Information and news about economic crisis

Viral Video Game Employing Venezuelans
Hundreds of people in Venezuela are playing RuneScape. RuneScape is an online open-world game with multiple themes to choose from. RuneScape involves a world of ancient magic, pirates and medieval castles. This game provides an escape from the daily lives of Venezuelans. This viral video game is also employing Venezuelans during the country’s economic crisis to give them the income they desperately need.

The Economic Crisis in Venezuela

Venezuela is facing hyperinflation due to its plummeting economy and increasing political turmoil. Citizens are leaving their jobs and protesting on the streets instead. The country is in massive debt and corruption is rampant with violence on the streets in addition to food and medicine shortages. As a result, Venezuelans are fighting for survival as they earn only $6.70 a month.

Venezuela remains highly dependent on oil reserves, which accounts for almost all export earnings and nearly half of the government’s revenue. However, the falling oil prices due to the economic crisis has caused U.S. multinational firms to shut down their Venezuelan operations, aggravating the issue even more. The access to dollars has become insufficient with inflation on the rise and price controls as well as rigid labor regulations causing even more shutdowns. Because the government is so in debt, there are food and medicine shortages leading to health issues rising across the country. Malnourished children and citizens without access to proper health care is an ongoing crisis. Some Venezuelans are even migrating from their home country. Citizens are escaping to neighboring places such as Columbia and Peru in the hope of finding a better life. According to worldvision.org, the number of displaced people may increase to 5.4 million.

The Bolivar is worth $9.90 compared to the U.S. dollar. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s unemployment rate is 17%. The country is suffering from an inflation rate of 482% according to IMF figures. As the country is rationing food, angry and hungry mobs are attacking supermarkets and civil unrest is threatening the government.

In 2015, the oil price reduced by half and access to basic necessities like groceries cost 22 times the minimum salary. With the economy in turmoil, Venezuelans are searching elsewhere for employment and are looking anywhere to earn money.

RuneScape

RuneScape is a multiplayer online roleplaying game that can help the economic crisis in Venezuela. For some Venezuelans, this virtual video game is their only source of income. By farming gold on the game in exchange for in-game weapons and armor, Venezuelan’s can trade their virtual currency that is worth more than their actual currency online to other gamers across the world. Players are killing the green dragons in the game and selling the objects that they drop on the virtual marketplace. Additionally, Venezuelans can sell this gold to third party sites for money like cryptocurrency sites such as Bitcoin.

While the monthly minimum wage is only $6.70 a month, RuneScape players can earn that amount in only two days for eight-hour shifts by selling 500,000 units gold per hour. Since the economy is unstable in Venezuela, RuneScape offers a safety valve for Venezuelans across the country for the future. Estimates determine that 50% of the younger population and 20% of the older generation now farms RuneScape gold. In addition, 1.8 million Venezuelans depend on the green dragons in the game. A gold farmer can earn $40 a month, triple the average minimum monthly wage. This viral video game employing Venezuelans allows citizens to sell the gold for real money in the virtual marketplace that is not as volatile as their own economy.

The amount of RuneScape players may increase as the economy becomes more unstable. Additionally, for some Venezuelans, playing this viral video game will be the only way to feed their families and put food on the table in the foreseeable future.

Venezuela Crisis Relief

Although there are no organizations working to facilitate this money-making opportunity, multiple organizations are reaching out to help improve the economic crisis in Venezuela. Many children and adults suffer from malnourishment due to shortages of food. Global Giving imports medical supplies to dying patients and provides daily meals for starving patients. Each day, this project feeds 400 patients.

Humanitarian activities that the U.N. has supported have raised $155 million to support the Venezuelan people. The U.N. also donated food and provided agricultural support to 50,000 people. In addition, it has provided educational support to over 160,000 students.

While this viral video game is employing Venezuelans, Venezuela’s economy is still in collapse. With employment at an all-time low, RuneScape provides an opportunity for Venezuelans to escape from their poverty-stricken world and embark on new quests. One simple game online provides a solution by employing Venezuelans and allowing them to escape not only the economic burden of their country but also their daily lives. In the future, as online players increase, this money-making opportunity may even shape the world in which all Venezuelans are living.

Joelle Shusterman
Photo: Flickr

Economic Crisis in Lebanon
Lebanon is a small country in the Middle East that Syria and Israel borders. Once known as a prosperous leading regional center for finance and trade, the nation’s civil war crippled the economy. This traumatic event in Lebanese history eventually led to an economic crisis in Lebanon.

Economic Crisis in Lebanon

In 1975, civil war, Syrian occupation and clashes between Israel and Hezbollah destabilized Lebanon. Although Lebanon remains steady in economic freedom, it has encountered rough patches regarding politics. The economic crisis in Lebanon eerily compares to the current Syrian crisis. Both Lebanon and Syria have endured hardships of civil war and faced a surge in refugee intake.

Nearly 1.5 million Syrians have taken refuge in Lebanon as a result of the nation’s own civil war. The refugee intake has negatively impacted Lebanon’s finances, service industry and environment. The crisis has also driven 200,000 people into poverty and left nearly 300,000 unemployed. The environmental effects have slowed down the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to nearly nothing, worsening the economic crisis in Lebanon. In 2018, the Lebanese growth rate was just 0.2 percent. As of 2020, Lebanon carries a $90 billion debt, which is about 170 percent of the nation’s GDP.

The second leading age group in Lebanon is the youth group. This makes it difficult for those in impoverished families to maintain a steady income or complete their education due to the demand in the workforce. The demand has also forced women who would normally take on household responsibilities to work low wage jobs for additional income. Due to the enormous refugee intake, Lebanese workers face much higher competition for jobs. The 1975 Civil War severely damaged the nation’s economy. Because of the war, Lebanon’s national output reduced by half and the nation lost recognition as a Middle Eastern banking hub.

The Fight Against the Crisis

In the fight for better living conditions for those living in poverty, Lebanon’s government launched the National Poverty Targeting Program (NPTP) in October 2011, implemented by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The goal is to establish a national targeting system for the government. The system aims to improve the living conditions of the people, particularly those struggling in extreme poverty. The total cost of the NPTP was $9.34 million.

Habitat for Humanity has also been working to improve and provide housing for those in poverty in Lebanon since 2001. Habitat for Humanity builds, rebuilds, renovates and rehabilitates houses through partnership models to reach families in need of housing services across Lebanon.

The World Bank called for the formation of a new cabinet and said that it expected Lebanon to hit a recession by 2019. The World Bank comprises of many foreign donors who have pledged billions of dollars towards the aid that Lebanon desperately needs.

Lebanon has one of the world’s highest debts at 170 percent of GDP. Political conflict in the nation, as well as regional disputes, have impacted economic growth. With aid in place, it is hopeful that the economy can reboot despite the high poverty and unemployment rates that plague the nation. For now, thanks to the organizations that offer aid to the nation, the Lebanese people are maintaining a good and steady quality of life.

Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr

El Salvador is a small country in Central America that, for several years, has been going through an economic crisis. Due to the persistent levels of gang violence and extreme levels of poverty, it has been challenging for El Salvador to overcome its economic instability. Although economic freedom is insecure, attempts have been made to aid the fight against violence and poverty.

Background

In the 1980s, El Salvador was in the midst of a civil war, and once they prevailed, they set out to become a democracy. The country was praised for its seamless transition into a neoliberal order. However, the levels of gang violence began to rise. Additionally, the government’s lack of acknowledgment was feeding into the political silence.

Gang violence in El Salvador is still a predominant problem because it has led to national security issues. El Salvador currently holds the title for the highest murder and violence rate against children under the age of 19. The NCG, or the National Crisis Group, believes that in order to effectively mitigate these issues, specific police, justice reforms and legal frameworks for rehabilitating former gang members are key for a pacification process.

Gang Violence and Poverty

The severe incline in gang violence has a direct impact on the economic crisis in El Salvador. Nearly 40 percent of the population lives in poverty as both a result of and companion to gang violence. Because of gang violence, the country’s government spends a massive amount of money to relocate individuals to communities across the United States. Moreover, gang violence started with poverty. Poverty in El Salvador was already significant before gang violence became a norm. Additionally, poverty actually fed the rate of gang violence because of the lack of a suitable education system. This led children and teens to grow up on the streets. Gangs would later come full circle and feed into the rising poverty rates.

7 Funds

Amidst all of this political and economic turmoil, David Beckham started a fund to aid those in need in El Salvador. This project is known as the “7 funds.” Beckham started this project by teaming up with UNICEF. Moreover, the focus of the project is to fight violence so that children can grow up free from fear and realize their potential in El Salvador. Furthermore, the 7 funds set up a hotline for children who are in danger or affected by violence.

This project also trains teachers to support children who may be at risk. They have set up committees that help keep schools safe. 7 funds encourage students, teachers and parents to work together and work with the authorities to make a safe place for children to play sports.

Looking Forward

El Salvador has certainly seen better days and will likely see them again. With the work done by David Beckham and UNICEF, the economy is taking a turn for the better. Poverty rates are still high and so is gang violence. However, the rates in childhood violence have gone down, delivering a promising future for prospective generations in El Salvador.

Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr
El Salvador Economic Crisis
El Salvador is a small country in Central America that has been experiencing an economic crisis for several years. The root of the El Salvador economic crisis is the persistent levels of gang violence and extreme levels of poverty. In the face of the country’s instability, some have made attempts to aid the fight against violence and poverty.

Perpetual Violence

During the 1980s, El Salvador was in the heart of a civil war; once the nation prevailed, the government and the people set out to become a democracy. The country received praise for its smooth transition into democracy, however, in recent years the levels of gang violence have begun to rise. The issue has persisted for about 15 years where there has been minimal acknowledgment, thus feeding political silence and a lack of reform.

The perpetual violence in El Salvador is a predominant problem. The nation currently holds the title for the highest rates of murder and violence against children under the age of 19. The National Crisis Group (NCG) believes that a proper response to this issue includes “specific police and justice reforms, as well as a legal framework for rehabilitating former gang members.” Many believe that such steps essential towards the pacification of violence, which will ultimately improve El Salvador’s economic crisis.

Gang Activity

The severe incline in gang violence has directly impacted the El Salvador economic crisis. Estimates determined that nearly 40 percent of the population lives in poverty because of various factors involved with gang violence. The nation’s government has spent a massive amount of money to relocate individuals to communities across the United States in an attempt to curb violence. However, extreme poverty initiated gang violence in El Salvador. Extreme poverty fuels high levels of violence because of the lack of a sustainable educational system, therefore resulting in students eventually ending up on the streets. Gang members’ recruitment of young individuals to support violent activities with a promise of financial stability preserves this cycle.

The 7 Fund

In the face of the El Salvador economic crisis, former professional soccer player David Beckham started a fund to diminish the El Salvador economic crisis. Beckham started the project, known as the 7 Fund, which aims to provide various support to those in need, specifically in Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda and El Salvador.

Launching the project with UNICEF, Beckham focuses on the prevalent violence throughout El Salvador. The former soccer star hopes the “children can grow up free from fear and realize their potential.” One way the 7 Fund tackles this goal is through a hotline for children who are in danger or experience violence. 7 Fund also provides resources for teachers in the form of training programs to develop the skills needed to support the at-risk children. Further, the project has implemented various committees to improve the El Salvador economic crisis by keeping schools safe. Specifically, students, teachers, parents and even authorities provide a space for children to play sports, which allows the students to feel comfortable and safe.

El Salvador has certainly seen better days, but it is likely the nation will see a positive culture again. With David Beckham and UNICEF’s work, the economy has already begun improving. While poverty rates and gang violence are still high, child violence rates have gone down. Through initiatives such as 7 Fund, the El Salvador economic crisis can improve with time.

Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr

Venezuela’s Rum
Extended hyperinflation continues to cripple Venezuela’s economy with prices of basic groceries skyrocketing to five times the monthly minimum wage from 2015 to 2017. Estimates determined that extreme poverty in Venezuela in 2016 was 82 percent. Yet, there is a shimmer of light with potential economic growth through Venezuela’s rum industry.

Fall in Whiskey Sales

For a long time, people have seen Scotch as a status symbol in Venezuela and often only for the upper-class to enjoy at home or for middle-class friends to have on a night out. In 2007, Venezuelans consumed over three million boxes of whiskey, fifth in consumption worldwide and priced at nearly $151 million in imports. In 2009, imported Scotch whiskey outsold Venezuela’s rum sales nearly two to one.

However, with hyperinflation setting in, reaching over 60,000 percent in 2018 and almost 350,000 percent in 2019, imports experienced restriction and the tightening of currency controls, putting whiskey out of reach for many. At the black market rate, a bottle of Chivas Regal 18-Year-Old Whiskey costs $31, more than the country’s monthly minimum wage.

Rise in Rum Sales

The popularity of whiskey began declining in 2013, with a 29 percent drop in sales. At this point, the country had only recently crossed the hyperinflation threshold of 50 percent, while Venezuela’s rum sales increased by 22.6 percent. During that same time period, domestic rum production increased from 15.8 million to 21.8 million liters.

In addition to the rising cost of imports, the government’s recent introduction of relaxed regulations and loosening price controls has bolstered domestic rum production. This has led to Santa Teresa, one of Venezuela’s rum distilleries, to become the first in the country to release a public offering in 11 years, selling one million shares on January 24, 2020. With banks hesitant to lend, public offerings provide alternative forms of capital that can allow businesses to grow and become more competitive in the global market.

Project Alcatraz

Project Alcatraz, a recreational rugby initiative, launched as a means of rehabilitation and to serve as a deterrent for gang violence after gang members broke into the grounds of the Santa Teresa rum distillery. Now, Project Alcatraz includes vocational training, psychological counseling and formal education, reaching roughly 2,000 adolescents and a few hundred inmates.

Additionally, experts believe that the project has led to a drop in the murder rate of the local municipality. In 2003, the year the project originated, there were 114 murders per 100,000 people; as of 2016, that number had dropped to 13 per 100,000 people.

Cocuy

Venezuelan rum has not been the only liquor that has seen recent success in the country. Cocuy is a liquor similar to that of Mexican tequila because it comprises of fermented agave plants. Cocuy has a long history in the country, with indigenous groups originally making it 500 years ago. The country reportedly outlawed the drink prior to 2006 to boost Venezuela’s rum and beer production and sales. Cocuy production companies regained licensure, resulting in the drink gaining popularity throughout the years. This once stigmatized drink meant for the poor and less refined is now one of choice primarily because of its low price point.

While the rise in domestic liquor sales may be seemingly insignificant, the growth of any domestic industry can play a critical role in the reversal of the economic climate of an impoverished nation. Venezuela’s rum revolution in the past decade could turn the country’s economy around.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Pixabay

7 Facts About Poverty in Iran
In recent years, absolute poverty in Iran has risen drastically. Action is necessary in order to provide basic needs and prevent more Iranians from falling under the poverty line. Here are seven facts about poverty in Iran.

7 Facts About Poverty in Iran

  1. Economic Downshift: According to the Iranian Parliament’s Research Center, between 23 to 40 percent of Iran’s population will be living in absolute poverty soon. This is due to an increase in unemployment, inflation and a downward trend in economic growth. The Research Center’s report shows that the inflation rate has risen to 47 percent from 2018 to 2019 and estimates that 57 million more Iranians will fall into poverty over 2020.
  2. Support Packages: The Iranian Parliament’s research center recommends that the government send support packages to the Iranians suffering under the worst conditions in order to supply them with basic needs. The government would provide support packages four times a year. It would also include cash cards that people can use only for food items.
  3. Crossing into Poverty: For a family of four living in Tehran, the poverty line rose to a monthly income of 27 million rials or $650 per month. Now, anyone living with a monthly income of $650 per month and under is considered to be living in poverty. The Research Center’s report shows a 22 percent increase in people living in poverty since 2017. The increase means that Tehrani families of four that were not under the poverty line in 2017, now are.
  4. Organizations that Help: The Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation is an Iranian organization that provides support to families living in poverty. The government and private donors support the foundation. The Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation invested almost $155 million in solar plants to assist families living in poverty.
  5. The Weakened Rial: In May 2019, President Hassan Rouhani announced his decision to partially withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement. Shortly after, the rial decreased by 3,500 points. In 15 months, the rial went from 40,000 to 156,500 to the dollar.
  6. Sanctions and Corruption: Iran’s banking and oil sectors are its backbone, but U.S. sanctions have greatly affected these sectors, causing an economic crisis in Iran. Many Iranian’s have fallen victim to panic-buying due to fear of price increases. Internal corruption has led to an occasional scarcity of goods due to merchants and entrepreneurs hoarding goods to increase prices.
  7.  Plan B: To generate income, Iranian officials say that they are ramping up non-oil goods. They have also built up a network of traders, money collectors and exchange companies in other countries to get around banking and financial sanctions. If sanctions remain, they plan to export other goods to prevent further economic despair.

In Iran, 26 million people are living in absolute poverty. However, with more support from the Iranian government and better relations with the U.S., Iran’s increase in poverty can come to a halt.

Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon
The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon has internally displaced half a million people. Many are seeking refuge in forests with little access to medical care and portable water. Only recently has the world acknowledged the crisis, despite three years of growing human rights abuses driving the country to the brink of civil war.

The Makings of a Disaster

French and English are the official languages of Cameroon, which consists of 10 semi-autonomous regions. However, the Northwest and Southwest English-speaking regions have felt marginalized by the central government for decades.

Anglophones make up 20 percent of the population and have long complained of few job opportunities and the predominance of Francophones. When the government assigned French-speaking teachers and judges to anglophone schools and courts, anglophone lawyers and teachers felt that it violated their rights, leading to peaceful protests in 2016.

Government security forces responded by killing four protestors and arresting around 100, including several anglophone leaders. The government even banned civil society groups seeking a peaceful solution.

Escalating the Crisis

In 2017, an anglophone separatist group declared a new independent state called Ambazonia. In a pro-Ambazonia demonstration, security forces killed 17 people. The Borgen Project interviewed Mausi Segun, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Africa, who said, “If anyone is putting the abuses on both sides on a scale, the government has the upper hand. They have the most effective military equipment.”

Security forces have killed unarmed civilians and burned down villages. Meanwhile, authorities are arresting civilians on suspicion of supporting or belonging to the separatist movement. A number of those held on suspicion are undergoing torture.

Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, a Regional Director at the National Democratic Institute told The Borgen Project that authorities are catching civilians in a web of violence and mistaken affinity. “They can be arrested for not having their identification card,” he said.

As authorities hold anglophones in detention without trial, lose property and loved ones, resentment and distrust in the government is growing, fueling the grievances of the separatist movement. “We’re concerned the government is throwing the military, and arms and ammunition at a problem that is beyond just a military one,” Segun said.

Armed separatists have committed unlawful abuses as well, including killing security forces, kidnapping students and burning down approximately 36 schools. The International Crisis Group reported the killing of 235 soldiers, along with 1,000 separatists and 650 civilians.

Although one can blame the Anglophone Crisis on a failure of governance, Fomunyoh said that it is no longer a governance issue, “It’s now one of political insecurity.”

International Response

Cameroon now has the sixth-largest displaced population in the world. A wider conflict could threaten the entire region, impacting bordering countries such as Chad and Nigeria, who are fighting Boko Haram alongside Cameroon.

In March 2019, after three years of growing systematic violence, the U.N. human rights chief told the Cameroon government that its violent response will only fuel more violence and the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) held its first meeting on the crisis in the following May. The E.U. called on Cameroon’s government to initiate a dialogue with armed separatists and Switzerland agreed to act as a mediator.

Fomunyoh said that countries may have been slow to respond because they expected African organizations to intervene. The African Union (A.U.) is one such organization, which has intervened in precarious situations before, including South Sudan’s recent crackdown on protestors. The A.U. called on Sudan to restore civil law and expelled the country from the Union. Although the A.U. has endorsed Switzerland’s peace talks, it has yet to take further action.

Solutions

Fomunyoh said that there are three divided propositions to the Anglophone Crisis, “The Amba boys who want separation, those who want a federation and those who believe the status quo is fine the way it is,” however, the first step should be to end this violence.

All parties need to agree to a cease-fire, separatists need to allow children to go back to school and the government should release anglophone prisoners so they can be part of finding a solution. Although the idea of federalism has almost become taboo, Human Rights Lawyer Felix Agbor Nkongho strongly believes it would appease all sides.

“People would have a separation of powers. People would have the autonomy,” said Nkongho. However, the government has made promises in the past it did not keep.

Cameroon’s previous federation dissolved in 1972 under the same government. So, promises to implement any agreement will not mean anything unless the government regains trust. Segun believes this can start by holding those guilty of human rights abuses accountable. “To sacrifice justice on the order peace would only lead to more violence and a crisis later, if not immediately.”

Preventing a future crisis also requires healing from the trauma, which is Fomunyoh’s biggest concern. If the country does not make investments in healing, it could threaten future security by creating an environment where corruption thrives.

“When you have dead bodies in the street when that becomes the norm, then other abuses like assault, rape, theft, are pale in comparison,” said Fomunyoh. The Anglophone Crisis can become much direr and have unintended long-lasting consequences.

International solidarity helped South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. The AU and UNSC helped resolve Côte d’Ivoire’s post-election crisis. There is no reason that Cameroon cannot stop its Anglophone Crisis.

Emma Uk
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

Cost of Measles
A virus spreads measles; the disease is highly contagious and can cause further serious health problems, including death. Globally, 111,000 deaths occurred from measles in 2017 and most of these deaths were of children under the age of 5. While there is a cost-effective and safe vaccination available, there are gaps in vaccination coverage, especially in developing countries. This allows outbreaks of measles to continue to ravage communities and causes the death toll to rise.

Measles in the Developing World

The global cost of measles is high, but it is highest in the developing world. It is estimated that in the United Kingdom, the medical cost of a single measles case is $307, while the vaccine costs are $1.93. Estimates also determine that currently in the developed world, the cost of a measles outbreak can range between $4,091 and $10,228 per day, depending on the size of the outbreak. Each of these outbreaks can last an average of 17.5 days as well. Economies spending little on health care funding might find the cost of quarantining and ending a measles outbreak daunting and that it would cost more resources and funding than is available.

In 2014, the Federated States of Micronesia saw its first measles outbreak in 20 years. Starting with two confirmed cases of measles, the outbreak grew to over 50,000 people, causing 110 deaths. The cost of this measles outbreak matched the cost of measles outbreaks in the industrialized world; the total costs to treat and contain these 50,000 cases were nearly $4 million costing roughly $10,000 per case. Medical costs accounted for approximately a quarter of the total cost of measles in this example. The other costs came from the loss of productivity for those measles infected as well as their caregivers, and the majority of the cost of this measles epidemic was to contain the outbreak. In total, the country spent around $3.5 million on containment. Containment costs are high for countries struggling to provide health care for their citizens, and the loss of productivity for many families in the developing world can mean the difference between feeding their family and starvation.

Measles’ Recent Appearances

The first quarter of 2019 saw a huge upswing in reported measles cases worldwide versus the same time period a year prior. From January through March of 2019, there were over 112,000 cases, and the vast majority of these cases were from developing countries. For comparison, the same three-month time period in 2018 had only 28,000 reported cases of measles. If the cost of measles containment and medical treatment averaged $10,000 per case, as evidenced by the Federated States of Micronesia, then subject countries have spent at least $1.1 billion in a three-month time span to care for patients worldwide. The effects of the loss of productivity on impoverished families, including starvation, added a deficit of several million more dollars to the cost of measles in 2019.

Combatting Measles

To combat the rise of measles, five leading global health NGOs have formed a partnership to control measles deaths, giving support to immunization drives, and working to lower child mortality rates overall. The partnership includes the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation (U.N. Foundation), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

When asked about the origins of the partnership, Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, said, “It is increasingly clear that every citizen, every sector and every nation has an interest in working together to promote progress in health, human rights, the economy and the environment. Those who think progress in these areas is elusive need look no further than this very tangible, impressive collaboration.” If ever there was a chance to lower child mortality rates, these five NGOs working in connection with one another would be the closest the world has seen.

Vaccination is the Key

Vaccination rates have drastically improved over the last few decades. Measles outbreaks have dropped 80 percent since the year 2000 thanks to increased vaccinations. One can partly attribute the recent increase in measles cases to a decrease in vaccinations worldwide. The cost of measles outbreaks is far too high to continue battling a disease that people can avoid with a vaccine costing less than $2. The cost of lost productivity can continue the cycle of poverty for developing nations for years to come. Measles vaccinations must increase and become available in all reaches of the world to counter the issues that measles outbreaks pose.

Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Flickr

How the Breakdown of the Nuclear Deal has Affected Poverty in IranAs the relationship between Iran and the U.S. deteriorates, Iran’s quality of living is plummeting, the cost of living is soaring and Iranian citizens are feeling the pressure.

Since the dissolution of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, in May 2018, extreme hardship has hit the West Asian country. Economic sanctions that were thwarted by the nuclear agreement have been reimposed and are damaging Iran’s oil and precious metal sectors, handicapping the country’s export potential.

The primary component of the economic decline is the dent that sanctions are making in the oil sector–which, according to the World Bank, accounts for two-thirds of Iran’s economic growth.

Post-Breakdown Economic Turmoil

Iran’s oil production has already fallen steadily every month since the breakdown of the nuclear deal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the resulting impact on the economy is devastating. On April 2019 the World Bank reported that Iran’s economic growth slowed to 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2018/2019–down by 4.6 percent from the previous year. Compounded with years of corruption and mishandling of public funds, the breakdown of the nuclear deal has positioned the Iranian economy in a state of stagflation (negative GDP growth) estimated to continue until April 2020.

Compounding the decline in GDP, the national currency has depreciated by around 60 percent on the U.S. dollar. An IMF senior official revealed that the inflation rate could reach 40 percent by the end of 2019. This economic turmoil has reduced accessibility to living essentials, increased societal instability and swelled poverty rates.

Increased Poverty

The World Bank reports that the upper-middle class poverty rate, which is classified as at or under $5.50 PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), is at an estimated 11.6 percent for 2018/2019 and forecasted to grow to 12.6 percent in 2019/2020.

It is essential to note that $5.50 PPP is not daily income–that figure is usually much lower. According to the Global Basic Income Foundation, PPP is defined as the amount a person can afford to spend on any given day, taking into account both earnings and savings. To put this into perspective, 11.6 percent of people in Iran could not afford to buy something today that costs $5.51.

Higher Prices

With the reimposed sanctions resulting from the breakdown of the nuclear deal, accessibility to living essentials is rapidly shrinking. Even humanitarian organizations struggle to acquire adequate supplies to carry out their work due to soaring prices.

A recent report from the Statistical Centre of Iran reveals eye-opening inflation statistics. Between 2018 and 2019, the price of food and drink increased by 43.5 percent,  clothing and footwear by 33.9 percent, housing and utilities by 18.2 percent and health and medical services by 18.8 percent. The overall Consumer Price Index is up by 30.6 percent.

The amalgam of decreasing wages and currency devaluation is restricting Iranian citizens’ ability to acquire necessities. The World Bank expects Iran’s poverty rate to rise to 12.8 percent by 2021.

Humanitarian Response

With poverty levels rising in Iran, humanitarian agencies are stepping up to meet the need. Moms Against Poverty is a nonprofit organization that is working to alleviate poverty in Iran through hunger relief, education and orphan care. Since the breakdown of the nuclear deal, Iran has had a 6.3 magnitude earthquake and major flooding. Moms Against Poverty provided natural disaster victims with food, water and blankets, distributed safe heaters and helped rebuild and furnish health clinics and pre-schools in the flooded areas. The organization also funded 2,000 food baskets for the Persian New Year across three Iranian provinces.

The breakdown of the nuclear deal has been economically painful for Iran. Tensions have only risen since the reimposition of sanctions and, as of now, show no signs of alleviating. There have already been multiple conflicts between the U.S. and Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran’s main shipping route, since the breakdown.

Organizations like Moms Against Poverty provide some poverty relief and help the quality of life for many citizens. However, relief on a nationwide scale could be achieved if U.S.-Iran relations are restored or if Iran can boost its economic growth and halts the devaluation of the national currency. For now, the citizens of Iran are feeling the pressure.

– Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr