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10 International Issues to WatchWith the world always changing, there are some issues that remain constant. Some of these issues are directly related to poverty while other events increase the likelihood of creating impoverished communities. Here are 10 international issues to watch in relation to world poverty.

10 International Issues to Watch

  1. Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa
    The good news is that global poverty rates have been dropping since the turn of the century. Nevertheless, there is still work that needs to be done. Approximately 10 percent of people in developing areas live on less than $2 per day. Poverty rates have declined in Eastern and Southeastern Asia, but more than 40 percent of residents of sub-Saharan Africa still live below the poverty line.
  2. Lack of Access to Clean Water
    There are more than 2 billion people in the world who cannot access clean water in their own homes. Lack of access to clean water increases the likelihood of contracting illnesses. When people get sick, they have to spend money on medicine, which can cause families to fall into extreme poverty. In other cases, people have to travel extremely far to collect clean water. Altogether, women and girls spend approximately 200 million hours walking to get water daily. Access to clean water is one of the 10 international issues to watch in relation to world poverty.
  3. Food Security
    By 2050, the world will need to feed 9 billion people, but there will be a 60 percent greater food demand than there is today. Thus, the United Nations is taking steps to address the problem. The U.N. has set improving food security, improving sustainable agriculture and ending hunger as some of their primary focuses by the year 2030. The U.N. must address a wide range of issues to combat these problems. These issues include gender parity, global warming and aging populations.
  4. Improving Education
    Most impoverished communities around the world lack a solid education system. Some common barriers include families being unable to afford school, children having to work to support their family and the undervaluing of girls’ education. UNESCO estimates more than 170 million people could be lifted out of poverty if they had basic reading skills.
  5. Limited Access to Jobs
    In rural and developing communities around the world, there is often limited access to job opportunities. There is a multitude of factors that can lead to a lack of adequate work or even no opportunities at all. Two common roadblocks are a lack of access to land and a limit of resources due to overexploitation. It is obvious that no available means to make money ensures that a family cannot survive without outside help.
  6. Limiting Global Conflict
    When conflict occurs, it impacts the poor the hardest. Social welfare type programs are drained, rural infrastructure may be destroyed in conflict zones and security personnel moves into urban areas, leaving smaller communities behind. At the state level, impoverished communities have lower resilience to conflict because they may not have strong government institutions. Poverty and conflict correlate strongly with one another.
  7. Gender Equality
    From a financial standpoint, gender equality is vital to improving the world economy. The World Economic Forum states that it would take another 118 years to achieve a gender-neutral economy. In 2015, the average male made $10 thousand more a year than their female counterparts. However, there has been an increased amount of awareness on the issue that may lead to an improved economy for all.
  8. Defending Human Rights
    In 2018, the world saw a decline in global freedom. However, over the last 12 consecutive years, global freedom rights have decreased. More than 70 countries have experienced a decline in political and civil liberties. However, in 2019, steps are being taken to limit this problem. At the International Conference on Population and Development, there will be a focus on human rights. France will also align its G-7 efforts at limiting a variety of inequalities.
  9. Responding to Humanitarian Crises
    The 2019 Global Humanitarian Overview shows a large number of humanitarian crises around the world. Between Syria, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there are more than 19 million internally displaced people. In 2019, approximately 132 million people have needed humanitarian help, costing the world economy almost $22 billion.
  10. Climate Change
    From a scientific standpoint, the land temperature has increased by 1 degree C. in the last half decade, and greenhouse gas emissions have risen to their highest levels in more than 800,000 years. This has led to increased storms and droughts throughout the world. In the last 39 years, weather-related economic loss events have tripled.

Even though the world still has many issues to address, progress is being made in a variety of areas that may help limit global poverty. These are but 10 international issues to watch in relation to global poverty. The global awareness of poverty-related issues is something that continues to be extremely important for the advancement of our world.

Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Google Images

puerto rico
One year ago this September, Hurricane Maria made landfall on the small Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. The Category 4 hurricane left destruction and turmoil in its wake, causing as much as $94 billion in damage to the island and approximately 2,975 fatalities according to the most recent estimates. Since then, there has been an exodus from Puerto Rico to The U.S. mainland of people seeking to escape the economic depression which plagues the island.

The Economic Crisis Leading to an Exodus from Puerto Rico

The damage caused by the Hurricane compounded an already desperate situation for Puerto Rico, which at the time of the storm faced $71 billion in debts and $49 billion in pension liabilities. The financial crisis in Puerto Rico had been in the making since the 1990’s when the island’s government began to borrow billions of dollars in order to pay its bills. The government borrowed from investors and U.S. banks through the sale of bonds until they racked up an enormous debt, which in 2015 surpassed the island’s GDP. The situation went further south in 2013 when bond prices fell and hundreds of millions of dollars in Puerto Rican capital was wiped out.

The faltering economy in Puerto Rico during the early 2000’s incited an early exodus from Puerto Rico by a certain demographic. “Between 2006 and 2013, there was what you could call a brain drain of the island,” explains Jennifer Hinojosa, Data Center Coordinator at the Hunter College Center for Puerto Rican Studies. “Young professionals chose to leave the island in search of education and employment elsewhere. A huge reason for this out-migration was that there were no jobs.”

Hurricane Maria’s Aftermath

When Hurricane Maria came pummeling down upon the island in September of 2017, 44.3 percent of the island’s population was already living in poverty and the unemployment rate was at 10.1 percent. 155 mph winds tore through the island, floodwater more than 30 inches deep ran through neighborhoods, for a long period of time, 100 percent of the island’s population lost electricity and access to food and water was limited for most.

The situation looks dire for many Puerto Ricans who are now trying to rebuild their lives and cope with the severe infrastructural damage caused by the storm. For example, after the storm, some towns had to deal with 80 to 90 percent of their structures destroyed. With long-term damage making recovery efforts slow and difficult, more and more Puerto Ricans are faced with the tough decision of leaving their island to find opportunity elsewhere.

Hinojosa weighed in on this situation explaining that “when Maria hit, everyone was leaving, regardless of socioeconomic status. It was more of a free fall, we’re talking about professionals and low-skilled workers alike. The impact of this was that you had people who couldn’t find jobs in Puerto Rico during the economic crisis period and then you add on top of this another tragedy like Hurricane Maria, the result was that the number of those leaving the island significantly increased and the probability of those who left returning to Puerto Rico became pretty unlikely.” Hinojosa and the Director for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, Edwin Melendez further elaborated on the post-Maria exodus in their report, “Estimates of Post-Hurricane Maria Exodus from Puerto Rico”.

The government of Puerto Rico estimates that by the end of 2018, 200,000 residents will have left the territory for good. In addition, according to Hinojosa’s and Melendez’s predictions, 114,000 to 213,000 Puerto Rican residents will continue to leave the island each year in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. These numbers are disheartening to those who hope to see the economic situation improve in the country.

The primary reason given in the Centro’s report to explain the exodus from Puerto Rico is that there are not enough jobs to found on the island. The Hurricane dealt a heavy blow to infrastructure in key areas like the country’s electrical system, transportation system and communications network, all of which directly impact the commerce and service sector.

What’s Next for Puerto Rico?

Aside from the immediate destruction and crisis brought about by the Hurricane, the impact of the storm is predicted to influence the island’s economic future for years to come. Some reports suggest that the damage done by Maria could lower Puerto Rican incomes by 21 percent over the next 15 years totaling $180 billion in lost economic output.

Looking towards what’s to come in the future, Hinojosa expressed that, “it’s all dependent on what happens in Puerto Rico. If young people are able to find jobs in The U.S. they will pick up and leave. If the government wants to keep their labor force intact they will have to think about creative ways to better the economy. For many Puerto Ricans, if they find a job in the U.S., and achieve some level of stability, they are going to stay in the U.S.”

The future for the tragedy-stricken Puerto Rican people is uncertain, but what is evident is that at the start of hurricane season this June, thousands of people remained without permanent homes, electricity or employment. In order for people to stay on the island and prevent a continuing exodus from Puerto Rico, major reconstruction efforts must be undertaken so that the country has the opportunity and resources to thrive.

Clarke Hallum

Photo: Flickr

Greece
The past decade has not been kind to Greece. The global recession in 2008 ravaged its markets and cut wages, leaving millions destitute and reliant on government handouts to survive. Despite the fact that a relatively large portion of Greece’s population is educated, many still cannot find employment within national borders. An ongoing EU bailout in the magnitude of billions of dollars has not brought an end to the financial predicament of Greek citizens. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Greece.

10 Eye-Opening Facts About Poverty in Greece

  1. The Greek unemployment rate, though lower than it was in 2014, sits at 20 percent — a fifth of the population cannot find a source of steady income. It comes in at last of all countries in the EU.
  2. The government is still largely inefficient, and its bureaucratic functions are largely characterized by personal connections and a lack of transparency. The Tsipras administration, which came to power in 2015, has failed to affect significant change.
  3. The recent fires in Greece took 93 lives. Investigations have shown both the possibility of arson and insufficient responses from the government to have exacerbated the fires.
  4. Slightly over 34 percent of Greece’s population is deemed to be at risk of poverty — one of the most unnerving facts about poverty in Greece. However, without government handouts and pensions, this figure would leap to nearly 51 percent.
  5. The Greek brain drain remains high, though slowing down in recent years. Over 130,000 postgraduates have left Greece since 2010, a trend that bears dire consequences for the future of Greece if they do not return.
  6. Greece’s GDP has recovered somewhat since its implosion in 2008. GDP growth was estimated at -0.2 percent in 2015, 0 percent in 2016 and 1.8 percent in 2017. GDP is a measure of economic performance and individual wealth, and last year’s small surge is good news for a country whose GDP had shrunk by a quarter from 2007.
  7. The fertility rate in Greece went from a local high of 1.5 births per woman in 2009, to a low of 1.29 in 2013 and steadily climbed (though very slowly) to 1.33 in 2016. Too-low fertility rates result in an aged and reduced workforce that cannot meet the demands of the market, culminating in a lack of competition and economic decline.
  8. Facts about poverty in Greece relating to children are the worst off in the European Union. The poverty rate for minors stands at 45 percent, according to a report by UNICEF in 2017.
  9. After a decade of international economic bailouts and austerity packages valued at nearly 250 billion euros, or $288 billion, Greece is due to stop borrowing by the end of this summer. If it maintains an efficient budget and pays back its debts, Greece can finally re-enter the international market as a self-sustaining economy.
  10. In March 2018, the Bank of Greece reported a 7 percent drop in the number of nonperforming loans or unpaid loans. At about 43 percent, it still has major hurdles to overcome; the EU average is below 10 percent.

Hope on the Horizon

Despite the palpable negativity of these top 10 facts about poverty in Greece, hope is on the horizon. The economy is better off now than it was at the height of the recession; though growth is slow, consumer confidence has grown and individual spending has increased in the past year. Foreign investment is also mounting — an indication of international expectations of an economic recovery.

Greece’s government is the crucial actor. If it blunders in its management of foreign debt and continues its streak of opacity, Greece could head towards another economic recession. If it initiates sizeable social and economic reforms ahead of expectations in the international community, Greece could even reach past its previous economic heights before the recession. Time will tell.

Alex Qi
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in South America
Substantial parts of Africa, Western Asia, South America and the Caribbean are regions that grapple with scant economic growth and poverty. South America alone consists of twelve sovereign states, most of which are subject to low per capita GDP and high rates of poverty. Here are ten facts about poverty in South America:

10 Facts About Poverty in South America

  1. South America (SA) suffered the onslaught of European colonization roughly from the 15th to the 17th Centuries. The Iberian colonial policies led to uneven distribution of land and insecure property rights, which in turn contributed to persistent economic and political inequality until the 19th and 20th Centuries. Oxfam reported in 2016 that Latin America still has the most unequal distribution of land in the world, which in turn “limits employment; increases urban poverty belts, as people are expelled from rural areas; undermines social cohesion, the quality of democracy, environmental health; and destabilizes local, national and global food systems.”
  2. In 2016, there was an estimated rise in poverty in SA from 28.5 percent in 2014 to 30.7 percent. In fact, 61 million people live in extreme poverty and 220 million people live on less that $10 a day in this region.
  3. The entire region of SA was majorly affected by the economic crises of the two largest countries on the continent — Brazil and Argentina between 1998-2002. By 2001, the IMF feared that Argentina’s fiscal policy, public debt and currency board would become unsustainable. The holdouts case in Argentina (2005) and the Petrobras scandal in Brazil (2014) later created a chaotic and fragile economic scenario. In fact, Argentina is still trying to recover from high inflation and its currency crunch. Brazil’s external debt in 2017 was 26.5 percent of its nominal GDP and government debt was 74.04 percent of the GDP. Venezuela’s wavering economic policies, economic collapse and inflation have also contributed to the scale of poverty in the region.
  4. Of the ten facts about poverty in South America, eco-political causes hold a special mention. Discovery of rampant corruption and bribery in Brazil’s state-controlled oil giant, Petrobras, and other industries led to largescale arrests of company officials and many politicians. This in turn caused a loss of jobs for thousands of employees and a huge economic set-back. A dip in international oil prices further affected the Brazilian economy, as did the the arrest of Odebrecht’s chief executive and lay-offs in 2015. The unemployment rate in Brazil remains at a high of 11.8 percent. Argentina, too, has suffered the economic consequences of a sovereign debt default since 2001. It has encountered a decline in GDP and inflation, resulting in recession. The MIT Billions Project in 2014 quoted an annual inflation rate of 40 percent in Argentina. Venezuela is on the verge of defaulting its foreign debt and has encountered a massive decline in its GDP accompanied by inflation. Ever since the 2014 economic recession, Venezuelans have been suffering from poverty, high mortality rates, unemployment, lack of medical facilities and hunger.
  5. Large-scale unemployment followed by economic recession, strict government regulations, corruption and other factors have led to the creation of a parallel or informal economy in many of these SA countries. These illegal businesses evade state-regulations, taxation, social security contributions, market standards, minimum wage/work hour policies and thrive as shadow economy. While a certain portion of the money earned is spent directly on the official economy, these underground businesses lead to tax evasion, reduced tax revenue, increased tax rates, lower wages and work hours, corruption and inflation.
  6. According to the World Hunger Report, despite being successful in tackling food insufficiency, SA saw a rise in undernutrition from 5 percent in 2015, to 5.6 percent in 2016. As of 2018, the economic crisis in Venezuela led to devastating food shortage and starvation. The United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture estimates that more than 42 million people in South America are suffering from hunger.
  7. The Word Bank observes that while more children have started going to school, there still remains a disparity in access to education based on the huge income gap in these countries. The other factor affecting education lies in the urban-rural divide, with the latter having lower rates of secondary-school enrolment.
  8. Brazil and Colombia, which make up a large portion of the region’s population, have been experiencing a decline in fertility and mortality rates alongside new health problems from industrialization and urbanization. The health infrastructure in these countries are not up-to-date and people have limited access to safe water and sanitation facilities. Economic inequality adds to the lack of equal distribution of health services and access to healthcare.
  9. Despite the scale of poverty in SA, consistent steps are being taken to ameliorate poverty across the region. Oxfam has been urging the governments to redistribute land evenly, protect territorial rights of indigenous communities, prevent depletion of natural resource and establish fair taxation. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development have been proposing ways to end rural poverty and increase employment. Since the 1990s, attempts have been made by the governments to improve the healthcare system through reforms. Several banks have been trying to ease the monetary policies and rates of interests.
  10. The 2018 World Economic Situation Prospects Report states that the region’s economy has grown by one percent in 2017 and is expected to increase to 2.5 percent in 2019. The recovery will be largely a result of improved economic activity in SA.

Future Efforts

The ten facts about poverty in South America listed here provide a general yet critical understanding of aspects of poverty in the region. Unequal land/wealth distribution, corruption and eco-political instability still remain some of the common and overarching reasons behind the region’s struggle with poverty and its aftereffects.

– Jayendrina Singha Ray
Photo: Flickr

Financial Crises in Developing Nations
Financial crises in developing nations have been an uncomfortably common occurrence. This presence has necessitated a guide for avoiding such debilitating economic events. Corruption and the impact of exchange rates are often the culprits of fiscal destabilization, and poor monetary choices, and often result in hyperinflation and tremendous harm. There are some practical antidotes, though, for addressing concerns to assist low-income nations in averting financial ruin.

The Cost of Corruption

There is an important relationship between corruption, foreign direct investment and domestic lending. The impact is pretty simple: corruption makes a nation’s potential FDI benefactors run for the hills, and leaves the riskier practice of bank lending as the primary mechanism for new capital. This occurs because foreign investors have few assurances that they could successfully operate in an opaque environment with weak property rights (as an example).

Corruption does more to dissuade FDI than exorbitant tax rates and other poor conditions, according to some analyses. State-owned banks accentuate the issues caused by relying on lending for capital investment because many engage in dubious lending practices like “connected lending” – a convenient euphemism for nepotistic banking. As a result, banks often disregard the imperative to issue economically sound loans.

To remedy these concerns, one suggestion is the foreign ownership of banks, as they mimic the effects of FDI by pairing capital with better technology and managerial experience, along with a better regulatory apparatus.

Rates of Exchange

Another pertinent issue regarding financial crises in developing nations is exchange rates. Fixed but adjustable exchange rates have historically exacerbated financial turmoil because they were seen as more stable than they actually were. Additionally, in the case of large foreign currency debts during a recession, lowering interests rates to stimulate the economy would force out FDI and further hurt the currency.

Instead, managed-floating currencies help stability because they afford greater awareness of the volatility of exchange rates, thereby promoting more prudent investments.

Printing Problems

Many financial crises in developing nations are triggered by hyperinflation, which is typically defined as sustained inflation rates of over 50 percent. When governments get into trouble with debtors, they often are forced to print money to afford their loans. This increases prices dramatically, making ordinary products unaffordable.

Many countries dependent on oil revenues have fallen victim to the affliction of hyperinflation. When oil prices surge, they increase their budgets accordingly; but, when the price of oil craters, they are often left with bloated budgets and cannot pay back their debts without resorting to a printing spree.

To insulate them from this, experts suggest establishing an independent central bank which would not print excess money to bail out imprudent spending. Although poor nations have historically been susceptible to financial crisis, there are practical solutions they can adopt to guard against them and usher in greater financial stability.

– Brendan Wade

Photo: Flickr

Venezuela's Oil-Backed CryptocurrencyVenezuela is a region rich in oil and minerals, yet it suffers from poverty and political turmoil. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is launching a new blockchain currency called Petro, an oil-backed cryptocurrency. The U.S. believes this to be an attempt to circumvent sanctions against the Venezuelan government, and is cracking down on Venezuela’s oil-backed cryptocurrency.

Venezuela suffers from the “resource curse,” a phenomenon whereby its large reserves of oil negatively impact its economic growth and stability. Rather than a blessing, these energy reserves lead to fraud, corruption, wasteful spending, military adventurism and the authoritarianism of the Maduro regime. This curse exacerbates global poverty through destabilization of the oil industry, dulling the effect of foreign assistance and creating a breeding ground for terrorism and instability.

Although in the country has a vast supply of oil money, instead of going to Venezuela’s poor, the money ends up in the pockets of the rich. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio tweeted on February 9, 2018, regarding the Maduro regime, “Soldiers eat out of garbage cans & their families go hungry in #Venezuela while Maduro & friends live like kings & block humanitarian aid.”

Venezuelans are deprived of human rights guarantees and press freedoms, facing political persecution and public corruption by the Maduro regime. The U.S. regards the Maduro regime as a dictatorship, whose power has overridden the democratic will of Venezuelans. The nation’s population is greatly subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. People from other nations are trafficked for sex and labor in Venezuela. Cuba trafficks thousands of Cuban citizens and doctors into forced labor in Venezuelan social programs, in exchange for the provision of resources to the Cuban government.

The most recent U.S. sanctions were imposed in August 2017 against Venezuela’s dictatorship, blocking U.S. citizens from buying new debt, bonds, dividends or other distributions or profits from Venezuelan government-controlled entities and its state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). This followed December 2014 sanctions imposed by the U.S., aimed at preventing U.S. entry by persons involved in the erosion of human rights guarantees, political persecution and public corruption. These sanctions do not target the people or the economy of Venezuela; they are aimed at protecting the will of Venezuelans, and preventing U.S. involvement with the corruption of the Maduro regime.

Maduro responded to these sanctions by implementing strategies to free the oil-centered economy from the U.S. dollar, despite its universality in global trade. In September 2017, Maduro ceased publishing Venezuelan crude oil market prices in U.S. dollars, instead publishing prices in Chinese yuan. His December 2017 announcement to implement the oil-backed cryptocurrency was in direct response to the August 2017 sanctions, stating that Petro could “help defeat the financial blockade.”

Cryptocurrency is decentralized, uncontrolled by banks or governments. It can benefit those living in politically unstable regions, because the government can neither control its value nor transfer it from state to state. In Venezuela’s case, the cryptocurrency will be backed by oil, an industry largely controlled by dictators. Because Petro is a cryptocurrency, it is difficult for the U.S. government to regulate, threatening the U.S. sanctions that prohibit investing in PDVSA.

Petro is one of many foreign exchange (FX) mechanisms introduced by Venezuela. Most of the FX failed to meet market demand for dollars, resulting in Venezuela’s robust black market. Although FX is prohibited on the black market, it is the driving force of hyperinflation. Continuously on the rise, one U.S. dollar is now equivalent to 9.9875 Venezuelan bolívar.

The U.S. addressed Venezuela’s oil-backed cryptocurrency in a letter by senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, stating “we are concerned that a cryptocurrency could provide Maduro a mechanism by which to make payments to foreign lenders and bondholders in the United States, actions that would clearly thwart the intent of U.S.-imposed sanctions.”

In early February 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson toured Latin America and the Caribbean. Afterward, Tillerson alluded to U.S. considerations of restricting oil sales from Venezuela due to its worsening political situation. Developments in trade sanctions are imminent as the U.S. cracks down on Venezuela’s oil-backed cryptocurrency.

In opposition to the Maduro regime, the Venezuelan Parliament stated that Petro’s creation only serves to “evade financial sanctions, [and is] openly violating the Constitution and legitimizing illicit transactions.”

As the U.S. cracks down on Venezuela’s oil-backed cryptocurrency, the government aims to combat the use of Petro to circumvent U.S. sanctions, prohibiting investors on U.S. soil from profiting or investing in the PDVSA, the driving source of Venezuela’s poverty and humanity crisis. These policies and sanctions will be heavily enforced in the face of Petro’s introduction to the market, and will serve to reject the political corruption and economic failure to its people of the Maduro regime.

– Alex Galante

Photo: Flickr

Hospital Infrastructure in VenezuelaVenezuela— Since their declaration of an economic crisis, hospital infrastructure in Venezuela has been depleting. In the midst of the economic chaos, hospitals are being flooded with patients who are exposed to its decaying environment.

During a walk-through of Jose Manuel de Los Rios children’s hospital in Venezuela’s capital city Caracas, BBC spoke to Dr. Urbina-Medina in regards to the quality of the hospital. Medina compared the hospital to a building site, saying that it was not how a hospital should be.

Many hospitals in Venezuela have peeling walls with exposed pipes and electricity cables. Patient rooms are often full of trash and dirt. Electricity is faulty, leaving several lights not working. There are not enough operating rooms for surgeries. There is also a major problem with sanitation. Venezuela has little to no money to repair their decomposing hospitals. There is little access to clean water, which has caused several patients with kidney failure who attended Jose Manuel de Los Rios to contract an infection. After further inspection of the water tanks in the hospital’s basement, garbage, shoes and a dead cat were found inside.

In instances of electricity blackouts that shut down machines used for live-saving procedures, doctors have resulted in manually pumping oxygen into premature babies’ bodies. Since there are not enough operating rooms in good shape, patients stay on wait lists longer than expected. The new way of operating is improvising. Since there is little access to proper supplies and the hospital environments are in disrepair, doctors have to find any way to provide the help their patients need.

The failing economy has not only caused problematic hospital infrastructure in Venezuela, but medicine shortages have increased mortality rates. In 2016, 11,500 infants died and 756 women died during or after childbirth. Many people need more than one type of medicine to assist them. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find just one of the list of medicines needed. If the medication is found, often the price is too steep to purchase. For instance, a patient who needed an antibiotic that cost 40,000 bolivars, or 56 U.S. dollars, per packet of six could not afford the quantity needed, which was 224 blisters total. The amount of bolivars needed to buy just one packet is equal to the monthly wage for many. Jose Manuel de Los Rios Hospital has run out of antibiotics and medical supplies such as inhalers, bandages and syringes. Their lack of machines, especially x-ray machines, has delayed the diagnoses of possible brain-related issues in patients. The lack of antibiotics specifically has caused many to lose limbs because of severe infections.

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez has been working with United Nations organizations such as the Pan-American Health Organization in order to assist in the shortage of medications. Their assistance has helped them to negotiate with suppliers to provide more affordable medicine to countries like Venezuela. With assistance from various organizations, improving hospital infrastructure in Venezuela is a possibility and it needs to be seriously prioritized.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr

 

Hunger in SpainShaken up by the global economic crisis and with one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe, Spain has many vulnerable people struggling with poverty and hunger. Fortunately, numerous efforts in the towns of Galdakao, El Prat and toward the nation as a whole have helped significantly in the fight against hunger in Spain.

  1. In 2013, the regional government distributed breakfast and snacks to more than 50,000 children at risk of nutritional deficiencies in Andalusia.
  2. In the town of Galdakao, locals installed a community fridge in 2015 where citizens, restaurants and supermarkets can leave leftover food, and anyone who wants it can get it. Paid for by the city, the fridge has helped to feed the hungry and also cut down on waste.
  3. Working closely with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Spain supports the Zero Hunger objective under the Hunger-Free Latin America and the Caribbean 2025 Initiative. A number of projects have been applied to food security governance, deepening the country’s commitment to eradicating hunger within a generation.
  4. Spain is listed as one of the five headquarters that make up Action Against Hunger International, a world leader in the fight against hunger for more than three decades, combating hunger in emergencies, conflicts, natural disasters and vulnerable areas where there is chronic food insecurity.
  5. The adoption of a new “gleaning” movement, which involves the harvesting of farmers’ unwanted crops, has assisted the disadvantaged, sending recovered foods to food banks. The El Punti Solidari food bank in the town of El Prat partnered up with Red Cross, Caritas and opened to 500 local users this year, making a big difference in the lives of families in need.

Despite the recent financial struggles and growing problem of hunger in Spain, the country has found various methods to improve conditions for health and nutrition for its citizens.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

How Dilma Rousseff's Impeachment Impacts People Living in Poverty and What Can Be Done to Help
Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil since 2011, has been impeached after breaking rules surrounding manipulation of the federal budget. More specifically, it is believed that she masked the full extent of Brazil’s economic crisis when she ran for re-election in 2014.

Prior to Rousseff’s impeachment, she argued that if she were to be impeached, Brazil’s economic troubles would only worsen. This is because a governmental change this big is felt most strongly by the poorest in society, who are most dependent on the federal government.

Rousseff’s successor, Michel Temer, stated that he hopes to reduce public spending by increasing taxes on the lower and middle classes. He also stated that social programs aiding the poor will not be immune from budget cuts.

One example of a social program helping Brazil’s poor is Bolsa Familia. During her tenure, Rousseff was an advocate for this program, which gives stipends averaging $50 per month to 47 million Brazilian citizens — nearly 25 percent of the country’s population. Dilma Rousseff had recently increased spending toward this program by 9 percent and had also reworked the definition of poverty in order to allow more people to qualify for benefits.

The only conditions for citizens to receive Bolsa Familia’s benefits are that their children be vaccinated and regularly attend school. Despite the fact that the funds help lift people out of poverty and improve community infrastructures, the social program still requires public spending.  According to Temer, this kind of program will not be immune from spending cuts, which could seriously impact the millions of citizens who rely on government assistance for survival.

On a more hopeful note, Temer is confident that he can help Brazil make an economic recovery, despite the ramifications the poor may face. He intends to reform Brazil’s costly pension system, possibly by defining a minimum age of retirement.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Temer’s ideologies and proposed policies, it is reasonable to believe that major policy changes are the only way to get out of an economic depression. Temer has been vocal about his preparedness to make these major policy changes. While they may negatively impact Brazil’s poorest citizens in the short run, the country’s economy may ultimately recover, resulting in a better quality of life for all.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

Poverty among OPEC
The drastic plunge that oil prices have taken from record figures of over $100 a barrel, down to averaging between $40-$45 a barrel, has left the economies of several OPEC countries beleaguered.

A potential rise in poverty among OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is expected as oil is indeed the cornerstone of a majority of their exports and revenue has swung drastically since 2014.

The combined effects of excess supply and competition among markets over the years have impacted OPEC nations like Algeria, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Iraq. The economic uncertainty has deterred these large developing economies adversely.

An estimated 250,000 jobs have been lost as a result of the progressive decline in oil prices and many more are threatened owing to the 50 percent drop over the last two years. This crisis will result in a potential rise in poverty among OPEC, with declining national incomes overall.

Moreover, the presence of Boko Haram in Nigeria has also been a factor that is currently impacting its oil exporting capacity. The 50 percent price decline has only fueled this.

To combat a potential rise in poverty and economic instability, the African Development Bank plans to provide loans worth $10 billion by the year 2019 to bolster various sectors, including energy and electricity. Despite Nigeria’s depreciating currency and 70 percent poverty rate, this method can greatly increase investment capacity and attract more investment.

The Abidjan, a bank based in the Ivory Coast, also resolved to provide $1 billion for supporting the Nigerian budget.

A report by Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper has commended its diversification projects as a means to boost economic growth amid uncertainty.

Existing tensions between oil-producing nations have also escalated as a result of the plummet. Many nations argue about freezing and regulating their output. Consequently, mediating between countries is a viable way to ease the pressure. Iraq is currently heading a conciliation with Iran and Saudi Arabia in an attempt for both countries to reach a consensus regarding the crisis.

Ecuador, OPEC’s smallest member, was especially plagued by the plunge in oil prices as the government has to control and curtail public expenditure. The government has looked to OPEC remedy the situation in some way.

President of OPEC and minister of energy and industry in Qatar, Mohammed Saleh Abdulla Al Sada, is also working actively to agree upon a benchmark price and output level for all countries to adhere to. A renewed benchmark output of 32.5 million barrels has recently been discussed. This could alleviate the price volatility and circumvent a potential rise in poverty among OPEC countries.

Similarly, Algeria has also been a strong advocate of cutting production among OPEC nations as a means to raise oil prices again. Algeria is expected to see a 3 percent drop in its GDP this year.

Furthermore, political and economic turmoil in Venezuela, owing to the oil price decline and President Nicolas Maduro’s ration laws has resulted in food shortages and a 700 percent crippling inflation rate. Venezuela already has a concurrent poverty rate of 32.1 percent.

However, many neighboring countries like Chile, Peru, Argentina and Colombia are in the strategic position to aid the people and reach out to Maduro. Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski recently called upon leaders to engage in the situation.

He believes that Peru’s pharmaceutical industry can be effectively used to help the country. Venezuela’s democratic Unity Alliance also echoes this view. Foreign aid is the only sustainable way for Venezuela to find its way through this major economic and financial bulwark.

Overall, a potential rise in poverty among OPEC countries may be the outcome of the drastic tumbling oil prices. It is vital that countries comply with OPEC proposals and guidelines to safeguard the interests of the economy and the people.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr