COVID-19's Impact on NGOs in IndiaThe global impact of COVID-19 has disrupted the lives of billions worldwide. This has resulted in widespread job and life losses, economic crises and societal turmoil. Amid these unprecedented challenges, the nonprofit sector has emerged as a crucial force. Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) are actively contributing in areas such as humanitarian aid, diplomacy, advocacy and global governance. While the world has recognized the pivotal roles played by NGOs during the pandemic, one notable aspect is COVID-19’s impact on the NGOs in India. The Borgen Project interviewed NGO Leader Sri Gopalakrishnan, the founder of KindKart, to gather insights about the state and growth of NGOs in India.

Lack of Funds and Infrastructure – The Biggest Challenge for the NGOs in India

The pandemic severely impacted India’s social sector, redirecting funds to emergency relief and causing financial challenges for NGOs. About 33% of Indian NGOs faced a six-month survival crisis due to inadequate funds. As rightly pointed out by Sri Gopalakrishnan, although the specific needs of the NGOs may have evolved, addressing the basic needs continues to be the main driver for several local charities in India as COVID-19’s virulence continues to morph since the onset.

Lack of government support and unethical practices by some of the unregistered NGOs usually result in investors and the public losing trust and turning away from donating, exacerbating COVID-19’s impact on the NGOs in India. Moreover, public fundraising activities shifted to online events and social media campaigns due to COVID-19, compelling NGOs to scale back their operations.

Loss of Jobs & Disruption at Schools Impact the NGOs

The closure of schools, businesses and workplaces led to the loss of jobs and income for employed individuals and disruption for children. About 10 million Indians lost their jobs during the second wave of the pandemic. COVID-19’s impact on the NGOs forced them to shift to remote work, impacting operations and creating challenges in balancing fieldwork and digital tasks.

The global unemployment rate hit 6.5% as an additional 33 million people lost their employment in 2020, bringing the total number of unemployed individuals worldwide to 220 million. The economic crisis triggered by the pandemic constrained donors’ capacity, resulting in NGOs facing a decline in voluntary income.

Collaboration Enables Chartering the Course for the NGOs

In 2021, under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) program instituted by the prime minister of India, the World Bank approved $500M to improve response to social protection. This enabled the state and the central government organizations to define a more adaptive social protection system, reaching more groups based on individual needs.

As of current data, there are more than 190,000 registered NGOs in India, according to information from the NGO Darpan portal, a platform that provides space for collaboration between NGOs and key government ministries and departments.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the Influence of Technology

Amid the crisis, there is an opportunity to reshape relationships between the social sector, businesses and government, with CSR playing a key role. The government mandates companies to allocate 2% of their profits to CSR projects. Increasing CSR commitments and leveraging technology through socio-tech ventures can bring about impactful change in addressing India’s vast socio-economic challenges for nonprofits.

Policy Changes, Governance and Technology Mark the Future

Several reports, including the Center for Monitoring of the Indian Economy (CMIE) statistics, revealed 10 million job losses during the second wave of the pandemic. Therefore, the government requires support from India’s social sector to achieve significant positive change in health, economy and society.

Over the past decade, the World Bank partnered with tech providers, foundations, think tanks and Indian agencies to develop social protection systems. This initiative engaged experts to enhance India’s social protection architecture. To avoid falling into the trap of the global economic crisis, the Government of India must strategize its objectives, introduce many policy changes and enhance the country’s stature in international relations.

– Sudha Krishnaswami
Photo: Unsplash

Being Poor in the Canary IslandsMany associate the Canary Islands with year-long sunshine and summer weather, a resort holiday destination for many within Europe. What many visitors might not know is that being poor in the Canary Islands is a reality for many; an issue that has worsened after the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article will discuss the current situation of poverty in the archipelago, the reality of being poor in the Canary Islands and the work of local NGOs.

The Current Situation

The Canary Islands is the second poorest region of Spain. In 2023, 36% of the population live at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Even those employed face the risk of poverty due to rising rents and prices undermining their ability to have savings, this year 57% of all Canarians reported they cannot afford unexpected expenses. Being poor in the Canary Islands is also a gendered issue. Poverty in this region affects women more than men and poverty also particularly affects children.

The situation has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism is of great importance to the economy of the Canary Islands. In 2019, it accounted for 32.9% of the GDP of the islands and 36.3% of all jobs. As of 2021 (the last year there are figures for), those numbers were much lower at 22.6% and 25.7% respectively. The Spanish government has approved 30 million euros for use in 2023 to tackle this issue. One must note that this is a smaller budget than last year despite poverty figures worsening.

Rescate Canarias

There are several NGOs active in the archipelago fighting against poverty, one of which is Rescate Canarias. The hardest part of being poor in the Canary Islands is the lack of access to food and the growing digital gap, as those poverty in the Canary Islands most affects do not always have access to computers or the internet and now the government’s system to help the poor is fully digital. Founded in 2005, Rescate Canarias has helped Gran Canaria’s poor and most vulnerable for 18 years. Rescate Canarias provides hot meals once a day to 600 people in Gran Canaria from Monday to Friday. The organization also gives out food and clothes, provides showers for people to meet their basic hygiene needs and even runs a charitable hairdressing service.

Although hairdressing may not cross one’s mind as an essential service for the poor, it serves an important purpose. It allows those most vulnerable to still feel part of society, to be able to present themselves as they want and prevents certain issues such as lice, which can be shameful and make entering the job market hard. Another key service it provides to those who live in poverty or are at risk of it is help finding and securing a job.

The COVID-19 pandemic also affected Rescate Canarias, meaning it can no longer offer a hot meal at night, something it is trying to start doing again soon. Despite the setbacks from the pandemic and the limited funds, Rescate Canarias is actively fighting poverty in the archipelago. Recently, it organized an event to collect toys and Christmas gifts that for children at risk of poverty in the islands.

Being Poor in the Canary Islands

Despite the growing poverty figures in the Canary Islands the poor in the archipelago are not forgotten and many NGOs as well as the government, both at the national and local level, work tirelessly to lift people out of poverty and to help those who poverty most affects.

– Sara del Carmen Navarro Galvan
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in SurinameThe South American nation of Suriname is an incredibly unique place with a special history. Suriname gained its independence almost a half decade ago. The most common language spoken in the country is Dutch but the nation is extremely diverse. People with roots in parts of Asia, Europe and Africa make up the population of Suriname today. Suriname has always been a place that is rich with natural resources. The mining industry has always been a critical aspect of the national economy and plays a large role in the overall success of Suriname as a whole. Unfortunately, over the last 8 years economic struggles have plagued the nation and poverty in Suriname has become an extremely serious issue. 

About Poverty in Suriname

The COVID-19 pandemic made an already difficult economic situation much worse and as a result about one of every four people is living in poverty in Suriname. There have been small signs of hope over the last few years, but inflation has made continued progress difficult to achieve. 

As is the case in many developing nations, children and teenagers feel poverty in Suriname extremely hard. According to Humanium.org, the youth throughout the nation are facing a wide variety of challenges as a result of poverty. Exploitation of child labor and poor education systems have contributed to a low quality of life for young people throughout Suriname. 

Another serious issue in the area is the poor health of children. Malnutrition has become a challenge that is very common in Suriname and as a result, a large number of young children are contracting anemia and other diseases. In some of the less densely populated areas of Suriname, access to health care services is very limited. A study occurred in these areas and more than six out of every 10 children in the study were anemic. 

UNICEF’s Efforts

Luckily, in 2022, UNICEF laid out an elaborate plan for the nations of Suriname and Guyana on how to improve the unfortunate circumstances facing these nations, specifically for children. The plan that UNICEF assembled is elaborate and will tackle several aspects of poverty in Suriname through numerous channels. UNICEF has several partnerships in place with various organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and many others to improve access to health care, quality education and other services to help young children move out of poverty. UNICEF has been able to allocate $18.3 million for its objectives in Suriname. 

Another very critical aspect of the plan that UNICEF put out in 2022 is the agreements it has with organizations that will be able to gather updated and accurate data in regards to poverty in Suriname. UNICEF has developed different data analysis tools to measure the progress in each issue area laid out in the plan. These tools will allow UNICEF to accurately measure the success of each part of the plan. The various surveys conducted and data collected will be shared with leaders and government agencies. 

The goal that UNICEF has outlined is for the government to use this information to develop policies that address the current state of the nation and not an outdated perspective which UNICEF will also analyze to make sure they are robust enough to make a significant impact. This plan has outlined a bright future for Suriname due to the fact that it outlines how to keep its citizens, especially children, healthy, educated and safe.

Looking Ahead

Suriname is clearly struggling, but the plan that UNICEF has implemented coupled with the partnerships they have developed is a massive step in the right direction. The measures that UNICEF is taking as described in the plan address so many issues and the hope is that each problem can be overcome. If the plan undergoes proper execution, Suriname will be on a path toward a better future and away from poverty. 

