Aid to SenegalSenegal’s economy is one of the fastest-growing in Africa, with a growth rate of above 6% from 2014 to 2018. The country is home to 15.4 million people and is one of the most stable countries in the region. This growth was heavily burgeoned by the service industry, which made up about 60% of the country’s total GDP. The shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a severe slowdown in growth, falling to an estimated 1.3% in 2020. Although the country has instituted a comprehensive stimulus plan, Senegal’s economy is still facing a slow and painful recovery, which could be disastrous for the country’s long-term future. International aid to Senegal is vital for the country’s recovery.

Incoming Aid to Senegal

In a press release on November 11, Germany and the EU announced the approval of relief funding for Senegal — 112 million in EU funding and 100 million in funding from Germany itself. The EU has a broader history of aid to Senegal, with more than a billion euros of aid sent from 2014 to 2020. Germany also has a history of friendship with Senegal, as the two entered into a reform partnership in 2019. The amount of aid rendered illustrates the strong commitment of both the EU and Germany to Senegal’s economy. The money will go toward Senegal’s COVID-19 stimulus program and will enable the government to continue relief efforts for its population.

The Benefits of Aid to Senegal

German development minister, Gerd Müller, was strongly in favor of aid to Senegal and described many problems currently ailing Senegal’s economy. Nearly half of the country is unemployed and the shrinking economy will especially impact small and medium businesses, which make up 90% of all Senegalese jobs. Müller said, “We must not forget that the consequences of COVID-19 are far more dramatic in developing countries.”

Müller is optimistic that the aid will enable the protection of jobs and the production of medical equipment necessary to fight COVID-19. Senegal’s stimulus plan involves a trillion francs (roughly 1.8 billion USD) aimed at strengthening healthcare. The government also opened a program for businesses to receive cash loans for support.

Although Senegal’s economy is robust, it is still dependent on foreign aid to finance these measures. Aside from the aid coming from the EU and Germany, the World Bank approved $100 million in aid back in June 2020, demonstrating a need for further funding to prevent larger setbacks in Senegal’s economy.

The Importance of International Aid During COVID-19

Senegal’s handling of the pandemic itself has been praised throughout the world. It ranks second to New Zealand on Foreign Policy’s Global COVID-19 Response Index, measuring the response of national leaders to the pandemic. The country took broad health safety measures at the beginning of the crisis, which hurt Senegal’s economy but protected the lives of Senegalese people. The large role that international aid plays in enabling Senegal and other countries around the world to successfully fight the COVID-19 pandemic must be duly noted.

– Bradley Cisternino
Photo: Flickr

Benefits of AquacultureCan aquaculture reduce global poverty while improving ocean health and energy crises? Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic animals and plants, such as fish or seaweed. Aquaculture is prominent in coastal communities, particularly in eastern regions of the world. The benefits of aquaculture can help progress the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Progressing the Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, The United Nations established the 17 Sustainable Development Goals with the intent to create a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” The first goal is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” and the eighth goal is to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”

In order to fulfill both of these goals, creating decent jobs and incentivizing productive employment to create sustainable economic growth must be prioritized. Aquaculture provides employment opportunities for the impoverished in coastal and rural communities across the globe and provides access to nutritious food that can often be hard to access without monetary resources.

A prime example of aquaculture’s socioeconomic contribution to communities is that of the Mwenezi District of Zimbabwe. People living in the district were facing decreased employment availability due to severe weather conditions. Their dilemma caught the attention of several NGOs that introduced fish farming as a way to increase employment opportunities. Not only did employment opportunities increase but household income and food security increased as well.

Ocean Health: Nitrogen

In 2014, between 18.6 and 37.2 million tons of nitrogen used for global fertilization ended up in the ocean. As a result, 245,000 square kilometers of the ocean suffered from hypoxia. Hypoxic areas, also known as dead zones, cannot support marine life as there is not enough oxygen dissolved in the water.

If global production of seaweed reaches 500 million tons by 2050, the World Bank estimates that 10 million tons of nitrogen could be absorbed. That equates to 30% of the predicted amount of nitrogen that enters the ocean. This would undoubtedly improve oceanic conditions for marine life by preventing dead zones.

Carbon Sequestration

Excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes ocean acidification and negatively impacts the health of marine life. Increased seaweed production would combat the amount of carbon dioxide added to seawater from greenhouse gas emissions. For example, 500 million tons of seaweed could absorb 135 million tons of carbon. Due to the positive effect of carbon sequestration, the profitability of seaweed farming could increase.

Renewable Energy

Seaweed farming, a subset of aquaculture, has the potential to create a highly efficient form of renewable energy called biomass. Biomass is material that comes from plants or animals and can be used for energy production. In 2015, nearly 5% of the United States’ energy came from biomass, making it the largest form of renewable energy. According to the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), seaweed farming in the United States could reach production levels of up to 500 million tons of algae which would provide more energy than 23 billion gallons of gasoline.

Dry seaweed has a carbohydrate content of roughly 50%, which can be used for biofuel production. In concurrence with ARPA-E, the World Bank stated that if 500 million tons of dry seaweed were harvested annually, it would produce around “1.25 billion megawatt-hour’s worth of methane or liquid fuel.” This amount of renewable energy would equate to 1.5% of the 85 billion megawatt-hours of fossil fuels used worldwide in 2012. Renewable energy is one of the remarkable benefits of aquaculture.

Global Aquaculture Alliance

The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that began its operation in 1997. Its mission is to “promote responsible aquaculture practices through education, advocacy and demonstration.” In 2019, GAA conducted an educational campaign called Aquaculture 101. The purpose was to spread awareness and inform people on the basics of aquaculture, particularly those skeptical of fish farming. GAA has also funded a joint project with the Marine Ingredients Organisation to better understand fisheries in Southeast Asia that are responsible for providing raw material for fishmeal production. While the fishmeal sector has grown exponentially over the course of 50 years, the two organizations seek to better understand the challenges undermining management practices so that they may make informed suggestions. Furthermore, Best Aquaculture Practices, a subset of GAA, has seen a 15% increase in producers operating in 36 countries from 2010 to 2019. Producers include processing plants, farms, feed mills, hatcheries and reprocessors. This is an incredible trajectory that shows the GAA’s impact on aquaculture across the globe.

The Future of Aquaculture

The benefits of aquaculture have proven effective in reducing global poverty and providing decent employment opportunities to create sustainable economic growth. Moreover, it has shown its capacity to improve the health of the ocean and provide new forms of renewable energy so that the world may sustain its current energy standards.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in the Philippines
The Philippines, located in Southeast Asia, is an archipelagic state that holds the third-largest Catholic population in the world. General statistics on period poverty in the Philippines are limited, but religious ideas have been blocking a broader question of whether the country should implement sex education. Reproductive health legislation poses a risk to bilateral relations between the government and Church, holding lawmakers at an impasse.

Period Poverty in the Philippines

In the Philippines, menstruation can determine young women’s future success economically and socially. Students, in particular, are ill-equipped to navigate their menarches, and the period stigma impacts the quality of their education and future. Policies to address this issue have been mostly ungenerous, with some advancements happening under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. During the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations have been advocating to push period awareness campaigns to the forefront of the public health agenda.

Period poverty in the Philippines is part of a larger issue, where the nescience of women’s health connects back to soaring teenage and unexpected pregnancy rates. According to a survey that G.M.A. News conducted, most voters support the idea of government-regulated sex education efforts. Political progress has been slow at best; the Church holds enough public sway to delay any legislative initiatives. The Philippines did not enforce the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Act of 2012 until 2019, when Duterte signed an executive order to mandate free reproductive health services, albeit against the will of the Church.

Sex Education in the Philippines

Though the 2012 law includes mandating sex education in school curricula, people have mostly overlooked its application. Determining lessons on periods falls to the jurisdiction of the teachers, most of whom are male, and it is in this setting where many girls start to fall behind because of their menstrual cycles. Currently, the way most young people learn about menstruation is from their mothers, who tell girls to sit on a coconut shell to alleviate their cramps. They receive little help from their teachers and face standard forms of subtle embarrassment common to girls who get their menses for the first time.

The school setting also represents the larger-scale issues for people who menstruate in the Philippines. Schools have limited toilets that lack privacy, and windows are poorly positioned so boys can often peep at girls who are doing their business. Likewise, 14% of workplaces have inadequate toilets for women, and women must habitually carry their own toilet paper because restrooms have limited water for flushing and hand-washing.

Improving sex education could be a largely successful target to combatting period poverty in the Philippines. A UN W.A.S.H. study identified four key recommendations to improving girls’ menstrual health in the Philippines: better education, better facilities, better access to menstrual products and support systems for girls who take an absence. Though period poverty remains largely unchecked, further observation would promote a general betterment needed to combat women’s health inequities.

Initiatives to Help Fight the Period Stigma

At the social level, humanitarian organizations use community initiatives to provide support for people who menstruate. Save the Children Philippines assigns resident volunteers and teen advocates to dismantle menstrual health stigmas by reaching out to their peers with advice, support and educational tools. COVID-19 has intensified the crisis, and Save the Children Philippines’ C.E.O. Alberto Muyot spoke in an interview with Business Mirror that now would be the key time to put menstrual health at the forefront of public health solutions. Currently, the organization is providing resources like hygienic kits and food offerings to combat the pandemic.

Addressing the period stigma is another initiative that comes in the form of an innovative strategy. Menstrual cups have had a profound impact on period poverty around the world; as a more economical and comfortable option than their disposable counterparts, they provide a solution that generally improves the standard of living. Sinaya Cup, a small business, retails menstrual cups catered to the specific needs and challenges girls face in the Philippines. For instance, besides promoting themselves as an eco-friendly and comfortable solution, they also promise a waterproof quality important to girls who wish to participate in recreational activities like biking, trekking and climbing.

The attitudes surrounding menstrual health is a global issue that chronically impacts the economic wellbeing of women. Addressing the stigma requires a multifaceted solution. The emergence of COVID-19 has amplified concerns regarding where women fit into the public health conversation, making now the opportune time to address the issue of period poverty. Dismantling period poverty in the Philippines might begin with government and community initiatives, but the state must consider adapting its sectarian views to accommodate the needs of women’s’ health.

– Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Egypt
In 2016, lawmakers in Egypt federally criminalized female genital mutilation. Yet, the practice still persists.

Data from the Egypt Health Issues Survey (EHIS) from 2015 shows that the prevalence of FGM among Egyptian girls and women aged 15-49 is 87.2%. As one of the most populous countries in the Middle East and Africa, Egypt likely has the greatest number of circumcised women and girls in the world. To combat the high incidence of female genital mutilation in Egypt, anti-FGM campaigns have gained traction in the past several years.

Female Genital Mutilation

According to WHO, FGM “involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” There are four types of female genital mutilation, and they range from pricking or piercing the genitals to removing the clitoral glans, clitoral hood, labia minora and labia major.

There are no health benefits to female genital mutilation. In fact, FGM can cause health issues such as hemorrhaging, urinary problems, vaginal issues, menstruation difficulties, an increased risk of newborn deaths, psychological problems and death. Just in 2020, a 14-year-old Egyptian girl died while undergoing the procedure.

FGM in Egypt and the People Who Practice It

The practice of FGM mostly persists due to tradition. Female genital mutilation in Egypt has existed for thousands of years. Evidence of FGM practices has even dated back to the second century BCE, and FGM may have stemmed from a desire to guarantee the virginity of enslaved women. Today, people tend to practice FGM in order to keep women pure. Those who believe in the practice believe that removing the clitoris promotes cleanliness as the clitoris could arouse women sexually and make them more likely to have sex before marriage. They believe FGM benefits the girl or woman by saving them from impurity or uncleanliness.

While female genital mutilation occurs all over Egypt, girls with lower economic status tend to be more at risk. According to the EHIS data from 2015, 69.8% of women and girls age 15-49 in the highest wealth quintile in Egypt have experienced FGM in comparison to 94.4% of women and girls in the same age range in the lowest quintile. Furthermore, girls in the highest wealth quintile are only 5.4% likely to undergo FGM, whereas girls in the lowest quintile are 22.8% likely to undergo FGM.

Solutions

Egyptian leaders continue to take steps to end the practice of female genital mutilation in Egypt. Along with other world leaders, Egypt vowed to end FGM by 2030. In 2016, Egypt launched the National Committee for the Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation. The group, with support from UNICEF and under the guidance of the National Council for Women and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, seeks to end female genital mutilation in Egypt. Since 2016, the group has created campaigns that raise awareness of the dangers of FGM. One such project was the “Budour Month” radio campaign in June 2019.

In December 2020, the committee met with representatives from various medical councils and organizations to create a plan to fight against the medicalization of FGM. The medicalization of FGM is the belief that female circumcision that a doctor performs is safe or medically necessary. Groups like the National Committee are not alone in fighting this falsehood. In 2020, Randa Fakhr El Deen, the head of the NGOs’ Union Against Harmful Practices on Women and Children, led a group of doctors to campaign against the practice. During this campaign, known as “White Shirts,” the doctors hung up signs that read “No to FGM” and “FGM is a crime” in a Cairo metro station. They also handed out pamphlets that explained the risks of FGM.

This group of doctors is just one of many citizen groups speaking out against female genital mutilation in Egypt. Artists and advocates have created plays and shows about the dangers of FGM. One popular show called “Hekayat Nehad” (Nehad’s stories) discusses violence against women, including FGM. It receives backing from the UNFPA and Dr. Nehad Aboul Komsan, the Chair of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, created it. In just one month, the show’s Facebook page received 7 million views.

Looking Ahead

Although people still practice female genital mutilation in Egypt, more and more people oppose the idea. Advocates believe it will take a while to end a practice that is this entrenched in society. However, government-supported education, task forces and harsher legislation are paving the way for a future without female genital mutilation.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Technology in Kenya Around 75% of working Kenyans make their living through agriculture. Being the largest industry in the country, the ability of Kenyan farmers to produce crops is essential for both economic and food security reasons. Agriculture provides food and money to the many farmers and their communities. This vital sector is in danger, with unpredictable climate conditions and the emergence of pests that can decimate entire crops. Artificial intelligence (AI) and mobile smartphones are new resources being used to save the produce of these farmers and the livelihoods of millions of Kenyans. Mobile technology in Kenya has great potential to increase the production of the valuable agricultural sector, keeping millions above the poverty line.

Cellphone and Internet Acess in Kenya

The mobile phone industry has been steadily growing in Kenya. According to a survey of 577 farming households, 98% of respondents own a mobile phone. The increasing affordability of cellphones and internet access in the country has opened the door to bring new forms of aid to the farmers who produce more than a third of the country’s GDP.

Project FARM

Mobile apps powered by machine learning have been created to help farmers all over the world make as much from their crops as they can. In Kenya, which has been experiencing unpredictable levels of rainfall each season, a mobile app is working to consolidate data to help determine the best course of action for the farmers during changing weather conditions. Project FARM (Financial and Agricultural Recommendation Models) is a program designed to take into account weather, temperature, strains of crops and success rates from other farms in order to determine what actions will produce the largest yield. FARM sends notifications to farmers via text so that they can be readily alerted of any danger as heavy rain can occur suddenly and damage entire fields. The program can be operated from the cellphones of farmers so the resources can be easily accessed and implemented. After just one year using FARM, on average, a single farmer increased their yield from six 90kg bags of maize to nine bags.

AI Apps as an Educational Resource

Programs like this also work in conjunction with resources that seek to educate farmers about ways to sell their products as well as how to maximize efficiency and yield. These resources are free and greatly help those who could not afford to hire an agronomist to inspect their farm. This combination helps farmers produce more and know how to manage more product so that they can sell them in the most efficient way possible.

Apps for Crop Pest Control

AI also helps farmers by giving them valuable information about crop-decimating pests. Pests pose a grave threat to African farms and it is estimated that each year around 50% of all crops in Africa are lost to pests and diseases. The Fall Armyworm (FAW) is a type of caterpillar that has recently plagued East Africa and is capable of ruining huge amounts of produce. The Farmers Companion App is a program powered by AI which is capable of determining which crops are infested and the stage of the lifecycle of the pest. This will allow farmers to take the best possible steps to contain the spread. Another app, PlantVillage Nuru, is capable of diagnosing crop diseases without an internet connection.

Mobile Technology in Kenya Helps Agriculture

Mobile technology in Kenya is an important step to help farmers deal with the evolving problems of the 21st century. With agriculture being such an important industry in Kenya and with so much of the produce at risk each year, it is vital for the economy and wellbeing of the country that crops are protected and that yields are produced at an effective rate. These types of developments in AI and mobile technologies have the potential to significantly help the livelihoods of millions of farmers in Kenya and other countries too.

– Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr

Reduce HomelessnessCanadian businesses have begun to fight back to reduce homelessness. Over a quarter-million people find themselves homeless in Canada every year. However, with businesses starting to employ homeless staff and workers, Canada could be successful in reducing this unfortunate situation.

Background on Homelessness

Homelessness, one of the leading causes of poverty, is often caused by housing prices, system failures, domestic violence, and a lack of adequate income. Income is one of the leading causes of homelessness. Many persons assume laziness to be the cause of homelessness and ask, “why don’t the homeless just get a job?” The real problem lies in the job availability for the homeless and the lack of resources they have to obtain a job.

Most homeless citizens don’t have addresses if they are not living with relatives or friends. So they do not have an official address to put on their resume when applying. Most employers require this to work at their company. Communication is also a problem. Without a reliable phone or address, there is no way for a future employer to reach out. If the person has a phone, it’s still possible they don’t have a way to charge it.

Other problems include cleanliness, availability of appropriate work clothes, and computer access to create a resume. Most employers are unwilling to jump through these hoops to help someone homeless when they can easily hire someone to access these previous things. All these problems create a vicious cycle that is hard to escape.

Due to all these issues, countries need to have specific plans and communities that are open to hiring homeless people and reducing this cycle.

3 Canadian Businesses that Reduce Homelessness by Providing Job Opportunities

  1. COMMON GOOD (CMNGD) Linens. Hannah and Dave Cree created CMNGD in 2016 after deciding to build a business with a social interest. The company is located in Calgary and exclusively hires homeless citizens to launder restaurant lines. When discussing his startup, David said, “we wanted to address homelessness and poverty, and there’s a lot of agencies doing great things. We wanted to focus where there’s a gap in the employment metric – getting people transitioning out of homelessness and transitioning into stable positions.” This business is excellent for a person needing a new start and a stable job because of its fair labor and intensive- allowing the person to get in shape while building an income. Hannah and Dave also give mental support to their employees.
  1. The Scott Mission. Scott Mission is a woman and family ministry that focuses on helping families that have temporarily fallen out of work and need a place to stay. They have helped people from 130 countries, including Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Portugal, China, Ukraine, Colombia, Jamaica, Italy, Mexico, and Russia. This organization temporarily shelters and employs its residents until they can get their feet on the ground.  One example of a person they’ve helped is a man named Robert in the Toronto area. Robert was facing homelessness when the Scott Mission sheltered him, found his work, and gave him nutritious meals.
  1. Hire up. Hire up is Canada’s first national hiring portal that helps reach out to youths in need. The company seeks out children that have spent time living homeless and need a place to get their careers started. It’s linked up with multiple businesses such as Peak Products. Peak Product is one of the leading home improvement stores selling and vastly arranging products in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Peak Products originated in British Columbia and has recently started to hire young people who have experienced homelessness.

These three companies are just the start of Canada’s goal to reduce homelessness. The nation has already made steps to reduce homelessness through a program called Medicine Hat. This program, named after the small Albertian city, focused on rehousing anyone who was without a home. After being rehoused, the project worked on helping drug issues and mental health problems. In 2019, Medicine houses eradicated chronic homelessness from their cities. With the continuation of programs like medicine houses, along with companies in Canada employing homeless people, social wellbeing in Canada will be prosperous as time progresses.

Mackenzie Reese
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Jamaica
Jamaica is a Caribbean island nation known for its tropical topography and climate along with its beautiful beaches. As a highly popular tourist destination, Jamaica’s economy relies on foreign visitors, welcoming an average of 2 million per year. The island’s coasts are lined with luxurious resorts to welcome and accommodate these visitors. However, this is not representative of Jamaica’s residential population; 2.8 million people live in poverty. The strain of poverty is heavy on all people. However, on children, it is all the more severe. Jamaica has yet to tackle many of the key drivers of child poverty. Here are five things to know about child poverty in Jamaica.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in Jamaica

  1. At least 25% of Jamaican children live under the poverty line. With the current economic situation in Jamaica, it is difficult for the government to prioritize increasing investment in children. Instead, debt repayment consumes a large amount of the country’s national budget. Because poverty is most widespread in rural Jamaica, hidden from the eyes of tourists, issues impacting children are rarely addressed.
  2. Jamaica does not have equal access to education. Minors living in rural areas may not have the option to attend school at all. While primary school is free, secondary and higher education is not, meaning that schooling beyond the primary level is often too expensive for underprivileged families. Beyond accessibility, Jamaican schools often lack resources for proper learning, and children are not able to thrive in an educational setting.
  3. Jamaica has a high incidence of HIV/AIDS affliction. This contributes to an overall high child mortality rate. A 10th of Jamaicans who have contracted the disease are under the age of 18, with the disease often transmitting from mother to child. In addition, AIDS deaths in adults result in many children becoming orphaned. Without monetary and emotional support from a parent, a child is much less likely to have a nurturing upbringing and successful life.
  4. High unemployment rates lead to unstable socioeconomic conditions. Without any way to earn a stable income, many in Jamaica turn to gang activity and crime to survive. Exposure to extreme violence is common for Jamaican children, and because of high poverty levels, many young boys often join gangs themselves. In addition, many unemployed residents live without access to running water and proper sanitation. All of these circumstances continue to promote unhealthy conditions.
  5. Child labor is widespread and often essential for a family’s survival. With high poverty rates across Jamaica’s rural communities, some families must put their children to work out of need. In cities, children are often seen selling merchandise, washing car windshields, and begging for money. For many people, having a childhood full of fun experiences is an unaffordable luxury.

Signs of Progress

Jamaica has a lot of work to do in terms of protecting its child population from the harsh realities of poverty. However, the country has made some progress. For example, it adopted the Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC), which is a United Nations human rights treaty that lays out the economic, cultural and political rights of children.

Jamaica has also enacted legislation to care for and protect minors. One example is the Jamaican Childcare and Protection Act, which promotes the safety and best interests of children on the island. While eradicating child poverty in Jamaica will take time, the country has made progress, and will continue to do so as they continue addressing key issues affecting the country’s most vulnerable populations.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

Education in PakistanAlthough schooling is compulsory in Pakistan for kids aged 5 to 16, it is not as accessible as it could be. Nearly 22.7 million children are unable to access education in Pakistan. Of note, girls are excluded from school at higher rates than boys. Human Rights Watch explains that 31% of girls are not able to attend primary school, compared to 21% for boys.

Barriers to Education

There are several factors that make education inaccessible for children and especially girls.

  • Lack of funding: Education is underfunded in Pakistan. Only 2.8% of its GDP is spent on education, which is below the 4% that the United Nations recommends. Lack of funding means that there is an unfortunate shortfall of schools, and not everyone can attend, decreasing access to education in Pakistan. This problem is especially pertinent in rural areas. In rural areas, schools are fewer and farther between. This makes it much harder for students to get an education, especially since private schools tend to operate in urban centers.
  • Social norms: Some people in Pakistan do not believe that girls should get an education. Especially in more conservative communities, female students may face backlash for continuing their education. Girls also tend to be married younger, and thus have to prioritize their new families above their education. This keeps girls from attending school at higher rates relative to boys.
  • Instability: Given the relatively unstable nature of the Pakistani government, extremist groups have been able to launch attacks on schools, specifically against girls. This deters girls from attending school since they fear for their lives. It also creates a vicious cycle of instability, where violence hurts economic output, which in turn hurts the government’s ability to fund education.

Ongoing Solutions

Fortunately, organizations are seeking to rectify these issues. One organization that does this is the CARE Foundation. The Foundation seeks to improve educational access through several key programs.

  • Public-private partnerships: CARE partners with existing public schools in order to rebuild them, improve their curriculums and make them more accessible. The organization helps build necessary infrastructure investments and rebuild existing crumbling infrastructure. Thus far, CARE has adopted 683 government-run schools across Pakistan in order to improve their efficacy. In adopting schools, the organization has been able to improve its function. Enrollment in their schools increased 400% and there has been a 10% decrease in dropouts.
  • New schools: CARE is also heavily involved in the construction of new schools, where the Foundation applies its unique approach to training teachers and administrators. Then, they help teach the government curriculum in order to help their students with the existing government tests. CARE has founded and built 33 schools that are now fully operational.
  • Scholarship programs: Although enrollment in higher education is rising, only 15% of eligible Pakistanis are enrolled in universities. However, CARE is trying to help resolve this problem. Picking eligible and high performing students, CARE offers scholarships for students to attend institutes for higher education. The Foundation focuses on students in medicine, commerce and engineering.

With these efforts, CARE hopes to ensure that every student in Pakistan has access to education.

– Thomas Gill
Photo: Flickr

help Nicaraguan RefugeesThe massive protests in Nicaragua, which began in April of 2018, has led to a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of Nicaraguans have left the country, the majority fleeing to neighboring Costa Rica. Civil unrest, hunger and COVID-19 have contributed to several issues that Nicaraguan refugees are facing. Organizations have dedicated efforts to assist with the humanitarian crisis in Central America and help Nicaraguan refugees.

The Ortega Regime

In April 2018, Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, announced pension cuts for his citizens. Following the announcement, many people marched in protest, with elderly and university students filling the streets of multiple Nicaraguan cities. The protesters demanded the pension cuts to be canceled and requested an end to the years of corruption committed by the Ortega regime. The protestors were met with violence, with more than 300 dead and thousands injured or missing. Journalists covering the anti-government protests were harassed and attacked by authorities, ultimately silencing the free press. The government has been accused of using “weapons of war” on its citizens and committing human rights violations. Consequently, the political unrest has created a push factor for migration out of the country.

Nicaraguan Refugees

The most popular destination for migration was neighboring Costa Rica, where two-thirds of Nicaraguan refugees have fled to. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR), 81,000 Nicaraguans have applied for asylum in Costa Rica. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has further decimated the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees. COVID-19 has created a negative economic impact for many migrants. The UNCHR found that 14% of Nicaraguan refugees eat once a day or less. Moreover, many Nicaraguans have lost steady income, increasing the chances of falling deeper into poverty.

UNCHR Assists Nicaraguan Refugees

To handle the influx of refugees into Costa Rica, the country needed assistance from NGOs. In February 2020, the UNCHR granted Costa Rica $4.1 million, to ensure the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees. Furthermore, the UNCHR grant pays for legal assistance and civil organizations that help migrants. As much as 53% of the heads of households had no health insurance, but with the help of the UNCHR, around 6,000 now have medical insurance through the Costa Rican Social Security System.

The IFRC Provides Relief to Refugees

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is also actively partaking to help Nicaraguan refugees. The IFRC’s mission is to “meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people”. Moreover, the IFRC is the largest humanitarian organization in the world. It assists displaced people around the world with humanitarian needs such as healthcare. Francesco Rocca, president of the IFRC, called the migration crisis during a pandemic a “catastrophe.” Furthermore, Rocca has called the attention of government officials to take care of the most vulnerable asylum seekers because they are negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Corner of Love

The pandemic has made the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border restrictive, making it harder for migrants to cross. Additionally, the pandemic has created more uncertainty for the futures of Nicaraguan refugees. Despite these struggles, many NGOs are not giving up on this vulnerable population. For instance, the NGO Corner of Love has set up new headquarters near the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border to assist migrants. Corner of Love ensures migrants have access to food and hygiene products, thus contributing to the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees.

Andy Calderon
Photo: Flickr

Combat Poverty in RomaniaIn an effort to combat the nation’s longstanding battle with poverty, the Romanian Government passed 47 measures to combat poverty in Romania through 2020. At the time these measures were passed into law, 40% of Romanian people were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. This state of poverty in Romania is further showcased by the fact that absolute poverty increased from 23.4% in 2008 to 27.7% in 2012.

Poverty Reduction Strategies in Romania

Low educational attainment, intergenerational transmission of poverty and lack of inter-regional mobility all contribute to integral causes of poverty in Romania. However, the Romanian Government set a substantial and significant new precedent on how the nation combats poverty by adopting The National Strategy and Strategic Action Plan on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction for 2015-2020. With the strategy in place, the government is hoping to reduce the many causes of poverty in Romania.

Key Measures to Combat Poverty in Romania:

  • Increasing the employment rate through labor market activation programs
  • Increasing financial support for low-income individuals
  • Improving social inclusion of marginalized communities
  • Improved functionality of social services
  • Reducing school drop-out rates
  • Scaling-up of national health programs
  • Integrating social assistance benefits with social services, employment services and other public services.

These measures were an encouraging shift in political focus that revolved around social benefits and a more community-based and integrated approach that generated widespread support. The World Bank supports these measures, commenting that the measures will strongly contribute to narrowing poverty gaps seen in the country.

Impact of Poverty Reduction Measures

Since these measures were adopted, monthly income per person increased by 10% between 2016 and 2017 and by 16% between 2017 and 2018. This is in part, due to the increases in public-sector wages and minimum wages and tax cuts. As a result, poverty rates fell from 28.4% in 2014 to 15.8% in 2017.

Currently, the employment rate at 68.8% is approaching the EU2020 target and is just below the EU average of 72.2%. Additionally, the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the EU at 4.9%.

Implementation Delays and the Roma

Although there have been clear steps toward improving Romania’s struggle with poverty, these measures have been criticized as many measures are expected to have delayed or minimal results. These concerns were further exacerbated in 2017 when a change in government occurred. This change delayed implementation and altered the original plan, putting full implementation in jeopardy.

In addition, more legislation is needed to address the growing condition of the Roma minority group residing in Romania. A whole 78% of Roma are at risk of poverty compared to 35% for non-Roma citizens. Even more grim is that 84% of Roma households do not have access to a water source, sewage, or electricity.

Romania’s Road Ahead

More data and time is needed to completely analyze the effectiveness of The National Strategy and Strategic Action Plan on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction. No single piece of legislation will be the end all be all to combat poverty in Romania but the measures passed thus far have shown that a top-down, legislation focused approach to fighting poverty can lead to progress, poverty reduction and improved social inclusion.

– Andrew Eckas
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