U.S. Foreign Aid During COVID-19The year 2020’s sudden outbreak of COVID-19 caught many countries off guard. The U.S. is demonstrating its status as a global superpower by releasing economic, medical and other foreign aid during COVID-19.

5 Facts About US Foreign Aid During COVID-19

  1. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has given more than $1.5 billion to different governments and organizations during the pandemic. The government split the money among various humanitarian, developmental and economic programs and organizations. The aid aims to help sustain governments at risk during the pandemic. It also intends to make the public more aware of COVID-19 and how to combat it. Additionally, the aid from the U.S. will go toward improving health education and hospitals, funding quick response teams capable of inhibiting COVID-19’s spread. The U.S. Government has also planned a $4 billion relief fund to aid high-risk countries through COVAX, a program that provides vaccines to low-income countries.
  2. The U.S. State Department works alongside other organizations. USAID and the CDC help the U.S. Government provide the necessary aid to countries at high risk. Congress created an emergency fund of $2.4 billion with the purpose of supporting both humanitarian programs and security and stabilization programs for countries in need. For example, foreign aid helps countries create safe and secure ways for citizens to receive necessary medical care during the pandemic.
  3. The U.S. gave the most foreign aid in 2020. In 2020, the U.S. gave around $35 billion in aid, with Germany close behind at just shy of $30 billion. The global amount of money that has gone toward COVID-19 relief measures is equal to about $16 trillion. U.S. foreign aid during COVID-19 is only around 1% of that. The majority of foreign aid during COVID-19 went toward short-term solutions, such as the aforementioned public health education programs and hospital care programs.
  4. U.S. foreign aid programs help combat more than just COVID-19. Recently, the House of Representatives passed an $11 billion bill to support countries in need, including through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  5. The U.S. has approved $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 aid. Of that $1.9 trillion, the U.S. has dedicated $11 billion to fight the global pandemic. That $11 billion includes $800 million for aid programs from the U.S. Agency for International Development as well as the CDC Global Fund. The remaining $10 billion will support global health, humanitarian aid and economic aid.

To conclude, the U.S. has provided more aid than any other nation to help countries combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This has allowed many at-risk countries to minimize or at least lessen the impact of the disease.

Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr

Kazakhstan COVID-19 vaccine
Kazakhstan’s struggle to motivate its citizens to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is leading to increased COVID-19 cases. In April 2021, 137,000 Kazakh citizens out of a population of 19 million received the first dose of the vaccine and less than half of those had received the second dose. Pressure from Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has helped increase the number of fully vaccinated citizens, but as of August 2021, only about 22% of the population is fully vaccinated.

The Kazakh President

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev expressed his outrage over the slow pace of vaccination. He warned both the health minister and his government, saying, “In April, you must turn the tide, otherwise a personnel decision that is going to be very disappointing for you will follow.”

Reasons for the Hesitancy

The country began administering QazVac, Kazakhstan’s domestically produced COVID-19 vaccine, before the completion of clinical trials. The Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems, a state-backed research center, assured the public that the vaccine is safe. However, many Kazakhs fear that the vaccine has not yet gone through enough testing. The QazVac vaccine finished trials in July 2021. However, some experts remain skeptical because these trials only included 3,000 people as test subjects, compared with approximately 43,000 Pfizer trial participants.

The Impact of Vaccine Hesitancy in Kazakstan

Kazakhstan’s recent struggle has included its largest economic shock since the late 1990s. The COVID-19 pandemic decreased economic activity worldwide, causing the price of oil to drop. As oil is Kazakhstan’s main export, the price drop caused its economy to contract by 2.5% in 2020. As a result, the poverty rate increased from 6% in 2016 to 12-14% in 2020, curtailing years’ worth of progress.

The pandemic has increased urban unemployment by halting travel and social outings, limiting jobs in retail, hospitality, wholesale and transport. According to the World Bank, these four main industries account for 30% of urban employment in Kazakhstan.

While poverty has surged in cities, the pandemic has hit rural areas even harder. World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan Jean-Francois Marteau has expressed that to combat this disparity, Kazakhstan needs to implement reforms focused on inclusive economic recovery and productivity. Long-term reforms will be necessary to alleviate Kazakhstan’s struggle as the pandemic’s economic impact will last two to three years.

Economic Recovery

Kazakhstan’s economic recovery is largely dependent on the world’s economic recovery. As COVID-19 cases decrease and countries lift restrictions, allowing travel and day-to-day activities to resume, oil prices will recover. Additionally, as more people become vaccinated and vaccines become more readily available and trusted, the spread of COVID-19 should slow. Retailers, restaurants and the hospitality industry will begin to reopen and managers will be able to rehire employees they had to let go due to lockdowns.

As this recovery takes place, predictions determine that Kazakhstan’s economy could grow by 2.5% in 2021 and 3.5% in 2022, providing hope to the nation.

Lily Vassalo
Photo: Flickr

#ActForEqual
#ActForEqual has become popular on Twitter thanks to the recent Generation Equality Forum, which aims to push the progression of gender equality. Women of the U.N. created the Generation Equality Forum as a global gathering to discuss gender equality. The governments of Mexico and France co-hosted the forum, partnering with youth and civil society. Since the pandemic, existing gender inequalities have become worse. COVID-19 has intensified gender inequality in terms of violence, job loss, income, access to technology and more. The forum aims to confront these issues by “launching a series of concrete, ambitious and transformative actions.” It has set tangible goals for 2030.

Importance of the Hashtag

The Generation Equality Forum has used #ActForEqual to draw attention and bring about action. #ActforEqual allows people to show their support simply by posting the hashtag on social media. It is not only a hashtag but a call to action, urging people to do their part in raising awareness. It also calls attention to the fact that COVID-19 continues to worsen gender inequality globally.

COVID-19 and Gender Inequality

COVID-19 has affected people across the globe in many ways. However, it has disproportionately hurt women.

  • Job losses among women are 24% more likely than among men.
  • Women’s average income could fall by 50% more than men’s.
  • Statistically, one in every three women will face violence during her lifetime, a number that the pandemic has exacerbated.
  • Women are 10% less likely to have access to the internet than men.
  • Only 45% of women can make decisions about their bodily autonomy, including their sexual and reproductive health.

On top of these factors, Mckinsey and Company estimates that women’s job loss rates due to COVID-19 are about 1.8 times higher than men’s job loss rates globally. Furthermore, 4.5% of women’s work is at risk because of the pandemic, compared with 3.8% of men’s work. Through progressive action, the Generation Equality Forum aims to reduce these figures.

Taking Action Against Gender Equality

The Generation Equality Forum has created action coalitions that focus on the most critical areas of gender equality. These coalitions “catalyze collective action, spark global and local conversations among generations, drive increased public and private investment and deliver concrete, game-changing results.” Each focuses on a particular issue. The six coalitions aim to:

  • Promote feminist action in relation to climate.
  • Stop gender-based violence.
  • Boost feminist movements and leadership.
  • Promote economic justice and rights.
  • Guarantee women’s bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
  • Use technology and innovation to achieve gender equality.

By focusing on these areas, action coalition leaders plan to see concrete results over the next five years that will lead to lasting change regarding gender equality.

Despite the increased challenges regarding equality between men and women during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Generation Equality Forum is playing its part to raise awareness. These efforts have the potential to elevate women, placing them in an equal position to men across the globe.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Connecticut SenatorsConnecticut Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have long been advocates for aid-based foreign policy. Frequently, they try to increase the presence of the United States on the global stage. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Murphy has a clear vision of progressive U.S. foreign policy, while Blumenthal has a similar vision of foreign involvement and humanitarian assistance.

5 Ways Connecticut Senators Fight for Foreign Aid

  1. Increasing the International Affairs Budget: In March 2021, Murphy, among other senators, proposed a $12 billion increase to the U.S. International Affairs Budget. Protecting the International Affairs Budget is unquestionably essential to mitigating global poverty. As of 2021, however, foreign aid constitutes less than 1% of the U.S. budget. As one of the most powerful countries in the world, the U.S. has the capacity to increase aid exponentially. Through this proposal, called “Investing in 21st Century Diplomacy,” Murphy has shown a strong commitment toward maintaining diplomatic ties and providing aid to other countries.
  2. Requesting Funding for Refugee Programs: In March 2018, Blumenthal, with 24 other senators, wrote a letter to Senate appropriators calling for complete funding for particular refugee programs. Amid a time when the International Affairs Budget was in danger of reducing, Blumenthal led a letter advocating for refugee programs. In this proposal, Blumenthal recognized the national security benefits of increased foreign aid as well as the commitment of the U.S. to provide aid. Primarily, the letter responded to the Trump administration’s proposed elimination of the ERMA account, a source of funding for unforeseen humanitarian crises.
  3. Introducing the Global Health Security Act: Murphy, along with Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) introduced the Global Health Security Act in April 2020, a bill that focuses on implementing the Global Health Security Agenda by appointing two different entities: The United States Coordinator for Global Health Security and the Global Health Security Interagency Review Council. The Global Health Security Act focuses on preventing infectious diseases across the globe. Its central goal is to achieve the Global Health Security Agenda, a 2014 initiative similarly targeted toward stemming infectious diseases.
  4. Recognizing COVID-19 in India: In May 2021, Blumenthal recognized the severe COVID-19 crisis in India and the need for immediate foreign aid. While at an event in Middletown, Connecticut, Blumenthal advocated the need for various medical supplies to go to India. While visiting a local Hindu temple, Blumenthal spoke about the issue and the need for immediate U.S. action.
  5. Advocating for Humanitarian Assistance: Murphy furthermore advocates for humanitarian assistance to fight hunger and poverty, two issues that impact extremism. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Murphy has recently advocated for humanitarian aid in Yemen, a country struggling with famine and poverty. In May 2021, Murphy, with three other senators, wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The letter thanked him for his recent involvement in fighting the crisis in Yemen and urged the Biden administration to take a more active role in encouraging other countries to do the same thing.

Committing to a Progressive Foreign Policy

Actively solving issues like hunger and infectious diseases tie directly into fighting global hunger. Hence, Connecticut Senators Murphy and Blumenthal remain committed to a progressive foreign policy. They have shown their commitment through public statements, letters to other senators and legislation like the Global Health Security Act. Ultimately, the Connecticut Senators want the U.S. to be an active member of a global community. The country would, accordingly, use its power to alleviate global inequalities and stem poverty.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Flickr

Social unrest
Social unrest is something that the world has seen a lot throughout history. Pandemics, which can lead to job loss and food insecurity, only exacerbate the issue. Over time, people have experienced the Black Death, Spanish Flu and COVID-19.

Historical Ties

World history is full of examples that show pandemics being incubators for social unrest. In an article on the history of epidemics, the author stated, “academics have warned that the level of social unrest around the world may spike once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.” This is a common theme following epidemics. Massimo Morelli, a professor of political science, and Roberto Censolo, an associate professor at the University of Ferrara, studied evidence on protest and unrest. Between the Black Death in the 1300s and the Spanish Flu in 1918, there were around 57 epidemics. Of those, only four did not have a clear connection to the outbreaks.

This study showed that epidemics and pandemics can lead to social unrest in three ways:

  • Policies that try to curb the spread of disease can conflict with people’s interests
  • The pandemic’s impact on mortality and the economy can worsen societal inequalities
  • The psychological shock can lead people to believe irrational narratives about the disease and its spread

Recently examples of the third example have occurred in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicknames like the “kung flu” and the “China virus” have caused rifts between the Asian community and people using phrases like those. This has only further exacerbated the racial divide in the United States. Any one of the above factors could make people quite aggressive when the pandemic ends.

Current Events

During the first half of 2021, Cuba, South Africa, Colombia and Haiti have had violent protests with their citizens hitting the streets. Each country has faced pre-existing economic, social and political hardships that the COVID-19 pandemic inflamed. For Haitian citizens, this culminated after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Additionally, existing tensions in countries around the world are morphing into civil unrest and protest against inequalities deepened by the pandemic. COVID-19 has worsened the weaknesses in food insecurity and increased the number of people affected by chronic hunger. With these factors in mind, perceptions have determined that the spike in global unrest and long-term rebellion will continue.

Economic and Political Impacts

Pandemics unquestionably cause long-term economic effects globally. By straining economies, COVID-19 could be the source of potential political instability, which increases the number of people living below the poverty line. Curbing a pandemic takes a lot of work including:

  • Imposing quarantines
  • Preparing health facilities
  • Isolating infectious cases
  • Implementing an effective contact tracing system involving public health resources, human resources and implementation costs

This also includes the cost of creating antibiotics and providing medical supplies and personal protective gear. Frontiers in Public Health stated that “Pandemics can also result in declined tax revenues and increased expenditure, which causes fiscal stress, especially in lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) where fiscal constraints are higher.” Labor shortages, restricted travel or trade and disruption of transportation are factors in how pandemics tie into global poverty.

In addition to the points above, pandemics can cause clashes between nations and populations that have experienced displacement. In nations with weak institutions, pandemics can cause political tensions and unrest, like what is currently happening in Cuba. The pandemic exacerbated economic hardships, leading to civil unrest and protests.

Future Avoidance

People cannot do anything to stop pandemics from happening, but they can change the fallout and subsequent social unrest. History has shown that epidemics more often than not lead to social and political unrest. To avoid that in the future, it is necessary for countries to better prepare themselves. Authorities should take into account how prevention methods affect people’s lives. Next, it is essential to set up programs to account for businesses closing. Furthermore, countries should implement more mental health care so that people do not suffer. Finally, people must consider the economic divide and those living in LMICs.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in ZimbabweThe COVID-19 pandemic tremendously affected the lives of children in Zimbabwe. From food and health insecurities to school shutdowns, the children of this nation are in an economic, health and educational crisis. According to the World Bank, in 2019, 38.3% of  Zimbabwe’s citizens lived in poverty. Moreover, since schools closed down in Zimbabwe due to COVID-19, only 27% of impoverished children continued to engage in education and learning. However, nonprofit organizations such as Makomborero and Save the Children are taking the initiative of tackling child poverty in Zimbabwe amid COVID-19. These nonprofits offer hope for positive change through their praiseworthy work.

Makomborero’s Work

Makomborero focuses on eradicating poverty in Zimbabwe. This organization specifically tailors toward the needs of Zimbabwean children. It allocates the necessary educational resources to enable students to achieve their educational goals and ultimately escape poverty. Makomborero, meaning “blessings” in Shona, provides girls with an opportunity to engage in a mentorship program. The organization also funds the education of 10 students every year through its scholarship program. Recently, the organization built a science laboratory for students. Children got to practice and apply what they learned in a modern lab.

Despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19, Makomborero successfully persevered. This nonprofit organization was able to lift children out of poverty in myriad ways. Makomborero’s team donated “backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, toiletries, stationery, hand sanitizer, masks, solar lamps and food packs” to students on March 20, 2021. Additionally, 80 girls were also given “sustainable sanitary wear” due to Makomborero’s outreach efforts. As of September 2020, the organization’s sponsored students were able to attend in-person classes, thus increasing access to and quality of education.

Save the Children’s Efforts

Save the Children is an international nonprofit organization focused on reducing child poverty in Zimbabwe and other nations amid COVID-19. The nonprofit provides both short-term and long-term solutions. It has served children in Zimbabwe since 1983 by addressing the urgent food, health and educational insecurities nationwide. For example, Save the Children constructed a family tracing and reunification program to ensure the safety of Zimbabwean children. Furthermore, its emergency response program provides highly effective emergency relief aid to all children in Zimbabwe.

In 2020 alone, Save the Children positively impacted the lives of 246,000 children by allocating educational, health and other necessary resources to lift them out of poverty. Moreover, the child sponsorship program attempts to decrease the number of children living in poverty, which is currently more than 3.8 million Zimbabwean children, according to Save the Children.

Positive Progression and Outcomes

Save the Children educated 82,000 Zimbabwean children and lifted 31,000 children from poverty, according to its recorded data from 2020.. In general, approximately one million children are sponsored by U.S. citizens alone through this child sponsorship program. The positive progression of lifting children out of poverty in Zimbabwe, especially amid COVID-19, translates over to the achievements of the Makomborero organization as well.

These organizations address the urgent short-term needs of children in Zimbabwe along with long-term endeavors. The organizations are succeeding in eradicating child poverty in Zimbabwe amid COVID-19. Nonprofit organizations such as Makomborero and Save the Children play essential roles in lifting children out of poverty in Zimbabwe. The positive progression of Zimbabwean children since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic continues because of the applaudable service of organizations.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in PortugalCOVID-19 has heavily impacted the way people live, even more so for those living in poverty. According to a report published by Agencia EFE Portugal, 21.6% of Portugal’s citizens were already at risk of poverty before the outbreak of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 have pushed thousands of people to poverty.

The Effect of a Pandemic on Poverty

The social, economic and health consequences the pandemic provoked worldwide are undeniable. While eradicating poverty has always been at the core focus of many nonprofit organizations, since the beginning of COVID-19, many nonprofit organizations have prioritized sanitation and clear water programs to eradicate COVID-19 and diminish poverty levels.

Poverty in Portugal is partly due to the enormous social and economic inequalities governing the country. Furthermore, COVID-19 has only exacerbated existing poverty rates. As reported by the World Bank, poverty in Portugal had been decreasing since 2017. During 2018, approximately 17% of the population lived in poverty. However, the situation has dramatically changed. The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to 400,000 additional impoverished citizens in Portugal and “a 9% increase in inequality,” according to a study by PROSPER published in June 2021. Unquestionably, COVID-19 is directly linked to a social and economic crisis that is bringing instability to many countries. As this health crisis evolves, economic hardship increases too.

How Portugal is Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic

The United Nations has published a country report analyzing how the Portuguese government is dealing with the economic situation amid COVID-19. As reported, poverty in Portugal is becoming a core issue for the country. As such, the government has designed several programs covering education, health and social security to combat inequalities. For example, there is a compelling need to adjust pensions as many pensions equal €180 a month. If pensions increase, pensioners will be able to access and afford higher quality products and services and poverty will be alleviated.

Poverty in Portugal is also being addressed by several NGOs. The Portuguese Non-Governmental Development Organizations Platform (NGDOs) is a nonprofit society composed of 62 NGDOs. Cuerama and Caritas are two of the major organizations helping the most vulnerable communities in the country.

Caritas has steadily diminished poverty rates in Portugal. As Caritas published in 2018, the level of citizens demanding social services decreased by 12.7%, which is a historical record. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, disparities have increased again. The Social Observation Centre has been concisely preparing a platform to gather and track as much data as possible to improve the performance of Caritas.

Additionally, in Portugal, the coalition Global Action Against Poverty concisely combats poverty and inequalities. Since 1990, poverty in Portugal has been diminishing. However, as stated above, since the outbreak of COVID-19, the situation has worsened and Portugal is still one of the most unequal countries in Europe. As published by The Portugal News, Portugal “comes ninth in the ranking of most unequal countries out of the 34 the OECD measured.” Tax benefits are one of the most efficient policies introduced by the authorities trying to alleviate inequalities and poverty.

Tackling Poverty in Portugal Amid COVID-19

Poverty in Portugal has always been present. Yet, the outbreak of COVID-19 has tremendously aggravated the situation. As displayed above, figures have been dramatically increasing as social and economic inequalities have risen from the crisis. However, poverty in Portugal has become one of the main focuses for authorities and organizations. Policies like increasing pensions and tax benefits are already in place to combat poverty. Besides creating policies, there is a need to strengthen communication and education to ensure all these programs are successfully implemented.

With the efforts made by the government and NGOs alike, Portugal will hopefully be able to tackle poverty and COVID-19 simultaneously.

– Cristina Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

Singapore’s Lenient Plan
With COVID-19 cases rising due to the Delta variant, many countries are returning to strict mandates and lockdowns, as seen at the beginning of the pandemic. Singapore, a country that endorsed strict COVID-19 restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic, is now adopting a more lenient model. This model eliminates lockdowns, large-scale contact tracing and travel-related quarantine measures, among other measures. Going even further, Singapore would no longer tally daily COVID-19 cases. Singapore’s latest lenient plan for mitigating COVID-19 aims to help the country quickly recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Vaccination as a Key Component to Singapore’s Plan

The world holds Singapore in high regard for its initial success in containing the pandemic through a swift COVID-19 response and stringent measures. Vaccination is a crucial component to the success of Singapore’s new lenient plan. Singapore’s COVID-19 task force makes it clear that eliminating COVID-19 entirely is not a realistic short-term solution. The task force suggests that learning to properly manage and live with COVID-19 is a much more effective strategy. Singapore’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung made this clear to the Straits Times. He says, “We can turn the pandemic into something much less threatening, like influenza, hand, foot and mouth disease or chickenpox, and get on with our lives.”

Vaccinations are effective in mitigating the risk of contracting COVID-19. While there is no guarantee that vaccinated individuals will not contract the virus, vaccination helps to mitigate the severity of symptoms experienced, reducing the likelihood of hospitalization and decreasing strain on healthcare systems. Singapore predicts that about 66% of its population will be fully vaccinated by the end of August 2021. A majority vaccinated population will allow the country to employ this lenient model without significant harm.

Immediate Effects of the Plan

The beginning of this more lenient plan has shown a spike in cases connected to the opening of a karaoke lounge. Singapore reported 56 cases on July 14, 2021, 41 of which were tied to karaoke lounges. While this number may seem low, it is the highest spike Singapore has experienced in 10 months. As a consequence, Singapore has reevaluated its leniency, tightening restrictions once more and slowing down the implementation of its plan, with certain exemptions for vaccinated individuals only.

COVID-19’s Disparate Effects on the Impoverished

Like many other countries worldwide, COVID-19 has hit Singapore’s impoverished the hardest. The economic crisis caused by the initial onset of the pandemic forced businesses to close their doors, causing widespread job losses and a decrease in employment opportunities. Low-income families have suffered greatly from job losses and the downturn of the economy. Low-income families have little monetary buffer to support them through economic shocks, and thus, struggle to find the means to purchase food and necessities at an even greater rate than before the pandemic came about.

As Singapore begins to ease restrictions, employers can increase working hours, which will allow job opportunities to arise. Singapore’s lenient plan will allow the economy to fully reopen, allowing those in food service and other service-based jobs to resume employment. This means employees will receive paychecks to help them support themselves and their families.

The Good News

With about  71% of the population in Singapore fully vaccinated as of August 14, 2021, the country is well on its way to a 100% fully vaccinated nation. If Singapore can successfully reopen without significant spikes in COVID-19, then activities should resume as normal. Overall, Singapore’s plan, if successful, will allow the economy to heal and help low-income families begin to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Lily Vassalo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Period Poverty in KenyaPeriod poverty in Kenya, or poor access to menstrual hygiene facilities, products and education, marginalizes women. In the year 2016, “a report funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” noted that about half of Kenyan girls could not openly talk about menstruation due to a negative societal response to the topic. However, organizations and initiatives aim to combat menstrual stigma and fight period poverty in Kenya.

5 Solutions to Fight Period Poverty in Kenya

  1. Increasing Access to Sanitary Products. To fight period poverty in Kenya, it is important to ensure free or affordable access to sanitary products for all young girls. Access to menstrual products can keep girls in school, which will reduce the disproportionate dropout rates between boys and girls when transitioning into high school. In May 2021, a Kenyan citizen filed a petition to have the Kenyan government provide sanitary products in schools for free.
  2. Proper Policy Implementation. The government must properly implement policies that aim to combat period poverty. In 2017, the government of Kenya passed a law that would have seen all girls receive sanitary products for free while enrolled in school, but this law was not properly implemented. In addition, the government, where possible, must allocate more state funds to ensure more girls can access sanitary products regardless of economic status.
  3. Private Sector Involvement. Procter & Gamble, the company that produces the Always menstrual brand, created the Always Keeping Girls in School program to address period poverty in African countries. Since 2008, this program has donated more than 13 million pads to more than 200,000 girls in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Similarly, Bayer employees have shown initiative by providing free menstrual cups to girls in Kenya. Involving the private sector in the fight against period poverty would also help the Kenyan government implement its policies better.
  4. More Education Initiatives. Innovative programs focused on key populations have emerged to fight period poverty in Kenya. For example, the United Nations Population Fund partnered with a grassroots organization called This-Ability Trust, which has been providing menstrual education to those with disabilities. Puberty education is also crucial. Currently, only about 50% of girls are willing to openly discuss menstrual health matters in family settings. Breaking the silence by educating pubescent teens and adolescents on the importance of menstrual health will encourage them to approach their teachers, parents and guardians for further guidance.
  5. Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Lastly, aid is needed to help Kenya recover from the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, which had indirect effects on period poverty. Quarantine measures in Kenya meant that women and girls could not access health services that provide sanitary products for free. Economic stresses also meant girls and women could not afford sanitary products. Organizations like Plan International have been able to lend a helping hand to girls who live in slums. Plan International distributed almost 3,000 sanitary products to women in Kenya’s Kibera slum in partnership with the Kenyan organization ZanaAfrica. Since 65% of women and girls in Kenya are unable to access sanitary products due to economic reasons, these humanitarian efforts help fight period poverty in Kenya.

Looking to the Future

By focusing on such solutions to fight period poverty in Kenya, the Kenyan government and nonprofit organizations can empower and uplift impoverished Kenyan women. Reducing period poverty in Kenya ensures that the lives of girls and women are not disrupted simply due to the inability to afford menstrual products.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Pakistan’s vaccination campaignOn July 17, 2021, COVAX gave 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Islamabad, Pakistan. These doses are an addition to five million COVID-19 vaccines already delivered to Pakistan by COVAX. By July 17, 2021, Pakistan had fully vaccinated 4.5 million people and partially vaccinated 18 million people. The new batch of vaccines will assist the government of Pakistan’s vaccination campaign, which started in February 2021.

The COVAX Initiative

COVAX, an international coalition led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO, CEPI and UNICEF, aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. These organizations have teamed up with manufacturers to secure COVID-19 vaccine doses as well as manage the “freight, logistics and storage” of the vaccines.

Through COVAX, vaccines will be delivered to “92 low- and lower-middle-income countries” as well as “more than 97 upper-middle-income and high-income nations.” With these vaccine equity efforts, COVAX aids more than 80% of the global population. So far, COVAX has assisted Pakistan’s vaccination campaign by supplying 2.4 million doses of AstraZeneca, roughly 100,000 doses of Pfizer and 2.5 million Moderna vaccines to Pakistan.

COVID-19 in Pakistan

Pakistan was seeing slow economic improvement prior to the pandemic with yearly per capita growth averaging just 2%. Since the onset of COVID-19, Pakistan has now surpassed one million COVID-19 cases with more than 24,000 deaths. Furthermore, COVID-19’s impacts have left about 50% of the working class jobless and many of those who retained employment saw their income decrease. Informal and lower-skilled employees were the most impacted by unemployment. Like many countries, poverty has risen in Pakistan, with more than two million people pushed under the international poverty line in 2020. According to the World Bank, poverty incidence increased from 4.4% to 5.4% in the 2020 fiscal year.

Pakistan’s Vaccination Campaign

In the months following the lift of lockdowns in May 2020, Pakistan’s economy had been slowly recovering as the industry and service sectors became more active and production increased. Pakistan’s vaccination campaign is essential to stop the spread of COVID-19 and continue economic progress.

The World Health Organization’s Pakistan representative, Dr. Palitha Mahipala, praised the country’s vaccination campaign. She described the reach of the vaccination effort as a “remarkable achievement.” According to Dr. Mahipala, Pakistan distributes COVID-19 vaccines equitably, reaching citizens in even the most remote areas of Pakistan. Another UNICEF Pakistan representative, Aida Girma, says that the latest delivery of 1.2 million doses comes at a “critical time” as the Pakistani government aims to significantly boost its vaccination campaign to reach a greater portion of the population.

Looking to the Future

According to the World Bank, “the global economy is expected to expand 4% in 2021, assuming an initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout becomes widespread throughout the year.” Furthermore, according to the World Economic Forum, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines means “10 major economies could be $466 billion better off by 2025.” These projections show that COVID-19 vaccination campaigns support economic recovery, nationally and internationally. With further support, there is hope for the full vaccination of Pakistan’s population in the near future, which will help boost the country’s recovering economy, contributing to overall global economic recovery.

Gene Kang
Photo: Wikimedia Commons