steps forward to address their issues with producing electricity.  However, the country is still struggling overall in this regard, and more work is necessary in order for the nation to become energy independent.  Funding from the World Bank, as well as from organizations like the UN, will be of great help to Eswatini as it seeks to improve access to electricity for its residents.

– Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

George WashingtonGeorge Washington is infamously known for his role as general of the Revolutionary War and for being the first president of the United States. Here are the top 10 interesting facts about George Washington. They reveal his efforts to ease international tensions and address the global issues of his time.

Top 10 Interesting Facts About George Washington

  1. He Believed in Neutrality – Much of Washington’s presidency was spent dealing with the ongoing tensions between Great Britain and France. Washington’s strategy for addressing this issue was to appear neutral. Washington tried not to take a side in this feud. Instead, he focused on the importance of strengthening U.S. foreign relations. Washington sent John Jay to Great Britain, which resulted in The Jay Treaty of 1794. The treaty strengthened trade relations with Great Britain and cleared the U.S. of war debts.
  2. He Wanted Humane Treatment for Prisoners –Washington set the standard for treatment of U.S. prisoners. In the Battle of New York, Washington witnessed British troops slaughter captured American soldiers. At the Battle of Trenton, where U.S. forces captured Hessian mercenaries, Washington had the chance to punish them in the same manner. Instead, he ordered his soldiers to treat the Hessians humanely. U.S. troops risked their lives to safely escort these prisoners across the Delaware River.
  3. He was Health Conscious – Washington was always very health-conscious. The deadliest disease of Washington’s time was smallpox, an illness that Washington found deadlier than “the Sword of the enemy.” When he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, he had all new soldiers inoculated for smallpox.
  4. He Played a Big Role in Establishing the Government – Part of Washington’s role as the nation’s first president was unifying the country. Washington acted swiftly and established the first United States Cabinet to advise him. He also played an integral part in the implementation of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, which guarantees rights to the American people.
  5. He Hated Slavery –Washington was firmly against the slave trade and put an end to the practice at Mt. Vernon. The former president then tried to ease the burden on his slaves by selling off mass parcels of land and change crops to diminish his need for intense human labor. Washington received little interest in his land, but he was finally able to legally release his slaves upon his death and the death of his wife.
  6. He Valued Religious Freedom – Washington did not want people to be persecuted against on the basis of faith and was a firm believer in religious freedom. America was to be a sanctuary for all people of all religious backgrounds. Washington fought for this belief, and helped establish freedom of religion during his presidency.
  7. He Supported Immigration – Washington was a staunch supporter of immigration. He believed that “America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.” Washington passed the Naturalization Act of 1790. This law welcomed people of “good character” to immigrate into the U.S.
  8. He Lived by a Strict Code of Morality – George Washington was admired for his unfailing sense of morality. As General of U.S. forces, Washington pushed his men to be not only good soldiers but also good men. Washington’s most infamous moral act is perhaps when he refused to serve a third term as president because he believed no man should hold too much power.
  9. He Addressed Hostile Relations with Native Americans – After the American Revolution, many Native Americans still held resentment towards the U.S. Washington sought to address this resentment by signing the Treaty of Greenville. This treaty put an end to the ongoing Indian Wars. The treaty granted two-thirds of the territory from the Ohio River and Lake Erie to the U.S. In exchange, Native Americans received utensils, clothing and animals.
  10. He Eased Tensions with Spain – In early America, there were ongoing problems between Spain and the U.S. due to the Spanish occupation of New Orleans. Spain denied the U.S. access to the Mississippi River in an attempt to thwart trade. To resolve this issue, Washington signed Pinckney’s Treaty. The treaty allowed for the U.S. to sail ships on the Mississippi and for duty-free transport.

Why These Facts About George Washington Are Important

These facts reveal that, although known for being the face of the American Revolution, Washington was also an advocate of diplomacy. He spent the majority of his presidency trying to find diplomatic solutions to international conflicts. They also display his concerns with basic human issues such as morality, religious freedom and health. Washington spent his entire life trying to promote the importance of these issues, yet his efforts are often unheard of. These top 10 interesting facts about George Washington are important because they shed light onto the incredible efforts of America’s first president to fight for the causes he believed in.

Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Selena Gomez and UNICEFAfter starting her career at age seven starring in “Barney and Friends,” Selena Gomez rose to fame in her most well-known role as Alex Russo on Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place.” Whether she is starring in shows on television or speaking out about the dangers of social media, Gomez often finds herself in front of the camera.  More recently, Selena Gomez and UNICEF have been working together to aid children in need.

In 2009, Gomez added UNICEF ambassador to her already decorated resume. She previously acted as a spokesperson for the organization for a year. At the age of 16, Gomez became the youngest UNICEF brand ambassador at that time. Together, Selena Gomez and UNICEF advocate for the world’s most vulnerable children by participating in campaigns, events and initiatives. “Every day, 25,000 children die from preventable causes. I stand with UNICEF in the belief that we can change that number from 25,000 to zero,” said Gomez.

Gomez in Ghana and Chile

In October 2009, one month after partnering with UNICEF, Gomez took a week-long trip to Ghana on behalf of the organization. This was an opportunity for the new ambassador to get a firsthand look at what the organization is all about. “My trip to Ghana was life-changing. I couldn’t believe the things I saw. They were so loving, compassionate and strong. Watching these kids fight for what they want was so inspirational,” said Gomez.

In 2016, when compared to adults, children were 40 percent more likely to live in poverty in Ghana. This number has increased significantly from the 1990s when it was only 15 percent. Over the past few years, Ghana’s economy has shown steady, positive growth and transformation, but clearly more needs to be addressed in regards to childhood poverty.

In February 2011, Gomez performed at a sold-out concert in the coastal city of Valparaiso in Chile. While there, Gomez met with some of the poorest Chilean women. Eighteen percent of children live in poverty in Chile; therefore, some children must work. Street children pose a large issue, especially indigenous children because they do not retain the same rights as other Chilean children.

Selena Gomez Turns to Fans for Support

In 2010, Gomez became the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF spokesperson. The Kids Helping Kids Ⓡ event raised nearly $177 million as of 2018. In August 2011, Gomez joined more than 70 musicians for the George Harrison Fund as part of UNICEF’s Month of Giving.

Gomez took to social media to share a personally recorded message with her fans encouraging them to support the effort. In total, the efforts raised $1.2 million for children in the Horn of Africa affected by famine and droughts. Gomez closed out 2011 by participating in 12 Days of UNICEF, an annual tradition in which individuals are able to purchase a life-saving gift in remembrance of a loved one for children in need.

Gomez has performed three charity concerts for UNICEF with all proceeds benefiting the U.S. fund for UNICEF. Her concerts have raised more than $200,000 for UNICEF. She teamed up with Rihanna, Robin Williams, Taylor Swift, Dwight Howard and Adrian Grenier to participate in UNICEF’s Tap Project Celebrity Tap campaign by bottling tap from her home and taking part in PSA’s on behalf of UNICEF’s clean water programs.

Gomez in the Sahel Region and Nepal

In April 2012, Gomez traveled to the Sahel region of West and Central Africa to advocate for the millions of children facing malnutrition. Furthermore, she took to the media and created a public service announcement encouraging donations for the Sahel. She also used her Twitter following to promote #SahelNOW to initiate conversation and prompt awareness. The United Nations recognized a 50 percent increase in hungry children in the Sahel region as more than 1.3 million children faced acute malnutrition in 2018.

While in Nepal in 2014, Gomez visited with children at the Satbariya Rapti Secondary School, female health volunteers in Gangaparaspur Village, female mediators in the Hapur village and watched a skit about sanitation in Gangaparaspur Village. Nearly half of the Nepalese population lives below the poverty line with children fighting for their lives each as their fundamental needs go unfulfilled.

“Nothing is more important than helping children in need around the globe. I’m thankful that I can use my voice to bring awareness and much-needed funds to UNICEF, so they can continue their critical work. Together, with my fans, we can save lives,” said Gomez. Thanks to Selena Gomez’s work, conditions are slowing improving for children around the world.

– Gwen Schemm
Photo: Flickr

End Neglected Tropical Diseases ActApproximately one billion people are affected every year by Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in an estimated 149 countries. In tropical and subtropical areas, NTDs abound in a variety of 17 communicable diseases, including Chagas disease, dengue fever, leprosy, river blindness, rabies, worms (round, whip and hook) and trachoma to name a few. This is why the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act was created.

Rep. Christopher Smith introduced the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act to the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 28, 2019. The proposed bill addresses international development regarding NTDs as well as provides funding for those who strive to help end NTDs. The bill also states that it will expand the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Neglected Tropical Diseases program and the Global Fund. Here are five facts that explain the primary objectives of the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act.

Five Facts About the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act

  1. The bill proposes that USAID help individuals suffering from or at risk for contracting NTDs by providing drug treatment packages. Rep. Smith also urges beginning similar programs that target large at-risk communities, particularly children five and up. These programs will have a high impact with relatively low costs.
  2. These programs will also attempt to coordinate with USAID and its development sectors. Specifically, the program aims to organize with USAID regarding aspects such as “education (including primary and pre-primary education), food and nutrition security, maternal and child health and water, sanitation and hygiene.”
  3. The End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act addresses the need for the Global Fund to start recognizing and working with NTDs. The Global Fund is a public-private entity that focuses on assisting people with AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The bill urges the Global Fund to focus on female genital schistosomiasis in addition to providing treatment for HIV/AIDS.
  4. Rep. Smith’s proposed bill also addresses the need for a center of excellence. This section of the bill addresses the provisions for obtaining a cooperative agreement or a grant. The grant can be given to either a public or private nonprofit organization. It will fund the basics costs needed to create the centers in order to “conduct research into, training in and development of diagnosis, prevention, control and treatment methods for neglected tropical diseases.” These funds can be used for basic operating costs such as staffing and administrative duties as well as patient care costs. The grant funds may also be used for the training and continued education of health professionals as well as for establishing programs to educate the public on NTDs.
  5. The bill would create a panel for worm infections. The Secretary of Health and Human Services would use this panel to research worm infections and deworming solutions and medicines. It will also develop five strategies for preventing recurrent infections, providing sanitation solutions, developing safer, better medicines and improving the cost-efficiency of the existing programs regarding worm infections.

The End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act aims to produce programs that will help eliminate tropical diseases that are rampant in developing countries. If it passes, it could bring much-needed hope for approximately one billion people in developing countries around the world.

– Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

Education for internally displaced childrenViolence or conflict internally displaces approximately 17 million children worldwide. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those who have been forced to leave their homes but remain within the borders of their country of origin. A majority of IDPs live in urban areas, where they often lack access to basic services, including health care, housing and education. Ensuring access to education for internally displaced children is essential to improving livelihoods and fostering social cohesion.

Initiatives in Nigeria and Kenya represent important steps toward ensuring education for all internally displaced children in those countries.

Barriers to Education

For internally displaced children, schools are crucial to integrating into their new host community and regaining some normalcy after fleeing violence. Unfortunately, a myriad of challenges prevents many of these children from being able to attend school. A lack of documentation, financial struggles, language barriers, physical distance from the nearest school and a lack of education facilities in the area could possibly prevent internally displaced children from pursuing their education.

Furthermore, child labor, child marriage and recruitment by armed forces and gangs are other significant barriers to education for internally displaced children. IDPs often experience severe poverty and, as a way to make more money, send their children to work within the informal sector, thereby preventing them from going to school.

Child marriage is seen as another way to help overcome poverty, as marrying into the host community can provide economic and social benefits. Child marriage is frequently forced onto internally displaced children, especially girls. For IDPs who choose to marry when they are young, becoming independent from their parents may be a motivating factor. Once married, children rarely begin or continue their education.

Additionally, internally displaced children tend to live in poor, crime-ridden districts. They are more likely to be recruited by local gangs or armed groups in these areas. In Colombia, armed groups seek out children because they are able to avoid heavy criminal sentences if caught.

Conflict also negatively impacts education infrastructure, hurting educational opportunities for internally displaced children. Displacement disproportionately affects girls, who face additional challenges. Girls are 2.5 times more likely to not attend school in countries experiencing conflict. Gender-based violence and harassment that occurs at school and on the route to and from education facilities keep many girls at home. The abduction and rape that has occurred in at least 18 countries, along with the bombing of girls’ schools, also encourages families to keep their daughters at home rather than sending them to school.

UNICEF Recommendations

UNICEF recommends several tactics to overcome these barriers to education for internally displaced children. The organization’s primary goal is to ensure humanitarian organizations and governments begin to see education as a greater priority for IDPs. Education is commonly seen as secondary to addressing violence. Unfortunately, when conflicts last for years and decades, waiting to invest in education can leave generations of internally displaced children without schooling.

Key recommendations include strengthening education systems, abolishing school fees to reduce financial constraints and adapting curricula to address prejudices and promote diversity and social cohesion.

Case Study: Kenya

A study conducted at a Kenya school in 2013 and 2014 provides valuable insight into the benefits of educating internally displaced children alongside local children. At the school studied, 71 percent of students were internally displaced. However, efforts were made to provide an inclusive education that strengthened community relationships.

The study found that many internally displaced children were initially apprehensive about being accepted by their new school community. This sometimes lasted, but usually dissipated after a few weeks as the children become comfortable with each other. One student, Jey, told an author from the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, “I like this school because pupils like me. I don’t have any enemies all of them help me.”

Furthermore, students at the school developed community-consciousness. Many were aware of social inequalities that existed in Kenya. Internally displaced children recognized the disadvantages they and their families faced and were motivated to complete school to improve their futures.

Overall, more schools like this one in Kenya are needed to help bridge gaps between host communities and IDPs. This will improve opportunities for internally displaced children.

Plan International: Nigeria

In Nigeria, Plan International is creating learning centers to provide education for internally displaced children. These centers are created in areas that lack educational infrastructure and seek to support IDPs.

Patim, one of the teachers at a learning center in Maiduguri, noted that many of the children she teaches have lost their parents and require a great deal of support. The learning centers are doing what they can but often lack adequate resources and staff. However, the work being done is still directly benefiting many children. Patim recognizes that many of her students would be working on the streets if it wasn’t for the learning center. Attending the center helps keep children safe during the day.

Moving Forward

More communities and nations need to adopt UNICEF’s recommendations to ensure the availability of education for internally displaced children. Hopefully, recent attention to this issue will spark significant change in more countries, improving the livelihoods of IDPs around the world.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

aboriginal homelessness in canada
In 2017, the Reputation Institution ranked Canada the most reputable country in the world in its Reptrak survey. In fact, in the prior six years that the institution conducted the RepTrak survey, Canada never ranked worse than second. Many know the country for its welcoming disposition, health care and welfare programs. Unfortunately, Aboriginal homelessness in Canada proves that the quality of life is very poor for one particular minority group.

The Problem

Every country, no matter the reputation, faces its own set of problems. For Canada, a key problem is the under-representation of Aboriginal voices in government and the over-representation of Aboriginals living in the streets. Indeed, one of the most reputable countries in the world contains an impoverished indigenous population, a remnant of the atrocious treatment of aboriginals since colonial times.

Caryl Patrick, a York University researcher finds that “Aboriginal homelessness in Canada is a crisis that should be considered an epidemic.” He attributes this to the disproportionate native representation in homeless populations. In major urban zones, Aboriginals account for between 11 percent to almost 100 percent of the homeless population, even though only 4 percent of the Canadian population is native. In Yellowknife, the Northwest Territories, 95 percent of the homeless population is native.

A study by the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia found that aboriginal Canadians face a different set of challenges than non-Aboriginals. On the issue of homelessness, these inequalities are very evident.

Aboriginal people in Canada are 10 times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to become homeless. Although homeless people all have similar challenges, Aboriginal homeless people have to deal with the additional issues of racism and discrimination. Exclusionary practices in treatment programs that should address everyone equitably exacerbate the problem.

Reports state that Inuit populations in Montreal avoid using shelters and charitable organizations because they experience discrimination from not only the non-native workers that serve them but from non-native homeless people as well. In addition, Aboriginal homeless people are more likely to be younger and completely homeless rather than in a shelter. It is clear that the Aboriginal homeless in Canada face more difficult challenges than non-native homeless.

Cause of Aboriginal Homelessness

Aboriginal homelessness in Canada is part of the larger issue of homelessness, housing inadequacy and poverty in Canada. Moreover, Aboriginal homelessness intricately connects to their history with the Canadian government. The aforementioned exclusionary practices which only perpetuate the racism and poverty in Canada are a symptom of a failure to provide culturally appropriate services that take into consideration the scars of intergenerational trauma. In any case, when a service does not tailor to its users, it is less effective.

There are general pathways to homelessness, but for the native population, there are many more. Beyond the broader context of increasing income inequality and decreasing availability of affordable housing across Canada, Aboriginal people must cope with unresolved historical and cultural trauma and discriminatory community systems and services.

Solutions

Like any other systemic, structural problem, the Canadian government has made funding commitments toward the housing and well-being of both reserve and urban-dwelling Aboriginal people. In 1999, the federal government allocated $753 million toward resolving homelessness across the country. The government devoted $59 million to addressing urban Aboriginal homelessness, and it continues to replenish the budget as the problem continues. However, money alone cannot solve the problem.

Some Aboriginal-specific healing strategies have proven effective. In order to successfully reverse historical and cultural trauma, people must apply culturally appropriate and responsive methods. An example of this approach on a local level is the Lu’Ma Native Housing Society in Vancouver, BC. The program provides 300 culturally-appropriate and affordable housing units for low-income Aboriginal peoples and offers culturally-relevant programs like ceremonial activities and traditional clothing and jewelry making courses.

Additionally, the Society ensures Aboriginal representation at employee, management and board levels. Culturally responsive programs like these decrease Aboriginal homelessness in urban centers and combat discriminatory practices.

On a national level, the Canadian government has launched Reaching Home, a strategy that aims to prevent and reduce homelessness by doubling support for at-risk communities. Communities involved in Reaching Home are attempting to reduce chronic homelessness by 50 percent. In 2016, the government doubled its investment in reducing indigenous homelessness. Reaching Home played a key role by supporting the delivery of culturally appropriate responses to the needs of Aboriginals in vulnerable conditions, including women, youth and mothers.

Looking Ahead

People often overlook Aboriginal homelessness in Canada, even though the country has a top-tier reputation. It is a complex aspect of poverty that intricately connects the larger issue of homelessness to the nuanced history and culture of Aboriginal peoples. Although only 4 percent of the population is native, the over-representation of indigenous peoples living on the streets is a startling statistic. It illustrates the magnitude of the issue and the need for resolution. Hopefully, through local and nationwide efforts that fund and support communities in need through culturally appropriate approaches, perhaps every person living on the streets can find not just shelter, but a home.

Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr

 

U.S. Foreign Policy in Botswana
The Republic of Botswana, a Southern African nation of nearly three million people, is an incredibly stable country with one of the strongest democratic traditions on the continent. Multi-party elections every five years compound a booming economy that has grown by 5 percent annually, according to the World Bank. Today, it is an upper-middle-income nation. Despite these successes, Botswana faces a litany of challenges. Poverty remains high at 16 percent and an 18 percent unemployment rate harms growth. The 2018 USAID “Have It All” documentary states that HIV/AIDS is still a public health crisis that affects one in five people and infects 14,000 new individuals each year. U.S. foreign policy in Botswana focuses on safeguarding stability by tackling these challenges.

History of Cooperation

Botswana gained independence from the U.K. in 1966, but America did not become involved in the country until the 1980s. With the help of USAID, U.S.-Botswana relations developed into an amicable, bilateral partnership. A Department of Defense report indicates military cooperation characterized this partnership in the 1990s. The Botswana Defense Force worked with American forces in Operation Restore Hope, which sought to provide famine relief to starving people in Somalia in 1993.

In 2004, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) started operating in the country. Botswana also signed a Trade, Investment and Development Cooperative Agreement (TIDCA) with the U.S. in 2008 to encourage free trade between the countries. Current U.S. foreign policy in Botswana intends to bolster past programs with these focuses:

1. Increase economic development with USAID’s Southern Africa Mission.
2. Sustain law enforcement cooperation with training at the ILEA.
3. Continue fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic with PEPFAR.

The Southern Africa Mission

The Southern Africa Mission is a regional program USAID runs that involves the Development Credit Authority (DCA) and the Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub (SATIH). It works to solve issues with investment, business growth, agricultural development and trade in Southern Africa. Botswana is one of the six countries it actively works in.

Its mission is a vital part of U.S. foreign policy in Botswana. According to a USAID official, Botswana desperately requires business development in order to recover from years of dependency on government services. Banks’ unwillingness to grant credit to fledgling businesses poses problems for sustainable growth. The DCA remedies this problem by providing U.S. Treasury-backed loans to local businesses. With a financially grounded business, banks become less risk-averse and allow credit access.

The SATIH promotes necessary business growth as well. As of 2019, it has assisted 650 African firms with overcoming trade barriers and has brought about $129 million in investment. USAID told The Borgen Project that SATIH expands prospects for Botswana’s firms, particularly agricultural firms, by occasionally bringing them to trade shows in New York. These films and accompanying improvements in beef quality have helped grow Botswana’s U.S. market by 10 percent. More economic growth will speed Botswana’s progress against poverty.

The ILEA

The International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) started in the capital of Gaborone in 2000 and trains officials to combat transnational crime. In correspondence with The Borgen Project, a State Department spokesperson stated that over 9,000 African officials had trained there under instructors from more than 20 American federal agencies. Botswana obtains special relationships with these instructors by hosting the ILEA.

The aforementioned relationships provide a wealth of information to Botswana’s law enforcement officials. A 2019 training schedule showed various courses on human trafficking, crisis leadership, anti-terrorism and anti-corruption offered throughout the year. The ILEA’s anti-corruption training has a definite effect on the country’s well-being. Transparency International ranked Botswana as 34 out of 180 nations on its 2018 Corruption Perception Index, making it the least corrupt nation in Africa.

PEPFAR

PEPFAR provides funding to a variety of federal organizations that respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana. Programs work to increase testing for HIV, treat infected individuals immediately and reduce the stigma of infection. The U.S. has allocated $67.88 million for these purposes in FY 2020 according to the State Department.

With PEPFAR’s help, HIV testing reached 708,102 individuals in FY 2017 alone. A government report stated that it also covered 60 percent of the HIV testing kits used between April 2017 and 2018. This financial support can save lives since Botswana treats HIV-positive patients with antiretroviral medications (ARVs) immediately under the Treat All Program. USAID officials told The Borgen Project that these programs emphasize community engagement and encourage Botswana’s citizens receive testing and ARVs.

ARVs are powerful, suppressing the viral load to such an extent that they stop transmission. Maria and Edwin, an HIV-positive couple in USAID’s “Have It All” film, received immediate treatment and stopped the virus from passing to their three children. USAID even stated that ARVs stop transmission between sexual partners. Now, U.S. foreign policy in Botswana is shifting to normalizing AIDS treatment. “The [‘Have It All’] documentary,” one official said, “has been shown to social workers and adolescents . . . and now we are really moving into stigma reduction.”

U.S. foreign policy in Botswana continues building on the progress the nation has made since 1966. Despite the immense challenges, bilateral cooperation can assist in defeating economic stagnation, corruption and AIDS. There is more work to do, but American aid ensures Botswana’s renowned stability will continue into the future.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Flickr