Information and news about corruption

corruption in healthcare
The healthcare sector in several countries around the world is commonly referred to as being among the most corrupt sectors. A 2013 Transparency International Study reported that more than 50% of citizens viewed their country’s health sector as corrupt in 42 out of 109 countries surveyed. The World Bank has regarded corruption in healthcare as a major barrier to achieving social and economic development.

Corruption and Poverty

Informal payments are a very specific form of corruption prevalent in weak health care systems around the world. Informal payments refer to under-the-table payments to receive services that are otherwise free or which are requested in addition to officially sanctioned required payments.  They are prevalent in the healthcare sector of many countries globally. For example, in Azerbaijan, informal payments account for 73.9% of all medical spending. This form of corruption often arises due to inadequate healthcare management, including inadequate public spending, resource deprivation, governance and human resource constraints and scarcity of providers.

Informal payments negatively affect healthcare at the individual and governmental levels. Due to the secrecy that often shrouds the transaction of informal payments, these payments are often made in cash and do not contribute to the collection of taxes. This translates into less money available to be reinvested in the healthcare system.

Further, informal payments are often regressive in nature, meaning that low-income individuals often tend to pay a larger proportion of their income respective to high-income individuals.  One study in sub-Saharan Africa identified informal payments as being highly prevalent among the poorest segments of society.

Informal payments represent severe barriers to accessing care for those living in poverty. In some cases, informal payments can push low-income individuals to borrow money often with high-interest rates. This indebtedness can lead to financial ruin for low-income families and can potentially push them into the poverty trap.  More concerning is the potentially deadly impact of patients to delay or forego medical care due to the inability to cover the expected informal payments.  Further, the informal nature of these payments makes exemptions to protect those in poverty increasingly difficult to enforce.

The Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis can lead to further barriers to accessing care and may bring an increase in the prevalence of informal payments. Overwhelmed, weak health care systems around the world with resource and provider scarcity may push those seeking treatment to use informal payments as a means of accessing better care and at other times may be required to make up for inadequate funding. It is known that informal payments are tied to these scarcities. These factors are increasingly relevant in COVID-19 responses around the world.

There is a high risk of the prevalence of informal payments increasing in reaction to the pandemic. For those who cannot afford the cost of informal payments, the catastrophic virus may cause families to take on a high-rate of debt, pushing low-income families further into poverty. If individuals choose to forego testing or treatment for the virus due to a lack of financial ability to cover informal payments it could impact the response to fighting COVID-19 by accelerating the spread of the disease.  With the number of people living in extreme poverty projected to rise by 71 million due to the economic shocks brought on by the pandemic, there is an urgent need to address the issue of informal payments and broader corruption in the healthcare sector.

How to Take Action

According to the Carnegie Endowment, the spread of coronavirus, with corruption acting as a catalyst, poses a serious threat to U.S. interests and foreign policy objectives. There are a number of ways the U.S. can address the problem of corruption and the prevalence of informal payments around the world through the U.S. Global Coronavirus Response. The Countering Russian and Other Overseas Kleptocracy (CROOK) Act aims to address corruption through rapid action. The act has been introduced in the Senate after passing the House of Foreign Affairs Committee and shares bipartisan support. USAID in partnership with the State Department is addressing the corruption-coronavirus nexus by supporting transparent emergency procurement mechanisms and providing support to anti-corruption law enforcement.

Due to the discrete nature of informal payments and the provider-patient relationship, the U.S. influence is limited in combating informal payments. In low-income countries with weak healthcare systems, the most effective means of mitigating the impact of informal payments on those impacted by COVID-19 is prevention. The United States can help curb the spread of COVID-19 around the world by providing adequate funding for global health security in the next emergency supplemental COVID-19 response.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

 

Philippines Incarceration System
In 2018, the Philippines held the sixth-highest prison population out of 21 Asian countries. As of 2019, the Philippines’ population rested at 108.31 million people, and 215,000 of those people were incarcerated. Therefore, the Philippines has an incarceration rate of about 200 per 100,000 citizens. There are 933 prisons running in the Philippines. Unfortunately, they are mismanaged and overcrowded. Below are five important facts about the incarceration system in the Philippines.

5 Facts About the Philippines’ Incarceration System

  1. Severe overcrowding – Rodrigo Duterte won the presidential election in 2016. He promised to end crime within six months. This promise also included the killing of 10s of thousands of criminals. Duterte’s election led to the infamous war on drugs and eventually, overcrowded prisons. Manila City Jail, the largest jail in the Philippines, is split into dorms that safely house 170 inmates. Currently, these dorms house around 500 people. Similarly, a room designated for 30 people holds about 130 in the Quezon City Jail. This severe overcrowding in prisons leads to illness and death tolls in the thousands.
  2. Pre-trial detainees – According to The World Prison Brief, 75.1% of incarcerations within the Philippines’ incarceration system are pre-trial. In 2018, 141,422 of 188,278 prisoners were pre-trial detainees. Unfortunately, many people are serving sentences without conviction. Pre-trial detention is found in judicial systems all over the world. In countries like the Philippines, people may serve time that outweighs their crimes. On average, prisoners in the Philippines are detained for nine months without being sentenced.
  3. High death tolls – About 5,200 inmates die annually at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). According to Ernesto Tamayo, the hospital medical chief, these deaths are due to overcrowding, dirty living conditions and inmate violence. At a 2019 Philippines Senate hearing, Tamayo said that there were “uncontrollable outbreaks of pulmonary tuberculosis.” In addition to overcrowding, poor living conditions and inmate violence, NBP lacks nutritional food and basic healthcare. On account of these living conditions, Tamayo reports that at least one prisoner dies at NBP each day. Thankfully, politicians and prison employees are working to reduce overcrowding in the Philippines’ prisons. Human rights advocates have also called for the release of vulnerable inmates, hoping to protect them from poor living conditions.
  4. Vigilante justice – Duterte’s war on drugs escalated during his presidency. Jobless citizens were recruited to kill anyone suspected of dealing, buying or using drugs. This was one of few ways for some people to make money; many homeless and impoverished people joined the vigilante teams. In 2016, Duterte told the public, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself.” Together, the Philippines’ police force and unidentified gunmen have killed 7,000 known drug dealers and users since Duterte’s presidency in 2016. The Philippines’ war on drugs has created the belief that extrajudicial violence and murder are necessary to fight crime. But, the Human Rights Watch has turned the narrative around on Duterte; they are publicizing information about the vigilante justice in the Philippines.
  5. Corruption – In August 2018, the public learned a former mayor may have been released from prison for good behavior. He was originally charged for rape and homicide in 1993. Similar stories of corruption in the Philippines’ prisons continued to emerge. In September 2018, the public learned that a woman was told her husband’s sentence would be shortened if she paid 50,000 pesos ($970). Later that year, senators stated that inmates could “live like kings” for a fee. This information led to further allegations: prison workers and officials were taking bribes to bring and distribute contraband to inmates. The contraband in question included cigarettes, cellphones and televisions. Supposedly, inmates can also pay for personal cooks and nurses. Inmates who cannot afford a better life within the prison are stuck in overcrowded and dirty rooms; these inmates have a higher rate of becoming ill and of death. Now that the corruption has been unearthed, officials are taking steps to weed it out, one prison at a time.

Possible Fix

With increased awareness of the Philippines’ prison system, there is hope that conditions will be improved and vigilante justice will end. It will take time to fix the Philippines’ judicial and incarceration systems. However, with the help of advocacy groups like the Human Rights Watch, a change could come sooner than expected.

Marlee Ingram
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Kyrgyzstan
In November of 2019, approximately 500 protestors assembled in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to express their dissatisfaction with the corruption in their country. The protestors demanded that law enforcement further investigate a $700 million money-laundering scheme, first discovered by the media. This incident of corruption is nothing new in the country of Kyrgyzstan.

Corruption is a common occurrence in the everyday life of Kyrgyzstan. The issue is especially common among businesses and in the government. Across the country’s judiciary and police forces, along with other sectors, corruption prevails. While many efforts to reduce fraud in Kyrgyzstan have had little effect, there are still routes the country can take to combat the large amounts of corruption within the country.

Judiciary

Corruption in Kyrgyzstan’s judiciary is extremely troublesome. This means that any anti-corruption legislation is implemented inadequately by the judiciary itself. Because of this, many efforts to reduce corruption in Kyrgyzstan have been largely unsuccessful. Attorneys in Kyrgyzstan’s legal system have often reported that giving bribes to judges is a regular occurrence. Many attorneys make the complaint that no matter how well organized their arguments might be, they know that ultimately it is these bribes that determine the decision of the case. In 2010 there was an attempt to reform the judiciary in order to eliminate corruption within it. However, the attempt failed because the government politicized the reform. Specifically, the president and parliament sought to use it as a way to assign judges that suited their political preferences.

Police

Corruption in Kyrgyzstan also extends to the police force. Unprofessional behavior among police officers is a regular occurrence, and as a result, law enforcement is much less effective in performing its duties. Some evidence has also shown that local law enforcement units answer directly to local government officials rather than serve the citizens. This type of behavior is especially common amongst police forces in Southern Kyrgyzstan. There are also reports that police will arrest people and threaten prosecutions in order to extort money from these “suspects”. Foreigners in Kyrgyzstan are especially at risk. The cars that foreign people drive in Kyrgyzstan have specialized license plates, making it easier for police officers to target them.

Reform

Despite the pervasive amount of corruption in Kyrgyzstan and the ineffective reforms that have passed, various institutions studying the corruption within Kyrgyzstan have made suggestions. One such institution is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. After conducting extensive research on the issue, the OECD concluded that the best way for Kyrgyzstan to proceed is to not rely on the judiciary and prosecution service. The OECD recognizes that the judiciary stands in the way of truly preventing and eliminating corruption in Kyrgyzstan. Another possible solution is that Kyrgyzstan uses specialized law enforcement that deals specifically with corruption cases.

While not the sole cause of poverty, corruption definitely can have an effect on it. This is especially the case when corruption affects businesses, which can negatively impact business owners and thus their employees. The best way for Kyrgyzstan to proceed in preventing corruption is by making some changes in the judiciary as the OECD recommends.

Jacob Lee
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Romania
Romania is a country of around 20 million people located in Southeastern Europe. Since the fall of communism in 1989, the country has transitioned to a democracy with more personal freedoms and a better economic outlook. Economic trends have improved since Romania joined the European Union in 2007. Even though Romania has enjoyed high levels of growth in recent decades, it remains plagued by corruption and the emigration of skilled professionals to other European nations. These issues create problems for healthcare in Romania. Here are five facts about healthcare in Romania.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Romania

  1. Healthcare in Romania ranks last in Europe. Romania regularly falls around last place in the European Health Consumer Index. It has an underfunded and inefficient system, which consistently fails to provide quality care. Worse than being inadequate, Romanian hospitals are often dangerous. Poorly trained staff often do not follow proper medical procedures and expose patients to unsanitary conditions. In a maternity ward in 2018, an antibiotic-resistant superbug infected 39 babies.
  2. The government plays a large role in the failures of healthcare in Romania. Romania has a program of universal health insurance. There is a mandatory payroll tax which the country uses to provide coverage to the entire population. Romania consistently spends around 4% of its GDP on healthcare, which is one of the lowest rates in the E.U. In addition to health insurance, the government also operates a majority of the hospitals in the country, many of which are aging and chronically underfunded. The country has built very few new hospitals since the end of communism. While Romania has opened the door to private insurance and hospitals over the past few decades, they have yet to take off.
  3. Low salaries are driving corruption. Despite having universal health coverage in practice, many Romanians end up having to pay out of pocket to get quality care. Underpaid hospital staff usually receive bribes to get their attention. This has created a system where the wealthy patients receive better treatment, while those unable to pay experience neglect. This culture of bribery has become a huge problem for many Romanian hospitals.
  4. There is a shortage of doctors in Romania. Romania’s entrance to the E.U. allowed more than 15,000 doctors to leave the country in search of jobs with better pay in other European countries. There is an acute shortage of healthcare professionals in the country, with around 30% of positions unfilled. The situation is worse in rural areas where salaries are lower and there is less oversight. Medical graduates and skilled doctors may continue to leave the country as long as hospitals have unfavorable working conditions.
  5. Nonprofits are filling in the gaps in healthcare in Romania. Even though the Romanian government has been unable to improve healthcare infrastructure, nonprofits are taking important action. The Give Life Association is one such group, having already built a state-of-the-art leukemia diagnosis lab and facilities to triple Romania’s organ transplant capacity. The Give Life Association is a private organization that raises funds to build important public medical infrastructure. Its current project is a major new hospital in Bucharest, Romania. The cause has drawn widespread attention in Romania, raising over $30 million from 300,000 people and 4,000 companies. The organization estimates that it will complete the new hospital in 2021.

Ending corruption would go a long way to improving the quality of healthcare in Romania. Recently, there have been signs that the government understands this and is willing to take meaningful action to end bribes and raise salaries for doctors. As a whole, medical salaries have been growing much quicker than the national average. There are hopes that higher wages will reduce the impact of bribes and entice skilled doctors to stay in the country. It will be a long process to correct the deeply flawed healthcare system in Romania. However, progress is possible if the government and the private sector work together toward reform.

Jack McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in EcuadorEcuador is a country that faces a multitude of pervasive problems. One such problem is the high rate of corruption taking place within the country. According to Transparency International, Ecuador ranked 93rd out of 180 countries for corruption. On top of that, former President Rafael Correa of Ecuador was convicted of corruption in April 2020.

Corruption’s Impact on the Poor

Corruption has a widespread impact on many different social classes. However, corruption disproportionately impacts those in poverty. Money that could be used to help provide public services to the people who need it has been lost due to corruption. Money that the U.N. provides to impoverished nations has been wasted by corrupt governments as well.

While corruption in Ecuador is a serious problem, the Ecuadorian citizenry has been vocal about corruption through their voting behavior. Various international organizations have also attempted to prevent corruption in Ecuador alongside current President Lenín Moreno.

The International Republican Institute (IRI)

The IRI has offered to lend a helping hand in the fight against corruption in Ecuador. One way that the IRI has helped Ecuador is through its Vulnerabilities to Corruption Approach (VCA). The IRI has used the VCA to help Ecuadorian municipalities make their local authorities more transparent with their citizenry and shifted their focus to important anti-corruption issues. The IRI initiated the VCA in Cuenca, Ecuador, as well as four other cities. The reason for this approach is that these cities have a more serious corruption problem compared to others in Ecuador. At the national Local Transparent Governments Conference, the leader of Cuenca, Ecuador’s anti-corruption unit, shared different methods used for preventing corruption with more than 150 different nationally and locally elected officials.

Changes Within the Government

The people of Ecuador have also tried to stop corruption by voting for new candidates. The 2019 local elections throughout Ecuador brought forth a great amount of change because of this. This is abundantly obvious considering that many of the candidates that were voted for in the local elections came from third parties or were entirely new to Ecuadorian politics. This is why many of them attended the Local Transparent Governments Conference. These candidates simply did not know or have the experience needed to identify corruption or prevent it.

Current President Moreno has also made efforts to reduce corruption in Ecuador. One example of this was the conviction of the former vice president for accepting bribes that amount to $13.5 million. Convictions like this are only possible because President Moreno has allowed high-level corruption cases to be investigated.

Due to the help of the IRI, the votes of the Ecuadorian people and actions within the government, the people of Ecuador are making strides to reduce corruption within their country.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

corruption worldwideThere has been no shortage of Americans raising awareness about the domestic hardships of disadvantaged communities at the hands of an imperfect system. At the very least, Americans are still able to protest systems and spread their message to a broad audience across social media. What is less known, however, is how many people experience similarly dehumanizing conditions globally but lack the tools to change their environment or even tell others about their struggles. American protests for equality have been and always will be important, but it is a humanitarian necessity to address social injustices and corruption worldwide, not just where it is convenient for people to do so.

What is Corruption?

Before addressing the logistics of foreign poverty, it is necessary to define what that word “corruption” means in this context. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) will be the standard definition of what corruption is, as it has been a common definition since 1995. The CPI ranks countries in terms of how much they embody “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”

Where to Find It

Even with the guidelines provided by the CPI, there is still room for interpretation, and as such there are many different survey results from individual sources (two, for example, come from the World Population Report and U.S. News and World Report). However, that is not to say there are not general trends throughout each of the results. Several lists that were used as sources cited at least half of the top 10 most corrupt countries as coming from South America, Africa or the Middle East.

The ways in which corruption has reared its head have mostly been economical. For instance, bribery is so prevalent in Afghanistan that 38% of the population sees it as normal. Somalia has a similar perception and prevalence of corruption. Ever since the Siad Barre regime was overthrown in 1991, there has been no strong government in control of the entire country. Instead, pirates, militias and clans fight over individual territories, preventing any chance of united progress without foreign intervention.

How Does This Relate to Poverty?

Anyone can understand in a broad sense how corruption is related to poverty, since one would assume that any country riddled with poverty would have to be the result of a misuse of power. For any changes to occur, however, people need to understand clearly what exactly is going on. In 2010, a sample of 97 developing countries was examined by the University of Putra Malaysia in a study that attempted to find the casual relationship between corruption and poverty.

In short, the study’s original data and other literature it cited concluded that “countries with high income inequality have high levels of corruption… After countries attain a specific level of income equality, corruption exponentially decreases.” This is no surprise considering how authorities in Sudan, Afghanistan and other nations have bribed and hoarded billions of dollars that should have helped citizens out of poverty.

Solutions

The study found three main ways to create a culture change in the corruption of developing nations.

  1. Promoting Inclusiveness: Citizens need to have a voice in their government through establishing democratic policies.
  2. Promoting Lawfulness: There must be laws and punishments by police for the disproportionate mistreatment of the disadvantaged.
  3. Promoting Accountability: Governments need to be made aware of the relationship between poverty and corruption and how officials may be implicit or responsible for these hardships.

These ideas may seem like common sense, but in a country that is not taking action, they need to be restated, just as they have been for America’s own domestic issues. All it takes to begin the fight against global corruption is simple civil engagement, such as an email to a senator.

– Bryce Thompson
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Moldova
Moldova suffered through an economic collapse after achieving independence in 1991. Poverty in Moldova has remained high for decades with its previously weak economy and the added burden of multiple global recessions. The country continues to face the same issues in 2020. Here is some information about the severe levels of poverty in Moldova.

An Unstable Population

The foundation of a nation’s economy relies heavily upon its people. In the case of Moldova, however, the unstable population has led to a highly volatile economy.

The official population of Moldova is 3.5 million. However, estimates determine that the true figure is much less due to a significant level of out-migration ​with people seeking work in other countries. The World Bank stated that this “puts pressure on the pension system and limits the available labor force and the country’s long-term competitiveness.” As a result, poverty in Moldova will likely continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future.

Decreased fertility rates are also contributing to the unstable population. The total fertility rate (TFR) at which a population replaces itself from one generation to the next is roughly 2.1 for most countries. However, as of 2020, Moldova’s rate was 1.3. As women have fewer children within Moldova, the overall population is contracting, leaving the increased share of elderly people with very few young people to care for them in the future.

Natural Disasters

Many regions of Moldova are at increased risk of earthquakes and flooding. This has a significant impact on the economy because over half the population lives in rural areas and more than 40% of the economy relies on industry and agriculture.

Many citizens are at risk of natural disasters. People in areas of higher risk of natural disasters also suffer from weaker economies as a result. The province at greatest risk of floods and earthquakes is Chisinau–the region with the greatest GDP. However, since the region is also at high risk for natural disasters, this inevitably leads to a more volatile economy that takes significant hits during flooding and earthquakes.

According to the World Bank, natural disasters impact up to 3% of the region’s GDP, leading to a potential loss of $66 million. These events can damage arable land, create food shortages that leave people hungry and cause people to suffer from injury or loss. Environmental challenges can significantly impact the lives of citizens and drag the most vulnerable peoples of Moldova into poverty.

Sanitation and Health Care

Currently, millions of Moldovans must choose between their paycheck and their health as 60% of the economy in Moldova is service-oriented. The current global economic crisis that began as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely continue to impact Moldova significantly. According to the World Bank, it “will lead to a contraction of Moldova’s economy in 2020.” Assuming that the country can largely contain COVID-19 later in 2020, estimates determine that the nation could still suffer through an economic recession of 3.1% that could subsequently increase poverty in Moldova.

Corruption in the Government

Moldova became an independent republic in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, the new nation has massive corruption within the government. In 2015, a banking scandal that “led to public discontent over high-levels of corruption and poor living standards for citizens” led to an upset in Moldova’s economy. This transgression included the embezzlement of $1 billion by government officials, accounting for around 12.5% of the country’s GDP.

Governmental instability has driven money away from programs to help alleviate the suffering of the poor and into​ the wallets of elected officials. As a result, poverty in Moldova continues without the proper economic resources necessary to combat it.

Why Hope Persists

Even in these unprecedented times, the many projects the work to improve education, entrepreneurship and welfare within the nation have given the Moldovan people a beacon of hope. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted an estimated 1 billion students worldwide, young people in Moldova have been able to engage in home-based learning both online and offline.

The Moldova Education Reform Project is supporting the nation’s education system in order to cope with the current pandemic and prepare for its upcoming recovery. This governmental effort has ameliorated a reported nine schools and given them the technology necessary to enable students to continue learning remotely despite the current quarantine. A total of 160 schools in Moldova will benefit from the program by the end of 2020.

By building resilience for the world’s challenges, students in poverty in Moldova are preparing themselves for better and brighter futures. The government acted by implementing emergency measures. These should protect businesses from immediate bankruptcies after streams of crippling demand shock, disrupted supply chains and a lockdown. These measures should also help prevent unnecessary shut-downs and layoffs by providing qualifying businesses with liquidity while supporting employee retention and improving services through e-governance reforms.

Through these programs, the government has protected many citizens from moving further into poverty. These measures should allow the economy to continue to grow after the recovery period is complete. Ultimately, when considering the current circumstances for Moldova, one sees both the adversities and the victories. As complex as the issue of poverty is, with proper projects, education and economic goals, poverty in Moldova should reduce.

– Daniela Canales
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in India
The government of India and international organizations, like WHO, are attempting to improve healthcare in India to make it accessible for every section of its society. However, healthcare in India is far from reaching its goal of universal healthcare. The following are some of the hurdles that India faces.

Limited Healthcare Workforce

India’s population is around 1.3 billion, but it has a low number of medical and paramedical professionals. In fact, the density of doctors was 80 doctors per 100,000 of the population in 2001 and the number of nurses was 61 per 100,000. According to WHO recommendations, a physician to population ratio should be at least 1 to 1,000, whereas India’s physician population ratio is 1 to 1,674. India needs around 2.07 million more doctors to reach the goal of 1 to 1,000.

Despite the lack of medical professionals, the urban-rural disparity is also a major hurdle in healthcare in India. According to a WHO report, there were 1,225,381 health workers in urban areas in 2001 and 844,159 in rural areas. While 70 percent of India’s population resides in rural areas, access to healthcare is inefficient compared to urban areas. For example,84 percent of the 23,582 hospitals only hold 39 percent of the total of government beds.

To combat the limited number of healthcare professionals in India, the Indian Government has made a strategic investment in its healthcare. In 2005, it launched the National Rural Health Mission (NHM), which people know as the National Health Mission. The main purpose of this organization is to ensure quality and affordable healthcare for all. In addition to this, Nation Health Policy (NHP) 2017 focuses on the requirement of healthcare management in the country. This policy has implemented a new public health management cadre in all states.

Education and Medical Qualifications

A WHO report stated that India has to work on improving the education of its doctors. In fact, around 31.4 percent of allopathic doctors receive an education up to the secondary school level and even 57.3 percent did not have any medical qualifications. Meanwhile, only 67.1 percent of nurses and midwives had education up to the secondary level.

Lack of Awareness

Despite India’s fast economic development, people in the country often have low health awareness, low education status and poor functional literacy within the healthcare system. According to a report in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine, only one-third of the antenatal mothers in India have adequate knowledge of breastfeeding. It also stated that around 1 million newborn infants die every year because of umbilical cord infection which an optimal breastfeeding practice could avoid.

The Indian Government’s National Rural Health Mission intends to provide aid for neonatal and childhood illness through its existing healthcare delivery system. It has also created the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana and applied amendments to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. The amendment protects women’s employment as well as women’s and children’s well being during maternity. In 2016, the Indian Government started the Mothers Absolute Affection program, which is to promote, protect and support optimal breastfeeding across regions of the country.

Public and Private Healthcare

India’s interim budget only allocates 2.2 percent for healthcare. Despite several health reforms, the government is still not able to increase public health spending to 2.5 percent of its GDP. Right now, the current health expenditure in India is only 1.15-1.5 percent of its GDP.

The Indian healthcare system has two main branches. These branches are public and private. The federal and state government regulates the public healthcare systems, whereas medical professionals run private sectors independently. Public healthcare systems receive financing through taxes, while patient’s pay for private healthcare centers. Private healthcare facilities are generally available to people in urban areas. Public healthcare can offer people low cost or no-cost health services, but unfortunately, because of poor quality of services, public healthcare is not the first choice of India’s major population, even though most people from the lower socio-economic status uses this healthcare system. The private healthcare system has the latest technology, qualified doctors and other facilities, but private hospitals are out of reach of the general population who are below the poverty line.

The government is trying to fill the gap between public and private healthcare and has implemented the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) insurance plan to do this. The main purpose of this insurance plan is to provide low-cost insurance. According to the Indian Government’s data, around 44 percent of people from below the poverty line enrolled in RSBY from 2014 to 2015. Now the fund for this insurance scheme has increased from $4,000 to $14,000 per family. RSBY insurance could help impoverished people receive quality healthcare at a low cost. This subsidized healthcare policy would provide people a choice between public and private hospitals so they can receive quality treatment.

Fraudulence and Corruption

Fraudulence and corruption are big hurdles in healthcare in India. Corruption is common at both the higher and service delivery levels, undermining the accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare. Some of the common problems at the service delivery level include absenteeism, informal payments from patients, embezzlement and theft, service provision, favoritism and manipulation of outcome data.

The nationwide average absentee rate for doctors and healthcare providers is around 40 percent. Meanwhile, in 2013, Oxfam reported that medical professionals performed many unnecessary hysterectomies on women. Additionally, there was a large conspiracy in healthcare construction in Orissa, India, where 54 of the 55 hospitals built in Orissa had construction problems. Moreover, according to The Guardian, “The Indian healthcare system is one of the most privatized and largely unregulated healthcare systems.” A report by Dr. Gadre found that large numbers of doctors give irrational drug prescriptions while hospital patients often receive pressure to pay for an unnecessary operation or procedure.

A limited workforce, lack of awareness, education and medical qualification of healthcare professionals, corruption and healthcare expenses are inhibiting the improvement of healthcare in India. However, the Indian Government has projected many programs and schemes to improve the healthcare condition of Indians. Organizations like WHO, UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are also providing aid. Through public contribution and the Indian Government’s efforts, India should eventually reach its goal of universal health coverage.

– Anuja Kumari


Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Syria
With a population of 18.4 million people, Syria ranked as a rapidly developing mid-sized country before the Syrian civil war broke out. Today, 11.7 million Syrian people have experienced displacement from their homes. Schools, health care facilities and small businesses have suffered greatly. As a result, the Syrian economy has collapsed, placing more than half of Syrian people in poverty. Children are at an especially high risk of poverty and displacement. The war has a stranglehold on the Syrian economy. It has caused significant damage to the country’s infrastructure and wreaked havoc on the lives of civilians. However, global aid has significantly improved Syrian peoples’ educational and employment opportunities, as well as access to food, water, shelter and health care. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Syria.

10 Facts About Poverty in Syria

  1. Before the Syrian civil war, the Syrian economy was flourishing. In 2010, right before the start of the Syrian civil war, the World Bank listed Syria as a rapidly-growing middle-income country. In addition, farming, oil, industry and tourism formed the major economic base. Meanwhile, primary and secondary education and health care received state funding. Until 2011, nearly 80 percent of the Syrian economy relied upon small to medium-sized businesses. In 2010, the GDP per capita in Syria was $2,807. Today, the GDP per capita is a mere $870.
  2. Today, the majority of Syrian people live in poverty. Over 80 percent of people in Syria live below the world poverty line, which means that they make less than $1 per day. The economic impact of ongoing conflict has resulted in an unemployment rate of 55 percent or more.
  3. Corruption is prevalent in Syria. Syria ranks fourth on the list of countries with the most corruption in the world. High paying jobs concentrate in Damascus, the country’s capital. It is hard to get a job in the capital without “wasta.” “Wasta” is an Arabic word that translates to “nepotism” or “clout.”
  4. The Syrian civil war interferes with education. The U.N. confirmed 74 strikes on schools and military use of 24 schools from January to June 2019. As a result, fighting has damaged many schools or bombs have demolished them. More than 33 percent of Syria’s children – over 2 million – do not go to school. Around 1.3 million children are at a high chance of withdrawing from school. UNICEF is working to provide education to Syrian children. The organization repairs damaged school buildings, provides at-home learning programs to students in districts where there are no schools and administers teacher-training programs.
  5. The Syrian civil war has impeded health care. Bombing damaged or destroyed many medical facilities. In northwest Syria, 51 medical facilities suffered attacks between January and June 2019. Fifty percent of all health care centers in Syria are only partly operational or are not operating at all. In light of this, many foundations are working in Syria to provide health care. For example, Doctors Without Borders is currently working in Syria, providing outpatient care, assisting with births and administering routine vaccinations.
  6. There is extreme wealth inequality in Syria. Before 2011, Syrian small businesses thrived. However, many shut down in the past decade. A few big business owners have established a monopoly over approximately 75 percent of the economy, though the average Syrian person lives in poverty
  7. Inflation has greatly affected the Syrian population. Syrian currency has depreciated greatly in recent years. The value of the Syrian pound has gone down over 90 percent since 2010. Prices have greatly increased, but salaries have stagnated and jobs are much harder to come by.
  8. Women and children suffer the damages of war. Children must often engage in child labor or marriage, or join the fighting to help their families survive. Additionally, over 60 percent of Syrian refugees are children. Syrian women are at high risk of enduring sexual violence.
  9. Many Syrians flee the country. There are 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, a neighboring country. In Lebanon, around 70 percent of Syrian people live below the poverty line. In Jordan, around 93 percent of Syrian refugees live below the poverty line. Living conditions for Syrian refugees are difficult, but perhaps preferable to the crisis of living in the midst of a civil war.
  10. Foreign aid is helping Syrian citizens. International relief organizations like the IRC, UNICEF and Worldvision provide significant aid to Syria. Currently, the IRC provides support to nearly 1 million people—half of them children. Support includes pop-up health clinics, cash vouchers to obtain food and necessities, child care, job training and psychosocial support for traumatized people. This is often for survivors of violence or sexual assault.

These 10 facts about poverty in Syria show that the current situation in Syria is bleak, as poverty and displacement affect nearly the entire population. However, foreign policy and intervention can help end the war. Additionally, foreign aid can support education, health care and small businesses. Ideally, Syria will stabilize in the years to come.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Flickr

Understanding the Venezuela Crisis
Venezuela’s socioeconomic debacle has been grabbing headlines over the past few years, especially as the crippling inflation rate—recently eclipsing 10,000 percent—hit the country’s economy and began to unravel its health sector. But these are just two of the key components to understanding the Venezuela crisis and its various impacts as the humanitarian crisis continues to debilitate the region following many years of unrest.

Many Years of Strife

Since the death of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2013 and the appointment of the current leader, Nicolás Maduro, the country has experienced a dire financial crisis as a result of low oil prices and financial mismanagement. Various power struggles and changes within the country’s National Assembly marked the political and humanitarian crisis that ensued.

The country’s military largely continues to back Maduro despite domestic, international and widespread condemnation of his authoritarian government. The political crisis has now spread to all levels of the economy and society, with nearly 4.5 million individuals having fled Venezuela due to the escalating unrest.

Following anti-government protests in 2014 after the victory of Maduro’s party the previous year, the economy and health care sector began their plunge and had all but collapsed by 2016. Malnutrition, child mortality and unemployment rates began to rise as a result. The United Nations estimates that the undernourishment rate in the country has quadrupled since the year 2012, putting more than 300,000 lives at risk due to limited access to medical treatment and medicines. Aid and relief efforts continue to face major hindrances due to mounting strife.

As the economic and humanitarian crisis grew over recent years, there was significant backlash and condemnation from foreign nations including the U.S. followed by significant international sanctions, especially over the increasingly authoritarian measures that Maduro took to pass laws autonomously and virtually unchecked.

Venezuela’s Refugee Crisis

Another dimension to understanding the Venezuela crisis is its refugee crisis as the economic and political problems have resulted in a dire humanitarian emergency. Since the beginning of the crisis back in 2014, over 4.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country. Mass displacement and humanitarian challenges continue mostly unabated due to integration obstacles, immigration and border pressures.

In 2019, the UNHCR-led joint effort, the Regional Refugee and Migrant Rescue Response Plan, along with the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) called for the provision of $738 million in assistance to countries in the Caribbean and Latin America that were dealing with the impacts of the migrant exodus. Unfortunately, the Venezuelan refugee crisis remains one of the most underfunded in the world.

Aid and Other Positive Developments

Throughout 2019, the Venezuelan government under Maduro refused aid relief headed by Brazil, Colombia and the U.S., relying on Russia’s 300 tons of humanitarian assistance instead which included food as well as medical supplies. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been overseeing foreign aid, especially medical and food supplies from Russia and other countries. However, at the same time, aid relief and efforts such as the distribution of crucial medicines have stalled owing to the escalating political crisis and mounting corruption.

The U.S. and President Donald Trump have not only pledged humanitarian financial assistance but have declared their support for the democratic opposition group led by Juan Guaidó. In October 2019, USAID signed a major development agreement with Guaidó’s shadow government, thereby raising aid and assistance to $116 million and allocating a further $568 million to helping Venezuelans displaced by the conflict. Though the U.S. and its allies remain committed to toppling Maduro’s regime and reinstating rule of law, they are in serious conflict with Maduro’s international allies, namely Russia, Turkey and China.

Hope for the Future

The Center for Prevention Action from the Council on Foreign Relations believes it is imperative to consider important policy options to help promote democracy as well as channel crucial humanitarian aid and assistance, perhaps even by means of forced humanitarian intervention and post-transition stabilization.

Even though the Venezuelan crisis at times may seem to be reaching an impasse, it remains possible that the humanitarian and pro-democracy efforts of foreign powers could ultimately lead to a post-Maduro scenario. The year 2020 will be an important year in determining the ultimate fate of the country and the internal power struggles. The international community will hold an indispensable role in helping to create a better understanding of the Venezuela crisis and to help create a promising future for the country.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Wikipedia Commons