Information and news about economic crisis

Impact of COVID-19 on poverty in greece
Over the past two decades, Greece has suffered significant economic and social upheaval. After an economic depression and an ongoing refugee crisis, the country now faces a new threat: the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Greece. The country’s crisis-prompted grassroots culture provides support during another economic setback.

The Economic Crisis in Greece

Following the global financial crisis in 2008, Greece found itself in extreme debt to lenders, specifically Germany and the European Union, forcing Greece to adhere to strict austerity measures such as cutting pensions and increasing taxes. During this period of austerity, Greece’s economy shrank, unemployment rose and poverty soared. In 2017, one-third of the Greek population lived below the poverty line and the unemployment rate was 22%.

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Greece

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Greece’s economy experienced a period of significant recovery and GDP was on the rise. However, Greece fell into another recession due to the economic fallout in 2020 prompted by COVID-19. As schools closed, businesses shut down and economic activity came to a halt, unemployment and poverty rose substantially.

In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission estimated that 30% of people in Greece were “at risk of poverty or social exclusion.” While 2020 data has not yet been analyzed, it is clear that the pandemic sent shock waves through Greece’s slowly recovering economy.

According to an MDPI survey conducted across Greek cities just after the country’s lockdown period in May 2020, 73.3% of respondents said that lockdowns and restrictions significantly impacted them financially. Furthermore, about 9% of respondents experienced job losses and 18.6% received suspensions from work due to the implications of COVID-19.

Migrant workers feel the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Greece acutely. While most migrant workers are from Albania, others hail from countries like Bangladesh. With government restrictions and limitations on exports, the need for export labor has decreased and earning a daily wage has become increasingly difficult for these workers. In 2020, the unemployment rate stood at 16.85%. Greece currently holds the highest unemployment rate in the E.U.

Grassroots Efforts During COVID-19

While COVID-19 has worsened conditions for the country’s most vulnerable, Greece’s experience with past crises has paved the way for a strong grassroots response. Organizations like the ANKAA Project and O Allos Anthropos are fighting to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Greece. Both founded in the wake of previous crises, the organizations have redirected efforts to help with the COVID-19 crisis in Greece.

The ANKAA Project is a nonprofit organization that began in 2017 to address unemployment in Greece. The organization provides language lessons and vocational skills training to refugees, migrants and unemployed Greek citizens. By equipping people with the necessary skills for employment, the ANKAA Project addresses poverty in Greece. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization transformed its Athens facilities into mask-making workshops. Since the pandemic began, the organization has provided thousands of masks to hospitals and refugee camps in need.

O Allos Anthropos

O Allos Anthropos is “a community soup kitchen in the Kerameikos neighborhood of Athens, Greece.” The organization began in 2011 to help those suffering from homelessness and hunger after the 2010 Greek debt crisis. Before the pandemic hit, the government and local organizations assisted struggling households with meals and food packages.

In mid-March 2020, COVID-19 restrictions meant this assistance came to a halt. O Allos Anthropos was the only organization still providing food assistance. The organization had to rapidly expand its efforts, mobilizing to increase meals from 200 to 2,000 per day. Other humanitarian groups stepped in to assist so that thousands of food packages could be provided across Athens.

While Greece has faced several social and economic disasters over the past decade, the country’s crisis-prompted grassroots culture helps to relieve the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Greece today.

– Zoe Tzanis
Photo: Unsplash

Covid-19 and Poverty in Israel
In 2020, poverty in Israel increased as the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the world. At the beginning of 2021, at least 2 million Israelis were living below the poverty line. Israel’s poverty rate increased from 22.4% in 2019 to 23% in 2020. In addition, Israel’s economy took a 2.4% contraction in 2020, resulting in high unemployment. The wealth divide became more evident during the pandemic as poverty in Israel continued to grow. However, as poverty devastated the economy, there have been significant efforts for recovery. This article explores the relationship between poverty and COVID-19 in Israel along with some organizations’ efforts to provide aid.

The Poverty Rate in Israel

Before the pandemic began, many Israeli citizens were already living in poverty. At least 1.8 million people lived under the poverty line in 2018, with 841,000 of those being children. Their standard of living dipped significantly throughout 2020 as well. Fortunately, government handouts and unemployment benefits have helped reduce poverty rates for many low-income and middle-class people. Thus, government aid played an instrumental role in reducing poverty rates and helping Israelis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The beginning of 2021 saw some growth in the economy. In December 2020, Israel began its vaccination drive, hoping to vaccinate at least 60,000 people a day to combat the coronavirus.

Economy in Israel

With the Israeli economy reopening and most citizens having received the COVID-19 vaccine, there were only around 400 active infections at the end of March 2021, the lowest since June 2020. Serious infections also hit a three-month low. As of early July 2021, around 5.2 million people received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. With most of its vulnerable population vaccinated, Israel emerged from its third national lockdown in February 2021.

While Israel’s economy is starting to recover and lockdowns and restrictions are slowly starting to ease, the pandemic plunged 15% of its middle class plunged into poverty. The need for financial aid rose to 70% in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Despite the surge in poverty, however, there is still hope for Israelis suffering from the pandemic. Various organizations are currently implementing solutions to aid impoverished communities in Israel. An Economic Survey of Israel has identified solutions that can help Israel recover from the pandemic. The presented measures and reforms in the survey included upgrading infrastructure, improving educational outcomes, supporting the poor, simplifying taxes, reducing economic distortions and reducing health risks by improving the environment.

IMPROVATE Innovative Conference

Israel is currently using Israeli technology to help it get out of its COVID-19 crisis. An IMPROVATE Innovative conference occurred in early 2021 where Israeli Innovative and Technology companies met to discuss how their companies can assist Israelis in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. IMPROVATE launched in September 2020 to connect world leaders in the advancement of global progress. With these meetings taking place, it seems as if technological advances will play a role in helping to reshape Israel after its economic crisis.

Latet

Nonprofit organizations have also stepped in to help with the economic disaster. Latet has been the leading NGO fighting poverty in Israel for the past 24 years. It is continuing to help the people of Israel by assisting its most vulnerable populations that the pandemic devastated. Latet believes the Israeli government should be doing more to combat inequality and improve access to resources in Israel.

The nonprofit launched an emergency response during the pandemic to help Israel’s elderly population. With help from volunteers, Latet has provided packages including food, hygiene products and entertainment items to the homes of older people to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The nonprofit has also launched a hotline for populations that need assistance with food or other necessities. Latet has distributed 45,000 emergency packages in addition to its regular program, which helps 60,000 families in need.

Hope for the Future

While COVID-19 has increased poverty in Israel, hope still exists for economic recovery. Millions of Israelis are receiving vaccinations, the economy is slowly reopening and technology companies and NGOs are willing to help the nation deal with the aftermath of COVID-19. While some economic progress for Israel has occurred, the push for further progress must continue.

– Jose Ahumada
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccinations in IndonesiaAs the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia continues to rise, Indonesia falls in the top 20 countries with the highest COVID-19 cases. In March 2021, the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) initiative provided its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccinations in Indonesia. The widespread distribution of vaccines brings hope for the country’s recovery as COVID-19 has severely impacted the Indonesian economy and pushed many into poverty. COVID-19 vaccinations in Indonesia bring the country one step closer to recovery and normality.

10 Facts About the Indonesian COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

  1. The first shipment of more than one million doses allocated to Indonesia under the COVAX initiative arrived in Indonesia on March 8, 2021, as part of more than 11 million doses allocated to the country.
  2. The shipment of vaccinations in Indonesia is part of the largest vaccine procurement and supply process of all time. Immunizing the world against COVID-19 is the most significant global vaccination attempt in history.
  3. Indonesia has initiated one of the world’s biggest immunization programs, aiming to vaccinate 181.5 million citizens in a period of 15 months. This equates to two-thirds of its population.
  4. COVID-19 vaccines have been requested by the Indonesian government from several companies as well as through the COVAX initiative.
  5. Indonesia has been included in COVAX’s Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) group. The AMC ensures that 20% of the country’s most vulnerable population will have access to COVID-19 vaccines by the close of 2021.
  6. There is a concern about logistical difficulties hindering COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Indonesia. COVID-19 vaccines would have to be transported from the country’s capital of Jakarta to more than 10,000 health centers throughout Indonesia. Some of these facilities are in remote locations and have limitations in terms of logistics, infrastructure, storage and other essential resources.
  7. Vaccine storage capabilities in Indonesia present another challenge as there are specific temperature requirements in order to preserve the effectiveness of the vaccines.
  8. Indonesian people have been open to child immunization, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about vaccine hesitancy. There are concerns about whether such vaccines would be considered halal as Indonesia’s population is predominantly Muslim. Other fears stem from misinformation and misconceptions about the COVID-19 virus and vaccines.
  9. Indonesia aims to prioritize health workers, police officers, teachers and other civil officials as it implements its COVID-19 vaccination program. The population younger than 60 will be next in line as Indonesia’s approach does not prioritize the elderly. The logic behind this is by slowing the spread in younger people, the elderly will be protected from getting COVID-19 via close relatives. This is because many households are intergenerational, which means separating the old from the young is nearly impossible.
  10. To improve vaccine equity, the COVID-19 vaccine campaign is using live tracking systems to register vaccine recipients, monitor COVID-19 exposure and easily spot gaps and issues.

The Road Ahead

The COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Indonesia is the first step to COVID-19 recovery for both the people and the economy. With immunity, the strain on Indonesia’s healthcare system and resources will hopefully be alleviated. With economic recovery, the pandemic-induced unemployment rate will go down and businesses will strengthen, contributing to overall poverty reduction in Indonesia.

Mary McLean
Photo: Flickr

Argentine Debt AgreementArgentina has been facing a long-lasting economic crisis, further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Close to half of the population lived in poverty in the second quarter of 2020, reaching an all-time high during the months of mandatory lockdowns. Due to the pandemic, the country also experienced a loss of 3.5 million jobs and unemployment rose to 13.1% in the second quarter since the closures hit small businesses hard. As a result, the impact of COVID-19 significantly hurt the domestic market. The Argentine debt agreement hopes to improve the financial crisis in Argentina.

The Argentine Debt Agreement

To help Argentina with its growing financial crisis, the Ad Hoc Group, Argentina Creditor Committee and the Exchange Bondholder Group have come to an agreement that will provide Argentina with financial relief in terms of its national debt. This relief is a major advancement in expanding Argentina’s access to international capital markets. The agreement lays the foundation for future sustainable fiscal policies that support the economy. Moreover, the debt agreement entails a lift of sovereign bonds by an average of 8.7%. Ultimately, Argentina is actively working toward providing sufficient cash flow within the economy to address rising economic concerns. This agreement also allows Argentina to avoid “protracted and costly legal proceedings with bondholders.”

Restructuring the Economy

The three creditor groups developed the debt agreement to restructure $65 billion worth of accumulated Argentinian debt. The creditors involved will receive 55 cents on the U.S. dollar. Originally, the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, desired to pursue 39 cents. The Argentine debt agreement covers 20% of the public debt of Argentina, which amounts to $323 billion. This presents only a partial solution to Argentina’s financial crisis but will certainly help the country move toward economic stability.

If Argentina defaults on the debt, there are possible consequences. By defaulting, creditors will not be eager to invest in Argentina. Diminishing debt through repayment shows commitment but will lead to less investment in the domestic development of the country through social programs, pension benefits, unemployment packages and more. However, the agreement is a step toward solving the rest of the economic dilemma. It utilizes the restructuring method, which provides Argentina with a long-term plan for rebuilding the economy.

Moreover, the agreement modifies the dates of payment for certain bonds. The modification that will be implemented “will improve the value of the proposal for creditors.” Multifarious investors are interested in the profit restructuring will produce and are betting on a boost in the economy.

Negotiating Future Monetary Policies

Argentina’s debt restructuring does not end there. Argentina and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will discuss Argentina’s plans on refinancing its $45 billion debt to the IMF. The focus will mostly be on loans maturing between 2021 and 2024. During this period, the International Monetary Fund will hold Argentina accountable for certain economic obligations. This accountability entails that Argentina must utilize “credible economic data” as proof of Argentina’s economic recovery path.

The Road Ahead

Debt relief is an effective solution to addressing Argentina’s financial crisis and rebuilding a resilient economy. Negotiations with creditors involve the nation requesting reasonable interest rates from now on, which will allow Argentina to truly stabilize. The agreement is very desirable as Argentina is also navigating the added impacts of COVID-19. In general, this revamped economic plan will not solely benefit Argentina but also the international financial system. By setting new precedents, Argentina can effectively re-enter the global market, ultimately contributing to global economic growth as a result.

Lauren Tabor
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in 2020
“Everyone is growing.” At the end of 2019, this was the World Bank’s outlook of the economic trajectory for the year 2020. The global economy was steadily growing and strengthening, and only a select few countries were facing GDP and economic contractions. Here is a look at the countries that experienced economic growth in 2020.

COVID-19’s Impact on the Economy

At the end of 2020, the World Bank sang a much different tune than what it did at the end of 2019. After the onset of a global pandemic, the majority of the world’s economies have taken a turn for the worst, the year turning out to be one of the worst in terms of economic growth and development. A far cry from the projected global GDP growth of 2.5%, as in June 2020, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that the world would close out the year with a GDP growth rate of -4.9%.

For some countries such as Spain, the U.K. and Tunisia, economic growth in 2020 had already fallen by around 20% by the year’s second quarter compared to the same period of 2019, a record quarterly fall for many countries. In other countries such as Taiwan, Finland, Lithuania and South Korea, the economic impact was much less than 5% contractions in GDP.

However, while the problem of economic recession was common for most nations, there were a select few that were not only able to ward off a negative growth pattern but steadily grew in the face of a global crisis. According to reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in October 2020, only 16 countries would sustain economic growth in 2020 of more than 1%, and 11 would grow at a rate between zero and 1%. That leaves a whopping 167 nations facing economic contraction.

5 Countries that Experienced the Highest Economic Growth in 2020

  1. Guyana: Guyana currently has the fastest growing economy globally, with an economic growth rate of approximately 26.21% in 2020. The mainland country serves as home to one of the most promising newly discovered oil basins globally and a vast supply of other natural resources. The recent oil discoveries and new production began in late 2019. Guyana’s economy is expanding fast and expects the GDP to more than double by 2025. Therefore, while it is likely that the Guyanese economy did face setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the explosion of its oil industry has been able to keep the country’s economy heading in the right direction.
    2. South Sudan: After facing stunted economic growth in the 2010s due to civil unrest, the relatively newly independent South Sudan faced harsh humanitarian and food insecurity crises. However, in 2018, the country signed a new peace agreement, followed by the reopening of many of its oil wells, boosting its main revenue source. Between 2018 and 2019, the country gradually maneuvered itself back into a steady growth pattern that maintained a 4.11% growth in GDP in 2020.
    3. Bangladesh: Over the years 2016 to 2020, the Bangladesh economy has recorded a 7.6% growth in GDP. Such rapid expansion has allowed the country to graduate from the U.N.’s list of Least Developed Countries (LDC). Because of its now stable macroeconomic environment, buoyant domestic demand and export-oriented industry-led growth, Bangladesh has been able to maintain an approximate 5.2% growth rate during 2020, with predictions that it will see an increasing growth rate of 6.8% in 2021 and the coming years.
    4. Egypt: Similar to Guyana, the Egyptian economy has recently benefitted greatly from lucrative natural gas discoveries. Though the pandemic and global economic crisis hit the country’s economic growth in 2020 due to a sudden fall in tourism, remittances and exports, its previous main sources of income, the revenue from its oil discoveries, was enough to stabilize growth in the economy. Already, the Egyptian economy is on the path to recovery with a projected 2.76% growth in 2021, before returning to its previous growth levels averaging at 5.28% in the coming years.
    5. Benin: Due to intentional and effective key economic and structural reforms in recent years, Benin reached a growth rate of 6.41% between the years 2017 and 2019. Therefore, while economic activity did slow for the country heavily dependent on re-export and transit trade, it was able to sustain economic growth in 2020 at a rate of approximately 2%. As the world adapts to and moves towards the end of the pandemic and global economic crisis, expectations have determined that Benin’s economy will return to faster growth rates of around 5% to 7% in the upcoming years.

Looking Forward

It was low- and middle-income emerging economies that were better able to sustain a growth trajectory throughout the 2020 global economic crisis. In fact, China, which the COVID-19 pandemic hit first, has been the only trillion-dollar economy that sustained positive economic growth in 2020. Economic growth is crucial for reducing and eradicating poverty and can lead to social improvements in affected countries. Therefore, the hope is that the countries that are not on the above list will return to pre-pandemic growth rates, and the five fastest-growing nations of 2020 keep developing at this level.

– Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

Electricity in VenezuelaOn March 7, 2019, Venezuela entered the worst power outage in the country’s history. Plunging all 23 states into darkness, the blackout lasted over five days in majority of the country. The economic losses triggered by this event exceeded $800 million and led to the deaths of an estimated 46 people. Electricity in Venezuela has since become a huge cause of concern for people.

Blackouts in Venezuela

Regrettably, this blackout was not an isolated incident, although it was the longest. Blackouts have become a routine aspect of Venezuelan life, dating back to as early as 2010. In a country where 96% of the Venezuelan population lives in poverty, these blackouts serve only to exacerbate the struggles of a vulnerable population. They strip people of access to basic necessities like water, food and fuel. Their root causes are often unclear although the key contributing factors are widely agreed-upon.

Understanding the Power System

In 2007, Venezuela’s private power companies were nationalized and transformed into one state-run monopoly known as Corpoelec. The company is underfunded, rife with corruption and unable to recover its own operating costs. The factors creating this untenable situation for Corpoelec date back even further to 2002 when national electricity rates were frozen. In Venezuela, “consumers pay only 20% of the real costs of producing power, delivering Venezuelans the lowest electricity prices in Latin America.” The drawback to these low rates is that energy is extremely overused and that Corpoelec is unable to generate sufficient revenue to fund infrastructure investments or even basic maintenance of its facilities.

Overdependence on Hydropower

The aforementioned problems are exacerbated by Venezuela’s near-complete reliance on hydropower from just one dam. The Guri Dam located in the eastern state of Bolívar accounts for 80% of the country’s electricity production and its systems are woefully neglected. The dam currently operates at a capacity considered unsustainable, “jeopardizing the machine room in the case of a flood,” according to experts. In a region where flooding is common, this is cause for concern.

Whereas other countries that rely heavily on hydroelectric power like Brazil and China have made large investments into other forms of energy, Venezuela’s ability to shift away from hydropower is crippled by underfunding, a lack of engineering power from within the country and corruption.

Corpoelec has stagnated progress as well. The company, “paid millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to political connections,” to maintain its dominance. Projects to build new dams and other forms of electricity production like thermal or wind have routinely been stalled due to a lack of funding and inadequate staffing.

The Cause of the Blackout

The March 7 blackout that heavily circulated the news was caused by a system failure at the Guri Dam. It was initially painted as a terrorist attack by president Nicolás Maduro, who tweeted, “The electrical war announced and directed by the imperialist United States against our people will be defeated.”

The Venezuelan president’s claim was that the U.S. had caused the power outage through a cyberattack on the hydroelectric plant. However, engineers who worked on the dam later clarified that the plant’s electronic monitoring system is not actually connected to the internet, proving a foreign attack to be an unlikely root cause. The plant has been poorly maintained and neglected for a very long time. In actuality, failure to properly manage the electricity grid may have caused a fire has been deemed the likely cause, and unfortunately, there is no quick-response system in place at the facility to protect its systems from damage.

The Future of Electricity in Venezuela

To ensure the return of consistent electricity to the people of Venezuela and protect against future blackouts, massive overhauls would be beneficial. However, such agendas seem unrealistic given the current economic and political climate in the country. Rather, a focus on increased upkeep and basic maintenance of power plants offers a more realistic path forward. This requires access for NGOs to bring in engineers and consistent revenue toward infrastructure repair. Without this basic funding and commitment from the government, the Venezuelan people will continue to suffer through blackouts.

– Scott Mistler-Ferguson
Photo: Flickr

Saving the Venezuelan EconomyA combination of poor leadership and crippling sanctions have created a nation-wide economic crisis in Venezuela. The Center for Strategic and International Studies found that even before U.S. sanctions were placed on Venezuela, the country was already enduring hyperinflation, had seen food imports fall by 71% and more than two million Venezuelans had fled the country. Nevertheless, sanctions only exacerbated the crisis as Torino Economics found U.S. sanctions on Venezuela were associated with an annual loss of $16.9 billion in oil revenue. As a result, the Atlantic Council reports that more than 80% of Venezuelan households are food insecure and 3.7 million individuals are malnourished. Consequently, refugees filed more asylum claims globally in 2018 than any other country has. The number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees is expected to reach eight million in 2020, surpassing Syrian migration by more than three million. Reforms in the county are being implemented with the aim of saving the Venezuelan economy.

Saving the Venezuelan Economy

While this economic collapse still ravishes the country, there is certainly hope for the future. Due to both internal and external pressures, the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, has begun to encourage policies of economic liberalization and privatization that are indicating an economic rebound.

Toward the end of 2019, Argus Media reported the Venezuelan government was beginning to ease economic controls. Specifically, the Maduro government erased most price controls, loosened capital controls, tightened controls on commercial bank loan operations, and most importantly, began to accept informal dollarization. Immediately these policies curbed the levels of hyperinflation that had caused the food crisis across the country. Advisers estimate inflation to be at only 5,500%, a significant improvement compared to the International Monetary Fund forecasts that predicted inflation levels of more than 10 million percent. This is largely in part to the importation of dollars into the Venezuelan economy, pushing out the uselessly-inflated Bolivars. Indeed, a Bloomberg study found Venezuela’s economy is increasingly dollarized, as 54% of all sales in Venezuela by the end of last year were in dollars. Most importantly, food and medicine imports have rebounded, now reaching 15% of the population.

Privatization of the Oil Industry

In addition to the Maduro government relaxing economic controls, the economic rebound in Venezuela has occurred due to increased privatization of the oil industry. Despite being under the control of the military for years, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company has trended toward letting private firms handle operations, aiding in fixing the mismanagement perpetrated by the military’s control of the industry. For the first time in decades, the private sector accounted for more than 25% of GDP in 2019 and likely more by the end of 2020. Consequently, the Panam Post reported that oil production increased by more than 200,000 barrels, a 20% increase following privatization.

Initiatives to Help Venezuelans in Poverty

The South American Initiative, through its medical clinic, provides medical care and medicine to Venezuelans in need, with a special focus on mothers and children. To provide these essential services, it relies on donations that people provide on the GlobalGiving platform.

Fundacion Oportunidad y Futuro addresses hunger and malnutrition with regards to children in Venezuela. It is running in an initiative to provide meals to 800 school-aged children in Venezuela. It also operates through donations via the GlobalGiving platform.

The Future of Venezuela

While there is hope to be found in these reforms, Venezuela has far from recovered. The National Survey of Living Conditions indicates that more Venezuelans are in poverty in 2020 than in 2018, with food security decreasing another 7% over the past two years. The average income of Venezuela remains low at just over 70 U.S. cents a day. These reforms are the foundational steps needed to begin to reverse the economic trend that has relegated millions of Venezuelans to extreme poverty. If the economy is ever to correct itself, liberalization and privatization will be the jumping-off point for an economically thriving Venezuela in the future.

– Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Demining Zimbabwe's National ParkLocated in southeast Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park is home to 11,000 African elephants, which is how it earned its name as the “Place of Elephants.” Unfortunately, it is also the site of thousands of buried landmines. These landmines were placed by the Rhodesian army during Zimbabwe’s Liberation War and have remained there for more than 40 years. Although there have been efforts to remove these mines, they continue to be a constant threat to the people of Zimbabwe and local wildlife. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park will have several benefits for the country.

APOPO: Demining Efforts

The United States has provided a grant of $750,000 to the nonprofit APOPO to demine the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, where a large portion of the undetonated landmines reside. The Sengwe Wildlife Corridor covers a stretch of land that connects the park to South Africa and is used regularly by migrating elephants.

The area that APOPO has been designated to work is one of the largest in the world: 37 kilometers lengthwise and 75 kilometers in width. With almost 6,000 landmines per kilometer, communities in the surrounding area are unable to access potential land for farming and endangered species are at constant risk.

The presence of the minefield prevents the elephant population of the park from migrating and potentially mixing with other elephant populations. This presents a long-term risk of limiting the already shrinking African elephant gene pool.

APOPO has established a five-year plan for demining Zimbabwe’s national park, expecting to remove all undetonated landmines from the area by 2025. It estimates that it will remove more than 15,000 landmines before the end of its operation in the corridor.

The nonprofit will be working in tandem with the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust to maintain that the process will not impede conservation goals for the park.

The project also complements USAID programs to support community-based natural resource management, provide climate-smart agricultural technologies and improve the value chain for communities to sell their products for a fair market price.

Poverty in Zimbabwe and COVID-19

Zimbabwe is currently facing severe economic hardships that have only worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 50% of Zimbabweans experienced food insecurity and 40% faced extreme poverty. This number is projected to increase as conditions worsen with the onset of the pandemic and severe droughts. Inflation in the country has been rampant, with prices of food increasing by 725%, resulting in a severe loss of purchasing power for the poor. The pandemic has impacted the already economically challenged country by decreasing trade and tourism.

Aiding Economic Recovery in Zimbabwe

The United States and APOPO hope that by clearing out the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, ecotourism in Zimbabwe will begin to thrive. As it stands currently, only 8,000 tourists on average visit Gonarezhou National Park compared to the 1.8 million tourists that visit the neighboring Kruger National Park of South Africa. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park means providing an extended opportunity for increased tourism in the struggling country. The efforts of APOPO, with the support of the United States, may be able to help economic recovery, reduce the impact of the pandemic and uplift communities that are battling poverty.

-Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

Aid to SenegalSenegal’s economy is one of the fastest-growing in Africa, with a growth rate of above 6% from 2014 to 2018. The country is home to 15.4 million people and is one of the most stable countries in the region. The service industry heavily burgeoned this growth, which made up about 60% of the country’s total GDP. The shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major slowdown in growth, falling to an estimated 1.3% in 2020. Although the country has instituted a comprehensive stimulus plan, Senegal’s economy is still facing a slow and painful recovery, which could be disastrous for the country’s long-term future. Aid to Senegal is essential for the country’s recovery.

Incoming Aid to Senegal

In a press release on November 11, 2020, Germany and the European Union (EU) announced the approval of relief funding for Senegal — 112 million euros in EU funding and 100 million euros in funding from Germany itself. The EU has a broader history of aid to Senegal, with more than a billion euros of aid sent from 2014 to 2020. Germany also has a history of friendship with Senegal, as the two entered into a reform partnership in 2019. The amount of aid rendered illustrates the strong commitment of both the EU and Germany to Senegal’s economy. The money will go toward Senegal’s COVID-19 stimulus program and will enable the government to continue relief efforts for its population.

German development minister, Gerd Müller, was strongly in favor of aid to Senegal and described many problems currently ailing Senegal’s economy. Nearly half of the country is unemployed and the shrinking economy will especially impact small and medium businesses, which make up 90% of all Senegalese jobs. Müller says, “We must not forget that the consequences of COVID-19 are far more dramatic in developing countries.”

Impact of Aid to Senegal

Müller is optimistic that the aid will enable the protection of jobs and the production of medical equipment necessary to fight COVID-19. The Senegalese government also started a program for businesses to receive cash loans for support.

Although Senegal’s economy is robust, it is still dependent on foreign aid to finance these measures. Aside from the aid coming from the EU and Germany, the World Bank approved $100 million worth of aid back in June 2020, demonstrating a need for further funding to prevent larger setbacks in Senegal’s economy.

An Admirable COVID-19 Reponse

The way that Senegal handled the COVID-19 pandemic itself has received praise throughout the world. It ranks second only to New Zealand on Foreign Policy’s Global COVID-19 Response Index, which measures the response of national leaders to the pandemic. The country took broad health safety measures at the beginning of the crisis, which had an unfortunate impact on Senegal’s economy. International aid to Senegal plays a large role in the country’s recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

– Bradley Cisternino
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health Care in GreeceIn Greece, the financial crisis has significantly impacted the health and well-being of the population. With limited access to resources and high unemployment rates, many people face poverty. Due to the economic crisis, 27% of the population found themselves unemployed. The inability to cope with the loss of wages and benefits caused the rates of depression and suicide to rise among Greek people. In 2013, more than 12.3% of the population suffered from depression. In 2017, the National School of Public Health surveyed 2,005 adults and found that more than half had mental health struggles. Various organizations are working to improve mental health care in Greece.

Mental Health Stigma in Greece

Conservative attitudes slowly began to change in 2014 as mental health stigma in Greece reduced from 63.1% to 36%. As the Greek economy slowly began to turn around, the connection between the financial crisis and mental health became even more evident and discussions regarding mental health care in Greece became more acceptable. Organizations fighting the mental health care crisis in Greece include the Greek Health Ministry, the HOME Project and Klimaka NGO.

The Greek Health Ministry

The Greek Health Ministry has carried out campaigns that have been influential in increasing mental health awareness in Greece. In 2019, the Greek Health Ministry coordinated a committee of mental health experts in a mental health awareness campaign. The goal of this committee was to train and equip practitioners to be able to effectively diagnose depression and mental health illnesses. The link between the rise in the economic crisis and the rise in psychiatric admissions could be clearly seen. The Council of Europe noted that “unemployed persons, bankrupt businessmen, or parents who have no means of taking care of or feeding their children” were among new admissions to psychiatric hospitals.

To assist in stabilizing admissions, the Health Ministry ran a pilot program to ensure major areas had at least one psychiatric clinic operating as a walk-in center at any given time. This program has led to the operation of three new clinics in Greek hospitals and there are plans for 16 more to open in the future.

The HOME Project

Children that are homeless or have fled from camps and detention centers can find support and housing through the HOME Project. This NGO has established efforts to support more than 2,500 unaccompanied minor children in Greece that fall outside of any official protection. The HOME Project provides legal, educational, social and mental health support to this at-risk population that ranges from toddlers to teenagers. Many of these children have been subjected to trauma and are more at risk of suffering from mental health issues. The HOME Project advocates for resources for refugee children in Europe that can create long-term child protection solutions.

Klimaka NGO

Mental health care in Greece is being improved by organizations like Klimaka, an NGO committed to caring for those impacted by mental health issues. In Greece, mental health is not a subject that people often discuss. Klimaka is one of the few suicide prevention clinics in Greece that worked collaboratively with the Greek Orthodox Church that had once been criticized for its stance on suicide. According to Klimaka, the Greek Orthodox Church viewed suicide as a sin and priests often refused burial prayers for those that had taken their own lives. Klimaka has been paramount in changing these views and reshaping the church’s role in the prevention of suicide, to the extent that the church now allows burial prayers if the deceased suffered from mental illness.

While older populations do not easily embrace mental illness, the younger generations have recognized depression as a relevant health issue during times of crisis. Mental health care in Greece continues to face challenges due to a shortage of staff, underfunding, reduced medical supplies and insufficient primary healthcare. Nevertheless, organizations are continuing to fight for improved mental health care for the most vulnerable populations.

– Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr