How Indigenous Australians’ COVID-19 Response Averted DisasterWhen the COVID-19 pandemic reached Australia, Indigenous Australians looked poised to be disproportionately affected. They statistically suffer from higher rates of known COVID-19 risk factors, such as obesity. In fact, 15.6% of Indigenous Australians have three or more chronic diseases. On top of physical risk factors, higher rates of poverty and underdeveloped health care, especially in rural areas, meant that if COVID-19 spread to many indigenous communities, the infrastructure was insufficient to combat it. Yet, COVID-19 rates for Indigenous peoples remain far below Australia’s national average. Learning from past mistakes, national health officials deferred to Indigenous leaders. The leaders made sure Indigenous Australians’ COVID-19 response was actually tailored to their own communities.

H1N1

In 2009, the H1N1 virus, known as the swine flu, hit Indigenous communities hard. Indigenous Australians, who include both Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders, constitute 2.5% of Australia’s population. However, they made up 11% of swine flu cases. Additionally, they suffered from a death rate six times higher than the national average. The health gap between white and Indigenous people in Australia has long been a problem. The government launched the “Close the Gap campaign” in 2007.  This campaign aims to bring the average lifespan of Indigenous peoples up to par with that of white Australians (71.6 and 75.6 years for Indigenous men and women compared to 80.2 and 83.4 years). The H1N1 virus clearly illustrated how large the healthcare gap really is. As of 2020, the campaign is not on the schedule to bridge this gap by its target date of 2031.

Community Leadership

What has been lacking in the unsuccessful efforts to strengthen healthcare for indigenous Australians is sufficient input from Indigenous leaders. As the lead economist at the Australia Institute Richard Denniss put it, “It is far more effective from an economic point of view to give Indigenous Australians the power to take control of the policies that affect them.” In addition to training sufficient medical personnel in rural areas, programming was key to informing communities about the dangers of COVID-19 and the necessary precautions to stop it. Indigenous Australians’ COVID-19 response stood to be most effective when led by Indigenous Australians. The Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia shared videos on social media about the importance of health check-ups and social distancing. The videos use Indigenous people and Aboriginal Australian English. The Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service regularly broadcasts COVID-19 information using Aboriginal radio stations that reach remote and rural communities.

Results

While programming may seem trivial compared to actual testing and medical infrastructure, Indigenous Australians currently have COVID-19 at a rate six times lower than non-indigenous Australians. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group reported 146 cases in the indigenous community. Of these, only about 25% were in rural communities. Some remote aboriginal communities, such as Yakunytjatjara Lands in Queensland, closed their borders at the beginning of the pandemic. Due to these measures, Indigenous Australians’ COVID-19 response has largely been successful at keeping the virus at bay from remote communities where medical infrastructure is especially scarce.

Indigenous Australians have defied expectations largely through community tailored information and, in rural communities, exercising their sovereignty. As Indigenous populations worldwide struggle with COVID-19, Indigenous Australian’s COVID-19 response is a positive example to emulate.

Adam Jancsek
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in ArgentinaPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many children in Argentina had been living in poverty. The pandemic has caused numbers to soar due to its many negative effects. When considering the long-term presence and future impacts caused by poverty, it is all the more critical to help the children in this country, and around the world. This article highlights facts about child poverty in Argentina, as well as some organizations on the ground helping such children.

The Current Situation

There has never been a more critical time for action than now. UNICEF estimates that 63% of Argentinian children will be living in poverty by the end of 2020, due to COVID-19. In August of 2019, child poverty reached over 50%, with 13% of children in a state of hunger. As compared to the year prior, this is an 11% increase. UNICEF estimates that at the end of 2020, there will be an increase of 18.7% in extreme poverty among children and teenagers.

Stats

The above figures depict that one in every two Argentinian children lives in poverty, which amounts to five million children. One million of these children are homeless. Those who do have homes often deal with rough home lives. Many children are subject to child labor, which includes work as domestics or “house slaves.” These children end up working in illegal textile workshops, mining, construction, or agriculture. The exploitation of child labor is commonly related to sexual exploitation. In response, Argentina has passed laws and social programs to end child labor and sexual exploitation. However, the fight to end these practices must continue.

When not at home, (only a few) children received a formal education. As of 2017, nearly 20% of Argentinian children do not attend school. After the collapse of the economy nearly 20 years ago, funding for education was heavily reduced. Children living in poverty were the first to be affected, as they had to work in order to provide for their families. There are also issues with violence occurring in schools. Bodily punishment still takes place when young school children misbehave, which can develop into behavioral problems and the belief that violence is the norm.

As compared to the rest of the population, Native children are at high risk for poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. For example, in the province of Tucumán, the Indigenous children and families live well below the poverty line and have also suffered illegal evictions from their ancestral lands. Additionally, these children are exposed to violence, malnutrition, disease, and a lack of proper education.

Aid

Child poverty in Argentina seems rather defeating based on these statistics. However, there are multiple organizations that are on the ground fighting for the human rights, safety, health, and happiness of Argentinian children.

One is Mensajeros de la Paz, a temporary home for vulnerable girls. Another is the Sumando Manos Foundation, which extends pediatric visits out to more than 7,000 at-risk children and their communities. The foundation also supplies food, provides critical medical and dental attention, and teaches fundamental health care. There is also Fundacion Oportunidad. This organization increases opportunities for economic and social integration of young Argentinian women in a situation of social vulnerability. Involvement in these organizations, as well as donation opportunities, are endless.

There are five dimensions of well-being that are vital to the success of childhood development. They are adequate nutrition, education, safe areas to live and play, access to health services, and financial stability. The fight cannot stop until there is an end to child poverty in Argentina and until each child has access to a self, healthy life.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

The World BankThe World Bank Group has announced a $12 billion initiative that would allow COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatments to be readily available for low-income countries. This plan will positively affect up to a billion people and signals the World Bank’s initiative to ensure that developing countries are equipped to distribute vaccines and testing to citizens. The plan is a part of the overall $160 billion package by the World Bank Group, which aims to support developing countries in the fight against the pandemic.

A Multitude of Goals

Since early March and April, the World Bank Group has provided grants to low-income countries to help with the distribution of health care equipment. Recognizing that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the poor and has the potential to push up to 115 million into poverty, the World Bank Group has been active in financing an early, timely response to the COVID-19 pandemic in low-income areas. As of November 2020, the World Bank Group has consequently assisted over 100 developing countries in the allocation of medical supplies and technologies.

With the spread worsening all across the globe, the next step is to administer vaccinations. This new initiative hopes to strengthen health care operatives while also providing economic opportunities within those communities. Other expectations are increasing awareness of public health, training health care workers and focusing on community engagement. As a result, the four primary goals of the World Bank Group’s Crisis Response are to save lives that are endangered by the COVID-19 virus, protect the poor and vulnerable, retain economic stability and facilitate a resilient recovery to the pandemic.

Moreover, the World Bank Group has extensive experience with dispersing vaccines, specifically with combating infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Through these experiences, the World Bank Group understands the importance of quick, tailored distribution based on individual country needs. As a result, countries will have flexibility in how they want to receive and administer vaccines — for example, through the improvement of health care infrastructure, procurement with the support from varying, multilateral mechanisms or reshaping policy and regulatory frameworks.

Partnerships and Funding

Funding for this project will consist of “$2.7 billion new financing from IBRD; $1.3 billion from IDA, complemented by reprioritization of $2 billion of the Bank’s existing portfolio; and $6 billion from IFC, including $2 billion from existing trade facilities.”

The IDA will provide grants to low-income countries while the IBRD will be supplying them to middle-income countries. The World Bank’s private sector arm, the IFC, will be the main donor for continued economic stability within its clientele. The IFC’s support will specifically aid in the continuation of operating and sustaining jobs. The total funding will cover a broad scope to strengthen the health care sector. These solutions hope to reduce the harmful economic and social impacts of COVID-19.

World Bank Group president, David Malpass, has been working extensively with these institutions on this project. Malpass pointed out that the need for economic backing is drastically important when it comes to receiving this vaccine. Manufacturers might not deem these low-income communities as important as those in more advanced economies. Hence, it’s extremely important to provide this funding to ensure global equity and distribution.

Moving Forward

Many countries have been able to discover viable vaccine treatments. It’s important that future doses be distributed globally and equitably, as more and more people are being pushed into extreme poverty. Malpass wrote, “The pandemic is hitting developing countries hard, and the inequality of that impact is clear … The negative impact on health and education may last decades — 80 million children are missing out on essential vaccinations and over a billion are out of school.”

As the number of global cases increases each day, it is becoming even more important to provide relief to all countries. Low-income countries and communities are at the most vulnerable. This is why the World Bank Group has made it transparent that their main mission is to provide extended relief to these countries during the pandemic.

Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

Why Humanitarian Aid is Critical in LebanonHumanitarian aid is of vital importance to a country such as Lebanon. As of August 2020, the U.N. reported that over half of the population in the country is living in poverty. It is estimated that somewhere above 55% of the population is impoverished. This is due in part to the economic and political crisis that has been plaguing the country long before the current global COVID-19 pandemic or the explosion in Beirut earlier this year. However, numerous donors throughout the world have pledged to offer humanitarian aid to Lebanon so that it can survive its current hardships.

Why is Humanitarian Aid for Lebanon Important Today?

The main reason humanitarian aid is critical in Lebanon today is because of the large number of Syrian refugees that have flooded the country. These Syrian refugees have fled their country due to the ongoing civil war. Lebanon hosts the largest amount of Syrian refugees in the world, with a total of 1.5 million of them residing there. It is this high increase of population within Lebanon that has caused a strain on vital services for refugees. Because of this, Lebanese authorities have been restricting more refugees from coming into the country. Lebanese authorities have also refused to build camps for the refugees. These factors have all led to worsened conditions for the refugees.

Doctors of the World: Aiding Refugees in Lebanon

One humanitarian organization that has been offering aid in Lebanon is the French Medecins du Monde or Doctors of the World. They have been providing substantial help to the refugees within the country. The group has mainly been operating in five healthcare centers that are located in the Lebanon Mount region and the Baqqa Valley of Lebanon. These two areas have a high concentration of refugees. Just in 2019, Medecins du Monde was able to provide 98, 390 health consultations, 3, 577 sexual and reproductive healthcare sessions and 30 training sessions to healthcare workers. Médecins du Monde has also been able to provide medication to the most vulnerable of refugees and mental health support.

The Beirut Explosion

The Beirut explosion has only exacerbated the need for humanitarian aid in Lebanon. Fortunately, a vast array of humanitarian organizations such as the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations have risen to the challenge. This organization has been able to provide humanitarian aid in the form of 50 tons of medical supplies and food items. The European Council was able to obtain pledges of up to 252.7 million Euros to be used for humanitarian aid for Lebanon. Of all the contributors the EU was the largest contributor, offering 63 million in Euros. Since 2011, the EU has in total offered 660 million Euros to the refugees in Lebanon.

Additionally, 60% of the EU humanitarian aid provided for refugees in Lebanon is multi-purpose cash assistance. The other 40% of EU assistance addresses other emergencies and needs. Cash assistance allows refugees to avoid the vulnerability that comes with a worsening socio-economic crisis in the country. In just 2019 this type of assistance was able to provide assistance to over 338,000 people within the country. Much of this type of aid was used to purchase essential items and services.

Lebanon has been dealing with a variety of challenges, one of them being its large population of refugees. However, many humanitarian organizations have been offering assistance to the country and its refugees. Today, humanitarian aid is critical in Lebanon. As members of the international community, we must do our part to help Lebanon and Syrian refugees in their time of need.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Female Health Care in KenyaPoverty affects genders differently, with women often being more disadvantaged than men. Meeting the strategic needs of those living in poverty must be accompanied by fulfilling practical gender needs. This will ensure equal access to economic progress for all. One NGO is working to fight gender discrimination by providing female health care in Kenya.

Girls in Danger

In the wake of COVID-19, mass closures of schools and businesses have further hindered the economic development of remote Kenyan districts. The strict COVID-19 guidelines implemented by local authorities have resulted in the closing of safe homes and centers for girls. The preoccupation with COVID-19 regulations led authorities to produce minimal effort to stop the violence against women and girls. On top of the pandemic, the country has fallen victim to other disasters. Extreme droughts and flooding, as well as a locust invasion, have lowered the food supply for rural areas.

These desperate circumstances have left low-income families with limited financial options. Some families have resorted to employing their young children and marrying off their daughters in exchange for money and cattle. This incites increased gender-based violence as child marriages leave girls vulnerable to sexual and physical violence.

Dr. Esho, who works on-site for Amref Health, said, “Including community systems in the prevention of and response to FGM/C (female genital mutilation and cutting) and child marriage is more important than ever. More women and girls are now at risk of harmful practices and gender-based violence.”

Centering Women in Health Care

Amref Health Africa is an NGO based in Nairobi, Kenya. It has been a crucial part of introducing health care services and technology to Sub-Saharan Africa. Established in 1957, the organization has a long history of bringing modern medicine to rural African communities.

Amref Health Africa is proving how female empowerment isn’t a silly social movement but a crucial factor in women’s livelihoods. The NGO dedicates much of its work to improving female health care in Kenya. Women often lack education on their sexual health, which impedes prudent, informed decisions regarding their futures. Advancements in female health care in Kenya can empower women to take control of their bodies and pregnancies. Additionally, it can offer better support to these women in their chosen paths.

Amref also aids women suffering from violence. Organization members, such as Dr. Esho, work jointly with local activists and health workers to construct a plan of action. The community members have firsthand knowledge and experience working with survivors of FGM/C and other cruelties, which Amref acknowledges and utilizes. Therefore, the NGO ensures victims are getting proper care and refuge from their abusive situations.

What We Can Do

Amref strives to bring awareness to gender-based violence and the positive effect of proper female health care in Kenya. With the hashtag #EndFGM, Amref is trying to engage international activists through social media. The organization is also accepting direct donations through its website.

One may feel powerless during times of international emergencies. However, that must not stop everyone from doing their part. Those who want to help can contact their congressmen and congresswomen as well as other representatives to protect the U.S.’s foreign aid budget. This will benefit NGOs, similar to Amref Health, that work closely with poor communities to identify unique problems and solutions.

Lizt Garcia
Photo: Flickr

AI fights against COVID-19 COVID-19 has endangered the lives of millions of people around the world. Worse, the disease incites greater implications beyond itself. Its impact is threatening to turn back the World Poverty Clock for the first time this century. This would backtrack on the progress made in the past 20 years toward eliminating global poverty. However, artificial intelligence (AI) fights against COVID-19 in two very important ways.

A Basic Overview of AI

Originating in the 1950s, the field of artificial intelligence has become ubiquitous in our everyday lives: from determining our shopping habits to facial recognition to helping doctors diagnose patients before symptoms manifest. The computer performing tasks that we thought needed human intelligence is a very broad understanding of AI. Using a combination of programming, training and data, researchers who work with AI teach computers how to solve complex problems more quickly and efficiently than humans. In a similar process, AI fights against COVID-19.

The World Poverty Clock

The World Poverty Clock is a real-time estimate of the number of people living in poverty across the globe. Its interactive website provides a variety of statistics and demographics about those who are living in extreme poverty, including geographic locations and age ranges. Calculations are made using publicly available data to estimate the number of people living in extreme poverty and the rate at which that number is changing.

According to the World Bank, in a worst-case scenario, COVID-19 could push 100 million people into poverty. However, scientists are working hard to contain and eliminate the virus, AI being one of their strategies. AI fights against COVID-19 by predicting, detecting and eliminating the coronavirus in many parts of the world. In turn, protection from COVID-19 impacts lessens global poverty.

How AI Fights Against COVID-19

AI fights against COVID-19 in a two-pronged approach. It focuses on both detection of the virus and the development of vaccine options.

In late December 2019, the program BlueDot detected a cluster of pneumonia-like illnesses in Wuhan, China. This was the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. The program detected the virus nine days before the World Health Organization announced the emergence of a novel coronavirus. BlueDot software has the ability to sift through massive amounts of data to find patterns in the location and movement of a virus. Further developments in virus detection have been made by Alibaba Cloud with the creation of analytical software for computerized tomography (CT) scans. The software can detect coronavirus pneumonia in seconds with approximately 96% accuracy.

AI systems, like Google’s AlphaFold, are aiding researchers by creating predictive models of the protein structure of coronavirus. Models like these can then be used by researchers to design novel vaccine prospects. Overall, these systems enable scientists to reduce the time needed to begin clinical trials and find viable vaccines.

Under human oversight, AI systems can potentially control the spread of the coronavirus. The longer it takes to control and eradicate coronavirus the greater the number of people pushed into poverty. The use of swift and efficient AI applications could not only help curb the spread of COVID-19 but, in turn, fight global poverty as well.

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Flickr

5 Ways COVID-19 is Disproportionately Impacting Women WorldwideThe COVID-19 pandemic has socially, mentally and economically impacted billions of people across the world. However, COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting women worldwide, including factors such as mental health, income loss and inadequate food provisions. As the pandemic continues to affect populations, it is becoming more apparent that women are facing greater hardships and systemic inequalities. This article discusses how COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting women across the globe, and how governments can go about fixing these inequalities. Although women have persevered and have adapted in inspiring ways, this pandemic has exposed structural gender inequalities in health, economics, security and social protection.

5 Ways COVID-19 is Disproportionately Affecting Women

  1. According to a survey by the non-profit CARE, 55% of women reported that they lost their jobs and/or their primary source of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, women are more likely to be employed in service and informal sectors, such as vendors and traders, that COVID-19 is hitting the hardest. Even within the formal sectors of employment, women are facing the impact of unemployment at greater rates than men. For example, in Bangladesh, women are six times more likely to lose paid working hours than men. Women also have fewer unemployment benefits. In Zimbabwe and Cameroon, women make up 65% of the informal workforce—a workforce not entitled to unemployment benefits.

  2. A lack of access to online education is significantly affecting Indigenous, refugee and low-income household communities and greatly adding to education inequalities. Young women and girls are greatly impacted by gender-based violence due to movement restrictions, especially without access to schools and public services. This gender-based disparity is largely due to boys being prioritized in many poverty-stricken countries. Because of this, girls are likely to be pulled out of school before boys in order to compensate for increased domestic work and care and to alleviate the economic burden of schooling.

  3. Women are nearly three times more likely to report mental health impacts from COVID-19. This statistic is backed by multiple reasons, including how women are facing the burden of unpaid care work, increasing mobility restrictions and increased threats of violence. In fact, the CARE survey showed that 27% of women are experiencing an increase in mental health issues, anxiety and stress due to COVID-19, compared to 10% of men. In Lebanon, 14% of men spend their time on housework and care, as opposed to 83% of women. Gender roles and expectations of women have increased during this pandemic, thus causing a greater gap in mental health issues between men and women.

  4. Female refugees are at greater risk of violence, income loss and mental health impacts. Refugees are already living in precarious situations with a lack of food, income, health security and home safety. When considering various countries, especially those with a large migrant population, it is clear that vulnerable populations are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in Afghanistan, 300,000 refugees have returned because they have lost their jobs and income. In Thailand, migrants report losing 50% of their income. Both of these statistics also offer an idea of why mental health issues have increased during this pandemic. COVID-19 has led to a loss of income and jobs for the 8.5 million domestic migrant workers, as well as the dismissal of their health and safety.

  5. As compared to 30% of men, 41% of women reported having an inadequate supply of food as a result of COVID-19. This difference reflects the gender inequalities in local and global food systems, as well as the expectation of women to buy and prepare the food for their families. Additionally, this pandemic is causing many disadvantaged households to make less nutritious food choices. In Venezuela, 61% of people have access to protein-filled foods and vegetables, while 74% only have access to cereal.

Although it is clear that women and girls typically endure a greater burden from the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, there are ways governments and individuals can help alleviate COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on women. These include investing in women leaders, funding non-profit organizations that work to promote women’s rights and committing to organizations that work to close the gender gap.

– Naomi Schmeck

Photo: Flickr 

Child poverty in HaitiHaiti, a small country that borders the Dominican Republic on the Hispaniola island, suffers greatly from poverty. Natural disasters, systemic inequality and diminishing economic opportunities create a dire state of extreme poverty. Specifically, child poverty in Haiti is the major poverty crisis.

Over half of Haiti’s 11.2 million population live on less than $3 a day, and malnutrition affects 65,000 children under five. Many children under 14 — over a third of Haiti’s population — do not have ready access to health care, clean water, food security or the right to fair and decent work. The question stands: What does child poverty in Haiti look like today, and what obstacles persist in ending it?

It’s easy to forget that statistics reflect the experience of real, living people. Please keep this in mind. Considering this, here are five facts about child poverty in Haiti.

The Statistical Perspective

  1.  Caloric and nutritive malnutrition affects nearly a third of children in Haiti. Out of every five children, one child is malnourished and one out of 10 is acutely malnourished. Before the age of five, one child out of 14 will die. Those who live deal with the effects of inadequate food supplies. Poor access to vital nutrients means that children are subject to poor health, growth and development.
  2. Despite Haiti’s free publication education, only half of elementary-aged children are enrolled in school. Millions of disadvantaged parents have very few with little resources to secure education for their children. This is a result of Haiti privatizing 92% of schools.
  3.  Nearly half a million children are orphaned in Haiti. A significant proportion of these “lost” children are exploited for labor in dangerous conditions. “Host households” take in children whose families cannot provide for them. Many of these children — known colloquially as “restaveks” — end up as victims of human trafficking.
  4.  Adequate health care is hard to come by in Haiti. Child immunization has stagnated at 41%. The proportion of children who die before their first birthday has risen by 2% in the last year – from 57% to 59%. HIV, tuberculosis, and a variety of other chronic, crippling diseases ail an estimated 20,000 children in Haiti, and treatment is increasingly difficult to obtain.

COVID-19

Haiti is particularly prone to natural disasters, in large part due to its geographical situation in the Bermuda. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake ravaged the island of Hispaniola in 2010. A slew of tropical storms, hurricanes and additional earthquakes further compromised Haiti. Nearly 10 years later, Haiti still struggles with recovering from its 2010 earthquake and hurricane Matthew alongside dealing with recent social unrest and COVID-19.

Humanitarian aid efforts are nearing an all-time high for the country, but the efficacy of these programs and endeavors has been questioned. The threats of COVID-19 aren’t the only ones Haiti must face. The future is increasingly uncertain for millions of Haitians and their children, due to equipment shortages, lack of qualified health care professionals and a worsening economic climate.

Ways to Help

What is there to do? Explore The Borgen Project’s homepage. From there, it’s easy to email and call representatives and leaders. There is the option to donate to the cause. For free, one can create momentum on social media to raise awareness about the dire situation in Haiti. A number of ways exist to combat child poverty in Haiti; it just takes action.

Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Flickr

 

Open Heart OrphanageIn the midst of COVID-19 sweeping through Uganda, six children at Open Heart Orphanage have died. However, it was not the virus that claimed their lives. The tragic deaths were a result of hunger and fever, collateral effects of the pandemic.

Food Struggles During the Pandemic

The people of Uganda must fight to stay healthy during the pandemic as well as combat food insecurity. The issue of food affordability is not only an organic result of the pandemic. Back in April, four Ugandan government officials were arrested for conspiring to inflate COVID-19 relief food prices. The effects are far-reaching. According to UNICEF, 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in 2020.

The Hidden Victims

Uganda has consistently ranked among the countries with the greatest number of orphaned children in the world, and it has not gone without its controversy. Last year, VICE reported that there are at least 300 “children’s homes” operating without government oversight. Four out of five of these orphans have at least one living parent. Questions arise over the exploitation of these children and the quality of the care they receive. During the coronavirus pandemic, the children are even more vulnerable. Orphans are oftentimes the faces of Facebook scams targeting donors from Western countries.

Children are the “hidden victims” of the virus. They are not particularly susceptible to contracting the disease, but they will be the ones to bear its effects on the social and economic systems. Domestic struggles within the family, surging food prices and a shortage of available medical care have led to malnutrition and displacement, especially in developing countries like Uganda. The result is many children are being left in orphanages.

Open Heart Orphanage

The Borgen Project interviewed Hassan Mubiru, a pastor at Open Heart Orphanage in Bulenga, Kampala, Uganda. Its mission is to help orphans experience a full and productive life. Currently, the organization serves 175 “needy” or orphaned children. The Christian nonprofit aims to provide these children with education, medical assistance, housing, clothing, food and water and the love of God. Due to the pandemic, there have been some obstacles in achieving these goals.

“Coronavirus has crippled most of our activities because we were absolutely unprepared when the lockdown was announced,” said Mubiru. The pastor explains that the organization has always worked below its budget and did not store supplies ahead of time. When COVID-19 hit, they did not have enough resources to sustain themselves.

Even more challenging was the shortage of volunteers. Mubiru stated, “Those who used to individually help are no longer helping. We cannot guarantee salary or their payments.” Unstable payments met with mandates to stay in quarantine have deterred many volunteers from coming to Open Heart Orphanage.

Mubiru says that the biggest issue for Open Heart Orphanage is the lack of available food. “It is extremely difficult or impossible to get food as prices went higher and almost nothing was coming into us. We have so far lost six children due to hunger and fever since the pandemic started. These are things we would have prevented if we had enough food and means of getting treatment in time.”

Open Heart Orphanage strives to help children reach their fullest potential. The nonprofit is a stepping stone for the children and not a final destination. Mubiru believes that children are better off in a home than an orphanage, especially in these times. Mubiru emphasized, “We encourage families to adopt even if this is another crisis because the law governing adoption is tough and high fees.”

Miska Salemann
Photo: Flickr

The Czech Republic is a Parliamentary Republic bordering Germany, Poland, Austria and Slovakia. The country was founded on January 1, 1993, following a political revolution, and peacefully splitting from the former Czechoslovakia. In 2020, the Czech Republic ranked as the eighth safest country in the world. The country also reports a 2.4% unemployment rate and healthy GDP growth over the past five years. The latest Eurostat data also shows that the Czech Poverty rate is 3.4%, the second-lowest rate in the EU. However, the well-being of the Czech Republic’s citizens may decline as a threatening drought continues to plague the country and coincide with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poverty & Hunger in the Czech Republic

In a 2017 study, the Czech Republic Hunger Statistic was 2.5%. This means that 2.5% of the population’s food intake was insufficient to meet basic dietary requirements. Meanwhile, the World Hunger Statistic is around 11%.

Despite the Czech Republic’s success in the fight against poverty, the country has some areas of weakness. For example, the Czech Republic’s wage gap is larger than other European countries. Women tend to earn about 22% less than men. As a result, a disproportionate number of women, especially single mothers, fall below the poverty line.

Additionally, the Czech Republic’s relatively low poverty rate of 3.4% is somewhat misleading. The poverty rate considers the standard of living within the Czech Republic. Sociologist Daniel Prokop uses Luxembourg to exemplify why this can be misleading: “the median [income] in Luxembourg is twice as high as in the Czech Republic. Therefore, the poverty line is twice as high, making it easier for low-income workers to fall below it.” So, countries with higher median incomes have a higher standard of living. Since the Czech Republic has a lower relative poverty threshold, an impoverished citizen in Luxembourg may not be considered impoverished in the Czech Republic.

Working Through a Long-term Drought

The Czech Republic is experiencing the most threatening drought in 500 years. The drought began in 2018, and it escalated to a climate crisis in April 2020- right in the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a fear that the continuation of the drought in the Czech Republic will cause mass famine.

Scientists are using an ESA satellite to monitor the drought and soil conditions, keeping the country’s agribusiness sector stable. Well-organized agricultural systems are preventing major catastrophe in the present. Yet, crop yields are expected to continue shrinking in the upcoming months. The biggest concern, however, is the impending water shortage. The Ministry of Environment in the Czech Republic has implemented over 15,000 projects across the country to build pipelines for drinking water, preserving dams and reservoirs and much more.

COVID-19 Impacts

Thankfully, the Czech Republic has handled COVID-19 wisely from the start. They were the first country in Europe to issue a mask mandate, sending the notice on March 19, 2020. So far, there are no significant deviations from normal malnutrition and poverty rates due to the pandemic. Despite a couple of recent clusters in the eastern parts of the country, heavily populated cities such as Prague (population: 1.3 million) are seeing consistently low infection rates as of late July. Many citizens’ lives have returned to normalcy, with schools and buildings re-opening and commerce flourishing.

Tomorrow’s Outlook

Organizations ranging from small local projects to large NGOs are working to combat poverty and hunger in the Czech Republic as the drought and COVID-19 continue. For example, the Prague Changemakers organizes volunteering projects by recruiting local citizens. Together, they cook and distribute food to the local homeless population.  Additionally, Naděje is an example of a larger NGO. Naděje was founded in the 1990s following the revolution and their organization’s goal is to serve the homeless. Naděje began by serving food in railway stations. Soon, the NGO expanded to building homes and shelters across the country. For their first major project, Naděje established day centers for the homeless to get food, creating two hostels for men and one for women.

Ultimately, responsible governmental action and the work of NGOs like Naděje have provided stability to the Czech Republic in an uncertain time. Hopefully, their work in the Czech Republic will continue to keep COVID-19 and the drought under control. It seems other countries should take notes as unemployment, hunger, and poverty rates remain relatively low in the Czech Republic.

Ruhi Mukherjee
Photo: Flickr