Information and news about Disaster Relief

Disaster Risk Reduction in Pakistan
Locust swarms struck Pakistan in early 2020, causing challenges to Pakistan’s agriculture. Agriculture factors into a large portion of Pakistan’s economy, similar to other developing countries around the world. Agriculture alone is 24.4 percent of Pakistan’s GDP and employs 42.3 percent of the total labor force. Pakistan’s exports rely on agro-based industries, such as cotton processing and textile industries. As the fourth-leading cotton producer in the world, cotton related products in Pakistan provided $11.7 billion out of $24.7 billion total export value in 2019. Therefore, a pivotal part of disaster risk reduction in Pakistan is for it to increase its preparedness in dealing with emergencies like locust swarms and other natural disasters.

Disaster Risk Reduction in Less Developed Countries

Less developed countries (LDCs) are particularly vulnerable to disasters. A study suggested that the “effort to reduce poverty and disaster risks are complementary.” The loss from natural disasters makes the life of 26 million people return below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day. Hence, poor people or countries are more often in close proximity to natural disasters and gain less protection than the non-poor.

Another report from the U.N. Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) summarized the measures of disaster risk reduction in LDCs should aim at “reducing vulnerabilities and strengthening resilience in LDCs.” It entails three aspects: recovering from disasters, preventing future disasters and withstanding possible future disasters. Laying down the institutional arrangement is the initial step that most LDCs take.

Disaster Risk Reduction in Pakistan

Before the recent locust swarms, natural disasters, including floods, earthquakes, landslides, droughts and monsoons, were already an outstanding problem in Pakistan’s development. Monsoon season in 2018 caused 134 deaths and damage to 1,663 houses alone. Meanwhile, earthquakes in 2005 caused over 80,000 deaths in Pakistan. The country’s low capability to provide rescue after the earthquakes might have been one major reason for such a high death toll. Therefore, Pakistan established a national disaster emergency system in 2007 called the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). It works to identify natural disaster risks and action plans to provide warnings about them.

Five years after NDMA emerged, its investment in disaster assessment reached $1.4 billion. The ambitious amount of funds is creating room for higher performance of disaster risk reduction in Pakistan. It is also allowing for the building of a monitoring and forecast system across the nation to collect and consolidate hazard data for the assessment of disasters.

International Participation in Disaster Risk Reduction

Several international institutions are developing projects aimed at disaster risk reduction in Pakistan based on the Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction. The framework sets four priorities to embrace more countries and institutions in disaster response including a better understanding of disaster risks, more professional governance in risk management, improved ability in ex-post disaster recovery and more investment in resilience development.

Based on the principles and priorities, the projects for disaster risk reduction in Pakistan cover varied issues. The World Bank offered $4 million of funding to the ERRA DRM program to ensure that Pakistan will be able to establish an early forecast system in order to efficiently respond to disasters. DFID from the U.K. offered $1.5 million U.K. pounds to fund projects to promote the local culture of safety and resilience through education and innovation. The U.N. provided $46 million to ensure that disaster preparedness and other DRR measures are the priority in all-level policy implementation. So far, disaster risk reduction in Pakistan covered most of the disasters. Despite the locust strike being a shock to numbers of farmers, Pakistan NDMA has responded by building up a system to plan against locusts and other natural disasters.

– Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Disaster Risk Insurance and its Benefits
The number of natural catastrophes surpassed the 1,000 mark in 2015 for the first time, according to the United Nations Development Plan (UNDP). The UNDP estimates the total cost from those disasters to be over $90 billion. Only 30 percent of this amount had insurance. Disaster risk insurance benefits places that experience natural disasters because it helps combat them.

Many expect that the frequency of these disasters will grow as populations continue to increase and weather patterns remain unpredictable. Moreover, disaster and development strongly link together which takes away key investment. The poor are more susceptible to disasters due to their inability to uproot their lives and the overcrowded conditions in which they often live.

Between 1991 and 2010, the Overseas Development Institute found that approximately 81 percent of the deaths that disasters caused were people in a lower-middle or low-income status. Ninety-three percent of these deaths came from developing countries.

The Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance (DRFI) Program

Established by the World Bank in 2010, the DRFI program seeks to provide funding and skills to help developing countries establish financial protection strategies. This program seeks to assist national and local governments, as well as businesses, homeowners, agricultural producers and the low-income population altogether. This program implements protection strategies with the goal in mind for the affected country to continue its development strategies while recovering from natural disasters.

How it Works

In 2018, the World Bank issued disaster risk insurance to Mexico, Peru, Columbia and Chile. These four countries are located along the western end of the Pacific Rim, a ring of seismic activity that surrounds the Pacific Ocean. Due to location, these countries are susceptible to damaging earthquakes.

The disaster risk insurance came in the form of a catastrophe bond of $1.36 billion split between the four countries for coverage against earthquakes. The World Bank stepped in to oversee the creation of the bonds and help the countries find investors. Once the World Bank secured investors, many of which were large insurance companies or hedge funds, investors receive a premium for the coverage as payment. Should a big enough earthquake hit one or more of the member countries within the designated time frame of three years, an investor would pay a predetermined portion of the principal of the bond to the affected country.

The African Risk Capacity Insurance Limited

An example of disaster risk insurance outside the operations of the World Bank is the African Risk Capacity. The African Risk Capacity includes countries across Africa and development partners support it. Each member pays into a pool of funding which then goes to countries that do not receive a predetermined quota of rainfall. Within two to four weeks of the rainfall season coming to an end, money goes to the affected countries to help their citizens.

In September 2019, the organization issued a payout of $738,835 to the government of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire after it suffered through a severe drought. The drought affected an estimated 400,000, but the payout will reportedly help up to 32,496 individuals across 6,500 households through a cash transfer program. The CEO of African Risk Capacity, Dolika Banda, stated that the payout is to target women and female-headed households directly because of the disproportionate effect disasters have on women.

Since 2014, the African Risk Capacity Agency has received $73 million in premiums for a total coverage of $553 million toward the protection of 55 million people across the member states.

Disaster Risk Insurance Benefits

While not suitable for preventing damage, disaster risk insurance benefits exist. Insurance can provide greater economic stability and help prevent deaths in the aftermath of disasters. In these times, communities often suffer from a resource shortage that easily accessible capital can assist.

Governments have limited debt because the investments their countries use to rebuild comes from the outside. Disaster risk insurance also provides incentives for risk reduction efforts by offering lower premiums.

While these financing efforts are not a catch-all solution to the damaging effects of natural disasters, they can be a critical tool to help prevent developing countries from regressing.

 – Scott Boyce
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Disaster Response in the PhilippinesAnnually, about 10 tropical storms develop in the Philippines, with averages of eight to nine reaching land. These numbers do not include other disasters the country faces such as typhoons, earthquakes, monsoons and so on. Despite being one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, efficient communication with technology in the Philippines allows social media, Google Person Finder and satellites, to provide the best relief efforts. Keep reading to learn more about the top three ways technology helps disaster response in the Philippines.

3 Ways Technology Helps Disaster Response in the Philippines 

  1. Social Media: Social media is indeed a connecting source and finds its strength in aiding the response to disasters with quickly spreading information that is, in turn, easily accessed. Popular media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter updated by disaster area residents offer real-time updates about the current on-ground situation.

    Thanks to organizations such as the Standby Task Force, established in 2012 by Andrej Verity, these social media updates become pillars for relief and rescue. For example, in its use for supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. These updates transform traditional on-ground humanitarian efforts into digital humanitarian efforts with online volunteers.

    Through a streamlined process, volunteers tagged Haiyan-related social media posts. Then, sifting through them for relevancy, otherwise known as digital micro-tasking. Finally, submitting them to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to compile a crisis map. With the widespread information thanks to social media, digital humanitarians take a hands-on approach to affecting the on the ground situation. Given that the combined concentration of thousands of volunteers provide time efficiency, a necessity when it comes to saving lives quicker.

  2. Communication Technology: Other communication technology such as Google Person Finder assists in finding missing persons in the Philippines. For instance, in 2012, monsoon floods from Typhoon Saola caused increased landslides and flash floods; flooding at least 50 percent of the country and creating severe rescue conditions with strong currents. There were at least 900,000 affected families and 11 individuals missing.

    For those looking for the missing or stranded, Google’s free Person Finder tool comes in extremely handy as all one needs to do is input the individual’s name. At the same time, Google cross-references entries from other websites with information about missing persons to ping and locate leads.

  3. Satellite Technology: After Haiyan, most of the traditional methods of mobile communication infrastructure diminished, thus requiring the need for something more reliable, such as satellites. Learning from the Haiyan damage, the nation’s most high-risk disaster areas now have mobile satellite equipment for easy deployment. This new tech brought forth by Inmarsat and the United Kingdom Space Agency, provides a reliable and sustainable communication method for the worst disaster days expected.

    Another example is the Tacloban Health Cluster which utilizes satellites to canvas and coordinates public health response in the worst disaster-stricken areas, allowing better tracking of diseases and medical conditions throughout disaster times in hospitals and clinics. This data collection does not only help respond in real-time. Additionally, it is beneficial for understanding health trends after a storm to allow for a more proactive approach following the next impending storm the islands are known to face.

Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr

History of the Asian Development BankThe Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional bank aimed at fostering social and economic development in Asia. The history of the Asian Development Bank is that of an evolving institution, constantly shifting focus towards new problems and expanding its role in regional affairs.

Founding and Early History

The bank was founded in the early 1960s to foster cooperation among Asian countries and spur economic growth in the region. In 1963, the United Nations Commission for Asia and the Far East held its first Ministerial Conference on Asian Economic Cooperation, where a resolution passed for the creation of this regional bank. The ADB was officially created two years later in Manila, the capital of the Philippines with 31 member states and Takeshi Watanabe residing as president.

OPEC Oil Crisis and Expanding Role

Asia, along with the rest of the world, suffered a severe economic downturn due to the OPEC oil crisis in 1973. The Asian Development Bank responded by increasing funding towards the development of domestic energy sources and infrastructure, to cope with the current shock and mitigate against future instability in the energy markets.  The resources of the Asian Development Bank began to expand during this time period to include increased co-financing and management of other organizational funds. The Asian Development Bank issued its first bond in 1973 worth $16.7 million in Japan.

The ADB also made strides to address the needs of developing nations. In 1974, it established the Asian Development Fund, a program designed to provide poorer nations in the region with safe, low-interest loans to aid in their economic and social development. The positive impacts of the Asian Development Fund on developing economies in Asia came to quick fruition, as some recipient countries’ reliance on the bank’s assistance ended within a decade.

Push for Social Development and Cooperation with NGOs

In the 1980s, the Asian Development Bank shifted its focus away from economic development to initiate support of social development in Asia. It began financing programs related to the environment, healthcare, urban development and women’s issues. In its 1987 policy paper, the Asian Development Bank established a framework for cooperation between the bank and various non-government organizations (NGOs) with the aim of increasing efficacy of social development efforts in the region. During the decade of the 1980s, the Asian Development Bank also expanded its support for infrastructure projects with particular emphasis on energy production, as memories of the OPEC oil crisis were still fresh in the minds of regional policymakers.

Poverty Reduction and the Asian Financial Crisis

With the end of the Cold War, the Asian Development Bank added several new central Asian countries as member states. Fears that the benefits of economic development were bypassing those most in need prompted the ADB to focus its efforts on poverty reduction in the mid-1990s. In 1995, the Asian Development Bank instituted a policy to ensure that 100 percent of its developmental assistance from the was directed to decreasing poverty.

The late 1990s were a dark period for Asia, which was hit hard by the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. The ADB’s response was a shift towards aiding the poor and creating a social safety net for those hit hardest by the crisis. By 1999, poverty reduction became the top priority of the ADB.

Response to Humanitarian Crises

In the 2000s, the Asian Development Bank expanded its response to the humanitarian crisis in Asia. Following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, the World Bank established the Millennium Development goals, which include the elimination of hunger and extreme poverty, promotion of universal primary education, reduction in child mortality, gender equality, combating disease, ensuring environmental sustainability, improving maternal health and establishing a global cooperative effort towards development. The ADB committed to helping its member states achieve each of these goals.

In 2003, Asia was struck with a severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic, illustrating the need for regional cooperation to combat infectious diseases. The Asian Development Bank provided financial support for efforts to combat HIV and the Avian Flu in the region. In December 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami caused widespread devastation across India, Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The ADB responded to the disaster by providing over $775 million to recovery efforts. In 2005, the ADB mobilized almost $400 million to help the victims of an earthquake in Pakistan.

The history of the Asian Development Bank is one of constant evolution. It was established with open-ended goals and forced to adapt to new challenges as they arose. In the 1970s, the OPEC Oil Crisis forced the bank to invest in energy infrastructure. The financial crisis in 1997 prompted a focus on poverty reduction. Most recently, the natural disasters in the early 2000s catapulted the ADB into disaster recovery. In its eventful 55-year history, the one constant of the Asian Development Bank is its willingness to assume a central role to address regional challenges.

– Karl Haider
Photo: Wikimedia

Help the Bahamas
After a record-breaking 185 mph category 5 hurricane ravaged The Bahamas in September 2019, the island is in need of assistance. Efforts to help the most affected are now accepting donations and aid in any way possible. There are many local drives around the nation. There are also many organizations that are receiving monetary donations. Below are five ways to help The Bahamas through organizations that are receiving monetary and material donations.

Five Ways to Help The Bahamas

  1. World Central Kitchen (WCKitchen): Celebrity chef and philanthropist José Andrés is notable for his relief efforts after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico in 2017. He led kitchens all over the island and brought quality meals to families. In 2018, WCKitchen provided over five million fresh meals to people in need. He and his crew are now in The Bahamas providing the same relief and require as much help as they can receive. WCKitchen is receiving donations online to continue providing meals to the families on the island.
  2. The American Red Cross: The American Red Cross responds to an average of more than 62,000 disasters every year. Although much of the work and donations go to the United States, the well known nonprofit organization has a separate fundraising campaign that will apply directly to the disaster relief for The Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.
  3. The Bahamas Red Cross Society: The Bahamas Red Cross is also receiving donations to enable it to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from Hurricane Dorian. It urges people to send non-perishable goods, baby supplies, cleaning items and bedding.
  4. The Smile Trust: Florida native Valencia Gunder is the executive director of the Smile Trust. Since February 2014, the Smile Trust, or formerly, Make the Homeless Smile, has provided approximately 100,000 meals to people between Miami, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. She is now on the ground, helping people in The Bahamas recover from Hurricane Dorian. Valencia Gunder has said that the Bahamian people have a long history and crucial influence with the United States, specifically South Florida. She says that U.S. citizens should view The Bahamas as neighbors and family, and should find it necessary to provide aid to them in their time of need.
  5. The National Association of The Bahamas: The National Association of The Bahamas (NAB) is a nonprofit organization. Volunteers and friends of The Bahamas support it, working to better the communities in The Bahamas. After the devastation of Hurricane Dorian on the northern Islands of The Bahamas, the organization is reaching out to the public for support to help the people affected by this monster hurricane.

Americans should continue to donate essentials to nearby drives. However, there is a need to provide monetary donations to no-profit organizations that have teams on the island preparing for the recovery of living conditions. The organizations mentioned above are only just a few ways to help The Bahamas.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Countries Contributing to Foreign AidIn February, the U.N. declared that 109 million people were in critical circumstances. In other words, international assistance is more important than ever. Countries around the world are fighting to alleviate global poverty, but some are doing a better job than others. Read further to find out which nations make the list for the top 10 countries contributing to foreign aid.

Top 10 Countries Contributing to Foreign Aid

  1. Luxembourg – Even though it is one of the smallest countries in the world, Luxembourg is a world leader in foreign aid. In 1970, the U.N. urged wealthy nations to contribute 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) to foreign aid. Luxembourg was the second country to achieve this goal. Today, the government invests 1.07 percent of its GNI to foreign aid.
  2. Sweden – Contributing 1.04 percent of its GNI to international development, Sweden landed itself at the top of this list in 1974. In 2018, it was still considered the largest donor when taking into account the size of its economy. The Swedish government expects to spend nearly $6 billion on foreign aid by the end of 2019. Primary concerns regarding foreign aid include agriculture, education, global health and nutrition.
  3. United Kingdom – In 2017, the U.K. spent more than 14 billion pounds on international assistance. The largest recipient of this aid was Pakistan followed by Ethiopia and Nigeria. The majority of funding is donated to humanitarian projects. Approximately 64 percent of aid is sent directly via bilateral organizations. The remaining percentage is distributed indirectly via organizations like the U.N.
  4. Norway – In 2018, Norway revised its foreign aid policies. In the new outline, the government mandates that at least 1 percent of its GNI is spent on international assistance. The proposal also focuses on health and education as its chief concerns.
  5. Ireland – In July 2018, Ireland relaunched a new foreign aid policy aptly named A Better World. One of the primary goals of this policy is to ensure that 0.7 percent of the GNI is spent on international development. It is estimated that this target will be met by 2030. Furthermore, the policy emphasizes climate action, gender equality and strengthened governance. For female education alone, the country has committed to spending 250 euros within the next five years.
  6. Japan – Japan is the largest contributor to foreign aid in Asia. In 2018, the country donated $14.2 billion. Japan has publicly committed to using the official development assistance (ODA) for guidance in future development.
  7. Canada – Unlike other countries, Canada has taken a unique feminist approach. Its foreign aid policy uses feminism as its core value. By promoting the success of women around the world, Canada hopes to create a more equal balance in power. The country believes that an increase in women’s rights would lead to other areas of progression, such as a more inclusive government and representation for minorities.
  8. France – Within the past year, France has committed to enhancing its foreign aid policy. Currently, the country donates 0.43 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. However, by the year 2022, the French government aims to increase this level to 0.55 percent. The primary objective of this increase is to aid in international stability.
  9. Finland – In just the first part of 2019, Finland has already administered 68.35 million euros in foreign assistance. The government distributes its finances through a process that includes evaluating the extent of a crisis, assessing how many deaths and illnesses have occurred and recording the percentage of the population affected by the issue. Finland also prioritizes its aid to countries that have formally submitted a request to the U.N.
  10. United States of America – Last but not least on the list for the top 10 countries contributing to foreign aid is the U.S. The current American aid system was created in 1961. However, disputes surrounding U.S. investment have increased in recent years. President Trump has repeatedly fought for cuts in the budget while others advocate for the amount to be raised. In 2016, the U.S. contributed approximately $49 billion in foreign assistance.

Ultimately, there is still a lot of work to be done. With millions of people in crisis, it is important that the wealthiest nations help combat the issues that plague the poorest. If not for humanitarian reasons, foreign aid can help elite nations by increasing the global economy and infrastructure. When looking at success stories like China (which once was a U.S. aid recipient but now a financial leader), one can understand the impact of international assistance.

– Anna Melnik
Photo: Flickr

Recovery from Cyclone FaniCyclone Fani made landfall in India on May 3, 2019. Puri City, located in the Odisha state, was hit the hardest and experienced heavy rain and wind speeds in excess of 130 mph. This was equivalent to a Category Four hurricane. It was the worst cyclone to hit India since the 1999 super-cyclone that impacted the coast of Odisha for nearly 30 hours, killing 10,000 people. Over one million residents were evacuated ahead of the storm in Odisha. Finally, nearly 10 million people were impacted by severe weather conditions across India’s most northern states. This incredible amount of damage has resulted in a long road to recovery from Cyclone Fani.

More Damage from Cyclone Fani

Cyclone Fani caused widespread power outages and significant infrastructure damage in Puri. Many homes and businesses were completely destroyed. So far, 77 people died due to the cyclone.

The severe damage to infrastructure, homes and agricultural land has displaced millions of people from their homes. They sought refuge in shelter locations. There are also problems with accessing basic utilities such as clean water and food in the hardest fit areas. Over 4.8 million children have also been displaced in the Odisha state alone.

Government Relief Efforts

India’s government has pledged its full support toward recovery. Besides the thousands of shelters that have been set-up across the country, relief ministers have been touring the hardest-hit areas. More than 100,000 government officials, 45,000 volunteers and 9,000 shelters have been mobilized. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been working with international aid groups and countries around the world that are wanting to provide aid. Odisha’s Chief Minister has also created the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund where people can donate to relief efforts.

Organizations Offering Relief

The United Nations has stepped in to ensure that at-risk refugees in India and Bangladesh are protected from the after-effects of Cyclone Fani. Fani impacted many Bangladesh towns, such as Cox’s Bazar. These towns are home to nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees. They are a high-risk group because of an ongoing genocide crisis in Myanmar.

International aid groups and NGOs such as Christian Aid, World Vision and ActionAid have created relief funds that focus on providing essential supplies such as food and water. These groups have also sent recovery teams to India to help with relief efforts. Churches and local communities have also organized relief groups.

Issues Impacting Recovery

While efforts are being made to speed up recovery, there have been protestors in Odisha’s state capital, Bhubaneswar. They are demanding reducing costs of high food and water prices, along with ensuring a fast recovery.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, an international aid group, has identified the most important recovery efforts. Some of these efforts are:

  1. Emergency shelter
  2. Nutritional supplies
  3. Rebuilding schools
  4. Restoring electricity

How to Help the Recovery from Cyclone Fani

International residents are encouraged to take the following steps in order to help India recover:

  1. Join ActionAid’s on-ground relief – ActionAid is recruiting people for its on-ground recovery operations. Volunteers are working in the highly-impacted areas, including Puri City.
  2. Contact local representatives – Contact local government officials in court area and voice concerns about helping India recover from Cyclone Fani. The more times local representatives are contacted, the greater the chance that action will be taken.
  3. Organize members in local communities – Organize members in local communities and help spread awareness. Bake-sales, car washes and social media are great ways to spread awareness and raise money. The more people who are involved in relief efforts, the faster India will recover from Cyclone Fani’s devastating after-effects.

Recovery from Cyclone Fani will not be an overnight process, but with collaboration through India’s government, international organizations, NGOs and citizens from all over the world, the hardest-hit areas will be able to make a full recovery.

– Kyle Arendas
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Saint Lucia

The beautiful Caribbean isle of Saint Lucia is known for its natural amenities: a lush interior rainforest, volcanic mountains, sandy beaches and coastal reefs. More than 1.2 million tourists flocked to the tiny island in 2018 alone. Despite the country’s up-and-coming image as a sunny vacation spot, there are far more nuances to the daily lives of native Saint Lucians. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Saint Lucia

  1. Tourism – Around 65 percent of Saint Lucia’s GDP is generated through tourism. The foreign-dependent nature of the tourism industry proved troubling for Saint Lucians, especially when the 2008 global financial crisis spurred a reduction of commercial flights to the island. However, recently the country began a new effort to boost cruise and yachting tourism through dock expansions and marketing campaigns. The total number of visitors increased by 10.2 percent from 2017 to 2018 alone.

  2. Education – According to UNICEF’s most recent data, Saint Lucia has a primary education gross enrollment rate of around 93 percent of children. The country’s secondary education enrollment rate is around 85 percent. As a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the country became a partner of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2016. The GPE is helping Saint Lucia strengthen its education system. The group has already disbursed more than $1.6 million dollars for teacher development, curriculum standardization and learning assessments.

  3. Hurricane Risk – Saint Lucia sits on the southeastern side of the Caribbean. That means it generally fares well during severe weather seasons because storms strengthen as they move northwards. For example, during Hurricane Maria in 2017, Saint Lucia only suffered minor road damage. Many neighboring islands, especially those to the north, faced complete devastation. However, the Saint Lucian economy does rely significantly on agricultural exports, which are often damaged in severe weather. For example, tropical storm Kirk damaged more than 80 percent of the island’s banana industry.

  4. Banana Industry – Saint Lucia’s agricultural industry employs over 20 percent of the island’s workforce. Bananas are the main export crop. Black Sigatoka Disease is also a serious concern. This disease damages the leaves of banana trees, rendering them unable to grow healthy fruit. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN is one organization that reached out to Saint Lucians, as well as other Caribbean nations, to provide expert support. The FAO holds training sessions in the management of the disease, including proper selection and administration of fungicides.

  5. Crime – Unfortunately, Saint Lucia’s homicide rates are notably high. In 2017, they peaked at nearly six times the global average (which is 6.2 per 100,000 people). The government of Saint Lucia recently released the county’s Medium Term Development Plan for 2019-2022. The plan established a goal of reducing serious crime by 45 percent. Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet shared that the country will strive to meet that goal by improving prisoner rehabilitation services, the court infrastructure and resources for investigators.

  6. Public Health – Saint Lucia is among the healthier of the Caribbean countries, with an average life expectancy of nearly 75 years. That said, the country does have several serious health care issues. According to a 2016 survey, 92.5 percent of Saint Lucians felt “deprivations related to health insurance coverage.” Additionally, there are only 0.11 physicians per 1,000 people living in the country. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.3 health workers per 1,000 are necessary to cover primary healthcare needs. As a result, Saint Lucia is in need of change.

  7. Public Debt – Saint Lucia has a high level of public debt of 77 percent as of 2012. That is detrimentally high for a developing nation. The unemployment rate remains over 20 percent, as it has been since 2013. However, the recent spike in visitors to the island has encouraged Saint Lucians to capitalize on tourism. Industry officials expanded high-traffic port Pointe Seraphine to accommodate larger ships. The ministry of tourism also introduced new international marketing campaigns. The campaigns proved productive in the 10.2 percent visitor increase in 2018.

  8. Poverty – According to UNICEF, 25.1 percent of individuals and 18.7 percent of households live in poverty in Saint Lucia. This is largely due to the lack of diversity in the island’s domestic job market. Additionally, this is a result of an over-reliance on foreign markets. Economic expansion will be crucial in reducing poverty on the island and improving living conditions in Saint Lucia. Country officials are capitalizing on the increase of cruise and yachting tourism to create new jobs on the island.

  9. Sanitation – While some parts of Saint Lucia have relatively robust infrastructures, that is not the country-wide truth. There are several communities, largely in the north, that do not have access to electricity, potable water, flushable toilets or reliable roads. In 2015, the CIA World Factbook estimated that nearly 10 percent of Saint Lucians use unimproved sanitation systems. Consequently, there is a higher risk of preventable diseases. This is an example of poor living conditions in Saint Lucia.

  10. Erosion – The wearing away of mountains, hillsides and beaches is a dangerous problem for Saint Lucians. This is a result of particularly bad hurricanes, like with Hurricane Tomas in 2010. It is also due to poor agricultural practices, as erosion is a chief environmental concern on the island. Mudslides can ruin arable land, contaminate drinking supplies and shut down rural roads. Coastal erosion can damage houses and harm wildlife. Organizations like UNESCO promote better land management practices to mitigate these ill-effects.  The Saint Lucia National Trust also began a project in November 2016 to reduce coastal erosion through beach stabilization. The process is still ongoing.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia demonstrate how this island is more than just a scenic visitor spot. It is a complex country, balancing tourist growth and educational improvements with agricultural and infrastructural instabilities. With the right developmental strides, Saint Lucia can ensure the prosperity of all its citizens.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

Impacts of Cell Phones
Since its invention in 1973, the presence of the cell phone has become practically unavoidable worldwide. As of 2019, there were approximately 4.68 billion mobile phone users globally. Although many worry about the adverse effects of the overuse of the device, one cannot overstate the positive impacts of cell phones, especially in the developing world. From mobile banking to health care, the cell phone has left an incredible footprint on the world despite its relatively short existence. Here are the top five impacts of cell phones in the developing world.

Top 5 Impacts of Cell Phones in the Developing World

  1. Mobile Banking: For many people living in the remote regions of third world countries, traditional brick and mortar banks are often out of reach. Mobile banking, however, is helping initiate financial inclusion. By connecting major banks to online banking networks, individuals can now easily transfer money with even just a flip phone. For instance, M-Pesa, a Kenyan mobile phone-based financial service, operates through the usage of banking SIM cards that allow the user to transfer monetary assets via SMS. This way, a flip phone would be all one would need to start with this service. As of 2016, an average of 19 million Kenyans sent the equivalent of $15 million on a daily basis. Through such services the number of people with financial accounts in Kenya has jumped from 21 percent in 2011 to 63 percent in 2014.
  2. Education: One can increasingly find the cell phone utilized for education in the schools of many developing countries. The utilization of mobile apps has transformed teaching in such places. For example, in parts of Africa, the EDC (Education Development Center) is currently experimenting with sending podcasts of interactive instructional materials to students. Furthermore, cell phones have increased literacy rates. The landmark 2014 UNESCO study, “Reading in the mobile era,” surveyed over 4,000 individuals in regions with low literacy rates and where people are unlikely to text. The study showed that many people have resorted to reading stories and books on their mobile devices. Additionally, a third of the study participants read stories to their children via their devices.
  3. Disaster Relief: Today mobile devices are a unique communication tool for disaster relief in developing countries. For example, in August 2017, Ncell, a Nepalese-based mobile operator, was able to provide warnings to vulnerable populations prior to the deadly floods and landslides. On the other hand, after the disastrous 2017 Hurricane Maria incidence in Puerto Rico, AT&T deployed Flying COWs (Cell on Wings). These Flying COWs were cell sites connected to wings that provided cell service to disaster-stricken areas temporarily and allowed residents to gain contact with loved ones and relief organizations.
  4. Governance: In countries and regions with low population densities, it has traditionally been exceedingly difficult for governments to reach out to the individuals residing there. However, mobile technology has simplified seemingly impossible tasks such as long-distance polling and voter registration. In 2018, the local government of Quezon City, Philippines even initiated a mobile app that serves as an online database of the city’s ordinances.
  5. Health Care: The impact of cell phones in the developing world has also stretched to the area of health care. Currently, mPedigree, a Ghanian nonprofit, is using cell phones to authenticate drugs to safeguard consumers against counterfeit and substandard products. The World Health Organization estimates that over 10 percent of global medications are fake so this new technology should be able to save countless lives on a daily basis.

Mobile devices are popular in remote areas to cheaply or freely offer daily texts and voicemails about common medical conditions. For example, in Mozambique, Absolute Return for Kids, a British nonprofit, is fighting HIV/AIDS by using mobile messaging to remind enrolled patients to take their medications as well as about appointment dates.

Conclusively, the range of the various impacts of cell phones globally in developing countries has been both deep and wide. The device has proven itself to be both an efficient yet inexpensive solution to many day-to-day problems. It is not too optimistic to say that in the near future even more creative uses for cell phones will surface.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone Idai Health CrisisOn March 14, 2019, disaster struck southern Africa in the form of Cyclone Idai, a category 2 tropical storm that ravaged through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Idai made landfall in Beira, Mozambique, a large port city of more than 530,000 citizens. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies asserts that 90 percent of Beira has been destroyed in the wake of Idai. The subsequent Cyclone Idai health crisis continues to challenge Southeast Africa.

As Idai strengthened along the coast of Africa, Mozambique and Malawi experienced severe flooding resulting from heavy rainfall. The cyclone destroyed roads and bridges, with a death toll of 1007. Hundreds more are still missing. Sustained winds of over 150 mph damaged the crops, homes and livelihoods of thousands throughout southeast Africa. To top it all off, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are experiencing a major health crisis in southeast Africa in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.

Cholera and Malaria

As of May, more than 6,500 cases of cholera have been reported. This intestinal infection is waterborne, commonly caused by drinking unsanitary water. In Mozambique, a country already vulnerable to poverty, the cholera outbreak exacerbates the adverse effects of Cyclone Idai. Cholera can be fatal without swift medical attention, though prompt disaster relief response and a successful vaccination campaign made significant strides in containing the outbreak.

In addition to cholera outbreak, cases of malaria are rising, with nearly 15,000 cases reported since March 27. Malaria is transmitted through Anopheles mosquito bites, insects that flourish in the standing flood waters of Idai. According to WHO, almost half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, with the majority of cases and deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. Relief efforts prepared for the outbreaks by arming health professionals with antimalarials and fast-acting diagnostic tests.

Cyclone Idai Health Crisis Relief Efforts

The health crisis in Southeast Africa following Cyclone Idai received swift aid response. Disaster relief efforts prepared vaccinations and medications beforehand, ensuring that medical response was efficient and effective. The total recovery cost for the damage inflicted on Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe is estimated at over $2 billion. The tropical storm affected upward of three million Africans.

WHO delivered 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine retrieved from the global emergency stockpile. Further, the organization plans to create multiple cholera treatment centers in hopes of containing the outbreak. World Vision is concentrating their efforts on the spread of this infectious disease. The humanitarian aid group is working alongside UNICEF to distribute cholera kits with soap and water purification tablets.

Rapid aid efforts also met the spike in malaria cases to combat the Cyclone Idai health crisis. WHO secured 900,000 bed nets treated with a strong insecticide to prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. However, children and infants are at major risk, as malaria is considered the third most deadly disease to this population. The hefty humanitarian response and support necessary to help Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe has prompted UNICEF to launch an appeal for $122 million for the next nine months.

-Anna Giffels
Photo: Pixabay