Upcycled Water Bottles
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that, since January 3, 2020, there have been more than 1.6 million official cases of COVID-19 in Thailand. While the country has around 70 million people, the data demonstrate a significant rate of infection. As of October 4, 2021, approximately 55 million of Thailand’s citizens have had vaccines administered to them. Thankfully, this is not the only good news to come out of the country’s battle with the COVID-19 pandemic. The textile company Thai Taffeta has recently come up with a sustainable means of fighting off the virus, involving upcycled water bottles.

Reduce: How Thai Taffeta PPE Came to Be

During the height of the pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) in Thailand was alarmingly scarce. This shortage increased medical staff’s risk of contracting COVID-19 while also exposing them to other hazardous diseases and potential injuries. At the same time, as the Southeast Asian country with the second-largest economy, Thailand’s consumerism creates a lot of plastic waste. When the general rate of infection of COVID-19 in Thailand grew and protection gear started dwindling in hospitals, a textile company based in Bangkok introduced a new, life-saving technology. As of September 3, 2021, Thai Taffeta has been using the nation’s overabundance of plastic waste — mostly upcycled water bottles — as an advantage, subsequently saving lives and helping the environment.

Reuse: How Thai Taffeta Makes its PPE

According to Thai Taffeta, it takes about 18 upcycled water bottles to make one PPE suit. Thus far, Thai Taffeta has collected about 18 million plastic bottles to create personal protective equipment. The process is relatively simple and involves reducing the typical resources necessary for making protective gear and breaking down the plastic waste into malleable filaments that then get upcycled. Donated fibers are combined with the upcycled material. The product is the PPE necessary for doctors and medical staff to better equip themselves with while facing the threat of infection.

Thai Taffeta’s executive vice president, Supoj Chaiwilal, said that the fabrics are “made of 100% recycled PET yarns to produce Level 3 PPE coveralls.” This particular level of protection ensures that the suits are water-resistant and can even keep out blood and viruses from the external environment. Manufacturers dye some of the gear a reddish-orange color for a select group of the PPE’s recipients: Buddhist monks.

Recycle: Accessibility of PPE

While Buddhist monks have access to this textile innovation, needing it to conduct cremation processes safely, it is also available to high-risk patients. Though Thailand’s response to the pandemic was relatively strong, it was not without weaknesses. Had the government not responded to the economic crisis with relief measures, the poverty rate in Thailand would have increased to an estimated 7.4% in the span of one year. However, the 6.2% of Thailand’s population living under the poverty line, who are more susceptible to infection and fiscal devastation, could certainly benefit from a maintained social protection program implemented by the country’s government. Therefore, the introduction of sustainable personal protective equipment in Thailand is critical for health safety in the fight against COVID-19. PPE to more individuals better allows for a deceased spread from continuing to permeate and affect the lives of low-income families.

Looking Forward

Thai Taffeta’s website boasts, “All for one[,] the journey of sustainability.” Indeed, the upcycled plastic waste personal protective equipment in Thailand is an innovation many people marvel at. Operating in a cyclically economic mode, the broken down plastic serves to benefit the environment and reduce the number of resources needed to create new goods while also combatting the rate of infection. The slogan also touches on the immense value of a unified fight against the virus, pressing for eradicating disparate circumstances while simultaneously urging the upper classes to be considerate in their consumption and contribute funding toward these suits.

– Maia Nuñez
Photo: Flickr


On Sept. 25, artists, world leaders and celebrities came together for Global Citizen Live, a 24-hour concert event to bring the world together to end poverty. Participants showed support for Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World. That plan has five goals: ending the hunger crisis, creating equity for all, ending COVID-19, protecting the earth and resuming learning for everyone.

What is Global Citizen?

Global Citizen is an organization with the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. It plans to do this with the help of 100 million “Global Citizens,” who join the movement. On the Global Citizen platform, engaged citizens can learn about and take action against the systemic causes of extreme poverty. Not only that, but those who participate in the fight against poverty can earn rewards for their efforts including attending music performances and sporting events.

Recovery Plan for the World’s Five Goals

Here are Global Citizen’s plans for achieving each of the Recovery Plan of the World goals:

  • Ending the hunger crisis – In order to end the hunger crisis, Global Citizen suggests funding school meal programs to ensure every child has food. It also urges the support of small farmers that the pandemic negatively impacted. Finally, it proposes to commit to food and nutrition programs.
  • Equity for all – The pandemic has most affected the poor, people of color and women. Global Citizen believes that supporting human rights efforts and creating a people-focused justice system will bolster equity. 
  • Ending COVID-19 – Global Citizen believes that the world will not eradicate COVID-19 until everyone across the world has access to vaccines, testing and treatment. The organization has proposed that wealthy countries donate extra vaccines to poorer countries. In addition, it has advocated for increased funding for ACT-A and COVAX.
  • Protecting the planet – Global Citizen recommends supporting carbon neutrality for people living in communities suffering from extreme poverty.  Moreover, it advocates greater climate financing to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Resuming learning everywhere – Globally, COVID-19 has affected around 1.5 billion children; one-third of those children have been unable to access remote learning. For that reason, Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World urges providing technology resources for access and increasing funding for education.

Global Citizen Live

The 24-hour concert event occurred on six of the seven continents, excluding Antarctica. The cities with live performances and celebrity appearances included Paris, Rio De Janeiro, Sydney, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Lagos and Seoul. More than 60 artists performed including Billie Eilish, Green Day, 5 Seconds of Summer, Jennifer Lopez, Ed Sheeran, the Black Eyed Peas, Alessia Cara and Lizzo. Elton John kicked off the event by performing in front of the Eiffel Tower. Royals Prince Harry and Meghan Markle took to the stage in New York City’s Central Park to say that vaccines against COVID-19 should be treated as a basic human right.

Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), pre-recorded a message announcing that the United State was donating $295 million “to stave off famine and extreme hunger, confront gender-based violence and address the urgent humanitarian needs the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving in its wake.” French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would double its contribution of COVID-19 vaccines to impoverished countries from 60 million to 120 million shots.

Impact

Global Citizen Live is one of the largest-ever worldwide charity events, and yet, the goal was not to raise money. Unlike many similar events, the goal was to get the attention of world leaders and show that people support direct action for the Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World issues. In fact, the concert was completely free. For instance, the 60,000 people in attendance at Central Park had to earn their audience spots by doing things such as contacting their members of Congress, signing petitions and sending tweets.

Global Citizen Live 2021 brought millions of people across the world together with one purpose: grabbing the attention of world leaders. By succeeding with that goal, it raised money and secured pledges for vaccine distribution. Global Citizen Live 2021 successfully launched Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World.

– Trystin Baker
Photo: Flickr

Impoverished Children in New Zealand
In New Zealand, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed 18,000 children into poverty, on top of the already large amount of children struggling with unmet basic needs. However, one organization, Share My Super, is working hard to change these statistics and reduce the number of impoverished children in New Zealand.

Impoverished Children in New Zealand

Against the backdrop of New Zealand’s 4.8 million population, more than 235,000 children lived in poverty before the pandemic’s effects. While reducing child poverty is one of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s signature goals, the country has only seen rising numbers of struggling children in recent years.

A recent study shows a 10% increase in child poverty due to the country’s pandemic policies, mostly impacting minority groups such as the Māori and Pasifika. The report lists several main reasons for child poverty in New Zealand including lack of government support, “unemployment and education disruptions” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and “inadequate income support for children.”

Share My Super

One organization, Share My Super, recognizes the detrimental effects of this issue and is working toward alleviating child poverty in New Zealand. Founded by Liz Greive, the organization functions by uniting citizens older than the retirement age of 65 and allowing them to share their leftover pensions with charities that are helping eliminate child poverty.

“I came to the conclusion that the most needy people in New Zealand, where real progress could be achieved, would be with children who were having a hard start,” Greive told The Spinoff, a New Zealand-based magazine. “I was well aware of the poverty that many people experience and how hard it is to raise a family when there is quite simply not enough money coming in.”

Share My Super hand-selects charities that it believes in and trusts for donors to donate to. The organization fosters relationships with these organizations and ensures that there is a variety of organizations, so people can choose to put their money toward immediate needs like shelter or food, or alternatively, they can put their money toward long-term solutions like mentorship or education.

Additionally, the organization receives 100% private funding. Therefore, the full donations go directly to the organization that the person chooses. Users also do not have to be at the retirement age to set up a donation — anyone can donate through Share My Super.

Impact

According to Share My Super’s 2020 Annual Report, the organization raised $294,296 in donations for charities through Superannuants, which refers to retirement-aged people donating their surplus pension through the organization. Share My Super also has benefits both ways: New Zealand’s children benefit and the country’s older population is also able to make a difference for the next generation. The organization also runs a blog detailing the tangible impacts of the charities on the country’s children so that the Superannuants can see the direct impact of their donations.

Although child poverty rates have been climbing in New Zealand, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations like Share My Super are working to help impoverished children in New Zealand through donations, uniting the older generations with the younger generations.

– Laya Neelakandan
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine Distribution in Latin America
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Latin America hard. As of July 2021, about 1.3 million people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean have died from COVID-19 alone, showing the devastating toll that the virus has had on families throughout the region. With such a high death toll and the introduction of new, more dangerous variants of the original virus, the question of vaccine distribution in Latin America has been a topic of discussion among health experts.

Throughout Latin America, vaccination rates overall have remained lower than world averages. Some countries such as Uruguay have a higher vaccination rate. As of September 16, 2021, the country has administered 171.68 doses per 100 people. Chile’s vaccination rate is second to Uruguay, with 159.65 doses administered per 100 people. The two countries with the lowest vaccination rates are Nicaragua, with 10.97 doses per 100 people and Haiti, with 0.44 doses per 100 people.

Vaccine distribution in Latin America unequivocally varies per country. These discrepancies are problematic in combatting the disease throughout the region. Many of the regions with low vaccination rates have some of the highest mortality rates as well, which has caused more need for the vaccine.

Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a report in April 2021 detailing vaccination distribution in Latin America. It included its recommendations and the challenges that Latin America needs to overcome to increase vaccination rates and better the population’s overall prospects. UNESCO gave strategies for vaccination, focusing on impoverished areas that have higher mortality rates. Yet, UNESCO also projects that only approximately a third of people in Latin America and the Caribbean will receive vaccinations by the end of 2021.

Guillermo Anllo, a UNESCO program head for Latin America and the Caribbean, spoke to Reuters in early August. Anllo emphasized how crucial equity is to the distribution of vaccines in Latin America. The pace of vaccination has been slow in the region as a whole due to structural issues. For example, the highest income countries throughout the world have vaccination rates that are 30 times faster than the countries that have the lowest incomes.

Furthermore, economies have experienced damage during the pandemic, especially those in the Caribbean who rely on tourism. This damage to tourism has a ripple effect on the purchasing power of the countries’ governments to obtain more vaccinations, slowing the process in this way as well.

Efforts to Increase Vaccine Distribution

Worldwide organizations and agencies have sent aid to Latin America throughout the spring of 2021. Most recently, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has vowed to increase access to vaccines and to help minimize transmission of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean. This plan comes from PAHO’s Revolving Fund for Access to Vaccines, which has operated for more than 40 years to distribute vaccines to places in need. PAHO’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Latin America will go to the areas and people at the greatest risk in order to adequately and equitably protect the people of these regions.

With more vaccines on the way and a heightened urgency to vaccinate due to spreading variants, more inhabitants of Latin America will hopefully see higher rates of vaccinations and an increase in safety from the virus in the near future.

– Rebecca Fontana
Photo: Flickr

The WeekndThe Weeknd is famous for his singing, songwriting and producing career. He performed at the halftime show in the 2021 Super Bowl and even won an Oscar for his song “Earned It,” which was featured in the film “Fifty Shades of Grey.” What many don’t know about The Weeknd is that he is a philanthropist who quietly donates to several organizations that help global poverty relief.

The Weeknd’s Background

Much of The Weeknd’s philanthropy ties back to his cultural roots. Born as Abel Tesfaye, The Weeknd’s parents are Ethiopian immigrants. Although Tesfaye grew up in Toronto, Canada, his first language was Amharic. Amharic is one of the two main languages of Ethiopia, further showing his connection to the region.

Ethiopian Philanthropy

A significant portion of The Weeknd’s philanthropy goes toward his parents’ home country of Ethiopia. In April 2021, he donated $1 million to World Food Program USA, which is the U.S. affiliate of the United Nations World Food Programme. This donation will fund two million meals in Ethiopia. Specifically, these meals will benefit people who do not have access to food in the northern Tigray region where there is an ongoing ethnic conflict with Ethiopia’s neighboring country, Eritrea. Civilians suffer the most from the conflict. They are often in danger, living in poor conditions and risk rape, violence and death.

When announcing his donation to World Food Program USA, The Weeknd stated in an Instagram post that, “My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are being displaced out of fear and destruction.”

Prior to The Weeknd’s donation, the World Food Programme provided corn, rice and vegetable oil to 60,000 people in the northern Tigray region. The program also began an initiative to support pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as children in the region, with the goal of reaching 875,000 people. The program also has two refugee camps in Tigray, open to people seeking safety and help.

Donations to Beirut

The Weeknd’s philanthropy extends beyond Ethiopia, as he donated to COVID-19 relief as well as relief for Beirut, Lebanon. Following an explosion at the Port of Beirut, The Weeknd donated $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon. The explosion damaged homes, infrastructure and hospitals. It injured 6,000 people and killed 180. The detonation also damaged the city’s main hospital and other clinics, making it difficult to treat victims. The explosion was also at the city’s port, which drastically affected their ability to trade and receive imports. Additionally, the poverty rate in Lebanon jumped from 33% to 45%. It came mainly as a result of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion. Global Aid for Lebanon raised more than $1.2 million to provide food, treatment and infrastructure aid to those impacted by the explosion.

The Weeknd’s philanthropy has benefitted many lives and helped many get the assistance they needed following unsafe conditions. While he is a quiet philanthropist, he has been instrumental in helping vulnerable people in global poverty.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

South-South Cooperation
In June 2021, the United Nations High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40) met for its 20th session to assess the
progress on South-South cooperation and discuss progress regarding the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). South-South cooperation is the technical collaboration between developing countries of the southern hemisphere or Global South to improve economic development, human rights, climate change, health and other indicators of a thriving society. The Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Collaboration Among Developing Countries (BAPA), which emerged in 1978, launched the South-South cooperation initiative and, since then, 40 additional countries have joined the effort. At the June 2021 meeting, the group discussed progress regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global Context and Trends

The period from 2016 to 2020 witnessed a combination of disastrous shocks and notable human progress. Between 1990 and 2016, poverty rates fell by 35%. By 2019, those living in excessive poverty (below $1.90 per day) decreased to 630 million from the 1990 figure of 2 billion. Nevertheless, by 2020, this situation had changed due to the serious effect of the COVID-19 pandemic which, up to April 2021, had resulted in more than 2.8 million deaths in the world, and also a disastrous economic impact. Experts were concerned that crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental challenges and violent conflicts may negate the success in alleviating poverty over the past three decades.

Specifically, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) emphasized the necessity to consider human progress from a wider perspective than economics. This program, in cooperation with the University of Oxford, promoted the idea of “multidimensional poverty” as development practitioners and policymakers began tracing poverty to its origin as apparent in the different living conditions of destitute persons and communities. For example, the 2020 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index which the UNDP published, shows that 803 million multidimensionally poor persons dwell in undernourished households, 1.03 billion persons live in substandard housing and 476 million children are not receiving an education.

Developing nations also encountered multiple, interlinked climatic, financial and microeconomic challenges from 2016 to 2020. For that reason, they attempted to accelerate the attainment of the 2030 SDG goals.  They viewed the  South-South coordination as an important model for this effort.

Developing Countries: Africa

The South-South collaboration 2019 landmark Agreement Establishing the African Continental FreeTrade Area bolstered regional integration in Africa. Africa has an extensive single market of over 1.3 billion persons as well as a $2.2 trillion combined yearly output. The implementation of the Free Trade Area is likely to have a major socioeconomic effect. Some have anticipated that there will be further gains from intra-African trade which has the potential of increasing by 33% during the Free Trade Area transition stage. There has also been an increase in the number of African leaders who have slowly initiated terms of engagement with other nations. The High-Level Committee reports that it will be critical that these leaders avoid inequalities that would reduce the potential benefits that Africa could obtain from South-South collaboration on the continent.

Developing Countries: Asia and the Pacific

Asia’s high level of regional integration makes it an epicenter of economic South-South coordination. While Asian economies represented 80% of all South-South exports, China continued to be the instrument of growth in investment and trade, and 19 economies in the region “reported China as their first or second-largest export market in 2017.” Despite its excellent performance in South-South trade as well as in other exchanges, large infrastructure gaps have hampered Asia. 

The small island developing nations in the Pacific area continued to be susceptible to climate shocks. Consequently, in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region, South-South collaboration is of critical importance for capacity building for economic resilience to natural shocks with Asia being a role model for public-private partnerships. For instance, in 2019, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Amundi announced a  $500 million Asia Climate Bond Portfolio. This initiative’s objective has been to promote climate action on the part of bank members that involves increasing green leadership and climate resilience as well as considering the climate bond market’s underdevelopment. Despite a dramatic reduction in foreign direct investment (FDI)  and trade in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Asia and Pacific area performed better than the remainder of the world because of more regional integration.

Developed Countries

Several developed nations and multilateral organizations remain supportive of South-South collaboration by triangular coordination. This triangular coordination combines the abilities of various development partners in order to introduce new and adaptable solutions to development challenges and to help to attain the 2030 SDG goals. Unfortunately, a 2019 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that despite the increased focus on triangular coordination, no more than 30 nations or international institutions established guiding documents, strategies or cooperation policies. The study indicated a need for an attitude shift of developed nations from thinking of developing nations as “donor recipients” to considering them as partners.

Civil Society, Think Tanks and the Private Sector

In development cooperation, the private sector, think tanks and civil society are significant stakeholders who could be influential in increasing the application of the 2030 SDG Agenda through South-South and triangular coordination. The Alliance of Non-Governmental Organizations, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation and Civil Society Organizations for South-South Cooperation are collaborating to improve the understanding of the value of South-South cooperation in humanitarian development and related areas. 

Moving Forward

The June High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation underlined the progress of the South-South cooperation and triangular coordination with developed countries. The committee reported that these strategies have been effective in reducing multidimensional poverty and associated problems in developing countries. Its report suggests that the introduction of the United Nations system-wide strategy on South-South and triangular cooperation has great potential for enhancing this progress moving forward.

– Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in AngolaThe catalyzation of food insecurity is causing around 6 million people to fall into hunger in Angola, according to UNICEF. The number of people going hungry in Angola, however, continues to rise due to the most severe drought since 1981 in conjunction with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of droughts, especially in Southern Angola, caused the death of 1 million cattle. This created surges of poor malnutrition and severe illnesses. Despite this, hope exists for those suffering from hunger in Angola.

Drought

The severe drought in Angola has continued spreading for almost three years now, traumatically affecting hunger in Angola. Crop production has decreased by nearly 40%, forcing more families into poverty. The drought has, within only three months in Cunene, Angola, tripled levels of food insecurity. The growing scarcity of food and heightening hunger of Angolans is pushing them to seek refuge in proximate countries such as Namibia.

Pedro Henrique Kassesso, a 112-year-old man, can attest that this three-year-long drought has been the worst he has ever experienced in Angola. The drought has affected almost 500,000 children. Not only has food insecurity heightened, but school dropout rates have risen due to increasing socioeconomic troubles. Hunger in Angola has forced children to put aside their education to support their families in collecting food and water.

Longing for Land

Former Angolan communal farmers are longing to get land back from commercial cattle farmers. According to Amnesty International, the Angolan government gives the land to commercial cattle farmers. Commercial cattle farmers have taken 67% of the land in Gambos, Angola. The battle for land has exasperated the hunger levels of communal Angolan citizens who have been reliant on their land and livestock for survival. The combination of loss of land and drought equates to millions of Angolan citizens ending up in poverty.

Despite the drought and rising food insecurity in Angola, people from neighboring countries are seeking refuge in this nation. As of 2017, 36,000 people have undergone displacement from the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and found refuge in Angola. Because of asylum seekers and refugees fleeing to Angola, the nation’s population is rapidly growing. Angola’s population is growing by 1 million people every year, according to the World Population Review. As a host country to asylum seekers, battles for land, ongoing drought and rapid population growth, more people are succumbing to poverty and hunger in Angola.

Hope on the Horizon

Despite the surging levels of food insecurity in Angola, hope is rising on the horizon. In fact, the government of Japan donated $1 million toward United Nations agencies that serve to uplift Angolan citizens who have succumbed to poverty especially due to the drought and the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy of Angola. The donation from Japan, along with the funds raised to end hunger in Angola by the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Food Programme (WFP) projects to at last tackle the issue of malnutrition and hunger in Angola.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

Copper face masksThe COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted a lot of countries, specifically in areas like the Americas, Brazil, India and Africa. Africa has especially experienced a surge of positive cases and is struggling in terms of COVID-19 prevention. According to the Milken Institute, while places like North America and Europe are 43.64% and 49.57% fully vaccinated respectively as of September 9, 2021, only 3.28% of Africa’s population are fully vaccinated from the novel coronavirus. Out of more than eight million cases reported in Africa, about 2.84 million cases come from South Africa alone.

Moreover, due to the deadly virus, GDP growth throughout Africa is expected to slow. But, even with these grim consequences, help is on the way from a brilliant company based in South Africa, Copper Fresh. During the pandemic, healthcare experts encourage people to do three things: wash their hands, socially distance when possible and wear a face mask to prevent the spread of the virus. However, Copper Fresh is not developing just ordinary face masks but rather copper face masks.

Copper Fresh

Copper Fresh, a company found in Johannesburg, South Africa, is developing pink copper face masks that will help slow the spread of disease and safeguard people’s health. But, with these specific face masks, it is not just about a color change from blue to pink, it is about the mask material. These masks are made out of copper — the reason why the masks have a light red or darker pink color to them — and because of this, the mask can sanitize itself and kill COVID-19 on its surface.

Benefits of Copper

According to IT News Africa, copper is known to kill a variety of diseases “like MRSA, E.coli, Influenza A as well as norovirus. Moreover, according to the University of Cambridge, “copper and alloys that contain up to 58% copper are effective in killing microbes on furniture and equipment in hospital wards.” While the mask is not fully made out of copper, it has the capability to fend off multiple diseases including COVID-19. Dean Lazarus, a co-founder of the company, explains how these copper face masks beat a normal blue medical mask. “[Copper Fresh] mask kills viruses and bacteria. Whereas your traditional blue mask doesn’t. So, if you take your mask off and then put it back on again, you are still carrying the virus with you,” states Lazarus.

According to Business Insider, Copper Fresh partners with Israel-based MedCu Technologies, a company that makes “fabric infused with copper oxide for paramedics to dress wounds at accident scenes.” This fabric is made by mixing together cloth and copper oxide, which is done by placing copper oxide into the fabric at a “microscopic level on a conveyer belt system.” This new fabric then ships to Johannesburg, where Copper Fresh produces the masks.

Hope Amid COVID-19

Due to the socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19, the chances of households moving into poverty are greatly increasing. The risk of falling into transient poverty is increasing by 17% while long-term poverty is increasing by 4%. The chance of escaping poverty has decreased by more than 5%, according to the Milken Institute.

Now, thanks to Copper Fresh and its innovative new face masks, Africa is one step closer to lessening the number of new COVID-19 cases and helping people rise out of poverty. Not many people would think a mask that has an “N95 filter between two sheets of the copper material” would be so beneficial, but Copper Fresh is ambitiously proving this possible. With almost 50,000 masks made per day selling at R25 each, or just less than $2, plenty of Africans can benefit from this revolutionary technology. Copper Fresh masks symbolize more than just protection — they inspire hope.

– Matt Orth
Photo: Unsplash

Education in KenyaThe World Bank reported in 2015 that 36.8% of people in Kenya lived below the international poverty line, set at $1.90 per day. Estimates from April 2020 predicted that this level would continue to follow a slow downward trend to approximately 33.1% in 2020 and 32.4% in 2021. These recent statistics tend to vary across sources, however. For example, Statista reports that in 2020, 27.3% of Kenyans lived in poverty. Ultimately, sources seem to broadly agree that more than a quarter of the population in Kenya lives under the international poverty line. However, poverty rates could reduce by increasing opportunities for education in Kenya. The potential of education in Kenya reflects in the country’s successes over the years.

Poverty Reduction Progress in Kenya

Though the number of Kenyan citizens in poverty is undoubtedly high, Kenya has made great progress in reducing poverty in the last 15 years. In 2005, the World Bank found 46.8% of people living in poverty. This means that according to the World Bank statistics, poverty in Kenya has decreased by more than 10% in slightly more than 15 years. However, there is still a significant need for further poverty reduction progress in Kenya.

Eliminating poverty is crucial for a number of reasons as poverty has an irrefutable impact on other areas of life. One of these impacted areas is education. Global Citizen argues that poverty is the greatest barrier to education for children. Families living on less than $1.90 a day often cannot afford to send their children to school, whether that be due to high attendance fees, the cost of school materials or the need for the child to contribute to the family farm or business. Hence, addressing education is intertwined with addressing poverty in countries such as Kenya.

Educational Success: Free Primary School

Located in East Africa, Kenya is part of a region where harsh climate, violence and general instability lead to high poverty rates and limited access to education. Yet, in the education spectrum, the country has made great progress in recent years, showing the overall potential of education in Kenya. One successful initiative began in 2003, when the Kenyan government rolled out the Free Primary Education (FPE) program, waiving all primary school fees for students. As a result, Olympic Primary School in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi reported that enrollment nearly tripled. This growth in attendance seems to have occurred nationwide as UNICEF reports that before the COVID-19 pandemic closed many schools in early 2020, primary school enrollment in Kenya stood at 99%.

World Bank statistics show Kenya’s successes in improving education through FPE and other programs, with the most recent data from 2018 showing a literacy rate of almost 82% for people older than 15. This is up significantly from 72.16% in 2007 and 78.73% in 2014. Yet, despite these improvements in literacy and primary school enrollment rates, Kenya still struggles to provide high-quality education and see children through to secondary school. Though nearly all children in Kenya attend primary school at some point, many of them drop out to supplement the family income. In 2017, the Kenya Climate Innovation Center reported a 27% dropout rate in primary school.

Even if students complete primary school, very few of them go on to any further education. Statista reports that in 2019, 10.1 million children attended primary school in Kenya. However, only 3.26 million children enrolled in secondary school the same year and only 509,000 Kenyan students attended college in 2019. More recent data is not available due to widespread school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Potential of Education in Kenya

Getting students into primary schools was the first step to improving education in Kenya. But, while the most recent World Bank data states that, in 2018, the Kenyan government spent 5.3% of the country’s GDP on education, schools are still short on resources and teachers. In some classrooms, the teacher-to-student ratio exceeds 1:100, leaving teachers overworked and overwhelmed. The government is working hard to increase the percentage of students who transition to secondary school but requires more resources to employ enough teachers and support high-quality education for students.

Overall, education in Kenya has seen a vast improvement in the number of students attending primary school in the last 20 years as a result of FPE and other work. Now, Kenya must look to improve in other areas of education in order to fully empower students with the tools and knowledge to rise out of poverty.

– Julia Welp
Photo: Flickr

Decreasing Poverty

With all the bad news about the pandemic over the past eighteen months, it’s easy to get dispirited about the future of the world. And indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many to slide into poverty across the globe. However, over the past half-century, the world has achieved miracles in decreasing poverty. The pandemic’s setbacks come nowhere near to erasing the progress of past years.

Examining the Larger Context

The World Bank recently estimated the COVID-19 could push as many as 150 million people into extreme poverty. This means that the current situation would force millions more to live on less than $1.90 a day. This is an enormous shift to fight, acknowledge and remain aware of. Yet, even that number pales in a larger context to the amount the world has achieved in reducing extreme poverty.

In 1981, 41% of most of the developing world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Over the last four decades, an incredible international effort has reduced that number to 25% in 2008. On average, millions upon millions rose out of poverty because of annual global efforts focused on decreasing poverty. A similar trend is visible in literacy rates since literacy and education are one of the best ways to reduce extreme poverty. Due to the pandemic, school closure and slashed budgets, an estimated 100 million more children may be unable to achieve sufficient skills in reading.

Paradoxically, global literacy has never been higher. Two centuries ago, global illiteracy rates hovered around 90%. By 1970, world literacy stood at almost 70%. Today, thanks to even more steady improvement, literacy is almost 90%. The worrying effects of the pandemic remain priorities, but the hundreds of millions lifted out of illiteracy, even in only a few decades, cannot be obscured.

Perception and Action

Despite positive trends, public perception remains negative. A 2017 survey found that a majority of Americans believe that worldwide extreme poverty rates have increased over the past twenty years. Perhaps news coverage and dismal portrayals of the situation overall have contributed to this perception. Furthermore, COVID-19 has led more people to believe that poverty is growing more desperate, but in reality, the pandemic stands as one tiny step back in a marathon of progress.

How has the world achieved such an impressive reduction in extreme poverty in just a few short decades? Though complex, part of the answer centers on the fact that much recent economic growth has taken place in populous, less-developed countries, such as China and India. These countries deserve much credit for progress in reducing poverty, yet wealthy countries like the United States have also helped by giving many countries access to the wealth of global trade, as well as spending billions annually on developmental aid.

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has dragged millions into poverty around the world, but a broader evaluation gives a reason for hope. In just forty years, the way countless people live has transformed, turning poverty into the exception, rather than the norm. If this effort continues, there’s no telling how much more progress the world will make in decreasing poverty.

Thomas Brodey
Photo: Unsplash