Investing in Peace
The World Bank recently estimated that, by 2030, up to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor would live in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS). FCS have serious impacts on poorer countries: conflicts reduce GDP growth, on average, by 2% a year and force millions of people to flee their homes. The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide has more than doubled since 2012, exceeding 74 million in 2018. Of these people, almost 26 million are refugees, the highest percentage ever recorded, with developing countries hosting 85%. This puts a financial and social strain on host countries while also devastating generations of refugees. Constant displacement makes it difficult for refugees to maintain a stable source of income, have consistent access to basic necessities and receive an education. In fact, one in five people in countries that FCS affects suffers simultaneously from inadequate monetary, educational and basic infrastructure resources, making social mobility difficult. As a result, investing in peace is very important.

The Correlation Between FCS and Poverty

There seems to be a correlation between living in FCS and poverty, as the 43 countries with the highest poverty rates in the world are in FCS in Sub-Saharan Africa. World Bank data shows that economies in FCS have maintained poverty rates of over 40% in the past decade, while economies that have escaped FCS have cut their poverty rates by more than half. On an individual level, a person living in FCS is 10 times more likely to experience poverty than a person living in a country that has not experienced fragility or conflict in the past 20 years.

A solution to poverty might be investing in peace: invest in businesses, organizations or development agencies that work to lessen the prevalence of FCS around the world. While humanitarian interventions may bring about peace in the short term, they often do not address development after the establishment of peace. In addition, many conflicts around the world have become protracted and complicated, making humanitarian interventions less effective in the long run. Development agencies, on the other hand, work to establish peace in three-time frames: before, during and after conflict.

Before Conflict

One important step in lessening the prevalence of FCS around the world is to prevent conflict before it begins. This means identifying and addressing a point of conflict within a country or community before it becomes widespread, complex and potentially violent. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, emphasized the importance of investing in conflict prevention: “Instead of responding to crises, we need to invest far more in prevention. Prevention works, saves lives and is cost-effective.” Estimates have determined that for every $1 the United States spends on conflict prevention, it saves $16 in future response costs. On a larger scale, this finding emphasizes the importance of investing in peace to curb the need for an expensive humanitarian intervention when the conflict is widespread, complex and violent.

One example of an American law promoting investments in conflict prevention is the Global Fragility Act of 2019. It focuses on U.S. foreign aid to prevent violent conflict in fragile countries and strengthens research to identify foreign assistance programs that are most effective at preventing conflict and violence. The act authorizes $1.15 billion over the next five years to fund violent conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts in countries in FCS. The act also benefits U.S. taxpayers, since violent conflict prevention is much more cost-effective than containing a conflict through humanitarian intervention.

During Conflict

Some development agencies around the world make medium-term to long-term investments in countries with ongoing, protracted conflicts. The investments aim to preserve human capital and strengthen local institutions working to promote peace and protect civilians. These investments serve as a social safety net for those at risk, providing them with basic necessities and services such as access to water, food and education. Violent conflicts can significantly affect the accumulation of human capital in a population, and the effects can be long-lasting if the conflict is prolonged across generations. Thus, it is important to provide people with this social safety net to ensure that they can rebuild their lives economically and socially after the conflict ends.

A successful example of investment in a country amid conflict is the World Bank’s investments in Yemen. Yemen has been in crisis for nearly a decade, since the Houthis overthrew its government, resulting in what the U.N. has called “the worst [humanitarian crisis] in the world.” Millions of people have been internally displaced while suffering from medical shortages and threats of famine. The World Bank’s International Development Association has allocated $400 million to creating jobs and providing refugees with essential resources under its Emergency Crisis Response Project (ECRP). As a result, 4.3 million people have received access to community services (water, sanitation, better roads, etc.) and 9.5 million workdays have emerged. Another component of the ECRP is a $448.58 million cash transfer to poor and vulnerable households. As of April 9, 2020, the transfers had reached 1.42 million households or 9 million individuals. The World Bank’s Engagement Strategy for Yemen 2020-2021 will continue funding for the ECRP and other initiatives to provide essential services, preserve Yemen’s human capital and strengthen local organizations helping those in need. 

After Conflict

Investing in post-conflict peacebuilding is another way in which development agencies can help those living in FCS. Investments in peacebuilding can supplement humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts by promoting economic and social growth after a conflict has ended. An important part of promoting economic growth is investing in micro to medium-sized businesses as a means to create jobs and jumpstart the local economy. It is also important to invest in the government to ensure that it can provide its citizens with essential services and resources well after the conflict has ended.

One agency investing in post-conflict peacebuilding is the United Nations (U.N.) Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). The PBF is a financial instrument used to sustain peace in countries in FCS. The PBF invests with other U.N. entities, governments, multilateral banks, NGOs and national multi-donor trust funds. Since its inception, 58 member states have contributed to the fund, with the allocation of $772 million to 41 recipient countries from 2006 to 2017. The Secretary General’s PBF 2020-2024 Strategy calls for the investment of $1.5 billion to countries in FCS over the next five years. The largest distribution of funds (35%) will go towards facilitating transitions from humanitarian missions to peacebuilding and future development. 

Looking Forward

Preventing, creating and maintaining peace in FCS is a daunting task that may take years to accomplish in certain areas. It is important to invest in peace at all three stages of conflict to save lives, save money and preserve resources. There are currently numerous multilateral aid agencies investing billions of dollars into countries in FCS, and one would hope that these efforts, along with humanitarian interventions, will lessen the prevalence of FCS around the world. Investing in peace could be the beginning of the end of global poverty, and if the world works together to lessen FCS, it could lift millions of people across out of poverty globally.

Harry Yeung
Photo: Flickr 

United Kingdom's Foreign Aid
The United Kingdom has boosted its foreign assistance to Ukraine with an additional £5 million (about $6.5 million) in humanitarian aid. Announced during a recent visit to London by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the United Kingdom’s foreign aid will help alleviate widespread suffering caused by the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the coronavirus pandemic.  Among other objectives, such assistance will allow for the procurement of food, water and medical supplies in addition to providing much-needed psychosocial support to victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Furthermore, President Zelenskyy has also received a commitment from U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson for preferential trade and for greater cooperation between the two countries on issues relating to politics, security and foreign affairs.  The Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement that both leaders signed during their London meeting outlined these goals.  According to U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, the combination of humanitarian assistance and bilateral cooperation “[…] is a clear demonstration of the U.K.’s commitment to Ukraine’s prosperity and security.”

Conflict in Crimea

The United Kingdom’s foreign aid will support efforts to address the humanitarian emergency in eastern Ukraine, which developed as the result of years of armed conflict.  After popular anti-government protests prompted former President Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country in February 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin seized the opportunity to send troops to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.  His formal (and illegal) annexation of Crimea one month later exacerbated ethnic tensions throughout the region, inspiring pro-Russia Ukrainians to hold a referendum and declare their independence.

Since April 2014, violence between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian military forces has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people, but many more have experienced serious injury.  Diplomatic efforts to broker a peaceful resolution have been unsuccessful; skirmishes and shelling continue, and unexploded landmines remain a serious threat.

As of December 2019, reports determined that 730,000 people were internally displaced in territories that the Ukrainian government controlled, while the majority of those who have remained in eastern Ukraine are elderly, ill or disabled. The United Nations has estimated that over 4 million people are dependent upon some form of humanitarian support, but this number could increase as temperatures drop during the coming months.

Economic Turmoil

Six years of bloodshed is not the only trial Ukrainians have faced, however; they must also contend with a struggling economy. Although poverty rates have fallen in recent years and President Zelenskyy has promised to root out corruption among the political elite, Ukraine currently ranks as the poorest country in Europe, with a GDP per capita of only $3,140. And yet, economic conditions could worsen significantly in the wake of COVID-19.

Even if the full extent of the pandemic’s financial impact is still unclear, the latest Economic Activity Report that Ukraine’s Ministry for Development of Economy, Trade and Agriculture released reveals that the country’s GDP decreased by 5.9% between January and May 2020. This has led the Cabinet of Ministers to predict that the Ukrainian economy may shrink by as much as 8% in 2020, with the potential for lower wages and greater unemployment. According to conservative estimates from UNICEF, the economic downturn could cause 6.3 million more people in Ukraine to fall into poverty, 1.4 million of these being children.

In the current context of a global health crisis layered above political and economic instability, an increase in the United Kingdom’s foreign aid to Ukraine will provide essential humanitarian relief. Moreover, the additional £5 million will also support essential projects to rebuild housing and health facilities and to help finance business ventures that encourage the country’s economic recovery. Finally, it is just a fraction of the total foreign aid—£40 million, or $51.8 million—that the British government has allocated to Ukraine during 2020.

Benefits of Foreign Aid

Beyond those benefits mentioned above, there are other significant advantages of the U.K.’s foreign aid and its Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement with Ukraine. These include:

  • Expressing the U.K.’s support for the protection of vulnerable people in eastern Ukraine and for the maintenance of an international community that respects human rights;
  • Creating a channel for the U.K. to pressure Ukrainian officials to enact reforms for future economic growth; and
  • Restoring peace in a democratic country whose stability is, as Foreign Secretary Raab stated, essential for the security of the entire European continent. This is especially true in light of Ukraine’s intention to join the European Union and the NATO alliance.

Combined with similar actions by other governments, including the E.U. and the United States, the steps in London earlier in October 2020 to increase the United Kingdom’s foreign aid and strengthen its ties with Ukraine will hopefully alleviate the immediate struggles of the Ukrainian people while bolstering their country’s efforts toward peace and recovery in the longer term.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Fragility, Conflict and ViolenceFragility, conflict and violence (FCV) is among the largest threats to development, continuously putting both low-income and middle-income countries in danger of inescapable poverty. Addressing FCV is a top priority for the World Bank specifically, as the organization considers it an essential problem to solve in order to both end extreme poverty and promote collective prosperity. Alongside other global organizations working towards peace, the World Bank looks to address FCV in the hopes of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16 for peace, justice and strong institutions.

Understanding Through Numbers

The World Bank estimates that as many as two-thirds of those in extreme poverty could live in FCV environments by the year 2030. Even today, conflict accounts for almost 80% of the world’s humanitarian needs and conflict is estimated to worsen gross domestic product (GDP) growth by two percentage points annually. Sadly, the number of people living close to conflict, which includes those within 60 kilometers of at least 25 conflict-related deaths, has more than doubled since 2007.

As of 2019, almost 80 million people were forcibly displaced as a result of FCV settings. Of that 79.5 million, four out of five of those displaced have been in those conditions for at least five years. And, startlingly, more than two-thirds of all refugees come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. Today, all five of these countries face significant fragility, conflict and violence, sparking refugee crises and general instability.

What is Being Done

The World Bank has developed a Fragility, Conflict and Violence Strategy in its IDA19 Special Theme documents. The proposed four pillars in the strategy involve: “pivoting to prevention, remaining engaged in conflict, escaping the fragility trap and mitigating FCV externalities.” Given that the World Bank has tried to reduce FCV conditions in the past, this newly developed strategy is focusing on improving the organization’s response to mitigating risks and is focusing on partnering with a more diverse group of stakeholders.

So far, the World Bank has found mixed success in its efforts to reduce fragility, conflict and violence. In Cameroon, the World Bank shaped the policy of the government to better protect refugees, using its reputation and finances to leverage a stronger policy. In Lebanon, its cash transfer program focused on host communities, making the program more inclusive to even the communities that feel excluded by humanitarian organizations providing aid to refugees. However, while the emergency cash transfer program implemented in Yemen was successful in that it helped millions buy food, the approach was unorganized and many humanitarian efforts overlapped, resulting in duplication and inefficiency.

In today’s world, fragility, conflict and violence stand as one of the largest threats to global peace and stability, for not just low-income countries but middle-income countries as well. The efforts on behalf of the World Bank prove not only that this is an urgent humanitarian issue, but if solved well, these efforts can work to end extreme global poverty.

Olivia Fish
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Armed Conflict and Humanitarian Need in Central Africa
An economic crisis ravaging Sudan, Chad and other such nations of Central Africa has made the region a hotbed for protest and armed conflict. As a result, this worsens the living conditions of the citizens residing there. Recently, rising tensions in these nations have contributed to an actively worsening humanitarian crisis. Consequently, this left countless people with homelessness and food insecurity. In Sudan alone, 260,000 people face displacement and hunger due to conflicts in Port Sudan and the Red Sea State. While international relief organizations are administering humanitarian aid, a long list of challenges due to conflict in Central Africa made this process exceedingly difficult.

Crisis and Military Conflict in Sudan

Sudan has been in military conflict since a military coup removed its long-serving ruler Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. The coup removed al-Bashir as a result of austerity measures in response to an economic crisis that has been ongoing in Sudan since 2012. Austerity measures or higher subsidies on products worsened the poor quality of life of citizens living in the area. Instability within the Sudanese reached a boiling point when public protests of living conditions broke out across the country with citizens often calling for al-Bashir’s removal.

Since the April 2019 coup, a council of generals exercised executive power over the nation. However, stability has yet to return. On June 3, 2019, the government of Sudan responded to the protests with violence. The government murdered dozens of journalists and threw their bodies into the Nile. Meanwhile, the military government and armed conflict in Central Africa worsened the humanitarian conditions of the vulnerable citizenry further. Moreover, the nation remains on the United States’ “State sponsors of terrorism” list. Consequently, the nation has less access to debt relief through the United States. This means that the $50 billion debt that Sudan owes to external nations falls on the shoulders of the military government. This will affect vulnerable and impoverished citizens.

Civil Conflict and Resource Scarcity in Chad

Civil unrest in Chad is the primary factor contributing to the depletion of the resources of the already economically insecure population for a number of decades. Since 1990, the Chadian population lived under the power monopoly of the Zaghawa military clan. Its leader is the long-standing president Idriss Déby. Under this military regime, the Chadian population has suffered from political violence and poor social relations due in large part to the nation’s corrupt spoils system. Likewise, poor international relations with the government of Sudan perpetuates conflict within the Chadian border, as each nation offers its support to the other nation’s rebels.

Chad suffers from resource depletion, widespread internal displacement and a high influx of foreign refugees. Protracted internal conflict in Nigeria has displaced more than 200,000 refugees to Chad, Cameroon and Niger alone. As Chad, Sudan, Niger, Nigeria and other surrounding nations participate in armed conflict in Central Africa, resources spread ever-thinner for those in the throes of poverty.

Relief and Reduction of Conflict in Central Africa

Some nations in Central Africa receive funding and foreign aid in order to relieve their populations of the life-threatening stress of resource depletion and military violence. Sudan, however, failed to meet the political requirements for such funding. Likewise, while Chad, Niger and Nigeria all receive funding, these nations are consistently underfunded by 30-40%. Providing guidance to the Sudanese government will foster peace and greater security and end the conflict in Central Africa. Funding goals should be consistent in order to resuscitate the faltering economies of the Central African region.

The Sudanese government has made a recent effort to repair social relations with its citizens. The government prioritizes education and health care as central goals of government funding. Likewise, international partners in humanitarian aid, headed by the U.N., intend to develop programs in the Central African region. This act hopes to align economic stability with improved humanitarian resilience.

Aid does exist for those struggling in Central Africa. However, armed conflict poses a continual threat to the safety and security of the population there. In order for the humanitarian situation to improve in this region, the global community must make a more dedicated effort to support peace and economic stability.

Anthony Lyon
Photo: Flickr

Man in Yemen, one of many countries affected by poverty in MENA
The Middle East and North African region, commonly referred to as MENA, is traditionally considered to include the geographical area from Morocco in northwest Africa to Iran in southwest Asia. Rich in history, culture and natural resources, this region consists of approximately 20 nations. As a result of vast reserves of oil, natural gas and petroleum, MENA has quickly grown in geopolitical importance. However, the region is also afflicted by persistent conflict and poverty. Here are seven recent trends in the rates of poverty in MENA.

7 Facts About Poverty in MENA

  1. MENA is the only region that has seen significant increases in extreme poverty. Between 2011 and 2015, extreme poverty in MENA has nearly doubled, rising from 2.1% of the population to 5%. As of 2018, an estimated 18.6 million people in the region are living on less than $1.90 per day. Additionally, studies have shown that the region’s population is particularly vulnerable to poverty. MENA’s poverty rates further increase when multidimensional poverty is included, which is an index of several poverty indicators including, among others, lack of education, poor health, standard of living and levels of violence. In 2017, the Arab Multidimensional Poverty Report estimated the total number of multidimensional poor at approximately 116.1 million – nearly 40% of the region’s population. Factored into the previous figures of poverty in the region, recent studies suggest that about 20% of the region is extremely poor, with an additional two-thirds of the region poor or vulnerable to extreme poverty.
  2. Class mobility is incredibly limited. Once a family falls into poverty, they are increasingly likely to remain poor for several generations. Largely due to insufficient job growth, much of the MENA population relies heavily on informal labor, such as unofficial taxi services or in-home services like cleaning or childcare. These forms of labor tend to be erratic, with low pay and minimal protections, yielding a larger population vulnerable to poverty with very few resources to pull themselves out of it.
  3. Recent studies suggest that MENA is the most unequal region in the world. Throughout the region, the top 10% of the population holds 61% of the wealth, compared to 47% in the United States and 36% in Western Europe. Many political and economic commentators in the region further suggest that this inequality has become deeply ingrained in the value system of the society as a whole, rather than just being the current condition.
  4. The increases in poverty are linked to conflict. The aforementioned increase in poverty between 2011 and 2015 was concentrated very heavily in Syria and Yemen, two nations that are experiencing intense conflict. The rate of extreme poverty in Syria has increased from nearly zero to about 20% over the course of its civil war. Similarly, extreme poverty in Yemen has doubled over the past decade, in line with its continued conflict. Despite the increasing number of people in poverty, these findings do indicate that major improvements in poverty in the region may not be too far off, considering the root cause is well known.
  5. Conflict has done severe damage to the region’s employment sectors. Even outside of the main crisis states, such as Syria, Libya and Yemen, the job market across the region has suffered greatly — either directly due to conflict or indirectly through sanctions, disrupted trade or population displacement. Throughout the early 20th century, the region relied heavily on its tourism, industrial, service and agriculture sectors. However, many aspects of these industries have been seriously impeded by persistent conflict. The International Monetary Fund estimated that the region needs to create between 60 and 100 million jobs by 2030, 27 million in the next five years, in order to significantly reduce unemployment and poverty.
  6. While it has undoubtedly created additional economic problems, the COVID-19 crisis has also inspired steps towards progress. Governments throughout the region took very cohesive and divisive steps from the beginning of the pandemic, restricting movement across borders and even within cities. Despite varied levels of outbreak preparedness, the MENA region has been notably effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19, with many countries beginning to ease travel restrictions and turn their attention toward phasing out of quarantine. The pandemic has had a major economic impact, particularly with the sudden collapse of oil prices. However, many in the region have been rather optimistic, considering this to be an opportunity for nations to begin addressing the systemic issues in the region, such as private sector development and social protections. Governments have been surprisingly receptive, with several states already mobilizing to protect both the public and private sectors.
  7. Governments have been largely ineffectual in dealing with economic problems, but the tides are turning. Largely due to persistent conflict, MENA regimes are typically focused on minimizing violence and war, allowing poverty to grow rapidly without policy changes. This has made the population especially vulnerable to recruitment by radical religious, ethnic or sectarian groups, such as Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood. However, more recently we have seen an influx of civilians beginning to demand more from their governments — a call that political leaders are beginning to answer. Since the onset of Lebanon’s current economic crisis and subsequent protests, the Lebanese government has approved sweeping economic reform being referred to as a “financial coup.”  The World Bank has also projected modest continued growth in the economy of the MENA region overall.

The past 50 years have been incredibly tumultuous for the MENA region, characterized by an abundance of violence and poverty. As recent data has confirmed, the region’s poverty is not subsiding anytime soon and the succession of Western-backed conflicts is not helping. Despite these difficulties, the region is very quickly evolving into a state of uniform solidarity. With more regimes beginning to reject foreign intervention and more civilians addressing their governments directly, particularly in the cases of Egypt and Lebanon, structural change could come to the region soon. However, this area of the world continues to be a prime example of just how dangerous extreme poverty can be when mixed with conflict, both for the host state and the international system.

Angie Bittar
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and FragilityThe year 2020’s biennial World Bank Fragility Forum is a series of seminars and discussions about working to build peace and stability in conflict-ridden areas. It brings together policymakers and practitioners in many different sectors from around the world, including the government, to address poverty and fragility and use international aid to promote peace in fragile settings. The Forum exists in conjunction with the World Bank Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence for 2020-2025 and focuses on fighting poverty as a means to eliminate conflict and violence in fragile settings, acknowledging and addressing the link between poverty and fragility.

What is Fragility?

There is no simple definition for a fragile setting or context since each fragile region is circumstantially unique. The Fragile States Index (FSI), though, says there are many common indicators that include state loss of physical control of territory or social legitimacy, loss of state monopoly on legitimate force, loss of connection to the international community and an inability to provide basic public services. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also explains that there are common characteristics of fragile settings, like extreme poverty, authoritarian regimes, high rates of terrorism, high rates of armed conflict and short life expectancy. The majority of fragile settings currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Fragile States Index lists Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan as the three most fragile contexts in the world.

Poverty and Fragility

The World Bank explains that addressing poverty and fragility go hand-in-hand. While only 10% of the global population live in fragile contexts, more than two-thirds of the people around the globe who live in extreme poverty live in fragile contexts. Experts expect this figure to rise to 80% by 2030. Poverty and fragility exist in a sort of feedback loop, as it becomes more difficult to escape poverty in a fragile setting given poor living conditions and likely economic ruin, while poverty is also an initial driver of fragility. Global Washington reports that fragility hurts economic productivity – violent conflict caused a 12.4% decrease in economic activity in 2017 alone – and is the main driver of both global hunger and refugee crises.

Fragility Forum Highlights

Three lectures from the Forum in particular address key components of poverty and fragility by looking at case studies: the social and economic inclusion of refugees, the use of country platforms to increase the effectiveness of global aid and the effectiveness of existing economic programs in fragile contexts. These lectures were:

  1. Refugee Policies: Increasing Self-Reliance & Economic Inclusion in Protracted Crises – Around 80% of refugees today live in developing countries and, as Global Washington reports, the violence and conflict of a fragile region are the main drivers of forced migration. Lecturers in this session explained that aid to refugees and their host countries must address both the immediate needs of refugees with investment in basic needs like healthcare and in long-term, policy for economic and social inclusion of refugees in their host countries. Refugees currently do not have permission to work in 50% of host countries and refugee mobility is severely restricted across the globe. This makes refugees dependent on aid from international agencies like the U.N. Economic self-sufficiency for refugees shifts the responsibility from these international bodies to the host country and both enhances the living situation of refugees and develops the host country’s economy. The Senior Director of Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank Franck Bousquet explains in the lecture that the World Bank focuses largely on support to the host country and strengthening national systems through emergency response programs and using grants to incentivize host countries to include refugees in their economies.
  2. Reducing Fragility and Conflict: What We Are Learning from Impact Evaluations – This lecture looks at the impact of a wide range of interventions in fragile settings from behavioral studies on social interventions to how labor market programs and economic intervention can increase stability in fragile settings by creating a market opportunity for individuals through vocational training. One particular study in Liberia explored the claim that economic insecurity can encourage violent or criminal behaviors in individuals. The study also explored how giving impoverished Liberians agricultural training increased the employment and average wealth of the individuals in the study, the root connection between economic opportunity and criminal activity, large-scale questions about what motivates violence and whether poverty causes criminality. The theory that underwent testing hypothesizes that increased economic returns to noncriminal activities will minimize the incidence of criminal activities by occupying individuals’ time, building social skills in youth and reducing grievances with poor economic opportunities. The study found that vocational training can decrease the time that individuals spend on illicit activities, but found little effect on individuals’ attitudes about democracy and violence.
  3. Revisiting Development Cooperation in the Hardest Places: The Case of Somalia – This session discussed “country platforms,” which the featured Center for Global Development (CGD) podcast defined as a “government-let coordinating body that brings together partners and stakeholders to define shared goals and coordinate development efforts in the country.” Places like Afghanistan and Somalia have utilized these country platforms, which are part of the World Bank’s Strategy for Fragility, Stability and Violence for 2020-2021, to streamline aid efforts by encouraging collaboration and joining local government and civic leaders with international donors to better implement international aid projects in fragile settings. Country platforms allow for more streamlined and effective flow from a donor to the recipient country, as evidenced by the organizational progress made in Somalia, where the U.S. invested over $400 million in aid in 2019; the country platform in Somalia has been developing clearer plans for development, humanitarianism and politics and shifting control of aid efforts into the hands of the Somali government to both increase aid efficiency and promote state legitimacy.

The World Bank Fragility Forum has made the link between poverty and fragility apparent. Hopefully, an increased understanding of how these two topics interlink will help eliminate poverty in fragile settings.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Wikimedia

Child Mortality in Yemen
With a population of 28.25 million people, Yemen has been through more turmoil than many other countries. It is currently ranked as the country with the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. This crisis threatens the lives of children through increased malnutrition, inadequate hygiene and other significant health and safety risks. Here are 10 facts about child mortality in Yemen.

10 Facts About Child Mortality in Yemen

  1. Approximately 50,000 infants die in Yemen each year. These deaths are the result of violence, famine, a lack of crucial medical care and widespread poverty. World Food Program USA has been working with Islamic Relief to provide 2 months of life-saving food to families and conducts nutritional programs to malnourished children.
  2. According to the U.N., there are 400,000 children under 5 years old who suffer from severe malnutrition. Some of these issues are the result of longstanding war and conflict. City blockades and airstrikes sometimes make it difficult or impossible for food aid to reach the children who need it the most. One organization working to bring food aid to children and families affected by severe malnutrition is called Save the Children. Save the Children has been working with the children of Yemen since 1963.
  3. Millions of Yemeni children are in desperate need of food to stay alive. Around 85,000 children have died from starvation or health complications caused by starvation since the war escalated in Yemen. In an effort to save Yemeni children from starvation, Save the Children provided food to 140,000 children and treated 78,000 children who were on the brink of death due to severe malnutrition.
  4. In Yemen, 30,000 children under the age of five die every year due to malnutrition-related diseases. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) works to save the lives of malnourished Yemeni children by distributing a nutritional peanut-based paste. With 500 calories per packet, children suffering from severe malnutrition can recover in matters of weeks.
  5. Violence is still a grim reality for Yemeni children. Airstrikes and mine explosions killed 335 children since August of 2018. Many are pushing for the war in Yemen to end so that children can live normal and safe lives. The U.N. estimates that if the war in Yemen continues even until 2022, more than half a million people will have been killed.
  6. Airstrikes are the leading cause of death for children in Yemen. The Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP) reports that between March 2018 and March 2019, air raids killed 226 children and injured 217. These numbers average out to 37 deaths of Yemeni children due to airstrikes per month. Save the Children is working to help children recover from airstrike injuries. They assist with medical bills and provide emotional support to help manage their trauma.
  7. Conflict in Yemen has caused the destruction of many water facilities, leaving children vulnerable to deadly diseases. Around 5.5 million people in Yemen are currently living in areas at a higher risk for cholera due to a lack of clean or sufficient water. UNICEF is working with the local water corporations to restore Yemen’s water supplies. In 2017, UNICEF installed the first-ever solar-powered water system in the city of Sa’ad.
  8. According to ReliefWeb, 17 million people in Yemen are in need of sanitary drinking water. One potential solution to this is the Life Straw, a small, hand-held straw that filters out 99.9 percent of waterborne bacteria and 98.7 percent of waterborne viruses. Though they have mainly been distributed in Africa, these straws could have a significant impact in Yemen.
  9. More children have been killed by waterborne illnesses and poor sanitation than conflict. Poor sanitation is one of the leading causes of diseases. Many children also lack the proper hygiene supplies needed to stay healthy. Having access to soap would significantly reduce the chances of obtaining hygiene-related diseases. To improve access to hygiene supplies in developing countries around the world, including Yemen, a company called Clean the World recycles partially used pieces of soap from hotels. More than 53 million bars of soap have been distributed in over 127 countries to those who need it.
  10. Diseases caused by mosquitos also contribute to child mortality in Yemen. The country has heavy rainfall and many people collect rainwater as their main water source. Collected water standing idle is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. An outbreak of mosquito-borne illnesses in Yemen killed 78 children under the age of 16, as of the end of 2019. There are 52,000 cases of mosquito-borne illnesses across the country. One potential solution is Kite Patch, which creates a mosquito repellent patch that sticks to the skin and protects against mosquito bites.

Child mortality in Yemen remains a persistent problem for the nation. For long-term improvement, the conflict in Yemen must be resolved. However, with continued efforts by humanitarian organizations, Yemeni children will still become safer, healthier and able to live longer lives.

Amelia Sharma
Photo: Flickr

Progress in Mali
With a poverty rate of 42.7 percent, Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its arid climate also makes Mali one of the hottest countries and armed conflict, famine, weak infrastructure and food insecurity are widespread. Mercy Corps, a non-governmental organization (NGO), has provided humanitarian aid in Mali since 2012. Their efforts have reduced food insecurity, built resilience to armed conflict and natural disasters and assisted in infrastructure development.

Goals of Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps believes conflict prevention and long-term food security programs are important to the livelihoods of Malians. Supporting agriculture, pastoralism and other professions leads to reduced conflict over sparse water and land. Since 2012, more than 250,000 women, children and men have benefited from approximately 20 programs created by Mercy Corps.

According to the U.N., more than 3.2 million Malians need humanitarian assistance, 70 percent of whom live in the Mopti and Segou regions. About 2.7 million are food insecure and malnutrition affects more than 600,000 children. Mercy Corps’ goals are wide-reaching, yet its focus is on long-term stability. The conflict over land and water and overpopulation are two major issues that Mercy Corps and other NGOs are combating by providing humanitarian aid in Mali.

Progress in Mali

Since 2012, Mercy Corps has assisted 98,000 Malians affected by food insecurity. Agricultural support, entrepreneurship and apprentice programs and business development support are three major focus areas. In 2018 alone, the NGO helped 41,000 people through agricultural programs. More than 80 percent of Malians are farmers and fishers, which is one reason Mercy Corps prioritizes agricultural productivity. Seed distribution, technical training and infrastructure rehabilitation were all emphasized during 2018. Improving agricultural productivity and resilience to droughts is essential to helping those affected by food shortages.

Mercy Corps also made progress in Mali by assisting more than 1,112 pastoralists in 2018 with the provision of livestock feed, distribution of goats and animal care from local veterinarians. Livestock and agriculture comprise 80 percent of Mali’s exports, and the assistance from Mercy Corps and other NGOs helps to not only increase food security but also increase income. Mercy Corps provided financial assistance to 25,600 people for basic needs and in support of economic recovery.

Individual Success Stories

Mercy Corps is a major supporter of youth entrepreneurship in Mali, as 60 percent of Malians are less than 25 years old. The NGO assists young entrepreneurs by providing financial assistance and teaching better business practices.

Bibata is a 25-year-old Malian who sells paddy rice and grilled potatoes from her home. Most of her income comes from her business. With her grant money, she was able to buy more paddy rice, spices and vegetables, doubling her profit within months. She stated that the grant money helped her expand and she hopes to grow further into raising cattle.

Hassan is another Malian that benefitted from Mercy Corps’ support. He barely made enough money to care for his nine children, but after a Mercy Corps’ professional training course he understood how to get reimbursed by clients and access services from microfinance institutions. He received a grant, opened up his own shop and now earns twice the income he had earned before.

The Future of Mali

In response to violence in Mali, the United Nations launched a Humanitarian Response Plan in 2019 to assist with food, shelter, nutrition, protection, education and hygiene. Alongside continued efforts by the United Nations, United States government and NGOs, Mercy Corps is set to advance its mission of providing humanitarian aid in Mali. Conflict and high population growth are ongoing in 2019, yet progress is currently being made.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: USAID

Conflict in Venezuela
In January 2019, Nicolás Maduro won the Venezuelan presidential election, bringing him into his second term as president. Citizens and the international community met the election results with protests and backlash, which has only added to the conflict in Venezuela. The National Assembly of Venezuela went so far as to refuse to acknowledge President Maduro as such. Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader and president of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president almost immediately after the announcement of the election results, a declaration that U.S. President Donald Trump and leaders from more than 50 nations support. Russia and China, however, have remained in support of President Maduro.

During his first term as president and beginning in 2013, Maduro has allowed the downfall of the Venezuelan economy. His government, as well as his predecessor, Hugo Chávez’s government, face much of the anger regarding the current state of Venezuela. Continue reading to learn how the conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor in particular.

How Conflict in Venezuela is Affecting the Poor

Maduro’s aim was to continue implementing Chávez’s policies with the goal of aiding the poor. However, with the price and foreign currency controls established, local businesses could not profit and many Venezuelans had to resort to the black market.

Hyperinflation has left prices doubling every two to three weeks on average as of late 2018. Venezuelan citizens from all socio-economic backgroundsbut particularly those from lower-income householdsare now finding it difficult to buy simple necessities like food and toiletries. In 2018, more than three million citizens fled Venezuela as a result of its economic status to go to fellow South American countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. However, nearly half a million Venezuelans combined also fled to the United States and Spain.

Venezuela is currently facing a humanitarian crisis that Maduro refuses to recognize. The opposition that is attempting to force Maduro out of power is simultaneously advocating for international aid. As a result, local charities attempting to provide for the poor are coming under fire from Maduro’s administration, as his government believes anything the opposition forces support is inherently anti-government.

In the northwestern city of Maracaibo, the Catholic Church runs a soup kitchen for impoverished citizens in need of food. It feeds up to 300 people per day, and while it used to provide full meals for the people, it must ration more strictly due to the economic turmoil. Today, the meals look more like a few scoops of rice with eggs and vegetables, and a bottle of milk. While the Church’s service is still incredibly beneficial, it is a stark contrast from the fuller meals it was able to provide just a few years prior.

The political and economic conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor citizens of the country in the sense Maduro’s administration is ostracizing local soup kitchens and charities. A broader problem facing the poor is that because Maduro refuses to address the humanitarian crisis, international organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) are unable to intervene and provide aid.

Project HOPE

There are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are making an effort to help Venezuelans suffering as a result of this crisis. One of the easiest ways they can be of service is by providing aid and relief to citizens who have fled to other countries. Project HOPE is an organization that currently has workers on the ground in Colombia and Ecuador to offer food, medical care and other aid to those escaping the conflict in Venezuela. Project HOPE is also supporting the health care system in Colombia in order to accommodate the displaced Venezuelans there.

The current conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor, but it is also affecting the entire structure of the nation. It is difficult to know what the outcome of this conflict will look like for Venezuelans and for the country as a whole. What is important now is to continue educating people about the ongoing crisis so that they can stay informed. Additionally, donating to Project HOPE and other NGOs working to provide aid to Venezuelans in neighboring countries would be of great help. With that, many Venezuelan citizens will know that people support them and are fighting to see progress.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

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