impact of conflict on poverty
Conflict can be a catalyst for an array of poverty-related events. It can impact poverty by depleting resources, interrupting supply chains, destroying infrastructure, taking lives and much more. Unfortunately, this trend has held in the country of Mali, which currently shows the significant impact of conflict on poverty.

Conflict Background and Economic Impact

The Mali War is an ongoing conflict that began in January of 2012. Since then, violence between the North and South of Mali has ebbed and flowed in severity but never subsided. Malian people, including the Tuareg, in the North of Mali, have expressed resentment and concern, as they feel that governmental groups and political factions have been neglecting their concerns and treating them unfairly. Ethnic divides, fundamentalist fighters and an unstable political system are a few issues that have caused this conflict.

There have been thousands of deaths and thousands of more people fleeing the conflict. As mentioned previously, many connect the weak economic sector in Mali to the outbreak of unrest and violence. Almost cyclically, this violence is now negatively impacting the economic sector. Before the conflict broke out, tourism accounted for more than 40% of Mali’s GDP. Researchers estimate that 8,000 people lost their job due to the drastic decrease in tourism after the conflict began. The economic connection highlights the ranging impact of conflict on poverty.

Many of those living in the North of Mali, mostly Tuareg and Arab groups, depend on the agricultural sector for their income. The government has invested very little in this sector and focuses primarily on tourism and the export of gold and cotton from the South. This has led many agricultural producers in the South to grow jaded towards the government due to their increased likelihood of experiencing extreme poverty.

The Impact on Public Health

Roughly 1 in 3 children in Mali are facing chronic malnutrition. An annual average of nearly four million people in Mali do not have access to an adequate amount of food. More than half of Mali’s children and young adults are illiterate and have been pushed out of school due to displacement. Many children in Mali are at great risk of being recruited into militant groups, further threatening their safety, educational resources, and ability to climb from poverty.

At its base level, the conflict in Mali threatens public health by the sheer loss of life it has caused. In 2018, hundreds of civilians were killed by armed groups. The byproducts of this violence caused even more people to experience extreme poverty, malnutrition and death. Additionally, more than 200,000 people have fled Mali altogether to avoid the violence. This stunts Mali’s economic growth, which reaffirms the dangerous impact of conflict on poverty.

Current Aid and Support Efforts

A military coup ousted the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, on August 19th, 2020. President Bah Ndaw became the interim leader of Mali and will hold the position until an election can be held. Some are hopeful that if a legitimate election can be held, much of the conflict in Mali will subside. In the meantime, many local and international nonprofit organizations have mobilized to aid in poverty-reduction efforts throughout Mali.

  1. For example, World Vision began providing aid in Mali in 1975, even before the conflict. In 2012 during the height of the conflict, World Vision provided aid in the form of food, clean water, and shelter to more than 150,000 people throughout Mali. Additionally, more than 60,000 children in Mali are currently benefiting from World Vision’s child sponsorship program. The program allows donors to provide monetary assistance to and communicate with an impoverished child. Many of these sponsored children in Mali reside within conflict-ridden areas.
  2. Peace Direct, another nonprofit organization, focuses on peacebuilding efforts in Mali. They support communities in their implementation of peacebuilding; in 2019 alone, they supported more than 20 projects throughout Mali. Peace Direct realizes the importance of community growth, both physically and emotionally, to peacebuilding. A lack of communal trust can be detrimental to poverty reduction, as teamwork makes progress more effective and efficient. Additionally, the building of trust and understanding among conflict groups is essential to support continued growth and stability throughout Mali. This trust will prevent future conflicts and allow Mali to focus on joint economic growth and poverty-reduction tactics throughout their country.

    3. “The Peacebuilding Stabilization and Reconciliation Project,” run through USAID, began in April of 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in March of 2023. This project focuses on rebuilding many of the conflict-ridden areas throughout Mali, providing rehabilitation resources to those impacted by the violence, increasing civic engagement and helping Mali’s government introduce barriers to prevent violent outbreaks in the future. USAID believes that providing community members with an active role in their governance will decrease dissent, enhance democratic values, reduce the likelihood of future conflict and decrease the joint poverty level throughout Mali. Success will also ideally increase GDP and overall well being while mitigating the impact of conflict on poverty in Mali.

The Future of the Region

The domino effect that violence can have on the prosperity of a nation is not a surprise. Violence decreases an individual’s ability to focus on economic growth or public health. It overtakes governmental initiatives and attention from the media, forcing poverty-related issues to take a backseat. The importance of the international community supporting peacebuilding efforts in Mali remains essential. The path toward peace will trickle-down benefits for many subsets of Mali’s society and will decrease the occurrence of extreme poverty throughout the nation.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: UN Multimedia

South Korea’s Foreign Aid
South Korea, or the Republic of Korea officially, is stepping forward as a global leader in delivering foreign aid. During the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korea’s foreign aid will amount to $400 million USD donated to programs dedicated to improving health in developing countries, according to South Korea’s fiscal chief Moon Jae-In in April 2020. In 2017, he was the chief of staff to President Roh Moo-hyun. The country has also enacted foreign aid by pledging to extend the due dates of international loans and payments.

Where South Korea’s Foreign Aid is Going

South Korea’s foreign aid has helped South Korea emerge as a world leader, and especially since the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) recruited it. Another thing that has helped South Korea emerge as a world leader was its swift detection, containment and treatment of COVID-19. South Korea lowered the number of cases in the county to 61 cases on October 24, 2020 – all without imposing a full lockdown.

In Tanzania, South Korean foreign aid is implementing a project to empower rural women. It will facilitate this project from 2020 to 2023, with $5 million USD. Agricultural facilities will undergo construction, and female farmers will receive marketing and technical education. This will improve women’s access to land. South Korea will also establish a center for victims of gender-based violence.

South Korea has undergone a radical transformation. It has gone from being a recipient to a significant donor of international aid. In the 1960s, South Korea received over $1,400 million USD in foreign aid. Decades later, in 1987, South Korea adopted democracy, and institutions received new designs to better serve the interests of the public. In 1987, it donated $25 million in foreign aid, but this does not include aid to North Korea, or else this amount would be far larger. This change was due to South Korea’s official adoption of democracy in 1987 when June demonstrations forced the government to announce democratic reforms. A free market allowed for competition, and therefore, innovation to take place, thus sustaining the economy and bolstering the GDP per capita, from $2,835 USD in 1986 to $13,403 USD in 1996.

South Korea as an ODA Donor

In 1987, South Korea became a donor for official development assistance (ODA). ODA is government aid to encourage the economic development of developing countries. In 1987, South Korea’s foreign aid totaled $25 million. Contributions steadily increased, with yearly percentage increases ranging from 30% to 79% in the next 20 years. It continues to flourish and thrive as an emerging significant country in global aid.

South Korea and the OECD

South Korea became a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) prestigious Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in 2010. The OECD is an international group of the biggest providers of assistance towards developing countries and the DAC is a forum to discuss issues of international aid focused on inclusive and sustainable growth.

In 2011, one year after becoming a member of DAC, South Korean president Lee Myung-bak stated that South Korea intends to give more aid to the world than what it has ever taken. To exemplify this promise, in 2015, Korea partnered with USAID to commit $5 million to the Ethiopian government to encourage its efforts to mitigate child and maternal death there. It mainly focused on heightening the numbers of healthy mothers and successful births, giving more access to application and acceptance of family planning, and increasing healthy birth rates.

South Korea also pledged in July 2020 to give $4 million in humanitarian assistance to countries in East Africa that experienced locust swarms, resulting in food crises for over 25 million people. The World Bank recommended that social and productive safety-net programs – a subset of social protection mechanisms – be instilled to bolster food and nutrition security. Safety nets include cash, social pensions, public works and school meal programs.

South Korea’s growth in foreign aid increased significantly after the county adopted democracy, and it became a member of the OECD. It is stepping forward as a global leader in delivering foreign assistance, as proven by its inclusion into the DAC. It is combating issues such as maternal deaths in Ethiopia and food scarcity in the East African region due to food scarcity caused by locusts.

– Madeline Drayna
Photo: Unsplash

Rift Valley FeverIn 1999, NASA scientists theorized that at some point soon, they would have the ability to track outbreaks (via satellite) of Rift Valley fever (RVF). This disease is deadly to livestock and occasionally, humans, in East Africa. They already knew the method needed but did not yet have enough data. NASA scientists had already surmised that outbreaks were directly related to El Niño weather events and knew that areas with more vegetation would breed more disease-carrying mosquitoes. To see the exact areas that would be most at-risk, satellites would need to track differences in the color and density of vegetation, from year to year.

Prediction of Rift Valley Fever

In 2006, NASA scientists predicted and tracked an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in East Africa. Unfortunately, even with intervention efforts, the 2006 outbreak led to the deaths of more than 500 people and cost the regional economy more than $60 million. This was due to export restrictions as well as livestock deaths. However, the aim of researchers was not to entirely stop that outbreak. The results of that mission gave researchers confidence that they could predict the next outbreak even better the next time.

Ten years later, the NASA team successfully predicted the location of the next potential outbreak and warned the Kenyan government before the disease could strike. Thanks to the combined efforts of NASA and the Kenyan government, Kenya saw no outbreak of Rift Valley fever in 2016. This, in turn, saved the country millions of dollars and protected the lives and livelihoods of rural farmers, throughout the country.

Focus on Cholera

With the success of Rift Valley fever prediction in 2006, NASA researchers became confident they may predict all disease outbreaks. Moreover, they believed they could halt them, using satellite technology. Researchers are especially focused on neglected diseases like cholera which are connected to environmental conditions and hit developing countries and impoverished people the hardest. Newer satellites add the ability to measure variables like temperature and rainfall. This enables researchers to use more than just the visual data, used in the initial Rift Valley fever predictions. Consequently, this significantly improves their models.

Cholera is perhaps the most promising disease, analyzed by new scientific models due to its scale. Nearly 3 million people contract and almost 100,000, die each year. Moreover, it spread directly links to weather events. There are two distinct forms of cholera, endemic and epidemic. Endemic cholera is present in bodies of water primarily during the dry season. Also, communities living along coasts are typically ready for the disease. Epidemic cholera comes about during extreme weather events like floods and inland communities are often unprepared for the disease. Both forms of the disease proved to be perfect candidates for modeling by disease researchers. In 2013, a NASA team successfully modeled cholera outbreaks in Bangladesh.

The Yemen Model

The real test of the NASA team’s predictive models would come in 2017. The use of the model in Yemen proved to work near perfectly. Researchers predicted exactly where the outbreaks would occur, nearly a full month in advance. The success of the model in impoverished and war-torn Yemen is especially notable. This is because it could mean less of a need for more expensive and dangerous methods of disease research. Instead, early warning systems are an implementable option. Even if they fail, medical professionals can send vaccines and medications to exactly the right locations. Cholera outbreaks and their disproportionate death rates among the global poor will hopefully soon be a thing of the past.

By halting outbreaks before they begin, international aid lends itself more efficiently. Information is valuable and the more information poverty-fighting organizations have, the better they can spend their dollars to maximize utility and help the most people. As satellite technology advances along with newer predictive models, preventing disease outbreaks could save developing economies and aid organizations hundreds of millions of dollars each year, along with thousands of lives.

Jeff Keare
Photo: Flickr

Kala Azar DiseaseKala Azar, the second-largest parasitic killer in the world after malaria, is quite deadly. Known as Kala Azar, Black Fever and visceral leishmaniasis, the disease kills 95% of its victims if left untreated. This “Poor Man’s Disease” can be very hypocritical. While this disease infects the poverty-stricken, the treatment is hard to come by, if not impossible. Even if the patient finds a doctor that can treat the disease, the price is astronomical. And sometimes, there is no stopping the contraction of the Black Fever.

The Spread

As the disease transmits through a sandfly bite, Kala Azar preys on the vulnerable. More than 1 billion people are at risk. East Africa, India and even some parts of the Middle East are endemic to Kala Azar. Poor housing conditions and lack of waste management in these countries cause an increase in the bloodthirsty sandflies’ breeding sites. This specific culprit is the female, Phlebotomine sand fly. While just one bite from it can put someone on bed rest for weeks, malnutrition only worsens the situation. For example, low vitamin D, iron and zinc can cause an infection to progress into disease much quicker. If Kala Azar killed the equivalent number of people in the U.S., it would be the third-largest killer, killing more citizens than those who die from strokes.

OneWorld Health

The real fighting began in 2003 with a collaboration between OneWorld Health, the WHO and a 4.2 million dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With this grant and WHO’s resources, OneWorld Health was able to start its final testing to find an affordable cure for Kala Azar and the disease it causes. They are reinventing an old medicine and turning it into the treatment now called paromomycin. “It’s not every day one can say an affordable cure for a deadly disease may be imminent and we believe our approach will be successful,” said Dr. Victoria Hale, founder and CEO of OneWorld Health. It is to be a 21-day treatment and it will be readily available in every Indian clinic and, hopefully, one day, everywhere.

Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi)

Unfortunately, nothing came of the OneWorld Health drug, paromomycin until February 2019. The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) is fighting to change that. In a press release on the DNDi website, they share that Wellcome, a U.K. based foundation aiming to improve health for everyone, committed 12.9 million dollars for the development of drugs for Kala Azar. They are essentially funding a program that will test pre-existing drugs (that never made it to the world) and choose one to put on the market. DNDi is hoping it to be an oral drug as the drugs taken to fight Kala Azar can be painful and “require patients to take toxic and poorly tolerated drugs — often over a long period and through painful injections,” as said by Dr. Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director of DNDi.

The Impact

There is an estimated 50,000 to 90,000 new cases each year. Most families of the infected do not even go to the doctor, knowing that they will not be able to pay for the treatment. While there are many organizations funding drugs to treat Kala Azar, the cure is not coming fast enough. The current treatment for this parasitic disease is not reasonable. How can a family that can barely provide for themselves spend thousands of dollars on treatment?

The prevention and an end to Kala Azar lie in our hands. Organizations need funding to take preventative measures like spraying for these deadly sand flies, monitoring the epidemics and educating the communities affected by the disease.

Bailey Sparks
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ethiopia's GERD
In 2011, Ethiopia announced plans to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in the northwestern region of the country where the Blue Nile starts. As of July 2020, Ethiopia has reached the first-year target for filling the dam. Once finished, Ethiopia’s GERD will be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa.

This project is the principal focus of the rising nation’s development initiatives. In 1991, the East African country was among the poorest in the world, having weathered a deadly famine and civil war during the 1980s. By 2020, Ethiopia is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, averaging 9.9% of broad-based growth per year. With the completion of the GERD, the Ethiopian government anticipates joining the handful of middle-income countries by 2025. Here are ten ways Ethiopia’s GERD will help to reduce poverty and transform the country.

10 Ways The GERD Will Transform Ethiopia

  1. The GERD will quadruple the amount of electricity produced in the country. The nation’s electric supply will increase from 1591 MW when plans for the dam were first announced to approximately 6,000 MW once finished.
  2. Millions of Ethiopians will have access to electricity for the first time. Currently, over 66% of Ethiopia’s 115 million citizens lack power. Once operational, the dam will provide electricity to over 76 million Ethiopians.
  3. The surplus electricity produced by the GERD will be a steady source of income. The enormous dam will generate 6000 MW of electricity, which is more than Ethiopia needs. The Ethiopian government expects to export power to neighboring nations, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan.
  4. Clean water provided by the GERD will lower the spread of illness. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to clean water is a timely concern to Ethiopian officials. Frequent hand-washing is essential to tackling a virus with no vaccine, but this cannot be done without clean water. The Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa has 4.8 million residents, all of whom are well-acquainted with periodic water shortages the city suffers. The completion of the GERD will decrease the risk of contracting COVID-19 and other contagious illnesses.
  5. The dam will greatly reduce sedimentation in the Blue Nile. Sedimentation poses a huge problem for farmers living in the area, as it clogs irrigation channels and hurts the efficiency of hydropower. The GERD will save the costs of building new canals and eliminate the need for new machines to be built.
  6. The GERD will also regulate the Blue Nile’s flow. The dam includes reservoir construction, which will weather the effects of drought and manage flooding during heavier rain seasons. This will provide farmers with a more uniform schedule, rather than being at the mercy of the elements, as it was in the past.
  7. Dam construction is a business that requires tons of manpower. Ethiopia’s GERD is predicted to create 12,000 jobs, which will stimulate both the local and national economy.
  8. The GERD dam will irrigate over 1.2 million acres of arable land. The fertilization of soil will guarantee a successful harvest for millions of farmers. This is crucial to ensuring the growth of Ethiopia’s economy, which is still mostly based in agriculture.
  9. The construction of the dam is transforming formerly arid land to be more useful for the country. The site of the dam was a region of lifeless land about 20km from the Ethiopian-Sudanese border. After the GERD is finished, the artificial lake will hold up to 74 billion cubic meters of water.
  10. Even before the conclusion of the dam’s construction, the GERD will produce electricity. After negotiating talks with Egypt, Ethiopia agreed to extend the filling of the GERD dam from 2-3 years to 5-7. Despite this lengthened timeline, the first of 13 total turbines will be in operation by mid-2021.

With the undertaking of this massive and controversial project, Ethiopia shows it has no intention of stagnating in its goal to reduce poverty. Once Ethiopia’s GERD is completed, Ethiopia’s economy will flourish and the dam will decrease poverty across the nation.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr

Food Security in East AfricaAn apocalyptic scene—swarming locusts blanketing the sky. This is an image the world is mostly unfamiliar with. In fact, locusts are the oldest migratory pest in the world and are often associated with destruction.

A Snapshot of the Problem

There can be as many as 80 million locusts compacted into just a half square mile, and they bring with them devastating effects. In only one day, one square kilometer of these pests can destroy the agricultural produce that could sustain 35,000 people. The FAO states that during plagues, like the ones that occurred in East Africa during 2020, locusts can damage the livelihood of a staggering 1/10 of the world’s population.

Locust migration occurs in a cycle of boom and bust. This biological uncertainty makes it hard for countries to garner the funding, political will, knowledge and capacity to proactively address the threat through long-term infrastructure. However, failure to detect and control locusts proactively can result in devastating plagues. These can require millions of dollars to address and have catastrophic effects on food security, particularly in East Africa. The experience of one Somalian farmer portrays the catastrophic impact these pests have. Abdirahman Hussein Mohamoud relies on his farm to support his family. In May, he lost his entire $5,000 investment in crops to locusts. In his own words, his hard work “has all come to nothing.”

Possible Solutions

The FAO tries to combat the threat of locusts through early detection and warning with its Desert Locusts Information Service. USAID works towards strengthening the government’s capacity to address the threat of locus proactively in addition to the $19 million of US humanitarian response to reduce the size and impact of swarms. However, there is still an overwhelming lack of policies addressing locusts in East African countries. For this reason, there is a heavy reliance on pesticides for rapid response.

The use of pesticides, while incredibly effective for killing locusts, can negatively impact the health of humans and the environment. In Uganda, desert locusts are a common food source and the people often consume them immediately after the use of harsh pesticides. A number of community health advocates are raising concerns with the lack of adequate training and information on the potential impact these pesticides can have on human health. Executive Director of the Mpala Research Centre in northern Kenya, Dino Martins, warns that mass spraying can harm biodiversity as well. Martins points to the need to create more sustainable alternatives to controlling locusts such as biopesticides of pheromones.

Impact of COVID-19

While locusts pose a major threat to food security in East Africa, COVID-19 has made poor communities even more vulnerable. Resources for aid are stretched thin with a high priority on coronavirus relief. Despite this, countries in East Africa have maintained the control and monitoring of desert locusts as a national priority.

However, the slowdown in the global supply chain and cross-border mobility is raising concerns about the difficulty of acquiring pesticides for controlling locusts and protecting food security in East Africa. In March, an order of pesticides from Somalia to Ethiopia was delayed due to cargo flights being cut back. This showcases the dangerous impact COVID-19 can have on controlling the epidemic of locusts. Cyril Ferrand, the FAO’s Resilience Team Leader for East Africa, states access to pesticides is the biggest challenge facing their ability to control the impact of these pests.

Governments are exempting restrictions on movement for locusts control groups, recognizing their need to continue work. The FAO has stated they have been able to continue their efforts despite restriction. For instance, they have been able to treat more than 240,000 hectares with pesticides in East Africa. FAO has also trained 740 people on how to conduct ground control operations for locusts. So far, FAO has raised half of the $300 million it expects to need for pesticides.

Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

Locusts in East AfricaIn 2020, the world is facing many hardships. Especially in East Africa, where swarms of locusts are devastating the local agricultural systems. There can be up to 70 billion locusts in one swarm, with each of them eating their own body weight (about 0.07 ounces) in foliage every day. In total, these locusts in East Africa are eating 300 million pounds of crops per day, in an area the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes for its’ “severe food insecurity.”

Influence of Climate Change

Why is this happening in 2020? The answer is climate change, according to experts. Desert locusts, in normal times, are mostly reclusive and don’t often interact with each other. According to these experts, recent and rare cyclones, caused by warming oceans that hit the dry deserts of the Arabian Peninsula in 2018 and 2019, caused the desert to experience rains that it had not seen in a very long time. This caused physiological and mental changes in the locusts that have made them more ravenous than usual.  They grow larger, change color and their brains get bigger. They begin to behave in similar ways to one another and form swarms that can travel over 100 miles per day in search of food.

Funding Needed

This comes amid a global pandemic that is already taking human lives and wreaking havoc on the economy. The FAO is calling on U.N. members to contribute more financial assistance for local governments than it is currently receiving, about an estimated $138 million needed in total. This will go toward ways of combating the locusts, such as the use of pesticides.

COVID-19’s Impact

Imports of pesticides come from the Netherlands, Morocco and Japan, among other outside sources. However, this means that these pesticides that are desperately needed are slowed by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions placed on cargo. Equipment needed for dispersal of the pesticides is made in China and helicopters meant to track locust movements are from Canada. The international pilots for the helicopters have to quarantine when arriving. All of these roadblocks cause the loss of precious time in the fight against the locusts.

This ongoing issue of locusts in East Africa could get worse if U.N. members do not follow through on the FAO’s funding recommendations. This locust plague, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, could cause a large loss of life in East Africa. However, the migratory nature of locusts makes it likely they will move to countries where there are national programs in place to address them. Hopefully, with the help of U.N. funds, East Africa can implement successful changes as well.

– Tara Suter
Photo: Flickr

Drones in AfricaThe mission of Zipline, a company started in 2014 and based in San Francisco, is to “provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies.” To accomplish this goal, the company has created a drone delivery service where drones in Africa distribute lifesaving medical supplies to remote clinics in Ghana and Rwanda. More recently Zipline has expanded to other locations across the globe, including the U.S.

Poverty in Rwanda and Ghana

Rwanda is a rural East African country that relies heavily on farming. Although the country has made improvements in recent years, the 1994 Rwandan genocide damaged the economy and forced many people into poverty, particularly women. As of 2015, 39% of the population lived below the poverty line and Rwanda was ranked 208th out of 228 countries in terms of GDP per capita. On top of this, Rwanda only has 0.13 physicians per 1,000 people, which is insufficient to meet health care needs according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ghana, located in West Africa, has fewer economic problems than neighboring countries in the region. However, debt, high costs of electricity and a lack of a stable domestic revenue continue to pose a threat to the economy. The GDP per capita was $4,700 as of 2017, with 24.2% of the population living below the poverty line. Although Ghana has a higher ratio of physicians per 1,000 people than Rwanda, with 0.18 physicians, it still falls below the WHO recommendation of at least 2.3 physicians per 1,000.

Benefits of Drone Delivery Services

On-demand delivery, such as drone delivery services, are typically only available to wealthy nations. However, Zipline evens the playing field by ensuring that those living in poorer and more remote regions also have access to the medical supplies they need. Zipline has made over 37,000 deliveries. In Rwanda, the drones provide deliveries across the country, bypassing the problems of dangerous routes, traffic and vehicle breakdowns, speeding up delivery and therefore minimizing waste. Additionally, Zipline’s drones in Africa do not use gasoline but, instead, on battery power.

Drone Delivery Services and COVID-19

Zipline’s services have been especially crucial during the COVID-19 response. Zipline has partnered with various nonprofit organizations (NGOs) and governments to complement traditional means of delivery of medical supplies on an international scale. This has helped to keep delivery drivers at home and minimize face-to-face interactions. As there are advances in treatments for COVID-19, delivery by drones in Africa has the potential to provide access to the vulnerable populations who are most at risk. At the same time, it can help vulnerable people stay at home by delivering medications directly to them or to nearby clinics, minimizing travel and reducing the chance of exposure. Zipline distribution centers have the capability to make thousands of deliveries a week across 8,000 square miles. Doctors and clinics simply use an app to order the supplies they need, receiving the supplies in 15 to 20 minutes. The drones are equipped for any weather conditions.

New means of providing medical equipment are helping to ensure that the world’s poor have access to the supplies they need. A company called Zipline has been using drones to deliver medical supplies to Africa, specifically in Rwanda and Ghana. During the COVID-19 pandemic, drones have been crucial in providing people and clinics with the medical supplies they need.

Elizabeth Davis
Photo: Flickr

Supercomputer in East Africa
Scientists based in Nairobi, Kenya, with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Climate Prediction and Applications Center, are successfully combating the worst surge in locusts in 70 years by predicting the conditions and location of future swarms with a supercomputer. The new technology has shown to predict with 90 percent accuracy so far and has saved food crops in Uganda. The scientists’ hope is that a supercomputer in East Africa will protect crops from locusts for other countries as well. Locusts are large, tropical grasshoppers. They threaten the food security of many East African countries such as Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The Locust Problem

Since biblical times, locusts have plagued the MENA region (Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan). Locusts eat and destroy vital crops. The traditional spraying of pesticides has controlled the spread of locusts. However, between shortages in pesticides, armed conflicts and climate change, locusts have made a startling resurgence.

In addition to the shortage of pesticides, countries like Kenya lack expertise in controlling the threat to their food supply. Ethiopia is facing the same threat and does not have enough planes to spray its fields. The country needs planes to spray in hard-to-reach areas where workers cannot exterminate. Meanwhile, civil wars in Yemen and Somalia prevent any coordinated response to the surge of the plant-devouring bug. Furthermore, exterminators in those countries have no guaranteed safety in times of war.

Some have blamed the rise of locusts in the region primarily on the extended rainy season and warming seas that have accelerated egg hatching, with strong cyclones spreading the insect farther. According to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), people need to address the problem soon. If not, the number of locusts could multiply up to 400 times by June 2020. This could leave approximately 25 million people hungry. The organization warned that the locusts, which have a generation life cycle of three months, have grown 20 times more each new generation.

A Supercomputer in East Africa Can Protect Crops from Locusts

Satellite information scientists, such as Kenneth Mwangi of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Climate Prediction and Application Center, used a supercomputer model to predict areas of locust breeding that they did not monitor on the ground. The model fills in the information gaps of where new swarms could hatch.

By determining where there may be an upsurge in hoppers, the model is able to target likely areas of breeding for future pesticide spraying. To get to those areas before eggs hatch is crucial in preventing the spread. It also saves money by preventing an uncontrolled swarm. Young locusts or juveniles eat vegetation and reproduce well in 50-70 percent humidity levels and temperatures between 86 F and 104 F.

To date, the supercomputer has predicted where these areas are likely to be with a 90 percent accuracy rate according to the scientists involved.  The Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa Program out of the United Kingdom funds the technology. It uses data such as humidity, soil moisture, wind currents, vegetation cover and temperature to predict where locusts will lay their eggs. The supercomputer then sends the prediction model information to other African countries so they know where to spray. This represents a critical period of time so that the people can begin their cropping season without incident. Major crops in Uganda include cotton, sorghum, millet and maize.

In one instance, the supercomputer warned the Ugandan Government of the likely migration path that locusts would take as they crossed the border from Kenya to Uganda. Then, the government mobilized the army to assist with the spraying efforts and killed millions of locusts and eggs. Uganda has not seen anything like it since the 1960s.

The supercomputer has proven to be an important tool at combating a new (and old) agricultural foe in East Africa. The ability to predict new breeding grounds and swarm migrations in the region has the potential to limit damage. It can also limit the cost of extermination on a grand scale. Uganda is evidence, thus far, of its effectiveness. But the UNFAO warns that if people do not mitigate the crisis soon, the new cropping season will coincide with a booming locusts population that would leave millions without the food on which they depend.

Caleb Cummings
Photo: Flickr

East African FederationA proposed federation between Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda seeks to establish a single currency, political unity, modern infrastructure, improved trade relations and ensured peace. In the 1960s, when many of the above countries won their independence, a political federation was first proposed. Today, all six countries are members of the East African Community (EAC), which started in 1999 as a less ambitious form of unity. The East African Federation remains mostly an idea; however, leaders in all six countries are now working together to see the idea come to fruition.

Where it Stands

The countries began drafting a unified constitution in 2018, which would render each member’s individual constitution subordinate to that of the East African Federation. They have set the deadline for its completion to 2021. The EAC has already neared completion of a monetary union, likely being something akin to the European Union’s euro. The euro has allowed for the free movement of capital, stimulating trade activity between member states. Additionally, all six countries are planning to hold a referendum with their own citizens in order to gauge support.

Ambitions

The countries’ leaders say that a federation will lead to economic development and greater African sovereignty. The advantages of the East African Federation include linkages of infrastructure, which will allow four of the landlocked members to have access to the trading ports of Kenya and Tanzania. Further, the East African Federation, due to its enormity, will have more influence in international diplomacy, and its governmental institutions will become more robust through information sharing.

Limitations

When integration efforts were attempted in the past, they became derailed by individual national interests and existing tensions. While the East African Federation attempts to overcome these tensions, some doubt its ability to do so. Critics point to trade disputes between Rwanda and Uganda and military rivalries between Tanzania and Rwanda as prominent examples for why unity will remain unaccomplished.

The Promise

East Africa’s economy is the fastest-growing on the continent; GDP increased by 5.7 percent in 2018 and is forecasted to hit 5.9 percent in 2019. According to the World Bank’s most recent data, the average poverty rate for the 6 countries is 49.6 percent. Kenya has the lowest rate with 36.8 percent, and Burundi has the highest with 71.8 percent. The East African Federation promises to improve cooperation methods and increase economic potential, yielding greater growth, quicker development and lasting stability for the region.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr