Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in BelgiumFrom its start, the COVID-19 pandemic toppled daily life and called for many societal changes that still linger today. Prior to the virus’ spread, a 2012 study showed 16.7% of citizens under the age of 18 were living in households with an income below the poverty line.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Belgium, where the poverty line for a two-income home stands at €2,256 a month, represents a notable issue. Several key areas in the country experienced the impact of the pandemic.

Access to Education

School closures became incredibly challenging for children of low-income families because of their difficulty of access to the technology necessary for remote learning and a stable internet connection. COVID-19 posed the threat of widening the educational disparity between incomes by further displacing a cohort that was already at a disadvantage in the classroom.

In response to the difficulties, the Belgian government invested €10 million into bringing back retired teachers into the school to help make up for lost time. Additionally, schools were able to vet which students required spare equipment for the remote style of learning and equipped them as needed.

Social Impact

One of the first things to go as a consequence of the lockdowns was regular social interaction. For those already facing financial strain prior to the pandemic, the new isolation torpedoed some Belgians’ mental health and access to their support systems.

During the pandemic, 59% of the population reported feeling lonely as a result of COVID-19 mitigation. Unemployed persons or those suffering from illness have reported feeling “very lonely.”

A 2021 OCED report revealed that the response to the pandemic green-lit most of the risk factors for poor mental health, especially for those experiencing financial insecurity and lack of educational engagement. The report highlights the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Belgium as the same report shares that levels of anxiety across the country nearly doubled, heightening the stress of an already vulnerable demographic.

Nonprofits, including Mental Health Europe, sought to improve mental health aid for people across Europe by promoting initiatives that would allocate the necessary resources. The program also provided viewers with tips to improve their well-being that does not require expensive treatment.

To combat the feelings of isolation, communities banded together to form “caring neighborhoods,” which encouraged neighbors to check in on their peers to help satisfy their needs regardless of age, a 2021 Brussels Times article said.

Health Impact

People in financial hardship faced increased difficulty accessing adequate hygiene necessities and medical attention. To ensure that all Belgians regardless of financial background were not prone to the virus, the government issued a voluntary dose of the vaccine for free. The government also promised at the start of the pandemic to ensure “social protection,” stating that citizens would have guaranteed access to health care. If citizens could not afford medical costs, they would receive allowances and credits to meet their needs.

Looking Ahead

While Belgium’s economic future remains unclear following the pandemic, the European Commission revealed a “recovery and resilience plan.” Details included €5.9 billion in grants aimed at investments accelerating the transition towards a low-carbon and “climate-resilient economy.” In addition, the plan anticipates a 0.9% rise in GDP leading into the 2026 fiscal year. Efforts like this aim to lift Belgium out of the hardships imposed by the pandemic and set the country on a path to economic progress.

– Michael Mardones
Photo: Wikimedia

Belgian Royalty’s Trip to the DRC
On June 7, 2022, the Belgian King, Philippe of Belgium and his wife, Queen Mathilde of Belgium, arrived in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Their stay in the former Belgian Congo lasted six days. The King met and shook hands with the Congolese president, Felix Tshisekedi. Philippe expressed regret for his country’s past actions in the DRC, as he did before in 2020. Although he is the first Belgian official to do this, he has yet to issue a formal apology. Philippe has also returned a traditional initiation mask of the Suku to Tshisekedi, describing the action as an “indefinite loan.” Here is some information about Belgium’s history in the DRC including the Belgian royalty’s recent trip to the DRC.

The Belgian Congo Era

Belgium’s involvement with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its region began in 1885 when European leaders of the time met at the Berlin Conference to divide parts of Africa for themselves. King Leopold II received the Congo Basin, which he took as his own private property and named the Congo Free State.

Leopold’s personal rule of Congo lasted 23 years, ending in 1908. During this period, people living in the territory had to provide rubber for Belgium to profit off of. They received threats that the authorities would kidnap the women and children of their village, and if they did not provide the desired rubber, the transaction ended in severed hands and feet. Violent methods like these extended to the extraction of other resources, such as ivory. Leopold also assigned multiple regions of the Congo Free State as concessions to private companies, a huge financial benefit for him.

In 1908, the Congo Free State became the Belgian Congo after outrage surrounding unjust conditions in the area. After World War I, many private American and European corporations developed plantations in the colony. This is where native Congolese people worked under four to seven-year-long contracts. Additionally, forced labor led to the construction of public facilities such as roads, buildings and railroads.

After decades of rebellion and protest, the colony gained independence from Belgium in 1960 and became the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Post-Colonial Era and Poverty

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has consistently suffered from endemic poverty. It ranks 179th of 189 on the United Nations Development Index and in terms of personal income, the DRC is the poorest country in the world. Malnourishment and lack of access to drinking water are prevalent problems.

Belgium’s Foreign Aid

The Kingdom of Belgium’s Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation describes the DRC as its most important partner country. Belgium is active in certain sectors of the DRC, including agriculture, health care, infrastructure and education. The Indicative Cooperation Programme had a €75 million per year budget between the years 2010 and 2013. It focused on the aforementioned sectors of the African nation.

Belgian officials and ministers show continued support for aiding the DRC, ensuring that they set aside yearly funds for the country.

As meetings and activities between Belgian and Congolese leaders continue, a pathway to partnerships and investments between the two nations opens up. The DRC president Tshisekedi said he is focusing on cooperation to attract investment and improve health care and education in his country with the Belgian Royalt’s trip.

King Philippe is one of the multiple European country leaders who have been addressing their country’s harmful colonial past. The Belgian royalty’s trip to the DRC led to a ceremony in the Congolese Parliament. King Philippe also delivered a speech to university students in the southern city of Lubumbashi. He stated, “We are not forgetting the past, we are looking to the future,” DW reported. The Belgian royalty’s trip to the DRC should be a positive step in the right direction to alleviating past wrongs.

– Sophie Buibas
Photo: Flickr

uses of human wasteHuman waste is typically overlooked, yet it can be a valuable resource capable of solving many of the issues surrounding the world today. As the global population continues to grow, coupled with environmental and sustainability concerns, a solution is needed. More than 700 million people worldwide live in extreme poverty. Some of the challenges they face are food insecurity and access to electricity, clean water and social services like healthcare. Human waste is a sustainable material and replaces non-renewable resources like coal, oil and natural gas. Technology and ideas emerge every day, including new uses of human waste. Interestingly, creative ways to solve the issues surrounding poverty and the future of an expanding world have also arisen.

Why Human Waste?

Each year, humans produce 640 billion pounds of feces and 3.5 billion gallons of urine. Lack of proper sanitation is one of the concerns surrounding poverty as human waste can enter water supplies and cause infections and diseases among people. Feces are typically made up of 55-75% water and the remaining portion is made up of methane and a solid. Once dried, the solid could provide the same amount of energy as coal. If converted into fuel, global human waste would be worth about $9.5 billion. Human waste contains minerals used in fertilizers for crops, which increases crop yields and the nutrition of plants and soil.

Biogas as Fuel

Biogas digesters break down human waste into methane, which is then piped through buildings and used in vehicles. The digesters submerge the waste in water where bacteria break down the solids without the presence of oxygen. The resulting fuel is one of the most valued uses of human waste, capable of powering homes, buildings and vehicles.

Sometimes, areas where poverty is common lack access to electricity. Biogas offers a cheaper solution. Installing a biogas digester uses an already present resource to produce fuel on-site rather than relying on an outside company to bring electricity. An example of this is a prison in Malawi that once relied on firewood to run its kitchens. Since installing a biogas digester, inmates at Mulanje Prison no longer have to spend five hours chopping wood in order to prepare food for the day. Moreover, the prison’s electricity bill went down by an average of $400 a month.

The procedure decreases the reliance on firewood, which in turn, slows down the rate of deforestation — a widespread issue in underdeveloped nations. Biogas digesters are also present in other prisons throughout Malawi. In the capital city, Lilongwe, the NGO Our World International takes household waste for its digester and sells the biogas for half the price of natural gas.

Clean Water

Around two billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. A potential solution to this comes from the use of human waste, which involves turning urine into fresh water. Filters and machines rid the urine of salts and ammonia, leaving clean water to utilize for drinking or commercial use. The International Space Station uses a similar process to convert astronauts’ urine and sweat into drinking water. One Belgian solar-powered device removes 95% of ammonia from urine and has the capacity to be used in areas without electricity to provide fresh water. Although many people would not feel comfortable drinking water that came from urine, regions suffering water shortages due to natural disasters or violence will greatly benefit from a much-needed supply of water.

In addition, one of the other uses of human waste, fertilizing crops, is already practiced in many places. Wastewater and urine can also serve the same purpose as feces, adding minerals and nutrients to the soil. All of these uses show the functionality of human waste as an undervalued resource with the potential to decrease poverty and improve living conditions for millions of people.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: pxfuel

Belgium’s foreign aid
Today, Belgium’s foreign aid program is one of the most generous in the world. In 2020, Belgium allocated 0.47% of its gross national income to official development assistance (ODA), putting it squarely within the ranks of the world’s most generous givers. But, what is just as impressive as the extent of Belgium’s foreign aid is the effective system Belgium has for allocating aid. Belgium does its best to make sure that every euro has the maximum impact.

Avoiding Past Mistakes

Belgium’s foreign aid program was not always a model system. During the Cold War, led by geopolitical interests, Belgium gave vast amounts of money to the corrupt ruler of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu used the aid to serve his personal interests and little aid went toward helping Congolese people. Today, the Belgian government is far more careful in ensuring that its foreign aid goes directly to its target.

The Belgian government lists independence and neutrality as two of its main foreign aid objectives. Independence refers to the idea that “bodies involved in humanitarian aid are not bound by any other political decisions and actions taken by the donors in the field.” This concept aims to prevent politicizing interference. Neutrality indicates “that no party involved in armed or unarmed conflict may receive preferential treatment in the context of humanitarian aid.” Both of these concepts help ensure that aid always goes where it is most needed rather than being a political tool.

The Distribution of Aid

Today, Belgium still directs large amounts of aid to the DRC. The DRC “receives a quarter of bilateral aid” from Belgium. This is in part because of Belgium’s dark colonial history in the country and also because of the intimate regional knowledge Belgian developers now have. As a result of all its investment, Belgium has become a leader in the fight to reduce poverty in the DRC, where a lack of infrastructure and constant conflict plunged 73% of the population into extreme poverty in 2018.

Focusing the lion’s share of its money on a single country has enabled Belgium to use its limited resources to maximum effect, alleviating food insecurity for many Congolese people and funding education, among many other projects. Another way Belgium ensures effective foreign aid is by maximizing the reach of its monetary contributions. Much of Belgium’s bilateral aid goes to international funds that can allocate money on a much smaller level. The most important of these groups are civil society organizations (CSOs).

CSOs are small volunteer organizations that address the specific needs of particular communities, much like NGOs. By diverting a significant portion of money to CSOs, Belgium is able to operate on both a small and a large scale, targeting both governments and smaller communities. The advantage of Belgium’s multilevel approach to foreign aid is obvious: taking multiple avenues toward aid ensures that no person or group ends up behind.

A Model for Other Countries

The Belgian foreign aid system is not without flaws. Impressive as its numbers may be, Belgium’s foreign aid has so far failed to reach its goal of 0.7% of GNI. In 2003, Belgium’s foreign aid reached 0.6% GNI but declined in subsequent years. Despite not yet reaching its foreign aid target, the Belgian foreign aid strategy has led to great success and serves as a model for other wealthy countries to emulate.

Thomas Brodey
Photo: Flickr

Addressing the Gender Wage Gap In BelgiumEach year, more and more women are retiring in a state of poverty in comparison to their male counterparts. In fact, on a global scale, women are only making $0.77 for each $1.00 that a man earns doing the same work. Despite showing equal effort and skills, women are devalued and insufficiently remunerated. For mothers, the gender pay gap widens even further. Several efforts are working to close the gender wage gap in Belgium.

Starting in 2018, Belgium’s large corporations have agreed to publicize their pay gap statistics. The country’s pay gap averages out to show that a woman’s salary is typically 5.8% lower than a man’s. Holding one of the lowest inequalities in salary, Belgium beats countries such as Sweden or Norway, countries that are known for their gender equality reputation. In fact, only three countries show better results than Belgium: Luxembourg at 1.3%, Romania at 3.3% and Italy at 4.7%. With the average gender gap across the EU being 19.2%, the question of what Belgium is doing differently to support their women is put forth.

Laws Fighting Gender-Based Inequality

Since 2012, Belgium’s legislature has enforced the gender pay gap to be taken into consideration when determining salaries for unions and employers. The Adopted Gender Pay Gap Reduction Act calls for each company to outline the labor cost difference between men and women. This would later be available to the public through the National Bank. Furthermore, the law requires employers to provide an action plan if it is reported that their female employees are earning less than their male counterparts. Women are also encouraged to reach out to their company’s mediator if they feel that they are being discriminated against.

Since 2011, a minimum of one-third of Belgium’s members on the board of directors of various companies and public-sector organizations must be women. To ensure this is being carried out, companies must present annual reports to prove their effectiveness in following the quota.

Additionally, the country’s general anti-discrimination act targets problems stemming from racism. Furthermore, Belgium has a specific law addressing gender-based discrepancies. This act is established to prohibit inequality regarding pregnancy, maternity, gender identity, gender expression or sex changes. These changes have been embedded into the country’s constitution.

Self-Organized Initiatives

Since 2005, progressive women in Belgium have been advocating for equal pay. An annual Equal Pay Day is organized to recognize how much harder women must work to earn the same amount of money as men. Public campaigns and large volunteer-run activities are just a few ways how organizations hope to raise awareness. Countries around the world have since adopted this practice, and it has become an “international source of inspiration.”

These are some ways the gender wage gap in Belgium is closed. However, the goal must be to eradicate the remaining difference of 5.8%. Still, Belgian laws can be an example of how to effectively fight gender inequality and empower women.

– Meghana Nagendra
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Belgium
Women’s rights have come a long way since the beginning of the century. In countries around the world, women have fought tirelessly for many of the freedoms that their male counterparts already enjoy, from the right to vote to the right against discrimination. The women of Belgium are no exception from these movements. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Belgium.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Belgium

  1. Belgium was one of the last European countries to introduce women’s suffrage. Despite some Belgian women earning their right to vote in 1919, Belgium was one of the last European countries to acknowledge women’s suffrage and women’s demands for voting rights. The only country to allow it after Belgium was Greece. The lag in women’s suffrage was mainly due to early women’s rights advocates such as Marie Popelin and Isala Van Diest, who chose to focus first on improving women’s education and legal equality in Belgium before advocating for equal voting rights. Additionally, during this time, many members of the socialist and liberal parties did not trust women with the right to vote, fearing that women would vote too conservatively and would give their overwhelming support to the Catholic parties under the influence of the priest. However, this proved untrue when women officially received the same voting rights as their male counterparts.
  2. Women did not fully gain voting rights until 1948. Women in Belgium, as in many other countries in the world, did not enjoy the same freedoms as men when it came to engaging in politics for a long time. They first received the right to vote in 1919; however, these rights had heavy restrictions in that only specific women could vote. Only mothers and widows of servicemen who died in World War I, mothers and widows of citizens “shot or killed by the enemy” and female prisoners who “had been held by the enemy” initially obtained the right to vote. In 1920, all Belgian women, with the exception of prostitutes and sex workers, received the right to vote in municipal elections. It was not until 1948 that Belgian men and women enjoyed the same voting rights in parliamentary elections. The first parliamentary election in which women participated took place on June 26, 1949.
  3. The number of women in Belgian politics has been steadily rising. In the past, the Belgian Parliament had been heavily male-dominated. However, thanks to policies like the Quota Act, this has been changing, a major win for women’s rights in Belgium. Belgium first introduced the Quota Act in 1994 but updated acts have since emerged. The most recent Quota Act imposed a 50–50 quota for every election list and required that the two candidates at the top of the list not be of the same gender. Election lists that do not comply with the Quota Act are automatically nullified. This helps prevent political parties from participating in elections if they are unwilling or unable to abide by the quota rules. By 2019, women held 42% of positions in parliament. Sophie Wilmès is the current prime minister of Belgium and is also the first woman to hold this post in the country. Increasing the number of women in Belgian politics helps to expand women’s rights in Belgium.
  4. Belgium is closing its workforce gender gap. In 2020, Belgium ranked 27th out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report, which “benchmarks countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment.” The workforce gender gap has also been closing over the years. The overall labor force participation rate for women 20-64 years old in Belgium is 63% (2.34 million women) compared to 72.3% for men (2.66 million men). Despite the increasing number of women entering the workforce over the years, there are still disparities between men and women in the workforce. When examining board members in Belgian companies, women only hold 30.7% of the seats while 69.3% of men hold the rest. There is also a discrepancy between men and women when it comes to wage earnings in Belgium. The pay gap in Belgium was 21% in 2017 and the pension gap was 28%. Despite the wage gap closing, women in Belgium are still more vulnerable than men to living in poverty. In 2018, women were two percentage points higher than men in reports on the poverty level in the country.
  5. Belgium implemented the accelerated Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Beijing Declaration was a resolution that the United Nations adopted in September 1995 at the end of the Fourth World Conference on Women. The resolution established a set of principles aimed at addressing the inequality between men and women. In 2015, Belgium partnered with UN Women to introduce the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The accelerated commitment outlined six main tactics for addressing gender inequality: (1) investing in gender equality at the national and international levels, (2) updating or establishing new action plans, strategies and policies on gender equality, (3) enhancing women’s leadership and participation at all levels of decision-making, (4) introducing new laws or reviewing and implementing existing ones to promote gender equality, (5) preventing and addressing social norms and stereotypes that condone gender inequality, discrimination and violence and (6) launching public mobilization and national campaigns to promote gender equality. One area that has seen improvement from the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is women’s participation in politics throughout Belgium.

While women’s rights in Belgium have dramatically improved over the years, these five facts show that there is still room for improvement within the country. On International Women’s Day in 2019, over 5,000 female demonstrators went on strike in Brussels to campaign for women’s rights and gender equality. Despite Belgium’s best efforts, there is still more the country must do to ensure total equality between the rights of men and women.

Sara Holm
Photo: Pixabay

healthcare in belgium
Belgium, located in Western Europe, has a population of 11 million people. One of the smaller European countries, Belgium has one of the best healthcare systems in Europe, ranking in the top 10 European countries with the best healthcare for the past several years. Belgium also spends much of its GDP on healthcare, and only 2.4% of the population has reported an unmet need for medical care.

How it Works

All healthcare in Belgium is accessible through health insurance. A government-funded mandatory insurance scheme pays for the system and anyone who lives and works in Belgium has access to the country’s healthcare system. Public healthcare receives financing from both health insurance and social security contributions, which comes out of people’s salaries and goes to the state.

When someone is sick and in need of a doctor, they pay the medical fee after the appointment but receive a reimbursement of most of the money.

Health Status

As of 2019, the average life expectancy in Belgium was around 81 years. Social inequalities in the average life span are greater among men than women. For women, the average life span is 84 years; for men, it is 79 years. About 76% of Belgium residents reported being in either good health or very good health. Meanwhile, records determined that 20% of the population over 14 years old was in bad health.

Though Belgium does have a healthy populace, it is not without problems. As of 2018, 29% of Belgium residents over the age of 14 lived with chronic diseases. This number also increases with age: for example, 44% of the population over 74 years lived with a chronic disease. However, these diseases are preventable with solutions like promoting healthier lifestyles, preserving the environment and facilitating healthcare access. The two most common causes of death in Belgium are cardiovascular diseases and cancer, though both have decreased slightly over the past few years.

Who it Affects

Unfortunately, Belgium faces health inequalities, as upper-class individuals live almost around 20 years more than lower-class individuals. Vulnerable groups like low-income families, individuals with low levels of education, single parents, undocumented immigrants, the under-represented ethnic groups or unemployed individuals suffer from unmet needs, mainly due to financial issues or unawareness.

Though policies like the maximum-billing system and other schemes ensure some free medical help to lower-class individuals, some still have to forgo medical care when they need it, as out-of-pocket spending is fairly high in Belgium. This is especially the case for asylum seekers or undocumented migrants as there is a fear of others reporting them to authorities.

Another group that deserves special attention in healthcare is the elderly residents of Belgium who make up 19% of the total population. Because many of them require long-term care, the need for long-term care is growing at home and in institutions. The level of care that Belgium’s health insurance covers is dependent on the individual’s degree of dependency with daily activities and if they have any disorientation of sorts. In comparison to other countries, Belgium has well-developed nursing home care services and residential facilities, but there is a growing worry about affordability.

The Good News

Belgium is making major improvements. It is working hard to enhance not only its health system as a whole but also to better people’s health. The management of rising numbers of residents with chronic diseases is slowly improving as well. There is time to do even more to improve healthcare in Belgium.

– Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Unsplash

Homelessness In Belgium
As a member of the European Union, Belgium has the privilege of having an advanced economy as well as relatively low unemployment and poverty rates. However, being a developed nation does not make a country immune to the hardships of homelessness. Here are four facts about homelessness in Belgium.

4 Facts About Homelessness in Belgium

  1. The biggest homeless population is in Brussels. Geographically, Belgium is made up of primarily rural areas, but the vast majority of the country’s population lives in an urban setting. The country’s capital, Brussels, is the largest city in Belgium and is the host to the majority of the homeless population. The most evident instances of homelessness are people living directly on the street, but many of those affected live in shelters or temporary housing, such as a hotel, and tend to be more invisible to the public.
  2. Homelessness is on the rise. The Homeless World Cup Organization provided a concerning update regarding homelessness in Belgium: “From one count in November 2016, there were 3,386 people experiencing homelessness in Brussels. This number is a 96% increase since 2008.” Just two years later in 2018, a homeless relief organization in Belgium called La Strada counted a total of 4,187 people living without secure or traditional housing.
  3. Many of those on the streets are migrants. Another contributing factor to the density of homeless in Brussels is migration. Europe as a whole has seen an increase in the migration of undocumented people. Due to their citizenship status, they often do not qualify for government assistance or other benefits, leaving them to fend for themselves. Many migrants living in a place called Maximilian Park have been pushed out by a police initiative and have relocated to the larger cities.
  4. There are not enough resources to address current conditions. Due to the harsh European winters, many homeless individuals living completely without protection from the elements need to seek shelter in the colder months to survive. However, many cities’ homeless initiatives and charity organizations are overwhelmed by the sudden increase in need and struggle to produce enough resources and space to accommodate all of the homeless.


The facts about homelessness in Belgium are daunting, but there are solutions to the issue. Of note, organizations such as the Citizens’ Refugee Support and The Platform, who work in homeless outreach and placement are helping to provide beds to the most vulnerable homeless group: migrants. While they have not yet been able to provide shelter for everyone in need, they continue to push the Belgian government for additional funding, as well as help their residents find long term solutions.

Samantha Decker
Photo: Flickr

top 10 facts about living conditions in Belgium
The small country of Belgium is bordering with France, Germany, Netherlands and Luxemburg. This culturally diverse and overpopulated country has largely been shaped by the immigrants drawn to its border. What is attracting people to the uniquely progressive country of Belgium and why are they sticking around? In the text below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Belgium, that will try to answer these and other questions are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Belgium

  1. Belgium has a considerably dense population compared to its small land mass. Belgium is said to be home to 11.5 million people, according to its latest census back in 2015. With 942 people per square mile, the country ranks as the 33rd most densely populated country in the world.
  2. In addition to its high population, Belgium also has one of the biggest tax rates in the world. In 2014, the average worker in Belgium paid 42 percent of his or her yearly earnings back to the government. The money collected from taxes is used to fund government programs and resources like social security.
  3. The country has a great transportation system. Given the high population in the country, the government has invested in a healthy transportation system including highways, waterways and roads that are used to transport goods in and out of Western Europe. Travel is also easy for citizens with its railways and metro public transportation systems.
  4. Belgium’s growing population and modern nuances have given rise to a serious air pollution problem. According to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), Belgium has second-worst environmental protection in Europe. In 2012, the European Environment Agency reported 11,770 deaths caused by the adverse effects of air pollution in Belgium.
  5. Belgium has mandatory health care that can be issued by the state or by private sector. Similar to the U.S. system, Belgians can select their own providers and pay low upfront costs while insurance covers a large percentage of the rest. Payment is based on the person’s income with a portion of 7.35 percent of gross income being deducted from the employer and the other part deducted from the salary itself.
  6. Belgium has what is known as a compulsory education system that means that no public institution can charge money for school up until the age of 18. Public education is completely free and covered by government funds. The system is so beneficial that private schools don’t even exist in some areas and in adults aged from 25 to 60, around 75 percent have finished some form of secondary education.
  7. Belgium is one of the few countries in the world that has a compulsory voting system. Those that do not vote in elections face a fine. Since the implementation of this system in 1892 for men and in 1949 for women, 89 percent of voters have shown up to cast their vote in elections that were held.
  8. Belgium is a fairly safe and inclusive country because of its liberal political views. In 2003, Belgium became the second country to legalize gay marriage. Belgians also have the right to prematurely choose to die in order to ease the pain and suffering caused by terminal illnesses. Another sign of the country’s inclusivity is the fact that 18 percent of the country’s population was made of immigrants in 2010.
  9. People immigrate to Belgium from all over Europe and, in the past, Belgium has been very liberal with its immigration policy. With the influx of people and a large terrorist attack that occurred back in 2016, Belgium has reigned in some of the masses flooding into the country to keep its people secure. Over the past few years, Belgium received 107,000 applications for asylum and granted only half of them.
  10. The country has a unique political system. Belgium is divided by language and broken up into three regions, all of which have their own government. Each has a parliament, but there are only one monarchy and prime minister that connect all the governments together.

Despite its environmental flaws and dense population, Belgium’s unique way of life and relaxed leadership has set a guideline for economic success that has yet to be outdone by the country’s neighbors. High taxes have allowed the government to take care of its citizens and to enable them to have secure health care and education.

– Catherine Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Belgium
The current average life expectancy rate in Belgium is 81.2 years. This gives Belgium a World Life Expectancy ranking of 24.

The population of Belgium also enjoys efficient health care that is financed through social security and taxes. Although Belgium does not face many hunger issues within its population, they have made many efforts in fighting world hunger.

The top 10 facts about hunger in Belgium presented below do not only tackle the issues that are prevalent in the country’s population today but also cover how this country has contributed to decreasing global hunger and malnourishment.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Belgium

  1. World War I severely and negatively impacted the economic and agricultural stability of Belgium which resulted in a rise in malnutrition. As a densely populated country that was industrialized and urbanized, Belgium depended on large imports of food. The most important product, wheat, was 80 percent imported. The German invasion forced Belgium to self sufficiently feed its territories. By September 1917, the caloric intake of the citizens was reduced to only 1,500 calories a day. This ordeal helped Belgium create more efficient procedures and policies for the present that prevents economically and socially devastating events from occurring again. The Single Administration Document was created in order to describe goods and their movement around the world, developing an organized procedure that documents large imports of agricultural goods.
  2. Belgium works with the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DGDC) of the Federal Public Service department for food aid in support of the more malnourished lower class. In turn, the DGDC cooperates with the Belgian Survival Fund (BSF) that helps manage the agricultural program budgets to aid in economic and agricultural sustainability. Belgium addresses food shortages with prevention techniques, potential crisis solutions, food aid, food security, BSF and structural agricultural aid.
  3. The DGDC spends $22.6 million annually on projects to reduce global poverty through food aid and security. Through the BSF, the DGDC allocates $45.2 million in order to finance programs focusing on the causes of food insecurity and poverty. Belgium spends several million dollars supporting structural agricultural aid through multilateral, bilateral and nongovernment organizations funding.
  4. Not only does the DGDC fund programs and projects, but annually increases its contribution to global humanitarian organizations. The DGDC compromised with the World Food Programme (WFP) in favor of more sustainable local markets of food in Africa. The WFP spends over $905 million on food and distribution, making it the largest contributor to the African market and largest consumer of food in the global community.
  5. Belgium supports multiple programs and policies in order to improve food aid security and poverty by spending millions to tackle negative agricultural, economic and social factors every year. Belgium contributed and $5.5 billion for food aid in 2016.
  6. The DGDC encourages structural intervention to maintain agriculture and food security. In direct collaboration with the government of partner countries, systems and networks are strategically built in order to increase food production. Funding is acquired from multilateral cooperation through the European Union and the Consultive Group on International Agricultural Research.
  7. Belgium is one of the key players in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). A new agreement signed on June 5, 2016, strengthens the collaboration between the two as they work together to improve agricultural sustainability and aid malnourished populations. Support is mainly aimed at FAO’s Regular Program budget through the Multi-Partner Programme Support Mechanism (FMM).
  8. The Belgian Fund for Food Security (BFFS) is an organization with a wide range of policies that ensure all aspects of food insecurity are addressed. Sufficient availability of food production and income to purchase food are priorities when proposing food aid programs. The BFFS focuses on sub-Saharan Africa in areas of high food insecurity with a budget of $282.7 million, designed to last from 2010 to 2022.
  9. Belgium contributes to reducing global poverty with many food aid programs. The distribution of free food to those who suffer from food insecurity is managed through the WFP, as well as the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) and various Belgian nongovernmental organization. Food security projects help restore agricultural stability by distributing seeds, fertilizers and equipment to those after suffering a crisis.
  10. According to multiple studies referred in a Flanders today publication, senior Belgians are more likely to be malnourished because their bodies do not communicate hunger and they do not receive the necessary protein and fiber. Seven percent of the elderly population are malnourished whereas 29 percent of older adults are at risk of dietary deficiencies. Professor Maurits Vandewoude of Antwerp University, who co-operated one study, states that many older adults over the age of 65 will claim that nothing is wrong because they don’t feel sick. However, Vandewoude articulates that those making the claims are still mobile and have not seen extreme changes.

By learning from war and history, Belgium has successfully decreased the level of malnourishment apparent in the country.

The country donates its time and money to organizations that help countries around the world to fight hunger, and many government institutions help increase agriculture and food security.

This top 10 facts about hunger in Belgium list highlights the important role the country of Belgium plays in the international community and serves as an example of how dedicated the global community should be to eradicating world hunger.

– Aria Ma

Photo: Flickr