COVID-19's Impact on Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a nation in recovery. As with many countries throughout the globe, COVID-19 has left a lasting mark on the West African nation. In a June to October 2020 survey that Innovations for Poverty Action in Sierra Leone implemented, nearly 50% of respondents reported income reductions and about 60% of respondents reported depleting their savings to secure food for the household. However, in the wake of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, some sectors are regaining strength.

The After-Effects of COVID-19

Sierra Leone went into lockdown quickly in response to the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus within its borders in March 2020, declaring a state of emergency prior to any confirmation of infection. Rapid policy changes followed, restricting travel and putting into place extensive testing programs which, coupled with a high level of social compliance, brought the infection and death rates to an early plateau. This impressive effort in containment came at a great economic cost, however, with the nation’s GDP contracting around 3.1% in 2020.

Revitalizing the Economy

Forecasts predict that Sierra Leone’s GDP will grow roughly 4% by the end of 2021, eclipsing the contraction of 2020, with further acceleration predictions in 2022. This projected growth links to a renewed demand for exports, particularly in the country’s mining sector.

World Bank experts state that sustaining this growth will require structural reform, strong monetary policy and a robust vaccination program, allowing businesses and employees alike to return to full-capacity operations both quickly and safely.

To that end, “the World Bank approved an $8.5 million grant” in June 2021 to further vaccination efforts in Sierra Leone, building upon an earlier $7.5 million monetary injection provided by the International Development Association in 2020 to shore up economic deficits resulting from COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone. Additionally, The Sierra Leone Central Bank announced a redenomination of the national currency in an effort to combat inflation. However, not all efforts for economic regrowth fall within the confines of the financial sector.

US Assistance

Sierra Leone saw a marked increase in poverty as a result of wage depression and job loss stemming from the pandemic, particularly in urban areas. The remediation of economic damages in these areas is an important step in breathing new life into the Sierra Leonean economy.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government-funded agency dedicating efforts to international growth and development, is working to do just that. The MCC completed a $44.4 million project “to improve the water and electrical services in and around Freetown,” Sierra Leone’s capital and largest urban center, in March 2021. The MCC has recently begun talks with government representatives and the private sector to make further, larger investments in the nation’s growth in the form of an economic compact.

Further Help for Citizens in Need

In August 2021, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced a new program specifically focusing on aiding women and youth affected by COVID’s impact on Sierra Leone. The program will provide grants of $60,000 to $140,000 for distribution by NGOs to women and youth-operated businesses in both rural and urban areas that were forced to scale down or cease operations during the pandemic. The aim is to bring these businesses back into the marketplace and stimulate the local economy. These efforts work in concert with Sierra Leone’s internal efforts to help the nation get back onto its feet in the post-pandemic environment.

Mining Sector Leads Growth

With a return to pre-pandemic GDP levels in sight, Sierra Leone hopes to continue growth in 2022. Forecasts predict the nation’s GDP to grow by as much as 5% by 2022, outpacing its sub-Saharan neighbors, which could grow to 1% to 2% less over the same period. The country’s mining sector is a strong driver of the national economy accounting for 3% of national employment in 2018 as well as “65% of export earnings.” The mining sector is on track for a 34% overall increase, led by a predicted 850% increase in demand for iron ore over 2020.

With such a major market component leading the way, other economic areas may expect revitalization as well. In the agricultural sector, employing about two-thirds of Sierra Leone’s workforce, the government encourages mining companies’ investment in communities local to their operations, furthering citizens’ access to food as well as gainful employment. Predictions estimate that the domestic construction and energy industries, both with close links to mining infrastructure, may see growth as well. This combined push for economic renewal assures better days to come for the sub-Saharan nation.

A Bright Future Ahead

Through ongoing foreign support and careful economic measures, Sierra Leone hopes to breathe new life into industries ravaged by COVID-19. With a renewed encouragement of domestic business, the nation looks to bring its citizens forward into a thriving economy and a safer, healthier society. The culmination of these efforts is proving clear less than two years after the nation’s first lockdown with a strong reemergence from the trials of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, promising a brighter tomorrow for the Sierra Leonean people.

– Alexander Diaz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Saving Lives and the Economy in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste, a small island nation previously known as East Timor, is inarguably enduring a very difficult and trying year. The combination of devastating floods after Cyclone Seroja in 2021 and the COVID-19 pandemic has left the nation desperately in need of assistance. Due to these disasters, the nation’s economy is currently struggling to find its way back to stability. Fortunately, on September 13, 2021, USAID announced plans to contribute an additional $1 million toward COVID-19 relief in Timor. This generous contribution will aid the goal of saving lives and the economy in Timor-Leste.

COVID-19 in Timor-Leste

Like any other nation, Timor-Leste has felt the inescapable effects of COVID-19. With a population of 1.3 million, the nation has witnessed 19,445 cases and 114 deaths as of September 28, 2021. Despite these numbers, as of September 28, 2021, Timor-Leste’s full vaccination rate stands at only about 20% of the population. This leaves an astounding number of people still unprotected.

The combination of flooding and COVID-19 has been catastrophic for Timor-Leste’s economy. In 2020, the nation’s economy endured a decline of 7%. Lockdowns and other restrictions amid COVID-19 led to significantly lower economic activity. While imports saw a reduction of approximately 19% “due to a slowdown in construction and travel services,” exports suffered even more, essentially declining by almost 50% “owing to limited travel services and lower coffee earnings.”

Because COVID-19 is a significant threat to the economy in Timor-Leste, increasing the country’s overall vaccination rate is crucial. Ending lockdowns and restoring normalcy will allow economic activity to return to pre-pandemic levels. Due to these harsh impacts, COVID-19 relief from organizations such as USAID is necessary for saving lives and the economy in Timor-Leste.

Assistance From USAID

USAID is a U.S. agency with a dedication to providing assistance during times of disaster at an international level. It works to eliminate poverty on a global scale, “strengthen democratic governance and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance.”

Along with an existing amount of $1.6 million that USAID allocated for COVID-19 relief in Timor-Leste, USAID is now providing an additional $1 million in support of this cause. The amount of COVID-19 aid to Timor-Leste from the United States now totals $5 million.

This added funding will contribute to the expansion of vaccination programs by employing prominent organizations and “trusted leaders” to encourage Timorese citizens to receive vaccinations. These efforts specifically focus on underserved communities on the outskirts of Dili, the largest city in Timor-Leste.

Partnering with Timorese officials, USAID also intends to instruct healthcare employees within rural and agricultural communities on vaccine protocols such as proper storage and transportation manners. Furthermore, USAID aims for vaccine equity, ensuring equal opportunity for all citizens to receive the vaccine. Additionally, USAID will partner with the Ministry of Health in Timor-Leste to closely monitor COVID-19 statistics in order to determine the safest resolutions for the nation and its citizens in the future.

Moving Forward

With USAID’s generous $1 million to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the future looks promising for Timor-Leste and its population despite facing a tumultuous year. Through the support of organizations such as USAID, hope exists for restoring normalcy in Timor-Leste.

Not only are expanded vaccination efforts helping save lives but these efforts are also restoring economic stability in the country. With continued international support, Timor-Leste can successfully rebuild and recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

– River Simpson
Photo: Flickr

Covid -19 in Malawi
Malawi, a landlocked southeastern nation in Africa, faces hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of October 2021, COVID-19 in Malawi say a rise in over 61,700 COVID-19 cases and over 2,200 deaths. The biggest spike that Malawi experienced began on January 25, 2021, with a seven-week average case count of 994. The cases diminished significantly by September 2021, with most 7-week average counts bordering 40 cases. Already deep in poverty, Malawians certainly did not benefit from imposed lockdowns and a rising unemployment rate.

Effects on Poverty

Malawi continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world. It ranks 222 of 225 countries in terms of the greatest GDP per capita, with 526.93 in December 2020. Additionally, Malawi’s poverty rates can be attributed to its economy, which employs about 80% of the population in the agricultural sector. The COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected most urban areas and forced services and businesses to terminate.

The last demographic statistics of Malawi dates back to 2016 and recorded a poverty rate of 69.2%, which increased from the previous statistic of 62.4% in 1997. This means that this population lives with an income averaging below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day. Though no definitive statistics of Malawi’s current poverty rate exist, experts estimate it to be near or greater than the last census of 69.2% due to the unemployment rates caused by COVID-19. The unemployment rate of Malawi increased from 5.6% in 2019 to 6% in 2020, accounting for the jobs terminated by COVID-19.

Economic Development

As mentioned previously, the agriculture business in Malawi accounts for 80% of jobs. However, agricultural production is not necessarily abundant. By September 2020, over 2.6 million Malawians suffered food shortages from a combination of COVID-19 and weather complications.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Malawi experienced economic development with 3.5% economic growth in 2018 and 4.4% in 2019. The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) was created in 2017 to aid Malawi in several different sectors, including industry, health and poverty. However, the pandemic abruptly paused the project, and some fear that the effects of COVID-19 in Malawi will reverse the progress made in previous years. The Malawi Economic Monitor (MEM) predicts long-term and widespread negative effects from the pandemic, even though measures such as the Emergency Liquidity Assistance should mitigate some of the damage. If the effects do not worsen by the end of COVID-19 in Malawi, the nation will likely be able to reconstruct its economy with the 5-year installment plans within the MGDS.

Social Conditions

One of the greatest worldwide challenges of the pandemic continues to be providing schooling for students at home. With Malawi’s poor standards for education, where only 8% of students finish secondary school, the pandemic posed a great challenge. In a survey of 100 parents of school-attending children, 86% reported that they had no contact with any teachers or the school throughout the lockdown. Additionally, there is a lack of school materials in Malawi, making learning at home even more difficult.

Another social issue due to COVID-19 in Malawi is the rise in suicide rates. The lack of professional services available for mental health in Malawi resulted in drastically increased suicide rates. In 2020, the Malawi police service reported an increase of up to 57% during the pandemic. Additionally, statistics found that 92% of suicides in Malawi during this period were men, with 8% being women. Certain psychologists associate this with the loss of jobs and rising poverty levels in Malawi. These struggles place intense pressure on the men of a household to provide for their family during drastic times.

All Is Not Lost

Though it may seem like the current conditions in Malawi are beyond hope, there is still a chance that Malawi can recover from the pandemic and return to its course of economic improvement. With COVID-19 cases lowering, Malawi may be seeing the end of the pandemic. Also, the implementation of The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy will help with Malawi’s economic reset and assist the country in its recovery.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Wikimedia

 

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

Will and Jada Smith Together BandTogether Band is an organization that raises money for various causes in an innovative and trendy way aimed at persuading younger generations to support issues they care about most. It works toward the United Nations’ 17 global goals to create a more sustainable world by 2030. Recently, Together Band also partnered with Will and Jada Smith.

Together Band

The U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals include no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, clean energy, equal education, good health, clean water, economic growth, industry innovation, sustainable communities, responsible consumption and production, marine conservation, land conservation, justice, reduced inequalities and partnership.

Each U.N. SDG has an associated color and Together Band produces bracelets of each color. The bracelet color a customer purchases determines which goal their money targets. Together Band directs proceeds to The Freedom Fund, Renewable World, Women Working Worldwide and Power for the People, among others.

Not only do the proceeds go to humanitarian funds but the materials and production of the bracelets are impactful as well. The clasp on each bracelet is repurposed metal derived from seized illegal firearms in Central America. The aim of this sourcing is to end armed violence in conflict-torn countries. The band is made from 100% upcycled plastic found on shores in coastal communities and on remote islands. Finally, formerly trafficked Nepalese artisans use the materials to craft the final product. The jobs created help communities build stable economies.

Together Fund

Together Band created the Together Fund to combat COVID-19. Now, when a customer purchases a bracelet, 50% of the proceeds go to support COVID-19 relief while the other 50% continue to go to the original organizations that the bracelet supported before the pandemic. The organization splits COVID-19 relief funds between the U.N. COVID-19 Solidarity Fund for WHO and Médecins sans Frontières.

Together Band added COVID-19 relief to their initiatives because communities around the globe urgently need accessible healthcare. “It’s important that we act quickly in response to COVID-19 to ensure patients can access the care they need as well as supporting disease prevention and frontline health workers across the globe.”

Partnering With the Will and Jada Smith Foundation

Celebrities Will and Jada Smith created the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation in 1996 in order to make the world “better because we touched it.” The foundation has donated millions of dollars for innovative solutions to the world’s problems. Recently, the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation partnered with Together Band to tackle both COVID-19 and racial injustice. Working with WJSFF, Together Fund has expanded to support U.N. Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities and Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Money can be donated to the fund directly from the WJSFF homepage. Half of the proceeds go to additional COVID-19 relief funds such as the World Health Organization, Alight and Doctors Without Borders. The remaining half supports nonprofits that fight racial injustice. They include My Brother’s Keeper, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Equal Justice Initiative and the Leadership Conference Education Fund.

In addition, Will and Jada Smith’s son, Jaden Smith, founded an eco-friendly version of bottled water called Just Water. Just Water customers now have the option to round up their purchases in support of the Together Fund.

Overall, the Smiths are an inspiring example of a celebrity family using their fame to support humanitarian causes and reduce global poverty.

Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Flickr

The ICC The International Cricket Council (ICC) launched a new partnership with UNICEF in June 2021. The partnership seeks to aid UNICEF’s COVID-19 emergency response efforts in South Asia. The partnership marked another chapter in the two organization’s combined aid efforts through the ICC’s Cricket for Good campaign.

COVID-19’s Effects on Children in South Asia

UNICEF’s efforts in South Asia are a high priority due to the pandemic. The organization estimates that the pandemic likely contributed to the added deaths of 228,000 children younger than the age of 5 in the region’s six largest countries. Disease-related mortality rates rose too. UNICEF estimates almost 6,000 additional adolescent deaths from diseases such as “malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and typhoid” as a result of disrupted treatment services prompted by the pandemic.

Furthermore, “the number of young children being treated for severe acute malnutrition (SAM)” decreased by more than 80% in Bangladesh and Nepal. UNICEF’s report details an expected increase in adolescent health issues. These issues range from stunting to anemia due to a rise in food insecurity and undernutrition in South Asia. The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a significant decline in the availability of essential services. These statistics illustrate the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare services in South Asia, among other impacts.

In addition, the effects of the pandemic extend beyond physical health for children in nations such as India. Yasmin Ali Haque, a UNICEF representative in India states, “Children are facing mental health issues and are at greater risk of violence as lockdowns shut them off from their vital support networks.” Haque also notes the increase in illegal adoptions in the country, prompting concerns of potential child trafficking and abuse.

UNICEF’s Call for Aid

As a result of these consequences, UNICEF called for aid in support of measures to improve the COVID-19 response in South Asia. These actions include increasing medical supplies, sanitation and infection control measures in the region. The organization has already worked to provide critical medical equipment such as ventilators, oxygen concentrators and testing kits to countries such as India and Sri Lanka. While UNICEF continues to request support from both private and corporate interests, the organization’s partnership with the ICC may prove to be increasingly important.

The International Cricket Council and UNICEF

The ICC recently launched a fundraising campaign in support of UNICEF. The campaign, running from June 18 to June 22, 2021, occurred in the English city of Southampton during the World Test Championship Final between New Zealand and India. The Council, through the Cricket for Good campaign, intends to use the massive sports audience to promote UNICEF goals.

The ICC commits to raising funds during cricket games and broadcasts while also utilizing the group’s digital platforms for fundraising efforts. All funds raised through the campaign will go directly toward UNICEF’s COVID-19 relief efforts in South Asia.

“We appeal to cricket fans around the world to come together to show their support for the work of UNICEF at such a difficult time and donate to such a worthwhile cause,” Acting International Cricket Council CEO Geoff Allardice said in the announcement for the partnership.

These recent efforts mark the latest commitments in a string of coordinated efforts between the ICC and UNICEF. Past campaigns focused on areas such as empowering young women and girls through cricket. During the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, UNICEF’s fundraising efforts garnered $180,000 to finance a girls’ cricket initiative in Afghanistan.

Looking Ahead

As the pandemic continues, support from organizations such a UNICEF and private organizations like the ICC will be critical. Increasing fears are emerging over the potential effects additional waves of the virus would have on children. The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) recently emphasized that COVID-19 holds a lower direct health risk for children, releasing a statement detailing that “almost 90% of infections in children are mild/asymptomatic.”

The IAP also explained that there is no evidence indicating that children will suffer severe cases of COVID-19 in a subsequent wave of the virus. Nevertheless, the IAP stresses the importance of increasing medical capacities for children in the country in order to avoid deaths from preventable or treatable diseases.

UNICEF echoes the need to support childhood healthcare as the pandemic continues. Fundraising support from influential groups like the ICC could go a long way. These partnerships are vital in helping relief organizations provide the resources and assistance necessary to alleviate some of the problems affecting South Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brett Grega
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Women's rights in New ZealandOn September 19, 1893, New Zealand Governor Lord Glasgow signed off on a new Electoral Act, granting women the right to vote. New Zealand ushered in a new phase of the women’s suffrage movement by becoming the first self-governed nation to allow women the right to vote. Women’s rights in New Zealand have always mattered to New Zealanders, a notion that has become more apparent in recent years. Following the 2017 election, women made up 38% of parliament. Women have held positions in high-ranking offices such as prime minister, governor-general and chief justice. A brief overview of New Zealand’s history reveals that the country has progressed at an accelerated pace over the last decade and is continuing in the right direction.

3 Advancements in Women’s Rights in New Zealand

  1. Paid Leave for Miscarriages and Stillbirths. Women’s rights in New Zealand still play a central role in political affairs. In March 2021, New Zealand’s Parliament approved a bill that provides paid leave for women and their partners after miscarriage or stillbirth. A miscarriage is defined as a loss of pregnancy “earlier than 20 weeks of gestation,” whereas stillbirths can occur after such a point. The only other country to provide paid leave for women following a miscarriage is India.
  2. Women in Parliament. The rich diversity within New Zealand’s culture is displayed within its parliament. New Zealand is ranked number five in the world for its representation of women in parliament. The growing number of women in cabinet has further advanced women’s rights in New Zealand. The country also prioritizes women’s rights in legislation. It has also delivered an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially focusing on vulnerable groups such as women. New Zealand’s parliament is making great strides in supporting women.
  3. Equal Pay. New Zealand’s commitment to the advancement of women’s rights continues to serve as an example to other nations. In 2018, New Zealand’s parliament unanimously passed the Equal Pay Amendment Bill that guarantees equal pay for workers, regardless of gender. A similar bill was passed in 1972. However, the most recent bill focuses on pay equity. It guarantees that women in “historically underpaid female-dominated industries” will have the same compensation as men in “different but equal-value work.” The bill also makes it simpler for workers to lodge pay equity claims. It also establishes guidelines for pay comparisons, ensuring any possible gender pay gaps are fair and justified.

The Road Ahead

The country continues enacting policies to advance women’s rights in New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is also offering relief to those hit hardest by COVID-19. Due to Ardern’s exceptional response to the COVID-19 crisis, she was victorious in her re-election campaign. As the country pushes ahead in hopes of eliminating COVID-19 altogether, New Zealand’s government proposed a $2.8 billion income support initiative. The initiative will serve as financial assistance to the country’s most vulnerable group: women.

As history and current policies reveal, New Zealand is making great strides in terms of women’s rights. The country’s commitment to gender equality is reflected in its legislation and its parliamentary representation.

– Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 on Poverty in Honduras
Families in Honduras found strength within community ties and organizations like Humanity and Hope, despite the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Honduras. There have been 249,118 COVID-19 infections in Honduras since the start of the pandemic. In May 2021, Honduras reported the highest peak with an estimated 1,000 infections a day, according to the Reuters COVID-19 tracker.

Prior to the pandemic, 40% of the total population in Honduras did not have employment. COVID-19 affected 250,000 families into food security due to job loss, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

Supporting the Community

Despite the impacts of COVID-19 on poverty in Honduras, family communities within Honduras assisted others by handing them food and toiletries during the hardest times of the pandemic. Organizations like Humanity and Hope also stepped up, serving the communities of La Coroza, La Cuchilla and Remolino to help them become sustainable on their own.

Humanity and Hope, a nonprofit organization located in El Progreso, Honduras, initiated team and volunteer trips after a year of lockdown. Caleb Mejia, director of trips and Honduran volunteers, said people from different parts of the world take these trips and encounter the hardships of communities.

“Humanity and Hope does not want people to come down to Honduras and dig a hole or paint a school, and that’s it,” said Mejia in an interview with The Borgen Project.  “You can see something through television or through your phone, but it will never, ever be the same if you actually experience it.”

Humanity and Hope

Humanity and Hope operates on six different pillars: infrastructure, economy, community, health, education and leadership. According to Mejia, volunteer trips occur once a month with a focus on a pillar.

In July 2020, H&H’s annual health trip served nearly 1,010 people in a week. The annual health trip consisted of a team of 18 staff members, volunteers and assistance from the Honduran Red Cross and dentists.

“Along that week, we ended up doing triage, pharmacy, doctor consultations and hosted experience trips,” said Mejia.

When Hurricane Eta stepped in amidst a pandemic, Honduran communities suffered complete destruction. Despite the devastation and impacts of COVID-19 on poverty in Honduras, communities of Honduran family members, even those outside the U.S., came together to help others.

“I had the means and the people who were willing to help,” said Ashley Carrasco in an interview with The Borgen Project, a resident of California. “I helped because Honduras is my home, the love of my life.”

Ashley Carrasco and Franklin Castillo

In November 2020, Carrasco and her family fundraised an estimate of $4,000 for the communities of San Pedro Sula and Santa Barbara. Carrasco used the means of social media to fundraise on the Venmo app to provide to families affected by the pandemic and hurricane.

Carrasco and her family, located in the United States, shared their fundraiser with every possible follower. She transferred the collected funds to her cousin, Franklin Castillo, located in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to purchase grains, diapers, baby formula, mattresses and toilet paper to distribute to the community.

“I witnessed many people losing their homes due to the hurricane and floods,” said Castillo in an interview with The Borgen Project. “The government’s response was slow like always. I have seen communities do more for each other than the government.”

Castillo raised a total of $9,000 with the help of family members in the U.S. He distributed the toiletries and food supplies estimated to last each family at least two weeks to nearly 300 families within communities that were impacted by COVID-19 and the hurricane.

Castillo continues to give a portion of his business earnings to the community. He said the pandemic is still affecting people as Honduras initiated vaccinations to the elderly, a small percentage of the population. According to Our World in Data, research university of Oxford, only 0.6% of the population has received two doses of the vaccine.

“I saw a positive change in the community,” said Castillo. “People who did not have much were trying to help others. My family and I were able to help, all thanks to God.”

– Diana Vasquez
Photo: Franklin Castillo

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

Morocco's EconomyPreviously, a myriad of tourists had visited Morocco to explore its diverse culture, food, landscapes, history and people. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation has faced a devastating economic crisis. Without its regular influx of tourists or traveling diaspora, Morocco is in the depths of a recession for the first time since 1995. The government is working to ensure that Morocco’s economy can recover from the pandemic.

5 Ways Morocco’s Economy is Recovering

  1. The Mohammed VI Investment Fund: In November 2020, King Mohammed VI established a $1.6 billion economic plan to revive Morocco’s economy due to the economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic brought on. Shortly afterward, the International Finance Corporation, as part of the World Bank Group, officially announced its support for the Moroccan Ministry of Economy and Finance’s efforts to boost the country’s economy.
  2. Moroccan Transportation Companies Decrease Prices: In June 2021, King Mohammed VI announced that all transportation companies must make tickets more affordable for Moroccans living abroad. The announcement targeted airlines such as Royal Air Maroc, which dropped flight ticket prices by more than 50% globally. Within a few days of the announcement, flights were being booked much faster than before. During the first week of discounted airline ticket prices, 195,547 people traveled to Morocco.
  3. Other Discounts for Tourists: Airline discounts are not the only thing Morocco’s economy is relying on to attract travelers. All forms of transportation in Morocco, from car rentals to train and bus tickets, have decreased in price. Additionally, 30% of hotel prices have decreased.
  4. More Visitors: International travel restrictions drastically affected tourism, causing a 78% deficit in the sector’s revenue in the first quarter of 2021. In response, the Moroccan government established a new economic plan that specifically targeted revenue from tourism. Now, tourism is surging more than it ever has since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 12 million tourists visited Morocco, half of whom were Moroccans living abroad. From June to September 2021, Morocco will see 72% of the visitors it saw in the same period in 2019, or around 3.5 million travelers.
  5. Rapid Tourism Sector Rebound: Morocco’s tourism sector suffered a loss of $7.2 billion in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic hit small businesses and tourism hotspots hard, especially during national lockdowns. However, these businesses are benefiting from the country’s new economic plan. Travel reopenings are also catalyzing Morocco’s economic recovery.

Laudable Economic Growth

Despite the effects of COVID-19 on Morocco’s economy, the World Bank ranked it 53rd out of 190 countries for ease of doing business in 2020, reflecting its laudable economic achievements within merely a decade. With King Mohammed VI’s plan in place, the country’s setbacks hardly seem significant. The restoration of Morocco’s economy is underway and the country’s effervescent tourism sector is back on the rise.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr