Information and stories about aid effectiveness and reform

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey
Turkey is a nation that sits on Europe’s gateway to the Middle East. The country is physically located between Greece and Bulgaria on the European front and Syria, Iraq and Iran in the Middle East. Concerning rates of absolute poverty in Turkey, the numbers have decreased from 36.5% to 9.3%, since 2003. Also, Turkey ranks as the 19th largest economy in the world. However, recent financial challenges are threatening that status and potentially, future progress. Before there was a need to deal with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Turkey tackled the Syrian refugee crisis. In this line of action, Turkey took on the responsibility of integrating and assimilating 4 million refugees. Fortunately, foreign organizations like the World Bank have made innovations in poverty eradication possible, empowering Turkey to pursue avenues of poverty eradication through domestic ventures.

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey (Rural Poor)

Policymakers in Turkey are aware of the weakest sector, namely agriculture. Both geographically and socially, workers in the agriculture sector in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia, experience the highest poverty rate in the country. This figure is reported at 46.6%.

Development projects have been proposed by Turkey and are supported by a specialized U.N. agency called the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The rural poor have been receiving aid for the last 30 years from the IFAD, amounting to about $189 of $661 million, spent across 10 projects. Notably, this aid has impacted 1.3 million households. Importantly, the IFAD has targeted rural infrastructure, which has been their greatest investment. The construction of roads in villages, as well as investments in irrigation, led to the improvement of markets and mobility. In a broad analysis, these elements in society help improve the quality of life for the rural poor. Moreover, it is the rural poor who are most affected by inequality and a lack of resources.

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey (Refugees)

The Emergency Social Safety Net program (ESSN) was implemented in November 2016, to provide refugees with their essential needs via monthly cash transfers. Innovations in poverty eradication in Turkey are crucial as poverty affects about 76% of ESSN refugees. The Facility for Refugees administers ESSN in Turkey and the E.U. (i.e. its member states) also have a financial stake in the program. This makes the ESSN the largest-ever humanitarian aid program financed by the E.U.

The World Bank also plays a major role in poverty eradication efforts and calculations in Turkey. The World Bank recently reported that the implementation of phone surveys is underway, to help mediate the refugee population. As a result, Turkey is now able to track levels of poverty and assimilation among refugees within five subnational regions.

Ultimately Turkey has the right programs and the right international bodies in place to continue trying to combat poverty. Yet, poverty in Turkey remains complex. In addition to the reality that COVID-19 disproportionately affects poorer communities, Turkey must be mindful of integrating millions of refugees with different backgrounds, into Turkish society. Having fewer resources to do so, the government agenda necessitates a shift to a focus on the economic crisis.

– Ilke Arkan
Photo: Flickr

Disaster Response in the PhilippinesAnnually, about 10 tropical storms develop in the Philippines, with averages of eight to nine reaching land. These numbers do not include other disasters the country faces such as typhoons, earthquakes, monsoons and so on. Despite being one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, efficient communication with technology in the Philippines allows social media, Google Person Finder and satellites, to provide the best relief efforts. Keep reading to learn more about the top three ways technology helps disaster response in the Philippines.

3 Ways Technology Helps Disaster Response in the Philippines 

  1. Social Media: Social media is indeed a connecting source and finds its strength in aiding the response to disasters with quickly spreading information that is, in turn, easily accessed. Popular media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter updated by disaster area residents offer real-time updates about the current on-ground situation.

    Thanks to organizations such as the Standby Task Force, established in 2012 by Andrej Verity, these social media updates become pillars for relief and rescue. For example, in its use for supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. These updates transform traditional on-ground humanitarian efforts into digital humanitarian efforts with online volunteers.

    Through a streamlined process, volunteers tagged Haiyan-related social media posts. Then, sifting through them for relevancy, otherwise known as digital micro-tasking. Finally, submitting them to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to compile a crisis map. With the widespread information thanks to social media, digital humanitarians take a hands-on approach to affecting the on the ground situation. Given that the combined concentration of thousands of volunteers provide time efficiency, a necessity when it comes to saving lives quicker.

  2. Communication Technology: Other communication technology such as Google Person Finder assists in finding missing persons in the Philippines. For instance, in 2012, monsoon floods from Typhoon Saola caused increased landslides and flash floods; flooding at least 50 percent of the country and creating severe rescue conditions with strong currents. There were at least 900,000 affected families and 11 individuals missing.

    For those looking for the missing or stranded, Google’s free Person Finder tool comes in extremely handy as all one needs to do is input the individual’s name. At the same time, Google cross-references entries from other websites with information about missing persons to ping and locate leads.

  3. Satellite Technology: After Haiyan, most of the traditional methods of mobile communication infrastructure diminished, thus requiring the need for something more reliable, such as satellites. Learning from the Haiyan damage, the nation’s most high-risk disaster areas now have mobile satellite equipment for easy deployment. This new tech brought forth by Inmarsat and the United Kingdom Space Agency, provides a reliable and sustainable communication method for the worst disaster days expected.

    Another example is the Tacloban Health Cluster which utilizes satellites to canvas and coordinates public health response in the worst disaster-stricken areas, allowing better tracking of diseases and medical conditions throughout disaster times in hospitals and clinics. This data collection does not only help respond in real-time. Additionally, it is beneficial for understanding health trends after a storm to allow for a more proactive approach following the next impending storm the islands are known to face.

Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan‘s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

South Korea AidNorth and South Korea have been separated since the end of World War II when the Soviet Union took control of the northern half of the peninsula and the United States took over the South. The two halves of Korea have been at war with each other since.

North Korea has since become a nation of poverty. The greatest threats to North Korea are its water pollution, waterborne diseases, deforestation, soil erosion and degradation. In 2017, one in five North Koreans did not have access to clean water and 41 percent of people were undernourished. Since the country’s poverty level has been increasing, North Korea has been reliant on international aid. Recently, South Korea has announced it will be sending $8 million in food aid to North Korea.

The good news about South Korea’s $8 million aid is that it expected to begin reducing tension between the opposing governments while reducing poverty levels in the North. North Korea previously chose not to accept aid from the South. The Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, is now open to receiving the aid due to the current harvest being the worst in the past decade and the current drought problem, which is currently the worst it has been in over three decades.

Expected Benefits

  • Decrease in Poverty LevelsFood aid will help the 40 percent of North Koreans that are suffering from severe food shortages. It will also provide access to clean water and reduce the number of people affected by waterborne diseases.
  • Vaccines and Medicine Will Also Be Provided – South Korea’s $8 million aid will also include $3.5 million in vaccines and medicine. This secondary aid is supplying treatments for malnutrition in children and pregnant women. It will also include other medicines for the population.
  • Tensions Between the North and South Should Improve – Despite tensions between the North and South, South Korea is still willing to give aid to the North regardless of the political situation between the two halves. This aid is letting the North know that South Korea is not willing to let those in need suffer.

Taking a Stand

Tensions between North and South Korea have been high since the end of World War II. In a press release, the South Korea Unification Ministry made it clear to the public that its tension with North Korea was not a reason to deny the country humanitarian aid. South Korea’s aid will begin to lessen those tensions. It will also provide food and medical aid to the suffering population and begin to reduce the poverty levels.

Most countries have been hesitant to send international aid to North Korea due to their involvement in missile and nuclear weapons developments. South Korea is taking a stand and using compassion to state that political issues do not affect the fact that almost half of the North Korean population is starving and in need of help.

Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Pixabay

Foreign Aid TransparencyThe success of foreign aid is often shadowed by misconceptions and myths ranging from effectiveness to large overestimates of how much money is spent on aid every year. In an effort to combat some of these myths, foreign aid transparency has become a central issue both globally and domestically. Understanding where funds are being spent is important to donors and citizens as will be explained below. Keep reading for a few facts about foreign aid transparency and where you can find more information on how your nation’s dollars are being used to provide aid to the developing world.

Why Transparency Matters

Transparency includes knowing how much money is spent, where it is spent, who spends it and the overall impact and results. Global foreign aid transparency matters because as nations try to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, this measure will act as the foundation for aid effectiveness and accountability. Aid transparency is important to donor and recipient governments as well as civil society. As citizens who pay taxes, it is reassuring to know exactly where foreign aid funds are being spent and this transparency encourages greater support for foreign aid.

In order to coordinate aid efforts and prevent donors from spending more funds in certain areas and less in others, transparency is key. When donor countries and nonprofits share what they have already spent or are planning to spend, other donors can coordinate their funding off of these numbers and reduce overlap. It is important for donors to research and discuss their funding plans with other nations to achieve greater impact with their limited resources.

