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

innovations in poverty eradication in slovakiaIn 2008, 1.11 million Slovaks were at risk of poverty. Today, that number is closer to 872,000, while Slovakia’s steady economic growth is at almost 4%. However, uncertainty looms again as 70% of Slovakian employees are in danger of losing their jobs due to automation. Thankfully, innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia make poverty eradication possible.

Slovakia: The Heart of Europe

Entrepreneurs succeed in Slovakia because the country is a central hub enclosed by Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary. This gives the country high exporting potential. For example, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and The Norwegian Barents Secretariat have signed agreements with Slovakia to continue cross-border cooperation with Ukraine to promote economic development.

Slovakia also has a rich cultural heritage, history and modern art. The country’s Culture Program aims to bring attention to these facets of Slovakian culture. Through this program, the Slovakian government hopes to increase income and jobs through art creation and performances. This is one of many innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia that would significantly reduce poverty in disadvantaged communities.

Partnerships Are the Key to Success

The Slovakian government also encourages partnerships between students and professionals to address poverty. These programs help those in need as well as provide experience to students. Overall, they focus on technological advancements, thus creating innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia.

One of these partnership programs is the Butterfly Effect. A digital start-up, this organization assists young, tech-savvy leaders of tomorrow by offering full-time courses geared toward developers and inventive leaders. Additionally, the program encourages students to innovate for the future of Slovakia in the ever-changing digital world. For example, students developed a ride-sharing app specifically for those traveling to and from work through this program.

Similarly, LEAF focuses on developmental programs for those just starting or those who are already in their career field. They help all those who hope to build a more successful Slovakia, regardless of personal finances. LEAF also has programs specialized for teachers and skill-based volunteering that focuses on living conditions. Additionally, LEAF offers paid internships to students committed to staying in Slovakia, thus providing guidance and job security to the next generation. These programs all abide by LEAF’s four core values: ethics, excellence, entrepreneurial leadership and civic engagement.

Investors Help Equality Progress

Fueling many innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia is the country’s influx of investors, creating a demand for skilled workers. To keep up, Slovakia is dedicated to improving educational and entrepreneurial opportunities to increase its ability to adapt to new technologies. International investors have the chance to network with Slovakian startups at Innovation Day, hosted by the German-Slovak Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GSCIC).

One such digital technology startup to watch on Innovation Day 2020 is Meet ‘n’ Learn. Meet ‘n’ Learn is an app allowing parents and students to find tutors in their neighborhood. They can arrange to meet up in person or virtually through the app for lessons. Additionally, the app provides a free option where students can post questions and receive replies from multiple instructors. This app has the potential to bridge the gap between children of different economic backgrounds. Slovakia is embracing these investors that are backing these innovative ideas to give everyone equal advantages.

The Future of Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Slovakia

To facilitate poverty reduction, Slovakia encourages citizens to welcome the technological and digital world through modernization and entrepreneurship. The country’s efforts have been rewarded with a historically low unemployment rate of 7%. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría says, “Living standards are gradually catching up with the higher-income …. [T]o ensure this growth is more inclusive, [we need to] move towards more sophisticated and innovative products and ensure that everyone has the skills and training for the jobs of tomorrow.” In doing so, innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia will continue to further the country’s progress on this front.

Sam Babka
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Luxembourg
Bordered by Germany, France, and Belgium, Luxembourg is home to over half a million people, 24% of whom face the daily threat of homelessness. Although Luxembourg is a small country, it is also one of the wealthiest countries in the European Union. However, as the divide between the rich and poor continues to widen, the threat of homelessness in Luxembourg is increasing due to a rising cost of living and limited affordable housing.

5 Things to Know About Homelessness in Luxembourg

  1. Luxembourg is a wealthy nation, but compared to other European countries with denser populations, its homeless population is larger. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that approximately 37% of Luxembourg’s population was homeless in 2014, as compared to .22% of France’s population and .41% of Germany’s population—two countries with populations that are much larger than Luxembourg’s. Homelessness is especially a problem during Luxembourg’s winters, as hypothermia threatens the lives of those without a home. A report from the European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) stated that the number of homeless people in Luxembourg rose from 684 people during the winter of 2012 and 2013 to 873 people during the winter of 2017 and 2018.
  2. Housing expenses are high in Luxembourg, with Luxembourg city being one of the most expensive places to live in Europe. As housing costs in Luxembourg rise by 5.4% per year, the poverty rate is also on the rise. According to a study published by Statec, a Luxembourg statistic service, the percentage of the population at risk of poverty rose from 15.4% in 2017 to 24% in 2019. For homeowners with smaller incomes, housing costs make up nearly half of their income. As of 2019, the Deloitte Global Economist Network reported that around 38% of households in Luxembourg were reported to be burdened by housing expenses. With rising costs, homeowners who could previously afford housing, may no longer be able to pay for the roof over their heads.
  3. With a growing population and a lack of available space for new infrastructure, Luxembourg can’t keep up with housing demands. Luxembourg’s population has increased by 36.2% since 2010, largely due to an influx of foreign workers. As a result of this increase, the housing crisis in Luxembourg has only grown as housing demands rise. In addition, land available to build additional housing is sparse, as nearly 92% of this land is privately owned, compared to the remaining 8% owned by public providers. To expand the housing market in Luxembourg, citizens are advocating for an increase in public housing and laws that will protect tenants from paying rising rent prices.
  4. Although the number of people staying in homeless shelters is dropping in Luxembourg, the number of nights people stay in homeless shelters is increasing. The average number of guests in night shelters decreased from 658 in 2010 to 354 in 2016. However, for these same years, the average number of nights in shelters rose from 40 days to 100 days. Night shelters are not designed to be a permanent solution for homeless people, and with the increase in the number of nights people are staying in shelters, waiting lists for the shelters are only growing longer.
  5. To combat homelessness in Luxembourg, homeless shelters are working to provide safe places for residents to sleep at night. The shelters can only provide space to a limited number of people, though, and often accrue a waiting list for beds every night. For one homeless shelter in Dommeldange, Luxembourg, overnight guests are given a place to sleep, dinner, and the facilities to shower, but they also employ trust-building exercises between social workers and guests to ensure they receive the emotional support they need. Some shelters focus their efforts on providing food to the homeless. Organizations, like “Premier Appel,” collect extra food from restaurants and grocery stores which is then fashioned into meals for those who visit the shelter. For Stëmm vun der Stross, volunteers serve up to 300 meals in the afternoon.

– Grace Mayer
Photo: Staticflickr

End Tuberculosis Now Act
Kosovo is a country in southeastern Europe that declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. It is Europe’s youngest nation, but also one of its smallest and poorest. Kosovo ranks 137th in the world for GDP per capita and the country’s overall budget is just above $2 billion. Despite the fact that Tuberculosis (TB) is a completely preventable, treatable and curable airborne infection, the virus continues to spread throughout developing nations—including Kosovo—killing more people per year than any other infectious disease. The End Tuberculosis Now Act seeks to address this silent pandemic by refocusing U.S. efforts towards effective TB prevention and treatment in Kosovo and other developing countries. Neither the House nor Senate has held a vote on the End Tuberculosis Now Act since its introduction in August 2019. Kosovo demonstrates the importance of this act and why Congress needs to address it.

Kosovo’s Tuberculosis Rates

Among its neighbors in southeastern Europe, Kosovo has one of the highest TB infection rates, trailing only Moldova and Romania. From 1999 to 2006, total TB cases in Kosovo were declining. This progress has since stopped, with infection rates plateauing at the rate they were in 2006. A limited budget has severely hampered Kosovo’s efforts to combat and eradicate TB.

Kosovo’s insufficient health system is one reason behind the country’s spread of TB. A majority of Kosovo’s residents are dissatisfied with their health service. In addition, the nation’s top health authority is not responsible for contact tracing, testing, treatment or any other method that people use to combat TB. Instead, non-governmental organizations have received this responsibility, resulting in a lack of central planning. The End Tuberculosis Now Act would refocus USAID efforts on TB prevention and treatment in developing nations like Kosovo, providing a unified example of how to properly stop the spread and financially support affected individuals.

Kosovo and COVID-19

For some of the same reasons it struggles with TB, Kosovo is also struggling to stop the spread of COVID-19. Compared to its neighbors, the country’s pandemic response is falling short. Kosovo is much smaller than Albania, Montenegro and Greece, but has many more COVID-19 cases and deaths than these nations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the aforementioned weaknesses in Kosovo’s healthcare system. For example, temporary medical facilities built to increase the nation’s hospital capacity have not been properly set up to prevent COVID-19 transmission between healthcare workers and infected patients.

No matter how valiant Kosovo’s efforts to combat COVID-19 are, the country is ultimately limited by its $2 billion yearly budget. The same is true when it comes to their fight against TB. Kosovo simply lacks the capital to properly test, treat and prevent the spread of both COVID-19 and TB. The End Tuberculosis Now Act will give developing nations like Kosovo a better chance of defeating TB while teaching them how to tackle similar pandemics.

Putting the Tuberculosis Fight on Hold

As the COVID-19 pandemic takes center stage, the fight against TB has been put on hold across the world. Despite this, TB has continued its spread. Approximately 80% of worldwide programs to combat the disease have experienced disruptions in their supply chains since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manufacturers of TB tests have pivoted to developing COVID-19 tests, reducing the overall availability of TB testing. This means massive drops in diagnosing TB. In one year, an infected individual can spread the virus to 15 people, making the diagnostic process extremely important. As testing capacities decrease, TB will continue its spread unabated in developing nations. Kosovo was already struggling to contain TB before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it could now get much worse. The End Tuberculosis Now Act is a critical component in increasing testing capacities in Kosovo to combat the spread of TB.

More Important Than Ever

TB is a preventable and treatable disease, yet it continues to kill more people worldwide than any other infectious disease. The End Tuberculosis Now Act would increase investments in TB prevention and treatment measures while saving countless lives in developing nations like Kosovo.

Furthermore, the bill would ensure that nations and non-governmental organizations receiving aid from USAID would stand by their commitments to eradicate TB. This refocusing of aid would provide the World Health Organization and the Stop TB Partnership with more resources to fulfill their missions.

Moving Forward

Kosovo’s continued fight against TB demonstrates the importance of the End Tuberculosis Now Act. The bill, introduced in August 2019, would save lives in developing nations and help combat a completely preventable and treatable disease. Congress must pass this bill to increase the quality of life for the world’s poor and help eradicate TB in developing nations.

Marcus Lawniczak
Photo: Flickr

hunger in latvia
Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania border Latvia, a country on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. The country has been officially independent since 1991 due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As a country, Latvia is about half the size of Greece and has had a population of about 2.2 million people since 2019. However, underneath the country’s beautiful scenery and culture, there is plenty of poverty and hunger in Latvia.

The Current State in Numbers

Of all the countries in the European Union, Latvia is the fourth poorest country. Due to this status, roughly 25% of the population in Latvia lives below the poverty line. With an average household size of 2.4 individuals, Latvian families may struggle, as the median household income is $7,732. Although the cost of living in Latvia is 28.54% lower than in the United States, the cost of living, transportation and other necessities do not always leave enough room for families to purchase food. The ones who suffer the most from food insecurity include young children and senior adults.

Although hunger has remained an ongoing problem in Latvia for years as a result of World War I, the country has made waves to fight it. According to the Global Health Index, a tool that rates countries one to 100 based on statistics like child mortality and malnourishment, Latvia is the fifth most improved country. From 2000 to 2015, there was a 59% decrease in hunger, with an average shift from 8.3 in 2000 to 3.4 in 2015.

Food Insecurity and Hunger

To decrease food insecurity within Latvia, several initiatives have emerged to help the country. A European Union program called Food Distribution for the Most Deprived Persons of the Community has been active since 2006 and receives funding from the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund. This organization works with the Latvian Red Cross to distribute food packages for individuals in need. According to a Transmango National Report on Food and Nutrition Security in 2015, there were 448 distribution centers throughout Latvia.

Besides this E.U.-sponsored program, NGOs and other charitable organizations, such as Paēdušai Latvija, have worked to combat hunger in Latvia. Paēdušai Latvija is a charity based in Riga, Latvia, that emerged in 2009. As of 2015, Paēdušai Latvija has a network of 56 charity organizations throughout Latvia. Besides the work its network is doing, Paēdušai Latvija receives more than 1,200 requests for emergency food supplies every month. However, it can only satisfy about 500 of those requests each month.

The Future of Hunger in Latvia

The programs in existence have proved successful as the rates of hunger in Latvia have plateaued. Since 2016, the rate of hunger in Latvia has remained stagnant at 2.5%. According to the 2019 Global Hunger Index (GHI), Latvia is one of 17 countries with a GHI score of less than five. Due to more and more individuals within the country and outside of it continuing to donate and mobilize individuals, the rate of hunger in Lativa seems as though it will shrink in the coming years.

Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Pixabay

WASH in Serbia
Water pollution in Serbia is primarily caused by the inadequate discharge of wastewater. Unequal practices of waste removal disproportionately impact rural and Roma communities, as these groups tend to rely on wells and local waterways that are often exposed to industrial contamination. In fact, 22% of the Roma population does not have access to improved water sources, making them especially susceptible to waterborne diseases. Although there is still much work needed to ensure that everyone in Serbia has access to adequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), the situation is far from stagnant. Here are nine facts about how WASH in Serbia is improving.

9 Facts About WASH in Serbia

  1. The OM Christian church started a non-governmental organization in 2014 to assist vulnerable populations in Serbia and other Mediterranean countries. As part of its religious beliefs, the church has enacted a variety of humanitarian work, including establishing adequate sanitation facilities.
  2. The Serbian government has implemented a national program dedicated to the improvement of WASH. Furthermore, the Republic of Serbia now recognizes WASH as a fundamental human right. Through their national program, the government implemented a variety of initiatives promoting hygiene in schools and health facilities. The government has also implemented long-term initiatives dedicated to the sustainability of water supplies.
  3. The United Nations Developmental Agency (UNDP) implemented the Protocol on Water and Health in 2013, which is currently active in 170 countries, including Serbia. Through this program, the organization aims to establish a variety of sustainable development goals in Serbia by 2030. Specifically, goal 6 of the program aims to provide clean water and improved sanitation facilities for all Serbians.
  4. In 2019, the European Investment Bank (EIB) gave a 35 million Euro loan to the Serbian city of Belgrade to fund improved sanitation and a wastewater treatment plant. The EIB has been supporting Serbia by loaning money for WASH development projects since 2000. This latest donation is expected to improve the living conditions of more than 170,000 people in the region.
  5. The KFW Development Bank is working to assist Serbia in funding a variety of infrastructural projects. Through their Financial Corporation, the bank is providing improved WASH facilities for 20 Serbian towns, which sustain a collective population of more than 1.3 million people. In early 2020, Belgrade constructed a water treatment plant through the KFW Development Bank’s funding.
  6. The European Union’s Water Framework Directive is working to improve water quality and ensure the proportionate distribution of water from the Tisza River, a major tributary of the Danube and one of the primary water sources for Serbia and four other European countries. The organization aims to carry out this project through a three-step initiative. These steps include traditional water resources planning, structured participation and collaborative computer modeling.
  7. USAID has been present in Serbia since 2001. In 2014, the organization donated $20 million to create a new reservoir in Preševo, which helped provide water to residents of this region.
  8. Serbia has been a member of the Open Government Partnership since 2012. The country has committed itself to be more transparent about its environmental information and budget allocations, which will promote accountability for the government to improve its water and sanitation facilities.
  9. Ecumenical Humanitarian, a Christian organization, has been assisting the Roma people, Serbia’s most vulnerable population, since 2007. The NGO has been working to build sustainable housing and sanitation units for this marginalized group.

Although there is still much progress to be made, the initiatives and improvements implemented over the past years demonstrate that there is hope for improved WASH in Serbia. Moving forward, these organizations must continue to make water and sanitation in the nation a priority.

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

Germany's Duel System
Germany has gained worldwide acclaim for its joint education and vocational training programs. There are tens of thousands of asylum-seekers participating throughout the country, which signals concerted government effort to create a path to employment.

What is Germany’s Dual System?

Germany’s vocational education and training (VET) programs combine practical and theoretical training with real-life work experience. Those enrolled typically spend part of the week in vocational schools and the rest work directly at specific German companies. After two to three years, certification and sufficient language preparedness all but guarantees job placement, which is critical in the refugee integration effort.

After the influx of refugees in 2015, Germany’s dual system has become an essential part of the country’s integration strategy. The number of refugees entering tradecraft apprenticeships, both through vocational school and otherwise, increased 140% during 2018. Given the success of these vocational schools, many other European countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Denmark have adopted similar frameworks.

Syrian Asylum-Seekers in Germany

Syrian refugees and asylum seekers in particular benefit from Germany’s undertakings. Of the more than 1.4 million asylum applicants, the majority come from Syria.

Enrollment in a government-sponsored language program is necessary for participation in the dual system. While this may seem like a barrier to integration at first glance, asylum-seeker status guarantees the right to attend subsidized language courses.

These social measures are helping to lower barriers to employment for Syrian refugees. Germany’s dual system has positive social and economic outcomes in its own right, but it’s just one part of an ongoing, historic effort by many actors throughout the country. Participation in language courses and vocational training doesn’t guarantee quick integration into society for all, but it is a step in the right direction.

A Positive Impact

Thanks in part to this system, half of all refugees living in Germany will find steady employment within five years of arrival. The influx of asylum seekers, which initially caused much concern, has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the German economy. More importantly, the opportunity to study German and find employment has improved the lives of Syrian asylum seekers.

As the most important aspect of integration, employment reduces feelings of alienation and creates a brighter path for Syrian families. By giving refugees the chance to immerse themselves in the language and culture as well as enter the workforce, Germany makes escaping poverty a reality for many.

– Rachel Moloney
Photo: PxHere

Hunger in AzerbaijanHunger in Azerbaijan has been widespread for the last three decades. The country is located to the south of Russia, to the west of the Caspian Sea and to the east of Armenia. Saida Verdiyeva, a mother of two, lives in Toganali, a village in northwest Azerbaijan. Verdiyeva fears that social-distancing measures, which her government established in response to COVID-19, will make it impossible for her to feed herself and her two children.

In October 1991, two months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan declared its independence from the soviet block. The subsequent years of economic turmoil in her country led to widespread poverty and hunger in Azerbaijan.

Degeneration of Azerbaijan’s Economy Between 1991-1994

By 1995, Azerbaijan had endured a critical socio-economic crisis. According to the IMF, Azerbaijan’s Gross Domestic Product, industrial production, agricultural production, real average monthly wages, household consumption- virtually every meaningful factor of the country’s economy- plummeted between 1991 and 1994. It wasn’t until the end of 1994 that the government took some control over the economic crisis. In 1995, state-led programs were successful in addressing issues of economic degeneration and adverse living standards.

Azerbaijan’s Economy and Global Hunger Index

In 1995, after four years of economic crisis, Azerbaijan had a Global Hunger Index score of 28.30. Consistent with the relatively steady economic improvement between 1995 and 2000, Azerbaijan’s GHI score reached a value of 14.60 in 1996. It remained close to this benchmark in 1997. However, between 1997 and 2000, Azerbaijan’s GHI score increased from 14.89 to 27.50.

For about two years, the numbers show a direct relationship between Azerbaijan’s GHI score and its economy. However, the macroeconomic solutions implemented by the government at the time were deficient in addressing the specific needs of certain regions and populations. In all likelihood, Verdiyeva was among those Azerbaijani whose local problems were not fixed.

Hunger and Poverty in Toganali

Hunger in Azerbaijan, as elsewhere, is linked to poverty, and poverty is often a result of unemployment. Before COVID-19, Verdiyeva worked as a dishwasher for large events. Due to social-distancing measures, there have not been many large events in or around Toganali. As a result, Verdiyeva has struggled to find work.

Many countries around the world are scrambling to prevent hunger crises caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. However, nations that had already implemented relevant social policies and established the necessary bureaucratic infrastructure to handle hunger crises will now have a more nuanced ability to cope.

The Agenda for Sustainable Development in Azerbaijan

In 2015, all United Nations Member States agreed to pursue domestic policies in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The priorities of the SDGs are to end global poverty and ensure environmental protection. In addition, the SDGs aim to create conditions whereby all people can enjoy peace and prosperity. These objectives are to be fulfilled by 2030.

Among 166 other countries, Azerbaijan ranked 54th in its commitment to the SDGs. Much of Azerbaijan’s success in this regard is owed to the diligence in creating bureaucratic mechanisms to track vulnerable populations and organize data on age, gender and location of such groups.

The SDGs’ principle of “leaving no one behind” involves a preliminary method of accumulating a body of information about vulnerable demographic groups. The implication is that being seen is a prerequisite for being helped.

Verdiyeva and her two children are among those Azerbaijani who will benefit from their country’s commitment to the SDGs and its principle of “leaving no one behind.” In 2013, only 24% of preschool-aged children were enrolled in preschool education in Azerbaijan. By 2017, 75% of preschool-aged children were enrolled in a school where they have access to daily meals.

Likewise, the hourly earnings of female employees and unemployment rates improved from 2010 to 2017. Comprehensive domestic policies, like the SDGs, are institutional methods of ending hunger in Azerbaijan. COVID-19 is an obstacle to reaching this end goal. However, the Azerbaijani government made valiant efforts, especially from 2015 to 2020, to ensure healthier living conditions for its vulnerable populations through the next decade.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Malta
Malta is a picturesque country located in the Mediterranean, home to half a million people. While it is a tiny nation, healthcare in Malta is some of the best in the world. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Malta fifth out of more than 100 countries for its healthcare system. Other independent studies have found it to place even higher. Residents of Malta can choose between a public healthcare plan and purchasing a private one, and there are even options for tourists.

Citizens of Malta and other nations in the European Union have the option of receiving public healthcare or obtaining their own private insurance. The public healthcare plan is available to all citizens, legal residents who pay social security contributions and retirees. Taxes fund public health insurance, which covers any visits to public hospitals. It also covers a wide variety of conditions and issues, ranging from childbirth to rehabilitation. The plan includes special treatment as well, such as therapy and visits to special clinics. Due to the small size of Malta, it is fairly easy for residents to seek medical care no matter where they are. Public hospitals are easily accessible, with a total of eight spread across the country, as well as a network of smaller clinics and pharmacies.

Accessibility of Private Insurance

Some people will opt for private health insurance, which gives them a greater pool of doctors and hospitals to choose from. As public insurance does not cover non-E.U. citizens, they must also purchase a private plan. Private insurance is becoming increasingly popular; people often think that it is faster and easier to receive treatment this way. Costs vary depending on what the plan covers and most companies offer a range of options to suit the needs of each individual or family. Healthcare costs are generally very reasonable. Many residents will choose private insurance over the public one: an indication of how affordable healthcare in Malta is.

Citizens can also choose to rely primarily on the public healthcare system and pay for visits to private hospitals or clinics as they go. Medical costs and medicines are extremely affordable when compared to countries like the United States, so this is not an uncommon practice. A visit to the doctor will only cost about $20, and a visit to the specialist may cost $65.

Tourists and people on short visits from the E.U. nation can consider applying for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which will provide the same coverage as a local would receive from the public healthcare plan.

Conclusion

Residents of Malta have the freedom to either rely on the country’s public healthcare system or buy private insurance. The public insurance covers visits to any public hospital as well as a wide range of treatments and conditions. While it is a competent plan, some people choose to pay for a private plan. Private insurance provides a greater number of doctors and practitioners to choose from, allowing for visits to private hospitals and clinics. Private insurance providers typically offer several plans designated for the different needs of clients. Citizens are also free to rely mostly on public healthcare and pay for visits to private practices out of pocket.

People who lack access to healthcare are at a greater risk of falling into poverty, and poor health conditions keep people trapped in poverty. The cost of medical services can be a huge burden on individuals and their families. Women and children may have to leave school in order to help their families earn money, causing an education disparity which only leads to more severe impoverishment. A good healthcare system is paramount to reduce poverty in a nation. Malta’s public healthcare system offers its benefits and services to everyone, keeping Maltese citizens out of poverty.

Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr

debt in the Czech RepublicThe Czech Republic is a country cradled in Central Europe and is a member of the European Union. Despite its membership in the EU, the Czech Republic opted out of adopting the Euro in favor of keeping its own currency, the Koruna (CZK). Formerly a communist country in the Soviet Bloc, the Czech Republic adopted democratic market-oriented policies following the Velvet Revolution in 1989. With this shift toward free markets and an industrial economy, the Czech Republic experienced a credit boom in the early to mid-1990s. Unfortunately for Czech households, with rising credit comes rising debt in the Czech Republic as well.

A Closer Look at Debt in the Czech Republic

After shedding the yolk of communism in 1989, the Czech Republic embraced free-market policies focused on industrialization and the growth and privatization of business. Deregulation ensued, with particular focus placed on unshackling the banking and lending industries.

Following the credit boom of the 1990s, a reform on the lending system in 2001 provided the opportunity for a slew of private bailiffs to emerge to collect debts racked up throughout the spending boom in the previous decade. These private debt collection agencies often employ aggressive strategies to enforce repayment. The private bailiffs often pursue debts regardless of the debtor’s ability to pay. They utilize brutal strategies for recollection such as freezing bank accounts and siphoning earned income. They even enter into debtors’ homes to seize property.

How Debt Destroys Opportunity

Currently, 863,000 Czechs face at least one seizure order. This means, due to the current legal framework, their income above a certain minimum amount can be forcibly redirected towards debt repayments. This represents roughly 10% of the current population of the Czech Republic.

Personal debt in the Czech Republic can become financially crippling for many people. Those with outstanding debts have their income siphoned away to pay the interest. This leads many to enter into the black market to find jobs which would not disclose their income. This expansion of the black market is exacerbating a labor shortage within the Czech economy.

People who accumulate even small debts such as those from telephone bills may face compounding debt traps. This is a result of poor financial literacy and loose regulations on lenders and financial institutions. In addition, there are laws that make bankruptcy declaration extremely convoluted and difficult. This legal and institutional framework of the Czech debt system regressively places an undue burden upon the middle and lower classes to pay debts which they cannot afford. Thus, it stifles economic mobility and magnifies the financial hardships faced by the Czech people.

Finding Ways Out of Debt in the Czech Republic

Fortunately for many within the Czech Republic, various government and non-government solutions are being implemented. Financial literacy is critical when navigating the complex landscape of personal debt, which is one of the main services that Czech nonprofit People in Need provides. People in Need offers debt advisory services to Czech citizens to help them understand financial planning, borrowing and repayment of loans. People in Need also helps debtors legally defend themselves from unjust collections strategies as well as petition for bankruptcy. This can be an important tactic for alleviating debt in the Czech Republic.

The Czech government is also aware of these systemic issues. As of 2017, Parliament has debated bills addressing these strict policies regarding seizures and bankruptcy. Since the early 2000s, the law allows companies to better collect their loans by paying collections agencies. These agencies can cause the fees owed by debtors to skyrocket, potentially over ten-fold. This is due to costly collections processes as well as fees collected by the agencies. Both the government as well as nonprofit organizations like People in Need are working on ways to lower fees. They also work to expand access to the possibility of bankruptcy and more generous debt relief.

Conclusion

The Czech Republic serves as an important case study in national debt policy. Even a relatively rich country in Europe can still place undue financial burdens on its lower classes through inadequate lending laws and aggressive privatization of the credit industry. The work being done by nonprofits and the government should act as an example in reforming household credit markets and hopefully create a more just and forgiving landscape for lenders within the Czech Republic.

– Ian Hawthorne
Photo: Flickr