hunger and povertyPresident Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe announced that the government has committed itself to end hunger and poverty in the country by expanding and improving its agricultural strategies. The president made this announcement at a United Pre-Food Systems Summit Dialogue hosted by the president of Malawi. Zimbabwe was one of many African countries that receive representation at the Summit.

Hunger in Zimbabwe

In the past two decades, farmers in Zimbabwe have struggled to feed the entire nation. In 2014, Africa Renewal reported that 2001 was “the last time Zimbabwe produced enough maize to meet its needs.” The reason for the lack of substantial produce is a deficit of financial support for the agriculture system in the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the inconsistency of agricultural produce. This is prevalent in the recovery of agriculture as a result of improved control of COVID-19 cases in the country. Food inflation during May 2021 was at 179% and records determined that prices were at a 0% to 20% decrease, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Progress Toward Ending Hunger

While the agriculture industry in Zimbabwe may be on the mend since the pandemic, there is still work that needs to occur. For example, 2021’s Global Report on Food Crises has found that there has been no recent progress toward the goal of reaching “zero hunger” in the world by 2030.

This is one of the motivating factors behind President Mnangagwa’s decision to end hunger and poverty in Zimbabwe. He claims that Zimbabwe’s best strategy requires that “institutions of higher learning must be roped in to offer innovation that climate-proofs the vital agriculture sector,” as the Zimbabwe Chronicle reported.

Higher-learning institutions can provide farmers and agricultural members with the knowledge of how to better cultivate the food they need. The institutions can also give resources for financial assistance, equipment access, lessons on nutrition and strengthening strategies within Zimbabwe’s food systems. With this strategy, the president believes that the agriculture system in Zimbabwe will be able to grow.

Boosting Zimbabwe’s Economy

As evidence suggests, the growth of agriculture and food systems in Zimbabwe is the key to boosting the entire economy. President Mnangagwa explains that “the present economic blueprint” and the country’s agriculture and food systems development plans “situates the agriculture sector as having a critical role in the overall development and growth of the economy.” He says further, “This is anchored on food and nutrition security, import substitution, exports generation, employment creation and the raising of household incomes.”

The positive development of agriculture in Zimbabwe is the key to ending hunger and poverty throughout the country. Agriculture provides citizens with food security and boosts the economy with exports, sales and employment. Thus, if the president’s plan falls into place as described, it could bring about a positive change for Zimbabwe, contributing to reduced global hunger and poverty.

– Riley Prillwitz
Photo: pixabay

Bodies in the Ganges
The Ganges River is filled with dead bodies and lined with shallow riverside graves that dogs often dig up. According to estimates, people dug 4,000 graves along just one mile of the Ganges riverbank in Uttar Pradesh between mid-April and mid-May 2021. Families of the dead float their bodies in the Ganges or bury them on the riverbank because they cannot afford cremation, especially in the impoverished rural states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Increased Cremation Cost

Cremation for non-COVID-19 deaths in India generally costs around 5,000 rupees (Rs), but crematoriums have raised prices for those who have died of COVID-19 to around 22,000 to 30,000 rupees. Because of the high cost of cremation, many people living in poverty are submerging their dead in the river or burying bodies on the shore.

Traditionally, Hindus in India float certain bodies in the Ganges, including those of people who die of infectious diseases. Now, though, with the COVID-19 crisis causing cremation costs to soar, people are disposing of even more bodies than usual in the Ganges.

Fear and Economic Cost

Some worry that the bodies in the Ganges could spread COVID-19. Experts say that the dumping of bodies may not lead to increased COVID-19 cases, but could lead to other infections from polluted drinking water. However, the Jal Shakti Ministry, an Indian government ministry focused on water, claims that the bodies have not polluted the river.

Nevertheless, fear of poor water quality and coronavirus spread has led to declining fish sales. One fisherman said, “So far we have lost Rs 50,000… No one is buying fishes because of fear.” There is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread through the consumption of fish, and the only carnivorous fish in the Ganges are illegal to hunt. Still, some are refusing to eat fish from the Ganges. The greater danger, though, is that the Ganges provides water for drinking, bathing and irrigation for over 400 million people.

Governmental Recommendations

In response to the crisis of bodies in the Ganges, India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has called for legislation addressing the dignity and rights of the dead. It has given 11 recommendations:

  1. Protecting the rights of the dead.
  2. Establishing temporary crematoriums for timely cremations.
  3. Mandating that staff learn proper procedures for the handling of dead bodies and safety equipment.
  4. Allowing last rites that do not involve touching dead bodies.
  5. Allowing local authorities to perform the appropriate last rites in the absence of family.
  6. Encouraging the use of electric crematoriums rather than funeral pyres to avoid smoke-related health hazards.
  7. Prohibiting piling of dead bodies.
  8. Prohibiting mass burial or cremation.
  9. Providing criteria for identifying bodies and protecting information about the dead.
  10. Regulating the cost of transit of the dead.
  11. Ensuring that those working with the dead receive proper pay and are a priority for vaccination.

Solutions

India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is monitoring the Ganges and its tributaries closely and liaising with state and local health departments and pollution agencies. After the Jal Shakti Ministry asked that governments ensure the proper disposal of bodies, the Bihar government is taking action. The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has also asked authorities to properly dispose of unidentified bodies and to detail the actions they have taken in submitted reports.

Along with preventing the dumping of bodies in the Ganges, state agencies must prevent citizens from burying bodies in riverbanks, support cremation and provide education on the proper use of river water. The Indian government has also installed a net to catch the bodies in the Ganges.

– Hilary Brown
Photo: Flickr

Vietnam's Foreign Aid When COVID-19 rates began rising in China in the winter of 2019, Vietnam, one of its near neighbors, did not hesitate to act. After experiencing devastating blows in previous years from the SARS virus, another respiratory illness, and the H5N1 virus, Vietnam acted quickly. The government of Vietnam instituted quarantines in cities throughout the country, began contract tracing within the first couple of months of the outbreak and focused on keeping the public as educated as possible. Between January and April 16, 2020, Vietnam recorded fewer than 400 cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. Furthermore, for almost 100 days after this period, Vietnam had zero cases of local transmission. Now, Vietnam’s foreign aid looks to help Vietnam’s neighbors, Laos and Cambodia.

COVID-19 in Laos and Cambodia

In April 2021, Laos and Cambodia suffered a surge of COVID-19 cases that brought concern o Vietnam. Vietnam expressed distress that April’s major national holidays would encourage a spike within Vietnam with people traveling between different countries, undoing Vietnam’s COVID-19 progress. In order to mitigate concerns of rising cases and the risk to Vietnam, Vietnam opted to extend foreign aid to Laos and Cambodia.

Helping Cambodia

In April 2021, the recently appointed Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Jakarta, Indonesia, “on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that had gathered to discuss the Myanmar crisis.” Shortly thereafter, discussions began about continued measures to decrease the impacts of COVID-19. Vietnam agreed to give foreign aid to Cambodia to strengthen its response to COVID-19. This came in the form of a $500,000 donation, “800 respirators, two million medical masks and 300,000 N95 masks.” In this act of aid, Vietnam expresses its close diplomatic relations with Cambodia.

Assisting Laos

Similar discussions also took place with Laos. In anticipation of more cross-border travel because of holiday festivities, Vietnam also offered foreign aid to Laos to strengthen its COVID-19 response. In a similar fashion to Cambodia, Laos also experienced a spike in cases toward the end of April 2021, however, the total number of deaths remains low at just five deaths.

According to The Laotian Times, in early May 2021, the Vietnamese government gave Laos $500,000 as well as medical resources and the support of 35 medical staff to help the country in its fight against COVID-19. The medical workers and resources from Vietnam arrived in Laos at Wattay International Airport. The medical supplies included “200 respirators, 10,000 kilograms of chloramine and two million face masks.”

A Beacon of Hope

Vietnam’s success against COVID-19 is a source of pride for the country. Vietnam’s COVID-19 response has also served as an inspiration to neighboring countries. The tactics put in place early on by the Vietnamese government helped facilitate its success in subsequent months when cases were rising elsewhere. Vietnam’s foreign aid during COVID-19 is helping its neighbors regain hope in recovery. Hopefully, as Vietnam’s foreign aid of both monetary stimulus and medical assistance helps countries recover, other countries will be inspired to reach out a helping hand as well.

– Grace Parker
Photo: Flickr

Innovations to fight COVID-19The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on global economic, social and healthcare systems. Developing countries have seen an even more destructive impact. As wealthier countries relied on better-funded healthcare systems and vast resources to overcome the pandemic, the developing world was largely left to fend for itself. However, entrepreneurial technological innovations to fight COVID-19 have given hope to those less fortunate to persist through the pandemic.

JAMVENT: An Open-Source Ventilator

Ventilators serve as a last resort for those suffering from extreme cases of COVID-19. However, many countries, developing and developed alike, find themselves with a shortage of these expensive and complex machines. India, Brazil, the U.S. and Spain have all experienced scarcity throughout the pandemic.

Luckily, a team from Imperial College London has developed JAMVENT, a low-cost and open-source ventilator. This ventilator does not require specialty parts, a significant barrier to ventilator production. While ventilators currently cost $35,000, the production cost of JAMVENT is only $2,000. Furthermore, JAMVENT’s open-sourced blueprints could allow countries to manufacture reliable ventilators for a fraction of the current cost. JAMVENT is still in the regulatory process in the United Kingdom, but the blueprint is already available for countries to use.

Intelehealth: Providing Digital Health Care

Many communities globally suffer from isolation: a lack of roads or rail transportation can hinder the flow of goods and people to and from a town. Isolation from medical services can prove particularly detrimental, especially when faced with a contagious pandemic. Access to medical professionals, even virtually, increases survival rates. As a result, many innovations to fight COVID-19 focus on connecting those who are isolated to medical professionals.

Intelehealth, an open-source digital platform for connecting patients and doctors, has partnered with the NGO Aaroogya Foundation to create a platform to enhance access to healthcare in isolated Indian communities. So far, it has provided pandemic prevention education to 43,551 people across 22 regions in India, with another 10,088 teleconsultations and 8,396 frontline workers given training.

A Smart Hand Sanitizing Device

Temperature checks have become quite common in the United States, with many restaurants, supermarkets and shops requiring these checks. However, some territories around the world have trouble accessing these technologies due to trade restrictions or isolation. These barriers make developing innovations to fight COVID-19 difficult. However, in the Gaza Strip, entrepreneur Heba al-Hindi designed a smart hand sanitizing machine that automatically takes the user’s temperature and opens the door.

Along with preventing the spread of COVID-19 in businesses, this device has overcome some of the difficulties isolated communities face. The parts for the machine come from scrapyards across the Gaza Strip. Heba al-Hindi aims to bring awareness to this “Made in Gaza” brand to support local industry, providing an economic stimulus to a region in need.

A Clear Mask for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

While mask-wearing has undoubtedly saved many lives, for some, it presents a problem. Deaf people who partly rely on mouth movements to interpret speech have encountered many difficulties in communication since the pandemic began. However, Faizah Badaruddin, a 51-year-old deaf tailor in Indonesia, developed a clear mask to address this communication barrier while wearing a mask.

“Since the pandemic started, everyone is wearing face masks. For deaf people, we can’t understand what others are saying because we can’t read their lips,” states Badaruddin in an interview with the Straits Times. Each day, Badaruddin and her husband make more than a dozen masks. These masks cost around $1 and allow families to accommodate their deaf friends and loved ones. For a developing country like Indonesia, keeping prices low and helping the deaf community both come as a priority, and, Badaruddin has seemingly struck a balance.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Many of the new COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA technology, a groundbreaking technology that could revolutionize vaccine production for many diseases. With these vaccines, the world is now equipped with the necessary innovations to fight COVID-19. While these technological innovations have helped contain the spread of COVID-19 and empower individuals, only a vaccine distributed to all countries will end the pandemic. However, distribution has remained unequal, with upper-income countries buying 54% of doses while only making up 19% of the population.

Luckily, the COVAX program by the World Bank and bilateral donations have helped many developing countries kick-start vaccination campaigns, with significant successes in countries such as Bhutan, El Salvador and Mongolia. The developed world should support these campaigns with more vaccine donations and greater freedom in accessing vaccine patents. Moving forward, collaboration and cooperation will accelerate the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic on a global scale.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 and Poverty in Kyrgyzstan
Nestled in the mountains of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has long suffered from high poverty rates and underdevelopment, but the past decade saw Kyrgyzstan’s per capita GDP rise by nearly 50%. The COVID-19 pandemic has halted progress, however, with 700,000 people in Kyrgyzstan sliding into poverty from 2019 to 2020. COVID-19 and poverty in Kyrgyzstan are interlinked in several ways.

An Economy Based on Remittances

The World Bank classifies Kyrgyzstan as a lower middle-income country with a per capita GDP of about $1,200. Much of Kyrgyzstan’s national wealth comes from remittances, especially in rural areas, from which migrants move to work in Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkey. In 2019, citizens abroad sent back nearly $2.5 billion, or 30% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP. Official statistics show that without remittances, Kyrgyzstan’s 2019 poverty rate would have increased by more than half.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many migrant workers returned home, cutting off remittance flows that kept rural families alive. Others stayed abroad but sent family home, increasing the burden on Kyrgyzstan’s rural residents. Due to the informality of their work, many migrants lost their jobs during the pandemic and did not qualify for the government aid that other more protected workers qualified for.

Rising Food Prices

In 2019, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that 46% of the Kyrgyz population did not meet their daily calorie needs. From June 2019 to June 2020, food prices rose by 17%, pushing even more vulnerable households into food insecurity and highlighting the correlation between COVID-19 and poverty in Kyrgyzstan. During the same period, the price of flour increased by around 30%.

Kyrgyzstan’s poverty levels have close ties to food prices. According to the World Bank, when food prices rise, Kyrgyzstan’s poverty rate follows closely behind. Rising food prices use up savings of low and middle-class people, pushing them into vulnerability.

While faltering remittances largely affected rural populations, the rising food prices have mainly increased urban poverty in Kyrgyzstan. While those in rural areas have access to farms, urban residents in poverty require assistance to meet their basic food needs. Food imports that fed urban populations fell due to Kyrgyzstan’s weakening currency, hurting low- and middle-income people in cities.

In March 2020, to combat food insecurity, the government instituted price caps, took legal action against companies raising prices and handed out food to vulnerable citizens in urban areas. In April 2020, nearly 95% of households in Bishkek received aid from the government, while in rural areas, 26% received aid. The government’s efforts mitigated the worst of Kyrgyzstan’s increased food insecurity.

Informal Labor

Before the pandemic, informal employment accounted for 71% of all employment in Kyrgyzstan, a large cause of poverty. Informal workers, usually in the construction, trade or industry sectors, usually have no contracts with their employer, increasing their risk of exploitation. During the pandemic, as unemployment rose, informal employees found themselves without the same social protection systems and labor rights as formal employees.

The construction industry, one of the largest sectors of the Kyrgyz economy, employs an especially large amount of informal labor. Due to falling investment and government restrictions, the construction sector has suffered particularly badly, with business owners reporting major drops in employment.

The Government and World Bank Assists

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the World Bank has created three assistance programs totaling $88 million to combat the effects of COVID-19 and poverty in Kyrgyzstan. The programs target both urban and rural poverty, focusing on food insecurity, the environment and low wages.

One of the programs, the Emergency Support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, is providing $25 million in microloans to small and medium-sized businesses suffering from the effects of the pandemic. With a focus on entrepreneurs, this World Bank program aims to help modernize Kyrgyzstan’s economy and workforce.

The World Bank also implemented the Social Protection Emergency Response and Delivery Systems to protect those most at risk of sliding into poverty. This response includes grants for vulnerable families with children and enhanced unemployment insurance for workers across all economic sectors. In the long run, this program will focus on developing income-generating skills in order to make the benefits of relief sustainable after the pandemic has passed.

The World Bank’s third program, the CASA-1000 Community Support Project, will fund small infrastructure projects across Kyrgyzstan. Community members will define and carry out the projects so that each locality has its needs met. The program will support projects in every sub-district, ensuring widespread impact.

The World Bank also supplied emergency funding for Kyrgyzstan’s healthcare system, with $12 million delivered as of March 2021. The funding helped the country acquire 266 hospital beds, 26 ambulances and 342 sets of breathing support equipment, along with funding for medicine, PPE and other supplies necessary for combating the pandemic.

Progress and the Road Ahead

As of July 2021, more than 2,000 Kyrgyz had died of COVID-19 and more than half a million have entered into poverty. The government, in partnership with the World Bank, has taken action to fight both the health and economic effects of the pandemic. New legislation and World Bank programs aim to bring Kyrgyzstan through the pandemic with a stronger economy and a less vulnerable population.

Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in ZimbabweThe effects of COVID-19 have been felt throughout the world. However, countries that were already experiencing poverty and health disparities are in worse shape now. Zimbabwe is one particular country that is struggling with the COVID-19 crisis. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Zimbabwe “further complicates Zimbabwe’s economic and social conditions.” With global aid and support, Zimbabwe can successfully recover from the effects of the pandemic.

COVID-19’s Economic Impact on Zimbabwe

According to a June 2021 economic analysis conducted by the World Bank, the number of  Zimbabweans living in extreme poverty increased to 7.9 million in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also reveals that the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Zimbabwe escalated extreme poverty overall to almost 50% in 2020. The COVID-19 crisis has also impacted basic public services in the areas of “health, education and social protection.”

Prior to the pandemic, poverty in Zimbabwe was already on the rise. In 2011, the number of Zimbabweans living in poverty increased from three million people to 6.6 million people in 2019. Before COVID-19, rising fuel and food prices contributed to the rising level of poverty in the country. However, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Zimbabwe has only exacerbated the dire circumstances with increased job losses and reduced household income.

It was reported that at least 30% of formal jobs within the country were lost due to the increasing number of COVID-19 restrictions. The country has lost roughly $1 billion from a lack of tourism. Zimbabwe still has restrictions at hotspots such as Mashonaland West, Masvingo and Bulawayo provinces. Intense restrictions require businesses in these areas to trade until 3 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. Limited trading hours economically impact the revenue of businesses.

Avoiding Another Lockdown

As Zimbabwe prepared to enter a third wave of the pandemic, another nationwide lockdown seemed unavoidable. The president of the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz), Israel Murefu, warns that another lockdown would have a disastrous impact on the economy. Due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, businesses have suffered nationwide and Zimbabweans suffered extreme job losses.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Zimbabwe has left its mark on the country. The rising level of unemployed Zimbabweans has caused a spike in extreme poverty cases. Murefu states that “adapting production processes to the new normal requires a huge capital outlay and takes time,” adding that the country should avoid another lockdown.

Global Assistance

Aside from internal changes that need to occur such as the government creating policies that will protect the impoverished and provide resources to people hit hardest by the pandemic, aid from world superpowers would help Zimbabwe get back on track.

Zimbabwe is experiencing a significant shortage of vaccines. As cases continue to rise, it is more important than ever that the global community steps in to help. It was reported that China would be providing Zimbabwe with 2.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June 2021. As more people receive vaccinations, COVID-19 restrictions can ease and Zimbabwe can find its way to economic recovery.

Zimbabwe has reported more than 43,000 COVID-19 cases as of June 24, 2021. As cases continue to rise, the Zimbabwean government has committed to improves its COVID-19 awareness campaigns across the country in order to help reduce the spread of cases. A reduced burden of COVID-19 cases will decrease the economic burden stemming from strained healthcare services in the country.

It is also important for other countries and international players to provide more vaccine doses to Zimbabwe. Being that the country is unable to acquire enough resources to combat COVID-19, the generosity of other countries will help Zimbabwe regain stability. Though the recovery of Zimbabwe’s economy and job market will take time, recovery progress will accelerate if the global community is able to reach out a helping hand and share resources.

– Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Cambodia
The IDPoor card is a critical resource in the United Nations’ new COVID-19 Cash Transfer Programme. This program aims to support socioeconomically disadvantaged citizens who COVID-19 in Cambodia has impacted. The IDPoor card, which the country implemented in October 2020, is a form of payment to impoverished families and individuals that helps them access essential resources like food, housing, healthcare treatment, education and more.

IDPoor Card in Action

The Cash Transfer Programme provides Cambodians with financial resources for housing security and healthcare access. The Cambodian government registers individuals in need of economic assistance and indicates how much aid they can receive. With financial support from the U.N. and UNICEF, the Cambodian government has significantly improved the daily lives of impoverished Cambodians.

Yom Malai is a Cambodian woman who received the IDPoor card and described her experience in a U.N. News Article: “We collect the money from a money transfer service,” she says. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been a great help for my family. In addition, if we ever need to go to the hospital, we get medical treatment, care and medicine free of charge.”

Malai also explained the review process necessary to receive a card. It includes interviewing applicants and recording details about each household. By doing this, the government gains a holistic picture of each family’s financial resources and needs. Malai’s experience demonstrates the necessity of the IDPoor card in reducing global poverty, particularly in regions that are suffering economically due to COVID-19.

Poverty on the Rise

Even before COVID-19, Cambodians faced a disproportionately high amount of poverty. The U.N. calculated the hypothetical rise of poverty in this region in 2019, predicting that the impoverished population would increase to 17.6%, more than two times the impoverished count in 2019. Moreover, COVID-19 exacerbated many Cambodians’ financial disadvantages as the country’s economy limited jobs and healthcare needs increased. Specifically, the unemployment rate in Cambodia in 2020 was 3.2%, much higher than the 2019 rate of 0.7%.

The Cash Transfer Programme provides financial assistance to citizens registered with an IDPoor card. Each monthly payment depends on a household’s specific situation and needs. The already existing Cash Transfer Programme received further funding and spread to include as many impoverished Cambodians as possible. This act is a ray of hope amid the impact of COVID-19 in Cambodia.

For individuals who qualify, the card also acts as a form of medical insurance. It allows registered Cambodians to receive healthcare treatments or consultations without being charged. This healthcare coverage is extremely helpful to families as medical bills and incurred costs are large components of poverty.

In a UNICEF article, a young woman named Leont Yong Phin conveyed how her IDPoor card has helped her. “I’m still paying back a loan from when I got bad typhoid,” she says. “This money means I can repay and afford food. We’ve never had help like this before, it’s so reassuring.”

Encouraging Equity

In addition to providing necessary economic support and medical access, the IDPoor card program is essential for encouraging equity in Cambodia and reducing the disadvantages that come with certain socioeconomic conditions. By reviewing applicants’ economic history and family situation, the government can adequately provide the support necessary to address all citizens’ needs. In this way, the Cash Transfer Programme helps Cambodians with daily expenses and works to end inequity across the country.

Although the impact of COVID-19 in Cambodia has been significant, the IDPoor card and Cash Transfer Programme are greatly improving life for many Cambodians. With more support from international organizations like the United Nations, nonprofit organizations and even individuals, the program can provide even more resources to impoverished Cambodians.

– Kristen Quinonez
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 and Poverty in JapanThe COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the 15% of people living in poverty in Japan, a figure already on the rise in recent years due to lower consumer spending and a shift to part-time employment. Citizens living below the poverty line are suffering from increased rates of food and housing insecurities. So, as the Japanese government prepares for the Olympics in the summer of 2021, it is also securing opportunities to combat rising poverty.

COVID-19 in Japan

Many policies in place at the beginning of the pandemic neglected the needs of Japan’s impoverished communities. For example, children could no longer receive government-funded meals due to school closures for public health safety. The pandemic has put pressure on the Japanese government to address preexisting social issues and the results will have a lasting positive impact. Collaborating with charitable organizations and businesses, the government has worked around traditional laws and regulations to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Japan.

Food Aid

One initial roadblock to COVID-19 relief was restrictions on who could receive food aid. After a poor harvest of rice in 1993, the Japanese government holds stockpiles of the grain in case of emergency. As part of a program called “food education,” the government releases a portion of this stockpile to schools each year in order to provide school lunches and emphasize the value of food. However, regulations made it difficult to release stockpiles to others in need during the pandemic, especially childless people.

The government is working to find loopholes in the 1993 stockpile law to ensure food security for Japan’s impoverished communities. Stockpiles are now allowed to release 300 kg of uncooked rice per year to each organization, compared to the 60 kg cap in previous years.

Charitable organizations such as Minoshima Megumi no Le in Fukuoka and volunteers at St. Ignatius Church in Tokyo have also worked to promote food security for families, refugees and other groups not covered by initial government distributions.

Housing Aid

The pandemic has threatened the safety of Japan’s homeless population. Initially, without adequate access to face coverings or sanitation, more than 4,500 citizens were at serious risk of catching the virus. While the Japanese government offers Livelihood Protection, a program designed to guarantee a minimum standard of living for all citizens, it is difficult to access for some populations in need, including homeless people.

Groups outside the government have also taken the initiative to limit the spread of the virus by providing housing. Across the country, hotels and inns are working to offer affordable shelter. One hotel chain based in Osaka currently offers rooms for ¥390 (about $4) per night. Rooms include a private bed and bath, amenities not found in the Livelihood Protection quarters. This offer helps 100 people at a time find safe living quarters, helping combat the pandemic while also dedicating a space for Japan’s homeless to take refuge for months to come.

Small Businesses and Labor Aid

Japan’s economy depends heavily on human resources, of which, small businesses represent 70%. When stay-at-home orders were implemented, tourist activity halted and consumer spending decreased and the country experienced its first large economic decline since 2015. By February 2021, 1,000 small businesses had closed with 25% located in Tokyo alone. These closures left more than 100,000 people without work, especially in retail, restaurants and manufacturing industries.

The Japanese government passed a record-setting COVID-19 stimulus package equivalent to 40% of Japan’s GDP to protect businesses and their employees. The stimulus allows the government to offer temporary no-interest loan plans to more affected businesses, opening the door for more citizens to receive the aid they need.

In Summary

Pressure from the pandemic has prompted Japan to address existing problems. The government, independent businesses and charities have taken an initiative to help manage the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Japan. Such movements have the potential to continue even after the pandemic, advancing the country’s standard of living for years to come.

Julia Fadanelli
Photo: Flickr

impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana
Ghana’s poverty rate has halved over the past 20 years, but COVID-19 stunted the country’s progress. Amid an economic crisis, many Ghanaian people have lost their jobs, healthcare and education due to the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana is severe, especially for women and children.

Child Labor is on the Rise

Global child labor decreased by nearly 40% between 2000 and 2020, but COVID-19 forced many children into the workforce. Before the pandemic started, 160 million children participated in child labor. If countries cannot mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19, around 168.9 million children could be in child labor by the end of 2022. Children in low-income countries like Ghana are particularly at risk of experiencing child labor. Between expansive school closures, increased unemployment and lost family members due to COVID-19, Ghanaian children have become more susceptible to child labor since the pandemic started.

Children and families often turn to child labor because it is the only option available to meet their basic needs. Ghanaian children as young as 8 years old work jobs in industries such as mining, carpentry, fishing and transporting goods to support themselves and their families. Most countries have developed economic relief packages to assist families who are struggling, but it can be challenging for low-income countries to afford adequate social protection programs. The World Bank found that low-income countries, on average, spend only about $6 per capita in response to the pandemic. Adequate social protection programs may be necessary to fully combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Educational Opportunities are Sparse

Many Ghanaian children have lost their educations since the pandemic started because of school closures or the need to drop out and support their families. At a shortage of proper funding, schools in Ghana struggle to afford food, technology for remote learning and resources for students with disabilities. Food insecurity has increased for students who formerly relied on their schools to provide meals every day. According to a recent study by Innovations for Poverty Action, 72% of Ghanaian children in public schools did not receive their usual daily lunches and 30% said they experienced hunger as a result of their schools closing. Without access to education, Ghanaian children are at risk of hunger and exploitation due to the vast impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

To combat malnutrition, UNICEF is providing children with micronutrient supplements, such as iron folate, to improve children’s health. The Girls Iron Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) Programme, which UNICEF helped the Ghana Health Service implement and develop, has reduced anemia in girls from the Northern and Volta Regions of Ghana by 26%. UNICEF is also helping Ghana attain educational resources and create school programs that are inclusive to students with disabilities.

Ghana’s Limited Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased access to healthcare in Ghana, particularly for pregnant women seeking antenatal care. According to UNICEF, many pregnant women did not receive any antenatal care during the pandemic, either because it was unavailable or because they feared contracting COVID-19 at a health facility. Additionally, many children who were supposed to get standard vaccinations when the pandemic broke out did not receive them due to a vaccine shortage and fears of catching COVID-19 at health facilities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with Ghana to make healthcare more accessible, ensuring health facilities are safe and have the resources they need. As the first country to receive the COVAX vaccine in February 2021, Ghana has been on the road to recovery from COVID-19 for several months. The country also received 350,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in May 2021. The Ghanaian government, UNICEF, Gavi and WHO are collaborating to endorse and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, which will help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Unemployment and Wage Reductions Skyrocket

According to the World Bank, more than 770,000 Ghanaian workers experienced wage reductions between March and June 2020 because of the pandemic and 42,000 workers experienced layoffs. While some businesses received support from the government, others did not or were unaware that such resources were available. Many businesses had to close at the beginning of the pandemic, which led to long-term financial struggles. The World Bank is working with the Ghanaian government to help businesses overcome damage from the pandemic and gain resilience in preparation for other economic changes. The organization is focused on raising awareness about government support programs like the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme, which protects jobs and benefits small businesses. The World Bank is also working on creating long-term, educational solutions that prepare young people in Ghana to enter the workforce with adaptability, certifications and a wide range of skill sets.

Solutions in the Works

Many organizations are working alongside the Ghanaian government to combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana. Organizations like UNICEF and Human Rights Watch are actively working to provide Ghana’s impoverished people with the resources needed to survive, including food, water, healthcare and education. The COVID-19 vaccine offers hope that Ghana will recover from the pandemic, opening the door for improvements in healthcare, education and jobs.

Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 Vaccination in the MaldivesAs of June 29, 2021, the Maldives has reported more than 73,000 cases of COVID-19. The Maldives has a population of more than 515,000 with one of the country’s main sources of income stemming from tourism. The program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives is not only protecting citizens but is also playing a significant role in post-pandemic economic recovery.

The Maldives in Numbers

In 2009, The rate of people living on less than $5.50 a day in the Maldives was 42.7%. Just seven years later, the poverty rate dropped to 3.4%. In recent years, the Maldives has made many improvements, contributing to the stability of the country. This includes infrastructure improvements and investments in health and education. The country boasts a close to 100% literacy rate and a life year expectancy of more than 78 years.

Through these developments, the Maldives has attained the status of an upper-middle-income country. In terms of economic growth, the country significantly relies on tourism revenue. In 2019, the tourism industry accounted for 21% of the country’s gross domestic product as more than 1.7 million people vacationed to the Maldives.

The Impact of COVID-19

In March 2020, the Maldives began to experience the harsh economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourism industry came to an abrupt halt and borders remained closed until mid-July 2020. Even as travel into the country re-opened, the Maldives reported only one-third of visiting tourists compared to the number of tourists visiting in 2019.

The decrease in tourism has contributed to the 28% decline in gross domestic product in 2020 and an increase in poverty to 7.2%. The pandemic has affected employees in the tourism industry more than any other industry in the Maldives. The JobCenter reports that within the tourism industry in the Maldives, only 74% of employees remained employed in 2020, with 30% on “no pay leave.”

With the program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives, the country has the opportunity to protect its citizens and simultaneously bring its tourism rates back up.

The Maldives Vaccine Rollout

As of April 14, 2021, the Maldives has vaccinated 53% of its population with first doses. The country prioritized “90% of its frontline tourism workers” with a first dose. The vaccine is available at no cost to residents and migrant workers and is approved for anyone 16 or older. With the help of other countries and partnerships, the program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives has seen success so far.

Factors that play an important role in this vaccine success include India’s donation of 100,000 Covishield vaccines on January 20, 2021. The Maldives has also purchased 700,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses straight from the manufacturer. The Maldives expects to receive vaccines from the COVAX facility as well. The country has also received vaccine supplies from Singapore.

Because of the small Maldivian population and the allocation of vaccines the Maldives is receiving from various allies and organizations, there are currently no supply shortage concerns. The United States has also committed to donating roughly seven million vaccines to Asia by the end of June 2021. The U.S. vaccine donation will be distributed to several Asian countries, including the Maldives.

Visit, Vaccinate and Vacation

COVID-19 vaccinations in the Maldives will soon be open to tourists. The Maldives hopes to enact a “3V” strategy, “visit, vaccinate and vacation.” This approach will begin only after the remaining unvaccinated residents of the Maldives receive both doses of the vaccine. Once the Maldives meets this goal, it will have the ability to vaccinate tourists upon entry.

Leaders hope this initiative will help restore the hard-hit tourism industry and promote the health and safety of all people. Many tourists work remotely from the Maldives on so-called “workations.” The Maldives’ leaders believe the initiative will appeal to people desiring a holiday with the incentive of also getting access to COVID-19 vaccinations. Increased tourism will allow the employment rate to rise as demand in resorts, restaurants and shops expands with more visitors.

Tourism is steadily increasing throughout the country. With a creative solution, the Maldives aims to restore pre-pandemic tourism levels and the economy while prioritizing the health of citizens and travelers.

– Delaney Gilmore
Photo: Flickr