Yemen's Healthcare System
For people across the globe, the battle against COVID-19 can feel hopeless. Developed countries like the U.S. have struggled to contain the virus; COVID-19 has infected over 5 million Americans since March 2020. However, extensive healthcare resources have helped developed immensely. Ventilators and ICU beds, access to proper sanitation, and the technology to work from home have left many unscathed and have allowed many to make a full recovery. Therefore, it is important to remember the countries that do not have these resources. For example, COVID-19 has been particularly devastating in Yemen, in part, due to Yemen’s healthcare system. 

Conflict, Cholera and COVID-19

Yemen has been enduring a civil war for over five years. The main conflicts are between Houthi rebels and the government of President Hadi. In addition to claiming over 100,000 lives, the violence has exacerbated already daunting public health statistics. Currently, about 50% of the country’s medical facilities are nonfunctional. The U.N. has reported that Yemen is enduring the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with about 80% of the population (or 24.1 million people) in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. In addition, the country is enduring the worst modern-day cholera crisis, reporting approximately 110,000 cases in April 2020.

With the backdrop of the ongoing civil war, Yemen’s healthcare system is unable to support the country. Yemen has 500 ventilators and 700 ICU beds for a population of over 28 million. The Associated Press reported that there are no doctors in 18% of 333 Yemeni districts. Although the country has reported one of the lowest transmission rates in the Middle East, this is largely due to an inability to test. In fact, the country has processed fewer than 1,000 tests; this is about 31 tests per 1 million citizens. There is also evidence of purposeful under testing. The Houthi Ministry of Public Health and Population stated that reporting statistics have negative effects on the psychological health and immune systems of citizens.

Hospitals have seen a 40% mortality rate and have resorted to admitting patients based on age and odds of survival, reported Marc Schakal, Doctors Without Borders’ Deputy Operations Manager for Yemen. The country’s health system has “collapsed” according to the UNHCR. Lise Grande, the U.N. head of humanitarian operations in Yemen reported that the COVID-19 death toll could “exceed the combined toll of war, disease, and hunger over the last five years.”

COVID-19’s Impact Beyond the Healthcare System

The virus has also driven up the prices of food necessities, adding to the high toll of families that rely on aid to survive day-to-day. The U.N. has been attempting to help, but with a lack of funds, it is only possible to provide half-rations for the 8 million-plus hungry people. Hunger has hit women and children the hardest; over 2 million children under the age of 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The lack of international aid in the face of such a tragedy is saddening. Millions of people are essentially being left to die. The United States cut $73 million of aid towards Yemen in March 2020, just as the virus was becoming a global issue. The statistics clearly show it will take a greater effort from the global community to improve Yemen’s outlook.

How to Help

As Sara Beysolow Nyant, UNICEF’s representative to Yemen, expressed, without urgent funding, “The international community will be sending a message that the lives of children in a nation devastated by conflict, disease, and economic collapse, simply do not matter.” Unfortunately, most countries have focused on containing the virus internally. Hopefully, some of the international community will turn its attention to the countries in the greatest need.

For individuals looking to help, donations to groups like UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam will provide aid. Additionally, calling and emailing Congress can also have a profound impact.

Abigail Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Kitts and Nevis has collectively only had 17 reported cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths. However, the pandemic has severely affected the economy because tourism primarily supports it. As of 2019, about 4,000 people were registered as making less than 3,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars a month, making them eligible for government aid. When the government of Saint Kitts and Nevis implemented extensive COVID-19 safety measures, it negatively impacted the tourism sector causing many to fall below the poverty line indicated above. Poverty in Saint Kitts and Nevis remains a major issue, especially during the challenging time of COVID-19. However, there are some measures for poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

In April 2020, the Governor-General of the two islands used his emergency powers to create regulations such as closing all ports and airports, closing non-essential businesses and suspending the liquor license of many businesses. While these extreme measures have kept the island relatively safe from COVID-19, the country and its citizens are in need of economic stimulation.

Massive Economic Stimulation

The country’s government has made the decision to extend its Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) to support poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis. It instituted the program in 2018 as a monthly, $500 stipend for the country’s poorest citizens. It will give $80 million in aid to those who have suffered financially as a result of the pandemic. It will also allow an additional $40 million to stimulate the economy.

This massive aid program is the largest per capita response to the COVID-19 economic losses so far. Saint Kitts and Nevis is also giving $1,000 in Social Security benefits and increasing the amount of PAP stipends distributed. Lastly, it will suspend water and electricity fees as well as mortgage collections until January 2021 in an effort to support poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Funding COVID-19 Economic Plan

Interestingly, Saint Kitts and Nevis is relying on its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program to fund these COVID-19 relief efforts. This program allows a person to gain a Saint Kitts and Nevis passport by donating or investing in the country’s real estate.

The CBI program makes up 20% to 30% of Saint Kitts’ and Nevis’ income annually. In an effort to entice new donors and investors, the government is offering a COVID-19 discount. Therefore, people wishing to donate have to pay $150,000 and those who wish to make a real estate investment have to pay $200,000.

Additionally, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has become an important contributor to Saint Kitts’ and Nevis’ COVID-19 response efforts. It released an appeal to donors in March 2020 and began accepting financial aid. It has raised $52.7 million of its $94.8 million goals as of June 11, 2020. PAHO has provided equipment, access to health experts and individual safety gear to the two islands.

Re-Opening Borders

The latest Emergency Powers regulations expired on August 9, 2020, but Saint Kitts and Nevis government has yet to announce when its borders will reopen. However, the government worked to ensure that workers in the tourism sector would have the preparation to serve any incoming tourists safely with a training program that ran until August 27, 2020.

The government is also preparing to launch and adopt a contact tracing app. It will be mandatory for all visitors to utilize the app and respect all of the emergency regulations that are in effect. Additionally, it will provide health updates and uses geofencing technology to alert users when they enter certain boundaries.

While reopening Saint Kitts and Nevis’ borders is a daunting task, the Premier of Nevis believes that the country needs to find ways to restart its local economy because one can categorize COVID-19 as both a health and economic crisis. The $120 million economic stimulus package the islands are adopting should protect affected citizens from extreme poverty and allow them to survive until the tourism industry can reopen.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Pixabay

Distance Learning in Madagascar
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused school closures in countries around the world, including Madagascar. Schools in Madagascar remain closed, according to the U.S. Embassy. The country already struggles with education access, specifically for children in poverty. In order to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 on education access, the government is using existing systems to help students utilize distance learning in Madagascar.

Poverty and Education

The World Bank reported that about 1.4 million children dropped out of primary school in Madagascar in 2012. When 55 teachers in Madagascar participated in a survey, 38% said poverty was a reason students did not progress through school. With 75% of the population living in poverty, many people are vulnerable to the impacts of poverty on their access to education.

How Distance Learning Started

Madagascar’s government noticed that children in poverty, specifically those living in remote areas, were often not in school. In order to address this problem, the government began creating distance learning programs in 2005. The programs were directed toward the radio because pre-tests showed that children were “glued to the radio” whether or not they were attending school. With the use of wind-up radios, students in rural areas were able to access distance learning in Madagascar even if they did not have access to electricity. After its completion in 2017, each one was about 15 minutes long. Their target was children between the ages of 5 and 9. Not only do the programs encourage children to re-enter school, but they also teach important life skills. These skills include self-esteem, getting along with others, communication, gender equality, assessing risks, decision making and protecting the environment.

UNICEF also helped develop distance learning programs in Madagascar. The organization created a radio show designed to teach things like math, life skills and literacy. The name of the show is ‘O!O’ and it approaches education through engaging entertainment.