Recipients of aid benefit from transparency as well because it is often difficult to know how much aid is given and where it is spent in their own countries. This, in turn, makes it more challenging for governments to decide how much of their own budget to spend on certain problems. Additionally, when aid recipients are not able to show foreign aid money in their budgets or plans for the country, it is much more challenging for citizens and parliaments to hold leaders accountable and corruption can become an issue.

Increasing Accountability with the Aid Transparency Index

One way transparency has improved in recent years is through Publish What You Fund’s Aid Transparency Index. This organization uses research and advocacy to improve transparency mainly through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). The IATI commits donors to publish all foreign aid data under a common standard that can be compared and accessed easily.

The 2018 Aid Transparency Index was recently launched on June 20. It is the only independent measure of aid transparency among major development agencies and governments making it a valuable tool for foreign aid. This year’s index evaluates 45 countries on a scale from very good to very poor transparency.

This organization uses a relatively complex and detailed methodology for monitoring transparency and scoring agencies. For the most recent Index, 35 indicators were selected that drew upon IATI standards and whether they were upheld. These indicators were then weighted and split into five categories. Organization planning and commitments to transparency are 15 percent of the score, finance and budgets are 25 percent, project attributes, development data and performance are equally split into 20 percent of the score as well. The website also includes a comparison chart on how agencies have improved or declined and extensive reports explaining the Index’s findings.

How to Evaluate a Country’s Transparency

The Index is one very detailed way citizens of major donor countries can easily check their country’s score and whether or not their aid agencies are being transparent. One must simply click on the agency they are interested in to view scores in each category, how they have changed in recent years and recommendations for years to come.

Besides the Index, for individuals in the U.S., there are currently two separate dashboards for USAID and the State Department to share where aid dollars are spent. These can be found at ForeingAssistance.gov and Foreign Aid Explorer. This year, the U.S. was included in the “good” category on the Aid Transparency Index meaning there is still room for improvement.

In 2016, Congress passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA) that established requirements for these agencies to publish foreign assistance data. One final provision suggested that USAID and the State Department combine their data into one dashboard by the end of the fiscal year 2018. It is yet to be seen whether this will happen or not but it could be one way of boosting U.S. foreign aid into the very good category for next year’s index.

These are some of the ways that aid transparency has improved in recent years and why it is such a crucial issue for donors, recipients and civil society.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

problems in the world that can be solvedWith all the multifaceted problems in the world today, it is difficult to say which are more important than others. However, it is imperative to prioritize certain issues in order to dedicate enough resources to combat the top problems in the world that can be solved.

Top Problems that can be Solved

The Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank that researches the smartest solutions to global issues, organized a panel of five distinguished economists in 2012 to set priorities for fighting the 10 top problems in the world that can be solved:

  1. Armed Conflict
  2. Chronic Disease
  3. Education
  4. Infectious Disease
  5. Population Growth
  6. Biodiversity
  7. Climate Change
  8. Hunger and Malnutrition
  9. Natural Disasters
  10. Water and Sanitation

The panel was asked to describe the best ways to advance global welfare, specifically that of developing countries. The experts then assembled a prioritized list of thirty solutions.

Solutions to the World’s Issues

The number one solution was “bundled interventions to reduce undernutrition in pre-schoolers” and addressed the challenge of hunger and education. Some other proposals high on the list were subsidies for malaria combination treatment and expanding childhood immunization coverage.

The group of experts covered topics besides health, with solutions ranging from investing in early warning systems for natural disasters to increased funding for green energy.

With this list in mind, world leaders at the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Sept. 2015. On Jan. 1, 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the eight Millennium Development Goals of 2015.

The new 17 SDGs were to:

  1. End poverty
  2. End hunger and improve nutrition and sustainable agriculture
  3. Promote well being for all ages
  4. Ensure equitable and quality education
  5. Achieve gender equality
  6. Ensure water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustainable economic growth and productive employment
  9. Build resilient and innovative infrastructure
  10. Reduce inequality
  11. Make settlements safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change
  14. Conserve and sustainably use Earth’s water
  15. Promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and forests, and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful societies, provide access to justice and build effective, accountable institutions
  17. Implement and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

A New Set of Problems

80,000 Hours, an independent nonprofit organization that researches how graduates can make the biggest difference possible with their careers, came up with another list defining problems in the world that can be solved. Drawing from research from groups such as the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and the Copenhagen Consensus Center, 80,000 Hours created a framework to rate global issues.

The organization based its scoring on how solving the problem would reduce the risk of extinction, raise the global economic output, increase the income among the world’s poorest 2 billion people and save years of healthy life. It also used factors like the amount of good done compared to the percent of the problem solved and the number of resources required.

Risks from artificial intelligence topped 80,000 Hours’ list out of 11. Also on the list were biosecurity, developing world health and climate change. Other issues 80,000 Hours has yet to rate include science policy and infrastructure, cheap green energy and promoting human rights. The group indicates that improving health would be more beneficial than topics like empowering the poor and education.

Due to how differently each solution overlaps with others there are various ways to rank a list of top problems in the world that can be solved. Thankfully, experts are doing their best to target issues to focus on and world leaders are taking calculated steps to implement solutions to such issues.

– Connie Loo

Photo: Flickr

cuts to USAID
Recently, the Trump administration, in collaboration with congressional leadership on Capitol Hill, has hammered out a deal to prevent a government shutdown while effectively gutting the State Department and agencies like USAID of their funding. This move not only signals a sidelining of diplomacy but marks one of the biggest budget cuts to USAID and the State Department since the early 1990s.

The effects of the budget cuts to USAID are undoubtedly going to hinder diplomatic agencies in eliminating poverty around the globe and increasing diplomatic relations with the countries that depend on us the most. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the State Department’s main tool for dispensing aid to foreign countries and strengthening diplomatic relations.

USAID currently operates in roughly 100 countries, fighting the spread of poverty and disease while working to improve economic conditions worldwide. The proposed budget cuts to USAID weigh in at approximately $9 billion, a staggering defeat to those working toward the end of poverty worldwide.

The President’s proposed budget cuts to USAID amount to nearly one-third of its total budget, in what seems to be a strategic move away from diplomacy and toward military strengthening. Regardless of the President’s agenda, this move away from soft power and diplomacy has been condemned by many members of the military.

A total of 151 retired senior military commanders, including former chiefs of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command, have warned that a reduction of this magnitude could have detrimental effects around the globe. As threats to the United States’ national security continue to grow, it is a risk to decrease diplomatic ties at such a pivotal moment.

Many civilians and government employees agree with the opinions of their military leaders. Former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios said, when facing the 1999 budget cuts to foreign aid, that it is likely budget cuts could have detrimental effects toward the technical expertise of USAID and could mark the beginning of a disaster in the long-term.

As well as the statement above, Natsios describes budget cuts toward foreign aid and agencies such as USAID as an “evisceration of the most important tool of American influence in the developing world.” Other staffers from USAID warn of the spread of disease in the United States rising as foreign aid spending is cut. Outbreaks such as the Ebola outbreak may become much larger and harder to contain with a lack of funding to agencies such as USAID. These concerns are still relevant and even more serious today.

Agencies such as USAID are pivotal in diplomatic relations and national security. By providing funds, resources, goods and trade to other countries, the U.S. invests in itself as well as others. By providing healthcare to those in need, USAID prevents the spread of communicable diseases, prevents premature death and builds a market for low-cost medical technologies.

By providing food and farming technologies, the U.S. prevents world hunger and promotes market trading of produce and other consumable goods. By providing foreign aid, the country also helps form more efficiently-run governments and promotes democracy wherever possible. All of these efforts also prevent bigger catastrophes around the globe, such as mass migrations, food shortages and natural disasters.

At the end of March, Congress approved an omnibus appropriations bill for FY18 that will keep the government open through September 30, 2018. When it comes to funding for development and diplomacy, the omnibus overwhelmingly rejects the deep and disproportionate cuts proposed by the Administration in FY18 – highlighting the strong bipartisan support in Congress for these critical programs. Still, there is more work to be done to protect funding for the foreign aid budget in FY19 and beyond. 

 

Email Congress in Support of the International Affairs Budget

– Dalton Westfall

Photo: Flickr

In a recent internal memo titled “America First Foreign Assistance Policy,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley outlines possible aid cuts to nations that vote against U.S. initiatives within the U.N. It is suggested that foreign assistance programs should be partially contingent upon voting with the U.S. at the U.N. The memo comes in the wake of the United States’ motion to move its embassy to Jerusalem, a move that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Although the motion passed, it was also met with widespread condemnation; 128 countries in total condemned the move. In response, the United States threatened to cut foreign aid programs. Commenting on the vote at a recent AIPAC conference, Haley stated, “We’re not forgetting that vote. As I said at the time: On that vote, we were taking names.”

As of today, only Palestine has received cuts in foreign aid assistance. This is largely due to the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to enter into peace negotiations with Israel. In the view of the Palestinian government, the United States has lost its position as the neutral-party at the negotiating table.

A major element of Haley’s “America First Foreign Assistance Policy” is the direct link between foreign assistance programs and American security interests. For example, Iraq and Egypt remain exempt from cuts in foreign aid even though both countries have voted against the United States in the past on multiple resolutions. It is argued that continued aid to Iraq and Egypt is vital in protecting U.S. security interests in the Middle East.

Countries not exempted from cuts who offer the U.S. little economic or security benefit could see major shifts in aid assistance. Specifically, American foreign assistance programs in Ghana, Vietnam and Zimbabwe are under fire. $4.9 million to aid in Ghana’s construction of schools, Vietnam’s $6.6 million climate change program and a $3.1 million job training initiative in Zimbabwe are highlighted in the document. Currently, aid programs for roughly 40 countries who have voted against the U.S. in the past are under review.

In addition to the details of the “America First Foreign Assistance Policy” document, the State Department has put more than $100 million on hold in funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Another $100 million requested by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration has also been denied. It is unclear as to why the funds have been denied or when they may be approved.

With the recent release of U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s proposal for major changes to American foreign assistance programs, there is much concern for countries that receive U.S. aid, most notably for nations viewed as nonessential to U.S. economic and security interests. Furthermore, countries that lack a track record of voting with the U.S. on U.N. resolutions could face serious cuts.

It is unknown whether these policy changes will be formally adopted in Washington, D.C. The proposed changes have seen much backlash from both the Department of Defense and intelligence community. Ultimately, the American mission to eradicate international poverty and obtain global security is at risk.

– Colby McCoy

Photo: Flickr

Proposed Budgets for Global Health and Foreign Aid
After months of threatening to make serious cuts in the proposed budgets for global health and foreign aid, the Trump administration and Congress signed a budget deal on March 21, 2018 indicating increases to nearly all government-allocated scientific research agencies, many of which contribute to global health research. For instance, the National Institues of Health received a $3 billion increase in federal budget allocations, a reversal of the 22 percent reduction in the budget proposed by the White House earlier this year.

These developments fall in line with press releases published on the White House website. The White House explains that the Trump administration champions the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which helps to prevent the spread of diseases through increases in disease prevention provisions in countries prone to an outbreak.

President Trump himself has expressed that “the world cannot have prosperity unless it is healthy”. His administration’s reports detail the GHSA and clearly show the impact that this specific global health advancement has had on outbreaks of dengue fever in Burkina Faso, as well as the Marburg virus in Uganda.

This viewpoint on global health security and the recently approved 2018 budget contrast with the Trump administration’s 2019 proposed budgets for global health and foreign aid. The 2019 budget proposes 30 percent cuts to the Senate Foreign Affairs Budget as well as the Department of Health and Human Services.

While the recently approved 2018 budget increased the funding to agencies vital to public health, it is still important to understand the impact these proposed budgets for global health and foreign aid could have on agencies internally. Budget cuts to United States government institutions materialize in a slowdown of impactful research and operations that occur within the agency. Decreases in budgets inevitably reduce the number of grants that are approved and also limit the number of researchers institutions are allowed to hire.

The less money an agency receives, the fewer projects it is able to complete. As of right now, the deepest cut in the proposed budget for global health and foreign aid are to the State Department, with a primary focus on the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Cuts to USAID will reduce the number of programs and limit the amount of personnel and projects carrying out USAID work.

As of right now, USAID is in a hiring freeze and only seeking out critical personal on an as-needed basis through specialized waivers. Despite this challenge, current USAID administrator Mark Green claims that the tightening of the USAID budget causes the agency to operate as efficiently as possible. Green explained that even with budget restrictions, he is working with the president to show how development is a necessary soft approach to national security and global health.

While some global health programs are proposed to receive equal or additional funding through presidential and Congressional support of the CDC’s GHSA program, USAID looks to remain under tight restrictions. Overall, advocates of global health and USAID will continue to emphasize the institution’s importance to foreign policy, but it is ultimately up to President Trump and Congress to approve the organization’s desired funding.

– Daniel Levy

Photo: Flickr

poverty in Africa
From U.S. leaders speaking about African countries that do not exist, to people thinking Africa is a single country, misconceptions about the continent and its circumstances are far too common and dangerous to people in need. This past year illustrated this point clearly: most in the public eye do not know what is actually going on there, and when they do, they fail to describe it correctly.

But as the financial conditions in Africa change, so should the concepts and terms used to describe it. Clearing this air is fundamental for the comprehension and, possibly, alleviation of poverty in Africa.

There is no single story, country, color or solution to poverty in Africa.

Africa is not homogeneous; this misconception largely comes from gross oversimplifications by colonists or other invaders (past and present). The inability to accurately describe the large region’s complexities coupled with a historic, persistent desire to control the various narratives there is where wrongful assumptions are made. Thinking it is one country inhabited by people who all look the same or that all African populations are the descendants of slaves is extremely problematic when it comes to helping those in need.

The Sahara Desert makes up a third of the continent, but its exotic wildlife and rare tribes have become more of an icon for the entire landmass’s culture than the other 66 percent of the actual continent. The same can be said of Africa’s immense rainforest, which covers even less of the continent.

The islands on the coast vary by the hundreds: Comoros and Réunion in the east, Ascension and St. Helena south of those, Cape Verde in the southwest and the Canary Islands in the northwest, to name a few. All of these are domains of Africa and their economic diversity goes unrecognized in relation to the continent’s popularized image.

Each country faces different problems brought on by varying systemic, societal and historical issues. Assuming there is a single plan that can “fix” all of Africa is not just naive but severely condescending.

Africa is not poor, just severely exploited (still).

Seychelles, an African archipelago of 115 islands that boasts only 1 percent unemployment, was ranked as the richest nation in Africa last year. A growing population of wealthy people are living and moving to places like Mauritius, an island just east of Madagascar. Africa’s islands are home to many of the world’s wealthiest people, not just Africa’s. On the mainland, South Africa, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Egypt are among the richest countries on the continent.

Some of the poverty in Africa is not by accident, but by design. An estimated $203 billion leaves the continent each year and around $41 billion was made off of sub-Saharan Africa alone last year. The sheer inequality is startling because the amount loaned to African countries ($162 billion) is less than the amount leaving, but nothing is being repaid.

According to a recent report, some of it is attributed to “trade misinvoicing”, where African nations receive an influx of foreign aid but subsequently lose three times that amount from “multinational companies deliberately misreporting the value of their imports or exports to reduce tax.” This means that many resource-rich African countries receiving aid are being manipulated by corporations, disenfranchising populations for denationalized profits.

This continues a history of economic exploitation that African countries have endured for centuries.

Not all tribes in Africa are poor. Or small. Or even “tribes”.

The common conception of African tribes is of black and brown people living in straw huts, hunting for food and thriving off the land. Even though Africa is home to around 3,000 tribes, many encompass populations of countries by the millions and do not live like that at all.

In Nigeria, 20 to 35 percent (approximately 45 million people) of the population identifies with the Yoruba tribe; many have white-collar jobs and live in a city. Many other tribes such as the Pedi, Igbo, Suri, Fulani and especially the Zulu, have become prominent in both size and wealth too, living in cities as taxpaying, working citizens. This raises the question: what is a tribe?

This notable misconception concerns the terminology itself. The term “tribe” insinuates a community of indigenous people, which they are, but it also comes with more negative connotations than the term “ethnic group” which, by definition, is what such populations can also be called. The name “language groups” applies even more because many speakers of various “tribal” languages are only that, speakers of a language, not “members” of a “tribe”.

For example, while it is common to speak about the displacement of various ethnic groups, the displacement of tribes in Africa is lesser known or communicated internationally. The term “ethnic group” tends to conjure empathy, while “tribe” tends to establish a sense of otherness. The ethnic diversity of such a well-populated continent needs a strikingly more complex lexicon to even begin to accurately depict populations that are far from the definition of “tribes”.

Breaking down such misconceptions helps diversify aid by simply being more culturally sensitive and aware. Addressing ineffective communication about poverty in Africa starts with using more accurate and inclusive language. Using precise vocabulary to paint a clear, distinct picture of the complex problems is how more successful solutions are established.

– Toni Paz

Photo: Flickr