Combating Intensified Hunger in ZimbabweSince the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Zimbabwe has faced crippling issues of hunger, starvation and high malnutrition rates. The World Food Programme (WFP) recorded in December 2019 that 7.7 million people living within Zimbabwe were food insecure. Moreover, Global Citizen reported that approximately 90% of children between the ages of 6 months and 2-years-old may die without food aid. Here is some information about intensified hunger in Zimbabwe.

COVID-19 is Intensifying Hunger

The population of people lacking sustenance in Zimbabwe–half of its total population–has only grown since the conception of COVID-19. There has been an increase of nearly 10 million people surviving on less than one meal a day since COVID-19.

Reginald Moyo, a resident of Cowdray Park, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe told The Borgen Project that the “majority of the people don’t have permanent jobs and they [live] by hand to mouth, so [with] a month without working[,]…they are now facing starvation.” Many people are working to address this growing crisis. The people of Zimbabwe, international organizations and the Chinese government have provided aid to Zimbabweans in need.

Efforts from International Organizations

On May 4, 2020, the U.N. entities of Zimbabwe, working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), released an official food analysis report in response to the growing hunger in Zimbabwe. The report stated that “The total funding required to assist the 3.7 million people by the international humanitarian community for July 2019 to April 2020 amounts to USD 331.5 million.” The effects of COVID-19 have intensified hunger in Zimbabwe and increased the need for assistance. The Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) requested an additional 6.7 billion USD to combat hunger in order to protect lives.

However, aid is not only monetarily based. In 2002, the nonprofit group Action Against Hunger set a goal to provide food aid, healthcare, sanitation/hygiene needs and water to countless Zimbabweans in need. It estimated in 2018 that its efforts aided 25 Zimbabweans through nutrition and health programs; gave 52 people water, food and healthcare; and dispensed 3,187 people with food. Action Against Hunger not only gave the required resources for survival but also provided education on how local Zimbabwe efforts could improve hunger in their country.

Response from Zimbabwe’s Government

On March 30, 2020, President Mnangagwa reopened the markets to aid small-scale farmers and traders in the difficulties they faced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this may seem to not directly address hunger in Zimbabwe, the decision has determined their survival in the upcoming months. Prior to this change, farmers and traders could not go outside or attend to their crop which limited their income as well as their food supply.

The Borgen Project interviewed Nkocy Thando, a farmer living in rural areas within the Bulawayo area of Zimbabwe. Thando stated that since the markets have opened up again, locals have been able to “work when they open in the morning to three [in] the afternoon.” He expressed his immense gratitude for this change and stated that he felt that “all would be okay soon.”

Aid from China

The Chinese Embassy and the private sector are also combating hunger in Zimbabwe by addressing COVID-19 needs. RFI, a worldwide French news and current affairs broadcast reported that China’s efforts have included:

  1. Completing an upgrade worth $500,000 to the Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital, which is the main COVID-19 center in Harare, Zimbabwe.
  2. Two Chinese firms providing 1,000 goggles, 50,000 masks and 510 protective suits to a charity that the First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa, runs.
  3. The Chinese Embassy equipping Zimbabwe with 7,600 suits for protection, 166,000 masks, 20,000 testing kits, 12,000 pairs of gloves and five ventilators.
  4. The China International Development Cooperation Agency donating $3 million to UNICEF Zimbabwe.

Diverse Responses

There are many organizations working to address the existing and intensifying issues of hunger, starvation and high malnutrition rates in Zimbabwe. However, their solutions range from governmental mandates reopening markets to increased funding for poverty-reduction organizations in the United Nations (UN). While the current responses to hunger in Zimbabwe seem mainly focused on COVID-19 efforts, they still are making a difference in combating intensified hunger in Zimbabwe.

– Alexis LeBaron
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Indonesia
Since the devastating impact of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis (AFC), Indonesia has shown profound economic growth. Since 1998, it has boasted a greater than 5% compound annual GDP growth rate, ahead of the global average of below 3%. Indonesia now ranks as the 16th largest economy in the world, up from 36th in 1998. Concomitant with this economic improvement has been a noticeable reduction in poverty in the country. Most recently, poverty in the country is below 5% of the population versus 67% 30 years ago. By comparison, approximately 10% of the global population lives below the international poverty line. Yet despite this promising data, poverty in Indonesia remains a major issue. Here are six facts about poverty in Indonesia.

6 Facts About Poverty in Indonesia

  1. The rate of poverty reduction is slowing, but poverty is low. Indonesia’s efforts to grow its economy showed great results in the years immediately following the AFC. Rapid industrialization, increased global integration and a focus on domestic infrastructure all helped in this regard. This resulted in relatively dramatic improvements in poverty. After an eight-year period of decline, however, the rate of reduction has slowed to 9% in recent years. Despite a slowing in the rate of reduction, the percentage of the Indonesian population living in poverty is at the lowest level since 1984 (4.6%).
  2. CARE, an international humanitarian agency, has been working to assist Indonesia’s poor particularly during emergencies. Indonesia is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, so CARE has worked to provide Indonesians with food, shelter, water and medical supplies. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, CARE aided 350,000 Indonesians and helped them rebuild their communities. Non-governmental organizations like CARE are key to assisting the government in protecting Indonesia’s poor after frequent disasters and emergencies.
  3. Income disparity is growing. Indonesia’s economic growth has flowed disproportionately to the wealthy. The country’s Gini coefficient, a measure of a country’s income disparity, has increased from 28.5 in 2000 to 38.1 in 2017 (lower is better). Oxfam reported that in 2014, the richest 1% of Indonesians owned 50% of the nation’s wealth. Not surprisingly, Indonesia’s rural inhabitants are worse off than their urban counterparts, with about 1.5 times more incidences of poverty on an absolute basis. One can also see this in the geographic distribution of poverty. Eastern Indonesia, the more rural part of the country, fares worse. President Joko Widodo has noted that improving income inequality is one of his top priorities. He has taken some steps to decrease income disparity, including providing direct cash transfers through its Program Keluarga Harapan, creating more social assistance programs, investing in infrastructure and creating health and education protections.
  4. The near-poor are a significant group in Indonesia. While Indonesia’s reduction in poverty is impressive when including those who are near-poor, the results are not as positive. Many in Indonesia live precariously close to the poverty line and are at risk of falling back into poverty. The Asian Development Bank highlights that over half of the poor in Indonesia were not poor the year before. Furthermore, a quarter of Indonesians will suffer from poverty at least once every three years. Even though only 5% of Indonesians live below the poverty line today, as many as 25% live just above it.
  5. Indonesia must watch inflation. Since 2016, inflation in Indonesia has been below 4%. The government and the Bank of Indonesia established the range of 3% to 4%. However, with so many living at or close to poverty, changes in prices can have deleterious impacts, disproportionately so on the poor. Statistics Indonesia notes that food represents a 43% weight in Indonesia’s CPI basket, putting a degree of focus on food prices, especially given their historical volatility. The Indonesian government has focused in this area, recognizing that stable rice prices are essential for steady economic prosperity. Nevertheless, food prices remain exposed to exogenous shocks.
  6. COVID-19 is having a huge impact. The Indonesian government did not impose restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic until April 10, 2020, almost six weeks after the identification of the first case in West Java. Unfortunately, the economic fallout from COVID-19 will have material effects on Indonesia’s poor and near-poor, underlining the fragility of the last 30 years of Indonesia’s efforts. In mid-April, 2020, Indonesia’s finance minister predicted that Q2 GDP growth could fall to about 1%, after the weakest rate of growth in nearly 20 years in Q1. COVID-19 cases surged rapidly after President Widodo hesitated to implement a nationwide lockdown. In response, he declared a national health emergency and worked to increase the number of test kits, personal protective equipment and ventilators available in the country. Additionally, he passed a stimulus package worth $8 billion to stimulate the economy, with $324 million going towards helping low-income households.

These six facts about poverty in Indonesia have shown that Indonesia’s government has put much effort into improving the conditions for its poor. Against a backdrop of economic growth, President Widodo increased spending on social assistance, health, education and infrastructure. Additionally, CARE’s continual aid has substantially reduced poverty in Indonesia since the AFC.  However, with so many near the poverty line, those results are fragile. With the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, much of that work could become obsolete.

– Harry Yeung
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Argentina
As governments all over the world scramble to contain the spread of COVID-19, Argentina’s response has been especially quick and comprehensive. The South American country confirmed its first case on March 3, 2020. Since then, the government has adopted a response plan consisting of strict shelter-in-place orders and travel bans, as well as extensive economic relief. These policies have allowed the administration, led by President Alberto Fernández, to limit both the medical and economic consequences of the pandemic. To date, over 6,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Argentina and over 300 deaths have occurred. These numbers are better than those of comparable countries that had slower or less extensive responses to the virus.

Shelter-in-Place Policy

The Argentine government’s country-wide shelter-in-place policy went into effect 17 days after its first confirmed case. Citizens can only travel to their nearest supermarket or other essential business and otherwise have to stay home. The police are strictly enforcing this national shutdown of non-essential activity. The government emphasizes that social distancing is the most effective way to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Argentina, as the country does not have the resources to do universal testing. Violators of the shelter-in-place order can face jail time. The police began making arrests on the first day the policy officially went into effect.

Argentina has also enacted a travel ban that is among the strictest in the world. The country’s borders have closed to all inbound and outbound travel since March 2020. In late April 2020, the government adopted a policy banning all airline travel into, out of and within the country until the beginning of September 2020. Several South American countries have instituted similar flight bans, but Argentina’s ban will last longer than any of the others. The intention of these policies is to halt the potential spread of COVID-19 in Argentina by limiting people’s travel capabilities. However, many expect that the flight ban will be a significant burden on Argentinian airlines and airports.

Economic Relief

Before the pandemic, the economy of Argentina was in a recession; approximately 40% of people were living below the poverty line. The current administration inherited over $300 billion in debt when it came to power in 2019. To relieve the huge economic pressure that COVID-19 in Argentina caused, and to prevent the country’s economy from falling deeper into recession, the government has instituted multiple economic relief programs. The President issued an emergency decree banning all worker layoffs for two months. This measure should protect Argentina from the huge spikes in unemployment that other countries are experiencing due to the economic slowdown. The expectation is that business leaders will take a financial hit instead of laying off more financially vulnerable workers.

The government has also begun several social welfare programs. The President issued an executive order so that companies do not cut essential services, such as electricity, water and cable television, for retirees or poor households due to lack of payment. Another executive order provides a 10,000 peso emergency family income for domestic and low-income workers. Initially, many citizens had to wait in lines for up to 12 hours to collect their payments. The government has since expedited this process by keeping bank branches open on weekends. In addition, the administration has suspended all evictions and rent hikes until the beginning of September 2020. These policies should ensure that the most vulnerable members of society can maintain their basic necessities as the economy struggles through the pandemic.

While all citizens are enduring the huge impact of COVID-19 in Argentina, these policies have helped move the country closer to being able to return to its normal way of life. Banning international travel and enforcing social distancing are both important methods for minimizing the spread of the virus. Broad economic relief programs have helped limit the damage to an economy that was already struggling. It is impossible to know how long this pandemic will last, so Argentina’s government has been quick and cautious with the policies it has instituted.

Gabriel Guerin
Photo: Wikimedia

COVID-19 in Egypt
Egypt’s rich history and fantastic architecture, such as the Pyramids of Giza and other attractions, often convince travelers across the globe to visit. However, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has caused tourism, a beneficial economic endeavor in Egypt, to reduce. Those in government positions are working quickly to try and appease the challenges that COVID-19 has caused in Egypt. Here is some information regarding the economic impact of COVID-19 in Egypt and possible solutions to ease the hardships that the population is facing daily.

Tourism

The Egyptian economy heavily relies on tourists between January and March before the summer. The climate temperatures during those months favor travelers who do not wish to encounter the intense heat while exploring the area. This industry makes up 12% of Egypt’s workforce. COVID-19 in Egypt is complicating revenue that tourism generates for Egypt’s economy because of the travel restrictions it caused. In fact, projections have determined that Egypt’s GDP could reduce between 0.7% and 0.8% due to COVID-19 measures such as travel restrictions. The loss of visiting tourists could make up two-thirds of this GDP reduction.

Children

Egypt lies within the North African region’s borders. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says the area contains nearly 25 million children in need, including refugees and internally displaced children. Estimates claim that this area could lose 1.7 million jobs in 2020 because of the virus in the region. Increases in poverty may occur with an additional 8 million, about half being children.

UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa asked governmental and nongovernmental partners for $93 million in support to help children in the region. Additionally, UNICEF has included Egypt on the list of countries with potentially vulnerable populations due to limited access to nutritional food because of COVID-19. UNICEF’s Regional Nutrition Team will send follow up calls to Egypt to aid those with limited access to food.

Confirmed Cases

As of May 21, 2020, the worldwide cases of COVID-19 reached around 5 million. In Egypt, there are 14,229 COVID-19 cases and there have been 680 deaths. The nation implemented several restrictions to help curb the spread of the virus. For example, the Egyptian government has only allowed essential businesses to remain open following strict guidelines.

Curfew

On March 25, 2020, one of the government’s most restrictive orders included implementing a curfew to combat the virus spread. Enforcement of the curfew remains effective from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Shops that the government has allowed to stay open can operate until 5:00 p.m. During these hours, all forms of transportation are not available to provide service. Violators of the order could receive fines or possible imprisonment. Additionally, the Government of Egypt extended the suspension of incoming commercial passenger flights into Egypt for two weeks beyond March 31, 2020.

One Step at a Time

Egypt is continuing to try to flatten the curve of COVID-19 through the implementation of strict guidelines. Moreover, UNICEF is providing aid to Egypt’s vulnerable people. The nation is diligently working to combat the virus with hopes of having people visit again and see what Egypt’s culture has to offer to the world.

– Donovan Baxter
Photo: Flickr

7 Measures to Tackle COVID-19 in Qatar
Qatar is one of the biggest oil sectors in the Middle East. It has also been the site of a diplomatic crisis after its highly-publicized split from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). COVID-19 in Qatar has spawned a decline in oil prices and in addition, the government has been cracking down on the rights of migrant workers by utilizing digital technology to monitor the spread of the disease. Here are seven facts about COVID-19 in Qatar.

7 Facts About COVID-19 in Qatar

  1. In late March 2020, the government put several square kilometers of industrial zones in Doha, the nation’s capital, on lockdown. The lockdown shut down labor in warehouses, car services and small shops, negatively impacting migrant workers who work in these sectors. In addition, Amnesty International has reported that Qatari authorities are illegally detaining migrant workers and sending them back to their native countries.
  2. Qatar has increased the number of COVID-19 tests by using a drive-through procedure that The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) developed. While thousands underwent testing and quarantine mid-March in Doha’s Industrial Area, increased testing is now available for volunteers.
  3. As of May 7, 2020, Qatar recorded 12 deaths, 18,890 infections and 2,286 recoveries in a population of 2.8 million. These infection rates surpass that of many other countries. Many migrant workers and poorer families make up the newer cases. They often live in small dormitories with up to 12 people sharing bunk beds, making social distancing a challenge. However, the death rate remains low despite higher rates of infection. This may be due to a mostly young population and the stringent lockdowns that the government enforced.
  4. The Gulf economy relies heavily on oil trade and production. Qatar accounts for 12% of the world’s natural gas and petroleum resources. The value of these resources has dropped drastically since the outbreak of the virus. The ruler of Qatar has now postponed up to $8.2 billion on capital expenditure projects.
  5. A law surrounding domestic work in Qatar stipulates that domestic workers can only take time off if their employers grant it. Domestic workers do not have protection under labor laws like factory workers and other jobs. They cannot intersperse rest breaks into their working hours but must work the same amount of shifts. This furthers the risk of contracting the virus. Domestic workers, primarily women, face especially dire consequences. The families that many of these workers serve sometimes also abuse them, causing rising rates of domestic violence. Domestic workers either risk suffering abuse in these houses or contracting the virus.
  6. Qatar Charity launched an online fundraiser in partnership with the Qatari youth initiative, Lakm Al-Ajr, which translates to “Pays for Pay.” The youth initiative distributes 800 breakfast meals every day throughout the holy month of Ramadan. As a result, it has been able to feed 4,000 industrial migrant workers in Doha per day.
  7. The government increased its use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in order to combat the spread of the pandemic. The technology helps to monitor the spread by closely tracking people who tested positive for the virus via speed cameras, drones and location-based tracking. This limits more exposure in the general population.

Qatar is one of the Gulf Nations that has split from the GCC, creating political disruption. In addition, its migrant workers are still in need of basic necessities like food and medical supplies. The presence of COVID-19 in Qatar puts even more strain on the country and international partners that rely on oil. Qatar Charity has implemented several programs in partnership with other organizations to fund COVID-19 relief and is taking donations for further medical help and assistance in Qatar.

– Isabel Corp
Photo: Good Free Photos

COVID-19 in Romania
Romania, like the rest of the world, is currently dealing with the global outbreak of the virus, COVID-19. The pandemic has affected health services and the economy, disproportionately affecting the poor populations of Romania. In response to the growing pandemic, the government issued ordinances to prevent the spread of the virus. Here are some facts about how Romania is responding to COVID-19.

8 Facts About COVID-19 in Romania

  1. Romania issued strict stay-at-home orders. Romania’s government responded quickly to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Romanian government issued an ordinance on March 22, 2020 that requires people to stay at home. They can, however, leave home for essential goods or health care. The Romanian government also established a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. These ordinances also closed retail stores and prohibited large gatherings. These orders are all part of Romania’s plan to limit person to person contact during the pandemic.
  2. Romania enforced travel restrictions for the elderly. The Romanian government also issued another ordinance on March 29, 2020, specifically allowing for those 65 years and older to leave their homes for medical reasons only. It also placed restrictions on certain times of the day.  The Romanian government recognizes that this elderly age group needs medical care. The elderly are also a vulnerable age group and need to take further precautions when traveling outside their homes.
  3. Romania has provided hotel rooms for health care workers. The Romanian government secured hotel rooms for public health care workers.  Public health care workers have an increased risk of spreading COVID-19 to family members in their home. The hotel rooms will help these health care workers protect their families. Health care workers can use these rooms in between calls and shifts.
  4. Utility bills cannot increase. The Romanian government is also ensuring that citizens’ utility bills do not increase due to economic hardships. Given the stay-at-home orders, utility bills could increase due to the increased use of electricity, heat and gas in their homes. However, the Romanian government is trying to prevent economic hardships by prohibiting the increase of utility bills.
  5. Less than 6% of COVID-19 patients have died. Romania has reported 1,137 deaths out of more than 17,191 COVID-19 cases as of May 19, 2020. Given that some countries have a COVID-19 death rate of 20%, Romania is providing excellent treatment and care for COVID-19 patients.
  6. Romania has plenty of room for new COVID-19 patients. The Romanian health care system has more than enough beds, currently over 29,000 available, for new COVID-19 patients. Having all the necessary resources is critical during a pandemic. These resources are necessary to treat COVID-19 symptoms and keep death rates down. Romanian health care facilities are currently only using about 750 beds. Romania has more than enough space for new COVID-19 patients.
  7. COVID-19 has adversely affected poor Roma families. According to UNICEF, the virus significantly impacts low-income families. This is true, especially for one of Romania’s largest minority groups, the Romas. The effects of the virus have created financial problems for many in the Roma community, who are day laborers. The virus also exacerbates many of the difficulties low-income families face, including health care services, access to education and decreased job opportunities.
  8. Romania established a free health advice hotline. In response to the COVID-19 virus, Romania established a hotline that provides free public health advice. The hotline provides a valid health information source for people who may not have access to the news via the internet or television. Romanians can call the hotline to receive information about COVID-19 tests, mask use and general health information regarding COVID-19.

The Romanian hotline is going to help lower-income communities in Romania, like the Romas. These communities do not have access to medical services or technology, like televisions and computers to receive health care information during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Romanian ordinances, along with the hotline, protect the Romanian people not only from the virus but also the economic issues surrounding a pandemic.

– Kaitlyn Gilbert
Photo: Flickr

covid-19 in Algeria
Algeria, a North African country bordering Morocco and Mali, has faced new obstacles from the rapid spread of COVID-19. With one of the highest infected rates in Africa with more than 5,000 cases confirmed, authorities have advised citizens to limit their social interactions. Under these unprecedented times, there are several efforts to combat the spread and promote the well-being of Algeria’s citizens.

The Problem

As stated above, Algeria is facing hardships due to the increased death toll that COVID-19 has left behind. In response, the government has implemented a conditional lockdown where it has modified curfew in order to halt the spread of the virus. However, many have met the increased safety measures with concerns. Because an increasing number of individuals of Arabic descent dominate Algeria, conflicts have arisen in regard to Ramadan, a period of fasting.

One of Algeria’s most prominent politicians, Noureddine Boukrouh, has called for canceling fasting as it “poses a health risk and contributes to the outbreak of COVID-19.” People have met his statements with controversy, yet the country has made no formal precautions.

Algeria is beginning to impose restrictions on sanctuaries as well. For example, authorities have begun closing Mosques, leading followers of Islamic traditions to face difficulty balancing the risk of COVID-19 infections against the weight of religious traditions.

Amidst the controversies, the Algerian government is also having trouble aiding its citizens. With Algeria’s economy being heavily dependent on oil, the sudden price reductions from COVID-19 have hurt the nation. Algeria is now under a reduced budget, meaning that it cannot prioritize its citizens.

As a result, citizens of Algeria have seen food shortages as well as a lack of medical equipment. From Algeria’s budgeting issues, individuals who have the virus are also having trouble in hospitals due to inadequate conditions.

Road to Change

Despite the increased death toll and speculations surrounding the Algerian government, the conditional lockdown has seen positive results. By limiting social interactions, the nation has seen more than 2,000 individuals recovering, leading Algeria’s citizens to become more optimistic about the future.

In addition to the efforts combatting COVID-19, Algeria has received great aid from countries and organizations. Most notably, Chief Mark Lowcock, the U.N. Humanitarian Chief, donated $15 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund.

Another notable contribution was from China; it sent a 13-member Chinese medical team and equipment, worth around $450,000. This team is distributing masks and protective clothing all across Algeria so that citizens could protect themselves better.

Before these contributions, Algeria suffered a shortage of equipment and staffing. Patients in hospitals could not receive treatment effectively and the general public lacked access to goods to protect themselves. Without this aid, Algeria would have seen a dramatic increase in deaths due to its lack of technology and manpower for COVID-19.

To further accelerate this growth, protests by the Hirak that began in late March 2020 are ongoing. The protests have been an attempt to motivate the government to focus on improving conditions. The Hirak is a group of Algerian citizens who have the goal of bringing change to the government’s acts of ignoring the public. Along with the aid from large organizations and countries such as UNICEF and China, the wide distribution of hand sanitization stations and testing kits are continuing.

Volunteer Help

Volunteer doctors have also taken the stage in Algeria. Large teams have established COVID-19 hotlines, and shortly after establishment, they have reached more than 46,000 people. These hotlines provide verbal assistance to patients as well as education to citizens regarding the harsh effects of COVID-19. Algerians battling the virus utilize these hotlines to immediately get aid from doctors.

In addition, volunteers have made strides to assist the majority of the provinces in Algeria; more than 48 have an infectious disease center. Through these newly established centers, volunteers have been able to reach out to thousands of Algerians while pairing patients with doctors.

The Future

Algeria is currently on the road towards improvement. By increasing the number of testing kits, medical equipment and volunteers, the number of recovered patients has grown tremendously.

However, it is evident that Algeria’s government must take the initiative to aid citizens in need. Through fostering the abilities of volunteers and continuing to improve the qualities in hospitals, Algeria has the potential to fully combat COVID-19 while looking out for the well-being of its citizens.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: Pixabay

COVID-19 in Colombia
Officials have reported 16,295 cases of COVID-19 in Colombia and 592 deaths as of May 19, 2020. In an effort to contain the virus, the government has closed all international travel. It has also recently extended its nationwide stay-at-home order through May 25. Testing is available at the Colombian National Institute of Health facilities.

Most public locations remain closed. Individuals over the age of 70 will need to self-isolate until at least the end of May 2020. Municipal authorities allow one hour per day of exercise, at prescribed times, for individuals ages 18 to 60. Though the virus poses a nationwide public health threat, here are three particularly at-risk groups in Colombia.

COVID-19 in Colombia: 3 At-Risk Groups

  1. Indigenous Peoples: With historically limited access to food, shelter and health care, indigenous communities on the outskirts of cities and towns remain unprepared for the pandemic. A scarcity of clean water and hygiene products has left many without the means to maintain personal cleanliness and prevent infection. In addition, some of these semi-nomadic groups are now at risk of starvation. Due to quarantine restrictions, indigenous communities cannot move around to access their means of subsistence. They may be unable to grow their own food or survive by working temporary jobs. Organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) are working to raise awareness about this urgent issue and garner support from Colombian authorities. Along with the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Colombian Ministry of the Interior, AI petitioned the government to deliver food and supplies to at-risk indigenous groups. In response to these efforts, Colombian officials initiated a campaign to provide indigenous communities with food and supplies. The first round of deliveries went out in April 2020 but still left many without aid. AI and partner organizations will continue working with leaders of the campaign to reach more people in future deliveries.
  2. Refugees: Venezuelan refugees are another group at high risk due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Colombia. The virus has compounded instability from low wages and rampant homelessness. Many have lost temporary jobs as economic concerns heighten nationwide. With fear and social unrest on the rise, refugees also face increased stigmatization. Some states, for example, are forcibly returning refugees in response to the virus. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Migrant Organization (IOM) have instigated a call to action. Eduardo Stein, joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for refugees and migrants from Venezuela, explained in an April 2020 statement that “COVID-19 has brought many aspects of life to a standstill – but the humanitarian implications of this crisis have not ceased and our concerted action remains more necessary than ever.” U.N. representatives are seeking out innovative ways to protect Colombia’s migrant population and provide refugees with information, clean water and sanitation. Some organizations have also set up isolation and observation spaces for those who have tested positive. Others, including the World Health Organization (WHO), are distributing food and supplies to refugees and their host communities.
  3. Coffee Farmers: As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout South America and the world, Colombian coffee farmers are grappling with new economic uncertainties. Since extreme terrain limits the use of mechanized equipment, these farmers tend to rely on manual labor. In a typical year, some farms hire between 40% and 50% of their workforce from migrant populations. Now, however, travel restrictions have left many with a shortage of manpower. Large-scale farms are seeking out unemployed retail and hospitality workers from local areas, offering pay rates at a 10% to 20% increase. On smaller farms, family members can manage the crops. However, medium-sized operations, in desperate need of labor and unable to match the wages of larger competitors, are feeling a significant strain. Even the largest farms could struggle to meet their expected harvest in 2020. Public health officials have ordered strict distancing measures in the fields, which reduces picking capacity. Though disruptive in the short term, these efforts should help contain the spread of the virus and allow farmers to resume full operation as soon as possible.

COVID-19 in Colombia has undergone rapid growth, bringing economic and social challenges in its train. Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon world leaders to support vulnerable populations in Colombia and help the nation emerge from this world crisis.

– Katie Painter
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in South Africa
Reports of COVID-19 fill the news and media daily. From increases in cases and closures to decreases in fatality rates and re-openings, the news channels are consumed by COVID-19 headlines. However, one thing not covered much in the media is how African nations are faring during these uncertain times. South Africa is currently leading the African continent in the number of COVID-19 cases, and there is seemingly no end in sight. Here is a look at the specific impact of COVID-19 in South Africa.

Lockdown

COVID-19 in South Africa follows a similar origin path as the rest of the world, where the virus went undetected or misdiagnosed for weeks, maybe months, before its first confirmed positive case appeared. South Africa, like most nations, went into lockdown in late March. The South African government, as of April 27, 2020, planned to gradually loosen restrictions beginning on May 1, 2020.

The level of strictness for lockdowns varies from country to country. South Africa is one of the nations implementing strict restrictions for its lockdown. The country has been on Level 5 restrictions. Level 5 restrictions prohibit citizens from performing the majority of activities, including leisurely ones such as exercise or going to the convenience store. Furthermore, the police may confront anyone who leaves their dwellings.

Numbers

The reported numbers in South Africa are much lower than those reported around the world. This may be the result of strict lockdown enforcement as opposed to some nations with looser lockdown restrictions. As of April 28, 2020, the African country reported 4,996 confirmed coronavirus cases and 93 deaths. South Africa is also experiencing a recovery rate of approximately 25 percent, which is a significant factor in the government’s decision to begin loosening restriction laws.

Despite large numbers of recovering patients, COVID-19 in South Africa has not gone away. The number of cases continues to rise, much like the rest of the world. On March 5, 2020, South Africa diagnosed its first patient with COVID-19. On April 15, 2020, the nation had a total of 2,605 confirmed cases, with 4,996 by the end of April. Although the virus is not going away anytime soon, South Africans are certainly doing their part to reduce the spread of the virus.

Social Distancing

Social distancing is the practice of remaining apart from others to decrease the spread of the virus. South Africa has been on lockdown and enforcing social distancing since late March, about a month after the nation diagnosed its first COVID-19 patient. On May 1, the government loosened the restrictions to Level 4. Level 4 restrictions consist of the ability to travel nationally, but not internationally. A few small local businesses also opened.

Moving Forward

In South Africa and around the world, people are social distancing and quarantining. For COVID-19 to be successfully tackled in South Africa, the nation must continue to prioritize the health of its citizens and financially support those who are struggling with unemployment and poverty. This will hopefully result in a significant drop in the number of cases in the country. Moving forward, South Africa and other nations around the world should use the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for future pandemics and epidemics.

– Cleveland Lewis 
Photo: Flickr