Ways To Address World Hunger
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues to profoundly impact economies worldwide, with rising food prices and high supply chain shortages exacerbating global hunger. Africa is feeling the heaviest effects. Ukraine is one of the largest producers of wheat. Russia’s introduction of a naval blockade and attacks on the country’s energy grid resulted in a reduction in wheat exports from 5 to 7 million tons per month before the war to 3.5 million tons per month between March and November 2022. More than 345 million people are feeling the impact of the global food crisis, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). The International Monetary Fund (IMF) highlights that more than 48 countries that the global food crisis affected will require more than $4.1 billion in aid in 2023. However, there are initiatives and methods to help alleviate and provide solutions to address world hunger.

United Nations Year of Millets

The initiative began in 2021, a year before Russia invaded Ukraine, which caused an unprecedented global food crisis. Before expanding on the goals and outcomes the initiative hopes to achieve, it is essential to discuss what millets are and what are the ways to address world hunger in 2023. Millets are grains that come from small seed grasses and many around the world grow them in abundance. People have been consuming millet for more than 7,000 years and they are important in terms of contributing to multi-crop agriculture and establishing farming societies.

Developing countries like India, Niger and Nigeria (more than 97%) heavily produce millet and they continue to be a stable form of the crop in these regions today, Impakter reports. This is because millet can survive droughts and other environmental challenges, making it a sustainable form of nutrition. Furthermore, the efforts required to grow the crops are minimal as they are highly adaptable in the soils they grow in, be they poor or fertile. As a source of nutrition, millets have high protein, minerals, fiber and iron and are gluten-free. Therefore, these grains are an excellent source to help countries “increase self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on imported cereal grains,” according to Impakter.

Karnataka, India officially adopted the United Nations Year of Millets. Millet grows in abundance there and India spearheads the initiative. The primary objective of Year of Millets consists of generating international awareness of millets which will ultimately result in a solution to the global food crisis because millets not only have the ability to grow in adverse environments and are sources of high nutrition but they also are sources of new sustainable market opportunities. The greater generation of international awareness of millet could solve world hunger in 2023 or be a step towards solving world hunger.

Immediate International Action

Another one of the ways to address world hunger is through more significant international involvement and efforts to help generate a financial cushion to support initiatives that tackle the food crisis and ensure that there are alternatives in place to ensure food security. Organizations like WFP and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) also require adequate global funding to operate efficiently to help address world hunger and generate awareness regarding the consequences of food insecurity. Furthermore, organizations that conduct their programs in countries experiencing extreme food insecurity require a stable source of funding from donors and international organizations through grants and concessional financing to operate programs such as cash assistance programs for people that the global food crisis affected.

A way to address world hunger in 2023 is through a calculated and organized approach which people can achieve through international awareness and engagement to ensure maximized efficiency of the efforts and effective use of the resources to help address the global food crisis.

In addition, the IMF mentions that even with international support, more significant efforts are necessary to help address the global food crisis and hopefully address world hunger. This means aiming financing at the most vulnerable sections of populations suffering from the food crisis. The funding should come through humanitarian aid, grants and long-term concessional financing, according to IMF Notes. Furthermore, the IMF views debt financing as an exemplary method for addressing the food crisis. It will ensure that people can use the funds to spend on food and other necessities.

Nutrition the Way to Save Lives

According to the WFP’s Global Operational Response Plan, “prioritizing the nutrition of pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under 5 is key to saving lives and building resilient communities and economies.” This is because, statistically, the global food crisis is one of the most significant threats to children under 5, constituting one-fifth of children out of 60 million. In addition, children under 5 who suffer from acute and chronic malnutrition are at greater risk of death.

The WFP’s approach to addressing global food takes a targeted approach that can provide fruitful results in addressing world hunger in 2023. Therefore, the World Food Programme highlights that one of the ways to address world hunger in 2023 is the prioritization of nutrition for women and children under the age of 5 suffering from global food insecurity because access to nutritious diets is scarce.

To achieve this, Specialized Nutritious Foods (SNFs) are necessary in ensuring the proper nourishment of women and children. SNFs “help prevent and treat malnutrition and reduce mortality among children and pregnant and breastfeeding women by improving nutrient adequacy, strengthening immune systems and enabling proper weight gain.” Despite the high demand and prices for SNFs because of the war in Ukraine, the World Food Programme continues to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition at its core.

Addressing world hunger in 2023 along with rising inflation and greater demand for food appears complicated due to the disruption of global supply chains due to the war in Ukraine, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and environmental challenges. However, greater international cooperation between nonprofit organizations like the WFP, the IMF and the United Nations, alongside their partners and the international community, will make it possible to address world hunger in 2023.

– Arijit Joshi
Photo: Flickr

International Cooperation
The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for a different approach to reorganizing global governance in innovative and unexpected ways. The Global Public Investment (GPI) system is one of them. GPI is a fixed and multidirectional way to address the administration of international fiscal resources. The initiative follows three rules: “All contribute,” “All decide” and “All benefit.” The way GPI might revolutionize international cooperation is through the funding of global public goods and services such as vaccines and social security.

The Background

The proposal started to gain significant recognition as a consequence and response to the devastation that the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon the world in early 2020. The outbreak has reminded the world’s nations how susceptible they all are on an economic, social and biological level, emphasizing the need for global cooperation. Furthermore, as a reliable example, Europe demonstrated the potential for collaboration over common funds in the future, “through its regional development fund.”

In the lead-up to this moment, GPI’s most significant political push came from leaders in the Global South, outraged by the economic and social inequalities that the pandemic further emphasized.

Latin American countries were among the first to officially consider the implementation of GPI. Then, Africa followed and invited powers in the Western and Eastern world to work together more efficiently to solve challenges impacting the globe.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that COVID-19 led to the loss of $28 trillion in output and $17 trillion in response to the pandemic. Additionally, COVID-19 highlighted global disparities such as the underfunding of some health systems around the world.

An early 2022 press release from the U.N. Secretary-General said: “As we enter a new decade, we are finally bringing international public finance into the 21st century. No more “us and them”. Now it’s just “us.””

How GPI Works

The way GPI might revolutionize international cooperation has roots in its inner mechanism. The new system includes three pillars:

1. Universal Contributions: Instead of how donor countries give money to recipient ones, GPI is an “all-contributor approach to international public finance.”

2. Ongoing Commitments: GPI defies the assumption that countries are expected to “graduate after achieving a relatively low level of per capita income,” favoring a longer-term approach.

3. Representative Control: GPI asks for a more “democratic and accountable approach” to governing international public finance. All participating governments would determine the priorities of GPI.

The Global Public Investment would include percentages of participants’ gross national income by their capability. The same countries would consequently receive funds according to their need, including wealthier countries. As a result of the GPI, all countries would have equal shares in a common fund, promoting the development of a fiscal-cooperation among them.

Looking Ahead

The way GPI might revolutionize international cooperation depends on many factors, and one of them is the efficient and thorough application of this innovative system as well as the support of all nations.

International aid is still valid for solving many of the world’s economic inequalities. Combined with GPI, the new system would allow the world to go a step further in its fight against global poverty.

– Caterina Rossi
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact on Spain
With the emergence of the global COVID-19 pandemic, several countries have faced significant economic challenges. One such country is Spain, which experienced its first recorded COVID-19 case in January 2020, and since then has recorded more than 13 million cases.

Large numbers of COVID-19 cases within Spain have caused strict lockdown protocols within the country, in turn slowing Spain’s booming tourism industry and economic development. Spain lost its large influx of tourists due to COVID-19, and it experienced a surge in unemployment levels and a significant decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Here is some information about COVID-19’s impact on Spain.

COVID-19’s Impact on Spain

In March 2020, all 50 provinces of Spain confirmed COVID-19 cases. Accordingly, the Spanish government responded to the spread of the virus by placing the country into lockdown and declaring a state of emergency.

In response to the second wave of infections, Spain subsequently imposed further COVID-19 restrictions. This meant that schools, restaurants and all services that the government deemed non-essential had to close down in an effort to mitigate and control the spread of the virus.

Despite efforts to reduce transmission of the virus, the mortality rate in Spain kept increasing. Since the detection of the first case in Spain, the country has reported around 107,799 deaths from a sum of 12,681,820 cases.

Employment and Standards of Living

Spain’s unemployment rate prior to the pandemic stood at around 14%, whereas by late 2020, it was an estimated 16.2%. COVID-19’s impact on Spain was significant for those already living in poverty. The rise of the global pandemic exposed such individuals to further exacerbated food insecurity and a significant loss of income. As a result, thousands of people in Spain ended up facing economic hardship and an inability to afford adequate amounts of food. According to European Anti Poverty Network, around 380,000 people fell into poverty in 2021. This trend also impacted the educated class of society, significantly affecting economic security among the general Spanish population.

Another report by Human Rights Watch indicated that COVID-19 impacted food security in Spain. Families have been unable to satisfy nutritional support for their kids. According to the report, despite government efforts to alleviate the impact of COVID-19, the economic decline continued to worsen and has meant that families had to skip meals.

Lingering Impact and Recovery

COVID-19’s impact on Spain has undoubtedly exacerbated economic hardship for Spain’s poorest and most vulnerable populations. Spain’s severe material deprivation rate, which measures the degree of poverty reflected in an inability to satisfy basic necessities, climbed to 7% in 2020.

COVID-19’s impact on Spain placed a strain on Spain’s social assistance programs and social security networks, highlighting the complexities and shortcomings of these systems. As Spain’s tourism sector and its overall economy continue to recover from its losses, the war between Russia and Ukraine poses a new threat to Spain’s economy and is likely to further financially challenge Spain’s vulnerable and poor populations.

Despite Spain’s challenges, its government is in the process of implementing an economic recovery plan. The intention of Spain’s recovery plan is to return to the robust economy and unemployment level that Spain had prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spain’s governmental plan encompasses 112 investments and 102 reforms. The plan’s reforms aim to promote sustainable economic growth across the country, and a central focus of the plan is building a resilient economy.

– Dylan Priday
Photo: Unsplash

 Cold Chain Equipment in PeruPossessing the “highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world” in mid-2021, Peru was among the hardest-hit nations in Latin America during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF says. In light of the pandemic’s devastating social and economic ramifications, UNICEF facilitated vaccination rollout efforts by supplying cold chain equipment in Peru. UNICEF’s acquisition of 1,100 solar-powered freezers not only helped transport COVID-19 vaccines across Peru but also helped alleviate the pandemic’s health implications across Latin America.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Peru

According to UNICEF, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated poverty levels and exposed the gravity of inequality in Peru. In 2020, Peru faced a -11.1% decrease in GDP and a “10.5% reduction in household income,” resulting in many Peruvian households, primarily those residing in rural regions, suffering economically, UNICEF reports. Furthermore, according to statistics, Peru experienced 1.5 million job losses while “1.2 million children fell into poverty” and close to 90 million Peruvian children missed out on a formal education during the height of the pandemic.

The informal economy and overcrowded housing in Peru are two factors that exacerbate the COVID-19 pandemic’s ramifications in the nation. According to the BBC, 70% of Peru’s working people are employed in the informal sector, which means that many Peruvians faced unemployment, could not earn an income or faced wage cuts due to a lack of job security. Furthermore, Peru’s overcrowded housing allows the COVID-19 virus to spread rapidly due to a lack of social distancing. In addition, Peru’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has moved slowly.

The Importance of Cold Chain Equipment

In order to help accelerate the vaccine rollout in Peru, proper refrigeration is crucial to “protect the potency” of the COVID-19 vaccine. Thus, vaccination programs use cold chain equipment to store and transport doses across Peru, particularly in rural areas where vaccination distribution is difficult. Electric and solar-powered refrigerators store vaccines in a “2°C to 8°C temperature range,” allowing vaccines to be housed in optimal conditions when traveling through regions that lack access to electricity.

UNICEF’s Vaccination Rollout Strategies in Peru

In light of the adversities impacting Peru, in November 2021, UNICEF’s Supply Division procured 1,100 solar-powered freezers for Peru. UNICEF distributed 57 of these freezers to “Huancavelica, in the Andean region, and Loreto and Ucayali in the Amazon regions,” which are isolated, rural areas with Indigenous people, the UNICEF website says.

Shipping these units from Luxembourg, UNICEF worked with Peru’s Ministry of Health to inspect the freezers and help distribute vaccines across remote communities that have limited electricity.

Furthermore, in early 2021, UNICEF helped Peru’s Ministry of Health procure an additional 10,339 pieces of refrigeration equipment through “an international procurement process.” UNICEF oversaw delivery times, the quality of equipment and the negotiation of prices to ensure transparency in the competitive procurement process. UNICEF’s delivery of cold chain equipment in Peru, through both direct and intermediary means, ultimately ensured that the ministry could efficiently distribute COVID-19 vaccines across the nation.

Peru’s Rising Vaccination Rates

UNICEF’s delivery of cold chain equipment in Peru helped to significantly increase Peru’s vaccination rates. By October 2022, Peru had administered more than 84 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Although Peru is still grappling with the pandemic’s implications, the nation’s steady increase in vaccination rates is indicative of Peru’s bright and promising future.

– Emma He
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccines to Madagascar
Madagascar, like much of the world, has dealt with disinformation, confusion, disrupted supply chains and health crises from the pandemic. Additionally,
like much of the developing world, Madagascar remains largely unvaccinated. In fact, the country has administered only enough doses to vaccinate between 4-5% of the population. However, international organizations are working to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Madagascar.

An Inside Voice

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Pierre Ranjakamanana, a 21-year-old student from Antananarivo, stated that the pandemic “badly affected the country in many ways, especially people from poor backgrounds.” The government-imposed lockdowns and curfew impacted Antananarivo’s many independent vendors, who often rely on daily income to make ends meet. Ranjakamanana recalled that “people were desperate due to the fact that they had to stay at home for two weeks.”

“All of us were panicking because we heard on the news that COVID-19 had killed many people in China. Then, we started thinking of ways not to get the virus, so we drank hot water tea with ginger and lemon in it, washed our hands every single time, and decided not to go outside.” He also remembered that while some took the virus very seriously, others “did not really believe in the virus because they believed that COVID-19 is like a normal disease like headache, fever and all that, so there is no point in panicking.”

Debunking the “Tea”

One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic was overcoming misinformation and acquiring COVID-19 vaccines for Madagascar. Madagascar’s President Rajoelina has promoted an herbal tea that the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research developed as a COVID-19 cure. Called “Covid-Organics,” it is based on the artemisia plant, an important source of anti-malarial drugs. However, there is no evidence that tea has any effect on COVID-19. Still, the country has shipped thousands of doses to different countries, tried to develop an injectable version, and distributed the tea to schools, threatening students with expulsion if they did not drink it.

Efforts to Vaccinate Madagascar

Thankfully, international organizations are distributing vaccines and medical equipment to Madagascar. COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) are organizations that acquire, organize and distribute COVID-19 vaccines to the developing world and Africa, respectively. The U.S. State Department has given 1.7 million doses to these organizations, 74% of Madagascar’s total so far.

In 2021, the World Bank gave $100 million to Madagascar to help the country acquire and distribute more vaccines. If implemented smoothly, the initiative should vaccinate about 5.6 million people, as well as support the infrastructure that will continue to vaccinate the population. Some COVID-19 vaccines must be kept on ice, which vastly increases the logistics of distribution.

UNICEF is also working to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Madagascar, supporting the government’s goal of vaccinating 9 million people before the end of 2022. UNICEF’s main work is buying vaccines and supporting and setting up clinics and distribution centers.

Though very little of the Malagasy population has received vaccines, it is encouraging to see the country overcoming previous hurdles in fighting the disease and finally gaining access to precious vaccines. 

– Shiloh Harrill
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Australia
As a signatory of the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), Australia aims to completely eradicate poverty by 2030. Unfortunately, the country is yet to reach the goal of zero poverty and the problem persists for the nation coming out of COVID-19 restrictions. Presently, Australia has a comparatively higher-than-average poverty rate when considering the other 34 wealthiest countries in the OECD. With the general fall of average income across the nation and the cuts on income support for poorer families coming out of the pandemic, poverty in Australia is not going to disappear any time soon. Here are several facts to know about poverty in Australia.

The Poverty Line

In order to get to grips with everything you need to know about poverty in Australia, one must become familiar with the specified criteria the nation has for quantifying poverty. Due to its reputation as a developed nation, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and UNSW classify poverty through a measure of the number of people living below the country’s poverty line. This amounts to the number of people living below the 50% median household after-tax income, or $489 a week for a single adult and $1,027 a week for a couple with two children. Unfortunately, as of the most recent 2022 report, one in eight Australians are living below this minimum. In other words, poverty in Australia disproportionately impacts more than 3.3 million people.

How Income Support Lifted Australians Out of Poverty During the Pandemic

According to the latest 2022 report by ACOSS, the number of people living below the poverty line fell drastically after the introduction of temporary income support payments to mediate the aftereffects of COVID-19 restrictions. From the start of the pandemic, 13.4% of Australians lived below the poverty line, this soared in the March quarter of 2020 to 14.6%. However, the supplementary payments granted citizens the necessary support required to lift themselves out of poverty. A consequence of the increased income support saw an additional 646,000 people or 2.6% of Australians rise out of poverty, with overall poverty in Australia falling to just 12%.

The effects these payments had on the overall number of children living below the poverty line are even more dramatic. The child poverty rate fell from 19% in March 2020 to an impressive feat of 13.7% in June of the same year, effectively managing to lift 245,000 children out of poverty.

As of April 2021, however, the Australian government has retracted these income support payments, feeling they are no longer necessary after coming out of the pandemic. The “coronavirus supplement” has been entirely redacted and in its place, the JobSeeker payment has been increased by only $25 a week. The Senate has launched an inquiry into the rates and main drivers of poverty in the nation, however, welfare advocates argue that the state has all the evidence necessary to make a change. Instead, they believe that the subsequent inaction is a deliberate means of neglecting the most vulnerable. Some have taken it further and equated the reduction to a “political choice.”

An Influential Organization

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) is an organization that facilitates the eradication of poverty and inequality throughout the continent. Working to ensure that Australia complies with the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they advocate for the nation’s most vulnerable, while mobilizing governments and communities to contribute to the discourse surrounding poverty.

ACOSS’ main areas of focus include access to employment services for the disadvantaged, an impartial social security system and ensuring governments are accountable for an equitable tax system. Its research papers have been pivotal to the understanding and further implementation of poverty-reducing measures. Key organizations now hold a deeper insight into everything you need to know about poverty in Australia as a result.

– Namra Tahir
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

COVID-19’s Impact on Bangladesh
Since 2020, the world has turned upside down while facing the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite every country living through the same traumatic experience, the consequences were not the same for everyone. Especially developing and underdeveloped countries took a harder hit from the pandemic than any developed nations. The pandemic did destroy not only global health but also disrupted the national economy, education system, social values and more. Even after national recovery, some failed to recover from the unforgettable past on a personal level which included losing loved ones, unemployment, hunger, health deficiency and so on. For example, in some cases, women were more likely to stop working after the pandemic, and low-skilled workers were more likely to lose their jobs than more educated workers. Notably, COVID-19’s impact on Bangladesh raised many domestic and global concerns. Here are four facts about COVID-19’s impact on Bangladesh.

4 Facts About COVID-19’s Impact on Bangladesh

  1. Social-emotional Health: In recent months, even developed nations have faced a declining social-emotional health rate across all age groups. Similarly, one of COVID-19’s impacts on Bangladesh was decreasing mental health due to stress, misinformation, economic instability and isolation. For example, federal and local lockdowns put many Bengali communities through an emotional and financial roller coaster. Fear of losing loved ones, jobs and food sources, and staying isolated has increased worry, anxiety, trauma, panic and more.
  2. Local Economic Status: Small to medium-sized businesses went bankrupt, which led to mass unemployment and sometimes ended in separations or family arguments. Many day laborers who were also the only householders in their families lost their jobs for months. Some of these families lost their only food source, rent, bills and the money for pilled up debts. Consequently, many young adults have chosen self-harm and sometimes even suicide as a chance to escape their harsh and helpless reality.
  3. A Lack of Federal Support: Bangladesh is one of the overpopulated and fastest-growing countries in the world. The population growth rate is not parallel enough to the government programs, which included social support during the pandemic. Most in-need families with young children and low-skilled workers were the greatest victims of this crisis.
  4. Declining Physical Health: One transparent impact that COVID-19 had on Bangladeshi residents was the development of health issues. Many outgoing people like students, workers and shopping mall visitors lost their only chance to be active during the day. Students and workers who once had a sleeping and working schedule lost their sense of routine and developed many bad habits. These bad habits included sleeping for long hours during the day, losing sleep after midnight, spending too much time on social media, not participating in any physical activities, losing social interaction, etc.

Solutions

Like many other countries, COVID-19’s impact on Bangladesh was unthinkable. The severity of COVID-19’s impact on Bangladesh gradually disintegrated due to much foreign support and social unity. One of the most significant foreign support was from the United States. The U.S. has provided Bangladesh with more than $96 million. These aids included 5.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, medical supplies, ventilators, oxygen equipment, pulse oximeters and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Moreover, since the start of the pandemic also the World Bank has provided about $3 billion to Bangladesh, which has been effective in improving the emergency health response, the private sector, creating jobs, boosting human capital development and more. Besides foreign aid, the Bangladesh government also took many precautions and strict domestic policies to reduce the spread as much as possible. Some remarkable actions from the government were closing the government buildings, offices, schools and universities, prohibiting social gatherings and canceling federal holiday celebrations.

In the end, COVID-19’s impact on Bangladesh was traumatizing. However, it also showed people how vulnerability can spread through a nation in a short time period. The government and its people learned to be patient, understanding and generous to each other. COVID-19’s impact on Bangladesh did not stop yet, but the world has seen a great deal of recovery from the country.

– Zahin Tasnin
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine DiplomacyWhile the COVID-19 vaccine has helped to reduce destruction and devastation from the pandemic, the virus is still spreading across the globe. According to Dr. Peter Hotez “organized hostility against the scientific community,” may be public health’s biggest enemy. However, on a global scale, the most serious threat is the lack of vaccine diplomacy and effective health care in geopolitics. Solving this crisis requires the United States and other western countries to prioritize the distribution of pandemic response resources so that everyone can lead healthy, safe lives regardless of their location.

Inequities of Vaccine Resources

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the global death rate by 20%, shut down economies and dismantled health care systems across the world. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 vaccine is now readily available in many developed countries, many low-income countries remain highly unvaccinated while the United States eases pandemic funding. With monkeypox cases on the rise, the fight against global health crises has hit a major roadblock, as low-income countries are scrambling for vaccine resources amid slowing economies.

Developed countries have a humanitarian responsibility to ensure that low-income countries have access to the healthcare resources that North American and European countries have. Additionally, novel variants of COVID-19 often arise from unvaccinated populations, which means that the pandemic will only worsen unless we make a concerted effort to fully vaccinate developing and low-income countries, according to Dr. Hotez.

Making a Commitment to Vaccine Diplomacy

Today, less than 20% of people in low-income countries have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The next step is for the United States and other world leaders to provide more resources to help get shots into people’s arms in developing countries. According to The Borgen Project’s action center, “This essential funding will go towards vaccines, tests, last-mile efforts and treatment so we can continue vaccinating the rest of the world, save lives and prevent new variants from emerging.” It’s an important investment that will not only save the lives of people in the most vulnerable places across the globe but will also help to protect the well-being of Americans.

Overall, vaccine diplomacy is also necessary to conquer vaccine skepticism, which is keeping millions of people from getting vaccinated. In order to effectively fight against the worsening global health crisis of COVID-19 and monkeypox, the United States and other economic powerhouses should prioritize geopolitical cooperation with developing countries to collaborate on equitably distributing vaccine resources.

– Ella DeVries
Photo: Flickr

Current State of Poverty In Scotland
After the steady decline of poverty in Scotland throughout much of the 1990s and through the 2000s, the current state of poverty in has been rapidly increasing within the last decade. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundations (JRF) report, even before the COVID-19 pandemic “around a million people in Scotland were in poverty, living precarious and insecure lives,” with 230,000 of those people being children.

Families Facing Poverty

Between 2016 and 2019, at least a quarter of the children living in Scotland endured poverty, according to the JRF report. Many factors, that are partially or wholly outside parents’ control and completely outside of children’s control, exacerbate poverty. Many attribute poverty to inadequate social security, minimal income from employment and high costs of living.

Without the finances to afford higher education, the attainment of which could open doors to higher-paying, skilled employment opportunities, the poverty cycle continues for many families living in Scotland. People living in poverty are also at risk of poor health and social outcomes, among other risks.

The Economy

These effects were greatly intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic with the nation facing the deepest and fastest economic contraction in the history of Scotland. The Scottish economy contracted by 19.4% between April to June 2020, marking Scotland’s steepest fall ever in a quarterly GDP.

In addition to the economic contraction, Scotland saw a jump in the number of households with insufficient funds to cover basic living costs. These financial difficulties have led to displacement. Between the months of April 2020 and March 2021, Shelter Scotland received 33,792 homeless applications and assessed 27,571 households as homeless. This is the equivalent of a household becoming homeless once every 19 minutes.

Shelter Scotland

Organizations such as Shelter Scotland have played a key role in Scotland’s recovery post-pandemic. Shelter Scotland is an organization that strives to ensure safe, secure and affordable homes for all.

Since its creation in 1968, the organization has been supporting and advising people who experience homelessness, fighting for house policy changes at all levels. It is also using research to better advocate for those affected by poverty in Scotland. In 2018/19, the organization assisted 41,192 needy households.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Another organization that is a key contributor to reducing the imprint of poverty on Scotland is the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). CPAG in Scotland raises awareness of the impact poverty has on children in Scotland, working to maximize families’ incomes by ensuring eligibility for benefits and campaigning for positive policy changes to end poverty.

The organization secured £292.6 million in assistance for low-income families during the pandemic. It also helped as many as 100,000 families through legal action in court.

Government Action

Although organizations such as these are leaving their footprint in the fight against the current state of poverty in Scotland, the nation still has a long way to go. Both the Scottish and U.K. governments must take drastic action.

One of the main implementations the government has made is keeping the income lifeline offered to recipients of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit beyond April 2021 and extending it to those receiving other legacy benefits. Estimates have stated that as many as 1.3 million people in Scotland will benefit from this, according to the JRF report.

While the current state of poverty in Scotland is dire, this does not have to define the future of the nation. With a proper approach from the government and a sufficient amount of assistance, the future of Scotland can appear much brighter.

– Austin Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Ireland
With more than 2 million deaths as of the most recent reports and a ravaged economy, COVID-19 has hit Europe as hard as any other territory in the world. Despite this, the nation of Ireland has consistently and effectively managed both the spread of the virus, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ireland. Through practices of anticipation, periods of adjustment, transparency with its people and acts of initiative; Ireland has maintained one of the lowest COVID-19 excess death rates in the world and an economy steadily on the rebound.

Anticipation

In January 2020, in response to the rising threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ireland formed National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). Dr. Tony Holohan, the state’s Chief Medical Officer, was the head of this group of 30 the finest medical, health and science professionals.

To assist citizens in supplementing lost income and limit the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ireland, the Irish government introduced a Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS). Through the TWSS, workers could receive financial support through their specific employer, as well as apply and receive their Pandemic Unemployment Payment. The TWSS also offered employers and new firms a rate subsidy based per week, that varied depending on the company’s number of employees on the payroll.

Adjustments

On February 29, 2020, COVID-19 struck the Emerald Isle for the first time. A month later, on March 27, 2020, Ireland would enter its first nationwide lockdown– this would last through mid-May.

During the initial surge, in which more than 13,000 citizens were hospitalized, the Irish government reached an agreement with the hospital network. In this agreement, the government would access private hospitals to use their capacity for three months, essentially alleviating the pressure on the public system and opening up more space for patients.

On September 1, 2020, the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) replaced the TWSS. The replacement scheme was an economy-wide enterprise to support eligible businesses in finding eligible employees while focussing primarily on business eligibility. In addition to this, the EWSS also provided a flat rate subsidy to qualifying employers, similar to its predecessor the TWSS. While the TWSS and the EWSS are very similar, the EWSS was a more progressive and long-term solution to limit the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ireland.

Without these forms of financial assistance, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) estimates that the number of employed Irish citizens at risk of poverty would have skyrocketed from 6.7% to as high as 15.1%.

Initiative

During countrywide lockdowns, the government, with assistance from the NPHET, implemented numerous restrictions. These restrictions included travel restrictions, in which people could not travel for non-essential purposes. The restrictions also included social gatherings, allowing them indoors, with only immediate household members.

To assist the nation’s economic recovery, the government unveiled the Economic Recovery Plan. The plan outlines the commitment of €3 billion to assist both citizens seeking employment and businesses suffering from the lasting impacts of the pandemic. However, the recovery plan’s desired intention is to create as many jobs as possible, with projections to exceed pre-pandemic employment levels by as early as 2024.

Transparency

Starting on March 23, 2020, the NPHET would use traditional and social media and give citizens daily announcements and briefings on information regarding COVID-19, according to a study published in Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection. During these announcements, the government would also emphasize which restrictions should be emphasized and which if any should be lax.

One of the primary things the Irish government was applauded for, was its transparency regarding the economic effects of COVID-19. While Social Justice Ireland acknowledges the fact that without the government’s assistance “almost four in every 10 of the Irish population would have been living in poverty.” Employees such as Susanne Rogers acknowledge the fact that the fight is not over, especially for the large number of children that are still living in poverty.

Susanne, along with many other experts, feels that this has a serious impact on the children’s education, and the future of Ireland’s economic potential in the long term. To help assist the nation of Ireland and its youth in their continued fight, you can donate to organizations such as the National Youth Council of Ireland, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Barnardos. Each organization has a charitable set up to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on Ireland.

– Austin Hughes
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