Myanmar’s EconomySmall businesses are the “backbone” of Myanmar’s economy. Not only do they create jobs, but they provide higher levels of fulfillment, support and cultivate communities and neighborhoods. Overall, small businesses improve Myanmar’s standard of living. The World Bank reports that Myanmar’s economic growth baseline will drop to 0.5 from 6.8 due to COVID-19. The pandemic could reverse Myanmar’s significant progress in poverty eradication. Even so, there are businesses that are still operating and contributing to Myanmar’s economy’s recovery.

Meet U Min Htin

U Min Htin is an education service provider in Myanmar. Before the pandemic, the education market flourished. Now demand is slowing as citizens focus on surviving the pandemic rather than honing professional skills. Like most institutions worldwide, U Min had to transition services online. Although the business is not doing as well, as usual, he counts his blessings. The service is still available, and he has not gone bankrupt. The need for education services will rise again. As Myanmar’s economy recovers, the demand for educated professionals will naturally increase.

Meet Javier Phua and Melissa Koh

They are the owners of Easy Speciality Coffee. Their business suffered considerably at the start of the pandemic. Most of their customers are from outside Myanmar, and border restrictions forced them to return and remain home. However, Easy Specialty Coffee is recovering strong. Incredible menu changes as well as food delivery services have helped their business stay alive. They have begun providing relief to those struggling from COVID-19 through their new Coffee for Food initiative. All proceeds from selling coffee beans go to this initiative. They also offer free coffee to frontline medical workers.

Meet Daw Moe Moe Kyaw

She is a sugar trader in Myanmar. The pandemic has significantly slowed operation and increased costs. New restrictions prohibiting Myanmar truck drivers from entering China now forces her to switch drivers at the border. Now it takes double the time and capital to move her products. Also, communication with her Chinese partners is continuously interfered with as China hardens regulations on chat services. Also, foreign bank transactions take five times as long to get approved, affecting cash flow. Despite these drawbacks, Daw’s sales are still increasing. Sugar is one of those commodities that will likely maintain its high demand.

Meet Myint

Myint makes and sells multipurpose cloth bags in nearby villages and markets. The local government restrictions on social gatherings are slowing sales. However, she has been able to stay afloat thanks to a grant she received from the United Nations Women’s Rahkine Program. Rather than close her business, Myint is transitioning her business online. She is also seeking other ways that will allow her to sell in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.

A New Economic Pillar

E-commerce is a potential saving grace for Myanmar’s economy. Myanmar has seen a significant increase in online sales since COVID-19. The government’s new economic relief plan now prioritizes the protection and support of e-commerce. Online businesses are now considered a pillar of Myanmar’s economy. Although e-commerce looks hopeful, supply chain disruptions, expense increases and demand declines are still real problems that will not go away.

In Conclusion

The Myanmar Times reports that almost a third of businesses have closed temporarily due to COVID-19. Naturally, small businesses are limited in cash flow and have slim profit margins. The effects of this pandemic stress the strain even more. However, these businesses and many others provide hope for a fully recovered Myanmar economy. With their ability to adopt new business models, change operating procedures and provide relief to their neighbors, all businesses worldwide should take notes.

LaCherish Thompson
Photo: Unsplash

Yemen's humanitarian crisisCaught in a civil war rife with ongoing violence costing thousands of lives, Yemen is currently the most impoverished country in the Middle East and is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is a matter of urgency as roughly 24 million Yemenis depend on foreign aid for survival.

Houthis Terrorist Designation

On January 10, 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Yemen’s Houthis group would be designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. The designation went into effect on January 19, 2021, only a day before the new presidential administration would see Pompeo exit his position. This decision has drawn international concerns and criticisms as it is feared that the label would pose major challenges to U.S.-Yemen relations.

As foreign aid must go through the Houthis in order to be allocated to the people of Yemen, this act would further complicate the distribution of essential aid from the U.S. and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Meanwhile, it has equally evoked a necessity to put the spotlight back on Yemen’s dire state of relentless and unforgiving civil war.

