Impact of COVID-19 on Mali
Mali, an agriculturally economic-based country, has faced several challenges throughout its history. The impact of COVID-19 Mali has greatly affected the country as well. Challenges in Mali, like an economic recession heightened due to COVID-19 and multiple military coups, have pushed thousands of citizens into poverty but global organizations are aiming to mitigate the nation’s challenges.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Mali

Though the COVID-19 numbers are significantly lower in Mali than in other countries, the overall “strained” healthcare systems throughout developing countries in Africa have grand economic impacts. In Mali, for example, cotton production decreased by 79% in 2020 due to lower international prices and “disputes” over the distribution of fertilizer to farmers, as a result of the pandemic.

Mali’s population includes more than 20 million people and is located in Western Africa, landlocked between five countries. The pandemic caused international trade to decline in the nation and therefore slowed domestic revenue, causing the country to enter a recession. Public debt in the country increased by more than 44% for the nation’s overall GDP. According to a Business Pulse Survey, more than 83% of enterprises interviewed in the country lost revenue in 2020 and 12% had to shut down.

The health, security, social and political crises in 2020 caused the nation’s poverty levels to increase by 5%. More than 900,000 individuals ended up in poverty in Mali during the pandemic.

“Widespread” poverty exists in Mali with almost half or 49% living in extreme poverty. This is the third youngest country in the world where the mean age of the population is 16.2 years. Rapid population growth with more than five children per woman in Mali contributes to the rising levels of poverty because there are so many people living in confined spaces with limited access to daily needs.

In addition to the economic recession, international support was slow in Mali after another military coup. On May 24, 2021, military forces arrested Mali’s transitional President and Prime Minister after their announcement of a new cabinet did not include previous higher-up individuals who expected to serve in the new government. Almost 15,000 United Nations peacekeepers are stationed in Mali for fear of growing ties with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and no one is currently running the country “effectively,” according to The Washington Post.

How Mali’s Government is Providing Aid

The government plans to issue COVID-19 relief assistance to its citizens, like implementing tax breaks and increasing social spending by 100 billion CFAF. It plans to allocate a COVID-19 fund of 500 billion CFAF, amounting to roughly $898,000. The report issued from the World Bank does not specifically outline how the tax breaks will undergo distribution to citizens, however, the report suggests that the government might have to reduce “non-essential expenditures” to reallocate funds to its citizens.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), an organization aiming to provide clean water, shelter, health care, education and empowerment support to “refugees and displaced people,” is aiming to provide increased resources for citizens’ economic well-being, health and education. The committee intends to support public health services already in place in Mali to sustain the healthcare services and create public health “structures.” The programs included in their goals will focus on addressing “recurrent” food shortages, asset losses and poor harvests due to climate “conditions and conflict.”

In 2012, IRC aided Mali community members through outlets like loan assistance and “income-generating activities,” to women, in particular, providing clean drinking water, treatment kits, water rehabilitation sites and health care supplies. IRC also facilitated community health training for workers in the area.

The Feed the Future Initiative

Other programs, like the Feed the Future initiative under USAID, address poverty in Mali through the investment of cereals and livestock. These two agricultural products provide the most food security, nutrition and poverty reduction for the country’s people. More than 400,000 Malian farmers applied Feed the Future concepts to their work and increased technology or management practices to further their production.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

The World Food Programme (WFP), a food assistance program that is part of the United Nations, also supplied food assistance in 2019 to more than 700,000 individuals. About 18% of the population or 3.6 million people experience food insecurity in the nation every year since a 2012 crisis occurred in Mali. The U.S. Agency for International Development, also partnered with WFP, established “in-kind” food and cash transfers for households affected by challenges like displacement, conflict and natural disasters as of May 6, 2020.

Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has been detrimental to many of the world’s poorest countries but social programs have come to light during the pandemic to help impoverished countries. The number of social protection programs increased from 103 in 2015 to 1,141 by December 2020 to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on Mali and other developing nations.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Nepal’s COVID-19 ResponseCurrently, approximately 26.4 million refugees worldwide have had to flee hardship in their countries of origin. Though international laws protect them, refugees are often denied basic human rights such as protection from violence, stable employment, safe housing and adequate healthcare. Access to reliable healthcare is critical to preventing diseases, treating underlying conditions, providing medicinal resources and offering immunizations. Because refugees are often unable to join national health plans in the country in which they settle, lack of access to healthcare is a common experience. Nepal’s COVID-19 response intends to include vulnerable and marginalized populations such as refugees.

How COVID-19 Threatens Refugees

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need for reliable healthcare access among refugee populations, who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Many live in densely populated areas and lack face masks and adequate sanitation, such as handwashing facilities. This increases their risk of contracting the virus. Many have also lost their sources of income and are unable to pay for medical care. In addition to the high rates of poverty refugee populations experience, being too sick to work or caring for sick loved ones only compounds this issue.

The world’s ability to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic is incumbent on ensuring that all populations can limit case numbers and treat the infected. While the best way to mitigate the virus is to provide vaccinations, many countries are not yet offering them to refugees. As a result, many refugee populations live in a constant state of crisis and are unable to return to normalcy at the same rate as the general public.

The Nepalese Example

There are now more than 19,000 refugees in Nepal, most of them from Bhutan and Tibet. These communities experience high rates of poverty and are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Nepal’s COVID-19 response has been markedly different from other countries in the region as it was “the first country in Asia and the Pacific to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to refugees.” Starting March 7, 2021, refugees older than 65 were eligible to receive the vaccine along with other eligible citizens. As of March 24, 2021, 668 refugees had received the vaccine and many more are set to be vaccinated as the country obtains additional doses.

Nepalese officials have made it clear that they believe ensuring the health and safety of the entire country means providing healthcare for everyone. Nepal’s COVID-19 response is unique because Nepal is deliberate in ensuring that refugees have access to healthcare that is on par with the rest of the country. Equitable access to vaccinations remains an important step to ensuring the country is able to fully recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

Next Steps

Nepal’s COVID-19 response sets an example of measures that other nations should take. As other countries observe Nepal’s vaccination procedures, refugees and other marginalized communities exist in an important context. Organizations like CARE Nepal advocate for a vaccine rollout with “the most vulnerable groups” being prioritized.

Nepal is far from the only country in the world, or even in the Asian Pacific region, with a large refugee population. All populations must have access to adequate healthcare to ensure everyone can recover from the COVID-19 crisis as quickly and effectively as possible. Ensuring that everyone has access to the vaccine is one of the best ways for countries to achieve this.

Harriet Sinclair
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Singapore
Like most of the world throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore has undergone a health and economic crisis while battling the novel coronavirus. However, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Singapore has disproportionately affected Singapore’s low-wage migrant workforce as the country continues the fight against the virus and the race to distribute vaccines.

COVID-19 Within Singapore’s Low-Wage Workforce

As early as the fall of 2020, Singapore seemed to return to life as normal with restaurants reopening and malls filling with crowds. However, the nation’s low-wage workforce, which included primarily migrant workers, faced a COVID-19 surge and a battle of its own.

Singapore’s low-wage workforce consists of more than 300,000 foreign construction and manufacturing workers from countries such as India and Bangladesh. These workers live in crowded dorms throughout their work period where COVID-19 quickly becomes rampant. Migrant workers accounted for nearly 95% of the country’s novel coronavirus cases as of September 8, 2020. With the placement of quarantine orders on these workers after numerous outbreaks, many had to stay in hot, overcrowded rooms without ventilation. As a result, the workers became exposed to the virus.

These workers have been extremely vulnerable to both the novel coronavirus and economic fallout due to factors such as overcrowded dorms, “hazardous working conditions,” low pay and lack of access to social protection. Many workers did not receive full wages throughout the quarantine order and faced high health costs when eventually returning home.

Poverty in East Asia: The Effects of the COVID-19

Despite recent post-COVID-19 economic recoveries in many East Asian countries, the World Bank reported that emerging post-pandemic recovery is and will continue to be uneven as the country’s most impoverished bear the brunt of the COVID-19 economic crisis. Poverty in East Asia and the Pacific stopped declining for the first time in more than 20 years as an estimated 32 million citizens across the region were unable to escape poverty as a result of unequal access to social, medical, educational and technological support.

A Future of Hope and a United Fight

Hope for Singapore’s citizens continues to come in the form of vaccines. More than a third of the country’s 5.7 million citizens have been fully vaccinated and nearly half of the population received at least one dose of a COVID-19 shot as of June 19, 2021. The government plans to complete vaccinations by the end of 2021.

Additionally, the World Bank Group has begun numerous relief programs in Eastern Asia and the Pacific region. Part of the organization’s $125 billion fund will go toward combating the “health, economic and social impacts” of the novel coronavirus globally and the World Bank Group plans to establish COVID-19 fast-track facilities. The World Bank Group intends to provide emergency funding for medical supplies and medical training while also working to strengthen national public health systems.

Returning to “Normal”

As Singapore eases back into normality as its population becomes vaccinated, a new awareness of social inequality is spreading domestically and internationally. A BBC article from September 18, 2020, states that the crisis exposes a “pandemic of inequality” within the country. Meanwhile, a foreign policy piece, published on May 6, 2020, describes Singapore’s lack of action in combating the economic crisis as a failure to see migrant workers as people.

While inequalities and poverty in Singapore have worsened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, activists around the world and across the nation are advocating for better conditions and awareness as the reopening process occurs. Organizations such as the World Bank Group, the Human Rights Campaign and Amnesty International are continuing to provide aid and advocacy for extremely impoverished people in Singapore. As the country climbs out of the COVID-19 pandemic, a future of hope and awareness presents itself. There is hope that the distribution of vaccines, education about the crisis and international funding will reduce the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Singapore.

– Lillian Ellis
Photo: Flickr

poverty in the Philippines
In the Philippines, mental health problems for those who are disabled have recently skyrocketed. As COVID-19 spread, disabled citizens living in the Philippines suffered from a lack of treatment and heightened health concerns. Furthermore, inequality rose, as there was a lack of healthcare data to help inform and protect the disabled. Disability and poverty in the Philippines are connected. Fortunately, the government is taking steps to help the disabled communities of the Philippines, with the hopes of decreasing poverty and increasing protection.

Poverty and Disability

Approximately 15% of the world’s population experiences a form of disability. In the Philippines, the 2016 National Disability Prevalence Survey (NDPS) revealed that 12% of Filipinos 15 and older suffer from severe disabilities. Furthermore, 47% of people have moderate conditions and 23% have mild disabilities. Compared to the global average, these rates are high. In part, this is due to the fact that developing countries are more likely to have a higher prevalence of disabilities.

COVID-19 had a major impact on the accessibility of healthcare for the disabled. The pandemic placed limits on those who needed sign language interpreters, braille translation and handicap services. Those with medical disabilities needed to be extra cautious as to not endanger themselves by contracting COVID-19. In many cases, poverty in the Philippines is related to disability. The disabled face a higher likelihood of poverty and lower rates of education, health and employment. Those with a secure job may also receive less pay than non-disabled persons despite the funds necessary for living with a disability.

Financial Support

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, financial support is being provided to people with disabilities in the Philippines. In Cebu City, the government provided financial aid in the form of income, supplies and resources in May 2021. Essentials such as wheelchairs, hearing aids and medicine were given to eligible people in need. Each household received P5,000 in monetary assistance, covering January to May of 2021, a period of time where no income was given.

