foreign aidAs the COVID-19 pandemic spread over the world, so did foreign aid in many forms. Countries were sending masks, money, equipment and even healthcare professionals. Despite suffering from the effects of the pandemic themselves, China, Taiwan and South Korea all contributed to providing 16 countries around the world, including in Europe and Asia.  Even the U.S. became among those who were aid recipients when a shipment of masks and equipment from Russia arrived in April 2020. Perhaps most notably, Italy received foreign assistance from the U.S., China, Cuba and Russia among other countries.

Concerns About Aid Effectiveness

A common misconception regarding aid is that developed countries rarely benefit from foreign aid. Studies have shown that most Americans think the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid. Moreover, many aid opponents argue that aid is ineffective, costly and creates dependence.

Even Africans, who receive 20% of U.S. aid, have raised concerns about aid effectiveness. In 2002, Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, said “I’ve never seen a country develop itself through aid or credit. Countries that have developed—in Europe, America, Japan, Asian countries like Taiwan, Korea and Singapore—have all believed in free markets. There is no mystery there. Africa took the wrong road after independence.”

Foreign Aid to Developed Countries

The pandemic has shown that strong relations and aid are necessary for countries to overcome economic and healthcare challenges. Foreign aid has a complicated history, but many developed countries were recipients of aid in the past and still benefit from it in many ways.

Italy received around $240 billion in aid from the E.U. during the pandemic. If a similar aid package was given to Sub-Saharan Africa, it could provide primary healthcare to every African. If used to relieve food insecurity, $240 billion could end world hunger by 2030. That is not to say that foreign aid to developing countries should come at the expense of the recovery of developed countries. But contextualizing the funding helps demonstrate what foreign aid could do if distributed equally.

During the destruction of Notre Dame in Paris, France received $950 million in total from donations globally. The White House also pledged to help rebuild France, a year after announcing a reduction to the foreign aid budget. When it comes to aid, the question is not whether to provide it or not—it is about who to provide it to.

Foreign Aid to Developing Countries

Contrary to popular belief, the developing world does not receive nearly enough aid. The average Sub-Saharan African country receives less than $1 billion in aid annually. Following the Ebola outbreak in 2013 – a crisis that is most notably remembered for U.S. involvement – the WHO received around $460 million to help affected West African countries. The World Bank estimated that the outbreak cost $2.2 billion for these countries.

As African and Latin American countries see their first huge waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now crucial that the U.S. and other countries continue to increase their foreign aid budget to help these nations recover. In addition to the pandemic, most developing countries are dealing with food insecurity as well as continuing political and civil unrest. Although aid alone will not resolve all these issues, it can alleviate the impact of the crisis. By being aid recipients themselves, Western and European countries can understand the importance of foreign assistance and take the necessary steps to help those in need.

– Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

Food Supply Chains
Despite immense stress due to COVID-19, food supply chains have demonstrated resilience by offering a potential avenue for long-term poverty alleviation. The pandemic has threatened food security around the globe, with Feeding America reporting that as many as 17 million people could experience food insecurity in its wake. As such, food supply chains play an important role in assuring individuals’ access to food.

The Resilience of Food Supply Chains Amidst COVID-19

Food supply chains are the mechanism by which raw food becomes consumer-ready. These supply chains consist of farm production, processing, transportation and consumption. There are two primary categories of food supply chains. Firstly, domestic chains, in which food is produced and consumed in the same country. Second, international chains, in which food is transported across borders. Both domestic and international chains have been severely affected by the pandemic. However, there are notable differences in the impact on the two systems. This is due to their unique types of labor, transportation, and consumer demand among other conditions.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) explained that food supply chain complications disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries. Wealthier countries, which use large-scale international chains, have more capital- and knowledge-intensive structures. These international supply chains have shown greater resilience amidst the pandemic. The recovery of international chains helps explain why low-income countries are experiencing disproportionate effects of the pandemic on food security.

In comparison, low-income countries primarily rely on small and medium domestic chains. Small domestic chains are more labor-intensive and thus affected more heavily by pandemic labor restrictions. Furthermore, the labor-intensive components of food supply chains are the hardest-hit by COVID-19. This impact stems from mobility restrictions, reduced workplace capacities and illness that limits employees’ ability to complete their jobs.

The Potential to Fight Poverty

Ensuring logistical flexibility and employee health is imperative in mitigating harm to domestic food chains. Social innovations are emerging to address the labor needs created by the pandemic. These innovations aim to increase the “flexibility of labor sourcing and timing,” by improving access to transportation, decreasing reliance on physical labor in certain production zones and improving hygiene and health education to avoid outbreaks in densely populated work areas.

Far beyond social innovation in labor, though, many believe the COVID-induced threat to food supply chains could provide an incredible opportunity for long-term poverty alleviation. One contributor to the International Food Policy Research Institute wrote: “During COVID-19, the bureaucratic, financial, logistical and technological reasons that always seemed to make actions impossible or improbable have fallen away.”

Food supply chain innovations have also addressed financial, managerial and health complications. These issues affect supply chains both in the short and long terms. For instance, digital innovation and the growth of e-commerce have played significant roles in enabling supply chains to overcome previously existing complications in the face of the pandemic.

Every type of food supply chain has increased e-commerce use. E-commerce decreases contact between workers and consumers and allows for easier food access around the globe. Apps developed by governments and businesses in places like India and China have allowed consumers direct access to food providers. Overall, these changes simplify the transportation process for food producers in countries around the world.

Innovations in Food Supply Chains

Large-scale supply chains and companies have also supported small and medium domestic supply chains with kick-starter financial support for COVID-19. Aid has also been provided to families and communities through voucher programs. Additionally, the World Bank has been working to stabilize prices across the various supply chains. By investing in the infrastructure and labor flexibility of domestic supply chains, governments and development partners have the power to strengthen global food security.

The threats to food supply chains have considerable policy implications, the OECD explains, underscoring the importance of open borders for importing and exporting food items. The World Bank released a joint statement calling for the free international movement of food to prevent a food insecurity emergency, calling on countries to cooperate to ensure food accessibility around the world. The statement also emphasizes the importance of making every step of food logistics accessible to prevent all people from going hungry, especially during pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.

– Emily Rahhal
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 on Migration
The novel coronavirus spread at dramatic rates since its discovery in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Some countries including China, Vietnam, New Zealand and Norway have successfully stopped the spread with an aggressive response; other countries, however, have been unwilling or unable to make similar progress. Worldwide confirmed cases currently top 20 million. While the virus is certainly transforming many aspects of life, the impact of COVID-19 on migration has become especially significant.

How COVID-19 Affects Refugees

About 80 million people have experienced forcible displacement from their home countries throughout the world. Additionally, 72 million of those asylum seekers are currently living in developing countries that lack the resources to aggressively fight a pandemic like COVID-19.

The International Rescue Committee estimates that up to 1 billion cases of COVID-19 could hit fragile countries housing the world’s refugees, such as Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. Yemen has struggled with a major humanitarian crisis since its civil war escalated in 2015. Today an estimated 24 million people within the country are in need of assistance, with half of those individuals being children.

In most refugee camps, social distancing is impossible. One can find a prominent example of this difficulty in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. This camp crams more than 850,000 Rohingya refugees into a very small, dense area. These refugees have severely limited access to health care. The lack of clean water for handwashing could prove disastrous when attempting to combat COVID-19. In addition, malnutrition and poor sanitation make refugee camps like Cox’s Bazar a potential hotbed for viral transmission. Medical depots at the camp only have 300 beds available and will be overrun if an outbreak emerges. These makeshift hospitals lack the lifesaving respirators needed for those in critical condition. In addition, medical workers must deal with COVID-19 on top of other preexisting health crises. Diseases like cholera, malaria and tuberculosis remain a constant issue.

The impact of COVID-19 on migration is evident in the record low numbers of refugee resettlement. For the time being, the United Nations has suspended relocation. People living in these unsuitable conditions are in dire need of help. Rather than taking in these refugees, most countries have chosen to lock down their borders without exception.

The Fate of Migrant Workers

Many industries in developed and undeveloped countries alike rely on a steady stream of foreign laborers. In the age of COVID-19, there is a premium on skilled workers in key industries like healthcare. As such, some countries have expedited the migration process for doctors, nurses and scientists.

Other job types have not experienced such demand. In countries like the United Arab Emirates, migrant workers are unemployed or have unpaid wages as a result of the pandemic. These men and women have no income to send back to their families and home villages, and many face a difficult decision: return home to their families where work is even rarer or scramble to find another job under their visa before being deported.

An Opportunity for Change

The long-term impact of COVID-19 on migration remains unclear. Asylum seekers in refugee camps will likely be the last on the priority list when vaccines become available, thus delaying their relocation even further. Until refugees obtain similar health protections to citizens, coronavirus will never fully resolve.

As lockdowns gradually end, the countries hit hardest by COVID-19 will face the immense task of rebuilding their economies. As part of this process, there will likely be a focus on hiring citizens over migrant workers. Governments may choose to distribute funds to domestic industries and put foreign aid on the back burner.

There is, however, a chance to reimagine human mobility. Portugal, Ireland and Qatar moved to ensure everyone has access to health care, regardless of their citizenship status. Several European Union countries have emptied their immigration detention centers to avoid outbreaks. Italy’s new amnesty law has granted 200,000 work permits to migrant workers.

Migrant workers are a major contributor to the global GDP, performing jobs across skill levels. Foreign labor is vital to successful economies, and a more fluid entry system would help expedite the road back. It is finally in the self-interest of governments worldwide to provide an easier path for these workers and mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 on migration.

– Matthew Beach
Photo: Pixabay

Myanmar's Most Vulnerable PopulationsThe country of Myanmar is facing many difficulties regarding the spread and effects of COVID-19. With a tattered healthcare system, warring states, a fragile economy and thousands of people displaced, Myanmar’s most vulnerable populations are experiencing several risks. Displaced people living in detention camps, Rohingya Muslims and the poor disproportionately face the negative effects of COVID-19 in culmination with a declining economy.

Myanmar

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified Myanmar’s health system as one of the worst in the world. According to official data, about 40% of Myanmar’s population live below or close to the poverty line.

There is a limited number of doctors, with 6.1 doctors per 10,000 people. Additionally, there are as few as one doctor per 83,000 people in conflict-affected areas according to Human Rights Watch.

Furthermore, there is little healthcare or medical facilities in rural areas, where most of Myanmar’s population lives. That makes it extremely difficult for people to seek medical assistance and testing for COVID-19, and estimate the number of coronavirus cases.

Ethnic Conflict

In addition to a poor healthcare system, Myanmar is also riddled with the conflict between the government and Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs). Fighting in areas such as the Rakhine state and Chin state prevents any possible COVID-19 relief and government aid.

Additionally, the government has put mobile internet restrictions in place in response to the armed conflicts. Lack of accessible internet limits information about the virus along with access to medical services, preventing people from knowing the government’s response to COVID-19 and how they can protect themselves.

The Vulnerable

It is at a time like this that minorities and threatened groups are the most vulnerable. Many aid workers fear that on top of inadequate resources and poor living conditions, the virus could exacerbate hostile emotions towards minorities and targeted groups in Myanmar.

Groups such as displaced persons and the Rohingya Muslims face difficult obstacles in receiving medical treatment or preventative measures against the COVID-19 virus.

Displaced People

According to Human Rights Watch, there are about 350,000 displaced people in Myanmar, and 130,000 people living in detention camps in the Rakhine state. Military conflict between the government and ethnic armed groups mainly caused these people’s displacement. Living conditions are dismal in these camps, with little to no resources for treating or preventing COVID-19. There is limited access to clean water, toilets and medical services. Diseases are common and according to a Human Rights Report, “in such camps, one toilet is shared by as many as 40 people, [and] one water access point by as many as 600.”

The Rohingya Muslims

The Rohingya Muslims, a religious minority group, is one of Myanmar’s most vulnerable populations. They have been living in detention camps after experiencing persecution in Myanmar. The Myanmar government has restricted their freedom of movement, and the Rohingya Muslims live in squalid camp conditions. There are only two health centers available, both unequipped to test and treat COVID-19.

Living conditions are extremely cramped. According to a Forbes article, one of the refugee camps, Kutupalong, houses “almost 860,000 refugees. They are more densely populated than New York, with more than 100,000 people living in each square mile.” With people living in such close proximity to one another, the spread of COVID-19 through the Rohingya Muslims is inevitable.

Economic Effects on the Poor

COVID-19 also negatively impacts Myanmar’s economy. As a consequence, it has exacerbated poverty and lowered living conditions. According to the International Growth Centre and World Bank Open Data, Myanmar had the lowest per capita GDP in Southeast Asia in 2018.

Furthermore, because Myanmar’s economy largely relies on international investment and exported goods such as garment products, COVID-19’s disruption on the world economy has caused Myanmar to further suffer.

Especially affected by the economic decline are poor workers and households. Groups such as “street and mobile vendors and various day-rate workers in urban areas, and the landless and day-rate workers in rural areas” experience adverse effects as income, food security and employment decline, according to the International Growth Centre.

In the face of the COVID-19 virus, Myanmar suffers many challenges that make preventing and treating the virus extremely difficult. In all of this, Myanmar’s most vulnerable populations – the displaced, the Rohingya Muslims and Myanmar’s poor – are at the greatest disadvantage. Although there have been efforts by the government to provide financial aid for preventative measures and help from humanitarian organizations, it is not enough. These vulnerable groups are still hugely at risk from COVID-19.

Silvia Huang
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Africa
Tourism has been a fundamental component of the African economy for years, with many countries depending on the industry as a primary source of revenue. In addition to supporting the economy directly through foreign currency, tourism in Africa has become a reliable source of income for many locals. Some of these individuals work as tour guides, while others own tourism-dependent businesses like hotels and cultural craft shops. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry has changed dramatically over the past year.

Economic Shifts

The World Bank reported that, in 2012, tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) contributed $36 billion to the region’s GDP. The report also indicated that many countries in SSA were still working to develop their tourism facilities. Since 2012, these countries have improved security and provided better quality resources to attract tourists and tourism investors. However, COVID-19 disturbed this progress. Many countries established touristic travel bans to fight the pandemic, and many visitor attractions had to close. In total, the World Travel and Tourism Council has predicted that Africa’s resulting GDP loss could be $52.8 billion.

Unemployment

COVID-19 terminated many jobs, including tourism-related occupations like travel agencies and small businesses. The World Bank has reported that “one in twenty jobs in SSA is in travel and tourism.” According to a recent study from the African Union, an estimate of 2 million jobs directly or indirectly related to travel and tourism will disappear during the pandemic. These losses will affect all citizens in this region. For example, consumers will experience increased prices on commodities and higher taxes to compensate for the loss of tourism revenue.

Finding Solutions

However, countries typically reliant on tourism for economic stability are finding creative ways to adapt to the changes.

Many countries had no choice but to close borders in order to control the entrance and spread of COVID-19. Various policies implemented now encourage people to observe social distancing and wear masks in public places. To promote the industry amidst these new safety guidelines, the U.N. reported that Kenya and Zambia encouraged domestic tourism in the absence of foreign visitors. South Africa has donated approximately $11 million in relief aid to eligible tourism-related businesses, and the International Trade Centre reported that young Gambians who worked in community tourism became “COVID-19 first responders to awareness and prevention.”

These initiatives have helped people gain some income and retain access to basic needs. Additionally, countries have been conducting virtual tours in parks to continue engaging international tourists and increase chances of visitation following the pandemic. BBC reported that Kenya, Seychelles and Rwanda would open in August 2020 for international travelers; however, tourists would have to undergo different procedures to gain safe access to hotels and touristic sites.

Many African countries greatly profit from the tourism industry. This industry has been rapidly growing in Africa. In fact, the continent expected a consistent increase in the number of incoming international visitors over the next several years. However, in response to the recent surge of COVID-19, the continent is adapting to creatively compensate for these changes and continue protecting citizens’ health and safety.

– Renova Uwingabire
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in the Philippines
Child poverty is an immense issue the world over, and it has only become direr during the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantine procedures mean that many people are no longer able to work. The effects of these procedures are pronounced in countries with high poverty rates. The high rate of child poverty in the Philippines means that the pandemic is affecting the most vulnerable.

Child Poverty and COVID-19

Poverty has a unique impact on children and can have long-lasting effects. UNICEF states that malnutrition, often due to poverty, can negatively impact children’s physical, social and emotional development. Poverty also increases the risks of children’s exposure to child marriages, violence, exploitation and abuse.

COVID-19 is increasing children’s vulnerabilities to these risks. According to the World Bank, 11 million people globally are at an increased risk of falling into poverty due to the economic shocks that the pandemic brought on. UNICEF and Save the Children claim that child poverty could potentially reach upwards of an alarming 700 million children globally if the world does not address the problem. Furthermore, children living in poverty may have increased risks from COVID-19 due to pre-existing conditions brought on by poverty, malnutrition and low-quality healthcare in poor communities, all of which can negatively impact their ability to recover.

What Does This Mean for Children in the Philippines?

The Philippines has made great strides in addressing poverty within the country in recent years. From 2015 to 2018, the country experienced a 5% decrease in its poverty rate. The World Bank suggests this decrease is unlikely to continue following economic shocks of the pandemic. The country is at risk of experiencing negative economic growth as a result.

Child poverty in the Philippines is significantly high at 31.4% in 2015. A rise in this figure could have potentially devastating impacts on the livelihoods of children in the country considering that 33% of Filipino children already suffer from malnutrition. In addition, 27% of the population lives in an urban setting. For those in poverty, this translates to cramped living spaces and a lack of access to clean water and sanitation. In 2011, 25% of the Filipino population lacked access to improved sanitation. These factors make social distancing and other health protocols to combat the spread of the disease increasingly difficult.

COVID-19 is also exacerbating a different crisis that Filipino children experience: cyber trafficking. Children in the Philippines are among those with some of the highest risks of cyber trafficking globally. With increasing risks of poverty in the Philippines, the online exploitation of children living in poverty will only grow. According to Senator Leila de Lima, former Justice Secretary for the Philippines, the vulnerability of online abuse for children is in part due to economic necessity. This relationship suggests a strong link between poverty and exploitation. COVID-19 prevention measures are also limiting activities to police this abuse. Lockdown measures have led to slowed investigations, the closing of courts and prosecutor’s offices. Human moderators of online abuse on social media platforms such as Facebook have also been being put on leave.

How to Help

UNICEF and Save the Children point to a need for increased services and programs for the poor, especially services or benefits that focus on children and families.

As poverty can reduce children’s resilience to combating the virus, aid relief is integral to increasing resilience and mitigating the potential increase in COVID-19 deaths due to child poverty within the Philippines. The Save the Children Philippines team, Building Urban Children’s Resilience against Shocks and Threats of Resettlement, is part of the response increasing children’s resilience to the virus. It distributes food relief packages and hygiene kits to poor families in Pasay City.

There are a number of actions one can take to support the reduction of child poverty in the Philippines. Calling one’s political leaders in support of the International Affairs Budget is one way a person could actively influence U.S. Foreign Policy to support the reduction of child poverty in the Philippines. Another option is to call in support of the Global Child Thrive Act which focuses on advancing early childhood development globally.

The Philippines receives $342,216,064 of U.S. Foreign Aid. However, only 25% of that goes to developmental food aid while a staggering 40% goes towards security. Making sure leaders are aware of the threat COVID-10 has on increased child poverty in the Philippines is one way to push them to support poverty reduction efforts.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

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

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

Massive Economic Stimulation

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

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

Funding COVID-19 Economic Plan

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

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

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

Re-Opening Borders

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

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

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

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Pixabay

latter-day saint charitiesLeprosy is a disease that plagues India. More than 1,000 leprosy colonies throughout the country house hundreds of thousands of its most vulnerable citizens, often unable to provide for their basic daily needs. The nation-wide shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened this, forcing the leprosy colonies into a state of emergency. Fortunately, the support of Latter-day Saint Charities has helped lessen this dire situation.

The organization has provided food, soap and basic necessary medical supplies to more than 9,000 families in 228 of the most vulnerable colonies. Shawn Johnson, the vice president and director of operations for Latter-day Saint Charities, said, “It is our hope that this assistance helps these individuals and families to maintain their dignity as human beings and their divine value as children of God.”

A Global Religion with Global Reach

Latter-day Saint Charities is the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Headquartered in Utah, the global religion has more than 16 million members. The charity operates solely with donations from the church’s members and others around the world. Since the organization began in 1985, Latter-day Saints Charities has contributed more than $2 billion in assistance to 197 countries around the world.

“We seek to work with some incredible global partners in providing assistance, love and support to those in the greatest of need irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, background, etc.,” Johnson said. “This work includes critical emergency response efforts, longer-term development initiatives and signature programs, and community engagement and volunteerism efforts. All of these things work in harmony to help bless the lives of others.” 

The organization sponsors relief and development projects in countries and territories around the globe and operates “both independently and in cooperation with other charitable organizations and governments.” Latter-day Saint Charities’ various global projects include food security, clean water initiatives, vision care and refugee response. Johnson noted that the organization also has programs that provide wheelchairs and other mobility devices to individuals in need. Additionally, he said that Latter-day Saint Charities has helped provide immunizations to millions of children and has helped save thousands of babies and mothers through its “helping babies breathe” program.

COVID-19: The Largest Ever Humanitarian Project

In 2019 alone, Latter-day Saint Charities worked in 142 countries and territories on 3,221 projects. With more than 2,000 partners, the organization aided millions of people worldwide. But according to the church’s leader, President Russell M. Nelson, this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has become “the largest-ever humanitarian project of the church.”

“In 2020, just for the COVID-19 responses alone, we have completed (more than) 500+ projects in 130+ countries all over the world. The overall number of projects for 2020 will likely greatly exceed the number from 2019,” Johnson said. “These emergency relief efforts have included providing personal protective equipment, food, water and shelter to some of the most vulnerable populations.”

“We also had a volunteer effort where members of the church and local communities provided close to a million hours of volunteer service to produce more than five million masks for front-line caregivers. We also worked to transition a portion of a Church-owned textile factory to produce medical gowns for front-line healthcare workers as well,” he added.

Volunteers Around The World

Along with the church’s more than 60,000 full-time volunteer missionaries and more than 30,000 church service missionaries, the organization also has more than 10,000 volunteer humanitarian missionaries around the world.

Over the past 35 years, Latter-day Saint Charities has been providing humanitarian relief for hundreds of countries worldwide and surely will continue to make a global impact this year — especially with their COVID-19 relief projects — and in years to come.

– Emma Benson

Photo: Flickr

Immigration Reform in BrazilAccording to Brazilian law, immigrants are guaranteed the same basic rights as citizens regardless of their status. However, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many shortcomings of Brazil’s legal system. Many immigrants were forced into insecure situations that have put their well-being at risk. The exacerbated vulnerability of many immigrants caused by COVID-19 has spurred a new social movement, Regularização Já (Regularization Now). The movement pushes for immigration reform in Brazil in the midst of the pandemic.

Immigrants in Brazil: A Particularly Vulnerable Population

As the virus continues to spread in Brazil, immigrants constitute one of the most at-risk groups. In their policy brief covering COVID-19 as it relates to migrants, the U.N. mentions three interlocking crises that contribute to the particularly precarious position of migrants:

  1. A health crisis: Many migrants have limited or nonexistent access to health services due to legal, cultural or language barriers.
  2. A socioeconomic crisis: Migrants working in the informal sector do not have access to social protection measures such as unemployment or stimulus checks.
  3. A protection crisis: As countries close their borders to contain the spread of COVID-19, many migrants remain in dangerous situations with little agency to move somewhere safer. Furthermore, asylum-seekers and refugees may have to return to unsafe situations in their countries of origin.

Immigrants in Brazil are particularly vulnerable due to the worsening health crisis within the country. As of July 24, 2020, Brazil was the second hardest-hit country in the world in terms of COVID-19 with a staggering 2.3 million confirmed cases and more than 85,000 deaths. Another factor that leaves immigrants to Brazil in a precarious position is the age demographic of the immigrant population. In contrast to other countries experiencing high numbers of coronavirus cases, Brazil’s immigrant population has a greater proportion of elderly people. In general, 9.3% of Brazil’s population are 65-years-old or older. 21.4% of the country’s immigrant population is in the same age range. The demographics of the immigrant population, combined with the country’s public health crisis, exacerbate immigrant vulnerabilities throughout Brazil.

COVID-19 and Immigration

Like many countries, Brazil has enacted ordinances to restrict movement across borders to contain COVID-19. There are exemptions in place for immigrants related to Brazilian citizens, those with authorization to reside in Brazil for a fixed or indefinite term and those who hold a National Migration Registry Card. However, in March the government paused the issuance of National Migration Registry Cards as well as the processing of asylum applications for the duration of the public health crisis.

The Brazilian federal government made monthly relief checks available to unemployed people and workers in the informal sector. However, banks have unlawfully requested immigrants to provide supporting documents such as proof of residence to collect them. Additionally, many immigrants without legal status do not have bank accounts where the checks could be deposited. As a result, many immigrants in Brazil exist in a limbo-like state without access to federal aid and without the freedom to leave the country to safer, more financially viable situations.

The Movement Towards Regularization

Several countries granted migrants temporary residence status and access to healthcare for the duration of the pandemic. These protections would likely disappear after the public health emergency ends. However, civil society groups and activists in Brazil claim that this is not enough. They feel their country must move beyond temporary fixes for an ongoing problem. Instead, many are pushing for a bill that would grant regularization to all immigrants in Brazil, effectively bringing full immigration reform to Brazil.

This bill would give all immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, residency for up to two years. It would also provide the possibility of renewal for an indefinite amount of time. Federal agencies have stopped processing most immigration requests as a result of COVID-19. The regularization bill would immediately grant residency to those whose immigration cases are pending or on hold. This bill is particularly important to immigrants struggling amidst the pandemic. The residency would enable broader access to healthcare and social benefits, such as the monthly relief checks from the federal government.

Activism Moving Forward

Activists for the regularization bill face an administration that has demonstrated disregard for migrants’ rights, especially during the pandemic. In spite of this, Brazil has proven that it can implement more progressive immigration policies. Responding to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, Brazil leads the way in protecting thousands of displaced people by granting them refugee status.

The COVID-19 pandemic moved activists to push for this same level of care to be given to immigrants already within the country. Should the regularization bill pass, current immigrants would benefit from improved access to public resources. The bill would also set the scene for the ongoing support of future immigrant populations and immigration reform in Brazil.

– Alanna Jaffee
Photo: USAID

COVID-19 in Nigeria
Nigeria is located on the western coast of the African continent. Home to more than 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. The nation is no stranger to diseases: a dense population, frequent travelers and the Ebola outbreak have impacted thousands. Although the government successfully contained the Ebola outbreak, similar action was not taken to deal with COVID-19. As COVID-19 surges, several global humanitarian organizations are working with Nigeria’s government to combat the virus. Here are four organizations fighting COVID-19 in Nigeria.

The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been actively involved in projects promoting health and safety in Africa for years. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the WHO helped contain the virus in Nigeria. Recently, the organization has shifted its focus to COVID-19. In early June, the WHO recognized a lack of COVID-19 testing in many of the country’s rural communities. In response, the organization planned to educate health officials and community members on the pandemic’s severity.

The WHO has since been working with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to conduct country-wide testing and sample collection. The two organizations are now locating and mapping at-risk communities to better coordinate treatments and procedures.

World Food Programme

World Food Programme (WFP) is a food-assistance branch of the United Nations. The WFP has been especially active in recent months, combatting the food insecurity accompanying economic hardships caused by COVID-19. The program has also established and deployed food assistance task forces to reach the country’s remote communities.

Throughout the pandemic, WFP has assisted more than 715,000 of its targeted 890,000 beneficiaries. The organization continues to offer life-saving food assistance to Nigerians while providing valuable education about sanitation and safety measures.

WaterAid

WaterAid is a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization focused on providing clean water and promoting hygiene and sanitation across the globe. Amidst COVID-19, WaterAid has been collaborating with Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Water Resources to incorporate clean water resources and hygienic behaviors into communities across the country.

The organization is placing an emphasis on implementing routine hand-washing practices using clean water. WaterAid is also working to educate Nigerians about the importance of staying hygienic and sanitized to minimize the risk of contracting the virus.

The World Bank

The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides countries with loans and financial services. Its current work involves collaborating with the Nigerian government to monitor and analyze the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s socioeconomic health. The World Bank is also working to determine the amount of financial aid the country requires to adequately address the pandemic. The organization has initiated a household survey called the Nigeria COVID-19 National Longitudinal Phone Survey to assist in this endeavor.

In early March, the World Bank prepared initial financial packages of up to $12 billion to assist more than 60 countries heavily affected by COVID-19. Such financial packages have helped countries like Nigeria strengthen their healthcare systems and reduce the damage to the economy. The $12 billion funding includes contributions from various facilities within the World Bank, including International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Development Association (IDA) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

When Nigeria’s first cases of COVID-19 emerged, international humanitarian and financial organizations quickly prioritized containment. While COVID-19 in Nigeria continues surging, organizations like the World Health Organization, World Food Programme, WaterAid and the World Bank Group have stepped in to support the country. As these organizations work to promote hygiene and offer treatment, the risk of contracting COVID-19 in Nigeria continues to decrease and ultimately brings hope to the nation.

– Omer Syed
Photo: Flickr