Hajj Continued Despite COVID-19Mecca, the epicenter and fifth pillar of Islam, has hosted around 2 million Muslims in recent years. However, due to COVID-19, they had to downsize it in 2020. With 1.8 billion Muslims globally, Hajj is compulsory at least once in a lifetime. This year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia limited the annual pilgrimage to Muslim residents residing within the country. An estimated 1,000 Muslims attended in an unprecedented attempt to mitigate crowds and spread of the virus. The allotted amount of pilgrims grew to ensure Hajj continued despite COVID-19.

Umrah Suspended

Umrah is a voluntary pilgrimage that Muslims can take at any point and often lasts only two hours. Millions perform it annually due to its short duration and low cost. It is different from the Hajj, which is longer and compulsory for all Muslims but often limited by physical ability and finances.

In March, Saudi Arabia reported its first confirmed coronavirus infection in the kingdom. A man who traveled to Iran, which at the time was the viral epicenter in the region, returned to Saudi Arabia and was quarantined immediately after diagnosis. The kingdom responded to the increasing rate of infection by suspending Umrah until further notice. As of August, COVID-19 has delayed visits to the holy sites of Medina and Mecca for Umrah regardless of residency, visa or nationality. Furthermore, travelers who possess an Umrah visa will not be allowed entry into Saudi Arabia.

The Hajj Continued Despite COVID-19

As of August 14, Saudi Arabia has had nearly 296,000 COVID-19 cases with an excess of 3,338 victims. As a result, Hajj, the main event of the Islamic faith, will see a dramatic downturn in 2020 — the first in decades. Saudi Arabia has 29 million residents, yet only 1,000 Muslims were initially allowed to attend this year’s pilgrimage due to the pandemic.

Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Benten, Minister of Hajj and Umrah, stated that the 2020 pilgrimage will be exceptional due to the pandemic. However, he assured that the area would implement strict precautionary measures to ensure that pilgrims remained healthy during Hajj. The country also went through an intense selection process with a period of quarantine required upon entering the holy cities. The quarantine was mandatory upon entry and exit. The Hajj continued despite COVID-19, but officials wanted to make it as safe as possible.

The Turnout

The annual pilgrimage officially ended on Sunday, August 2, with a larger turnout than expected. Therefore, Hajj continued despite COVID-19. Authorities allowed 10,000 pilgrims to enforce social distancing among local Saudis and foreigners that attended. Authorities ensured safety by requiring pilgrims to don a face mask and an electronic wristband to track their movements. Following the pilgrimage, health officials administered coronavirus tests, and they required all attendees to quarantine. Additionally, Saudi authorities ordered thorough sanitation of the site to reduce any risk of contagion.

– Michael Santiago
Photo: Needpix

Canada’s Foreign Aid
In 2019, the last year Canada released a complete set on Canada’s foreign aid budget and distribution, its budget increased by 4.9% from the previous year to $4.6 billion. The top five countries that Canada distributed aid to were Ethiopia ($203 million CAD) followed by Bangladesh ($199 million CAD), Afghanistan ($197 million CAD), Syria ($150 million CAD) and Mali ($140 million CAD). Canada has consistently taken part in providing foreign aid during this time period when global health is almost an unavoidable topic and has been one of many countries to step forward to combat the pandemic. Here are five successes of Canada’s foreign aid.

5 Successes of Canada’s Foreign Aid

  1. COVID-19: Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has not only helped fight the virus globally by limiting case counts in its own country, but also by providing funding to vital health organizations and countries. For example, the Canadian government has provided $2 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to assist with vulnerable countries’ preparation plans. Additionally, Canada has further committed $50 million to the WHO, continuing to help with global health efforts surrounding the effects of COVID-19. Canada has also provided China with 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment to help squash the outbreak at the epicenter. Finally, the government is also collaborating with international health regulators like the European Medicines Agency and the United States Food and Drug Administration to find suitable countermeasures to the virus and help vaccine development.
  2. Global Poverty Reduction: Canada’s foreign aid has also gone toward global poverty reduction over the last 30 years. For example, Canada launched the Development Finance Institution as part of Export Development Canada with the aim of increasing private sector investment in developing nations. The government committed $300 million toward this program and the private sector funding will prioritize initiatives in the private sector to back women and youth-led movements. The Canadian government is also trying to create more responsive programs like challenges, micro-funding and other incentive-based funding schemes.
  3. International Disarmament Efforts: Canada also uses its foreign aid in a leadership capacity to guide international disarmament efforts. The country made these strides following the 2001 9/11 attacks that sent shockwaves around the world. For example, Canada was one of the founding members of the G8 Global Partnership Against the spread of weapons and Material of mass Destruction initiative, originally receiving a budget of $20 billion over a 10 year period. Additionally, the former G8 partnership turned G7 led collective has further provided $25 billion in concise and clear programming to aid in disarmament efforts worldwide since the group’s original founding in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Canada has also made a flagship-level contribution with the G7 led Global Partnership program by personally contributing $1.5 billion in projects to aid disarmament methods.
  4. Refugees: Canada is also implementing some of its foreign aid work back home by helping relocate refugees from Iraq and Syria to Canada. In fact, the country welcomed 25,000 refugees by February 2016, along with a further 25,000 refugees by the end of 2016. Canada has also either processed or is still in the midst of processing all the privately sponsored Syrian refugees who applied for amnesty by March 31, 2016.
  5. Sanitation: Canada’s foreign aid has also gone to international clean water measures. Some of Canada’s more notable support projects in developing nations include providing $40 million in funding to the African Water Facility, creating water infrastructure in post-war countries. Canada also gave $17.9 million to Ghana’s Enhanced Wash which allowed communities and schools better water, and the ability to practice better hygiene and further sanitation. Finally, in Peru, Bolivia and Burkina Faso, Canada supplied $17 million to the Food Security Innovation and Mobilization Initiative which allowed communities in these countries to have access to innovative technology. Some of this new technology included water pumps, but altogether the technology aided food security during the dry season.

While Canada has been a major player and helped many nations through foreign aid, Canada is still failing to meet the 0.7% Gross National Income (GNI) target G8 countries committed to by some distance, with only 0.27% GNI committed as of 2019. Canada still has room to improve, not just to alleviate global poverty, but to make good on the promises it made as part of the G8.

Sean Armstrong
Photo: Flickr

The Max FoundationIt is a struggle to deal with a family member having cancer emotionally, physically and financially. The burden of paying for a family member’s hospital bills makes it difficult to pay for other things like food, shelter and clothing. The Max Foundation in Argentina has stepped up to this challenge by helping cancer patients get the treatment that they need.

Poverty Rates

Argentina’s poverty rate was 35.5% at the end of 2019, which shows a steady increase over the past few years. The poverty rate of children younger than 14 is 53%. The statistics have gotten better in the six years prior to 2018, an 18.7% drop in poverty rates. However, COVID-19 has not been kind to Argentina as the country continues to battle its two-year recession.

Disease

In addition to the poverty rate and pandemic, Argentina is not immune to cancer either. Every year more than 110,000 people are diagnosed with some form of cancer in Argentina. Some of the causes of cancer in this country are tobacco and HPV.

Around 22% of the population smokes and children who are between the ages of 13 and 15 are six points higher than that. Out of all the deaths caused by cancer, 26% are caused by tobacco. Argentina does have the resources to enact preventative measures. The country has even enacted breast cancer screening, although most women do not attend regularly. However, more could still be done.

That’s why organizations like the Max Foundation are so important. Poverty is hard enough to try to overcome when one is healthy let alone when having to fight cancer. Cancer patients need organizations like the Max Foundation, so they have one less thing to worry about during the tough fight for their life.

The Max Foundation

The Max Foundation has been around since 1997. The Rivarola family left Argentina to travel to the U.S. to get cancer treatment for their son Max. The organization was founded when he passed away. Other families in Latin America have children with leukemia just like Max, and the Rivarola family wanted to do something for them.

Now, The Max Foundation provides cancer treatments to countries all around the world. The world has seen that viruses like COVID-19 have no borders and neither does cancer. The Max Foundation almost has no borders as well. It has served 73 countries and given over 11 million cancer treatments to people as of the start of 2017.

The Max Foundation works by offering help to patients whose doctors have recommended them. The organization then gets the medicine to them through the partner companies. The medicine is donated by pharmaceutical companies like The Tanner Pharma Group.

Argentina’s poverty rate has not been helped by the recent pandemic. COVID-19 is not diminishing cancer diagnosis either. But there is still hope. The Max Foundation has been helping cancer patients for years and they are a light in the dark for the cancer patients of Argentina as well as many other countries around the world.

Moriah Thomas
Photo: Flickr

Covid-19 in Central America
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have left no region of the world unscathed. Central America and Mexico have certainly felt the wrath of this virus. Recent outbreaks in the region threaten to compound upon other humanitarian struggles. The U.S. has recognized this challenge and taken action to provide aid, despite facing its own issues fighting the coronavirus — the difficulties of COVID-19 in Central America and Mexico are vast.

An Issue in Central America & Mexico Before COVID-19

COVID-19 poses a health and economic challenge to Central America and Mexico. Yet, before the pandemic, the region was already suffering from poverty. As such, the pandemic has hit this area particularly hard. Our World in Data projected that the extreme poverty rate was about 8.12% in Guatemala, 14.24% in Honduras, 2.79% in El Salvador and 1.96% in Mexico in 2019. The full economic impacts of COVID-19 are not yet known.

Apart from facing extreme poverty — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico also suffer from high crime rates. In 2017, Guatemala had an intentional homicide rate of about 26.1 per 100,000, Honduras had 41.7, El Salvador had 61.8 and Mexico had 24.8.

Providing sustainable assistance to Central America is particularly important for the national security in the U.S. As of July 2019, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition explained that there is a correlation between children seeking refuge in the U.S. and murders in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Aid to these three countries could reduce poverty and crime. Consequently, the number of people searching for safety in the U.S. may potentially decrease.

The US Steps Up

The U.S. has committed to providing more than $22 million for Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The aid focuses on key areas of need. For example, the U.S. committed $850,000 in Migration and Refugee Assistance funding in Mexico. This includes funding for the dissemination of hygiene products and assistance creating a remote program to register asylum seekers and hold interviews.

The U.S. also committed to providing almost $6.6 million in aid to El Salvador, more than $8.4 million to Guatemala and more than $5.4 million to Honduras. Notably, these aid packages contain International Disaster Assistance for each country. The assistance also focuses on immediate and long-term health needs.

In recent months, the U.S. has also provided other forms of support to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Notable aid includes investments in critical infrastructures, such as energy programs. This is an important step in reducing poverty in the region. However, continued aid and investment are necessary to fight COVID-19 in Central America, save lives, reduce poverty and protect U.S. national security.

Global Help

This aid is a substantial sum targeted in areas that most need money to help fight COVID-19. However, there is more than the U.S. could do to protect global health. Global health spending has remained mostly constant for the past 10 years. Now, the future of U.S. global health aid is at-risk. The federal government’s spending on global health could reduce to its lowest point in 13 years if the proposed budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year receives approval. This could exacerbate outbreaks of other diseases that the U.S. has historically fought against. Without aid from the U.S., other nations such as China will have to step in as a global leader during this crisis.

Kayleigh Crabb
Photo: Pixabay

Education in Kenya
Kenya has seen great success in combating poverty, with the national poverty rate declining from 46.8% to 36.1% between 2005 and 2016. Over this same period, the economy grew at an average annual rate of 5.3%. An increased focus on education accompanied this economic success. In line with this new focus — changing education in Kenya is now at the forefront of one nonprofit’s agenda.

Educational Improvements and Barriers

Increased education and poverty reduction closely connect in the developing world. Education gives students the skills to seek better-paying jobs and improve their lives. Acknowledging this, the Kenyan government opted to make primary education free in 2003. It followed up by making secondary education free in 2008 as well. Due to these policies, 94% of rural Kenyans younger than age 13 now enroll in school. However, the quality of education these students receive is highly variable. For example, only 47% of primary school graduates can successfully test into secondary school.

Challenges exist because while school is free, poor children often struggle with difficult home environments. They often must support their families at the expense of their education. Additionally, weak oversight and insufficient government support mean that many areas suffer from poor quality education, lacking recourses or qualified teachers.

Flying Kites

Flying Kites is one organization with the aim of changing education in Kenya — specifically, education quality. The organization is a Kenyan nonprofit that runs a program to educate teachers and works with Kenya’s ministry of education. Importantly, it is trying to make education more accessible to poor students. Flying Kites partners with “high potential, resource-poor” schools to invite teachers to attend workshops and sit in on classrooms at the Flying Kites Academy. These teachers go through a program to teach them how to improve their classrooms and provide more support to students.

The Borgen Project recently had the opportunity to talk with Katie Quinn, the Director of Operations in the U.S. for Flying Kites. She explained how Flying Kites originally began in 2007 with a primary school catered toward disadvantaged students in central Kenya. Today, its school has evolved into one of the highest regarded academies in Kenya. Flying Kites is attempting to replicate that success across the country.

So far, Flying Kites has seen great success in improving education in Kenya with its Teacher Training Center. It evaluates the classroom skills of incoming teachers and has found that only 12% of them are proficient in all skills. However, after a year in the program, 67% of teachers achieved classroom proficiency.

According to Quinn, focusing on teachers is the best way to improve the education system.“The delivery of quality education by engaged and supported teachers dramatically improves student outcomes, empowering even the most vulnerable students to become curious and critical thinkers and to develop the skills they need to become life-long learners and positively impact their families and communities.”

Flying Kites’ Approach During COVID-19

COVID-19 has undoubtedly been a disruption to the lives of Fly Kites’ students. However, the organization is working hard to make sure that every student stays on track. It has provided direct relief to more than 6,000 local families. Also, it has been distributing meals to students in need. The organization has also pledged to cover all back-to-school expenses for students at its partner schools. This will include uniforms, school supplies and more. It hopes to guide its students through this difficult time and ensure that none of them give up their education.

Once the pandemic ends, Flying Kites hopes to continue to expand its reach to schools — changing education in Kenya. Quinn explained how the organization is planning to create a “model schools district” by working with all 45 local primary schools as well as the Kenyan government. The aim is to create a better environment for teachers and their students. By doing so, Flying Kites seeks to create a repeatable model for education in Kenya that improves student outcomes and creates better opportunities to escape poverty.

– Jack McMahon
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 and Global Poverty
Since early 2020, the entire globe has been battling the COVID-19 pandemic and attempting to address the outbreak properly. Most of the world’s population is currently under some form of social distancing as a part of a response to the outbreak. From scientific research to increased travel restrictions, almost every country is working on ways to boost the economy while managing the spread of the virus. However, COVID-19 has affected much more than the economy. Here are four ways COVID-19 and global poverty connect:

4 Ways COVID-19 and Global Poverty Connect

  1. The Consumption of Goods and Services: For most developing countries struggling with poverty, much of their economies depend on commodities, such as exports. Food consumption represents the largest portion of household spending, and the increase in food prices and shortages of products affect low-income households. Countries that depend on imported food experience shortages. The increase in food prices could also affect the households’ inability to access other services such as healthcare, a major necessity during this time. These are two significant connections between COVID-19 and global poverty.
  2. Employment and Income: The self-employed or those working for small businesses represent a large portion of the employed in developing countries. Some of these workers depend on imported materials, farming lands or agriculture. This requires harvest workers and access to local farmers’ markets to sell produce. Others work in the fields of tourism and retail. These fields require travelers, tourists and consumers — all of which lessen as COVID-19 restrictions increase. Without this labor income, many of these families (now unemployed) must rely on savings or government payments.
  3. Weak Healthcare Systems: This pandemic poses a major threat to lower-middle-income developing countries. There is a strong correlation between healthcare and economic growth. The better and bigger the economy, the better the healthcare. Healthcare systems in developing countries tend to be weaker due to minimal resources including beds, ventilators, medicine and a below-average economy. Insurance is not always available for low-income families. All of this affects the quality of healthcare that those living within the poverty line receive. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Public Services: Low-income families and poor populations in developing countries depend on public services, such as school and public transportation. Some privatized urban schools, comprised of mainly higher-income families, are switching to online learning. However, many of the public rural schools receiving government funding do not have adequate resources to follow suit. This could increase the rate of drop out. Moreover, it will disproportionately affect poorer families since many consider education an essential incentive for escaping poverty. Aside from school, COVID-19 restrictions could prevent poorer families from accessing public transportation. For developing countries, public transportation could affect the ability of poorer families to access healthcare.

Moving Forward

There are many challenges that families across the globe face as a result of COVID-19. Notably, some organizations have stepped forward to help alleviate circumstances. The World Bank, Care International and the U.N. are among the organizations implementing programs and policies to directly target the four effects of COVID-19 mentioned above.

For example, the World Bank is continuously launching emergency support around the world to address the needs of various countries in response to COVID-19. By offering these financial packages, countries like Ethiopia, which should receive more than $82 million, can obtain essential medical equipment and support for establishing proper healthcare and treatment facilities. These financial packages constitute a total of $160 million over the next 15 months as a part of projects implemented in various countries, such as Mongolia, Kyrgyz Republic, Haiti, Yemen, Afghanistan and India.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

Alleviate Poverty in Syria
Syria has been in a state of civil war for nine years, since March 2011. Dire consequences meet civilians from all sides; from danger and violence if they stay and closed borders due to an overflow of refugees if they try to leave. Due to this humanitarian crisis, poverty has affected more than 83% of the population. In this same vein, 8 million Syrian children are in need —both inside and outside the country. As of April 2020, the WFP reported that the cost of a staple basket of food has risen by 111% in comparison to the previous month, due to Syria’s COVID-19 crisis. With these factors at play, initiatives to alleviate poverty in Syria are a welcome respite.

While it may seem that good news is hard to come by, there are a few initiatives in Syria working against the effects of high poverty rates. They tackle these issues from several angles, such as rewriting stereotypes, entrepreneurial education, resource allocation and community development. Here are four initiatives that are working to alleviate poverty in Syria, today.

4 Initiatives to Alleviate Poverty in Syria

  1. MeWe International and the #MeWeSyria Movement: Rewriting Stereotypes – MeWe International Inc. aims to rewrite the narrative about poverty in Syria and Syrian refugees. By using communication skills and narrative interventions as tools, it encourages and promotes healthy psychological skills, leadership efforts and community engagement. The training networks are hosted within Syrian communities and gear toward refugee youth and caregivers, especially within the facets of mental health. Storytelling is a tool MeWe International uses to help people to heal, grow and dream of a better future within communities in poverty in Syria.
  2. The Remmaz and Mujeeb Programs: Entrepreneurial Education – Programs from 2016 and 2017 are continuing to focus on equipping the younger generations in Syria with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their country and support their communities. Leen Darwish founded Remmaz, which teaches students how to code. “This programme is providing young people in Syria with critical business, leadership and entrepreneurship skills and directly linking them to opportunities to generate income,” says Bruce Campbell, UNFPA Global Coordinator for the Data for Development Platform. Aghyad Al-Kabbani, Eyad Al-Shami and Zeina Khalili co-founded Mujeeb, an AI program that creates customer support chatbots in Arabic. Al-Shami quoted, “On the human side, it’s hard. It’s not about building the next Google. But I want to exist. I want to do something.” Their hard work has led not only to easier online communication for people in Syria but also to a great success story for other young, Syrian entrepreneurs. This is a great example of how to alleviate poverty in Syria from the inside.
  3. United World Food Program Initiatives: Resource Reallocation – The World Food Program USA (WFP) has brought a few innovative solutions to Syria that have improved quality of life and the procurement of resources. Technology has been a valued instrument through NGOs like WFP. Moreover, the extension of aid is very much necessary to alleviate poverty in Syria. To counter the needs of 11.1 million people, iris scans prevent robbery while truck convoys carry supplies to hard-to-reach communities. Furthermore, both bakeries and greenhouses (under construction) increase the flow and availability of food. The WFP feeds more than 4.5 million people inside Syria and more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees every month. By addressing hunger on this scale, the most essential needs of the poor are met. Further, they can slowly grow and rebuild their homes and businesses.
  4. UNDP Leaving No One Behind Resilience Program: Community Development – The 2018 Resilience Program based in Syria focuses on four large-scale areas to alleviate poverty in Syria. The initiative works to promote self-reliance through socioeconomic recovery, improving the quality of basic services. Also, it aims to reinforce social cohesion in the community and strengthen local partnerships. The interventions were able to reach around 2.8 million people and contributed directly to around 111,000. The area-based approach rated certain geographical areas by need and ensured that the most crucial needs were met first. The communities with the highest beneficiaries include Aleppo, Al-Hakaseh, Rural Damascus and Lattakia. One of the projects included the improvement of basic services to crisis-hit areas, and these services included:
    • Solid waste and debris management;
    • Repair of water, sewage and electricity networks;
    • Rehabilitation of local businesses;
    • Supporting clean and renewable energy sources; and
    • Emergency repair of electricity and infrastructure.

Washing Away the Stain of War

Two million Syrians alone have benefited from the improvement of basic services. The remnants of war and violence are being cleaned up and removed. Moreover, the stones in the debris that were removed from Bab Al-Hadid were collected on-site. Notably, these stones will be reused in future rehabilitation projects in the same area.

After nine years of civil war and the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, the contributions of these organizations provide relief to Syrians.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Pxfuel

Diabetes and COVID-19
Africa has a total of 1,067,573 confirmed COVID-19 cases spanning across 47 affected countries. The continent has not seen a dramatic spike like the rest of the world, but COVID-19 poses a serious complication for Africa’s other prevailing pandemic — diabetes. An estimated 19.4 million adults across 48 sub-Saharan countries have diabetes. This far exceeds COVID-19 cases and persists as a problem for Africans in general. South Africa’s dual epidemics of diabetes and COVID-19 may prove to be a challenge for the country. However, the situation is not completely bleak. Effective actions are taking place to help those suffering from both illnesses.

Diabetes and COVID-19

Diabetics who are well-managed are at a lower risk of suffering from the disease COVID-19. In contrast, patients who do not manage well are more likely to experience fluctuations in blood glucose readings and an increased risk of complications related to diabetes. For those with co-morbidities, such as heart disease — the chance of becoming seriously ill if they develop COVID-19 is much higher. As with most viral infections, the body has a difficult time staving off infections. These infections can cause internal swelling or inflammation, which can exacerbate further complications.

Type 1 diabetics contracting a viral infection are at a higher risk for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can cause septic shock or sepsis in  COVID-19 patients. Moreover, those with type 2 diabetes share this increased risk of getting severely ill.

Impact on South Africa

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, diabetes ranked among the world’s leading causes of death. In South Africa, the number of diabetics is still unknown, as an “accurate current date on the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa is quite difficult to find as there are no recent robust studies in all provinces in South Africa.”

Since July 16, 2020, approximately 42% of diabetic patients with COVID-19 have died from the virus. While this data does not indicate that diabetes creates a higher risk of contracting the illness, it does demonstrate that a higher risk of becoming severely ill upon infection. In the Western Cape, 52% of COVID-19 deaths were diabetics. Those with inadequate blood glucose control had an increased chance of infection.

One apparent reason that many diabetics in South Africa have succumbed to the virus is due to patients delaying hospital care until becoming seriously ill.

Diabetes Action Plan

The Western Cape has taken significant measures to create more promising outcomes for people living with diabetes. The Department of Health, for instance, has committed to contacting all known diabetics and assisting with COVID-19 symptom monitoring, diabetes management and early admission into hospitals.

This intervention has proven successful. As department spokesman Mark Van der Heever stated, “out of the 63 [patients receiving government intervention], three of the admitted patients have died, 40 of the admitted patients have been discharged and the remaining 20 patients are not in clinical distress.”

Diabetes Focus

Sweet Life, is an NGO at the forefront of the diabetes epidemic in South Africa. Notably, it has amassed a following of 22,000 members in its Facebook Community. The organization aims to deliver information and guidance to those living with diabetes in South Africa. Also, it has created a partnership with the National Department of Health (NDoH) to achieve this goal.

Sweet Life works with the Diabetes Alliance to deliver training and education to those in need. The Diabetes Alliance was formed in September 2019. It has been instrumental in unifying companies, organizations and associations in the fight for effective diabetes management. The Alliance has partnered with the NDoH to create an education project to help healthcare providers and patients learn more about diabetes. Moreover, these initiatives have compiled helpful tips and information for those impacted by diabetes and COVID-19.

Prevention is Key

Diabetics living in South Africa can remain healthy during the pandemic by ensuring their conditions are properly managed and monitored. Maintaining notes of blood glucose readings, regular exercise and healthy diets should be sufficient to stave off serious complications.

South Africa’s dual epidemics of diabetes and COVID-19 have undoubtedly taken a toll on the nation. However, with effective intervention programs from organizations like the Department of Health, there is hope that the country will continue to see improvement among diabetic patients.

Michael Santiago
Photo: Flikr

Action in Lebanon
When people think of poverty in the Middle East, they may not always picture Lebanon. The country Lebanon is a small yet very ethnically diverse nation in the Middle East. Sunni and Shia Muslims, Maronite Christians and other groups populate it. Ethnic divisions and sectarian power struggles led to a civil war that lasted 15 years. While the war was ultimately ended and a new republic formed, divisions remain. Now, positive action in Lebanon is essential for the nation, region and the global community’s well-being.

Lebanon in the 21st Century

Political divisions deepened when on Feb. 14, 2005, Lebanon’s former Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri, died in a car bombing assassination. Two movements formed in the wake of this tragedy. One was the March 8th Alliance, led by current President Michel Aoun and supported by Hezbollah. The other was the March 14th Alliance led by Rafic’s son Saad Hariri. Each side receives backing from different, foreign nations. Moreover, the current political struggle reflects a greater proxy conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

A new government formed in 2016 and power has since been shared between the factions of Hariri and Aoun. While this has led to a more peaceful nation, it has also caused political paralysis — choking the economy. The government has also been plagued with corruption. In this same vein, protests in 2019 led to the resignation of Saad Hariri as prime minister and the formation of an anti-corruption panel.

Despite this, the country continues to suffer from a government stagnated by political divisions and corruption. Despite Lebanon’s status as one of the Middle East’s wealthier countries, its people do not benefit from that wealth. Almost 50% of the country’s population now lives below the poverty line. Furthermore, with the spread of COVID-19, the country’s economic crisis will only worsen.

Why People Should Act

A recent explosion in Beirut (Lebanon’s capital) is just the latest crisis in a country beset with political and economic strife. Many countries in Europe have already pledged aid to the people of Lebanon. It is imperative that the U.S. also take action in Lebanon. Not only does the U.S. have an obligation to help people in need, but also keeping Lebanon from further destabilizing will be essential in ensuring a more peaceful Middle East. If Lebanon’s government collapses, then the country could have a repeat of the civil war with different militant groups emerging and vying for control. Poverty would increase, many Syrian and Palestinian refugees in the country would become displaced. Tragically, more deaths would result from sectarian violence.

However, if the U.S. takes action in Lebanon, the U.S. itself benefits as well. By helping Syrian refugees in the country, Americans would be able to prevent the influx of refugees in the U.S. Lebanon is also a strong importer of U.S. goods. Rescuing its economy from collapse would advance U.S. trade policy and generate more prosperity for both nations.

Who is Helping?

There are currently many groups helping by taking action in Lebanon, right now. One such group is the nongovernmental organization, Humanity and Inclusion. It has been working to better the lives of people all over the world with disabilities as well as economic vulnerabilities. When it began in 1982, its goal was victim assistance, but it has also become responsible for preventing injuries through weapon and landmine clearance, risk education activities and much more. Since 1992, it has been working in Lebanon, engaging in helpful practices such as post-surgical physical therapy and psychological first aid. Its work is very impactful, lasting throughout the decades. In 1997, it received the Nobel Peace Prize for its work to ban landmines. In 2019, it reached more than 2 million people in 63 different countries.

Other great ways to get involved include staying informed and educating others about Lebanon. It is never too late to make a difference.

Isaac Boorstin
Photo: USAID

mental health in haitiLocated on the island of Hispaniola is the Caribbean nation of Haiti. The country gained independence in 1804, becoming the first country led by formerly enslaved peoples. A long history of political instability and corruption accompanied by catastrophic natural disasters has devastated Haiti’s population and economy. Additionally, a lack of infrastructure and access to basic resources ranks Haiti as one of the world’s least developed countries. This has created a crisis for mental health in Haiti, which has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Humanitarian Crisis in Haiti

Haiti is now home to over 11.4 million people, and nearly 60% of the population lives below the poverty line. Income inequality and unemployment rates are high, while the country does not meet its citizens’ basic needs. In fact, nearly 90% of people in rural areas lack access to electricity and plumbing.

Several natural disasters have also damaged Haiti in the past decade. The 7.0-magnitude earthquake of January 2010 devastated the nation’s capital city of Port-au-Prince. Indeed, the earthquake was one of the worst natural disasters to strike an urban area. An estimated 250,000 people died, while 300,000 people got injured and over 5 million became displaced. Six years later, Hurricane Matthew wiped out trade roads and coastal infrastructure. Conversely, lengthy periods of drought have paralyzed local agricultural markets. This has resulted in the inflation of even the most basic foods and necessities.

Though Haiti has focused on efforts to recover from natural disasters, longstanding economic and sociopolitical crises remain. One often overlooked problem lies in how these humanitarian crises affect mental health in Haiti.

Mental Health in Haiti: Existing Services

The ongoing humanitarian crises in Haiti create an extraordinary psychological toll on people. In particular, poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage increase the crisis of mental health in Haiti. Following the earthquake, 25% of the population reported experiencing PTSD. Additionally, 50% experienced a major depressive disorder. Disasters have also caused many Haitians to experience trauma and the loss of loved ones and livelihoods.

Despite these negative psychological outcomes, mental health in Haiti remains neglected. This is largely due to the majority of Haitians attributing mental health problems to supernatural forces. Specifically, many Haitians rely on inner religious and spiritual strength to overcome mental health issues. This culturally important Haitian belief, in tandem with the country’s inadequate mental healthcare services, leaves vast numbers of the population neglected.

Many people in Haiti simply go without mental healthcare. For a nation of around 11 million people, Haiti has a mere 23 psychiatrists and 124 psychologists. Haiti’s investment in healthcare services has even declined from 16.6% to 4.4% since 2017. Additionally, even if Haitians could find mental health services, they may not be able to afford or access them. Available services are often costly and inaccessible for those who do seek care.

The Implications of COVID-19

During the pandemic, Haiti has seen a rise in the cost of mental health services and medication. The country’s two running psychiatric hospitals have stopped accepting patients. Other hospitals, many now at full capacity due to the pandemic, have become testing facilities for COVID-19.

The pandemic has further exacerbated mental health in Haiti. General anxiety and concerns relating to the coronavirus and its effects have skyrocketed. Additionally, quarantine mandates have increased rates of domestic violence and abuse. Fatigued health professionals and medical staff also suffer from increased rates of depression. In short, medical professionals as well as the general population are experiencing the devastating mental impacts of COVID-19.

Moving Forward

Humanitarian crises and the coronavirus pandemic persist in the small island nation of Haiti. The aftermath of natural disasters, trauma and continuing political and economic instability lead to a crisis of mental health in Haiti. The country needs attention to the mental health needs of its citizens, in the midst of current and past crises.

Thankfully, nonprofit organizations like Partners in Health are striving to improve mental health in Haiti. Based out of Boston, Partners in Health is dedicated to establishing long-term relationships with organizations in the world’s poorest developing countries. Through its partnerships with local governments and other organizations in Haiti, Partners in Health has helped to innovate mental healthcare delivery models that integrate cultural beliefs about health and current biopsychosocial knowledge. Mobile health clinics also help ensure ensure that patients living in even the most remote regions of Haiti have access to necessary mental health services.

In the years to come, continued funding and support of programs like Partners in Health and its partnership organizations will be vital to improving the mental health and overall well-being of Haitians. Only then can the country truly overcome its current crises and past history.

Alana Castle
Photo: Flickr