– Dylan Lyons
Photo: Flickr

Poorest CountriesIt can be challenging for a developing country to amend its issues. However, Bhutan has managed to achieve an incredible feat. UNCTAD has announced that Bhutan will be the seventh country to graduate from the list of least developed countries. This task is arduous, especially for a country that has just faced COVID-19. This article will answer one question: how is Bhutan no longer one of the poorest countries in the world?

The Origins of Poverty

Bhutan is a rather old country with a deep connection to Buddhism. While many believe that human life is suffering, children in Bhutan have learned to focus on happiness and the government has always prioritized happiness above all. The University of Oxford found that 93.6% of all citizens were happy on some level. 

Unfortunately, despite this high happiness rate, poverty has continued to be a problem in the nation. 

One hindrance is the country’s location. Natural disasters are common in Bhutan due to a mountain nearby, the Himalayas. Communities are wiped out because of extreme floods originating from the melting glaciers. Farmers have difficulty making cash because crops are hard to maintain from the floods. The fact that education is hard to access does not help this struggle, being a two to three-hour walk for those living in rural areas. The country has been hoping to remove these issues, which is why it launched several programs to change Bhutan for the better. 

The Strategies 

Each plan aims to accomplish something over five years. These plans usually have programs connected, such as the Rural Economy Advancement Program of The Common Minimum Program. These programs support citizens in rural areas with necessities to boost their income or resources. This program has helped connect these societies to those more affluent in their profit, with schools and shops now present. The government has had the money to support such causes thanks to its tourism, which has grown over the years. Around $120 million worth of sales were achieved in 2019. 

One constant supporter of Bhutan has been India, who is close to the country. Not only have they proven to be a source of foreign aid, but they have traded resources for each other. India has provided Bhutan with a better power supply in the form of hydropower, allowing the production of crops to be improved. These strategies seemed to push the country in the right direction. In 2014, it was found that some of the poorest households now had access to amenities such as phones and electricity. The switch to hydropower led to 8% annual growth in crop production per 100 acres. The poverty rate went from 12% in 2012 to 8.% in 2017, with a total reduction of 23.5% from 2005 to 2018. 

COVID-19

One of Bhutan’s most impressive feats was during the COVID-19 era. At first, it seemed like Butan would falter, just like every other country. Bhutan was particularly vulnerable, as the country’s border connected to India and China. The country’s tourist-focused approach meant many people would move across the border, increasing risk. Bhutan decided to do all it could to prevent the virus from spreading. When just one person tested positive for COVID-19, a three-week national lockdown took place. The country was very open with news regarding the virus, always keeping people posted on the virus. This openness led to more community action, with various businesses offering their spaces as quarantine zones, with free products for those in need. 

Unfortunately, drastic measures were necessary with the biggest being the closing of the borders. With Bhutan’s reliance on imports, this proved a hindrance. However, the government was dedicated to stopping the virus. The Buddhist values of the country remained stronger than ever, with resilience and flexibility being the common mindset among most citizens. This urgent action paid off, as the country never became overloaded with cases. Thanks to the engagement of the country’s leaders, Bhutan has managed to come out of the COVID-19 era with only 21 deaths. 

The Outcome

Bhutan’s success in handling COVID-19 is critical to its success in no longer being among the poorest countries in the world. The virus’s impact on the war against poverty is immeasurable. The World Bank Blog reported, “In 2021, the average incomes of people in the bottom 40% of the global income distribution are 6.7% higher than their pre-pandemic projection, while those of people in the top 40% are down 2.8%.”

After COVID-19, Bhutan continued to make steady progress. Tourism again proved valuable, and the increase in that area led to more jobs. The country also saw increased work in more industries, such as construction and manufacturing. The country has always been vulnerable to changing weather patterns. However, things appear to be looking better, thanks to the development of a $2.9 million National Adaptation Plan, which further expanded the country’s focus on protecting itself from the effects of changing weather patterns.

Conclusion 

Bhutan still faces several challenges before poverty is defeated, but the country is growing. Once the country graduates on December 13th, Bhutan will have many benefits from no longer being one of the poorest countries in the world. Alongside increased access to outside resources, the increase in reputation will lead to more tourists. It will be exciting to see how Bhutan evolves now that it is no longer among the poorest countries.

– Uzair Khan
Photo: Flickr

Air TravelIn the summer of 2019, one could have described a stroll through the streets of Istanbul or along the coast in Santorini as bustling. There would have been a great mix of cultures, languages and people around. Fast forward to 2020, and those same destinations were likely eerily empty, echoing the silence of the global tourism industry grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, 2023 presented a glimmer of hope. Air travel has made a remarkable comeback, with weekly numbers poised to surpass pre-pandemic 2019 levels for the first time in four years. Although annual figures have not fully recovered, the weekly trends of increased air travel are promising, highlighting the vital role of international tourism in the resurgence of developing economies.

Importance of International Tourism to Developing Economies

One can characterize many developing economies as “tourism-dependent.” These countries are usually small or  isolated, such as Jamaica, Aruba or the Dominican Republic. Other larger countries, with still developing economies can be classified as heavily reliant on tourism, including Thailand, Greece, Croatia, Turkey and Mexico. These countries, having limited diversified economic streams, are prone to higher poverty levels and were hit particularly hard by the pandemic’s impact on the tourism industry. The percentage of the population classified as ‘the working poor’ is significantly higher in these countries, and the removal of a prominent economic stream exacerbated their challenges.

COVID-19’s Impact on International Tourism

The pandemic caused international tourism to plummet by a staggering 83% in 2020, with 2.40 billion tourists worldwide. This was an abrupt disruption for tourism-dependent economies, whose average net international tourism revenues were a significant portion of GDP in the years preceding 2020. Examples include the following nations and tourism’s contribution to their GDP: 

  • Croatia, 15%
  • The Dominican Republic, 8%
  • Thailand, 8%
  • Greece, 7%

For the countries where economies are still developing and tourism makes up a significant part of the GDP, the sudden lack of tourism diminished revenue streams and removed jobs, which increased unemployment and negatively impacted the “working poor” the most, compounding poverty and its subsequent issues. A specific example of this is Santorini, where it is estimated that nearly 75% of the population depends on tourism for income. 

COVID-19 Relief Initiatives and Their Impact on Tourism Industries

It is important to mention initiatives that were instituted to help combat the negative impacts of decreased tourism in these countries. In Greece, the government implemented a fiscal package of measures totaling about 13.7% of GDP in 2020, including loan guarantees, health spending, temporary financial support to vulnerable individuals, extension of unemployment benefits, support for short-term employment, subsidies to households and fiscal support to hard hit businesses, including the travel and tourism industry. The measures helped support those the lack of tourism impacted, as well as individuals living in poverty in the country.

Another example is Thailand, where a fiscal package amounting to at least 9.6% of GDP was instated, covering health-related spending, assistance for workers, farmers and entrepreneurs that COVID-19 affected, support for individuals and businesses through loans and tax relief, reduced water and electricity bills and measures to support local tourism. Specifically, this goal was to support travel and tourism industries through domestic travel, to mitigate the lack of international travel. From July 15 until October 2020, there was a tourism subsidy package, “We Travel Together,” covering up to 40% of travel costs for 5 million domestic tourists. 

Despite these government issues, examination of tourism data, and GDP contracts indicate that support packages were not enough to compensate for the lack for international travel.

A Look at the Numbers

A comparison between 2019, 2020 and 2023 tourism numbers reveals the resilience and importance of developing economies. These countries saw the following changes in inbound tourism, for the listed years, respectively:

All figures represent international arrivals in the country and are in millions:

  • Croatia: 19.6, 7, 16.2
  • Greece: 34, 7.4, 17.4
  • Mexico: 45, 24.3, 31.9
  • Thailand: 39.8, 6.7, 19
  • Turkey: 51.8, 15.9, 29.9

Evidently, in 2019, countries including Croatia, Greece, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey were prominent tourist destinations. Remarkably, they continue to rank highly in 2023. The countries are developing economies heavily reliant on inbound tourism. Increased air travel foreign arrivals to the nations is a promising sign of economic recovery. 

Why it Matters

The pandemic caused an economic shock to these nations. For instance, Greece, which was projected to grow by 2.3% in 2020, actually contracted by more than 8% due to its reliance on tourism. Tourism plays a vital role in economic growth by supporting foreign exchange reserves, driving infrastructure investments, enhancing human capital, creating jobs and boosting income levels. Those living in poverty are most affected by changes in human capital and job creation. The resultant GDP growth fosters a positive cycle. With a continuing rise in GDP, countries can invest in their infrastructure, thereby further increasing international tourism as conditions improve. This will in turn create further job opportunities for the working poor and increase individual purchasing power.

Travel Today

Looking at 2023 so far, the resilience and adaptability of these countries, and of travelers, becomes evident. Croatia, Greece, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey, though not back at 2019 tourism levels yet, have proved remarkable recovery so far, especially prior to winter holiday travel numbers. Croatia has seen a 79% increase in international tourists since 2020, Greece is up by 81%, Mexico shows a 27% improvement, Thailand is the standout with a 96% growth and Turkey has surged by 61%. Crucially, tourism revenues in Turkey have shown a promising 23.1% growth to $13 billion in the second quarter of 2023, with 85.5% coming from foreign visitors. This signals a strong comeback in the country’s tourism industry.

Next Stop, Economic Improvement

In summary, while the COVID-19 pandemic took a heavy toll on tourism-dependent economies, their resilience and the spirit of travelers are now leading to a resurgence of the industry. The rebound in international travel post-pandemic is intrinsically tied to the economic well-being of these countries. Improving economies in developing nations creates jobs, elevates GDP per capita, reduces poverty rates and enhances the overall quality of life. Increased air travel and international tourism serves as a catalyst for progress, shaping a brighter and more prosperous future for these nations and their people.

Kailey Schwinghammer
Photo: Flickr

Global Oxygen Alliance
On May 24, Unitaid, a global health agency that fundraises to support novel treatments for major diseases in the developing world, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria both published press releases officially announcing the commencement of the Global Oxygen Alliance (GO2AL). 

Additionally, backed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, GO2AL was first established in April as an initiative that seeks to bridge the gaps in medical oxygen access that continue to exist in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, GO2AL aims to ensure that advancements made in oxygen supply and distribution during the height of the virus are maintained and expanded to even more regions, as medical oxygen is a key treatment tool that health care workers use in hospitals worldwide.

Building Blocks

Although the WHO refers to oxygen as an “essential medicine,” necessary for almost all aspects of many standard hospital procedures, rarely do people consider the supply of medical oxygen when identifying indicators to help analyze the performance of countries’ health systems. 

A scarcity of medical oxygen in the vast majority of LMICs (Lower or Middle-Income Countries), then, has gone overlooked for years, only gaining relevance in the face of devastating shortages during the pandemic. On top of often lacking an oxygen source, many hospitals in LMICs also lack pulse oximeters, a piece of medical equipment that measures the amount of oxygen in a person’s red blood cells and is therefore crucial in the proper administration of oxygen to patients suffering from hypoxemia, or a low level of arterial oxygen. 

February of 2021 saw the creation of the Oxygen Emergency Taskforce of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), a multilateral coalition founded to respond to these shortages. ACT-A was able to achieve a number of successes in expanding access to medical oxygen in LMICs, raising $1 billion to increase oxygen production and reduce its cost, distributing equipment like pulse oximeters to hospitals in need and providing support to governments in the implementation of improved oxygen systems. 

The Global Oxygen Alliance aims to be a successor of ACT-A, hoping to maintain the advancements that have occurred and extend them ever further, especially as oxygen shortages have faded out of public perception after the pandemic. Furthermore, GO2AL is also partnering with the Lancet Global Health Commission on Medical Oxygen Security, formed in September of last year, to address data gaps in the supply of oxygen in LMICs and utilize that new research to find solutions to the oxygen insecurity that still exists in many health systems across the globe. 

Preventable Deaths

The work of GO2AL is critical since medical oxygen is also frequently used in the treatment of the elderly, infants and pregnant women, all of whom are vulnerable populations. Developing countries have long struggled to acquire enough medical oxygen for their needs; before the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, 90% of hospitals in LMICs did not have access to sufficient amounts of oxygen for their patients, which led to a preventable death toll of 800,000 annually. 

Though COVID-19 may no longer officially be a global emergency, the havoc it wreaked on health systems around the world was a wake-up call for more investment to be directed towards future pandemic preparedness. One year into the pandemic, 60% of hospitals in LMICs did not have a sufficient supply of medical oxygen. Should there be another virus similar to COVID-19, every country will need the resources to adequately care for any and all patients who may need oxygen during their treatment. 

There are also plenty of non-COVID-19 patients who suffer from the lack of access to medical oxygen, with diseases common in LMICs like pneumonia, malaria and meningitis causing hypoxemia and requiring immediate care. The Clinton Health Access Initiative estimates that more than 15% of children under 5 admitted into hospitals suffer from hypoxemia, in addition to 20% of all admitted infants. 

An inadequate supply of oxygen affects pneumonia patients in particular, as 7.2 million children with the condition end up in hospitals every year. Without access to oxygen therapy, around 148,000 annual child pneumonia cases are preventable. Research suggests that installing and upgrading oxygen systems in pediatric wards can lower the number of deaths due to child pneumonia by 46%, in addition to lowering all deaths in children under 5 by 40%. GO2AL’s stated commitment to increasing medical oxygen access, then, is one that is sure to save millions of lives in years to come. 

Hope for the Future

ACT-A successfully brought medical oxygen to LMICs desperately in need of it and worked through logistical obstacles to make sure these countries have the infrastructure to continue accessing the oxygen they require. On the part of those organizations that were a part of ACT-A and are now supporting the Global Oxygen Alliance, they are offering an extremely important example of what dedication to bettering the lives of those who are less fortunate should look like. Not only will GO2AL continue filling the oxygen gap that exists in many LMICs, but it will also fill the data gap that made the lack of medical oxygen in many developing countries a sorely underappreciated issue before the pandemic.

– Sofia Oliver
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Poverty in the CaribbeanCaribbean countries have always struggled with poverty as a result of factors such as low educational achievement and low worker productivity, and following the infamous COVID-19 global pandemic that began nearly four years ago, they have been struggling with the rise of their inflation, which has resulted in limited access to both goods and labor markets, leaving the most vulnerable people in these places in poverty-stricken situations. The following is an overview of the challenges that relate to poverty in the Caribbean.

Low Education Levels

Poor people who have jobs within the Caribbean reportedly have lower levels of education. In the past, a significant portion of the working population in Caribbean countries like Jamaica and Dominica only managed to complete primary-level education. For instance, Jamaica had about 83% of its population in this category, while Dominica had approximately 79%. Additionally, a relatively small percentage, ranging from 2% to 8%, had attained tertiary-level education.

The Pandemic Made It Harder to Transport Food

The aftermath of the pandemic has posed challenges to transporting food within Caribbean countries, leading to an increase in poverty levels. New strategies, including financial aid and private transfers of money, were implemented to assist during the pandemic. However, these measures have had unintended consequences, resulting in reduced access to goods and labor markets, particularly in urban areas. This has caused a decline in the income of impoverished households, contributing to increased instability in women’s employment within these regions.

Working Poor have Fewer Income Opportunities

Records suggest that, in the past, a small number of residents within the Caribbean countries of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica get 50 or more hours of work a week compared to those who are not within the same countries.

Additionally, reports suggest that the proportions of the working poor from these countries who work 32 or fewer hours a week are greater than those who are not poor and reside within the same countries. In addition, it was stated that the jobs in these countries included construction in the Bahamas, community and social services in Trinidad and Tobago, agriculture in Jamaica and Dominica and wholesale/retail sales in Barbados.

Learning Poverty among Children

Due to the global pandemic, learning difficulties have worsened, particularly in the Caribbean. The World Bank estimated that, even before the pandemic, 51% of Caribbean children couldn’t read or understand simple text by age 10, compared to a global average of 48%. However, learning poverty rates vary across countries, ranging from 21% in Trinidad and Tobago to 81% in the Dominican Republic.

These rates may continue to rise due to prolonged school closures and increased dropout rates resulting from the pandemic. Across the region, 23 countries and 12 independent states closed their schools for an average of 168 days between the start of the pandemic in 2020 and February 2022.

This is equivalent to nearly an entire academic year. In countries like Guatemala, 13.3% of children are not engaging in educational activities. In Honduras, this number is 17% and in Bolivia, it’s as high as 22.6%. These learning losses in Caribbean countries contribute to increased variability in student skills and present challenges for teachers. One factor is the practice of automatic promotion within schools.

The Caribbean is Struggling to Get its People Out of Poverty

The poverty rate within the Caribbean increased for the first time in years during the 2019–2021 period, following the pandemic. During the period between 1999 and 2019, its poverty rate of 53% dropped to 28% as a result of labor income being the primary driver during this era, but currently, following the complications of the pandemic, its poverty rate has increased to 30%. In addition to this, although labor income was a success for the Caribbean in the past, its people have yet to return to this path of poverty reduction for further success in the future.

Looking Ahead

Although quick and determined action is needed to address poverty in the Caribbean, the situation has become more complex. Many countries in the region have made significant efforts to combat poverty in the past, demonstrating their capacity to do so once again. Furthermore, the World Bank is actively supporting countries in the Caribbean, including Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana and Eastern Caribbean states like Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and Turks and Caicos. The World Bank is implementing plans and projects aimed at reducing inequality and enhancing overall resilience.

For example, the World Bank has achieved significant milestones, such as completing six water supply systems in Haitian communities after the devastating earthquake in 2010. In 2019, the bank also played a crucial role in reducing cholera cases in Haiti, collaborating with communities, implementing disease surveillance and mobilizing rapid response teams.

The World Bank remains committed to mobilizing both public and private resources to reduce extreme poverty, promote prosperity and foster inclusive growth in the Caribbean. This involves bringing together diverse expertise and financial support from various Caribbean countries.

– Deon Roberts
Photo: Unsplash

Child Poverty in Saint Lucia
When the COVID-19 virus spread out into the world in 2020, it caused hardships for all countries. People feared contracting the virus but were also impacted by entire countries shutting down, putting citizens indefinitely out of work.
Saint Lucia was one small Caribbean island whose children felt the burden of their parents’ lack of income. Child poverty in Saint Lucia, a country with a population of 180,000, rose to 34.5% in 2021.

In 2020, the economic and social impact on households was directly related to the closing of schools, businesses and the border itself. This led to a reduction in income due to job loss and restriction of hours. In addition, many citizens were unable to work due to their health. The biggest impact lies in the hotel and tourism sectors, with 33,000 people impacted by the shutting down of hotels, restaurants and retail stores, according to a United Nations presentation of the Saint Lucia Economic Stimulus, Recovery and Resilience Strategy. In a survey of citizens, “30% of households ran out of food once or more during the 30 days prior to the survey.” For poor households, “nearly 50% experience[ed] a time when they ran out of food.”

Effects of the COVID-19 Virus on Child Labor

The accumulation of this loss of income has increased child poverty in Saint Lucia. Many children had to take jobs such as street vending to provide for their families. However, it also led to more dangerous options, such as drug and sex trafficking. In 2020, the government began a revision of the Labor Act to address issues that did not meet the Labor Department’s mandates. It also approved the Counter-Trafficking Amendment Act, which protects victims of trafficking regardless of citizenship.

Saint Lucia took several other steps to eliminate child poverty and child labor. Its efforts included increased labor inspectors, updated standard operating procedures and a minimum age for work of 15. This allowed children to stay in school until legally able to work. It also passed a prohibition on forced labor and child trafficking. Labor enforcement funding has also risen from $392,313 in 2020 to $496,296 in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. St. Lucia also employed twice the number of inspectors in 2021 who were being trained before going out into the field and offered refresher courses for them. 

Organizations Assisting Relief Efforts in Saint Lucia

On December 16, 2021, the Saint Lucia Ministry of Equity, UNICEF and the UN met for a development session on the impact and effects of the COVID-19 virus. They conferred together about the different measures that can be taken to learn from this pandemic. They also explored the extent of aid from social assistance responses. The World Food Programme (WFP) also stepped up in favor of the Income Support Program, which provided $1,500 each to more than 4,800 people unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, UNICEF donated up to $400 from July to September 2020 to children in foster care and $300 to the Child Disability Grant. The Public Assistance Program was able to accommodate an additional 1,000 households from November 2020 to April 2021, thanks to funding from the World Food Programme ($229,610) and the India UN ($500,000). 

However, citizens did not sit around waiting for assistance to find them. Despite the decrease in crucial tourist revenue, 16 hotels prepared and distributed meals to those impacted by the economic shutdown. In two months, they served 19,131 meals to those affected. 

The COVID-19 pandemic affected all families, but work is occurring to pull children off this path and into a promising future. “The highest poverty reduction effect overall would be achieved by supporting a large number of households (bottom 40%), followed by a universal child grant,” said the United Nations. “Support to all children would also achieve the highest reduction in the child poverty rate.” A better future for children means a better future for their country. 

– Jennifer Arias
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in Latin America
The current rate of hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is at 6.5%. This is a significant decrease of 2.4 million people compared to the previous year. The last time hunger levels fell this low was pre-COVID-19. Comparatively, the rate of hunger in these regions is lower than the rates in Africa, Asia and Oceania. 

In addition to lowered hunger levels, undernourishment is slightly down, at 6.5% — lower than 2021’s rate of 7%, but still only level with that of 2020. Lastly, moderate and severe food insecurity also dropped in 2021. Severe food insecurity dropped from 13.9% to 12.6%, while moderate food insecurity dropped from 26.4% to 24.9%.

Progress Despite Hard Times

It is clear that hunger in Latin America has dropped, along with undernourishment and food insecurity, though several factors have slowed progress:

  • COVID-19
  • Ukraine/Russia War
  • Extreme Weather

The COVID-19 pandemic particularly hit those with low income, as they did not have adequate resources to protect themselves. The urban areas of LAC are where the pandemic impacted the most vulnerable people.

In LAC, there were reportedly 65.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1.65 million deaths by March 2022. While LAC holds 8% of the world population, the region represents about 15% of COVID-19 cases and 28% of worldwide reported deaths.

Details About the LAC’s Challenges

In 2019, the GDP growth in Latin America and the Caribbean was at 0.7%, it then dropped to -6.5% in 2020 (during the pandemic) before rising to 6.7% in 2021. GDP growth is essential to financing important infrastructure and helping the region and its people to recover from the pandemic. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has had a catastrophic effect on the world, including an increase in the prices of fertilizers By September 2022, the price of fertilizer was triple what the rate was in early 2020. Low-income farmers across LAC had to reduce their plantings to avoid paying extremely high production costs. Once again, low-income farmers in LAC had their total income affected by global prices. 

Finally, extreme weather has destroyed countless infrastructures across Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2022, 78 meteorological, hydrological and climate-related hazards occurred in the LAC region; 86% of these were both storm and flood-related. 

Estimates have indicated that there were reports of $9 billion worth of damages to the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT), primarily due to droughts (40%) and storms (32%). The actual figures for the impacts of extreme events are likely worse due to a lack of reporting.

Looking Ahead

Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean has seen a decrease despite many obstructions on the road to improvement. The combination of the pandemic, extreme weather and war has meant that production has not been as high as it could have been. Therefore, these challenges have affected hunger levels, malnutrition, food insecurity and the economy significantly. Despite all this, LAC has still been able to decrease levels of hunger, undernourishment and food insecurity. As the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps, poverty, hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity will continue to decrease for the people of LAC.

– Lewis Butcher
Photo: Pexels

Being Poor in SpainAs the largest country on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain has a rich history and a thriving culture. The Romans and the Muslims from North Africa influenced its origins, and this is quite visible in the nation’s architecture. Today, travelers often visit Spain for the diverse array of tapas, or small snack-like foods. However, after the country experienced a financial crisis in 2008, many families experienced economic hardship, which the COVID-19 pandemic later exacerbated in 2020. Below are five facts about how families continue to struggle with being poor in Spain today.

5 Facts About Being Poor in Spain

  1. Poverty and Unemployment Pre-COVID-19: In 2018, two years prior to the pandemic, 26.1% of people in Spain faced the possible risk of poverty or social exclusion, according to a report from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner. Additionally, the unemployment rate (13.78%) was more than double the average rate for the EU as a whole, with those under the age of 25 suffering the highest rate of unemployment.
  2. Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A 2022 Human Rights Watch report detailed that the economic hardships stemming from COVID-19 disproportionately affected families with children, older people, migrants, asylum-seekers and people working in informal work sectors. Additionally, the difficulties of being poor in Spain had an increased impact on single parents, who reported that they often skipped meals to feed their children during the pandemic.
  3. Price inflation: Between August 2021 and August 2022, price inflation in Spain skyrocketed by 10.5%, which is the highest level that records have indicated since official measurements started in 1994. Reports indicated that some foods have had between a 25% and 40% price increase.
  4. Homelessness on the Rise: Approximately 28,500 people experienced homelessness in Spain in 2022, a 25% increase from 2012. The average age of a person experiencing homelessness in Spain is 42.7 years old. These numbers follow a similar trend across Europe, where there has been a 70% increase in the last 10 years.
  5. Rising Energy Prices: Since the start of the war in Ukraine, energy prices across Spain have risen exponentially. This has caused nearly 4% of middle-class households to spend “more than half of their income on energy,” according to an article that Reuters published.

Minimum Wage Increases Sow Hope for Future Economic Improvements

In February 2023, the Spanish government approved an 8% increase to the nation’s minimum wage, bringing the total increase since 2018 to 47%. Despite the findings of a recent study commissioned by Spain’s Ministry of Labor that found that minimum wage increases caused the loss of 28,000 jobs, it determined that overall wage inequality was reduced and 1.5 million workers had improved living conditions.

In addition, Spain’s economy grew 5.5% in 2022 and the country created nearly 500,000 jobs last year. These promising statistics have given government officials hope that the Spanish economy is headed in the right direction.

– Tristan Weisenbach
Photo: Flickr