Causes of Poverty in Algeria
With a population of approximately 40 million, Algeria is geographically North Africa’s largest country. It is also the world’s fourth largest gas exporter and the tenth largest exporter of oil. Algeria is a rich nation and the third most important economy in the Middle East and North Africa, but its people are poor. Reports show that the national rate of poverty in Algeria is as high as 23 percent.

What are the causes of poverty in Algeria? Why are up to half of young men from a country tempted to flee to Europe as illegal immigrants to escape misery at home?

Poverty and Unemployment

A high rate of unemployment among youth is one the causes of poverty in Algeria. Although the official figure is 12.48 percent, in reality it is much greater than that. One report from 2008 shows that unemployment among people under 30 was 70 percent. Such high unemployment rates and difficult quality of life have forced the country’s youth to take on desperate measures, such as illegal immigration to find work in Europe.

Political Conflict

Many Algerians blame the unresponsive and ineffective political leadership for the fall of the country’s economic position. One analyst claims that the “doctrinaire socialism” of the National Liberation Front (FLN), a political party which led the struggle for independence against France, rendered the country bankrupt. The Algerian Civil War between the Algerian government and various Islamic rebel groups from 1991 to 2002 and post-war political tensions further weakened the country’s political and economic stability.

Lack of Democracy

Lack of democratic institutions is another cause of poverty in Algeria. The struggle for power between the progressive FLN and conservative Islamic Front prompted military intervention on a number of occasions. The country’s current 80-year old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been in office since 1999 by “winning” four successive elections. Although he is respected as an elderly statesman for taking the country out of the civil war and eliminating radical and militant jihadi groups, the government under his rule has grown increasingly intolerant of press and political opposition.

Cuts in Government Spending

Another cause of people’s discontent and poverty in Algeria is the recent decline in oil price. Because Algeria relies heavily on oil and hydrocarbons for a strong economy, the sharp decline in oil price has prompted the government to implement spending cuts and tax hikes. Such measures without “improved safety nets, a cash transfer system reaching the needy, a solid media campaign to ensure better public understanding during its implementation and a stronger statistical system that allows monitoring of households’ living conditions more frequently” will pose a risk for Algeria.

Nevertheless, the pleasant news is that poverty in Algeria has decreased by 20 percent in the past two decades. While this number is promising, it is still not enough development. There is a need for a shift toward a more diversified economy that will move the country to sustainable growth and more employment opportunities.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Algeria Poverty RateA look at numbers alone illustrates gross inequalities in the Algerian economy. According to Trading Economics, the poverty headcount ratio at the national poverty line was 5.5 percent in 2011. Despite the statistic, 11.8 percent of the population lives in the slums, and the lowest 10 percent of the population share just 2.87 percent of the country’s total income. Although those living in extreme poverty account for only 0.5 percent of the population, 10 percent or almost four million citizens, are seen as vulnerable to falling back into poverty if any slight circumstantial variations work against them.

Currently, unemployment is one of the biggest factors leading to setbacks in improving the poverty rate in Algeria. The World Bank reports that unemployment increased to 11.2 percent in 2015 and has remained that way through population increases in 2016. High levels of unemployment also occur among women and youth at 16.6 percent and 29.9 percent respectively.

Combined with low oil prices and deteriorating living standards, tackling inequality has become increasingly difficult in Algeria. Many disparities exist regionally, with almost 75 percent of Algeria’s poor living in urban areas and working informal jobs. Looking beyond the blanket statistical figures that exist, regional disparities indicate that twice as much poverty exists in Algeria’s Sahara, and three times as much exists among the population living on the Steppe, a Mediterranean forest and woodland region of North Africa.

Moving forward, the United Nations and other organizations such as the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) are working toward improving early childhood development and nutrition, health coverage, implementing cash transfers and strengthening rural infrastructure to displace inequality and decrease the poverty rate in Algeria. In 2005, Algeria launched the UNICEF Unite for Children Against AIDS global campaign, and other campaigns and movements have progressed alongside those efforts.

A 2017 UNICEF analysis covering 11 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including Algeria, Comoros and Egypt among others, has also led efforts to improve education, provide adequate housing, provide access to clean water and improve antenatal care and birth assistance.

Through political advocacy and policy implementation, solutions can be found and goals achieved to leverage inequality, continue moving citizens above the international poverty line and lower the poverty rate in Algeria.

Katherine Wang

Photo: Pixabay

Algeria’s Facts and Figures
Situated in the northernmost part of Africa on the south side of the Mediterranean Sea between Tunisia and Morocco, Algeria is the continent’s largest country—and for the past half-century, it has been plagued by violence. This country is ripe with history, and here’s some of the most important of Algeria’s facts and figures.

France first seized the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria back in 1830, ending three centuries of Algeria as an autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire. By 1954, the Algerian War of Independence had broken out, which was largely motivated by the National Liberation Front (the FLN—the nation’s primary political party), and they successfully gained their autonomy from France in 1962.

The current President of Algeria is Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who won the presidency in the 1999 election and has held power ever since. In 1991, a civil war broke out with Muslims against the government; when Bouteflika was elected in 1999, he was able to restrain the conflict of a brutal civil war by introducing a national reconciliation policy, restoring economic stability within the country.

When regarding facts and figures on Algeria’s economy, it is largely dominated by hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons account for 30 percent of the country’s GDP, 60 percent of budget revenues, and close to 95 percent of all export earnings, as Algeria holds the 10th-largest reserve of natural gas globally. Algeria’s economy also enjoys an extremely low debt, at just 2 percent of GDP.

When it comes to Algeria’s facts and figures regarding its climate, it is mainly arid to semi-arid, with wet winters and hot, dry summers along the coast—dusty, sand-laden wind is very common in the summertime. The average elevation is about 800m, contains 17.3 percent of usable agricultural land, and its main natural resources are petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, lead and zinc.

Algeria’s environment is subject to biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species, hazardous wastes and ship pollution, among others.

Some of the leading current issues involving Algeria’s environment include the Mediterranean Sea becoming polluted from factors such as oil wastes, soil erosion and fertilizer runoff.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency, as of July 2016, facts and figures regarding the population of Algeria were at 40,263,711 people, with 99 percent of the population being Muslim and predominantly Sunni. The most common of languages in the nation are Arabic, French and Berber.

When broadcasting to the population, the government exercises a strong hold over the media, and the radio sector of the media is entirely state-run.

A major issue within Algeria is human trafficking, with women being subjected to atrocities such as forced labor, sex trafficking, prostitution, domestic service and begging. As for men, they can be subject to forced labor, criminal networks and domestic servitude.

Fortunately, slight improvement has been made with Algeria moving from a category three to a category two in human trafficking.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Google


With 40 million citizens, Algeria is the largest country in Africa, and for the past 40 years, its government has worked hard to improve health care by providing it for free to its citizens. Free health care in Algeria is funded by taxes, social security and economic growth. It has helped millions of Algerians, providing medical care and services to extend the lives of millions. Early intervention through infant vaccines, for instance, has prevented many major diseases in Algeria.

The free system remains lacking. A shortage of doctors means that people seeking medical treatment have long waits and sometimes do not receive proper screening that might prevent curable diseases.

The Algerian government recently passed a new health care bill to improve access for the poor, provide patient e-files to better access medical records, and help in the detection and care of disease. The bill added programs to facilitate organ transplants, tissue and cell transplants and treatments for infertility.

Early detection is key to improving the lives of millions of citizens, as many of the major diseases in Algeria are treatable. Others are preventable. Here are the most major diseases in Algeria, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation:

  • Coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease, also known as ischemic heart disease, which results in a reduced blood supply to the heart.
  • Cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain and may cause strokes. High cholesterol is a leading cause of cerebrovascular disease. Cholesterol drugs are expensive in Algeria. Ministers of health since 2002 have tried to lower the cost of these drugs by allowing local pharmaceutical companies to open and manufacture cost-efficient medication.
  • Neonatal preterm birth is another medical issue that causes multiple medical issues and death. Infants born earlier than 37 weeks are considered preemies. Babies born this early are susceptible to heart and lung issues and permanent disabilities including cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness and learning disabilities. Some learning disabilities can not be detected until the child reaches school age.
    • Prenatal education can help prevent and improve the chances of full-term births. Some risks that can cause premature birth if left untreated are high blood pressure and diabetes. Early intervention increases the odds that a baby will be born healthy.
  • Diabetes is among the major diseases in Algeria. This silent and sometimes debilitating illness, which can result in blindness, loss of limbs and death, can be treated, and certain diabetes drugs are being produced locally. Proper nutrition and exercise can help prevent diabetes.
  • Congenital anomalies result in the deaths of children within the first month of life, according to the World Health Organization. Those babies who survive will need long-term medical care. Proper diet, prenatal vitamins, vaccines and early screenings can help. Prenatal care has increased over the last several years in Algeria with improved health care.
  • Chronic kidney disease is another slow, progressive disease that results in the need for long-term medical care. Medication alone is not enough for the treatment of this disease. In severe cases, people need to go on kidney dialysis to help filter their blood. This process is both painful and expensive. With early monitoring of diabetes and high blood pressure, kidney disease can sometimes be prevented.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is another growing issue in Algeria. There is some early treatment medicine on the market today, but such treatment can only slow down the illness. Alzheimer’s is a growing concern as life expectancy rises in Algeria.
    • The progression of Alzheimer’s disease is very slow, causing memory loss and dementia. As the disease worsens, people suffering forget all sense of themselves and their loved ones. People with Alzheimer’s eventually lose the ability to care for themselves in the most basic of functions.
    • People with Alzheimer’s eventually need long-term care, which can put a strain on family and caregivers. There has been an increase in privately-owned nursing homes in Alegria. An estimated 250 nursing homes have opened up thus far, with more expected in the future.

By improving and expanding Algeria’s health care services, impoverished people who otherwise might not have access to medical services and life-saving treatments are being helped. With ongoing improvements to these free health care programs, the pervasiveness of many of the most major diseases in Algeria can be lessened and, in some cases, eradicated completely.

Jacqueline Bowser

Photo: Flickr

Education in Algeria: Past Successes, Current Challenges, Future Goals
Since gaining their independence in 1962, education in Algeria has improved significantly in relation to access to and quality of education. The amount of students enrolled in school more than doubled between 1962 to 2000. But with overall enrollment up there was still opportunity to identify subsets of the education system in which enrollment was lacking.

The government reached out to UNICEF for assistance on quantifying these shortcomings. UNICEF and the Ministry of Education partook in the Global Out-of-School Children Initiative (OOSCI) to identify flaws in enrollment and also characteristics of students who drop out. The goal of which was to identify those characteristics so future students fitting that mold can potentially be saved from dropping out.

The OOSCI study found that 33.4 percent of eligible students were not participating in pre-primary education, three percent in primary education, and 6.5 percent in secondary education. The study found that students participating in pre-primary education were less likely to repeat grades, less likely to drop out and more likely to make it through secondary education.

The few pre-primary schools available in the country are privately funded and not available to a large portion of the population. This is something the government plans on improving in coming years.

Adding more primary and pre-primary schools will require more qualified teachers in the country. A UNESCO study estimates that by 2025, Northern Africa is going to need an additional 1.9 million teachers in total which includes 200,000 in Algeria.

Some key metrics have led to doubts about the quality of teachers across the country. In regards to literacy rates, males above the age of 15 fall into the 10 percentile and females above the age of 15 fall into the 20 percentile in comparison to other Middle Eastern & North African countries.

The repetition rate for males and females also fall into the 20 and 30 percentiles respectively compared to similar countries.

The Algerian government will be partnering with UNICEF in 2016 to work on improving these metrics. UNICEF plans on implementing child-centered methods to curriculum planning in their development of current and future teachers.

These future investments in education in Algeria will be costly. This could be problematic for a country where 60 percent of their tax revenues are related to hydrocarbons. Any fluctuation in the price of oil can have serious ripple effects on their economy.

In their 2017 budget, they are using a $50/barrel price point for allocating budget dollars. In order to maintain current levels of funding, they will be raising taxes to avoid any shortfalls that would occur.

Fortunately, with this proactive approach to maintaining levels of government spending on education in Algeria, they will not find themselves overly susceptible to influxes in their main trading commodity.

Brian Faust

Photo: Flickr

Water supplies
Algeria, a country on the northern edge of Africa, has an arid and semi-arid climate with less than 300 cubic meters of water available per capita each year. This amount is well below the U.N.’s water poverty threshold, making Algeria a severely water-scarce country. Water supplies are few and far between, and the continuous water overexploitation worsens the country’s water situation — naturally available water resources are degrading drastically and quickly.

Algiers hopes to employ high-cost technological solutions to support the growing population and maximize limited water supplies, but procuring funding will be a challenge.

A water quality monitoring system has already been established in Algeria to monitor its surface water. The system is comprised of 100 stations that cover major watercourses and dams. The country’s groundwater is also tested every three months.

Despite this, most of the water resources in Algeria remain polluted due to a lack of working wastewater treatment plants, as well as untreated industrial waste which is illegally discharged into natural water bodies. This misuse of water and water treatment creates even more sanitation and health issues for the Algerian people.

Anticipated climate changes, with rising temperatures and less rain, will also impact the scarcity of water in Algeria. These factors, along with a growing population which is using more water than ever before, has put an even greater strain on the country’s water resources.

Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, has developed a water management strategy that focuses on maximizing the country’s limited water supplies through redistribution, increased water storage capacity and enhanced desalination capacity.

This plan will require mobilization of resources, restoration of existing infrastructure, institutional reforms and a large amount of funding. Investments from both the government and private institutions, as well as additional planning, will be necessary to keep Algeria’s already limited water supplies from declining even more.

Alice Gottesman

Photo: Flickr

gaza
Although not yet confirmed, there have been reports that the Algerian national football team will donate their World Cup prize money to the Gaza Strip.

Islam Slimani, renowned striker for the Algerian team, supposedly announced after their loss in the round of 16 that they will give their estimated $9 million prize money to Gaza.

If the reports are true, the team may be accused of bringing politics into sports. Last month, FIFA announced Argentina would face disciplinary action after the team presented a political banner prior to a match against Slovenia bearing the phrase “The Falkland Islands belong to Argentina.”

Since 2007, poverty and unemployment have increased greatly in Gaza, a territory self-ruled by the terrorist organization Hamas. About 1.2 million people out of the 1.8 million that live in the Gaza Strip live in refugee camps.

Poverty has been the only way of life for 50-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud al-Ashqar, who lives in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza. Al-Ashqar primarily depends on the education, health care and food rations provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. He has asked UNRWA many times to save his house, but his calls have been met with no success.

“The walls may collapse anytime, they would seriously fall down over our heads if I do not make some repair from time to time,” al-Ashqar said. “I have asked many organizations, including UNRWA, which is the care taker of refugees, to help us restore the house, but they all gave us a cold shoulder.”

Algeria’s alleged donation to the impoverished people of Gaza would help people like Mahmoud al-Ashqar. “They need it more than us,” Slimani said.

The Israel-Palestine issue is complicated, due to a long history of territory disputes and religious conflict. Violence has once again erupted from both sides and international organizations are actively working to quell tensions.

– Colleen Moore

Sources: The Independent, Daily Mail, The National, PressTV, Global Post
Photo: Fox Sports
Photo: International Business Times

algeria_poverty
Rural poverty in North Africa is similar to rural poverty in South Africa, though the national poverty line varies dramatically. According to Rural Poverty Portal, this includes the differences between 6% in Tunisia and 90% in Somalia. North-African economies are in dire straits.

Poverty-ridden people, they said, “constitute about one third of Tunisia’s poor population, and about three fourths of Somalia’s poor.” However, poverty in Northern Africa is still concentrated in rural areas.

This has deep causes such as the limited availability of “good arable land and water,” and “the impact of droughts and floods.” Conflict has similarly disrupted agriculture and thus intensified poverty, especially in Somalia and Sudan.

Algeria is a country in Northern Africa whose economy is dominated by the state, according to the CIA World Factbook.

“Hydrocarbons have long been the backbone of the economy,” the Factbook explains, “Accounting for roughly 60 percent of budget revenues, 30 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) and over 95 percent of export earnings.”

This hydrocarbon exportation has brought relative “macroeconomic stability, with foreign currency reserves approaching $200 billion.”

Despite Algeria’s relative stability, things such as transportation and a stable social infrastructure remain obstacles for Northern Africa. High rates of illiteracy, especially among women, also negatively affect the economy.

Rural Poverty Portal furthermore illustrated that the northern region of the continent has “weak local institutions, poor integration with the national economy, and the migration of rural youth to urban areas.”

However, the urban areas in Northern Africa hold the most political influence. “Government policies and investments in the region tend to favor urban areas over rural areas,” they said.

Just south of Algeria lies Niger, a land-locked, Sub-Saharan nation. Though it shares a border with Algeria, a relatively stable African country, it has a very low income – less than $250 USD gross national income per capita, according to the World Bank Development Indicators as of 2005.

Moreover, CIA World Factbook states that Niger qualified for “enhanced debt relief under the International Monetary Fund program for Highly Indebted Poor Countries.” This significantly reduced Niger’s debt and annual obligations, and freed up funds for “basic healthcare, primary education, HIV/AIDS prevention, rural infrastructure and other programs geared at poverty reduction.”

The Factbook said that food security remains a problem in Niger, and is enhanced by refugees from Mali.

Sixty-three percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the most recent data which was gathered in 1993.

Northern Africa has a wide disparity between the very poor and the middle-class. Though some countries are more stable than others, education, food stability, access to clean water and social stability remain significant obstacles for the reduction of African poverty as a whole.

– Alycia Rock

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, BBC, Rural Poverty Portal, Central Intelligence Agency
Photo: Reuters

polisario_camps
In western Africa, an entirely new generation has risen out of sand, tents, and mud blocks. Though born into this kingdom of sand and pumped water wells, home lies miles away with the vast Atlantic Ocean for these life-long refugees.

In the most barren regions of western Algeria, five refugee camps collectively called the Polisario Front were established in the mid-1970s in response to land disputes spanning two decades of armed conflicts. Home to 150,000 Sahrawis, the current state of the camps themselves has received scarce media attention.

The Sahrawis tribes in West Africa have lived in the Polisario camps bereft of a stable home country since the 1970s. After 37 years of laying in wait to return to their homeland in the West Sahara, the Sahrawis remain involved with the longest-running conflict involving displaced persons.

The dispute involves a strip of land called West Sahara in northern Africa. When Spanish colonial forces withdrew power from the area in 1976, the Moroccan government immediately seized control of the densely Sahrawi-populated land.

Rebel Sahrawis engaged in armed conflict against Moroccan forces for two decades until the U.N. mandated a ceasefire in 1991. Part of the referendum was to hold a vote in the Polisario Front as to whether or not the refugees would remain independent or integrate into Morocco. In 2013 there has yet to be a vote on the issue. The stall on the vote and major political action has perpetuated life in the Polisario Camps, spanning decades.

Many of the founding members of the camps were young orphans who fled the violence of the 1970s with only their lives. They have since then established schools, hospitals, and their own governing bodies. Democratic ideals, the freedom to practice any religion, as well as equality between women and men are the principles of the camps. When men went to fight in West Sahara from the 1970s to late 1980s, women were left to take on leadership roles at the camps and have since retained their independence.

Food assistance comes directly from international aid provided by organizations such the World Food Program. Food security is nearly impossible due to the barrenness of the surrounding lands. Malnutrition and anemia are rampant among the refugees due to deficiencies in iron and other essential vitamins.

Working Sahrawis have been receiving monthly stipends from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in lieu of real salaries.

Though the refugees need $130 million of international aid yearly to support all of their people, only $70 million year is given to them. Lack of U.S. efforts has been cited for the lack of attention to this area, especially in comparison to the unrest boiling in Iran, Egypt, Syria, Israel and Palestine, and the Persian Gulf.

As to the fate of the Polisario Camps, they are now the target of militant extremist groups because of their fundamentally democratic values and difference in religious views.

Al Queada has also been known to run freely in and around the area, making the camps a potential recruitment ground for terrorism, especially with the rise of a new impatient generation from the camps. However, anti-terrorist security measures were elected and put in place by the refugees and their leaders.

The refugees seem resigned to life in the camps while their leaders are pressured for a solution—one that can either end in Morrocan absorption or decades of more fighting. With foreign aid acting as their life blood, cutting off such programs could plummet the Sahrawis to the brink of annihilation.

Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: PBS, The Daily Beast, HRW