Rising Poverty in Lebanon
Before COVID-19, Lebanon was already facing an economic crisis, and rising poverty in Lebanon was a growing concern. As a result of COVID-19, the country’s economy is failing. The pandemic threatens to push up to 75% of the country’s population to poverty. A country with one of the highest debts in the world, Lebanon has now defaulted on its debts. Inflation has risen, putting many members of the middle class at risk of poverty. The people of Lebanon blame corruption and mismanagement for the problems that are plaguing the country.

Lebanon’s Political Dysfunction

From 1975 to 1990, Lebanon experienced a civil war that religious tensions caused. Ultimately, Lebanon’s new government decided to adopt a system based on confessionalism, which gives religious groups a strong voice. The president of Lebanon must always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the house a Shia Muslim. However, government action has been slow as a result. It took Lebanon 12 years (from 2005 to 2017) to pass a state budget. Increasingly, people in Lebanon have been calling for an end to this political system, which is not only fragmented and ineffective but also filled with corruption and meddling from countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Inflation and Rising Poverty in Lebanon

In 2019, the World Bank predicted that Lebanon’s poverty rate would increase as a result of the country’s economic problems. Inflation had already risen — but not by the margins that the country has seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lebanese currency has now lost over 80% in value. With the devaluing of its currency, Lebanon is experiencing an increase in prices on goods. Many people are struggling to afford meals, as food prices have increased by 190% in comparison to last year. Meanwhile, the price of clothes has increased by 170%.

Inflation is a vicious cycle, influenced by both suppliers and consumers. Suppliers in Lebanon — such as supermarkets and shop owners — are unable to sell as many goods, because people are unable to buy as much. In addition, the pandemic shut down certain aspects of the economy, preventing people from receiving wages and having money to spend. As a result of the economic crisis, banks imposed limits on how much money people could withdraw, which increased financial uncertainty for many citizens. Without sufficient support from their government, the people of Lebanon face a desperate future.

Rising inflation is not the only disruptor to many people’s lives in Lebanon. Access to reliable electricity is becoming more of a concern. According to the Human Rights Watch, power cuts are disrupting life in Lebanon. People face hurdles in storing food and disruptions to work, while also worrying about health risks for family members who depend on electrical medical equipment.

Support for Refugees and Citizens

The pandemic is also affecting refugees from Syria. There are close to 1 million registered refugees in Lebanon — more refugees per capita than any other country. The World Food Program is currently providing aid to refugee families.

To help with the crisis in Lebanon, local groups like Mission Joy and the COVID-19 Task Force for Lebanon have donated 960 food parcels and 400 hygiene kits. The World Food Program is also working to help hundreds of thousands of citizens, as many families are financially constrained and struggling to meet rising food prices. Currently, Lebanon is negotiating with the IMF for more loans to help its economy. With help from international organizations, Lebanon can hope to provide a more secure economic future for its people.

Joshua Meribole
Photo: Flickr


Somalia faces a constant struggle for enough resources to feed the entire population. Millions of citizens throughout Somalia suffer from hunger and poverty. Somalia is located in an area that suffers from extreme droughts and experienced one in late 2019. Droughts throughout Somalia leave millions of people without proper resources, as animals and crops go without proper nutrition to ensure food for citizens. However, Somalia, and Africa as a whole, are dealing with a more destructive problem this year. Locusts are impacting both the economy and the issue of starvation in Somalia, with millions and maybe even billions of insects flying across the continent. For a country that is currently dealing with hunger and poverty issues, locusts and their growth could be extremely detrimental to Somalia.

The Second Wave of Locusts in Somalia

According to recent studies and developments, there is currently a second wave of locusts swarming throughout Somalia and Africa. The second wave has the potential to be more harmful to the economy of Somalia because it is occurring during harvest season. The harvesting of crops is a positive thing for the citizens who continue to lack food and resources. Millions of locusts can cause enough damage to crops to equate to feeding a small population city. Furthermore, Somalia has not experienced a plague of locusts as strong as this one in about 25 years.

Additionally, COVID-19 is making this plague more damaging for Somalia and the citizens. The combination of both events will cause over 25 million Africans to not have proper food resources throughout the remainder of the year.

All Hands-on Deck Approach to Locusts in Somalia

To ensure that the effect on locusts on the economy and starvation in Somalia is minimal, the government has decided to join with the organization Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This partnership includes efforts to control and stop the growth and spread of locusts around Somalia and Africa. The control of this plague ensures that Somalia does not take a dramatic and harmful hit to the economy. It would also protect citizens from food shortages.

The Somalian government depends on communities to assist with controlling the spread as well. These efforts include using ground and air vehicles to spray pesticides on developing eggs and locusts flying throughout affected areas. Thirty ground vehicles are being used to control spread and growth. These vehicles can destroy eggs and developing locusts which are not able to fly. Additionally, in May, two helicopters were brought in to help control flying locusts and cover widely affected areas. So far, FAO has covered over 197,000 acres of land throughout Somalia and plans to cover over 444,000 acres by the end of 2020. Going forward, FAO will conduct similar control efforts. This plan also has the possibility to take care of any future swarms of locusts that may occur.

Looking Forward

Somalia, and Africa, continue to struggle with locusts swarming and developing. The locusts have had a negative effect on the economy and starvation in Somalia. The country already has millions of citizens who lack the proper amount of daily food resources. Additionally, Somalia has experienced droughts that have changed the economic outlook of the country in recent years. Adding the plague of locusts into the equation will only continue to damage food resources in Somalia, especially since they are arriving during harvest season. However, the Somalian government has decided to address this problem by working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This organization created control efforts to stop the growth and development of locusts. FAO has covered massive amounts of Somalian land with control efforts and plans to continue covering more land throughout 2020.

– Jamal Patterson 
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

 

Vietnamese Mail-order Brides
The term mail-order bride is an uncomfortable term for many. The idea of ordering one’s spouse through the internet certainly goes against the established romantic norm that many people adhere to. However, the mail-order bride market is an international industry that one cannot ignore. Men and women, mainly in South East Asia, East Asia and Eastern Europe, employ the services of numerous matchmaking agencies and marriage brokers to search for their special someone. In South Korea, for example, some bachelors utilize these services because they are unable to find romantic relationships and partners in their country. Women from Vietnam, the Philippines, Russia and Ukraine constitute the majority of the brides in these services. These women often come to these international matchmaking agencies because they are trying to escape the poor economic realities of their home countries, such as being in danger of sexual and economic exploitation. This article will highlight the reality of Vietnamese mail-order brides in particular.

Is it legal?

Perhaps this is the first question that comes to mind when one hears the term mail-order brides. The answer is that it is legal so long as all parties involved are going through the proper channels. This is part of the reason why many international matchmaking agencies shun the term mail-order brides. Despite what the term might suggest, no one is ordering another human being for shipment to their doorsteps. Instead, many clients of these matchmaking agencies have to work with international marriage brokers (IMBs) to connect and meet their potential spouses.

Accusations Against the Industry

There are certainly many accusations that people make against the mail-order bride industry. Critics accuse the industry of being another form of human trafficking for three main reasons. First, many women who become mail-order brides come from countries with limited economic access for women. Second, some marriage brokers and agencies in the business are more concerned with profit than they are about the well-being of the women they claim to help find love and new life. Lastly, people do not hold IMBs responsible for the safety of the mail-order brides they introduce their clients to, leaving many mail-order brides in danger of violence and exploitation from their spouses.

When looking at the language that IMBs use to describe their brides, the critics’ concerns toward IMBs are understandable. In The Atlantic’s report on Vietnamese mail-order brides, there is a picture of a poster in Ho Chi Minh City which advertises a marriage broker’s service. The poster reads, “She is a virgin, she will be yours in only three months, fixed price, if she escapes in the first year, guaranteed to be replaced.” This kind of attitude toward women, which treats them as commodities, is also prevalent in online mail-order bride services. Bestasianbrides.com, one of the biggest online IMBs, highlights the submissiveness of the Vietnamese mail-order brides. Under “Reason 2: Submissiveness,” the website writes, “There are literally millions of Vietnamese singles, and almost each of them will easily remind you what a real woman is. A womanly woman, you know, feminine.”

About the Women

The majority of the women who sign up with matchmaking agencies do so voluntarily. For these women, marrying a foreign man is one of the sure-fire ways to escape poverty in their country. This, however, does not eliminate the possibility of these women receiving false information about their future husbands. This could lead to further exploitation and violence once these Vietnamese brides arrive in their husbands’ home country. In 2010, for example, a South Korean man murdered his Vietnamese bride after eight days of marriage. The husband did not disclose his schizophrenia when he met his bride through a matchmaking agency. In the BBC’s 2019 report, it reported on a South Korean man who physically abused his Vietnamese wife. Many Vietnamese wives in South Korea sometimes find themselves at the mercy of their husbands because their immigration status depends on them.

Improving the Brides’ Safety

South Korea, the U.S. and Vietnam are taking measures to improve the safety of these brides. South Korea requires all IMBs to register with the state and provide background checks and criminal history of their clients. If the IMBs do not comply, it revokes their licenses. In the U.S., the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) regulates international marriage services. This protects foreign women marrying American men by requiring the husband to disclose their prior marital, financial and criminal history in order to obtain consent for marriage from their spouses. Meanwhile, Vietnam has entirely outlawed IMBs.

The mail-order brides industry certainly paints a very ambiguous picture. On one hand, there are men and women who are desperately looking for their special someone. These men and women, driven by their desire to start a family, climbing the socio-economic ladder or simply finding love, turn to many international matchmaking agencies to find their special someone. There are certainly some heartwarming love stories that came out of these mail-order bride marriages. This still does not change the fact that there are people who treat Vietnamese women like tradable commodities. This attitude puts many Vietnamese women in danger of violence, exploitation and abuse. Countries such as South Korea, the U.S. and Vietnam are making efforts in improving the conditions of these Vietnamese mail-order brides.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Living Conditions in Nauru
Situated in the Pacific Ocean to the northeast of Australia, the Republic of Nauru is the smallest island nation in the world. Phosphate mining has rendered 80 percent of the island unhabitable and devoid of arable land. Phosphate deposits depleted in the 1980s and Nauru’s economy stagnated, transitioning the country from fiscally self-sustaining to externally dependent. The country’s history, economy and foreign relationships interlace with—and have shaped many aspects of—Nauruan life, as evidenced by the top 10 facts about living conditions in Nauru.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Nauru

  1. Population: Nauru’s population is approximately 11,000. Ninety percent are indigenous to the island, almost half of the population are under the age of 24 and 3.5  percent are 65 and older. Although the country’s landmass is only eight square miles, Nauru is one of the world’s most densely populated countries.
  2. Colonialism: Nauru remained under colonial authority until gaining independence in 1968. For example, Germany annexed it in 1888, Japan occupied it in WWII and the United Nations (U.N.) subsequently placed Nauru under Australian administration. The nation only became of economic interest to colonial powers after the discovery of phosphate deposits in the late 19th century.
  3. Australian-Nauru Relations: Nauru sought damages from Australia in 1989 for “rehabilitation of the phosphate lands.” Before WWII, Germany and the United Kingdom split mining profits, and following the war, Australia and the United Kingdom divided revenues. The Hague sided with Nauru and the two countries settled in 1993 with Australia agreeing to pay $56 million AUD that year and another $50 million AUD over the next two decades. Australia continues to be Nauru’s greatest source of economic stimulus, its contributions making up 20 percent of the national GDP.
  4. Economy: Phosphate mining and production is integral to Nauru’s economy and continues to be the country’s most valuable resource. Phosphate is one of the key plant nutrients to make food crop fertilizer. Additionally, phosphate mines are an essential source of employment. A national economic crisis occurred in the 80s when Nauru exhausted existing deposits. Secondary mining did resume in 2005, but Nauru’s government estimates that reservoirs will be barren by 2030. Other niche industries have recently emerged, including immigration taxation and licensing commercial fishing. The Republic of China (ROC) and Nauru signed a fishing cooperation accord in 2004 to strengthen trade relations between the two countries. Renewed in 2016, the cooperation accord provides funds to improve Nauru’s fishing industry and promotes sustainable fishing practices.
  5. The Pacific Solution Policy: In 2001, Nauru became one of two Australian off-shore regional processing centers for refugees and asylum-seekers in an arrangement called the Pacific Solution policy. In exchange, the Australian Government would provide $1 million AUD annually for its operation, immediately pay $16.5 million AUD for infrastructure and provide increased access to Australian education and additional maritime security. Facilities closed from 2007 to 2012 due to international objections, including indefinite detention times and evidence of abuse; however, despite criticism, operations have since recommenced.
  6. Employment: Following the economic downturn in the 1980s, Nauru did not significantly diversify its industries, unemployment levels increased and the country became heavily dependent on external economic stimulus. For example, the uptick in employment levels in 2012 was the result of regional processing centers reopening. Facilities directly provided 500 jobs, and indirectly generated substantial ancillary employment opportunities; next to Nauru’s government, Australia is the country’s second-largest source of employment.
  7. Health Care: Nauru was one of seventeen countries in 2016 that, proportionate to its economy, spent over 10 percent of its GDP on health care. The Marshall Islands spent the most at 23.3 percent and Monaco spent the least at 1.7 percent. Despite this, many Nauruan’s develop noncommunicable diseases, specifically, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although obesity remains an issue in Nauru, it has made progress as male diabetes rates have declined 1 percent over the past decade and high blood pressure levels have decreased for both genders by 6 percent.
  8. Poverty: Nauru is officially a middle-upper-income nation, and previously, it was the wealthiest country per capita. However, a 2018 U.N. report showed that a quarter of Nauruans live in “basic need” poverty, too poor for the cost of food and access to necessities such as clean water, health care and education. The same 2018 report noted that Nauru had no instances of food insecurity, however.
  9. Education: Education in Nauru is free and mandatory until the age of 18. Eighty percent of Nauruan children enrolled in early and primary education in 2015, but only half that number attended secondary school. The Government addressed truancy in 2016, an ongoing concern for students in Nauru, by enacting the Nauru Education Assistance Trust Scheme (NEATS). NEATS incentivizes students to attend school by providing them with $5 a day to set aside for adulthood and help them establish businesses or purchase homes when they graduate. Following NEAT, school attendance increased by 11 percent from 2016 to 2018.
  10. National Sustainability: Nauru is confronting the significant damage that phosphate mining caused. The government acknowledges that it is an economically volatile and diminishing commodity. For example, the ROC and Nauru’s 360 Project is an initiative that encourages national self-sufficiency in areas such as vocational training, transitioning to solar energy and specialized forms of agriculture; the latter is to mitigate reliance on imported goods. The United Arab Emirates has aligned with Nauru to achieve similar efforts, providing financial aid for Nauru to establish its first solar energy plant, which opened in 2016.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Nauru reveal that its history is complex. The country’s remote location, limited economic opportunities and increasing dependence on foreign investment—usually politically contingent for all countries—continue to impact the Nauruan population. However, ongoing U.N. involvement and foreign relationships with countries like Australia and the ROC, are working to address Nauru’s long-term social issues.

– Annabel Fay
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

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

Land Grabbing and PovertyLand grabbing is not a new concept and it is not an isolated event. However, land grabbing and poverty have recently been linked together. While companies around the globe participate in this harmful process that drives farmers off their lands, farmers in industrial countries are especially susceptible to losing their lands, and therefore, their source of income. The act of industrial companies land grabbing not only costs a person their home but also their food and money. In countries such as Africa and South America, many people have fallen below the poverty line and suffer from displacement.

The Actions of Large Companies

The link between land grabbing and poverty is growing and has become a big issue. Major companies, such as the Teacher’s Insurance and Annuity Association of America College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF or TIAA), are buying multiple acres of land at exceedingly high prices. This, in turn, raises the prices of rent above what nearby family farmers can afford to pay. In Brazil, the TIAA has ownership of over 600,000 acres of land. The company also has a stake of over $400 million in Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil, which has displaced established communities of indigenous people in addition to several endangered species.

Who Owns the Land?

Land grabbing hugely contributes to the loss of property which advances poverty levels. Indigenous people claim and manage about 50 percent of the world’s land. However, of that 50 percent, people who depend on it only legally own 10 percent. Big companies can easily buy out the remaining 40 percent of the land and repurpose it to maximize industrial gains. Most of this land goes towards fossil-fuels projects, tourism and even conservation. Because of this, many families become displaced and left without a source of income and experience a lack of food security. Companies, such as TIAA, have led directly to malnutrition in industrial countries where they held land.

Initiating Change

There have been many demonstrations to try and combat the act of land grabbing. Grassroots International has started a petition to end land grabbing. There are also The Tenure Guidelines that have the intention of ending global poverty through tenure rights and land access. Policies within these guidelines would give land rights to the person who has owned the land the longest, ensuring that those who depend on the land for their livelihoods can continue to use it. In Africa, 29 women farmers climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the country’s tallest mountain, to raise awareness about the issue. The climbers met 400 fellow women farmers at the base of the mountain to help raise awareness about secure land rights and guarantee the farmers access to local and global markets.

Land grabbing and poverty reduction will give the people of the land a place to live as well as a food source and a dependable income. Crop sales will increase and farmers will have a more reliable income if others do not drive them from their land. The decrease of land grabbing will also increase access to both local and global markets, providing farmers with more ways to sell their food. Overall, restricting land grabbing, honoring tenure and giving land access to those who need it will lead to a decline in global poverty.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

Human Capital Investment in Somalia

Somalia is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world. UNICEF estimates that 43 percent of the Somali population live on less than a dollar a day, while around half of the labor force is unemployed. Social unrest caused by a long civil warcoupled with weak institutions have contributed to devastatingly high levels of poverty in the region. One especially prominent effect of this has been the incredibly weak education system in Somalia. Only half of the Somali population is literate and in 2016, only 32 percent of Somali children were enrolled in school. This has undermined much of the government’s attempts to build successful anti-poverty initiatives, as economic development requires substantial improvements in the human capital development of Somalia.

Partnership with the World Bank

Somalia had previously been unable to attain a partnership with the World Bank, due to high levels of debt carrying over from previous World Bank loans. However, the ambitious economic reforms of the new Somali government which was established in 2012, offer hope for improvement, culminating in the new Country Partnership Framework established by the World Bank in 2018. The World Bank has dedicated its resources to aiding the Somali government in developing stronger institutions and economic growth, in line with the government’s National Development plan. As a result of the new partnership, the World Bank now accounts for 15 percent of total financing (around $28.5 million) for Technical and Vocational Education and Training programs in Somalia.

Human Capital Investments

These investments play a significant role in human capital development, as they offer an opportunity for Somalia to diversify its economy and offer the potential for granting individuals access to sustainable long-term income. This is especially true of the role that education plays, as creating a more educated population can be vital to ensuring continued economic growth, reducing the overall reliance on foreign aid. Improvements in human capital have the potential for massive returns. The World Bank estimates that human capital growth can produce a 10 to 30 percent increase in per-capita GDP, providing economic resilience, as well as developing the tools necessary to help lift a country out of poverty. 

Such programs can play a vital role in improving employer confidence and organizing effective human capital advances. While many other reforms may contribute to economic growth, it is important to note that since the World Bank began the partnership in 2018, the country’s GDP has grown by 0.7 percent.

Overall, by securing this partnership with the World Bank, Somalia is working toward major educational reforms to boost human capital development for this and future generations.

– Alexander Sherman
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

 

Venezuela's Failing Economy
People know Venezuela as one of the most diverse environments in the world because of its natural features, landscape and wide range of wildlife. Venezuela has massive oil reserves and ranks in the top list among countries such as Saudia Arabia, Canada and Iran, making it the most urban country in Latin America. However, in only approximately six years, the country has seen a drastic economic decline. Venezuela’s failing economy has placed the country in headlines across the world. This article will highlight a few casualties resulting from Venezuela’s financial crisis, as well as evaluating its causes.

The Impacts of Venezuela’s Economic Crisis

The extended effects of Venezuela’s economic crisis are hitting those who choose to remain in the country the hardest. Venezuela’s failing economy has led to a severe shortage and rationing of resources, including food, water and electricity. Despite the country being oil-rich, many Venezuelan’s are questioning why they are struggling. “It’s so unfair; we are such a rich country. It’s not fair that this is happening,” Jakeline Moncada told the Washington Post.

Many turn to natural water reserves despite safety concerns as these reserves often come from sewage drains leading to the spread of preventable diseases. Meanwhile, frequent power outages have caused water sanitation facilities to cease proper function. Physicians have noticed an increase in illness that commonly results from contaminated water and food, such as amoebiasis.

Estimates determine that more than 60,000 Venezuelans who started treatment for HIV now lack access to antiretroviral medications as a result of Venezuela’s failing economy. Many Venezuelan’s that could afford medical services before, now experience challenges attempting to access medical and health services. As a result, those dependent on medications must make costly trips to neighboring countries or hope to find donated medicines from organizations outside of the government.

As Venezuela’s economy has drastically decreased, a survey that the country’s top universities conducted estimated that more than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line. As the country experiences hyperinflation of 1.7 million percent, many families cannot afford to feed themselves more than one meal a day. Various organizations have ceased publishing the statistics of the country after specific data showed significant negative changes. For example, The Health Ministry stopped reporting data in 2017 after reports indicated a high rise in infant mortality rates. After the inflation rates suddenly rose, Venezuela’s central Bank discontinued publishing its figures in 2016. In this instance, Venezuelan organizations stopped sharing information once the statistics showed unfavorable characteristics.

Accessibility

Venezuela’s failing economy has led to difficulty accessing resources like medicare, and as a result, nearly 10 percent of the Venezuelan population is emigrating to other countries. Although Venezuelans are having a few problems getting out of the country, there has been a more significant challenge getting resources in. The military has restricted many resources from passing through its borders or at least the areas where they have the right to. The Pemón community, which borders along Brazil, has spoken in support of permitting assistance through its territory. This region, known as La Gran Sabana, also contains the only paved crossing between the two countries.

When Nicolás Maduro became president in 2015, many nations did not consider him the country’s leader but rather Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader. As a result, Maduro severed the remaining diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the U.S. as well as ceasing the accessibility of aid into Venezuela. Maduro has resisted outside assistance, describing the efforts as the United States desiring to meddle in Latin American affairs. However, many believe that the sudden decline results from mismanagement of funds and corruption.

Venezuela has several countries willing to provide support as it endures this period of financial difficulty. It will only receive this aid if its government allows, though, as it regulates the resources that pass through its border. Once nations can establish a common interest and agree on how to address the issue, Venezuela’s reconciliation can begin.

Kimberly Debnam
Photo: Flickr