Conflict and Corruption in Yemen

Since North and South Yemen unified in 1990 to form the present state of Yemen, the country has struggled with internal unity due to the inherent religious and cultural divide among citizens. However, these differences became increasingly visible in 2014, when Yemen experienced a period of unrest throughout its population after Yemen’s president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, lifted fuel subsidies, threatening an aggravated state of poverty and food insecurity throughout the nation.

Frustrated with the pervasive corruption within the administration, widespread protests would encourage the Houthi rebels to consolidate power and take over Yemen’s Government the same year. In an effort to regain control over the region, Saudi Arabia utilized military intervention to overthrow the Houthis with the aid of foreign powers such as France, the United States and the United Kingdom. However, this conflict only set the stage for the calamity to come.

Since the Houthi takeover and the Saudi-led intervention, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has seen more than 200,000 fatalities recorded as a result of direct and indirect effects of the country’s civil war.

Signs of Promise

While the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization throws a wrench into the already complex relationship dynamic between the United States and Yemen, there are three signs of promise:

  • Following Pompeo’s announcement, the United States exempted organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Nations to continue essential aid to Yemen and allowed for exports of agricultural commodities and medicine.
  • On January 25, 2021, the United States approved a month-long exemption that would allow transactions to take place between the U.S and the Houthis.
  • The new secretary of state, under the Biden Administration, Antony Blinken, has pledged to review the terrorist designation of the Houthis — a reassuring statement for the stability of aid to Yemen’s people.

Despite this setback, the designation has nevertheless raised an opportunity to bring our attention back to Yemen’s tumultuous state. Revitalized efforts of diplomacy may inspire more substantial action in order to address Yemen’s growing humanitarian crisis.

Alessandra Parker
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Yemen
Mental health in Yemen requires attention due to the country’s ongoing troubles. For six years now, Yemen has been facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world—more than 80% of the population are in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 12 million children who have no hand in the fight for power and status. To make the matter worse, the outburst of COVID-19 drove the country into “an emergency within an emergency.”

Only half of Yemen’s health facilities are capable of functioning in the worst of circumstances, and amidst the shortage of masks, gloves, clean water and sanitation, the number of cases rose up to 2,221 as of February 25, 2021, with 624 losing their lives due to the lack of supplies to treat the virus. The country is facing a huge crisis, and the crisis is affecting the mental health of its citizens as much as their physical bodies. Amidst the lack of functioning facilities and death surrounding them from every direction, the increased pressure on the Yemenis worsened their mental health further. Here is some information about mental health in Yemen.

Mental Health in Yemen

Due to the crippling stress on the backs of the Yemeni people, an estimate of one in five people in Yemen suffer from a mental health disorder, according to a study that the Family Counselling and Development Foundation conducted in 2017; this includes depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Moreover, due to the lack of education and facilities, the number of psychiatrists is small with almost 0.2 psychiatrists per 100,000 people as of 2016. This amounts to 40 psychiatrists for the entire population. Additionally, to add to the misery and the deteriorating mental health in Yemen, some of the few existing mental health services closed due to the pandemic.

UNFPA and Psychological Support Centers

However, amidst all the odds, and all the difficulties that Yemen is facing in trying to stay afloat, UNFPA has not ceased to offer its mental health services to the survivors of gender-based violence and improve the mental health in Yemen. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is the United Nations sector that works
to protect youth’s potential and ensures that every childbirth is safe.

In the beginning, social workers carried out the work, however, in 2018, the UNFPA offered its help and assistance through psychological support centers as well. These centers were capable of providing “specialized and clinical mental health care, including through telephone assistance.” Currently, even during the coronavirus outbreak, six UNFPA- supported psychological centers are operating and helping those in need—the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid provides support to two of these centers that provide crucial assistance to the Yemenis when they need it most.

