Information and stories addressing children.

Human Trafficking in CuracaoEfforts against human trafficking have improved some with time, but the widespread epidemic continues. Curacao and other foreign governments are fighting to stop this crime — a consistent battle that requires consistent efforts to eradicate it. Human trafficking in Curacao is a complex issue with no set solution; some are making progress across the globe. Many organizations are directing their resources towards human trafficking task forces and prevention. Understanding human trafficking, its origin, prevention and progress are the first steps to becoming an advocate.

Human Trafficking: The Basics

More than 35% of the world’s population currently lives on less than $2.00 a day. There are “2.5 billion children, women and men are at risk for human trafficking.” Curacao identified only three victims of trafficking in 2019, compared to 44 in 2018. This is not a result of improvement. The government of Curacao is not doing enough to find and help victims. Prosecution for traffickers is in place; however, without investigations to find abusers, it’s useless.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that uses force, coercion or fraud to exploit sex or labor from victims. The three most common types of human trafficking are sex trade, forced labor and domestic servitude. Any person is at risk of trafficking, yet women and children are disproportionately involved with sex trafficking. “Women and girls make up 80% of the people trafficked.”

It Begins With Poverty

Curacao’s economy relies heavily on tourism, succumbing to frequent changes that explain its 25% poverty rate. This has gotten worse with COVID-19 and travel restrictions. This resulted in a 19.1% unemployment rate in 2020. Poverty is dangerous in itself and brings more threats to safety.

Women and girls are the main targets of sex trafficking in Curacao. According to the Trafficking in Persons Report, they come from countries such as Venezuela, Curaçao and the Dominican Republic. “Bar owners recruit women and girls to work as waitresses or ‘trago girls’, and subsequently, force them into commercial sex.” Individuals faced with poverty struggle to meet necessities, making them extremely vulnerable to human traffickers. Acknowledging poverty and its direct link to sex or labor trafficking vulnerability is the first step of dismantling it.

This Caribbean island, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is on the Tier 2 Watchlist for human trafficking. This ranking shows efforts being made while still not meeting minimum standards of elimination. The primary reason for the country’s underperformance is a lack of funding since the implementation of its written plan would meet minimum standards. Curacao’s government also lacks adequate protection, prosecution and prevention.

Trafficking affects locals and tourists in Curacao. In 2019, displaced Venezuelans who were working illegally and overstaying their visas held a high risk of trafficking in Curacao. The Kingdom of the Netherlands’ involvement is crucial for anti-trafficking efforts, which puts it in a position of leadership and funding. The Netherlands is responsible for foreign policy in Curacao, Aruba and St. Maarten.

It Is a Global Effort

Countries should work together as a team to fight human trafficking. Due to these crimes’ international occurrence, it is every country’s responsibility to do its part. Interpol, the global police organization, works exclusively to prevent international crime, making it a significant activist. Operation Libertad, coordinated by the Interpol Global Task Force on Human Trafficking, joined forces with 13 different countries, including Curacao. It rescued nearly 350 victims of sexual and labor exploitation in 2018. Interpol exemplified how creating a platform is powerful. It has more than 500 participating police officers arresting traffickers. Efforts and projects like Operation Libertad are in progress around the world.

Other methods of improvement are underway such as training and educational seminars. In 2021, the Dutch Caribbean Islands underwent training from the U.S. Department of Justice Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, solidifying the communal cooperation to fight human trafficking. The Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW) pushes for legislation to combat trafficking with “more than 80 non-government organizations,” including the Netherlands. Many more organizations exist and each plays an essential part in eliminating human trafficking in Curacao.

How to End Human Trafficking in Curacao?

The U.S. Department of State gives 20 different ways one can help fight human trafficking. Human trafficking in Curacao will improve with time and energy. Global efforts present a hopeful future for trafficking victims, yet significant measures are the only to ensure such. Understanding human trafficking, its origin, prevention and progress are the first step of becoming an advocate.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

Improving Financial Literacy
Financial literacy plays a significant role in reducing poverty and improving financial well-being. The low financial literacy rate in developing countries means cycles of poverty continue, often intergenerationally. However, improving financial literacy rates in developing countries through education can help create pathways out of poverty, improving the financial standing and economic stability of low-income individuals.

What is Financial Literacy?

The Asian Development Bank Institute defines financial literacy as “people’s understanding of financial concepts as well as their skills and ability to manage money and make informed financial decisions.” The financial literacy level of an individual typically influences their financial judgment and resulting actions. Thus, the stability of one’s finances is often dependent upon one’s financial literacy level.

Why Financial Literacy Matters

Financial literacy offers many benefits to a consumer regardless of their level of income. For example, if an individual is financially well-informed, the individual is less likely to make decisions that will harm their finances rather than improve them.

Furthermore, financial literacy encourages people to pay bills on time, increases preparedness for economic difficulties and allows people to avert significant debt. Those who are well-educated on financial concepts are also very likely to set aside savings and pass on financial knowledge to their children.

Poverty-stricken individuals may benefit the most from financial literacy as their economic standing makes them less likely to successfully recover from an economic setback without adequate financial knowledge. This makes smart financial decisions especially important for this population in order to proactively combat any avoidable financial crises. However, despite financial knowledge holding more significance for those with a lower economic status, individuals within this group are less likely to be financially literate.

Financial Literacy in Developing Countries

Financial illiteracy disproportionately affects impoverished developing nations, likely due to a lack of adequate education systems in many of these countries. Data indicates that just 54% of people residing in developing nations have the capability or knowledge to open a bank account and also lack access to banking institutions.

Indonesia provides an example of this concern as a developing nation where financial literacy is a scarcity, and therefore, stands as one of the main barriers to financial inclusion. Data from an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study indicates that most Indonesians with a low socioeconomic status only have enough financial savings to last seven days in the case of an emergency.

Another example of a country with inadequate financial literacy is Zambia, where approximately half of the population does not utilize any financial services. A survey conducted in South Africa suggests that approximately 60% of respondents lack comprehension of important financial terms such as “interest.” From these statistics, it is apparent that financial literacy is insufficient in several developing countries.

Solutions

As developing nations strive for economic growth and financial products become increasingly complicated, it is imperative to equip people with the knowledge to make economic decisions that are in their best interests. Ultimately, a financially literate population will help stabilize economies in developing countries and contribute to reducing poverty.

The improvement of financial literacy in developing countries will require participation from policymakers, stakeholders, organizations and other important figures. Several of these actors are taking action to support financial literacy in developing nations.

For example, in Indonesia, the Indonesian tech company Tokopedia created the “Rabu Nabung” campaign in 2020, which translates to “Savings Wednesdays.” Purchasing mutual funds through Tokopedia on Wednesdays allows people to amass gift cards and even access cashback rewards for investing in gold. This campaign acts as an incentive for Indonesians to save their money and make investments, thus increasing both financial standing and financial literacy. A study by the University of Indonesia (UI) indicates that roughly “78% of all Tokopedia users surveyed said the program helped them understand the importance of investment.”

Other nations are taking action by implementing financial education programs that target groups with high rates of financial illiteracy. The Bank of Uganda created the second Strategy for Financial Literacy in Uganda 2019-2024, focusing on five major groups: women, the working class, youth, those that reside in rural areas and special interest groups. This program will give individuals a better understanding of savings, investments, managing their money and other important financial components.

Moving Forward

A person’s ability to understand and apply financial concepts plays a key role in their economic decisions. Financial literacy benefits the individual while contributing to long-term economic stability. Thus, improving financial literacy in developing nations is crucial to achieving growth in the financial sector. By enacting various programs and campaigns to empower individuals to make financially sound choices, developing nations should see economic advancement in the future.

– River Simpson
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19's Impact on Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a nation in recovery. As with many countries throughout the globe, COVID-19 has left a lasting mark on the West African nation. In a June to October 2020 survey that Innovations for Poverty Action in Sierra Leone implemented, nearly 50% of respondents reported income reductions and about 60% of respondents reported depleting their savings to secure food for the household. However, in the wake of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, some sectors are regaining strength.

The After-Effects of COVID-19

Sierra Leone went into lockdown quickly in response to the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus within its borders in March 2020, declaring a state of emergency prior to any confirmation of infection. Rapid policy changes followed, restricting travel and putting into place extensive testing programs which, coupled with a high level of social compliance, brought the infection and death rates to an early plateau. This impressive effort in containment came at a great economic cost, however, with the nation’s GDP contracting around 3.1% in 2020.

Revitalizing the Economy

Forecasts predict that Sierra Leone’s GDP will grow roughly 4% by the end of 2021, eclipsing the contraction of 2020, with further acceleration predictions in 2022. This projected growth links to a renewed demand for exports, particularly in the country’s mining sector.

World Bank experts state that sustaining this growth will require structural reform, strong monetary policy and a robust vaccination program, allowing businesses and employees alike to return to full-capacity operations both quickly and safely.

To that end, “the World Bank approved an $8.5 million grant” in June 2021 to further vaccination efforts in Sierra Leone, building upon an earlier $7.5 million monetary injection provided by the International Development Association in 2020 to shore up economic deficits resulting from COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone. Additionally, The Sierra Leone Central Bank announced a redenomination of the national currency in an effort to combat inflation. However, not all efforts for economic regrowth fall within the confines of the financial sector.

US Assistance

Sierra Leone saw a marked increase in poverty as a result of wage depression and job loss stemming from the pandemic, particularly in urban areas. The remediation of economic damages in these areas is an important step in breathing new life into the Sierra Leonean economy.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government-funded agency dedicating efforts to international growth and development, is working to do just that. The MCC completed a $44.4 million project “to improve the water and electrical services in and around Freetown,” Sierra Leone’s capital and largest urban center, in March 2021. The MCC has recently begun talks with government representatives and the private sector to make further, larger investments in the nation’s growth in the form of an economic compact.

Further Help for Citizens in Need

In August 2021, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced a new program specifically focusing on aiding women and youth affected by COVID’s impact on Sierra Leone. The program will provide grants of $60,000 to $140,000 for distribution by NGOs to women and youth-operated businesses in both rural and urban areas that were forced to scale down or cease operations during the pandemic. The aim is to bring these businesses back into the marketplace and stimulate the local economy. These efforts work in concert with Sierra Leone’s internal efforts to help the nation get back onto its feet in the post-pandemic environment.

Mining Sector Leads Growth

With a return to pre-pandemic GDP levels in sight, Sierra Leone hopes to continue growth in 2022. Forecasts predict the nation’s GDP to grow by as much as 5% by 2022, outpacing its sub-Saharan neighbors, which could grow to 1% to 2% less over the same period. The country’s mining sector is a strong driver of the national economy accounting for 3% of national employment in 2018 as well as “65% of export earnings.” The mining sector is on track for a 34% overall increase, led by a predicted 850% increase in demand for iron ore over 2020.

With such a major market component leading the way, other economic areas may expect revitalization as well. In the agricultural sector, employing about two-thirds of Sierra Leone’s workforce, the government encourages mining companies’ investment in communities local to their operations, furthering citizens’ access to food as well as gainful employment. Predictions estimate that the domestic construction and energy industries, both with close links to mining infrastructure, may see growth as well. This combined push for economic renewal assures better days to come for the sub-Saharan nation.

A Bright Future Ahead

Through ongoing foreign support and careful economic measures, Sierra Leone hopes to breathe new life into industries ravaged by COVID-19. With a renewed encouragement of domestic business, the nation looks to bring its citizens forward into a thriving economy and a safer, healthier society. The culmination of these efforts is proving clear less than two years after the nation’s first lockdown with a strong reemergence from the trials of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, promising a brighter tomorrow for the Sierra Leonean people.

– Alexander Diaz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

developing world
More than half of the global population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The world is slowly recovering from the devastating effects of the virus. However, a serious post-pandemic symptom has emerged: the global supply chain is struggling. While the supply chain affects the whole planet, there is ample evidence of how global supply chain issues are burdening the developing world.

COVID-19 Measures Slow Down the Supply Chain

COVID-19 prevention measures across the globe have shut down processing plants and restricted transportation. They have included export bans or tight quotas to control supplies and prevent the spread of the virus. These measures have all contributed to disruptions in the global supply chain, which have impacted the developing world in a number of ways. Here are a few examples:

  1. Price volatility puts certain countries in jeopardy. Export bans and other restrictions cause prices to spike and drop unpredictably. That is creating price instability in countries that depend heavily on imports. For example, small pacific islands, such as Kiribati, that rely on imports but had grounded all flights have seen the cost of rice increase by 50%.
  2. There is massive food insecurity in the developing world. As Time reported, the World Food Program (WFP) estimated that the number of people who will starve has effectively doubled due to the pandemic. However, evidence suggests that there is not really a food shortage. Instead, transportation restrictions and protectionist trade policies are disrupting the flow of foods such as wheat and rice. Therefore, there may not be a food shortage problem but rather a food access problem.
  3. Humanitarian agencies have also warned of how global supply chain issues are burdening the developing world. They have expressed concerns that disruptions in the global supply chain may affect their abilities to provide commercial aid to developing countries in need. These agencies and nonprofit groups have experienced trouble acquiring necessary inventory and transporting that inventory to target nations. However, such hardship has not gone unnoticed. The IMF recently issued $650 billion in emergency currency reserves. In addition, it urged developed nations to use this money toward developing nations.
  4. There is also a cyclical relationship between global supply chains and poverty. Global supply chain issues exacerbate poverty and deepen inequality. However, the same poverty begets more disorder in the supply chain. For instance, if unable to profit from crop production, younger generations are likely to abandon traditional farming methods, threatening the smooth flow of the supply chain altogether.

Potential Benefits

Supply chain issues have not entirely punished developing nations. Some developing countries are benefitting, as the prices of their exports continue to skyrocket. For example, major oil exporters in the Middle East have benefitted from rising oil prices, according to The New York Times.

Leaders Look to the Future

Post-pandemic growth can be slow. However, government and private sector world leaders are actively working to speed it up. On October 31, 2021, international leaders met to discuss ways that they could improve the supply chain and make it more resilient in the future.

U.S. President Joe Biden urged for fair labor conditions, the end of trade restrictions and communication.“Now that we have seen how vulnerable these lines of global commerce can be, we cannot go back to business as usual,” the President told Reuters.

– Richard J. Vieira
Photo: Flickr

Great Green Wall
Refugees in Northern Cameroon have “planted 360,000 seedlings” since 2018 to combat desertification in the Minawao refugee camp. The refugees grew the “Great Green Wall” with help from their host communities, the U.N. and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The Dutch Postcode Lottery funded the project with $2.7 million as part of an initiative to plant a continent-wide, 8,000-kilometer barrier of trees to prevent desertification, land degradation and drought. The Great Green Wall now provides ample shade to refugee families in Minawao, allowing them to grow crops and support themselves with a sustainable food supply.

Education and Execution

The Great Green Wall project began with educating the refugees in Minawao on how to plant seedlings using “cocoon technology,” which Land Life Company developed to protect seedlings against harsh environments. Cocoon technology functions by burying water tanks made of recycled cartons in donut shapes around plants’ roots. As a result, the plants have steady access to water, which the plants receive through a string that connects to the water tank. Knowledge of how to plant and sustain seedlings allowed the refugees in Minawao to plant trees in the area without relying too heavily on outside coordinators for help. With the assistance of LWF and the United Nations, the Cameroonian refugees were able to plant a thriving forest to support crops and life in an area that was once bare and dry.

The Wall’s Impact

More than 70,000 refugees have fled to Minawao since 2014 to escape violence from the militant group, Boko Haram, in Nigeria. When the large groups of refugees first arrived in Minawao, the area’s desertification worsened, largely because refugees cut down the few remaining trees in order to survive. The Great Green Wall project committed to addressing deforestation, desertification and land degradation in the area by planting more than 100 hectares, the equivalent of 250 football fields, of trees. Trees from the Great Green Wall project now provide shade, improve soil quality and attract water, all of which improve the quality of life for the refugees living in Minawao.

Development and Sustainability

The next step in the Great Green Wall project is to expand upon its growth and sustainability. The U.N. and LWF are working together to address challenges that arise, in part through reforestation and raising awareness about how the project and planting processes work. LWF has also created a strategy to promote more sustainable energy sources, including eco-friendly briquettes. Briquettes are energy-efficient and pollution-reducing alternatives to firewood. Many women have found new sources of income because of the eco-friendly charcoal, which they sell to refugees and surrounding communities.

The Great Green Wall project is still in progress, but so far, it has provided better living conditions to thousands of refugees in Minawao, Cameroon. Other countries may look to the project as an example of the benefits that arise from addressing desertification in refugee camps. Sustainable reforestation does not only benefit the environment — it can transform communities, offer economic opportunities and improve quality of life.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Antiviral Pill
The developing world is fighting for greater access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. If regulatory bodies approve it, a new COVID-19 antiviral pill called molnupiravir could bring relief in the next year because it would be affordable, easy to distribute and easy to administer. Approval is all but guaranteed, however, several NGOs and manufacturers are jumping into high gear to help ensure equitable access to the drug throughout the world.

The Current Situation

No nation, no matter how wealthy, is exempt from the heartache and struggle that COVID-19 brought. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 has led to the deaths of more than five million people worldwide. In addition to the many lives lost, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has also left many survivors with long-lasting negative health effects. Then, there is the economic toll — experts consider the global economic contraction that the pandemic caused to be the most severe since the aftermath of World War II.

Now, nearly a year after the arrival to the market of the first COVID-19 vaccines, the developed world is wondering if the end is near — if the world can get back to a pre-pandemic sense of normal. However, in the developing world, the end does not appear to be near because many developing countries have yet to gain adequate access to vaccines. For instance, in September 2021, WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that “more than 5.7 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally, but only 2% of them in Africa.” Africa, however, makes up nearly 16% of the global population, making it clear that the push for vaccine equity must continue.

However, the developing world is now finding some hope in a COVID-19 antiviral pill that a partnership between Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics brought to market. Researchers invented the drug, called molnupiravir, at Emory University with research funding from the U.S. government. In the Phase 3 clinical study, the pill proved efficient in reducing risks of hospitalization and death by 50% in at-risk individuals when administered before symptoms increase in severity. Following these promising outcomes, Merck has applied for Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so that it can bring this promising COVID-19 antiviral pill to the market as soon as possible.

3 Advantages of Molnupiravir for the Developing World

  1. Affordability. Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have agreed to license the production of their COVID-19 antiviral pill to several generic drug manufacturers in India. In addition, they have signed a royalty-free licensing agreement with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP). The agreement remains valid so long as WHO classifies COVID-19 as a global public health emergency. MPP will sublicense production of the molnupiravir to qualifying generic drug manufacturers in the developing world. In turn, those manufacturers will be free to market the drug to a collection of 105 low- to middle-income countries for around $20 per five-day course of treatment. For reference, in its initial purchase agreement for the drug, the U.S. government agreed to pay about 35 times as much per treatment.
  2. Ease of Distribution. Depending on the brand, COVID-19 vaccines require either freezing or refrigeration up until the time of administration. The Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine even requires sub-zero freezing at -80℃ to -60℃, thus requiring specialized sub-zero freezers. These cold storage requirements for vaccines, while not insurmountable, do provide logistics challenges for the delivery of vaccines in rural areas of low-to-middle-income countries (LMICs). On the other hand, molnupiravir is shelf-stable, meaning its attributes allow for safe storage at room temperature. This element will make distribution much easier in LMICs with limited cold storage facilities.
  3. Ease of Administration. Even in high-income countries, there are many accounts of hospitals stretching themselves dangerously thin on resources because of aggressive surges in infections. The limited clinical capacity of LMICs means that the ideal COVID-19 therapeutic would allow for home-based patient administration instead of clinical administration. Because molnupiravir is an oral medication that is shelf-stable, it would meet this need.

Improving Production Capacity

There is some concern that ongoing COVID-19-induced supply chain disruptions could interfere with the mass global production capacity of molnupiravir should the disruptions result in inadequate supplies of the base ingredients needed for manufacture. For its part, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $120 million to help ensure equitable distribution of molnupiravir. Part of the initiative is to fund research to look into the most efficient and streamlined manufacturing methods to maximize the production capacity of the drug. These efforts bring hope that production capacity goals will meet their mark. Only time will tell, but for many in the developing world, molnupiravir may bring COVID-19 relief before vaccines do.

– Jeramiah Jordan
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Energy Security in Armenia
Energy security in Armenia is a serious problem; the country experienced harshly cold and dark years in the early 1990s. It was a time when the newly independent Republic of Armenia experienced an incredibly severe energy shortage. The population only had access to electricity two hours a day, and even hospitals went without heat. The lack of internal energy sources, regional conflict in the Caucuses and the collapse of the Soviet Union contributed to the crisis. Though the country recovered, it has never forgotten the importance of energy security in Armenia.

Post-Energy Crisis Armenia

Today, Armenia depends on the external energy sources it imports from other nations. Having no known internal oil or natural gas sources of its own, these imports satisfy 75% of the country’s energy demand. In 2019, Armenia had a total natural gas energy supply of 89,423 terajoules, a nuclear energy supply of 26,967 TJ and a hydroelectric supply of 8,535 TJ.

Armenia sources its oil from Iran, Georgia, Europe and Russia. The natural gas largely comes from Russia via Georgia. The company Gazprom Armenia holds a monopoly on the imports and distribution of natural gas in Armenia. Gazprom Armenia is a subsidiary of the state-owned Russian gas giant Gazprom, the largest natural gas company in the world.

Because of its heavy dependence on imports and Gazprom Armenia’s monopoly, Armenia experiences price shocks that drive up the cost of energy for its population of nearly 3 million people. This dependence also puts Armenia in a weak position during price negotiations with Gazprom. When the government and the company cannot come to an agreement, it is the people who go without heat and power. The government-owned Metsamor nuclear power plant generates electricity within Armenia. However, Russia is also the country’s main supplier of nuclear fuel, so Armenia is still dependent on Russia.

Lighting the Way to Energy Security

Armenia is focusing on building and improving renewable energy infrastructure to achieve greater energy efficiency and energy security in Armenia. In January 2021, the government implemented the 20-year Energy Sector Development Program intended to boost energy efficiency and diversify the fossil-fuel-dominated power grid.

Additionally, in 2022, the government plans to implement amendments associated with the 2017 Law on Energy. This should liberalize the energy market, which in turn will increase competition between electrical suppliers. Ideally, it will break the monopoly held by Electric Networks of Armenia. The company currently has full control over the nation’s electrical distribution driving up prices for consumers.

With a solar energy flow of 1,720 kilowatt-hours per square meter, Armenia has a higher solar energy potential than most countries. To optimize this, the Armenian government wants to focus on the construction of new solar plants. By 2030, the goal is for solar power generation to have a minimum 15% share of the country’s capacity, at 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours. To achieve its desired level of energy security in Armenia, however, the government also recognizes the need to improve its use of geothermal energy. The country has a 150-megawatt potential regarding geothermal energy, only a fraction of which it is tapping into.

Other Players

The government is not the only one taking action to strengthen energy security in Armenia. In 2017, Shen NGO and the Geghamasar cooperative constructed a greenhouse and a biogas facility. These have been producing food and heat respectively for the community of Geghamasar during each winter since. They manufacture the biogas from manure, and when they are not heating the greenhouse, the biogas facility generates electricity. Both it and the greenhouse created jobs in Geghamasar in addition to inspiring other communities to build similar installations.

Power to the People

As of 2019, 12.3% of Armenians lived on less than $5.50 a day. Many cannot afford the current cost of energy, much less the rises in prices imposed by monopolies. Those who cannot pay go without heat and power because there is no alternative source of energy they can rely on. Energy security in Armenia is a necessity to consistently meet the needs of the people. However, thankfully, the country is working on becoming less dependent on external energy resources and diversifying its energy grid.

– Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr

End Time Worldwide Missions
For the past 10 years, Nigeria-native and missionary Abraham Sunday has used his empathy and deep understanding of poverty to help reduce poverty in Nigeria. He has since extended his work to helping people around the continent. Four years ago, he founded End Time Worldwide Missions to spread Christianity. However, he realized the urgency of first meeting basic needs. “You cannot preach to a hungry person,” Sunday said in an interview with The Borgen Project. As a result, he and his team focus on providing things like food, water and shelter for the people they serve. “I know what it means to be poor. I know what it means to be hungry. I know what it means to be homeless,” he said.

How it Started

Growing up in Nigeria, which is a country with a lot of poverty, Sunday had to drop out of secondary school. The way he grew up allows him to understand precisely what it means to live with nothing. He recalled a time when he turned to his mother and asked, “Why is there no one we can go to for help?” Then, she told him that he needed to be that help for other people.

Coupled with the profound poverty around him, the wisdom and encouragement from his mother are largely why he does what he does. Now, he offers the kind of help he desperately needed when he was younger.

Where End Time Worldwide Missions Works

End Time Worldwide Missions began its services in Nigeria. Within the immediate poverty around him, Sunday found an opportunity to do good and help reduce poverty in Nigeria. All of it began with small acts of kindness. For instance, when women came to his door hungry, he fed them. He recalls some widows in his community having nothing. After he gave them what was equivalent to $5, they fell to the ground and wept.

What might seem “small” in the United States is profound in a place like Nigeria, where 40% of the population lives on less than $381.75 each year. While $5 might not seem like much to a U.S. citizen, it can be everything to an impoverished person in Nigeria, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter.

Sunday bought books and taught himself mathematics and science. For years, he has taught at a local school despite not having a degree. When he goes on missions, he spreads knowledge to the children and adults he serves. Now that his organization has grown to about 30 individuals worldwide, Sunday is expanding his horizons. Because of the lack of access to health care in Africa, he wants to study medicine at a U.S. or Canadian university to reduce this issue. This way, he can additionally provide health care to the people in his own community and on missions.

The Organization’s Most Impactful Mission

Nigeria’s neighbor to the left, Benin, is a constitutional presidential republic with a population of 11.8 million people. It relies heavily on trade with Nigeria, which makes up 20% of its GDP. When borders temporarily closed in 2019, Benin’s economy suffered a major blow, likely reversing previous economic success. Poverty remains widespread, with a life expectancy of around 61.2 years old.

In February 2020, End Time Worldwide Missions went into Benin and completed what Sunday feels is its most impactful mission to date. When it got to the destination village, it realized that most of the children did not wear clothes and went around barefoot. Thanks to a U.S. partner that sent used clothes, the Mission distributed more than 1,000 pieces of clothing there. It was also able to provide people with food. Sunday and his organization works to uplift other Africans from poverty and spread the gospel.

Nigerian Poverty and COVID-19

A major factor in Nigeria’s poverty is the nation’s reliance on oil, which accounts for 80% of its exports and half of all government revenue. Consequently, when oil prices dropped during COVID-19, the country experienced the deepest recession it’s seen in decades.

Sunday describes the awful experience of living in Nigeria during the worst of COVID-19. The government enforced a lockdown, but many people staying home did not have food. During this time, Sunday did all he could to help neighbors and community members find a way to cope. Though he planned to go on a mission to Ghana, lockdown prevented that from happening. Still, he did what he could in Nigeria, helping his community in a continued effort to uplift other Africans from poverty.

An Inspiring Example

Sunday and his organization seek to help others, even if they have little to give. His profound empathy after having lived in poverty as a child mobilized him to help those suffering.

Abraham Sunday’s work is bringing the world a little bit closer to equity and prosperity. World powers like the United States also have this power vested in them, at a larger but equally significant scale. All acts of goodness are equally significant. If nothing else, Sunday emphasizes that “I want people to see the good in people. You have to learn to see the good.”

– Cameryn Cass
Photo: Flickr

Burundian Refugees
Burundi is a country in East Africa comprising three ethnic groups of the same cultural background, history and language. The Hutu and Tutsi groups are responsible for years of war that plagued the Burundi communities. After 12 years of war, a ceasefire went into effect in 2005, ending the Burundian Civil War. However, Burundian refugees are just now returning to their homes after initially fleeing their violent living conditions.

The Civil War left approximately 200,000 people dead, and many displaced. To prevent attacks, civilians had to enter camps, which resulted in malnutrition, disease and death. The war resulted in a 19% increase in poverty between 1994 and 2006. According to the World Food Program (WFP), Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries, with more than 50% of the population living in poverty.

The Fleeing of Burundian People

Many Burundians fled to surrounding countries due to the war, political inconsistency and human rights violations. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled Burundi since 2015. Many refused to return until it was safe.

The majority of Burundian refugees, more than 200,000, resided in Tanzania. Rwanda hosted more than 80,000 in the Mahama camp, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) held 45,000.

Underfunding became an increasing problem with many of the refugees living in camps. People had limited access to resources such as food and classrooms, and shelters began to deteriorate. Experts determined that approximately 2 million people in Burundi were food insecure during October 2017.

The Efforts to Make Refugees’ House a Home Once More

Although the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and partners have not encouraged refugees to return, they are working with relevant governments to assist those who do return to Burundi. In 2018, UNHCR and its partners launched a Burundi Regional Refugee Response Plan for that very reason of support. More funding is necessary to sustain a large amount of returning refugees.

Included in the refugee return package are household items, three months rations, cash and non-food items. The cash grant increased in 2020 from $75 to $150 an adult and $35 to $75 a child. The increase is to ensure sustainability for three months.

Making a Safe Return Home

President Ndayishimiye’s call for refugees to return home finally occurred in June 2020. Since then, convoys of around 1,500 refugees are arriving in Burundi every week. Now that the political tension has subsided, refugees have the opportunity to return safely.

A 2021 Burundi Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan that UNHCR created is also in place. The 2021 Burundi Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan goals are to implement livelihood projects, increase the value of companies, strengthen programs to access and improve health services, water and sanitation, education, social protection and human rights.

Additionally, the community developed a joint response plan along with Burundian authorities to ensure a stress-free return, a safe environment and access to food, shelter, water and sanitation, education, health and job opportunities.

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR and partners are working to ensure a safe transition from camps to Burundi. COVID-19 symptom checks, rapid tests and social isolation are all mandated.

Overall, the success of this plan is dependent solely upon funding. Burundian refugees could potentially build their lives and create stability with support from the community itself, UNHCR and partners and the Government of Burundi.

– Destiny Jackson
Photo: Flickr

USAID's Foreign Assistance
On November 3, 2021, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrated its 60th year of existence. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 made the formation of USAID possible. USAID’s creation stems from President John F. Kennedy’s aim to consolidate the foreign assistance work of several organizations into one main agency. Today, USAID operates in more than 100 nations across the world, fully or partially manages $24.8 billion in accounts and employs roughly 3,450 U.S. citizens to help fulfill USAID’s foreign assistance mission.

Official Mission Statement of USAID

As an agency representing the foreign assistance interests of U.S. citizens, USAID aims to “promote and demonstrate democratic values abroad and advance a free, peaceful and prosperous world.” Ultimately, USAID plays an instrumental role in making a reality the foreign policy values of the U.S. As such, “through partnerships and investments” USAID aims to “save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance.”

The Birth of USAID

Coming out of World War II, the U.S. stood as the world’s preeminent superpower. However, not long after, in 1947, the Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union began. Looking to prevent the spread of communism, the U.S. realized its endeavors would require more than just military might — the U.S. would also need to win the hearts and minds of developing countries before the Soviet Union did.

Through diplomacy and goodwill, the U.S. hoped to spread democratic and free-market principles to as many countries as possible, and in return, not only stop the spread of communism but also open up new global markets for trade and shared prosperity. With this goal in mind, President Kennedy felt the U.S. needed a more strategic approach to foreign assistance. Therefore, he pushed Congress to pass the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which empowered him to then create USAID via executive order.

USAID Over the Years

USAID’s approach to international development has evolved over the years. In the 1960s, the focus was on large-scale capital and technical assistance projects in select countries committed to economic reforms. Gears shifted in the 1970s when the agency pivoted toward a more humanitarian approach that focused on widespread delivery of food, education and health services to the most impoverished populations. The 1980s brought about the increasing use of U.S. NGOs and for-profit contractors to fulfill USAID’s mission. In the post-9/11 world, development assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq would consume a large share of the USAID budget as the U.S. sought to rebuild these war-torn nations.

The Legacy

In the early years of USAID’s foreign assistance, the U.S. stood as the undisputed leader in international development aid. Through its innovative development and humanitarian efforts over the decades, it is clear that USAID has helped shape a better world with much less hunger, disease, illiteracy, child and infant mortality and all-around suffering than would otherwise be the case. Other advanced nations have since developed similar programs, with several countries now spending significantly more on official developmental assistance than the United States, proportional to their respective gross national incomes (GNI). However, the U.S. still leads in absolute spending, with $47 billion in foreign assistance obligations worldwide in 2019, of which, USAID obligations made up 45%.

In a November 3, 2021, tweet to mark the 60th birthday of USAID, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Now more than ever, as we face historic challenges in global health, climate and other critical issues, it’s vital that our diplomacy and development go hand in hand. That’s why I’m so grateful to the outstanding public servants at USAID…” Ultimately, USAID’s foreign assistance transforms nations, improving the lives of millions of people while contributing to the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reducing global poverty.

– Jeramiah Jordan
Photo: Flickr