Josh Maglasang is one example of the program’s success. As someone with a disability, he expressed his happiness and relief regarding the recent financial assistance. He acknowledged that monthly payments will help him cover medical costs. Moreover, he was specifically grateful to receive the overdue assistance. Recent exposure to poverty in the Philippines is helping initiatives such as this one pass.

Government Measures

Disability legislation has aided the disabled in the Philippines for many years. The Magna Carta for Disabled Persons Act was passed in 2007, allowing all disabled citizens to receive a minimum 20% discount from stores and services. Dental and medical care, hotels, theater and travel are all included in this coverage.

Furthermore, in regards to education, the disabled have the right to primary, secondary and all higher levels of schooling, with the proper financial assistance granted. This comes in the form of aid packages, scholarships, full coverage and book and supply financing. For those who are physically or mentally unable to work, rights to benefits from the Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) are provided.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, disability aid is particularly relevant. Regarding disability and poverty in the Philippines, providing care and support for disabled citizens will make a major difference in the success of the country. Strengthening the Mental Health Act is necessary to improve the quality of life for those who are disabled. Recent improvements in medical support, therapy and pandemic relief mark the beginning of helping those in need.

Selena Soto
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Pakistan
As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the developing world, the World Bank estimates that there will be between 119 to 124 million additional people added to poverty due to economic standstills. Developing countries are at high risk of an increase in poverty, including Pakistan. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Pakistan is substantial, but the government and other organizations have been cooperating to minimize the impact.

COVID-19’s Impact on Pakistan

In Pakistan, to date, there have been more than 22,000 COVID-19 related deaths. Vaccination programs have experienced delays, with only about 2% of the population of Pakistan currently vaccinated. To receive the vaccine, residents pay around $78, a luxury that many Pakistanis cannot afford. Due to the U.K. strain, cases are rising again. However, government officials are hesitant to enforce a strict lockdown as they did in March 2020. Rather, the government utilized the popular “smart” or “micro” lockdowns, where only specific areas go into lockdown. However, limited data exists on the success rates of these strategies.

Pre-Pandemic Pakistan

Even before the pandemic, Pakistan’s health system had limitations. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), before COVID-19, Pakistan had a ratio of one doctor to 963 people and a lack of universal healthcare. Before the virus, the poverty rate in Pakistan declined by 40% over the last two decades. However, the economic impacts of the pandemic halted poverty reduction progress.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Women and Children

COVID-19 has impacted women and children in Pakistan more significantly than men. Due to the virus, these vulnerable groups are suffering several consequences. Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in Pakistan. In June 2020, nearly 42 million children were out of school, with 17 million children younger than 5 missing routine vaccinations.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the shutdowns due to COVID-19 have disproportionately affected women, and in particular, the garment industry, which makes up a substantial part of Pakistan’s exports. In Pakistan, the majority of the population has employment within the garment industry, with approximately one in seven women working in this sector.

To rectify the bleak situation, the Pakistan Workers Federation and the Employers Federation of Pakistan issued a joint statement of cooperation and the government provided wage support. These efforts also included a “no lay off” order and an interest rate reduction for employers who retain their employees.

The Good News

While the situation looks bleak, the government and organizations are taking action to relieve the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Pakistan. The U.N. Development Programme established a COVID-19 Secretariat at Pakistan’s Planning Commission in 2020 to facilitate the economic and social response to the pandemic in conjunction with U.N. agencies. The Secretariat supported the Pakistani government’s 2020-2021 budget and National Action Plan for COVID-19.

To alleviate the lockdown’s hardships in 2020, the government issued unconditional cash transfers of approximately $70 to 12 million vulnerable households to prevent food insecurity. To continue to support the most vulnerable population, Ehsaas, the federal social protection program, made extra payments to 4.5 million families. Under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash initiative, another 7.5 million households received monetary assistance.

Dr. Sania Nishtar, the leader of Ehsaas, said in an interview with Mckinsey, that Ehsaas “invested” heavily in time, money, energy and effort to build infrastructure, including an SMS-based request-seeking mechanism, which allowed for ease in eligibility determinations and digital payments.

The World Bank ranked Ehsaas as one of the top four social protection programs by coverage. In March 2021, the World Bank issued a statement supporting the program by approving $600 million to expand Ehsaas. The fund allocation will facilitate the expansion of the programs to reach more informal workers.

Looking Ahead

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Pakistan is significant, however, the government and organizations are working together to provide social protection to the most vulnerable groups and will continue to do so as vaccination rates increase.

– Lalitha Shanmugasundaram
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact on Poverty in Myanmar
In 2017, Myanmar’s poverty rate was approximately 24.8%. By December 2020, the second wave of COVID-19 was estimated to bring the poverty rate to almost 50%. COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Myanmar has been devastating but aid aims to remedy the situation.

A Breakdown of COVID-19 in Myanmar

Myanmar’s first confirmed COVID-19 case was in late March 2020. In the weeks leading up to the first positive case, Myanmar’s government outlined its plan for curbing the virus’s spread. On April 6, 2020, Myanmar’s government initiated lockdowns and ordered schools and businesses to commence remote operations.

The daily numbers and seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar increased in September 2020 when restrictions first eased. The seven-day average rose from three to 300 by mid-September 2020 and peaked in October 2020 with a seven-day average of more than 15,000. November 2020 witnessed a steady decline. Myanmar’s COVID-19 seven-day average has remained at fewer than 100 cases since mid-February 2021.

Recently, COVID-19 cases in Myanmar have been increasing again. Many world doctors and health officials question the validity of the reported numbers since the military seized power on February 1, 2021. The military imprisoned doctors who opposed it and COVID-19 testing slowed as a result. COVID-19 case numbers in Myanmar are potentially higher than officially reported.

Myanmar’s Response to COVID-19

In early June 2021, Myanmar reached a recorded 144,000+ COVID-19 cases and upwards of 3,000 deaths. Myanmar’s economy halted and COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Myanmar, requiring the government and the people to strategize in order to encourage economic flow.

Economically, Myanmar’s government endeavored to stimulate halted areas of the economy. Service sectors and tourism contributed significantly less to the Myanmar economy. However, information and technology services expanded and the agricultural areas of Myanmar stayed stable.

To improve the Myanmar economy, the government drafted a plan costing $2 billion. The government received its funding from international partners. The funding goes toward stimulus packages, investments in infrastructure and improving public services such as healthcare.

Immediate Economic Impact of COVID-19 in Myanmar

The progress Myanmar has made over the past decade in decreasing its poverty rate halted and even reversed. COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Myanmar demanded that its government make significant investments that will benefit many workforces, but tourism, for example, cannot improve without open borders. Tourism became an intriguing industry for work in Myanmar in 1995. It now represents 3% of the employment force but displayed signs of expansion until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The year 2015 was a peak year for tourism in Myanmar. An estimated 2.5 million tourists spent 773 million kyats or $469,000. Until 2019, tourism accounted for 55% of the gross domestic product (GDP). The tourism industry hopes for an employment boom when Myanmar’s borders fully reopen.

Moving Forward

AstraZeneca is the only vaccine in Myanmar. The first shipments to Myanmar arrived in January 2021. As of June 2021, Myanmar has distributed three million vaccines. Fears of the AstraZeneca vaccine and its side effects spread after reports of blood clotting post-injection. Britain halted usage of the vaccine until further research could solidify its effectiveness but Myanmar did not.

Myanmar’s vaccination progress had two major distribution advancements between March and May 2021. Myanmar prioritized vaccinating healthcare workers. The distribution then expanded to include more categories of workers. It could take six months before another 10% of the population will have both vaccinations. Currently, only 3.1% of Myanmar’s population is at full vaccination status. Help from international allies will be necessary to make notable progress in vaccination distribution. The U.S. has a large supply of vaccines from all its distributors and intends to distribute vaccines internationally. Myanmar is working to raise funds to obtain more vaccines.

Aid Within Myanmar

For several decades, Myanmar’s poverty rate garnered the attention of many non-government organizations hoping to help. One such organization is World Vision International (WVI),  an organization based in England that typically works directly to support children. Recently, it dedicated the majority of its efforts to feeding and helping children affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Myanmar.

In Myanmar, the organization works with local businesses to offer food and shelter to children. During the pandemic, WVI expanded its efforts to ensure child poverty levels do not rise even further. WVI has worked in Myanmar for decades. The organization recognized COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Myanmar and advocates on behalf of the people to the Myanmar government. WVI secured masks, gloves, sanitizer and cleaning stations throughout Myanmar.

Looking Ahead

WVI maintained money flow as much as it could in areas that lack of work devastated. It also delivered food to hard-to-reach areas of Myanmar. Other organizations followed WVI’s example when COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Myanmar peaked and negatively affected life for many in the country. With the combined efforts, the poverty level, which rose in 2020, stabilized. It is an arduous road to recovery for Myanmar. Myanmar should be able to reduce the impact of the virus on its poverty levels with assistance from allies and committed organizations.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Philippine COVID-19 VaccinationThe Philippine COVID-19 vaccination program is set to escalate because the Philippine government has purchased 40 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.  This purchase follows previous vaccine purchases of the Moderna, AstraZeneca, China’s Sinovac and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccination. With the Pfizer-BioNTech purchase, the Philippines will have 113 million doses to vaccinate their population of 115 million people.

As of late June, the Philippines had only administered 8 million doses. The Philippine COVID-19 vaccination goal is to vaccinate at least 70 million people in the next 5 months. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Philippine COVID-19 vaccine administration, remarked that the new vaccine purchase “will significantly boost our national immunization program and will enable us to realize our goal of achieving herd immunity by year-end.” Vaccine distribution is prioritizing people who work out of their homes, healthcare workers and older citizens.

Struggles in Virus Response

Like much of the world, a second wave outbreak of the virus devastated the Philippines. From March to June 2021, the daily rate of documented infections ranged from 3,000 to 7,000.  It hit a peak of 15,310 daily cases on April 2. President Rodrigo Duterte received immense criticism from the international community for this second wave of the pandemic.  Although he employed one of the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns, he failed to implement mass testing or a robust vaccination program.

Duterte is already infamous for his troubled human rights record. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet described the ongoing situation as “highly militarized.” Unfortunately, according to Time, virus mismanagement is a common trend in authoritarian countries where rulers belittle the COVID threat and refuse to follow science and the advice of health officials. Duterte and rulers like him have gained the label of “medical populists.”  Time considers Duterte a “wild card” and stresses that what happens in the Philippines matters elsewhere because the Philippines provides workers throughout the world. Hopefully, the recent Pfizer-BioNTech deal is a step in the direction towards a more humane and effective virus response.

The Path Ahead

The Philippines will have to overcome many obstacles to reach herd immunity for its large population. Manila, the capital, lacks vaccine access, and COVID is surging in several provinces, which complicates vaccine distribution.

Despite these obstacles, in addition to the new purchase of vaccines, the government is consulting with experts on vaccine rollout. A team of medical experts from Israel is in the Philippines supporting the COVID response.  Israel is a world leader in vaccine dissemination.  Galvez reiterated that “we want to learn from the best practices being implemented in Israel and hopefully, replicate and use them in crafting our country’s policies.” Vaccinating children aged 12-15 is a top priority so Philippine children are now eligible to receive the single-dose vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech. The Philippines is also hoping to receive 44 million vaccine doses from COVAX, the international vaccine-sharing organization.  All these efforts should bolster the Philippine COVID-19 vaccination program.

– Conor Green
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Crisis in Ceuta and MelillaCeuta and Melilla are two enclave coastal Spanish cities in North Africa. They have often been the final stage for thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers looking to reach Europe.  Migrant numbers have been increasing recently, resulting in a humanitarian crisis in Ceuta and Melilla.

History of Ceuta and Melilla

After the 15th century fall of Islamic conquest in Spain, the Spanish Christians retook the Iberian Peninsula and widened the territory to include Ceuta in 1479 and Melilla in 1668. Both cities entered European Union (EU) territory along with Spain in 1986.

In 2005, Spain erected a 20-foot-high fence surrounding Ceuta and Melilla to stop migrants from entering the cities. The fence is topped with barbed wire, hundreds of surveillance cameras and approximately a thousand police and Guardia civil units. Since the fence’s construction, the number of migrants crossing through the cities has only increased. In May, 8-10,000 migrants crossed the borders. Some migrants even swam around the fence that separates Morocco from Ceuta and Melilla.

Reasons for Increased Migration

There are two major reasons behind this increase in migrants. The first reason is the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 severely affected the Moroccan economy. Hence, thousands of citizens crossed the Spanish border looking for better economic conditions and social stability.

The second reason is illegal smuggling. Morocco recently took action against the smuggling trade. Illicit smuggling negatively impacted the country’s economy. Despite this harm, smuggling was the main economic source for Ceuta and Melilla along with many northern Moroccan cities. The full shutdown of this trade left citizens in extreme financial deprivation, which led many of them to migrate.

Government Actions

The influx of thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers into Spain’s enclaves created panic among Spanish authorities, who sent the military to deal with the crisis. Subsequently, the military attacked, beat and tear-gassed migrants to deter them from entering the Spanish cities. This reaction to the humanitarian crisis in Ceuta and Melilla has sparked backlash, especially from nonprofit organizations due to violations of EU law and other legal procedures.

A spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization CEAR said that Spanish authorities sent back thousands of migrants, including children, who were supposed to have protection under Spanish law. The President of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, said that the autonomous community in Spain is willing to shelter migrant children as a “moral imperative” during a parliamentary debate. In contrast, the far-right Vox party’s Ignacio Garriga supported the army’s use of violence against migrants. Additionally, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor warned Spain against violence and suggested providing safe and legal procedures to migrants pursuing protection during the humanitarian crisis in Ceuta and Melilla.

Volunteer Actions

American Red Cross spokeswoman Isabel Brasero, who helped fatigued migrants in Ceuta, said “the city has the means to take care of all the people that arrived at its shores, but you never imagine that you will face this type of situation.” After the military intervention, volunteers in Ceuta donated clothes and cooked food for the migrants. Locals in Ceuta showed solidarity with the migrants and attended the funeral of a teenager who died swimming around the breakwater to Ceuta.

Ceuta and Melilla witnessed a humanitarian crisis that created chaos and outrage in Spain, which caused military action. Nonprofits, volunteers and many others are actively working to help migrants affected by the aftermath of the crisis.

Zineb Williams

Photo: Flickr

The Effects of COVID-19 in South OssetiaSouth Ossetia, an independent state of Georgia, closed its border with Russia in early April to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, once residents began returning home for the lockdown, cases started to increase despite mandatory quarantine for those crossing the border. South Ossetia confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on May 6. The effects of COVID-19 in South Ossetia have been devastating and continue to worsen as time goes on.

South Ossetia Divided

In mid-April, South Ossetia created a new set of regulations for all retail businesses. It required all employees to wear masks, use hand sanitizer and encouraged anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home. Despite the regulations, South Ossetia’s public was divided on how serious to handle the virus. Many citizens were frustrated with the government for taking such extreme measures and restrictions. When the first case of COVID-19 in South Ossetia appeared, the government instituted a fine of $200 to $500 to restore order and control the spread of the virus.

Cases increased to the hundreds when South Ossetia re-opened its border with Russia on September 15. South Ossetia’s healthcare system was not strong enough to handle the sudden rise in cases. Soon the president, along with many public officials, began testing positive. The Republic reported a lack of PPE and medicine. With drug and PPE prices increasing, it had to turn to North Ossetia for help. President Bibilov called on Russia to help. A field hospital was then set up in Tskhinvali with 150 beds, 150 medics and medical equipment needed to treat COVID-19.

A Failed Response

As of October 2020, COVID-19 in South Ossetia has increased to more than 650 cases. More than two-thirds of the cases were reported after the Republic reopened its border with Russia. The Republic believes that the number of cases is much higher due to many people self-isolating in their homes. Only high-risk patients were hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 in South Ossetia.

The International Crisis Group included South Ossetia on a list of regions vulnerable to COVID-19 in early May. The report included South Ossetia due to a lack of resources, support and preparedness. For example, the group reported that few doctors were able to treat patients and refused to do so because of a lack of PPE. The group also concluded that the medical staff did not have enough training to handle a pandemic. Most did not even know how to work a ventilator.

The International Crisis Group believes that South Ossetia would have benefitted from working with the World Health Organization earlier. But, unfortunately, South Ossetia refused to report vital information to the World Health Organization, such as requesting medical supplies.

In Conclusion

Overall, South Ossetia was not able to handle the severity of COVID-19, which it proved with its ill-preparedness. Most of its cases came from reopening its border with Russia, and the casualties from COVID-19 would have been much higher if Russia did not come to help. South Ossetia needs to re-evaluate its healthcare system in order to better protect its people from the COVID-19 virus.

– Lauren Peacock
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in South KoreaThe COVID-19 pandemic that began in late 2019 has impacted families, communities and society as a whole. The pandemic precautions have been a worldwide effort to keep everyone safe. In South Korea, there have been a total of 118,243 cases of COVID-19 as of April 2021. Of the 118,243 who tested positive, there have been 1,812 deaths but 107,781 individuals have recovered. The statistics show the persistent effort that is being demonstrated by the South Korean government to keep the country and its citizens safe.

COVID-19 in South Korea

South Korea has made it a priority to establish a system for the country and its citizens in order to keep everyone safe. In the early stages of COVID-19, South Korea made it a priority to mitigate the situation by distributing tests to as many people as possible. The results of the test, positive or negative, would gauge the severity of the outbreak. The goal was to have everyone quarantine so that the transmission of the virus, regardless of the positive or negative test result, would be slowed. The procedure that the South Korean officials followed was: test, trace and isolate. Within weeks of the first COVID-19 case, South Korea was the leading country in distributing tests. In perspective, by the end of April 2020, the United States had more than one million positive cases. South Korea had fewer than 11,000 cases. In the early stages of COVID-19, South Korea had 3,700 cases whereas the United States had 32. Managing the quick outbreak, and dealing with its repercussions was not easy for any country. However, South Korea was able to quickly formulate a system of test, trace and isolate. This helped lessen the number of lost lives.

Vaccine Efforts in South Korea

The creation and distribution of vaccines have been a large factor in the success that South Korea has seen in combatting COVID-19. South Korea has signed a contract with Pfizer to purchase another 40 million doses of its vaccine. Collectively, South Korea has 192 million doses of vaccines from Moderna, AstraZeneca PLC, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. The goal that South Korea had set was to have 70% of its citizens vaccinated with the first dose by November.

In order to obtain aid and assistance to receive these large quantities of vaccines, South Korea looks to the United States for help. South Korea provided assistance to the United States in the early stages of the pandemic with COVID-19 testing kits and face masks. Therefore, South Koreans hope for help from the United States in return. The U.S. State Department has made a statement regarding this vaccine alliance. The Department sees a possibility to help other countries increase their vaccine supplies but the citizens of the United States will be the priority.

Looking Ahead

South Korea was extremely successful in combating the virus at the beginning of the pandemic by acting quickly in response to testing and isolation. When no one knew how to handle the pandemic, South Korea stood as a strong example of how to minimize the effects of a global pandemic.

– Nicole Sung
Photo: Flickr