Distance Learning During COVID-19

Since schools have closed as a result of COVID-19, programs for distance learning in Madagascar have been expanded. In addition to the radio, Madagascar’s government is using television and Youtube broadcasts to help students access education. The radio programs are aimed at first and second-grade students. They air on both the radio and a platform called WeTransfer. UNICEF is supporting these programs.

Madagascar’s television programs focus on teaching math in French to students in primary school and they are also available on YouTube. The Japan International Cooperation Agency is helping to provide support for television learning in Madagascar. In order to ramp up the production of educational television programs, The Ministry of National Education and Technical and Vocational Education (MENETP) is stepping in. The ministry is running a recruitment drive in order to increase the number of designers working on the programs.

Additionally, the media is playing a role in ensuring that students have access to education through the edutainment program Kilasy Pour Tous. In partnership with MENETP, the media is helping to make sure that educational television and radio programs air every morning.

While COVID-19 has caused many schools to close, existing infrastructure for distance learning in Madagascar has helped address access to education. Educational radio and television programs are available to students. With support from UNICEF, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the media, these programs air every day and provide students with a pathway to learning at home.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty Eradication in Palestine
Palestine, located in Western Asia/the Middle East, consists of Gaza and the West Bank. While facing years of conflict with Israel, Palestine battles increasing poverty and unemployment rates as well as a lack of resources. Below are some programs that UNDP has put into place to help promote poverty eradication in Palestine.

The Context

Palestine has cities with some of the highest population densities and population growth rates while suffering from both limited financial resources and space for efficient growth. Despite the prominence of urban cities with flourishing economies, like Ramallah, Rawabi and Gaza City, Palestine is also centered in a fragile, conflict-afflicted area and this placement has contributed to the increase in poverty. The conflict has weakened government power, caused damage to infrastructure, broken social networks due to forced displacement of families and increased youth unemployment. All of these factors lend themselves to poverty.

The poverty rate in Palestine is 25% and unemployment reached about 29% across the board. For youth ages 15–24, however, unemployment reached 42% in both Gaza and the West Bank, placing Palestine as the country with the eighth-highest youth unemployment rate. This is mostly due to the rapid population growth, the deteriorating economy and the lack of Palestinian students with degrees or vocational training. In addition to these high rates of unemployment, more than 1 million children in Palestine require some form of humanitarian assistance. These conditions have influenced the United Nations to request organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to implement programs centered around innovative ways to reduce and potentially eradicate poverty in Palestine through economic empowerment.

UNDP’s Successful Initiatives

Among these programs is the Deprived Families Economic Empowerment Programme (DEEP). Emerging in 2006, DEEP aims to create interventions that target families who have enough community connections to flourish, through small businesses. This program has helped more than 23,756 households and is working on developing new strategic approaches for economic empowerment such as “community mobilization” and targeting youth employment and group projects. DEEP generated 9,560 family businesses and 23,000 paid and long-term jobs. This newly generated income supports 215,000 people, many of whom are children. Most importantly, this program helped 79% of these families close the poverty gap by more than 50%.

Another successful approach to reducing poverty in Palestine is through the Integrated Agricultural and Rural Development Programme which emerged in 2014. This initiative promotes agricultural production for consumption and seeks to reform the existing infrastructure. The program combats the lack of resources and high unemployment rate by constructing agricultural roads, water storage units, planting trees and installing electricity. All of these activities generate employment and supply the locals with fresh foods such as olives and other fruit. This program also aims to make at least 4,000 hectares of agricultural land suitable for production and support farmers with cultivating and utilizing an additional 7,000 hectares.

The Three-pillar Strategy Against COVID-19

In recent months, the UNDP of Palestine has also implemented programs to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the restricted access to resources, the pre-existing high levels of unemployment and poverty and the decades of political aggression and occupation — the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a harder toll. However, the UNDP is coordinating with the Ministry of Health to bring forth a proper response to the crisis. This response is framed by a three-pillar strategy that includes increasing healthcare staff, disinfecting facilities, supporting livelihoods, promoting businesses and aiding in government responses that fight misinformation and foster discussion through media outlets. All of these efforts aid in ensuring economic empowerment while responding to the crisis.

A Hopeful Outlook

The poverty and unemployment rates in Palestine remain high as political tensions rise. However, the programs that UNDP has actively put into effect contribute to the progression of the economy and the eradication of poverty in Palestine. Through UNDP’s tremendous efforts alongside the humanitarian assistance that various organizations like UNICEF and UNRWA provide, Palestine should be able to decrease its poverty and unemployment rates and restore its economy.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Germany
Historically, Germany has not been without its economic or financial hardships. Since the 1990s, nearly a quarter (or 15%) of Germany’s population has had the classification of being poor. What is Germany doing in the modern age to combat a significant and stagnant impoverished population? Additionally, why have Germany’s poverty rates not reflected the country’s staggering economic growth? Finally, how is Germany’s poverty-reduction legislation impacting refugee families? This article will illuminate the radical legislation and innovations about poverty eradication in Germany including what the country has implemented to reduce inequality, domestically and globally, in the 21st century.

The BMZ Behind It All

Poverty eradication in Germany began with the BMZ (a German-language acronym for the English-translated “Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development”). The BMZ is solely responsible for all affairs regarding poverty relief and economic development in Germany and abroad. In recent history, the BMZ has committed itself to addressing the underlying factors, circumstances and mechanisms that create poverty in the first place. In the early 1990s, the BMZ published international and domestic development goals which, to this day, influences the nation’s fight against poverty. Strong social welfare, personal incentive for work and widespread access to education reduced the national proportion of people experiencing poverty to as low as 7% in 2007.

At the time, radical steps like systemic reformations and direct focus on franchising majority impoverished groups of people were novel and began Germany’s repertoire as a powerful benefactor to its poorest constituents. With recent international crises (like the Syrian Civil War) and the advent of automation, however, Germany’s poverty line has all but slowly grown. However, a recent 6.1 billion euro ($7.2 billion USD) expansion of Germany’s social welfare program, Hartz IV (dedicated to long-term unemployment) spells relief for many displaced and at-risk peoples in Germany.

Young Families, New Challenges

Starting a family is, unquestionably, one of the most difficult and unique things a couple (or individual) can undertake. Additionally, it is no short order to both raise a young family while providing for it – and, sometimes, it is nearly impossible to maintain a “work-life balance,” which typically ends in financial hardship. Poor families are at risk to begin with; a new child may well be the tipping point into impoverishment, and the cycle only proliferates when families raise children in poverty. Enter one of Germany’s most radical pieces of legislation, the Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act, created exclusively to alleviate the financial stresses that new families often face. New parents may receive up to 60% of their income for up to 3 years, addressing underlying systemic cycles of poverty, especially with already at-risk, younger individuals, rather than focusing on short-term manifestations of it.

Providing low-risk, low-stress economic stability for growing families almost ensures that the cycle breaks as well. As of 2014, only 9.5% of children in Germany lived in poverty, compared to the nation’s average of 14%. The Parental Allowance and Leave act has proven to be an extremely successful player in poverty relief in Germany.

International Commitments

Germany has not only invested in domestic poverty relief, it is also interested in working toward poverty relief internationally. Chancellor Angela Merkel has committed to doubling the nation’s UNDP core funding to combat the economic hardship that COVID-19 has brought on internationally. Germany has been the largest single contributor to the UNDP’s core resources since 2017 and has solidified that position by donating nearly $124 million to the core fund this year alone. What that means is increased spending power for the UNDP during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the UNDP predicts will cause the first reversal of human global development since the early 1990s. Germany’s increased budget for the UNDP will go to essential poverty relief efforts in 130 countries that the pandemic has greatly affected, providing assistance for hundreds of millions across the globe.

COVID-19 Relief in Germany

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany experienced its impact economically, socially and culturally much like the rest of the world. In Germany, the unemployment rate from March to April 2020 increased by 0.8%. Poverty rates have remained consistent as well, with surprising research showing that poorer workers are at no greater risk of succumbing to the novel coronavirus. What differentiates Germany’s COVID experience is its radical response and mobilization against the extreme economic fallout COVID spelled.

The German government has committed an unprecedented $868 billion relief package for its most vulnerable populations, small businesses and manufacturers. In addition, Germany has expanded wage subsidies for furloughed individuals and executed a tax slash of 3%. In this exceptionally trying time, Germany has revolutionized the way the world thinks about social security, and it stands that German citizens will feel the impact of this emergency poverty relief in Germany for decades to come.

Germany has been a litmus test as a standard for social welfare since the dawn of the modern age. Poverty eradication in Germany is a multifaceted, extensive and progressive approach to the seemingly Sisyphean task of battling poverty at home and abroad. Strong COVID-19 relief plans, the groundbreaking Parental Leave Act, a dedicated ministry of economic affairs and a commitment to international well-being makes for innovative anti-poverty measures that are paving the way for the world.

– Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Getty Images

Yazidi CommunitiesHaving been targeted by ISIL during its military campaign in 2014, the Yazidis have gained significant international attention over recent years. However, few knew much about the importance of Yazidi communities to the overall stability in Iraq before their genocide.

Who Are the Yazidis?

The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking minority located primarily in northern Iraq, where about 400,000 lived as of 2014. They have traditionally kept to themselves but experienced ethnic and religious persecution from both Saddam Hussein’s regime over the years as well as ISIL most recently. Such oppression crippled Yazidi communities as their members dealt with the economic fallout and social setbacks resulting from trauma. The novel coronavirus poses a new threat, and the consequences for peace and security in Iraq will be manifold — especially if the Yazidis are excluded from Iraq’s COVID-19 economic recovery strategy.

The COVID-19 Crisis

The spread of COVID-19 has hurt Iraq and its people on a grand scale, as it has in the rest of the world. Yet, despite a low number of cases in northern Iraq, Yazidi communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus due to safety measures taken by the Iraqi government. In Sinjar, where many Yazidis in Iraq live, most of the working population must travel for jobs located outside of the city or are farmers who rely on visiting other cities to sell their crops. However, this way of life is no longer possible under the imposed movement restrictions. Yazidis cannot leave Sinjar for employment, and farmers cannot travel to other cities. Therefore, many Yazidi communities have essentially lost all means of income.

The emergency measures have also adversely impacted the Yazidis on the healthcare front, as access to healthcare has been reduced. Those requiring medical attention can only receive it four hours away in Mosul, taking an ambulance so that they can cross various checkpoints throughout the province. Along with the long trip, some Yazidis do not seek treatment in Mosul because of the language barrier. These factors have further ostracized the Yazidis economically and socially, thus risking an increase in regional poverty.

The Resurgence of Poverty and of ISIL

Poverty’s resurgence in Yazidi communities because of the novel coronavirus has myriad implications for peace and security within the Middle East. In addition to trauma following the end of ISIL’s occupation of Yazidi land, the pandemic has created a mental health crisis within Yazidi communities. Those who previously received counseling at mental health facilities are no longer able to obtain that help due to COVID-19. Some experts are even predicting that 25% of Yazidis will require mental health care after the pandemic subsides.

Others have raised concerns surrounding the return of ISIL during this period of instability. Iraq’s government has acted on this issue militarily and can continue to fight ISIL’s revival by providing economic aid and building necessary healthcare infrastructure in Yazidi communities.

Humanitarian Solutions and NGOs

Ultimately, northern Iraq’s stability will not be achieved through military success alone. The long-term solution will be humanitarian. Following the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as developing better infrastructure, will lead to extraordinary progress on other pressing problems in Iraq, like reducing poverty and improving health.

Giving non-governmental organizations, like Yazda, a bigger role in community building is another way to strengthen Yazidi societies. Yazda focuses on helping Yazidis in various ways. It has already helped thousands obtain mobile medical services in addition to providing hundreds of mental health and socioeconomic assistance and supporting hundreds more in their pursuit of criminal justice.

For now, Baghdad is focused on reopening its urban and economic centers. However, including Yazidi communities in the reopening process during and after COVID-19, as well as supporting them to become more resilient in tumultuous conditions, will be crucial in preventing future conflicts and eliminating poverty in Iraq.

Alex Berman
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Lithuania
Lithuania has experienced many issues with poverty and an increase in homelessness since its independence in the early 1990s. Its independence quickly led to high unemployment, low wages, poor state support in security housing, gaps in social housing provisions and an underdeveloped social services sector. This eventually resulted in a surge in homelessness in Lithuania.

Despite the overall increase in homelessness, Statistics Lithuania reported over 4,000 homeless people in 2017. While significant, the 4,000 homeless people in 2017 is actually a reduction since 2012 when reports determined that there were about 4,957 homeless people in Lithuania. The Lithuanian government has put some social policies in place in the case of unemployment; people who register with employment services can receive benefits while also using provided resources to look for another job.

With these policies, Lithuania has experienced a drop in unemployment from over 17% in 2010 to 6.35% in 2019. The Lithuanian government has stepped in over the past few years in response to the homelessness crisis and implemented provisions that promised public housing and services to those in need of assistance. The following key points will explain how Lithuania is combating the crisis and the challenges it is facing.

How Lithuania is Combating the Homelessness Crisis

According to the European Social Policy Network, the Lithuanian government put legislation and policies in place to help people experiencing homelessness:

  1. Shelters and crisis centers for homeless people: There are provisions for shelter in two forms: short-term temporary housing and crisis centers. Short-term temporary housing is for homeless people and people with addictions or other critical situations that threaten a person’s health or life. Services there include information, medication and representation, access to basic facilities for personal hygiene and access to health care. The duration of these services can last up to three nights. Crisis centers are for homeless people and victims of violence. Services include social and psychological support, employment consulting, skill-building, access to healthcare and more. Crisis center services aim to restore independent living and social connections and to help people reintegrate into society. The duration of these services may last up to six months and can receive an extension. There are also day centers for the homeless. These facilities allow people a safe place to stay during the day, to make food, attend courses and receive other social services.
  2. A brief history of social housing in Lithuania: Prior to Lithuania’s independence, the Soviet Union enacted a mass construction of social housing. Students, workers and young people leaving foster homes were the main demographic of people using this housing. The Lithuanian government dismantled public housing and allowed citizens to restore their property in the form of real estate after gaining its independence. Mass privatization eventually led to a surge in housing prices. As a result, vulnerable groups unable to afford housing returned to the streets.
  3. Ex-convicts received a chance to live independently: Ex-convicts received counseling and services aimed at preparing them for independent living. The ex-convicts would often receive access to these services toward the end of their sentences. There are no statistics on exactly how many ex-convicts are homeless, but the number of ex-convicts in homeless shelters has gone down in recent years.
  4. Larger cities with the highest rates of homelessness have their own policies in battling homelessness:  In the city of Vilnius, the municipality has a program that establishes transitional supported accommodation for people moving from homeless shelters to independent living. Accommodations have the support of social workers to manage finances and debt. They also offer counseling services to help people adjust.
  5. Recent legislation allows municipalities to provide housing for those in need:  Effective January 2019, an amendment allowed municipalities to rent housing from private or legal persons and then sublet it to people in need of housing support. This was in response to the issue of people illegally renting houses which prevented people from receiving rent assistance. This amendment addressed the stigma associated with poor and homeless people in the rental market.

The Challenges Lithuania Faces in the Fight Against Homelessness

The current programs and policies show the progress Lithuania has made since its independence. However, the country still faces challenges in its fight against homelessness:

  1. The number of evictions from social housing is increasing: The Lithuanian government made provisions for financial compensation to help with the cost of utilities for low-income citizens. Municipalities can also provide debt relief to recipients of social assistance. During the coronavirus pandemic, financial assistance increased and Lithuania facilitated new conditions for obtaining assistance. Despite this, evictions increased and counseling for debt relief became nonexistent.
  2. There is low-level reliability of funding for social protection for housing: Financing social housing in Lithuania has increased over the past decade but it has been low in comparison to the rest of the E.U. In 2016, the expenditure on social housing in purchasing power standards in the E.U. was about €54 per inhabitant whereas Lithuania’s expenditure was about €12 per inhabitant. The Ministry of Social Security and Labor planned to allocate over €3 million in housing support for 2019.
  3. The duration of stay in shelters is insufficient: Staying at a shelter for three nights does not solve the complex problems of homeless people. In many cases, once a person leaves the shelter they receive no further support and return to the streets.
  4. Social housing is difficult to obtain: It can take people anywhere from three to 12 years to receive social housing depending on the municipality. In 2014, the number of persons and families waiting for social housing was about 32,000. The waiting list decreased to approximately 10,500 in 2017. This was due to revisions on the waiting list and the enforcement of duty to declare assets and income.

Lithuania’s Ministry of Social Security and Labor has put into effect policies to help decrease the wait times for social housing. In 2024, wait times for social housing could decrease to five years. Meanwhile, in 2026, expectations determine that the wait times could decrease to about three years. If municipalities do not provide social housing by the deadline, they must compensate part of the rent to families in their current housing while they wait for social housing.

The policies the Lithuanian government has put in place have helped many homeless people get back on their feet. However, it is clear that Lithuania has a long way to go to resolve the issue of homelessness.

– Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid AssistanceThe United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a Middle Eastern country made up of seven emirates. Each emirate has a unique ruler, but one of those rulers acts as the president of the entire UAE. The population of the UAE is 9.2 million and their GDP was $421.14 billion in 2019. This makes them one of the richest countries in the Middle East. Thankfully, over the years, the UAE has been utilizing a portion of its GDP to provide foreign aid assistance.

The Goal of the UAE’s Foreign Aid Assistance

The UAE aims to be unbiased in its humanitarian assistance, not focusing on politics or beliefs. This is a byproduct of the UAE’s mission for tolerance. The UAE has made multiple initiatives in recent years to promote tolerance not only in their foreign affairs but also in their domestic affairs. At the end of 2018, President H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed declared 2019 the Year of Tolerance. To push this goal forward, the UAE began teaching tolerance in schools, focused on promoting more tolerant policy, and created a number of organizations to promote tolerant objectives. In order to carry out these aims internationally, the UAE’s Cabinet formed the UAE Humanitarian Committee. The committee brings together experts in the field to ensure that their foreign aid is efficient and moral.

History

According to the UAE’s website, the UAE provided more than 47 billion AED in foreign aid assistance from 1971 to 2014. Africa is the largest recipient of the UAE’s foreign aid. However, the UAE also provided assistance to those in their neighboring communities. In 2015, the UAE was named the World’s Top Humanitarian Donor as a percentage of its GDP for the year 2013. The Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development gave this award. In 2013 the UAE provided roughly 5.89 billion U.S. dollars in foreign aid, equal to about 1.33% of their GDP. More than 140 countries received this aid, and it focused on issues such as health, education and social services.

Present Day

The year 2020 has been tumultuous for every country due to COVID-19, causing many nations to focus solely on domestic affairs. The UAE has remained dedicated to its mission regarding foreign aid assistance. It has also been making strides to ensure that both their people and other countries have the tools they need to combat this global pandemic.

A major factory was repurposed to produce only N95 masks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE. This factory has the capacity to produce more than 90,000 masks per day. To date, the UAE has provided more than 1,000 metric tons of foreign aid assistance in response to COVID-19. Additionally, $10 million was donated by the UAE via the World Health Organization. The donation went toward COVID-19 testing kits.

In addition to their COVID-19 foreign aid response, the UAE has been a major player in foreign aid assistance to those affected by the Beirut Port explosion. On August 4, 2020, two explosions caused the death of close to 200 people. They also destroyed the homes of many more in Lebanon. The UAE has utilized its organization, the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), to provide foreign aid assistance in Lebanon after this tragedy. This aid focuses on providing medical supplies and medical support.

 

The UAE has set an example not only of the degree in which countries should engage in foreign humanitarian assistance but also in the way they should do so. Humanitarian assistance is not about a country’s beliefs, geography or affairs. Instead, humanitarian assistance is about facilitating a more equal society where everyone is able to fulfill their basic needs.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: The National

Solar WashWith the rapid spread of COVID-19, public health and hygiene habits are being promoted unlike ever before. The importance of handwashing has been particularly emphasized as it is, according to The World Bank, “one of the most effective ways to prevent transmission of disease,” including COVID-19. However, in many countries where access to clean water is rare, disease and unsanitary conditions present an even greater threat.

Access to Water in Ghana

In Ghana, more than five million people utilize surface water to meet their basic needs.  Utilizing contaminated water is often the only option many people have. However, it leaves populations vulnerable to water-related diseases, infections and illnesses. In many cases, this discourages populations from practicing handwashing, taking daily baths, and ensuring their body is sufficiently nourished. As a result, the transmission of water-related diseases increases. This establishes and encourages poor hygiene, sanitary and personal care habits.

Solar Wash

Two native Ghanian brothers, Richard Kwarteng and Jude Osei, have developed a solar-powered handwashing basin in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 and “encourage regular hand-washing etiquette,” Kwarteng said. The invention, called Solar Wash, uses just a few components. It comprises of an alarm, a sink, a sensor, a faucet, a motherboard and a solar panel. Solar Wash resembles a regular hand-washing sink but works in an even more hygienic, sustainable and cost-efficient manner.

Solar Wash’s sensors ensure users do not have to physically touch the faucet’s tap. First, upon sensing motion, the sensor dispenses soapy water and enacts an alarm for 25 seconds. This is in accordance with the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). After the 25 seconds, the tap dispenses just enough water for users to conclude washing their hands. Solar Wash acts as a handwashing station for 150 people during just one charging cycle.

The Ghanaian Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation is working with Kwarteng and Osei. They are working to ensure the continuation of Solar Wash manufacturing and its accessibility to people in all of Ghana.

Global Potential of Solar Wash

Solar Wash emerged in Ghana as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, continued manufacturing and placement of the invention would greatly improve conditions around the world, particularly those living in poverty. Continued use of Solar Wash, or similar technology, would:

  1. Reduce the spread of water-transmissible diseases – According to the CDC, “about 1.8 million children under the age of five die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia.” The spread of pneumonia and diarrheal diseases can be significantly reduced with proper handwashing practices, protecting “about one out of every three young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost one out of five young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia.”
  2. Offer a sustainable solution to the global water crisis – In 2019, about two billion people were living in a country engulfed by high water stress. In other words, there were about two billion people without access to enough water to fulfill their basic needs. To globally address the water crisis, the world needs an affordable, sustainable and accessible solution, which Solar Wash offers.
  3. Reduce global poverty – UNICEF and the WHO said, “over half of the global population or 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services.” This contributes to the spread of many diseases and illnesses, including COVID-19, diarrheal diseases, cholera, adenovirus and salmonella. By reducing the spread of these infections, illnesses and diseases, populations have a lower chance of being engulfed by poverty. They will be able to work, attend school and so forth.

Conclusion

Innovations like Solar Wash demonstrate simple but important practices and solutions needed to alleviate poverty. Solar Wash offers a simple, affordable and sustainable means of practicing handwashing with its simple build and technical structure. An innovation like Solar Wash can play an immense role in reducing health-related concerns in Ghana. It can also help throughout the world with continued production and implementation.

– Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr