Poverty in Ukraine
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022 and has resulted in thousands of deaths and casualties on both sides. The attacks left 8 million people displaced in Ukraine by May 2022 and 7.8 million Ukrainians fleeing the country as of November 2022. With more than 250 days of the invasion, Ukrainians are likely to live with a blackout until at least March 2022, the EU will give a further £2.2 billion to help with the reconstruction of the country and the Word Health Organization (WHO) warned that Ukraine’s health system is “facing its darkest days in the war so far.” All of the factors have undoubtedly increased the poverty rate in Ukraine to 25% and future estimates it could be rising to 55% or more by the end of 2023.

Increase in Poverty

The damage that the war inflicted on infrastructure and the economy has obviously increased Ukraine’s poverty. The unemployment rate has increased and is currently at 35% and over months some workers have seen their incomes reduced by as much as 50%. World Bank Eastern Europe Regional Country Director Arup Banerji stated that “As winter really starts biting, certainly by December or January, there may be another internal wave of migration, of internally displaced persons.” As a result of the displacement of more people from their houses and fewer jobs available, the poverty rate in Ukraine will worsen as Russia’s invasion continues.

COVID-19

The WHO and Ukraine’s Ministry of Health announced that 22% of people in the country are struggling to access essential health care and COVID-19 spreading with 23,000 new cases reported since October 2022. With a low vaccination rate minus booster, millions of Ukrainians are not immune to it which has therefore led to an increase in cases. UNICEF delivered 2.3 million doses of the vaccine through the U.S. government for distribution in 23 regions of Ukraine. Recently, the Biden administration wrote a letter to Congress requesting $38 billion to help Ukraine with efforts, with $9 billion going towards COVID-19 vaccine access and long-term research.

Infrastructure Damage

Within recent weeks, Russian missiles and drones have struck 40% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure that have created blackouts across the country. Eighty percent of Kyiv residents have been deprived of water and 350,000 homes have lost all power. The World Bank believes that Ukraine needs $349 billion to reconstruct the country. The process of cleaning and clearing explosive remains of war will need $11 billion in the next two years and $62 billion in the next 10 years. Other costs such as the rebuilding of roads, schools and hospitals will need more funding and could take away from the government supporting residents then lead others into poverty, increasing the rate after the ending of the invasion.

Solutions

Ukraine has received military assistance from other countries, the U.S. is the largest provider having committed $19.3 billion since the start of the Biden Administration. The Disaster Emergency Committee has helped 248,000 people in six months with food aid and opened 200 centers for displaced people. Similarly, the British Red Cross launched its appeal and described how it would use people’s donations. For example, £20 “could provide five blankets to families taking shelter.” Since its launch, the organization has helped 5 million people with emergency relief and 8 million with access to clean water.

Looking Ahead

The poverty rate in Ukraine has worsened significantly as it faces the impact of war. The country will need a complete rebuild that could cost more than $500 billion and leaves people in life-altering situations without homes and jobs. Russia’s invasion does not have an end date, it will continue to damage the economy and more importantly ruin the lives of Ukrainians.

– Mohamed Hassan
Photo: Flickr

Social Media’s Effects on Foreign Aid Nowadays, most people seek their news from various social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok). The rise of news media in the 1980s brought a new age where audiences access real-time global news constantly. One of these newer platforms is TikTok, the first major non-U. S. social media competitor, originating in China from the company ByteDance. Currently, TikTok’s platform highlights social media’s effects on foreign aid as global crises like the war in Ukraine unfold in real time from Ukrainian influencers who urge action. Digital platforms like TikTok can influence popular opinion on foreign policy. Social media’s effects on foreign aid and how a country allocates this aid stem from these platforms’ ability to determine what information and ideas are shared.

A closer look at how news content influences American opinions on foreign aid and relations comes from recent Pew Research Center surveys. These surveys found that compared to other countries, Americans view foreign policy very differently depending on where they receive their news. The survey found that those who received their political news from right-leaning media sources were less open to international cooperation than those who viewed their news from various news sources. Similarly, those that rely on left-leaning sources were more open to foreign intervention. These surveys demonstrate how important news and social media are to informing U.S. citizens about foreign affairs and policy and how they direct their audiences to act.

The CNN Effect

The term “CNN effect,” created in the 1980s around the new media boom, underlines communication technology’s ability to potentially spur responses from domestic audiences and political leaders regarding global events covered in real-time, according to Piers Robinson’s study.

One example of the CNN effect is the West’s intervention in Northern Iraq and Somalia, which sparked a debate about social media’s impact on foreign aid and policy. During this time, as citizens learned about news in Northern Iraq and Somalia, they increased pressure on politicians to respond to these crises. According to Robinson’s study, the debate sparked because citizens often worked with incomplete information without context or wrong information. Therefore, they influenced their public leaders and how they responded to the conflict too hastily. This demonstrates the importance of fighting misinformation on social media platforms, as the news people digest through social media directly impacts the pressure they put on their political leaders to respond to foreign issues.

The War in Ukraine: A Case Study

On Feb. 24, 2022, a TikTok video documented the beginning of the Ukraine war depicting missiles falling over Kyiv, providing early, decontextualized and direct access to images and videos of the Russian Invasion. Many have named the war in Ukraine “the first TikTok war,” although other conflicts, such as the Syrian civil war and the Arab Spring uprisings, have been covered by social media. However, the platforms used for organizing protests and broadcasting footage were mainly Facebook and Twitter.

Access to direct photos and footage of the war in Ukraine from Ukrainian accounts raises Western sympathies as foreign news floods media feeds. Ukrainians are much less distant than war victims in the past as people recognize the same references, music and social networks as those in Ukraine. Ukrainian photojournalism on social media creates a new intimacy, especially as traditional news organizations pull their journalists out of the war in Ukraine for safety reasons.

The White House Briefing Session

The current war in Ukraine is an example of social media’s effects on foreign aid and how foreign leaders, specifically the U.S., approach news regarding the war in Ukraine. In March 2022, the White House reached out to Ukrainian TikTokers to hold a briefing session regarding the war in Ukraine. Thirty influencers attended the Zoom call alongside the special adviser for communications at the White House National Security Council, Matt Miller and former White House press secretary Jen Psaki. They covered the United States’ goals to distribute aid and information about the United States’ reaction should a nuclear attack.

Since most of Generation Z receive their news via TikTok and use the platform to research news topics and learn about the larger world, the White House decided to hold the briefing to ensure the information on TikTok comes from an authoritative, reputable source. The guests, Gen-Z creators with 500,000+ followers, noted the importance of knowing the correct information regarding the war in Ukraine because they “set the tone” for information their audiences receive and how they assess it.

Human Rights at the Forefront

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, social media companies and messaging services have aimed to block disinformation and state-sponsored media to respect human rights in wartime. As crises worldwide are viewed daily, companies are called to fulfill human rights responsibilities on their platforms. This includes avoiding infringement on human rights and addressing adverse impacts on human rights that stem from media and messaging companies’ practices. The Human Rights Watch documents social media companies’ underinvestment in human rights challenges worldwide, despite these platforms’ roles in spreading misinformation. Moving forward, monitoring the incitement of violence, hate speech and disinformation is crucial for social media platforms and responding adequately to conflicts.

News and Social Media In Review

The War in Ukraine and the long list of other global crises covered by social media are examples of social media’s effects on foreign aid. The ability of global citizens to view intimate, real-time footage and news about the crisis in Ukraine elicits sympathy for foreign affairs. This direct access to human rights violations encourages media consumers to act and call their leaders to respond to foreign crises.

– Arden Schraff
Photo: Unsplash

Helping Ukraine
In February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of a full-scale land, sea and air invasion of Ukraine. As of August 2022, the fighting has caused the internal migration of more than 6.6 million Ukrainians. Military losses are extreme on both sides, with an estimated 9,000 Ukrainians dead and 45,200 Russians either wounded or killed, NPR reported in August 2022.

A Restricted Response

Due to Russia’s economic, social and military power, it is extremely difficult for other nations to assist Ukraine. Slovakia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Germany, Czech Republic, Greece, Belgium, Netherlands and Latvia all heavily depend on Russian oil. These countries are virtually unable to assist Ukraine, as this factor has caused inflation and threatens economic collapse.

Larger, less dependent countries, such as the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom, are also restricted due to the veto power of the United Nations. Because of Russia’s veto power — determined by the outcome of World War II — the United Nations as a whole has no capability of placing any restrictions or punishments on Russia for the country’s actions. However, despite these challenges, countries worldwide are still attempting to use their power to assist Ukraine.

Aid That is Helping Ukraine

In the United States, Ukrainians have risen to the top of the immigration list. As of June 2022, the U.S. has accepted more than 20,000 Ukrainian refugees and has provided them with food, clothing, technology, housing and education upon their arrival. The U.S. also placed several sanctions on Russia and has invested $19.3 billion in security defense for Ukraine since January 2021. This includes $18.3 billion since “Russia’s launched its premeditated, unprovoked, and brutal war against Ukraine on February 24, [2022].” Along with the U.S., Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands and the United Kingdom have also sent military aid to Ukraine.

Countries located closer to Ukraine – Poland, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary – are helping Ukraine by accepting and providing for millions of displaced Ukrainians. Over the past year, several nonprofit organizations have also joined in helping Ukraine, such as United24, Razom for Ukraine, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, International Medical Corps, Voices of the Children and more.

The current aid that various organizations are offering Ukraine varies from health care to psychological support. Voices of the Children, for example, is a charitable foundation in Ukraine, that aims to provide psychological and psychosocial support for children who experience war, while Save the Children helps deliver lifesaving aid to vulnerable children in Ukraine. UNICEF, similar to other major organizations, supports the sanitation and protection of the Ukrainian people by providing a variety of aid and an immense amount of assistance from volunteers.

Looking Ahead

As the Ukrainian War trudges on, these efforts are becoming vital to the country’s survival and its people. Through these efforts, the Ukrainian people may be able to focus more on themselves and their families, rather than the stress of survival.

– Sania Patel
Photo: Flickr

Somalia's Debt Relief
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff voted in October 2022 to put a vote through to the executive board that, if approved, will grant $10 million to Somalia for debt relief. The new IMF vote is not Somalia’s first time receiving debt relief, but it represents foreign investment expectations for the East-African country. The IMF staff-level agreement combined with other recent foreign debt relief aid can help Somalia’s burdensome debt drop from $5.2 billion to $550 million by the end of 2023.

Somalia’s Economic Strife

Countless factors stress Somalia’s need for debt relief. Somalia’s government and politics fractured in 1991, with an ensuing civil war, leaving Somalia with a government representative of a non-unified nation. Somalia had no proper representation of the various political and regional differences, meaning the nation fell behind the rest of the world in economic development. The issues surrounding Somalia’s critical workforce and agriculture exports represent the financial struggles best.

A secondary key issue is Somalia’s reliance on agriculture. As of 2020, about 80% of the workforce was in agriculture, but seven out of 10 Somalians live in poverty. The high poverty rate of the agrarian-based Somalians partially stems from the intense droughts beginning in the 2018 rain season and locust outbreaks destroying crops. The agricultural difficulties resulted in the intense starvation of more than 213,000 Somalians. The food shortage Somalians are navigating worsened when the war in Ukraine broke out and caused food prices to skyrocket worldwide. The soaring food prices are exacerbating Somalia’s strained food supply further.

Despite the constant changes in Somalia for three decades, Somalia’s debt relief has become an attainable goal as Somalia’s government changed and moved towards new economic policies. The new policies helped Somalia return to the global stage and become a viable partner and economically reliable international force.

The Way Somalia’s Economy Has Recovered So Far

Somalia’s debt relief path truly began when Somalia implemented its Provisional Constitution of 2011, formed an internationally recognized Federal government and created five Federal Member States. The member states recognize the regional differences and political expectations that vary from region to region, creating partial unity towards a common goal. The new government drafted a series of economic reforms that created local economic flow. Economic reforms throughout Somalia provided the government with the framework to maintain financial stability and begin international operations once more.

Since the new government came into power, Somalia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has steadily improved. Despite factors like the food shortage and agricultural struggles, Somalia’s GDP has held firm but quickly drained. About 96% of Somalia’s GDP goes towards paying off its $5.2 billion national debt. Thankfully, the remarkable economic improvements by Somalia reached the decision point for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. The World Bank and IMF are the driving forces behind the HIPC, and both recognize the efforts of Somalia’s government, thus beginning the process of qualification for the HIPC in March 2020. The HIPC helps numerous nations pair debt. Decreasing debt is pertinent for reducing poverty rates because the freedom from debt allows for spending on social services that support the most vulnerable citizens.

A country is qualified for the initiative’s assistance after a multi-step process. The country in question must be eligible for loans from the World Bank and IMF, have a track record of economic-reform policies, and have a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). The nation in question then must meet the completion point. The HIPC grants additional economic relief that pares down debt without providing other loans to pay back. Somalia’s debt relief has not been easy to achieve. However, Somalia should reach the completion point soon, decreasing its debt from $5.2 billion to $500 million.

The IMF’s Staff-Level Agreement and Its Assistance

The IMF’s staff-level agreement for Somalia’s debt relief is another crucial step towards a more stable economy with decreased poverty rates. The next step is an agreement by the IMF’s executive board that authorizes releasing the $10 million to Somalia. The IMF’s mission chief Laura Jaramillo expressed the IMF’s confidence in Somalia and that the IMF is impressed by the continued economic recovery that Somalia has managed to accomplish. The new deal might not seem like much compared to the hopeful debt paring by the HIPC, but that relief will not likely reach Somalia until the end of 2023.

Assistance for Somalia’s debt relief would mean that Somalia can decrease the amount of its GDP that pays off the country’s debt, which is overwhelming. Spending so much on Somalia’s debt means the government has limited resources to tackle everyday problems, and $10 million from the IMF can be incredibly handy. The IMF’s new debt relief plan for Somalia indicates the growing confidence foreign investors have in Somalia, meaning more economic stability and debt relief might be on their way.

 – Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Decolonize Aid
Many activists that believe in decolonizing aid claim that the global aid system has roots in a colonialist framework. This may be the reason humanitarian efforts sometimes manifest unfavorably, in forms like racial inequity. The effort to decolonize aid predominantly means allocating more money, recognition and power to localized efforts and grassroots organizations within affected communities.

Inequities Within Global Development and Aid

Many activists have brought to light the racial disparities within the aid system. Activist Kennedy Odede asserts that in comparison to white-led institutions, limited funding restricts Black founders and their organizations. Odede quotes research that Echoing Green and Bridgespan conducted and says that Black-led organizations have unrestricted net assets that are “76% smaller than their white-led counterparts.” Degan Ali is an African activist and humanitarian leader who believes that the current aid system is rooted in “colonial hierarchies of the past.” As an effect, “the U.N. and international NGOs… who are predominantly Westerners and mostly white people” dominate the global aid.

Governments of the Global South and local communities of color lack representation in the dominating institutions, and thus are largely absent in the decision-making. Odede also points out that these white-led institutions are largely responsible for shaping “the development and social entrepreneurship” of African communities. Ali claims that certain organizations and agencies “monopolizing the spotlight” overshadow the local efforts and responses to crises “that affected communities undertake.” As a result, Odede also quotes that “only 3% of all humanitarian funding goes to local and national NGOs” in Africa.

Colonial Hierarchies and Recipients of Aid

Just as the “colonial hierarchies” within global aid manifest as racial inequity within funding and representation, it can also effectively sustain an image of the “passive recipient” of aid, which is conventionally understood to be lower-income countries in the Global South. Ali and other activists believe that in order to move away from the “passive recipient” image, local communities in the Global South who are the intended recipients of aid must instead receive empowerment as active agents in the development effort. Grassroots organizations and community leaders can surely benefit from the value of being viable delegators of aid, which include making decisions on investment and resource allocation. The involvement of local communities and leaders could improve the effectiveness and efficiency of aid. This is because communities themselves have a better understanding of the kind of aid they might find beneficial.

Grassroots and Localized Organizations in Kenya

Embodying the importance of localization and community-based aid, Degan Ali is one of the many crucial pioneers working to decolonize aid. Ali is the Executive Director of Adeso, a nonprofit NGO based in Kenya that intends to support African communities by providing direct and localized sources for development. Adeso was the first organization to provide Somalia with cash vouchers in 2002 and Ali claims that this decision came from a deep understanding of the local economy and communities’ needs during severe droughts in Somalia.

Kennedy Odede is another humanitarian activist that believes in the importance of community-based change. Odede is the founder and CEO of Kenya’s largest grassroots movement, Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). SHOFCO maintains a focus on Kenya’s urban residents, and it is one grassroots organization that exemplifies the power of localized aid efforts. Through collective action and community organization, SHOFCO directly impacts and empowers 50 impoverished sites in Kenya, including 17 urban slums. The organization developed the SHOFCO Urban Network (SUN) organizing platform which prioritizes community-led development by working closely with local leaders located in every one of their targeted sites in Kenya. Through SUN, the organization was able to provide urban residents with “more than the [Kenyan] government could manage” during the COVID-19 pandemic; this included distributing food relief, masks and sanitizers and “installing hundreds of handwashing stations that reached over 2.5 million people.” 

The UN’s Grand Bargain

Degan Ali also established a global target of 20% localization, meaning that 20% of all funding provided by humanitarian and foreign aid agencies does directly to local communities. Ali’s advocacy “evolved into the U.N.’s 25% Grand Bargain commitment” in 2016. This agreement was established “between some of the largest donors and humanitarian organizations” and pushed for 25% of all humanitarian funding to be “allocated to local and national responders by 2020.” This commitment, whether explicitly intentional or not, acts as part of the effort to decolonize aid by furthering the localization agenda.

Signatories (donors and organizations) include “25 Member States, 23 NGOs, 12 U.N. agencies, two Red Cross movements and two inter-governmental organizations.” In 2020, 13 out of the 63 signatories “allocated 25% or more of their humanitarian funds to national/local responders as directly as possible.” A new structure for a Grand Bargain 2.0 was finalized in 2021 and claims to uphold two priorities when addressing humanitarian aid. One of the main priorities includes providing “greater support… for the leadership, delivery and capacity of local responders and the participation of affected communities.” 

Looking Ahead

Many activists and grassroots organizations are working towards a better, more equitable solution to humanitarian aid – one that involves greater funding and support for localized efforts. The activists are hoping to promote a new system that coincides with a global movement to decolonize aid. Decolonizing aid through localization has the ability to better tackle poverty and other crises by fostering greater autonomy within communities and directly addressing their preferred needs.

– Ashley Kim
Photo: Flickr

Localized Aid Efforts in HaitiA 2021 survey found that Haitians want to play a bigger decision-making role in the delivery of humanitarian aid to ensure its effectiveness. The majority of respondents not only want to see more localized aid in Haiti but greater transparency in aid distribution.

More Aid Needed Amid Latest Natural Disaster in Haiti

In August 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti in the southern peninsula, leaving hundreds of thousands needing emergency assistance. A month after the earthquake struck, Ground Truth Solutions conducted a survey in partnership with The New Humanitarian. Their goal was to interview locals grievously affected by the disaster and their response to foreign aid and humanitarian efforts. After gaining feedback from 1,251 local Haitians, data found that those surveyed felt humanitarian aid “fell short of their expectations.”

Long-Term Needs for Localized Aid

The survey found that humanitarian aid for emergencies and other dire disasters often does not align with locals’ “long-term (or even medium-term) priorities.” Only 14% of respondents said they understood how decisions were made regarding who would receive aid and who would not. Additionally, 64% of respondents said that this type of emergency aid does not help their communities sustain an independent development pathway.

Additional responses affirm that Haitians want autonomous development and decision-making in the form of localized aid. They prefer programs that support the independent growth of their communities and oppose the idea of becoming overly dependent on foreign aid. While the survey showed that respondents overwhelmingly support the belief that “Haitians themselves, not foreign aid, should help each other in future disasters,” respondents concurrently felt that foreign assistance does little to prepare local communities for autonomous development.

The Atteindre (Attain) Project

One of the projects already implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development that prioritizes community inclusion and localized aid in Haiti is the Atteindre (Attain) Project. In partnership with Mennonite Economic Development Associates, this project intends to help empower small local businesses in Haiti; funds will go toward supporting small businesses “develop business plans, access bank loans, [and] become formalized,” which will help increase their profits and Haiti’s overall economy. The Atteindre Project aligns with efforts for localized aid by working directly with Haitian organizations and helping business service providers. With support from USAID and MEDA, grants will be awarded to Haitian providers such as STRATÈGE, Agence d’Investissement et de Développement d’Entreprises, and Centre d’Entrepreneurship et de Leadership en Haïti to help support thousands of small, underserved businesses across Haiti with assistance, training and technical support.

USAID’s Commitment to Inclusion and Localized Aid Efforts

USAID recently announced its broader commitment to greater inclusivity and diversity in aid delivery across the globe. In a speech delivered on Nov. 4, 2021, Samantha Power, the administrator of USAID, vowed that the agency’s new path to “inclusive [international] development” focuses on making aid more accessible, equitable and responsible. In doing so, USAID commits to making international aid more responsive to local communities and prioritizing “listen[ing] to what our partners in the countries where we work are asking of us.”

Power says that moving forward, USAID commits to allocating at least one-fourth of its funds directly to local partners over the next four years and that by the end of the decade, at least 50% of their funds will help “place local communities in the lead to either codesign a project, set priorities, drive implementation or evaluate the impact of [their] programs.”

Localized aid efforts in Haiti, including working with local leaders and organizations, will serve communities’ needs by offering clearer, more poignant solutions. USAID’s commitment to amplifying local voices and organizations through partnering with local organizations and providers is exactly the promise Haitians are asking for.

– Ashley Kim
Photo: Flickr

Aid programs in Brazil
As of 2021, approximately 27 million people make up Brazil’s poor living under the poverty line, which is 12.8% of the country’s populace. This, after the poverty rate dropped to 4.5% in August 2020 with the help of a federal fund transfer program, hit individuals and families hard who had struggled with severe poverty prior to this COVID-19 aid program. The recess that monetary security provided was short-lived. Yet, while unsustainable, the program nevertheless did help those in need. Aid programs in Brazil have helped many families stay afloat amid economic uncertainty.

The Bolsa Família Program

With dilemmas revolving around the economy springing up anew, many of the country’s poor fell back on benefits from the government-funded Bolsa Família program. However, some who ended up back in poverty while trying to provide for their families, complained that the program denied them monthly aid due to ineligibility, Reuters reported.

Increased Welfare with the Auxílio Brasil Program

Also in 2021, the administration of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro (elected to that office in 2018) expanded welfare payments through the Auxílio Brasil program. The current administration promotes the program unabashedly throughout some of Brazil’s poor districts. Indeed, Auxílio Brasil allotted for the poorest Brazilians a payment of R$400 ($85) per month, a 75% increase on what the previous Lula-era Bolsa Família program paid out on average.

However, there are concerns about whether or not the new government program will live up to its lofty expectations. If not, the administration might declare a state of emergency. “This would enable Bolsonaro to avoid fiscal guidelines with a view to improving the Auxílio Brasil handouts” probably as much as R$600, according to Businesslend.

Government aid programs in Brazil, such as the selective Bolsa Família stimulus allowances attest, show varying levels of efficacy, and the country’s poor views them as an irritation at times. Welfare programs, whether backed federally or internationally, have, nevertheless, paid off for certain communities while their stability is not always a given.

IFAD Program Helps Thousands Out of Poverty

At the end of June 2022, a report came that the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assisted “around 257,000 rural families to overcome poverty in Brazil from 2016 to 2022.” An invested budget of $453 million allowed IFAD to establish six distinct projects dealing with rural development.

As the fourth largest global food producer, Brazil relies heavily on agricultural goods both for its own population and for exporting internationally. The vast majority of agriculture in the country comes from family-run farms, which produce 70% of the foodstuffs Brazilians eat. Unlike big-time agribusinesses, the family-operated farms of Brazil generate jobs in their local communities. Family farming employs 70% of Brazil’s rural workforce. Conservationists and other analysts frown upon what they perceive to be an overemphasis on industrialized agriculture, citing the benefits of family farming.

Given that family-owned farming is the backbone of the country’s agriculture, IFAD’s aid was all the more impactful since, in order to help Brazil’s poor, it focused on rural farming communities – social hubs known for their regular employment and food production. Rossana Polastri, the relevant regional director at IFAD, said the success of the program “was possible due to the strong commitment of the federal and state authorities to family farming as a way for rural poor populations to lift themselves out of poverty,” IFAD reported on its website.

On the updraft of its recent success, IFAD has also supported the Amazon Sustainable Management Project, a program intended to reduce rural poverty and deforestation in the Amazonian region, according to IFAD’s website. The success enjoyed by several aid programs in Brazil shows that, with proper planning and the right means, these programs can do what they say they can – reduce poverty.

– John Tuttle
Photo: Flickr

Bethenny Frankel’s Aid to Ukraine
Bethenny Frankel’s aid to Ukraine, “BStrong,” will provide solace to Ukrainian refugees who have been victims of war and severe poverty after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. BStrong also assisted the people of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria made it difficult to support their families and find sufficient food and medicine.

Survival Kits

The former reality star, author and philanthropist Bethenny Frankel is using her nonprofit organization BStrong to aid Ukrainian refugees who the Russian invasion has affected. A disaster relief fund, BStrong is sending 100,000 crisis kits, totaling up to $10 million in aid, to Ukraine. Frankel spoke in detail about the aid and the charity’s preparations. The kits include blankets, sleeping bags, toiletry items, non-perishables, water and generators.

Bethenny Frankel’s aid to Ukraine abundantly grew with relief funds and progressed from being a minuscule company to global, with a stockroom continuously piled with relief funds. Frankel describes the quantity of humanitarian aid as volunteers and coordinators ship the crisis kits to Poland, expressing that “Today, one 40-foot container went. Tomorrow, two 40-foot containers will go out… and it’s good to sort of stagger because it’s a lot more than you can visualize: $10 million in aid is an extraordinary amount.” Each box comprises aid with a value of $250,000. Some of the donations came from companies like Goya, Delta and Away.

Frankel dedicated herself to raising more than $10 million of aid, stating “We will go back, we are raising money, we have $6 million more in aid. This is also about how much we can efficiently transport.” She is hoping to continue to provide aid to the people of Ukraine to alleviate poverty.

More Than $100 Million in Aid for Ukraine

Through Bethenny Frankel’s aid to Ukraine charity, “BStrong,” other celebrities partnered to assist Frankel. Jordan Wiseley from “The Challenge,” Maksim Chmerkovskiy from “Dancing with the Stars” and former reality star Ramona Singer are three examples. In partnership with Global Empowerment Mission (GEM), BStrong surpassed its goal of $10 million reaching more than $100 million in charitable aid. The aid contains sanitation and emergency equipment, overnight bags and money to accommodate Ukrainian refugees with inns and airline tickets.

Speaking about the importance of her team and her purpose of BStrong, Frankel said, “It made me realize that we are unstoppable. My focus is on helping people whose lives have been ravaged by unforeseen circumstances. They are in desperate need of aid and an immediate solution.” She describes BStrong as a “hub where many brand name organizations will come to receive aid for their efforts” and explains how it is the organization’s expertise and strong point.

Four Planes to Aid Hurricane Maria Victims

This is not the first time that Frankel took the lead in providing aid to disaster zones. In 2017, she traveled to Puerto Rico to help individuals and families who were victims of Hurricane Maria. From Miami to Puerto Rico, Frankel chartered four planes loaded with medical equipment, food and pepsin weighing more than 20,000 pounds, plus another 2,000 pounds in nutritious meals from Feeding America and City Harvest. Along with food and medical items, the aid comprised an additional $30,000 in Costco gift cards and $25,000 in gift cards and currency from Yieldstreet. In collaboration with Delivering Good, BStrong utilized thousands of dollars in endowments from donors like Andy Cohen. Elvis Duran contributed $10,000 to BStrong, $20,000 for the four planes and $100,000 to Feeding America to assist with disaster aid.

After Frankel’s arrival, the planes delivered hundreds of ill and injured women, children and cancer patients from nearby hospitals to U.S. hospitals for medical care. When Frankel saw the destruction that Hurricane Maria left, she was in disbelief about the living conditions people were subject to, stating “They are starving. They are thirsty. They cannot communicate. They cannot bathe themselves. They wash their babies and laundry in street water.” After witnessing the inhumane living conditions in Puerto Rico, Frankel, with assistance from the Global Empowerment Mission, immediately set out to acquire more than $1 million in funds and provisions.

BStrong for Ukraine

Bethenny Frankel’s disaster relief, “BStrong,” provides necessities and safety to Ukrainian refugees who have become victims of war. With a background in humanitarian work like helping Hurricane Maria and poverty victims, BStrong will continue to give supplies, and aid and be a haven for the lives of Ukrainian refugees.

– Jacara Watkins
Photo: Flickr

Cash Handouts
As winter approached and the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan worsened, the United Nations (U.N.) proposed cash handouts to help the millions of Afghans who were struggling in the country. The U.N. announced the proposal of the program on December 1, 2021, as it believes that cash handouts will be the best and most plausible solution to deal with the increasing poverty rate in Afghanistan.

The Problem

Still reeling from the effects of the full United States withdrawal combined with the Taliban takeover of the government in August 2021, millions of people are suffering. On December 10, 2021, the United Nations humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, warned that Afghanistan is inching closer and closer to “economic collapse.” As such, Griffiths urges donor nations to “support basic services” along with “emergency humanitarian aid.” Griffiths said that “4 million children are out of school” and the education of another 9 million children is in jeopardy because 70% of educators in Afghanistan have not received remuneration since August 2021.

Winters in Afghanistan are especially brutal, and this season, the U.N. expects wintertime temperatures to go down to -25 C. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated in early December 2021 that as many as 3.5 million displaced Afghans require essential support to make it through the winter. On top of this, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch has stated that more than half of Afghanistan’s population, equating to 23 million people, are enduring extreme hunger, which may spiral into famine without prompt intervention.

UNHCR is providing essential humanitarian assistance to 60,000 people per week, which involves providing food, thermal blankets and winter clothing as well as rebuilding shelters and supplying cash assistance. This work will continue until February 2022, according to Baloch, at which time the next round of funding will need to begin as he estimated that another $374.9 million is necessary for 2022, especially during the winter.

The Solution

As a potential solution to the severe problems that Afghanistan is facing, the U.N. proposed a program that would provide $300 million annually in cash handouts to Afghan households with children, elderly people and Afghans with disabilities.

At the same time, the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) wishes to bolster an existing “cash for work” initiative in Afghanistan with another $100 million to increase employment rates and $90 million to support small businesses with cash payments.

The “cash for work” initiative began in October 2021 in the three provinces of Mazar, Kunduz and Herat, with the intention to expand to more provinces. So far, through the initiative, UNDP has distributed $100 million worth of cash payments in exchange for work, creating employment opportunities for 2,300 people.

UNDP estimates that poverty in Afghanistan may reach a staggering 90% by the middle of 2022. In October 2021, with the Taliban in control of Afghanistan, UNDP created “a special trust fund” with an initial $58 million pledge of financial support from Germany to supply urgent cash directly to Afghan citizens. By early December 2021, the fund reached $170 million in pledges from countries around the world.

The Effectiveness of Cash Handouts

The possibility of handing out cash directly to people who need it most seems easy enough, but will Afghans use the money effectively? The World Food Programme (WFP) strongly supports cash transfers as a form of humanitarian aid. In 2020, WFP handed out $2.1 billion worth of cash transfers across 67 nations.

According to WFP, research shows that disadvantaged households that are empowered to make their own decisions through cash transfers “make choices that improve their food security and wellbeing.” For example, in 2018, 91% of households in Lebanon put cash assistance toward food, rental fees and medical costs. Cash handouts also boost local markets as people purchase resources locally, consequently bolstering economies.

Looking Ahead

Though the situation looks dire, there is hope as global organizations step in to assist vulnerable Afghans. However, urgent assistance is still necessary to prevent the collapse of the nation. With more support from the international community, organizations can bolster efforts to safeguard the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Universal Poverty in Afghanistan
According to the UNDP, 97% of Afghanistan could be in poverty by 2022. This would be a quick plummet considering current UNDP data shows that only 54.5% of Afghans live below the poverty line. This is not particularly good either but is significantly better than the predicted more than doubled rate. This drastic predicted change is a result of a combination of things. Food prices and food insecurity are skyrocketing while economic and essential services experiencing interruption. COVID-19 is still prevalent and presents an active struggle. Those in rural communities and poor urban areas are feeling these problems quickest and hardest. If drastic change does not occur soon, there will undoubtedly be universal poverty in Afghanistan.

UNDP Predictions

The political turmoil of the Taliban resuming power, paired with economic and humanitarian issues, is creating a “full-on development collapse,” according to UNDP regional director Kanni Wagnaria. The UNDP’s 97% prediction is a worst-case scenario.

The prediction is based on 2018 estimates of the country’s GDP declining between 3.6% and 13.2% in the 2022 fiscal year. This depends on how the crisis continues and how other economies interact with the new Taliban leadership. This is a huge contrast to the previously predicted 4% GDP growth under the previous Afghan government.

Local Area-Based Programme

In response to these predictions, the UNDP has created a proposal of strategies to intervene and improve the current living conditions for those in poverty in Afghanistan. The “Local Area-Based Programme,” has four core elements: “provision of essential services, community-based livelihoods and local economies, disaster and climate-resilient response and social cohesion and inclusion participatory processes.”

The major goal of the program is to support approximately 9 million impoverished people over the course of 24 months. Another goal is to ensure the prediction of universal poverty in Afghanistan does not occur.

Local community groups, NGOs and small businesses will lead and implement this program. Within the plan, the most vulnerable would benefit significantly from cash-for-work grants for small and medium businesses and specifically within women-owned businesses. Households including children, the elderly and those with disabilities would receive a temporary basic income as well. There will also be assistance for natural disaster mitigation such as flood protection for farmlands.

ABADEI

The UNDP officially launched the program called ABADEI in October 2021. The primary goal is providing “immediate humanitarian assistance” while keeping the local economies moving. The first priority of the program is to help the people of Afghanistan meet their basic needs, with a focus on health and food security. As it raises more funds and receives more donations, ABADEI will be able to move into other priorities outlined in UNDP’s intervention strategies.

A significant indicator of outcome in the coming months and into 2022 will be how Afghanistan will do in the coming months and how the Taliban chooses to lead the country. The Taliban should be able to avoid the possible universal poverty in Afghanistan but it must make the decision to do so.

As of early September 2021, the Taliban had not reopened government offices. This is leading to many other industries such as banks and universities remaining closed as well, according to the UNDP. This has led to unstable employment and grave uncertainty among most of the country.

Additionally, expectations have determined that the Taliban could restrict capital, likely leading to inflation. This would reduce purchasing power and cause food prices to rise. The number of people below the poverty line would be even higher.

Much of what will happen to Afghanistan is relatively uncertain, yet rather imminent. Nevertheless, there are organizations such as UNDP that are being proactive and involved before universal poverty in Afghanistan becomes reality.

– Alex Mauthe
Photo: Unsplash