Due to the increased demands for mental support, UNFPA increased the number of counselors available for people’s convenience. The counselors became available to deliver telecounseling services via 18 toll-free telecounseling hotlines in order to assist survivors of gender-based violence and educate the population on COVID-19 prevention. The results were so impressive: nearly 18,000 people received specialized psychological support through the toll-free hotline from 2018. Moreover, more than 25,000 survivors of violence received psychological support in the form of in-person counseling. UNFPA aims to help assist 5.5 million people via essential and life-saving services by 2019.

The Internationational Organization of Migration (IOM)

Moreover, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) provides a safe place for children to escape from the blood and hunger in the country they must reside in—a place to feel a sense of normalcy and to live in the beauty of their childhood, even for a few hours. The children participate in a variety of activities to help them learn and play, such as storytelling, artwork and more.

Beginning in March 2016, IOM offered community-based psychosocial support to nearly 400,000 children. More than half of these children watched their homes getting destroyed and had to live in informal sites.

Yemen has been facing a depilating economic and social crisis until now, and this has been affecting mental health in Yemen every day. However, with the help of various organizations, the citizens of Yemen will receive sufficient treatment and care to help rebuild their country gradually.

– Reem Agha
Photo: Flickr

Susan Rice's Approach to Foreign Aid
Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid has formed by her listening to her colleagues’ advice. Her approach is to negotiate and implement policies to help textile workers, small farmers and other people in need.

Susan Rice’s Background

According to her latest 2019 book, “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For,” Susan Rice grew up in Washington, D.C. Her first job in 1979 at age 14 was as a Democratic page in the U.S. House of Representatives. She graduated high school and took home many awards from the National Cathedral School NCS in D.C. After this, she was a fellow at the Brookings Institute and an undergraduate at Stanford University.

She studied at Oxford in the U.K., where she earned her M.Phil. (masters) degree in international relations. Afterward, she went on to earn her Ph.D. During that time, her thesis “The Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979–1980: Implications for International Peacekeeping” won the 1991 Chatham House–British International Studies Association Award for the most distinguished doctoral dissertation in international relations in The U.K. She went on to be the youngest black woman to serve in a presidential administration.

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid has involved her putting her colleague’s advice into practice. When she first started as assistant secretary of state for African affairs, her colleague Ambassador Prudence’s advice was to pay attention to policy outcomes, not the bureaucracy.

African Growth Opportunity Act and Other Programs

During her years in the Clinton Administration, Susan Rice worked hard toward the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), which passed Congress in 2000. In 2015, Congress updated and extended the program through 2025. The AGOA requires countries to remove obstacles to U.S. trade, implement poverty reduction procedures, fight corruption and bolster human rights.

Poverty is reducing among women through the creation of jobs and through new businesses that women own. The African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), which supports women who own businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, came to be because of the AGOA.

The Department of State also created an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). This program sponsors a small group of African women business owners to come to the U.S. for a three-week intensive networking event to meet with leaders in bipartisan policy, industry and nonprofits. The support these women entrepreneurs receive helps create jobs and influence society. It lifts their communities out of poverty one job at a time.

Work as the US Ambassador to the United Nations

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid widened when the Obama Administration made her the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), which began with the George W. Bush Administration, continued in the Obama Administration.

It had the intent of lowering or eliminating tariffs on imports and exports of participating countries, thus making it more affordable for them to produce, import and export. The affordability attracts businessmen and women and lifts people out of poverty by creating jobs in both the import and export country. This symbiotic relationship helps lift people out of poverty by the creation of these jobs. In 2014, according to Susan Rice’s speech, one-third of TPP participants were from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia all benefit from TPP.

How TTP and AGOA Impact People

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid is to negotiate and implement policies like TTP and the AGOA. According to The World Bank, TTP will increase the wages of poor under-skilled textile workers in Vietnam by over 14% by 2030. African countries could also benefit from TTP and especially African women.

According to The World Bank, women make up most of the small farmers in Africa. These women carry goods across borders where they sometimes meet with opposition in documents, regulatory requirements and tariffs.

As Brookings reported, Africa is benefiting from the AGOA. In 2014, African countries exported nearly $1 billion worth of textiles to the U.S. creating jobs for poor under-skilled workers, especially women.

– Kathleen Shepherd-Segura
Photo: Flickr

accessibility in IndiaAs of 2020, 50% of people in India had access to the internet, a figure growing most quickly in rural regions. In 2019, there were 264 million internet users in rural India compared to the 310 million internet users in urban India. The rapid growth of internet adoption outside of Indian cities can be accredited in part to the initiatives of the Digital India campaign, including efforts to integrate the country’s cloud infrastructure, promote open data platforms, fill connectivity gaps and offer affordable data plans. Overall, internet penetration rates across the country have more than doubled over the last five years. Through the use of technology and the internet, platforms have been created to increase resource, service and opportunity accessibility in India.

The Digital Revolution Increases Accessibility

In a country where 80% of the impoverished live in rural areas, widespread internet availability is vital. More than just a source of entertainment, the internet increases accessibility of products and services that otherwise might not be affordable or available. Recognizing the potential for digital technologies to cut across geographic and economic barriers, numerous private and public organizations have developed platforms designed to increase accessibility in India. Whether connecting buyers to faraway sellers or simply helping individuals locate public toilets, these innovative tech platforms champion access and promote inclusion in India.

Google Toilet Locator

In 2012, more Indian households had a cellphone than a toilet. A lack of access to toilets leads to rampant open defecation with consequences ranging from water pollution to the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera. In a country where technology has grown faster than public services, the government turned to tech for assistance in its campaign to eradicate open defecation and improve waste management. In December 2016, India’s Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) partnered with Google to introduce a Google Maps toilet finder tool as part of the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission. As the government works to construct millions of toilets around the country, the Google Toilet Locator helps Indians to more easily find them. The app even allows users to leave ratings and reviews for public restrooms.

Tractors-as-a-Service

In September 2018, Aeris Communications partnered with Hello Tractor to launch “Tractors-as-a-Service” in India, The service provides on-demand tractor rentals to Indian farmers. In India, agriculture is an essential source of export earnings, employment and food. Tractors play a crucial role in increasing agricultural productivity but less than 30% of farmers utilize such expensive, high-capacity equipment. Hello Tractor’s software, which can be accessed through mobile and web applications, offers a “pay-as-you-use” model based on time in the field and area covered. The app enables small farmers to reap the benefits of commercial model tractors at lower costs while increasing the profits of tractor owners by allowing them to rent out their machines during idle times.

IndiaMART

IndiaMART is India’s largest online business-to-business marketplace, connecting buyers with suppliers of products and services ranging from pharmaceuticals to industrial machinery to wholesale foods. IndiaMART offers more than 67 million products and services to more than 100 million buyers. Importantly, the platform gives small and medium-sized enterprises in India a place to promote their business. There are about 60 million small and medium-sized businesses in India but only around 10 million of them have any web presence, according to the most recent data. IndiaMART allows these companies to expand their market reach and sell through the platform for a subscription fee.

A thriving e-commerce economy allows for goods and services to reach a consumer base that is less affluent and lives outside of traditional urban markets, thereby increasing market accessibility and enhancing the welfare of rural and lower-income populations.

Unified Payments Interface

In the financial sector, the National Payments Corporation of India developed the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), an instant real-time payment system regulated by the Reserve Bank of India. The platform allows users to access multiple bank accounts from even the most remote locations, routing funds and making payments under one seamless application. Digital finance platforms such as UPI are crucial in promoting financial inclusion and empowering individuals with tools such as loans and savings accounts.

Both private and public digital platforms have been deployed to increase accessibility in India and reach those who may otherwise be excluded from resources, services and opportunities.

Margot Seidel
Photo: Flickr

the AfCFTATrading within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) finally took effect on January 1, 2021. The AfCFTA is the world’s largest trading area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization with 54 of the 55 countries of the African Union (AU). The AfCFTA was established by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement signed in March 2018 by 44 AU countries. Over time, other AU countries signed on as the official start of trading under the provisions of the agreement approached. The AfCTFA is projected to create opportunities and boost the African economy. By facilitating this intra-African trade area, the international community expects sustainable growth and increased economic development.

The Implementation and Benefits of the AfCFTA

  1. Creating a Single Market. The main objective is to create a single market for goods and services to increase trading among African nations. The AfCFTA is tasked to implement protocols to eliminate trade barriers and cooperate with member states on investment and competition policies, intellectual property rights, settlement of disputes and other trade-liberating strategies.
  1. Expected Economic Boost and Trade Diversity. UNECA estimates that AfCFTA will boost intra-African trade by 52.3% once import duties and non-tariff barriers are eliminated. The AfCFTA will cover a GDP of $2.5 trillion of the market. The trade initiative will also diversify intra-African trade as it would encourage more industrial goods as opposed to extractive goods and natural resources. Historically, more than 75% of African exports outside of the continent consisted of extractive commodities whereas only 40% of intra-African trade were extractive.
  1. Collaborative Structure and Enforcement. All decisions of the AfCFTA institutions are reached by a simple majority vote. There are several key AfCFTA institutions. The AU Assembly provides oversight, guidance and interpretations of the Agreement. The Council of Ministers is designated by state parties and report to the Assembly. The Council makes the decisions that pertain to the Agreement. The Committee of Senior Trade Officials implements the decisions of the Council and monitors the development of the provisions of the AfCFTA. The Secretariat is established as an autonomous institution whose roles and responsibilities are determined by the Council.
  1. Eliminating Tariffs. State parties will progressively eliminate import duties and apply preferential tariffs to imports from other state parties. If state parties are a part of regional trade arrangements that have preferential tariffs already in place, state parties must maintain and improve on them.
  1. Settling Trade Disputes. Multilateral trading systems can bring about disputes when a state party implements a trade policy that another state party considers a breach of the Agreement. The AfCFTA has the Dispute Settlement Mechanism in place for such occasions which offers mediated consultations between disputing parties. The mechanism is only available to state parties, not private enterprises.
  1. Protecting Women Traders. According to UNECA and the African Trade Policy Centre, women are estimated to account for around 70% of informal cross-border traders. Informal trading can make women vulnerable to harassment and violence. With the reduced tariffs, it will be more affordable for women to trade through formal channels where women traders will not have to put themselves in dangerous situations.
  1. Growing Small and Medium-Sized Businesses. The elimination of import duties also opens up trading activities to small businesses in the regional markets. Small and medium-sized businesses make up 80% of the region’s businesses. Increased trading also facilitates small business products to be traded as inputs for larger enterprises in the region.
  1. Encouraging Industrialization. The AfCFTA fosters competitive manufacturing. With a successful implementation of this new trade initiative, there is potential for Africa’s manufacturing sector to double in size from $500 billion in 2015 to $1 trillion in 2025, creating 14 million stable jobs.
  1. Contributing to Sustainable Growth. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes goals that the AfCFTA contributes to. For example, Goal 8 of the Agenda is decent work and economic growth and Goal 9 is the promotion of industry. The AfCFTA initiative also contributes to Goal 17 of the Agenda as it reduces the continent’s reliance on external resources, encouraging independent financing and development.

AfCFTA: A Trade Milestone for Reducing Poverty in Africa

The establishment of the AfCFTA marks a key milestone for Africa’s continental trade system. The size of the trade area presents promising economic development and sustainable growth that reaches all market sectors and participants. Additionally, the timing of the initiative launch is expected to contribute to the alleviation of the pandemic’s economic damages.

Malala Raharisoa Lin
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19Japan has handled the COVID-19 pandemic much better compared to other nations. For example, the death rate for COVID-19 in Japan is one death per 100,000 people. This number is much lower than other countries, with the United States death rate at 59 deaths per 100,000 people and the United Kingdom rate at 62 deaths per 100,000. Japan also has a lower rate of infection than other nations. Japan had less than 101 per 1,000,000 new cases of  COVID-19 reported while the US has between 501-1000 per 1,000,000. What is Japan doing differently to make the mortality infection rates so much lower than other high-income nations?

Culture of the Japanese

One reason Japan has so few coronavirus cases is built into the culture of the Japanese. Japanese people have worn face masks since the flu pandemic in 1919. Masks are also common to wear in Japan when it is cold and flu season. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, wearing masks as a protective measure was widely accepted and used by the Japanese population. Also, the Japanese culture is more socially distant. For instance, Japanese do not hug or shake hands when making acquaintances like Americans do. Social distancing and mask-wearing came naturally to the people of Japan, so the infection rate is very low for them.

Japan’s Healthcare System

Japan has a highly regionalized healthcare system that has helped them minimize the impact of COVID-19. Japanese healthcare institutions, called Public Health Centers (PHCs), are similar to the Center for Disease Control but at a much more local level. However, when COVID-19 hit its peak in Japan, the PHCs struggled to keep up with the surge of patients. So, the PHCs reacted quickly and would send patients to available PHCs and resources to the PHCs that had shortages. Japan’s quick actions and regionalized healthcare system allowed the COVID-19 death rates to stay low and spread to be minimum.

Negatives Impacts of the Virus in Japan

Though Japan has a relatively small infection and the death rate for COVID-19, the Japanese people’s lives have been greatly affected. Japan’s suicide rate has risen considerably since the pandemic hit. There have been 13,000 suicide deaths in Japan this year; a number much higher than the 2,000 COVID-19 deaths. The suicide rates for August were 15.4% higher than those of last year. Economic hardship, unemployment and isolation from society as a result of COVID-19

Japanese women have been disproportionately affected by the secondary effects of COVID-19. The suicide rate for women specifically has risen 40%. Also, 66% of people in Japan who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic were women. In response, Japan has increased its funding towards suicide prevention resources by 3.7 billion yen ($35,520,000).

The Future of Japan Amid COVID

Looking into the future, vaccine security looks very good for all Japanese citizens regardless of economic status. The Japanese government recently approved a bill to provide all of the citizens of Japan with COVID-19 vaccines free of charge. Providing a free vaccine will ensure everyone will have the opportunity to receive one. Since the vaccine cost is covered, the vast population of Japan can be protected from COVID-19 in the future.

Not only is Japan thriving in the fight against COVID-19, the country is also providing aid to help other nations overcome this disease. Recently, Japan recently donated $2.7 million to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to help Latin American countries with the fight against the coronavirus. Specifically, this aid will provide Pan-American nations with slowing the spread by implementing preventative measures and providing information for citizens about the disease.

Overall, Japan has handled the pandemic really well. Their unique approach to regionalized healthcare along with their willingness to wear masks have greatly decreased the COVID-19 damage in Japan. Other countries should use the Japanese response to COVID-19 as an example. Japan’s quick and regionalized response to COVID-19 attributed to the small death and infection rate. Countries should also consider providing their citizens with vaccines to ensure everyone is protected from COVID-19. The wealthy nations should take into account the countries that cannot afford to provide vaccines for their citizens. To ensure our world overcomes this pandemic, resources like vaccines, masks and ventilators will need to be allocated to lower-income nations.

– Hannah Drzewiecki
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in LiberiaLiberia is located along the western coast of Africa’s rough and diverse terrain. The country experienced peace and stability until 1989 when a rebellion ensued. The Civil War in Liberia then persisted until 2003. As a result, high poverty rates and unstable living conditions became too common in Liberia.

Living Conditions in Liberia

According to the World Bank, approximately 54% of Liberia’s population lived below the poverty line in 2014. More than 2.1 million Liberians were unable to obtain basic necessities between January and August 2014. Today, 20% of the population lives in extreme poverty.

The number of those living in extreme poverty within urban and rural areas is the same, which is unusual. According to the report, the primary reason why urban areas have such high levels of poverty is that homeowners are unable to afford basic necessities such as food and electricity.

Furthermore, Liberia faces disheartening statistics common in impoverished countries. The nation has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, along with many children at risk of death from preventable illnesses like malaria.  Life expectancy, education and income are ranked extremely low on a worldwide scale. The nation also has the world’s third-highest unemployment rate.

ChildFund

The ChildFund organization is one working to help improve living conditions in Liberia. Through the support of donors, the organization distributed mosquito nets to more than 477,000 people across the nation. Years of war forced children to forfeit education and serve Liberia. However, ChildFund offers these former child soldiers educational opportunities. The Community Education and Investment Project aims to provide children the opportunity to enroll in schools. Thus far, ChildFund has supplied more than 75,000 books to 110 schools across Liberia.

ChildFund works to empower Liberians and provide them with resources to rebuild their lives. The organization has constructed early childhood development centers, community healthcare facilities and centers for women. Though living conditions in Liberia are less than favorable, ChildFund’s efforts are making a substantial difference.

Liberian Agriculture Project

According to the World Bank’s Country Economist Daniel K. Boakye, improving agriculture will help bring Liberia out of poverty. Increased food growth and therefore increased sales will stimulate the rural communities while providing urban areas with much-needed agricultural products. One organization tackling agriculture in Liberia is the Liberian Agriculture Project.

The Liberian Agriculture Project works to support small-scale farmers of fruit crops such as pineapples and bananas in Liberia. The organization is involved in the growing and handling of sales for rural farmers. Currently, the project is working toward getting specialty products into the seven main food markets in the capital of Monrovia, Liberia. Additionally, making the transition from subsistence farming to commercialized agriculture is another goal.

Although the Civil War ended years ago, living conditions in Liberia continue to be affected by ongoing conflict and tensions. The stress of high unemployment rates, food shortages and limited access to healthcare still affect the average Liberian family. However, efforts put forth by nonprofit organizations and charities like ChildFund and the Liberian Agricultural Project are taking the right steps to help bring Liberia out of poverty.

– Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Sustainability in the DRCDespite the Democratic Republic of the Congo harboring the second-largest cultivable land in the world at 80 million hectares, food insecurity and malnutrition are pressing issues in a country that ranks among the poorest in the world. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) characterizes almost 22 million of the 89.5 million residents as severely food insecure, despite 70% of the employed population working in the agricultural industry. Lack of infrastructure combined with prolonged national armed conflict has led to only 10 million hectares currently under cultivation, leaving enormous potential for agricultural and economic growth. Agricultural sustainability in the DRC is crucial to address food insecurity and poverty.

The Joint WFP-FAO Resilience Program in DRC

A combined effort from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) focuses on the optimization of agriculture production as well as market revisions and improvements to reduce food insecurity and bolster a declining national economy. Improving agricultural sustainability in the DRC could prove effective in stabilizing a region with enormous agricultural potential.

The Need for Agricultural Sustainability

Providing direct financial relief to the DRC has proven both necessary and effective, especially in the wake of nationwide flooding in 2019 and 2020 on top of widespread armed conflict and displacement. Since 2018, USAID reports that the DRC has received roughly $570 million worth of direct food relief. However, direct relief does not equal sustainability and is a relatively short-term solution. The joint program from the WFP and FAO implements successful strategies to provide much-needed agricultural sustainability in the DRC and creates an important foundation for further improvements.

The Benefits of Cooperation

Promoting organizational cooperation and improving managerial structure has allowed for combined agricultural improvements nationwide. Since 2017, this project has reached 30,000 small farm households and stimulated cooperation that has improved organizational structure and operational capacities. This cooperation has allowed for the distribution of newer agricultural technologies and concepts such as improved seeds and more advanced tools to optimize production.

Increased cooperation has also helped eliminate local conflicts between farmers and has increased the total area of land being cultivated. The program has also provided 7,000 local women with functional literacy education, allowing for more female community engagement as well as involvement in managerial duties in farming communities.

Addressing Nutrition in the DRC

At a local level, the joint program has implemented enhanced nutritional programs to utilize the increasing resources. Increased cooperation and education have allowed for the growth of crops with enhanced nutritional value. To promote long-term sustainability, in 2020, the project utilized direct aid to establish 300 vegetable gardens, reaching 13,510 residents. The program also held 150 culinary demonstrations regarding optimal cooking techniques that are both affordable and nutritious.

Developing the DRC’s Infrastructure

Large agricultural areas such as the DRC rely heavily on infrastructure for transportation and storage of goods. The joint program has fixed 193 kilometers of agricultural roads since implementation in 2017, with 65% of the road rehabilitators being women.

Not only has the program enhanced transportation capabilities but it has also constructed 20 different storage buildings as well as 75 community granaries, allowing for the long-term storage of agricultural products. This enhanced storage capacity reduces waste from spoilage and allows product to be sold during favorable selling seasons, allowing for advanced agricultural sustainability in the DRC.

The Joint WFP-FAO resilience program in the DRC has made significant accomplishments in the country. With further efforts, agricultural sustainability in the DRC can be further developed to improve poverty in the region.

Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

Improve Education in BangladeshIn a speech given at a Boston high school in 1990, Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” For many of the world’s impoverished, education is not an option. Today, more than 72 million children of primary education age are not in school and nearly 759 million adults are illiterate. While many maintain the capacity to survive without an education, the knowledge and awareness garnered through school allows the impoverished to improve their living conditions and rise out of poverty. USAID and the World Bank are working to improve education in Bangladesh as a means of addressing poverty.

The State of Education in Bangladesh

In the last 10 years, there has been progress when it comes to improving education in Bangladesh. According to USAID, nearly 98% of children of primary school age are enrolled in school. In 2016, 50.9% of all enrolled students were girls, meaning total gender parity. Both of these statistics are major accomplishments but there is much more to be done to improve education in Bangladesh.

While enrollment is high, the quality of education that the children are receiving remains quite low. Reading fluency is the barometer that is used to measure a school system’s quality, and in Bangladesh, most students are unable to pass basic fluency assessments. To put exact numbers to this, USAID conducted an assessment and determined that “44% of students finish first-grade unable to read their first word and 27 % of third-grade students cannot read with comprehension.”

This lack of literacy not only puts these students at a great disadvantage but stunts prospects of economic growth for Bangladesh. Education plays a significant role in sustaining and developing countries and economies which is why USAID and the World Bank have invested in improving Bangladesh’s education system.

The World Bank’s Education Efforts

On January 18, 2021, Bangladesh signed an agreement with the World Bank, financing $6.5 million to help more than 39,000 kids receive primary school education. The package also allocates funds to vocational training schools for approximately 8,500 dropouts. Mercy Tembon, the World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan, says that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the education of children from lower-income households. The additional financing will help slum children and vulnerable youth to build the foundations necessary to improve their lives and increase their opportunities. The World Bank has given Bangladesh the means necessary to improve the quality of their education system and thus support the greater economy.

USAID’s Educational Assistance

USAID has taken a more hands-on approach in improving the quality of education. It works directly with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Primary and Mass Education to improve early grade reading for children to ensure that all children learn to read in their first years of schooling. USAID’s education programs in Bangladesh have:

  • Expanded access to schooling to almost 30,000 out-of-school children
  • Increased the reading fluency of third graders by 18%
  • Increased the first-word reading fluency of first graders by 36%
  • Trained nearly 17,000 new teachers on how to teach early grade reading
  • Issued more than two million reading materials to primary schools

Education as a Key to Poverty Reduction

Every young mind deserves the opportunity for education and with the help of the World Bank and USAID, Bangladesh has the means to offer that. Efforts to improve education in Bangladesh will uplift an entire nation. The state of education in the world is progressing and thus bringing about poverty reduction success.

Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr