Poverty and Terrorism in Africa

On March 22, the Trump administration repeated its assertion that ISIS had been defeated in Syria. For the past two decades, Americans have focused exclusively on the Middle East when it comes to strategic counter-terrorism efforts. Since September 11, the U.S. military has involved itself in the affairs of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries in order to stamp out terrorism. However, poverty and terrorism in Africa are going unchecked.

These military campaigns and several other military operations took place during the contentious “War on Terror.” Now, nearly eighteen years after the attacks, the American public is ready to lessen its intervention in the Middle East. By announcing ISIS’ defeat and pulling the military out, the President is suggesting that the U.S.’s role in the Middle East is nearing its end.

Violent Extremists Organizations

Though leaders of terror groups, like Osama Bin Laden, can be stopped, ideologies on terrorism still hold critical importance. Professor Paul Holman of the University of Maine has been an expert and educator on terrorism and politics for nearly four decades. He did not agree that ISIS had been “defeated” in Syria. This comes down to the root of what terrorism actually is.

In correspondence with the Borgen Project, Professor Holman defines terrorism as “violence against innocent civilians for political reasons.” He notes that both governments and violent extremist organizations (VEOs), like ISIS, use terrorism to further their ideals. Though Syria is no longer under its control, ISIS is more than a national movement.

ISIS is not simply trying to seize and hold territory in Syria and Iraq. Instead, Holman notes, ISIS is a transnational movement based upon extreme religious views, which exist in many other countries. Now that the United States military has weakened many VEOs in the Middle East, where do these organizations go next? Poverty and terrorism in Africa reveal the influence of these VEOs.

The Democratic Republic of Congo

In April, Congolese President Tshisekedi discussed the future of terrorist violence in Africa: “It is easy to see how the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq could lead to a situation where these groups are now going to come into Africa and take advantage of the pervasive poverty and also the situation of chaos that we have, for example, in Beni and Butembo, to set up their caliphate.” Beni and Butembo are northeastern cities in the DRC that have faced a substantial amount of violence.

No doubt, ISIS and other VEOs are capitalizing on the extreme poverty and the chaos of certain regions in Africa. In fact, on April 16, ISIS claimed its first attack on the DRC, killing eight soldiers. A statement made by Islamic State propagandists, to take responsibility for the attack, described Congo as the “Central Africa Province of the Caliphate.” Though these attacks by extremist groups in Africa are not new, American’s realization of their strengths seems to be.

Extemists Groups Gaining Power

As poverty and instability lead to upticks in violence by VEOs, regions in Africa are becoming more susceptible to extremist attacks. For the past ten years, Islamist militant groups have been gaining ground in Africa. In 2015, in the poverty-stricken region of northern Nigeria (the largest nation within Africa), Boko Haram became “the world’s deadliest terror group” while at the same time pledging allegiance to ISIS. Though several African militaries, with aid from France and other Western countries, decimated the land control of Boko Haram, the group still maintains a strong influence within Northern Africa.

With African militaries and other nations are fighting against its influence, Boko Haram focused on the Lake Chad region that borders Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Lake Chad is not only one of the poorest regions in the world but a region that remained largely ungoverned. In 2016, Boko Haram split into two, the new group being the Islamic State of West Africa. The Islamic State of West Africa is offering protection to locals from Boko Haram in exchange for economic reimbursement.

Other extremist groups are adopting the strategy of exploiting extreme poverty as well as profiting off of regional and tribal conflicts while diseases spread. According to the Global Hunger Index, some of the hungriest places on Earth are in Africa as are also some of the least peaceful countries. Northern and Central Africa have similar scores in hunger and peace rankings to those of Syria and Iraq where extremist groups have thrived in the past.

VEOs in Nigeria and Sudan

Professor Holman identified a few African nations that are of higher risk of violent attacks by extremist groups, such as Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria. “The country [Nigeria] is polarized between extreme wealth and extreme poverty, suffering from endemic corruption as well as ethnic rivalries and religious differences.” Libya has been in a civil war since the Ghadaffi regime was overthrown. Sudan has had political turmoil both before and after Bashir’s regime was ousted, and Somalia has a weak government.

It is clear that these terrorist groups thrive in poverty-stricken countries fraught with political strife. Therefore, it is essential that poverty and terrorism in Africa be combatted. Governments and organizations must ensure that the innocent civilians have the education, food, water and financial stability needed to secure themselves from violent extremist groups that prey on the poor and the weak. Foreign aid along with maintaining diplomatic relationships with governments from African nations will be a huge part of that. This fosters strong governments that are able to coordinate a defense from extremist groups.

– Kurt Thiele
Photo: Flickr

Conflict in Nigeria
Modern Nigeria arose in 1914  from two British Colonies, one predominantly Muslim and the other predominantly Christian. The difference in religion translated to different political beliefs, causing tension between the two populations. The resulting violence and constant tensions between different ethnic groups have caused disunity in Nigeria, making it vulnerable to the threat of different extremist groups, most infamous being Boko Haram.

Boko Haram Role in Conflict in Nigeria

Boko Haram, a major source of conflict in Nigeria, was first created in 2002, driven by existing beliefs that Islamic, Sharia law should be enforced. The group has used various tactics including suicide bombing, terrorizing public places, and kidnapping to push for their goal. The violence and fear they have spread have intensified the existing 53.5 percent poverty rate in Nigeria.

The crisis has displaced more than 2 million Nigerians and has left 228,000 refugees without a home. Nigerians facing conflict and displacement consequently have restricted access to food as there are 4.5 million people that are food insecure. Although the effects of conflict in Nigeria do depend on the area, with the North region of the country having generally more dramatic effects because of the presence of Boko Haram, the problems are present in the whole country. Blocked access to health care affects up to 11 percent of the population while restricted education affects up to 26 percent.

Health and Education Issues

As of 2017, Boko Haram destroyed 788 health facilities in Northeast Nigeria, leaving Borno state with 40 percent of its facilities lost. To make matters worse, 30 percent of Borno’s doctors have left the state in fear of the violence. Displacement brings health care concerns as well, with crowding increasing the risks of diseases in a country with a history of polio. The lack of health care facilities means that in the case of a disease outbreak, vaccines may not be fully distributed.

A similar situation exists for schools, with 57 percent in Borno not being in a condition to reopen, and 1,400 schools destroyed in this region. Children are also vulnerable to being used as suicide bombers, especially girls. The constant threat of violence, hunger and poverty prevents children from progressing and becoming educated, posing dangerous long-term effects for current and next generations.

Effects on Agriculture

The disunity and conflict spill over to the agricultural sector, sector that employs 70 percent of the total labor force. Pastoral farmers are moving south because of the threat of Boko Haram in the north, along with pressures of drought and limited space, create tension with existing sedentary farmers in the south. These often violent conflicts have killed 2,500 people in 2016 alone and have led to an annual loss of around $13.7 billion to the country.

It also forced the displacement of 62,000 people between 2015 and 2017, leaving them with restricted access to food and shelter and amplifying existing poverty in Nigeria. An end to these conflicts could potentially increase family income in the country up to almost 210 percent. With the majority of Nigerians depending on farming for their livelihood, it is evident that conflict Nigeria is worsening poverty.

The UNHCR in partnership with 70 organizations is working towards alleviating the effects of the conflict in Nigeria. They have offered child violence protection, gender-based violence protection, economic support and other services to around 180,000 people. With a focus on displaced people, the UNHCR has increased protection in displacement camps, making a safe place for those affected by the conflict.

Evidently, these conflicts are damaging the lives already impoverished people in the country, restricting their already limited access to food, education and health care services. Various organizations are fighting against these effects in order to hopefully improve the conditions of people affected by the conflict in Nigeria.

Massarath Fatima
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about the Ukraine-Russia Conflict
2017 brought significant changes to Ukraine as 6.4 million Ukrainians rose above the country’s poverty line thanks to increases in minimum wage and a boost in social welfare programs. However, after five years of conflict with Russia and 39 percent of the country still living below the poverty line, the future of Ukraine’s poor remains uncertain. As the Ukraine-Russia conflict continues, aid from the U.S. and other countries is the only sure-fire way for those in Ukraine to find relief from the violence at hand.
Here are 10 facts about the conflict in Ukraine and its effect on this eastern European nation.  

Top 10 Facts about the Ukraine-Russia Conflict

  1. The Ukraine-Russia conflict began in 2013 when the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych declined a resolution that would allow for Ukraine to engage in more economic activity with the European Union. After Yanukovych declined the deal, protests began in the capital city, Kiev. When police intervened, the number of protesters increased to contest the brutal treatment from the officers. Yanukovych fled the country in 2014 amid the turmoil, leaving Russia to occupy Ukraine soon after.
  2. Currently, the Ukrainian military is fighting rebels in eastern Ukraine who are being supported by Russia and who wish to annex and become part of Russia.
  3. The Ukraine-Russia conflict has killed more than 10,000 and wounded at least 23,000.
  4. Since 2014, fighting between the two countries has damaged more than 700 schools as well as 130 medical centers. Breaches in ceasefires have endangered more than 200,000 children who are often put in harm’s way and lack access to safe learning spaces.
  5. The front line of the war stretches 280 miles across Ukraine, blocking much of the country’s access to trade and supplies from neighboring countries and the U.N.
  6. In 2017, UNICEF, along with nongovernmental organizations and utility companies, worked to provide more than 962,000 people clean drinking water in both government-controlled and non-government-controlled areas. They also provided vouchers for cash and hygiene education to 160,000 people living closest to the front lines, 30,000 of them children.
  7. UNICEF offered psychosocial support to 82,000 children and caregivers within 15 km of the front line through community support centers. The organization also provided 700,000 children and their families with mine-risk education. Futhermore, the rehabilitation of 87 schools and kindergartens within 5 km of the front lines, provided by UNICEF aid, allowed 138,000 children to return to school, with teachers and aides receiving emergency training.
  8. In order to provide proper healthcare, education and shelter for its citizens, Ukraine requires consistent aid from the United States. Americans can alleviate the effects of the violence in Ukraine by contacting their congresspeople and representatives and asking that they support the International Affairs Budget. Ongoing support from the U.S. will help to improve the conditions of those in the middle of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
  9. USAID supported elections in 600 communities throughout Ukraine, with many of these townships experiencing their first true election process.
  10. For 2018, Ukraine requires $23.6 million in aid in order to properly improve the country’s predicament. The top three main areas of need are:
    • Access to clean water, sanitation services and hygiene products ($13,619,000)
    • Child protection from violence ($3,200,000)
    • Education ($3,050,000)

Although there is still a long way to go in ending the Ukraine-Russia conflict some important steps have been made. The Ukraine government passed a healthcare reform law in October, which was signed by President Poroshenko, to improve the quality of care provided to its citizens and reduce corruption in the system. The work being done by UNICEF and USAID in Ukraine is helping to alleviate the damaging impact of the conflict. The next step will be working to end the Ukraine-Russia conflict once and for all.

– Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr

Top Five Nonprofits Combatting Human Trafficking
War Child, a nonprofit organization that supports and educate the children affected by wars, in association with British newspapers,
Evening Standard and Independent, launched the Learn to Live Campaign.

As a part of this campaign, students in the United Kingdom have connected with students in conflict areas around the world. By pairing U.K. classrooms with other classrooms worldwide, the campaign hopes to encourage empathy, understanding and support across borders. With this new understanding, students in the U.K. can learn about students around the world and become their advocates.

Education of Young People in Conflict Areas

According to the Global Partnership for Education, 21.5 million children, 15 million adolescents, and 26 million youth that are out-of-school worldwide live in 32 countries affected by conflict. Needless to say, these young people need educational support. Recently, humanitarian efforts have focused more on this need and over the past five years, requests for education funding in emergencies have risen by 21 percent.

Despite the desperate need for improvement of this situation, only 2.7 percent of humanitarian aid went towards education efforts in 2016. Education should be a focus for humanitarian efforts since access to education directly affects young people’s lives and their future.

Providing young people with quality education and support does only help them overcome the circumstances of war, but also lowers the risk of conflict. In fact, education helps make conflict less prevalent and reduces the risk of conflict by approximately 20 percent. Therefore, educating young people in conflict areas is an important investment not only to individual students but also to the future of conflict-stricken parts of the world.

The Work of Learn to Live Campaign

The Learn to Live Campaign aims to broaden understanding and compassion and it centers around facilitating communication between British students and students in conflict areas. Students send video messages and letters back and forth, detailing their personal lives and challenges.

This exchange of information enables students in U.K. to learn about the reality of students in other parts of the world. In conflict areas, these relationships can give students psychosocial support by making them feel heard and understood by their peers. As the campaign teaches U.K. students about other parts of the world, it also draws attention to the needs of students in conflict areas.

The Art Project

Recently, Andria Zafirakou, an art teacher who was named world’s best teacher in 2018, started an art project, incorporated in Learn to Live campaign, for students from all of the participating U.K. schools. Currently, four U.K. schools have paired with students affected by conflict in Jordan, Iraq and the Central African Republic. 

The art project challenges students to spell “Learn to Live” with materials found in their environments. Several schools are working on the art project, and their works will eventually be combined into one piece. As one of the participating students, Harriet Webster, commented, the art project “is something people will understand, as they will have seen something similar in newspapers or online all over the world.”

Zafirakou also notes the importance of the campaign in expanding British advocacy for global issues. In Zafirakou’s view, The Learn to Live Campaign will educate and empower British children, then those children will go on to raise awareness in their own school and communities, and become a really powerful force. Thus, the campaign’s effects have the potential to spread far beyond the classrooms and the students themselves.

Support for the Campaign

The Learn to Live Campaign has gained wide support in the U.K., from London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, to celebrities, such as Sam Smith and Richard Curtis. In addition to backing up the project, Khan has encouraged Londoners to get involved. In his words, “children living in areas of conflict deserve our unconditional compassion, as well as our solidarity and support.”

The growing visibility and reach of The Learn to Live Campaign will continue to foster empathy and support for students in conflict areas. Luckily, other students will follow the example and get in touch with their underprivileged peers.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Yemen Child Soldiers
Yemen, a relatively small country located south of Saudi Arabia and east of the Red Sea, currently has one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet. Similar to situations is most conflicts, Yemeni children have suffered immensely since the war began in 2014. In particular, Yemen has seen the recruitment of child soldiers as a common practice. Since this is a very serious issue, in the text below top 10 facts about Yemen child soldiers are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Yemen Child Soldiers

  1. The year 2014 witnessed the beginning of the crisis in Yemen when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took over most of the country’s cities, including the capital Sanaa. In response, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition in support of the government that was led by Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.
  2. Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have mainly waged a campaign of air strikes and an ongoing land, air and sea blockade. According to the World Health Organisation, as of early 2018, over 8,600 people have died and around 50,000 have been injured. In addition to this fact, Yemen is experiencing one of the worst modern world’s cholera outbreak.
  3. Although both Houthi forces and pro-government forces claim child soldiers are frowned upon on, the number of child soldiers has increased in Yemen over the years. The U.N. reports that an estimated 517 children were recruited in Yemen during 2016. In 2017, however, this number expanded to 842. This includes children as young as 11 years old. In total, an official tally approximates that around 2,369 children have been used in combat since 2015.
  4. Of these confirmed cases, Houthi rebels share the most responsibility for the recruitment of Yemeni children. Out of the 842 recruited child soldiers in 2017, 534 fought under the Houthi rebels. Of course, Houthi rebels are not the only ones who participate in using child soldiers for their cause, since another, pro-government side, recruits child soldiers as well.
  5. Poverty has become a significant factor for child recruitment in Yemen. The USAID reports that 80 percent of Yemenis need humanitarian assistance. Consequently, the recruitment of children becomes an economic exchange. These young boys are voluntarily and involuntarily recruited for the purpose of bringing the money home. With families living in poverty and in war-torn areas, fighting for the rebels or pro-government forces becomes one of the few ways to make a living at such a young age. In fact, Amnesty International stated that Houthi forces would offer to pay $80 to $120 in monthly pensions to the family of a killed child soldier.
  6. The degradation of Yemen’s educational system has also resulted in a major recruitment boom for local forces. As of March 2018, the U.N. estimated that around 2 million school-aged children were out of school and 2,500 schools were left in rubbles. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has concluded that the risks or children recruitment for war purposes rapidly increase when there is no educational or social security net for them to grow up in. Armed groups are able to distort the perceptions of parents and children into thinking that recruitment is the only path left for the future, in order to gain cheap soldiers.
  7. While Yemen child soldiers are increasingly being recruited in the current crisis, international groups are using foreign aid to stop and eventually reverse this trend. For instance, UNICEF has recently launched a campaign that emphasizes education and advocacy. It is their plan to rebuild Yemen’s educational system and make sure that children at-risk always have schooling as the best option for their future. Moreover, the U.N. has called on all parties of the conflict to return these children to schools and better protect them and their futures.
  8. The U.S. Agency for International Development has initiated numerous projects for keeping children educated and protected. As of 2017, USAID has funded the day-to-day expenses and repairs for over 200 schools, resulting in 70,000 children staying in school and receiving a basic education. Working alongside the Yemen Ministry of Education, 15,000 high-risk children were able to continue their education at home when the security environment proved too dangerous for schools. S.A.I.D. and local governments are continuously developing security and emergency plans for over 100 schools in order to better protect school children across the country.
  9. The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) was launched in Yemen’s Marib province with the hope of helping former child soldiers recover from the emotional and phycological scars of combat. As of 2017, 215 children were rehabilitated in addition to 2,000 that are currently undergoing treatment.
  10. The U.N.’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen stated he was “deeply disturbed” by the conflict and the “complete disregard for human life that all parties, including the Saudi-led coalition, continue to show in this absurd war.”

With the deadly conflict still raging in Yemen with no end in sight, it may be easy to lose hope. However, humanitarians at home and abroad are continuing to fight, especially for the children that are being manipulated into seeing their future as soldiers as the only way out. The hope is still alive that the joint effort of local authorities and international organizations will secure that these children go to school, not armories.

– Tanner Helem
Photo: Flickr

mustard gas
Dichlorodiethylsulfide, for which the chemical formula is C4H8Cl2S, is a chemical warfare agent known commonly as sulfur mustard or mustard gas. The first notes on its toxic properties occurred in the late 1880s by dye chemists. Its first use as an agent of chemical war was during World War I where exposed troops described its odor as a stench like mustard or garlic, leading to its common name.

What Does Mustard Gas Do?

Dubbed the “King of the Battle Gases,” the effects of mustard gas are not immediate, even though it is a potent blistering agent. Hours after exposure to the chemical, a victim’s eyes become bloodshot and begin to water. As the pain increases, some will suffer temporary blindness. A young Adolf Hilter, an enlisted messenger during World War I, was temporarily blinded by mustard gas during a gas attack and spent the rest of the war in a military hospital recuperating.

Along with the damage to a victim’s vision, the effects of mustard gas include blistering to the skin, particularly in moist areas such as the underarms and genitals. These blisters eventually begin to burst and often become infected.

When Was Mustard Gas Used?

Though first used during World War I, mustard gas was used throughout World War II as well. The development of chemical weapons has been an imperative for all military-obsessed governments ever since.

During the 1980s throughout the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq used chemical weapons, including mustard gas, against Iran as well as their own Kurdish minority. In fact, about 5,000 Iranian soldiers were killed, 10-20 percent by mustard agent. There were an additional 40,000-50,000 injured in a medical system overloaded by numerous victims in need of long and demanding care.

Mustard Gas’ Widespread Fog

In 2012, an official from the United States State Department confirmed that Syria had a stockpile of chemical weapons that included mustard gas. In 2013, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s government relinquished its arsenal of chemical weapons after threats of United States airstrikes; nonetheless, as recently as April of 2018 the OPCW Fact-Finding missions have reported “the very likely use” of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against its own civilians.

Over the last twenty years, more than 60 percent of the world’s declared chemical weapon stockpiles were successfully eliminated in five of the seven declared chemical-weapons-possessing states. Despite these admirable efforts, almost 30,000 metric tons of chemical weapons still await destruction.

Stockpiles of Chemical Horror

In many conversations, nuclear and biological weapons overshadow the concern of chemical weapons; however, chemical weapons remain the most numerous, with some five million munitions awaiting destruction and two to four million additional suspected stockpiles undeclared by OPCW undeclared states.

Chemical weapons pose great risks to all people, especially those living in conflict-torn and terrorist heavy regions.

The Quest for Global Disarmament

Al Qaeda, Iraqi and Afghan insurgents continue efforts to steal or produce deadly chemical agents for indiscriminate terrorist attacks. It is everyone’s responsibility to work to destroy the world’s remaining chemical weapon stockpiles by supporting representatives who make the global disarmament of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons a priority.

A world free of all weapons of mass destruction will be a world safer and more secure for all who inhabit Earth.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Biggest Issues in the World
The world has several issues, but luckily it also has organizations and individuals ready to combat them every step of the way. The following are a list of the 10 biggest issues in the world we face today.

The 10 Biggest Issues in the World

  1. Poverty. More than 70 percent of the people in the world own less than $10,000 — or roughly 3 percent of total wealth in the world. Geographically, the story is similar. A lack of global emphasis on foreign aid, conflict and political factors have kept poverty as a driving factor. In the last two decades, however, things have started to improve. The “middle class” has doubled in size from seven to thirteen percent.
  2. Religious Conflict & War. Political conflict has drastically increased over the years. Terrorism and the rise of religiously-motivated insurgent groups have forced the hand of several governments. As a result, defense spending around the world has risen steadily since 1995 to $1.7 trillion. While terrorism may be on the rise, the good news is that diplomacy and peace efforts have decreased the number of civil wars and intra-state conflicts around the world from 16 per 100,000 to about 1 per 100,000.
  3. Political Polarization. Political polarization has skyrocketed with the rise of social movements across the world. States have experienced internal strife from events such as BREXIT or the U.S. election of President Donald Trump. PEW claims that the U.S., specifically, has become more polarized than ever. Since 2004, the U.S. has reportedly seen a rise in political partisanship. Bi-partisan groups and organizations, such as the Bipartisan Policy Center, have been actively working to promote a more collaborative political arena.
  4. Government Accountability. Throughout the world, political scandals have led to a distrust of government. Specifically, in the U.S., reports say only a third of Americans trust the government to “do what is right.” Advancements in tech and China’s new surveillance policy do not help. Skepticism on such issues has led to a rise in social movements which have been key in influencing policy.
  5. Education. While education has significantly improved in the last century, there still remains a lot of work to be done. Inequality between genders in specific parts of the world has emerged as a large part of the question. The Malala Fund reports 130 million girls across the world lack proper access to schooling and actively addresses this issue through advocacy.
  6. Food and Water. Currently, 1 in 9 people lack access to clean water across the world and the same ratio are malnourished. The emergence of new technology in agriculture and increased awareness, however, has improved conditions. Several organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), are addressing the issue on the ground and through political influence.
  7. Health in Developing Nations. Statistics has widely shown that aside from malnourishment, access to clean and affordable living conditions has lagged in the developed world. Life expectancy in developing nations is on average 14 years behind developed nations’. Overall health, however, has increased over the years, thanks to organizations such as WHO.
  8. Credit Access. One of the driving factors in continued poverty is the lack of access to credit. Without stable financial services, it becomes difficult for developing nations to grow at a sustained rate economically. Studies show that access to credit can improve economic prospects.
  9. Discrimination. Discrimination covers a wide breadth of issues and takes several forms. Recently, in light of new social movements, it has garnered more attention. Wage gap issues, income inequality, education wage premiums and other problems have appeared at the forefront of social movements. These movements have shown promise for change – the #MeToo movement has brought several employers to justice.
  10. Physical fitness. Obesity has become a global issue. The lack of physical fitness programs and extra-curriculars have created significant issues that could affect future health. Recently, the number has exceeded 39 percent of individuals around the world being overweight and 13 percent being obese. Efforts by the government and even media have started to turn the tide. Professional organizations such as the NFL have implemented Play60 programs to emphasize nutrition and fitness from a young age.

Imminent Progress 

The biggest issues in the world are critical, but not insurmountable. Many have seen concrete progress over the past few decades, and all of them have the attention of different groups and organizations working to improve them.

Continued awareness and effort can ensure these issues have a smaller impact on the world in the future.

– Mrinal Singh
Photo: Flickr

 

Facts About Poverty in Chad
With an estimated 200 ethnic groups who speak about 100 languages living within its borders, the central African nation of Chad is one of the most diverse countries in the world. The nation is also one of the theorized places of origin of humankind, an idea substantiated by a ~7 million year old humanoid skull discovered within Chad’s borders.

Through its history, Chad has been a central part of some of Africa’s greatest empires, a French colony and an independent state marred by internal and external conflict. Chad is an incredibly complex nation with many factors that contribute to poverty and instability. Here are 10 of the major facts about poverty in Chad that will hopefully demonstrate how the country could benefit from foreign aid.

10 Key Facts About Poverty in Chad

  1. After gaining independence from France in 1960, Chad fought in a civil war for almost 24 years. France, Libya, the Arab leaning northern regions and the African-leaning southern regions of Chad were just a few of the major parties involved in this conflict.
  2. Continuous power struggles within the nation have led to the deaths of more than 51,000 people and the complete instability of an ever-changing government.
  3. Lake Chad is an expansive fresh-water source that provides for millions of people living in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. The lake is central to food and water supplies, land support and nutrient recycling, regulatory groundwater replenishment, carbon sequestration and air purification. Over the past 45 years, Lake Chad has lost 90 percent of its volume and surface area.
  4. Diminishing rainfall, water pollution due to increasing oil exploitation and commercial rice and cotton farming and the absence of government environmental regulatory programs all contribute factors to the destruction of the Lake Chad Basin. Agriculture, which employs nearly 83 percent of the working population in Chad, and the livestock sector, which provides direct or indirect income for 40 percent of the population, made up 23 percent of Chad’s GDP in 2015. Thus, the disappearance of the lake is a large factor in Chad’s poverty.
  5. Since 2015, Chadian forces have combatted the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram to restabilize the Lake Chad region. By the beginning of 2017, attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram displaced more than 100,000 people and created 7,000 refugees on Chadian soil.
  6. The presence of Boko Haram in Chad has periodically closed the border to Nigeria, a main outlet for trade, and slowed economic growth in the lake region. The instability created by Boko Haram’s terrorism further exacerbated long-standing tensions between ethnic communities and the civil conflict in Chad.
  7. Reports for 2017 illustrated that 28 percent of Chad’s population struggle with food insecurity. That is approximately 4 million people — 98 percent of whom live in the Sahelian belt that stretches across west Africa from Senegal to Chad. In fact, malnutrition rates are above emergency levels for children between the ages of five and nine in the Sahel region of Chad.
  8. To help improve food security and reduce instances of malnutrition in the Sahel region of the Lake Chad Basin, the World Food Programme is supporting 1.4 million of the region’s most vulnerable. The group accomplishes such an admirable feat by providing cash-based transfers that can be used to purchase food at local markets and improve the regional economy.
  9. In 2011, the richest 20 percent of Chadians accounted for about 48 percent of total consumption expenditures, while the poorest 20 percent of Chadians accounted for only 5 percent. The increase in these wealth disparities can be attributed to the growth in the oil industry, as the increase mainly benefited oil-related investment in urban capital; meanwhile, the rural industry of cotton production went into decline.
  10. The poverty gap index, a measure of the how much average income of impoverished people falls below the poverty line, shows huge discrepancies between urban and rural areas in Chad. Rural areas have a 22.6 percent poverty index gap, while urban areas stand at 6.6 percent. Rural poverty is more severe due to low levels of education, large numbers of children per household and climate changes’ direct effect on income and employment. Overall, the incidence of monetary poverty was twice as high in rural areas than it was in urban centers in 2011.

Hope of Continued Effort

Poverty in Chad has improved incrementally over the last 50 years, but there is much progress to be made especially when compared to many other developing areas. These 10 facts about poverty in Chad show an incredible opportunity for foreign aid to improve infrastructure and stability.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Ethiopian-Eritrean Border
On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Ethiopia announced that after 16 years of what the BBC has called a “no peace no war” stalemate between the nation and its neighbor Eritrea, Ethiopia will finally accept the Algiers Agreement — a treaty to bring peace to the Horn of Africa and the Ethiopian-Eritrean Border Dispute.

History of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Border Dispute

Ethiopia and Eritrea split into two nations after nearly 30 years of brutal civil war that resulted in Eritrea’s declaring independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Despite this conclusion, peace was short-lived. From 1998-2000, fighting resumed between the two nations over a border dispute centered around both nations’ claim to the town of Badme.

The dispute was rooted in the nations’ differing interpretation of colonial documents demarcating the line between Ethiopia and its subsidiary Eritrea. The Ethiopian-Eritrean 1998-2002 war became Africa’s bloodiest border war on record; in just two years, an estimated 80,000 people lost their lives.

The war culminated in the creation of the December 12, 2000 Algiers Agreement, which stated that both nations would cease fighting and accept the verdict offered by the newly created Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC).

In 2002, the EEBC ruled that the disputed towns along the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, Badme among others, belonged to Eritrea. Under its former, and now deceased, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia accepted the EEBC’s ruling only “in principle” which lead to the “no peace no war” stalemate that has characterized the Horn of Africa ever since.

Although the Algiers Agreement stated that the two nations would end all hostilities and accept the ruling of the EEBC, Ethiopia refused to pull its troops out of the border towns it still claimed ownership over. Occasional deadly clashes have continued to plague the Ethiopian-Eritrean border region ever since; the most recent occurred in June of 2016, when fighting at Badme resulted in several hundred deaths.

Ethiopia Accepts the Algiers Agreement

However, the hostile climate along Ethiopian-Eritrean border may have just changed. On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Ethiopia, under its current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, announced that it would officially accept the border decision of the 2000 Algiers Agreement and remove all Ethiopian troops from Badme and the other contested towns.

At his inauguration this past April, Ahmed vowed to improve relations between his nation and Eritrea, and his pledge to end all hostilities over the Ethiopian-Eritrean border dispute was an unexpectedly large step in this direction.

Looking Forward

Ending border hostilities could be a huge leap forward in ensuring peace and prosperity in the Horn of Africa. The Eritrean government has long justified its authoritarian and militaristic regime as necessary to protect Eritreans from the continued hostilities of its neighbor Ethiopia, but as Abraham T. Zere of Al Jazeera wrote, “Today, there is a real opportunity to reach a peaceful resolution of this long-standing conflict.”

With Ethiopia offering up the potential for peace, Eritrea has the chance to accept this olive branch and move forward to create a more peaceful and prosperous future for all.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Lebanon
Lebanon is a small nation wedged between the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the south and Syria to the northeast. Despite its size and a population of only six million, Lebanon became a center of trade in the Middle East during the mid-1900s. It is also known for its diverse culture in which Shia and Sunni Muslims live alongside a large Christian minority and other smaller groups.

The outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975 undermined the country’s prosperity and stability. The conflict lasted 15 years and Lebanon has struggled to recover ever since. While Lebanon remains a relatively wealthy nation in the region overall, its economic situation has become increasingly complicated and many people living in the country do not benefit from that wealth. Here are the top 10 facts crucial to know about poverty in Lebanon.

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Lebanon

  1. More than 25 percent of Lebanese citizens live in poverty. That number sinks as low as 16 percent in urban areas like the capital city of Beirut, and climbs to 36 percent in some rural areas.
  2. A person living below the poverty threshold in Lebanon earns less than $266 per month.
  3. Children in poor families are less likely to be able to complete their education. This can trap them in low-skill, high-demand job-markets.
  4. As many as 20 percent of Lebanese citizens live with unimproved sanitation facilities; 10 percent of poor households have no access to clean drinking water.
  5. There are more than one million refugees in Lebanon, with most fleeing the Syrian civil war. Refugees are not counted in many official poverty statistics from Lebanon’s government, meaning that the effects of poverty are significantly more widespread than these statistics suggest.
  6. Nearly half a million Palestinian refugees are registered with U.N. relief organizations in Lebanon. Palestinians may make up as much as 10 percent of the country’s population but they lack several important rights. Many live in U.N. camps in extreme poverty and are denied access to certain types of work.
  7. Poor Lebanese citizens, refugees and women brought in from other countries around the world are vulnerable to human trafficking. Refugees are especially likely to be coerced into forced labor. In 2014, the Lebanese government committed to reducing human trafficking within the country, but the results have been inconsistent so far.
  8. Poor Lebanese workers are often trapped in high-turnover or seasonal jobs with low wages. Making matters worse, the government and U.N. cannot adequately support the huge refugee population in Lebanon, meaning that many of them must find work to survive. This pits citizens and non-citizens against each other. Lebanese workers suddenly face much higher competition for jobs. Meanwhile, refugees lack citizens’ legal protections, which forces many of them to work in difficult conditions for half or even a third of what native workers are paid.
  9. Women (especially heads of households) are often the most impacted by poverty. Many are culturally expected to raise and care for a family but are also forced to enter the workforce to provide additional income. These dual expectations can add to their burden, stifle their educational prospects and make it difficult for them to access highly-competitive jobs.
  10. Social safety programs are rare and inconsistent in Lebanon. Many families are forced to go hundreds or thousands of dollars into debt to cover unexpected expenses like medical bills.

Building a Safety Net

The Lebanese Civil War severely damaged the country’s economy and infrastructure and the modern refugee crisis has only increased the strain. That said, several promising programs could alleviate these problems and reduce the impact of poverty in Lebanon.

While Lebanon’s social programs are still relatively young and often haphazard, the government has formed two primary means of relieving poverty: the National Social Security Fund and the Emergency National Poverty Targeting Programme. Expanding and improving these programs along with continued investment in infrastructure and education could make an enormous difference in the lives of thousands of Lebanese citizens.

Unfortunately, these government programs do not cover refugees. U.N. humanitarian aid has traditionally stepped up to fill this void, but even these resources have recently begun to dry up.

Response from the International Community

These 10 facts about poverty in Lebanon illustrate a complex and ongoing struggle to improve living conditions in the country. As the Syrian conflict continues, the government of Lebanon will have to continue to cope with an unstable region and an increasingly large population of foreign refugees within its borders.

Thankfully, Lebanon is not alone. In April, around 50 countries met in Paris at the CEDRE Conference where they pledged to invest more than $11 billion into Lebanon’s economy. Time will tell if measures like these will accomplish their goal of restoring prosperity to Lebanon and, eventually, to the Middle East.

– Josh Henreckson
Photo: Flickr