COVID-19 Vaccinations in SerbiaSerbia, a country located in Europe, has seen success when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine statistics, approvals and productions. The Serbian government is providing incentives to encourage citizens to get vaccinated with the aim of increasing vaccination rates. The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia indicates a positive upturn in Serbia’s fight against the virus.

Vaccine Statistics in Serbia

Serbia’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign has been successful so far as more than 38% of Serbians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 5, 2021. So far, the government has administered more than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia. According to the latest COVID-19 statistics from Reuters, Serbia is experiencing roughly 114 new daily infections, equating to 11 positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people tested. During the last officially reported week, Serbia reached a daily average of more than 10,000 administered COVID-19 vaccinations.

Pfizer Vaccine Approval for Children

Serbia’s medical agency now allows children between the ages of 12 and 15 to receive the Pfizer vaccine. The Medicines and Medical Devices Agency of Serbia approved this after carefully considering the research of many clinical trials conducted in other nations. Serbian government health official, Mirsad Djerlek, says children with underlying health conditions are a priority as they are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.

Vaccine Incentives

Serbia’s initial intention was to have half of the population vaccinated by the end of June 2021. Data indicates that Serbia did not reach this goal, but nevertheless, Serbia is still reaching a significant number of people with its vaccination campaign.

To encourage citizens to get vaccinated, President Aleksandar Vucic promised that citizens who got vaccinated before the end of May 2021 would receive a cash incentive of $30. Vucic’s expectation was to have three million people vaccinated by the end of May 2021. Serbia has made vaccination sites more accessible with locations in shopping malls. To further boost vaccination rates, Serbia announced that it would also be offering vouchers to those who get vaccinated.

Partnering with Russia

Serbia has partnered with Russia to ramp up Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine manufacturing. In June 2021, Serbia’s Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Sera “Torlak” in Belgrade began production. President Vucic and Russian President Vladimir Putin came to this agreement while acknowledging the importance of collaborative efforts in fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccine Successes

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia, the country has seen success so far. Serbia is getting close to vaccinating half of its population. More categories of the population are now eligible for the Pfizer vaccine and Serbians are receiving incentives to encourage vaccinations. Serbia is also giving a helping hand to other countries by providing vaccine donations to several countries. In May 2021, Serbia donated 100,000 vaccines to the Czech Republic, among other donations. As a production site for Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, Serbia is certainly playing a significant role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chloe Moody
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Human Trafficking in Ukraine
Human trafficking in Ukraine is a serious and overwhelming issue that has affected the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Ukraine is one of the most prominent countries in Europe for human trafficking with over 260,000 Ukrainian trafficking victims over the last 30 years. Despite this disheartening number, Ukraine’s government and some organizations are fighting human trafficking in Ukraine.

The History of Trafficking in Ukraine

When Ukraine became a separate nation in 1991, the slave and human trafficking trade skyrocketed. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has worsened the issue as it has caused displacement for millions of individuals. These individuals are far more susceptible to ending up in the trafficking trade because of the vulnerable state they are in due to the turmoil between the two countries, according to the Library of Congress Law. Traffickers often target the Roma community of Ukraine, a nomadic Indo-Aryan group of people, because they lack access to state social assistance programs. Low-skilled laborers, as well as children in state-run orphanages, are targets for traffickers as well. This is because they are poor and powerless in the eyes of the country.

Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking in Ukraine

Ukraine is taking huge strides in its governmental policies to combat human trafficking. The International Organization for Migration Ukraine Counter-Trafficking Program aims to support efforts to combat trafficking in Ukraine. It also provides access for victims to receive “assistance and justice.” The IOM program identified and was able to help around 600 victims of human trafficking from January to June 2019, with about 16,000 victims having received assistance throughout 19 years of the program’s existence. Without the help of the IOM, efforts towards tracking down victims and traffickers would not be as prominent.

Governmental Progress in Fighting Human Trafficking in Ukraine

Ukraine’s government has made huge strides in law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking in the country. This includes increasing the number of investigated offenses and apprehensions from previous years. The government has increased financial assistance to victims of human trafficking. It has also been providing shelter through government housing, psychological assistance and medical care. The Ministry for Social Policy has continually made attempts at anti-trafficking efforts by creating Child Protection Day and World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

Looking Ahead

The issue of human trafficking in Ukraine is on an upswing. This is because there is more governmental recognition of the way it is impacting Ukrainian citizens. With the efforts of organizations like IOM, there are more forces garnering action towards fighting human trafficking in Ukraine.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Rural Europe
In Spain, 10% of the population occupies 70% of the land. Meanwhile, the rest of the population lives in only 1,500 large and middle-sized cities. Similar to other European countries, Spain has undergone dramatic demographic changes in the last decade. Of towns with fewer than 1,000 residents, 90% have seen people move away, leading to grocery stores and other essential businesses having to shut down. The benefits of resettling refugees in rural Europe are on display in Pareja.

A school in Pareja, Spain might have had to close if not for the refugee families with young children who recently moved to the area. Towns With A Future Association is an NGO connecting refugees and small towns. The nonprofit helped one Venezuelan family relocate from Madrid to Pareja, a town with 400 inhabitants. Moving to a small town allowed the family to make connections with locals more easily, find suitable jobs and go off government support sooner. Pareja has had great success in welcoming refugees and the town has a desire for new life and increased prosperity. Every town is different and challenges exist for both refugees and receiving communities.

Demographic Changes

The demographics of the European Union (E.U.) are changing. A European Commission study from 2020, “The Impact of Demographic Change,” took a look at these changes and how they could affect European society. Europe has an increasingly older population due to high life expectancies and low birth rates as rural and remote regions are losing people and urban regions are gaining people. The report addressed COVID-19 recovery plans by explaining that “this is an opportunity for Europe to build a fairer and more resilient society.”

A more inclusive labor market must include increased employment for women, a better relationship between family life and work, support for disabled people, opportunities for people with little education and efforts to prevent all forms of discrimination. The working-age population of Europe will shrink in the next decade and the increase or decrease in opportunities for refugees and other underrepresented groups will have a direct effect on the speed and severity at which the population shrinks. Prosperity for refugees in rural Europe is possible if there is an adequate investment and care for receiving communities in rural regions.

New Integration Efforts

Resettling refugees in small and medium-sized towns across rural Europe has become a more frequent practice in recent years. The practice is in part due to dispersal policies, which ask small and mid-sized cities to integrate refugees to prevent overcrowding in large metropolitan areas. Furthermore, there is an increased desire from small towns to simply help out and be of service.

A research report by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Europe, titled “Building Welcome From The Ground Up,” explored the expanding role of rural municipalities in welcoming refugees and migrants. The research argued that if E.U.-wide immigration policies chose to include rural regions of Europe, integration efforts in both urban and rural areas would have the potential to be longer-lasting and more sustainable.

Opportunities in Rural Areas

Smaller towns are often more personal, meaning that people may be able to more easily navigate essential services and meet locals naturally in day-to-day life. Newcomers also tend to learn the language more quickly and receive a more personalized and tailored welcome than large cities. Rural development is an important opportunity because it benefits refugees in rural Europe and the receiving community.

Liam Patuzzi, a policy analyst at MPI Europe and an author of the study, spoke with The Borgen Project about the development opportunities that national funding provides. Patuzzi told The Borgen Project about the research by explaining “we heard about this alliance of small municipalities in southern Italy that tried to use the resources and funding that come with resettlement to create community enterprises” that employ “resettled refugees.” The alliance “would help revive certain local trades and skills such as viticulture.” In the case of the small municipalities in Italy, funding from the national government helped towns create jobs for migrants and refugees that also brought back local industries.

Aside from national government funding for resettling refugees, small towns also benefit from the increased population. Businesses and institutions that rely on regular attendance, such as doctor’s offices, grocery stores and schools, are able to keep doors open. The larger and more diverse population also leads to new learning experiences. A local school in Martelange, Belgium added additional French and Math classes to the school roster when more students began attending school. The town also added a new medical center because of higher demand. Meanwhile, in Sant’Arcangelo, teachers learned how to teach Italian as a foreign language for the first time. Opportunities are abundant when newcomers enter rural communities and challenges are equally present.

Arising Challenges

Rural areas may not have very specialized services, especially for refugees and migrants with complex challenges, trauma or disabilities. Limited employment opportunities are also common, usually for both newcomers and long-time residents. Life for refugees in rural Europe can be cheaper and more spacious than life in a large city at times. However, that is not the case for refugees in some towns, and especially for those without a job.

The homogeneity of rural regions can be isolating. Although social interaction with locals may happen more frequently, it does not necessarily lead to meaningful connections. For young people, it can be particularly hard to form deep friendships in rural areas of mostly older residents while there is less access to public transportation. The established elements can make the other challenges more extreme because there is not an easy way to find jobs or social connections in a nearby city. In the MPI study, transportation was one of the most challenging barriers for refugees in rural Europe to overcome.

Hope for Rural Resettlement

Despite the difficulties, there is hope that small municipalities will have a positive impact on integration with the right government policies, funding and local initiatives. Patuzzi and a team of fellow researchers in the study emphasize the importance of adequate preparation and support in order to bring prosperity to receiving communities and refugees in rural Europe. The changing demographics of many older residents, young newcomers and depopulation in rural areas will require addressing in the near future to ensure a decent standard of living for all.

– Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

Regional Approaches to Immigration
Regional approaches to immigration highlight the potentially divisive topic as a building block for a better future. Across the world, nations respond to immigration influxes differently. However, history and modern immigration both show that immigration’s greatest impact is on lifting families out of poverty.

Immigration Controversy

Immigration is the movement of people from their home country to another country of which they are not native. Politically, immigration remains controversial throughout the United States. Many U.S. citizens believe that migrant families promote unwanted competition for resources and increase violence. However, what these beliefs fail to acknowledge are the reasons that individuals may leave their home countries. For many, the need to seek refuge dominates the need to leave their country of origin. For others, the desire for employment and education, an improved standard of living and a better life overall weigh into migrant decision to move.

Despite the controversy surrounding immigrant families, experts predict that the number of immigrants will continue to increase over time. While the U.S. has exerted effort into preventing widespread immigration, other countries have embraced their foreign neighbors.

Regional Considerations for Immigration

Per Lumen Learning, Japan once had strict laws concerning immigration. However, issues such as a high birth rate and an aging population forced the country to reevaluate its policies.

In Europe, immigrants helped to rebuild and repopulate after World War II. Meanwhile, in 2010, there were 47.3 million immigrants living throughout Europe, which has experienced great economic growth since WWII.

In Contrast: Spain’s Response to Immigration

Since April 2020, Spain’s Canary Islands have received approximately 23,000 migrants from Africa. Families in Spain are welcoming immigrants and working with nonprofit organizations to offer foster care. Children between the ages of 6 and 12 are eligible for governmental foster care, and those younger than 6 are eligible for adoption (when confirmation determines that they do not have any documentation or family members in the European Union). This gives migrants an opportunity to begin a new life in Spain, and the Spanish government has experienced improved tourism and economic conditions.

Lessons to Learn from Regional Approaches to Immigration

In countries that have embraced immigration, the population understands that foreign does not equate to threatening. They have also understood, or at least recognized, the need and desire for migrants and their families. This understanding has proved to be a building opportunity rather than a competition. As regional approaches to immigration continue to differ in understanding, they will continue to differ in benefits.

– Bailey Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Mesut Özil’s Charity WorkMesut Özil is one of the world’s wealthiest soccer players. In addition, Mesut Özil’s charity work has related strongly to his athletic efforts. He previously played for Arenal London and recently joined the Turkish club Fenerbahce Istanbul. Arsenal London declared a 12.5% pay cut for its players and manager Mikel Arteta due to the pandemic. However, Özil rejected this cut. As a result, he created discrepancies between him and the club and Özil no longer underwent selection for games. While Özil received some criticism from online communities, many fans continued to support him because he donates significantly to charities.

Özil Recognizes His Privileged Position

Mesut Özil was born in Germany as the fourth child of Turkish immigrants. Özil’s family struggled financially throughout his entire childhood and his mother had to take on several different cleaning jobs to make ends meet. As a result, Özil recognized his incredibly privileged position as a successful soccer player. He is extremely compassionate toward impoverished communities. Thus, Özil has been giving back to those who desperately need aid.

Supporting Impoverished Communities

Özil’s salary at Arsenal London was an estimated $25 million a year in 2013. Thus, the 12.5% cut would have decreased his salary by about $3.2 million a year. Additionally, the club and its billionaire owner Stan Kroenke would gain his loss. Furthermore, Özil and other players were doubtful that their pay cuts would actually aid staff members. Özil stated that he was even willing to give up more of his salary if the club could prove it was necessary. In the end, he decided to increase his charity work instead.

Mesut Özil’s Charity Work

Özil’s refusal to accept the pay cut placed him in the center of media attention in 2020. However, many have known him for his incredibly generous nature for a long time. For example, Özil donated his prize money of $329,000 after winning the World Cup in 2014. He donated to the BigShoe project and financed vital surgeries for 23 children in Brazil. Additionally, Özil and his wife donated to 16 refugee camps in Turkey and Syria after their wedding. Their contribution provided food to about 100,000 people. Furthermore, the couple funded important surgeries for about 1,000 children around the world.

The Way Özil Spent the Money he Refused to Give Up

Özil donated money to support people in need all across the globe after rejecting Arsenal’s pay cut. Homeless shelters and schools in North London received nutritious food in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, he increased his financial contributions to the BigShoe project to provide children with much-needed surgeries. He also donated $111,542 to the Turkish Red Crescent in May 2020. The money went toward feeding families in Turkey and Syria during Ramadan. Mesut Özil’s charity work also introduced a new range of footwear and donated all of the money that the footwear earned. It granted children in Italy access to digital education materials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fans and the media continue to criticize Özil’s refusal of the pay cut. Many consider the money he donated to impoverished communities to be more important than giving it back to Arsenal. However, Özil’s charity work has had an undeniable positive impact on many people’s lives.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in GermanyGermany is a leading figure in the battle against mental illness in Europe. The country has established ways to determine and treat mental illness in citizens and has prioritized the mental well-being of all Germans since the 1990s. Mental health in Germany provides a blueprint for other countries to follow.

Mental Health in Germany

Germany has similar rates of mental illness to other developed nations, with around 31% of Germans diagnosed with at least one mental illness. Like most other developed nations, depression and anxiety rank the highest among adults but formed at a young age.

Surveys conducted by German health insurance company, DAK, revealed that 24% of 800,000 tested children had some sort of psychological anomaly although less than 2% of those tested between the ages of 10 and 17 were diagnosed with depression.

What Makes Germany Different?

What makes Germany different from the rest of Europe in its fight against mental illness is its level of commitment to finding and treating the mentally ill. Those who suffer from some form of mental illness in Germany have a vast support system provided to them by their government.

Diagnosed German citizens have access to financial support and extensive healthcare services. Germany runs programs to ease the transition from a mental health hospital back to everyday life. It also has programs that provide the mentally ill with jobs. With roughly 270 mental health hospitals and sufficient healthcare workers to assist patients, Germany makes sure that the mentally ill are taken care of.

Perhaps the most effective strategy Germany has employed is its campaign to remove the stigma of mental illness in German society. While one-third of adults suffer from some sort of mental illness during the course of their lives, many do not seek the proper help because of the social stigma attached to mental illness.

Germany has dedicated extensive amounts of resources to create outreach campaigns that promote actively visiting psychologists and testing for mental illness. The country also works to reinforce the idea that seeking assistance for one’s mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of as a large portion of people suffer from them.

Recognizing that mental illness is just as common as physical illness is the first step toward curbing the epidemic. By encouraging citizens to assess their mental health and by providing the necessary support and opportunities for the mentally ill, Germany successfully manages mental health in the country.

A Mental Health Role Model

Germany has taken great strides to ensure that those with mental illnesses are treated as well as any other citizen in the country and has worked hard to create normalcy for testing and treating mental illness.

In order to battle the mental illness epidemic, countries with lacking mental healthcare systems should look to adopt Germany’s stance on battling mental illness, providing not only psychiatric help to those who need it but also giving financial and occupational support to those at risk.

Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

How Air Pollution Affects Poverty in EuropeAir pollution is disproportionately affecting the health and well-being of people living in poverty, according to a recent report by the European Environment Agency. The report titled “Healthy environment, healthy lives: how the environment influences health and well-being in Europe,” calls for improving air quality in Europe by decreasing emissions and adding green spaces. Many consider air pollution to be an environmental issue or a global health concern that affects us all equally. However, the report makes the case that impoverished communities face a higher burden of air pollution and other environmental stressors.

The Link Between Air Pollution and Poverty

The Borgen Project held an interview with Catherine Ganzleben, head of the air pollution and environmental health groups at the European Environment Agency (EEA). She said, “Pollution hits poorer communities harder than affluent communities because of lack of access to medical care and exposure to the byproducts of climate change.”

As the climate crisis continues to worsen so does air pollution and extreme weather, disproportionately affecting those living in poverty. “In large parts of Europe, [vulnerable communities] are more likely to live next to busy roads or industrial areas,” Ganzleben said. “[They] face higher levels of exposure to air pollution.”

Even when both affluent and impoverished people experience the same exposure, air pollution affects the health of the impoverished more. Ganzlebe continued, “People living in lower-income regions [were found] to be more susceptible to the health effects of [pollutants] than wealthier people living in polluted areas.” Additionally, families with lower socio-economic status face more significant negative effects of pollution. Several factors could contribute to the disproportionate effects of air pollution. These include access to healthcare, underlying conditions and poor housing situations.

The Struggle for Clean Air in Poland

Traffic and industrial pollution are two of the main factors contributing to air pollution in Europe. But, in some countries, like Poland, the largest contributor to air pollution is burning coal to heat single-family households.

Poland is infamous for having one of the worst levels of air pollution in the European Union, according to K. Max Zhang in his interview with The Borgen Project. Zhang is a professor of energy and the environment at Cornell University. Poland still generates electricity and heat using coal, one of the most polluting forms of energy.

Poland’s reliance on coal can mainly be attributed to its abundance of old, single-family houses built in the 1970s. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Magdalena Kozlowska claimed that these homes remain unrenovated. She is the project coordinator of Polish Smog Alert. She also added that the most impoverished populations in Poland are less able to update their energy sources.

Polish Smog Alert is an organization that is committed to cleaning Poland’s air and meeting the European air quality standards through advocacy and mobilization. It also works to inform the public and help people make their houses more energy-efficient, Kozłowska said. The organization formed in 2013 when they started working to ban the burning of solid fuels in Krakow.

This ban on burning solid fuels came to fruition in 2019, when Polish Smog Alert worked with local and national governments to enact “changes in the national law [and the] city had to cooperate and offer money to exchange the boilers and help people experiencing poverty to pay the difference in bills,” Kozlowska continued. “And still, the city is doing that.”

Goals of the European Environment Agency’s Report

The attention to air quality around the world has been increasing in recent years. However, the EEA wants to see more policy changes and tangible action from the European government, Ganzleben said. These policies should also not have the sole aim of protecting the environment. In addition to environmental efforts, these policies should protect communities that are feeling the brunt of climate change’s effects. “Policies to deliver high environmental quality should be aimed at preventing and reducing the unequal distribution of environmental health risks, ensuring fair access to environmental resources and enabling sustainable choices,” said Ganzleben.

The report also explains the benefits of green spaces, even within polluted city environments. Green spaces, like parks and lakes, can benefit people’s well-being. “Mental and physical [health] are linked,” said Michael Brauer, professor of environmental health at the University of British Columbia, in an interview with The Borgen Project.

Reports like this one from the EEA, Brauer said, are a result of a growing urgency related to air pollution. In recent years, there has been much more attention globally to the issue, “[As a] response to increasing awareness of air pollution and the problem,” Brauer continued. “There is really no evidence of a safe level of air pollution.”

Combating Air Pollution’s Disproportionate Effect on the Poor

There need to be policy changes that address the socio-economic effects of climate change. This will alleviate the burden of air pollution on those living in poverty. “At the local level, integrating environmental health concerns into welfare policies, health policies and urban planning and housing policies can help to reduce the vulnerability and exposure of the population,” the report read. “Air pollution not only hurts the environment, but it also exacerbates poverty, and worsens the living conditions for the poor.” While humanitarian organizations like the Polish Smog Alert are working to alleviate pollution in Europe, there is still much to be done to eradicate air pollution and help those disproportionately experiencing the consequences of climate change.

– Laney Pope
Photo: Flickr 

Healthcare in MonacoWith nearly 40,000 people, Monaco is one of five European micro-states and is located on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Monaco has one of the best global healthcare schemes. The World Health Organization established that an individual born in 2003 can expect to have, on average, the longest lifespan in Europe. The country also has the third-highest proportion of doctors for its population in Europe.

Healthcare Education in Monaco

Leaders in Monaco believe that prevention and screening are essential to maintaining health and it is customary for young people to access comprehensive health education. This education aims to promote high-quality lifestyles and prevent early-risk behavior, such as tobacco use, drug addictions and sexually transmitted diseases.

Caisses Sociales de Monaco (CSM)

The Caisses Sociales de Monaco (CSM) is the official agency responsible for supervising Monaco’s public health service. Public healthcare automatically covers all citizens and long-term residents who contribute to the agency. French and Italian citizens may also access public health facilities in Monaco upon evidence of regular contributions to their home country’s state healthcare scheme. Foreign visitors can receive health treatment at all public hospitals and clinics. However, without state insurance contributions, travelers and expatriates will be forced to pay for all healthcare expenses accrued from treatment.

Public Healthcare Coverage

Public healthcare insurance operates through reimbursements, so an individual who plans on using coverage provided by the CSM will be required to make up-front payments and then claim costs back. After joining the public healthcare system, an individual receives a card that provides access to medical and dental care. The card contains administrative information necessary to refund medical care.

The public healthcare system provides coverage for inpatient and outpatient hospitalization, prescribed medications, treatment by specialists, pregnancy and childbirth and rehabilitation. Some prescription drugs are also reimbursed through the CSM and emergency care is available to everyone at Princess Grace Hospital, one of three public hospitals. The hospital will be reconstructed to strengthen the complementary nature of all the hospitals in Monoco.

Out-of-Pocket Healthcare Costs

Out-of-pocket healthcare costs in Monaco are high and if the CSM fails to provide sufficient coverage, an individual may supplement with private insurance. Private health insurance is a tool for individuals who want to cover medical services and fees not paid for by the public healthcare system. Doctors fund privately-paid equipment and staff through private contributions. According to an article from Hello Monaco, most Monaco citizens take out extra private insurance to cover ancillary services and unpaid rates.

A Commendable Healthcare System in Monaco

Every resident in Monaco is eligible for public health insurance but private health insurance remains an option for those interested in more coverage. Healthcare in Monaco earned outstanding reviews from the OECD and officials continue to seek improvements by reconstructing medical buildings and providing health education for young people.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

Extreme Poverty in MoldovaFrom 1999 to 2015, Moldova went from a 36% extreme poverty rate to zero, effectively ending extreme poverty in Moldova. By analyzing Moldova’s poverty reduction strategies, organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank can form a blueprint to fight extreme poverty globally.

IMF Focus on Poverty Reduction

In 2000, the IMF instituted a three-pronged approach for ending extreme poverty in Moldova, which involved major reforms in governance and the public sector. Economic development, healthcare changes, educational developments and social safety nets were the primary focus to kickstart growth in the country.

  • The IMF’s focus on economic development revolved around public spending and lack of private business. Aside from ensuring fiscal responsibility from the government, government retirement plans and debt were swallowing the countries budgetary resources. The IMF advised Moldova to revise its tax system to be more equitable while strengthening its private sector by easing regulations and tax burdens on small and medium businesses.
  • Education was a foundational part of the reform process. The IMF ensured Moldova improved its education system through guidance from the World Bank. The primary focus was on improving education standards and increase the availability of secondary education to needy students.
  • The health sector developed more substantial healthcare access to reduce long-term expenses and to involve the private sector.
  • Developing better social safety nets was a key pillar for the IMF in Moldova. Most importantly, the goal of the program is to keep children out of poverty. This included food security and funding to access human development services. Also on the agenda was reforming the nation’s pension system to protect aging populations.

Impact of Changes in Moldova

These changes were to be implemented by no later than 2003 and most changes are ongoing. How well did the changes work? In 2000, Moldova’s GDP per capita was at $1,439 and by 2019 the GDP per capita rose to $3,715, doubling the nation’s economic growth. The secondary education enrollment rate was 48% in 1999 and grew to an 86% enrollment rate by 2019. Though absolute poverty remains high, these strategies were instrumental in ending extreme poverty in Moldova. Even by 2006, the extreme poverty rate was down to 4.5%.

The World Bank’s Evaluation

The World Bank processed an analysis from 2007 to 2014 using data to determine how ending extreme poverty in Moldova was effective. Compared to most of Europe, Moldova is still impoverished, but extreme poverty no longer plagued the country by 2014. There were four primary factors that the World Bank determined to be the cause of this success. Economic expansion, advanced opportunities for workers, better retirement fiscal responsibility for aging populations and international work being funneled back into Moldova’s economy, were the most effective tools for alleviating extreme poverty.

  • Despite a setback during the financial crisis in 2009, Moldova has seen steady GDP growth up until the COVID-19 pandemic. Of significant note is that Moldova showed continued growth rather than ups and downs experienced in most impoverished nations. Moldova’s commitment to attaining the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals and effectively using guidance from the World Bank and IMF are reasons for this growth. Responsible governance and low corruption were instrumental in ending extreme poverty in Moldova.
  • Moldova’s workforce lowered from 2007 to 2014, primarily due to migration; however, wage growth was significant in jobs outside of the agricultural sector. Growth in food processing, manufacturing and ICT industry jobs increased wages exponentially, while the agricultural sector still struggled. These higher-skill jobs are attributable to the country’s focus on improving secondary education access, as outlined by the IMF, providing upward mobility.
  • Responsible pension disbursement was a chief agent for ending extreme poverty in Moldova. The significant increase in distributions to aging rural citizens living in extreme poverty was an essential investment by Moldova’s government.
  • The World Bank also found that after the economic crisis, remittances from Moldovan migrant workers sent back disposable income. Most of these migrants were from low-income rural areas of Moldova. From 2007 to 2014, rural households’ disposable income from migrant transfers rose from 16% to 23%. In Moldova, remittances played a considerable role in poverty reduction.

Using Moldova as a Blueprint Worldwide

Evaluating the success in ending extreme poverty in Moldova helps pave the way to implement similar strategies globally. So, what is the blueprint for ending extreme poverty?

  • The most crucial aspect is government accountability and a strong commitment to attain Millennium Development Goals. Strong oversight to prevent corruption and ensure fiscal responsibility to follow through with plans laid out by organizations like the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF.
  • A commitment to make secondary education more accessible, especially in rural areas, advances what a nation’s workforce is capable of and helps create job and wage growth.
  • Protecting vulnerable populations by distributing funds where they are most needed reduces extreme poverty.
  • The success of remittances in Moldova is a necessary imperative. An analysis across countries worldwide shows the significant poverty reduction effects of remittances

Ending Extreme Poverty by 2030

The U.N. aims to end extreme poverty by 2030, and when looking at Moldova’s success, it is not an outrageously unrealistic goal. With fiscal oversight, dedication to protecting the impoverished and the world’s willingness to engage, extreme poverty can be eradicated.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: pxfuel

homelessness in italyItaly has a population of just over 60 million people and boasts a per-capita GDP of roughly $34,000. This makes it one of the world’s most developed countries. Further, Italy’s location in the Mediterranean and its rich, diverse cultural history make it a land of opportunity. Some of its most profitable industries include tourism, agriculture, fashion, wine, olive oil and automobiles. However, despite having such a strong economy, homelessness in Italy remains an issue. Here are seven facts about homelessness in Italy.

7 Facts about Homelessness in Italy

  1. Official statistics may undercount the number of people facing homelessness in Italy. Roughly 3.2% of the country, or 2 million people, make under $5.50 per day. Of those people, more than 50,000 are homeless. However, because these figures come from major cities, there are likely more people facing homelessness in Italy. The country counts people as homeless if they are living in a public or outdoor space, an emergency shelter or a specific accommodation for the homeless. This does not include people in jail, receiving medical care or living with family. As such, official numbers often do not reflect Roma, Travellers and Sinti people who live in subpar housing.
  2. Middle-aged people and migrants are most at risk for homelessness in Italy. Half of all homeless people are between the ages of 35 and 54. Further, Migrants make up 58% of people facing homelessness in Italy. In Milan, 90% of people living in slums are foreign-born. Similarly, in Naples and Bologna, 77% and 73% of homeless people are migrants, respectively. Between 2011 and 2014, the average duration of homelessness migrants faced went up from 1.6 to 2.2 years. This is still less than native Italians, whose duration of homelessness was 3.5 years on average.
  3. As a result of the global recession in 2008, the rate of homelessness tripled. In Italy, the loss of a stable job contributes significantly to homelessness. Additionally, the rate of economic recovery has been slow. By 2016, an estimated 3,000 more people became homeless in Italy compared to 2011. Even in 2011, one in every four families in Italy was unable to make mortgage payments. This implies an increased rate of evictions and families made newly homeless. At the same time, the unemployment rate nearly doubled from 6.7% in 2008 to 12.7% in 2014. As of 2020, estimates place it at 9.1%.
  4. Italy fares worse on homelessness than many of its E.U. neighbors. For example, Italy spends the equivalence of $12 per person on housing. The United Kingdom, in contrast, spends more than 40 times the amount Italy does. In Italy, the financial crisis led to funding cuts for housing. Additionally, only 4% of Italy’s housing stock is public, which is one-fifth of the E.U. average.
  5. Homelessness in Italy is geographical. Specifically, about 56% of all reported homeless people live in the northern part of the country. Of all northern cities and cities across Italy, Milan has the highest amount of homeless people. Estimates suggested 12,000 homeless people in Milan in 2014. Central Italy contains roughly 24% of Italy’s homeless population, while Southern Italy contains 20%. Rome and Palermo report the highest number of homeless people in their respective regions.
  6. In 2018, the Salvini Decree ended humanitarian protection for migrants not eligible for refugee status. Most people who arrived to Italy receive humanitarian protection, and 100,000 hold work permits. With protections removed, the migrants faced evictions. These occurred in parts of southern Italy.
  7. Homeless people face unique struggles as a result of COVID-19. When Italy went into a full lockdown to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, police started fining homeless people for violating lockdown, simply because they could not follow lockdown rules. Additionally, building shelters amenable to social distancing proved challenging. Many homeless people also lack information about the virus and proper personal protective equipment. Finally, obtaining food became a struggle for many people facing homelessness in Italy.

Organizations Fighting Homelessness in Italy

Several organizations are helping to fight homelessness in Italy. Baobab Experience wrote an open letter to the minister of health, Roberto Speranza. It urged for health checks for migrants, many of whom were afraid to go to hospitals due to their immigration status. The organization also pleaded with the minister to find housing options for homeless people so they would not spread the virus to anybody else.

Emergency, another NGO, established temporary housing units for homeless people, including those requiring isolation. It hired educators, social workers and health providers to assist in the operations and show them how to use PPE properly. Similarly, between 2012 and 2013, Doctors Without Borders began providing free healthcare to homeless people in Milan. The organization reported that about 70% of those seeking care were migrants, mainly from Africa and Eastern Europe.

Additionally, the Community of St. Egidio has worked with Pope Francis to help poor people and refugees. The organization offers 100 beds, hot meals, counseling, hand sanitizers and masks to homeless individuals. Another Catholic organization, Caritas Italy, has also provided food and sanitation to people facing homelessness in Italy. Regular citizens have jumped in to help as well: in Naples, residents lowered food baskets from their balconies to feed people who were on the streets.

Moving Forward

These organizations bring hope to the fight against homelessness in Italy. As the facts above illustrate, homelessness remains a serious problem in Italy, one that primarily affects marginalized groups. However, the work of NGOs and other organizations can help reduce this problem and bring Italy more in line with its E.U. neighbors in reducing homelessness.

Bryan Boggiano
Photo: Flickr