Homelessness in Spain
For many, Spain conjures images of sun-soaked beaches, mouthwatering paellas, mesmerizing flamenco dancers or idyllic windmills towering over Don Quixote. However, Spain is more than the stereotypes that attract its many tourists. It is a complex country with pressing social and economic issues. One such issue is the prevalence of homelessness. Although Spain is a developed country, many are living within its borders without a place to call home. Here are nine facts about homelessness in Spain.

9 Facts About Homelessness in Spain

  1. The Spanish Constitution guarantees shelter. Article 47 of the Constitution, ratified in 1978, clearly states that all Spanish citizens have the right to “decent and adequate housing.”
  2. Unfortunately, approximately 0.07% of Spaniards are homeless. Recent surveys on homelessness in Spain estimate the homeless population to be between 23,000 and 35,000 people.
  3. Most Spaniards spend about 20% of their income on housing. Access to safe and stable housing is the prerequisite for avoiding homelessness. The average Spanish worker takes home around 34,000 euros per year, meaning that 6,800 euros would go toward rent. However, in major cities like Madrid and Barcelona, housing prices are steeper.
  4. Homelessness in Spain is increasing. The aftermath of economic and financial crises coupled with growing unemployment have left many unable to pay for adequate housing. The unemployment rate in Spain is now 14.41% and climbing from 13.78% last year. Data from the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE) shows that from 2016 to 2018, the average number of people sleeping in homeless shelters increased by 9.5%.
  5. Most homeless people in Spain are men. A survey from 2012 found that 80.3% of homeless Spaniards are men. However, certain cities like Segovia are reporting increased proportions of homeless women.
  6. Negative policy changes are exacerbating the homelessness problem. Many autonomous communities in Spain are making cuts to welfare and homelessness services. The support that remains may be harder for vulnerable Spaniards to access because of more stringent eligibility requirements.
  7. The Spanish capital is especially hard on its homeless population. The Madrid city government has enacted architectural changes making it more difficult for the homeless to sleep in public. For example, there are armrests on benches, sloping benches and spikes on ledges and in doorways. All of these changes are to prevent homeless persons from sleeping outside. These recent changes are likely an effort to protect businesses and tourism in the city.
  8. However, positive policy changes are taking place as well. In 2015, the Spanish government enacted the Comprehensive National Homelessness Strategy. This strategy includes research, an impact study and support for homelessness services in major cities such as Barcelona. In Barcelona, a comprehensive four-year strategy has emerged that emphasizes the recognition of the rights of the homeless, access to healthcare, prevention of overcrowding in homeless shelters and improving the social perception of the city’s homeless.
  9. Certain NGOs are picking up where the government falls short. One such organization is Hogar Sí, a group that uses a housing-first strategy to ensure access to healthcare, right to housing and eradication of hate crimes for the homeless in Spain.

Economic crises and rising housing costs during the last 15 years have left scars that continue to harm Spain’s homeless population. Additionally, the Spanish economy’s dependence on tourism has led some politicians to enact changes that push homeless people away from popular cities, like Madrid. However, the national government is taking steps to combat homelessness, and this will perhaps inspire mayors and leaders of autonomous communities to follow suit.

– Addison Collins 
Photo: Flickr

Europe 2020 strategy on povertyEach decade the European Union (EU) establishes an agenda to achieve goals for growth and social well-being. For the previous decade, the EU strategy focused on “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” led by advancements in five main areas: employment, R&D and innovation, climate change and energy, education, poverty and exclusion. These five factors were essential in strengthening the EU economy. It also prepared the EU’s economic structure for the challenges of the next decade.

The Europe 2020 strategy set the target of lifting “at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty.” To achieve this, the EU’s agenda included actions in stimulating education programs and employment opportunities. These actions aim to help Europeans at risk of poverty develop new skillsets. They also help Europeans find jobs that position them better in society.

For the last 10 years, poverty reduction has been a key policy component of the EU. In 2008, Europe had 116.1 million people at risk of poverty. As a result, EU members sought to reduce the number of poor Europeans to less than 96.1 million by 2020. Yet, as of 2017, the number of people at risk of poverty had only decreased to 113 million. So, what were the challenges that kept the EU from achieving its goal?

Employment in Rural Areas

The main tools the Europe 2020 strategy relied on greater access to education. Eurostat research shows that employment is crucial for ensuring adequate living standards. Furthermore, it provides the necessary base for people to live a better life. Although the EU labor market has consistently shown positive dynamics, the rates didn’t meet the Europe 2020 strategy target employment rate of 75 percent, especially in the rural areas. Jobless young people in rural Europe make up more than 30 percent of people at risk of poverty. As a result, the lack of new job openings and career paths in rural areas hindered individuals from escaping poverty and social exclusion.

Local Governance and Application of EU Strategic Policies

According to reports from 2014, the EU’s anti-poverty strategy was interpreted differently in every country. There is no common definition of poverty across all 27 member states. Therefore, the number of people at risk and their demographics vary. Moreover, EU policies were not implemented in all countries equally. Regional administrations and rural mayors are responsible for implementing EU anti-poverty policies. This localized approach resulted in a lack of coordination that was needed to correctly and efficiently realize the EU’s tools and strategies.

Education: The Winning Strategy Against Poverty

Despite these challenges, the EU showed that poverty can be addressed through education. Seen as key drivers for prosperity and welfare, education and training lie at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy. Since higher educational attainment improves employability, which in turn reduces poverty, the EU interlinked educational targets with all other Europe 2020 goals. The Europe 2020 strategy did in fact achieve its goal of reducing the rates of people leaving education early to less than 10 percent in several EU countries. It also increased the number of workers having completed tertiary education to at least 40 percent. Both of these goals provide reasonable evidence of downsizing the risk of poverty by providing access to education.

Today, upper secondary education is the minimum desired educational attainment level for EU citizens. A lack of secondary education presents a severe obstacle to economic growth and employment in an era of rapid technological progress, intense global competition and specialized labor markets. Europeans at risk of poverty profit the most when given access to secondary education because it provides a path to staying active in society and learning marketable skills. The longer young people from rural areas pursue academic goals, the higher the chances of employment.

Moving Forward

As the Europe 2020 strategy showed, universal access to education has the potential to impact poverty across the European Union. Gaining new skillsets is one of the best ways to provide Europeans at risk of poverty and social exclusion with more opportunities for development and prospects for a better life.

– Olga Uzunova 
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Belarus
With a population of nearly 10 million, Belarus is one of the largest countries in Eastern Europe, and its problems with COVID-19 are just as great. Since its first cases were reported, the country has struggled with treating the virus and limiting its spread. Outbreaks of COVID-19 in Belarus have already revealed flaws in the country’s health infrastructure that could cause problems even after the pandemic ends.

What You Should Know About COVID-19 in Belarus

  1. The true scale of the outbreak remains unknown. Although Belarus began testing for COVID-19 in January, the country reported its first case on February 28. As of May 18, there were 30,572 confirmed cases and 171 deaths resulting from the pandemic. The majority of confirmed cases have occurred in the country’s urban areas on account of their high population density, with the Belarusian capital of Minsk reporting over 4,000 cases on April 24. The Ministry of Health has not provided a cumulative total of recovered patients, making it difficult to know the total number of infections.
  2. Belarus’ government has not enacted strict social distancing policies. While many countries adopted shelter-in-place policies in March and April, Belarus’s government has yet to implement a country-wide shutdown of non-essential businesses. So far, individual cities have decided how to protect their citizens, with some canceling social gatherings and extending school vacations. Unfortunately, this approach has led to an inconsistent response that has failed to slow the spread of the virus.
  3. Medical supplies are limited. Despite having 11 hospital beds per 1,000 people – one of the highest ratios in the world – the lack of quarantine protocols quickly overwhelmed Belarus’ healthcare system. Patients treated for COVID-19-related pneumonia observed that nurses and other healthcare officials were uninformed and inadequately equipped to handle the growing number of cases. Due to supply shortages and limited social distancing, epidemiologists predict that between 15,000 and 32,000 people could die of COVID-19.
  4. The pandemic could force the country into a recession. One reason Belarus lacks a comprehensive social distancing policy is that the country may not be able to afford it. Even before the crisis, Belarus’ economy had started to slow down, with GDP growth dropping from 3% to 1.2% between 2018 and 2019. Economists predict that reduced trade with Western Europe and Russia due to the pandemic could push the country into a recession. While the economic impact of COVID-19 is still unclear, it could cause Belarus’ economy to contract by up to 4%. This may require Belarus to cut spending on programs for vulnerable populations such as low-income households.
  5. The international community is stepping up. Due to the shortage of personal protective equipment and medical supplies in Belarus, other countries have begun shipping supplies over. On April 17, 32 tons of medical equipment such as thermometers, goggles, and gloves arrived in Belarus from China. At the same time, the European Union announced a 3 billion euro relief fund for 10 Eastern European countries, including Belarus. Belarus may require more aid in the future, but these contributions will help ease the country’s financial strain.

Although the full implications of the pandemic are still unknown, foreign aid will reduce the impact of COVID-19 in Belarus. Such aid is vitally important for the country’s ability to protect its sick and vulnerable populations.

Sarah Licht
Photo: Flickr

tuberculosis in Eastern Europe
One of the oldest diseases, tuberculosis is still prevalent in hundreds of countries and nearly every continent. Although many countries have been able to reduce their number of cases through medical intervention and policies, Eastern Europe remains affected by the disease. Despite the rising cases of tuberculosis in Eastern Europe, European and other governments are coming up with new solutions to better treat individuals with TB and potentially eradicate the disease. Here are five facts about tuberculosis in Eastern Europe.

5 Facts About Tuberculosis in Eastern Europe

  1. Most of Europe’s tuberculosis cases are in Eastern Europe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Europe has the lowest incidence of tuberculosis in the world. However, the cases that do exist concentrate in Eastern Europe. The WHO found that 18 countries in Eastern Europe bear 85% of the tuberculosis burden for the continent. Over the past decade, cases of tuberculosis have halved throughout Europe. Despite this decrease, however, the number of cases in Eastern Europe is almost eight times higher than that of Central and Western Europe.
  2. Eastern Europe has the highest rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis. Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR tuberculosis) is currently the most prevalent form of TB in Eastern Europe. MDR tuberculosis occurs when the bacteria that causes tuberculosis becomes resistant to at least isoniazid and rifampin, the two most common drugs doctors use to treat tuberculosis patients. Typically, this resistance occurs when patients do not finish their antibiotics or when tuberculosis infects a person more than once. In all of Europe, 99% of MDR tuberculosis cases occur in Eastern Europe. As a result, scientists need to develop new antibiotics or treatments for patients in that region.
  3. Tuberculosis outbreaks are more common in poorer regions. In general, researchers tend to find tuberculosis in poorer and developing countries. Similarly, the levels of TB in Eastern Europe could connect to the overall poverty rates in the region. The poverty rates in Central and Western European countries such as the Czech Republic are as low as 10%. However, in Eastern European countries, such as Romania, the poverty rates are as high as 25%. In poorer countries, access to medical treatment and preventative care decreases. Thus, in Eastern Europe, a common struggle for individuals with tuberculosis is finding health care that is effective and affordable.
  4. Problems with tuberculosis are worsening due to COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has led countries to implement social distancing and stay-at-home policies. As a result, the circumstances for individuals with tuberculosis in Eastern Europe may worsen. A recent modeling study looked at the rate of incidence of tuberculosis and the tuberculosis mortality rate during the lockdown. The study predicted that both the number of cases and the number of deaths will rise as people remain in close quarters. For example, imagine the lockdown in a high-risk country such as Ukraine lasting for 3 months with a 10 month recovery period. The rate of incidence would increase by 10.7% and the mortality rate would increase by 16%. One reason for this increase is the lack of medical care available during the pandemic. As more supplies and medical officials go towards fighting COVID-19, other diseases such as tuberculosis could go unchecked during the lockdown.
  5. Better diagnostic services are currently in progress. This year, in 2020, the European Lab Initiative (ELI) on tuberculosis, HIV and Viral Hepatitis, a regional center that has dedicated itself to the treatment of those three diseases, released its goals for 2020 and 2021. These goals, which include improved drug treatments and better tracking algorithms, hope to allow doctors in Eastern Europe to diagnose patients with tuberculosis faster. By diagnosing people earlier, the transmission of tuberculosis will slow, and those who test positive for tuberculosis will have a higher chance of recovery.

Although the rates of TB continue to drop in Western and Central Europe, wealth inequality and the COVID-19 pandemic are keeping the number of cases up in Eastern Europe. However, if progress on better diagnostic services continues, the occurrence of tuberculosis there will decrease.

– Sarah Licht 
Photo: Flickr

Eliminate Poverty in Germany
Germany’s economy is booming. Since reunification, the unemployment rate has steadily decreased and Germany has turned itself into one of the richest countries in Europe. Nonetheless, poverty in Germany remains a potent issue. In 2017, more than 15% of people in Germany were impoverished. Here is some information about the country’s poverty rates as well as its plan to eliminate poverty in Germany.

The Rise of Poverty in Germany

According to the European Union’s (E.U.) standards, the number of individuals living in poverty in Germany is continuously increasing. In 1995, 12% of Germans were making wages that qualified them as at risk of or living in poverty. By 2014, that number had risen to approximately 16%. As of 2017, approximately 19% of people in Germany were at risk of living in poverty. Over 15% were already living below the poverty line. The Institute of German Economic and Social Research defined the poverty line as a 60% median net income.

The above percentages only represent households in Germany and do not include those living in refugee camps who may be experiencing poverty. As of 2018, Germany had more than 1 million refugees living within its borders.

Despite the country’s economic success in manufacturing and trade with the E.U., Germany’s poverty rate continues to reach record highs year after year. While the economic boom helps the country in certain ways, the benefits oftentimes do not reach the impoverished. People living in poverty often lack the resources necessary to escape impoverishment. Though new jobs are available, the wages are generally meager, while the profit tends to go to those who are already wealthy. Many attribute the rising poverty rate in Germany to the exploitation of the poor.

Unequal Poverty Across Germany

Impoverishment does not affect all regions of Germany equally. Southern Germany, the least impoverished area of the country, still has a poverty rate of about 12%. The region with the highest poverty rate, the North, has a poverty rate of a staggering 18%. Additionally, the North also experiences the highest poverty growth rate.

This inequality is largely attributed to the Ruhr region, a highly industrial area in Northern Germany. The Ruhr is the most densely populated region in the country, with production focusing largely on coal, steel and chemical manufacturing. During World War I and World War II, the Allied bombing destroyed nearly 75% of the region. Since then, Northern Germany has experienced long term impoverishment that continues to contribute to the growing poverty rate.

Solutions

Despite the growing rate of poverty, the country is aware of the issue and is actively working to eliminate poverty in Germany. The country is continuously creating more jobs and working towards a stronger economy. Additionally, Germany also raised its minimum wage in 2015 to 8.50 euros an hour. Experts believe that this increase in the minimum wage helped approximately 4 million people grow their wealth. The country has also strengthened support for vocational training in an attempt to increase the amount of employed low-skilled workers. Germany is aware of the economic inequality facing many of its citizens and is working hard to create more policies that help the poor escape poverty’s clutches.

Poverty in Germany is a pertinent issue. Despite the country’s wealth and economic growth, the rate of poverty continues to rise, consistently reaching new highs every year. Although the issue of impoverishment may seem overwhelming, the German government continues to persist and develop programs designed to eliminate poverty in Germany.

– Paige Musgrave 
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Poverty in Romania
Romania, like much of the former Communist Bloc, experienced extreme poverty under communism. Although communist rule ended over 30 years ago, the country still experiences the lingering effects of communism on its economy and quality of life. In 2017, approximately 4.6 million Romanians lived at or below the Romanian national poverty line, a standard assessed by the cost of living and certain social policies. Poverty in Romania concentrates in rural areas, where about 46% of the population lives, according to recent estimates. Here are the ways in which the government seeks to reduce poverty in Romania.

The National Strategy on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction

In 2015, the European Union (E.U.) and the Romanian government devised the National Strategy on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction to help reduce poverty in Romania. The strategy aimed to lift 580,000 people from poverty by 2020 and increase employment for poor and other vulnerable groups. It also provided financial support for poor or at-risk citizens. Additionally, it promoted social inclusion of marginalized communities such as the Roma people, and improved social services like health care and education. In addition to this plan, Romania also passed a 47-point plan to combat poverty in 2015.

Many have regarded this plan as overly ambitious. Unfortunately, much of the National Strategy on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction remains only on paper. This is not to say, however, that it has not made an impact on reducing poverty in Romania. Since the creation of this plan, the percentage of Romania’s population at risk of living in poverty has dropped from 40.2 percent in 2015 to 35.7 percent in 2017. Since the implementation of the National Strategy on Social Inclusion and Poverty, the Romanian government has been able to allocate more funding for active labor market policies, including financial bonuses and job training. Additionally, Romania has received funding from the European Social Fund for projects to increase the effectiveness of the Romanian National Employment Agency. Despite these improvements, Romania still ranks as the second most impoverished nation in the E.U., after Bulgaria.

Looking Forward

In addition to continuing the work on current programs, the country is looking forward to more improvements in the coming years. By 2023, the Romanian government has set a goal of improving access to education. Increasing educational opportunities in Romania is especially important. The country has the highest child poverty rate in the E.U. at nearly 50%. Children living in poverty are more likely to have to leave school, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty in Romania. By making education more accessible, children at risk of poverty have more opportunities to break the cycle.

Despite drastic improvements in the levels of poverty and social inclusion in Romania, millions of Romanians are still at risk. The Romanian government and E.U. implemented the National Strategy on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction in 2015. Unfortunately, problems obtaining funding have made it difficult to implement this plan in its entirety. However, some changes have occurred, improving the situation for a small portion of the Romanian population. The government’s future plans to reduce poverty in Romania, including improving access to education for impoverished children, aim to continue to improve the country’s poverty crisis.

– Jessica Cohen
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Romania
Romania, like the rest of the world, is currently dealing with the global outbreak of the virus, COVID-19. The pandemic has affected health services and the economy, disproportionately affecting the poor populations of Romania. In response to the growing pandemic, the government issued ordinances to prevent the spread of the virus. Here are some facts about how Romania is responding to COVID-19.

8 Facts About COVID-19 in Romania

  1. Romania issued strict stay-at-home orders. Romania’s government responded quickly to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Romanian government issued an ordinance on March 22, 2020 that requires people to stay at home. They can, however, leave home for essential goods or health care. The Romanian government also established a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. These ordinances also closed retail stores and prohibited large gatherings. These orders are all part of Romania’s plan to limit person to person contact during the pandemic.
  2. Romania enforced travel restrictions for the elderly. The Romanian government also issued another ordinance on March 29, 2020, specifically allowing for those 65 years and older to leave their homes for medical reasons only. It also placed restrictions on certain times of the day.  The Romanian government recognizes that this elderly age group needs medical care. The elderly are also a vulnerable age group and need to take further precautions when traveling outside their homes.
  3. Romania has provided hotel rooms for health care workers. The Romanian government secured hotel rooms for public health care workers.  Public health care workers have an increased risk of spreading COVID-19 to family members in their home. The hotel rooms will help these health care workers protect their families. Health care workers can use these rooms in between calls and shifts.
  4. Utility bills cannot increase. The Romanian government is also ensuring that citizens’ utility bills do not increase due to economic hardships. Given the stay-at-home orders, utility bills could increase due to the increased use of electricity, heat and gas in their homes. However, the Romanian government is trying to prevent economic hardships by prohibiting the increase of utility bills.
  5. Less than 6% of COVID-19 patients have died. Romania has reported 1,137 deaths out of more than 17,191 COVID-19 cases as of May 19, 2020. Given that some countries have a COVID-19 death rate of 20%, Romania is providing excellent treatment and care for COVID-19 patients.
  6. Romania has plenty of room for new COVID-19 patients. The Romanian health care system has more than enough beds, currently over 29,000 available, for new COVID-19 patients. Having all the necessary resources is critical during a pandemic. These resources are necessary to treat COVID-19 symptoms and keep death rates down. Romanian health care facilities are currently only using about 750 beds. Romania has more than enough space for new COVID-19 patients.
  7. COVID-19 has adversely affected poor Roma families. According to UNICEF, the virus significantly impacts low-income families. This is true, especially for one of Romania’s largest minority groups, the Romas. The effects of the virus have created financial problems for many in the Roma community, who are day laborers. The virus also exacerbates many of the difficulties low-income families face, including health care services, access to education and decreased job opportunities.
  8. Romania established a free health advice hotline. In response to the COVID-19 virus, Romania established a hotline that provides free public health advice. The hotline provides a valid health information source for people who may not have access to the news via the internet or television. Romanians can call the hotline to receive information about COVID-19 tests, mask use and general health information regarding COVID-19.

The Romanian hotline is going to help lower-income communities in Romania, like the Romas. These communities do not have access to medical services or technology, like televisions and computers to receive health care information during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Romanian ordinances, along with the hotline, protect the Romanian people not only from the virus but also the economic issues surrounding a pandemic.

– Kaitlyn Gilbert
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom began its National Healthcare System (NHS) in 1948 with a mission to make healthcare available to all regardless of their ability to pay. Since its creation, the NHS has grown in its capacity to prevent illnesses and improve the mental and physical health of the population.

Numerous local and national organizations support the NHS such as clinical commissioning groups, charities and research institutes. These all compile to create the healthcare system. A general and payroll tax primarily fund the NHS, allowing patients in England to receive NHS services without charge. From emergency to non-urgent cases, healthcare in the U.K. seeks to put patients first by surveying the success of patients’ outcomes.

For those “ordinarily resident” in England or those with a European Health Insurance Card, coverage is universal. In fact, in most cases coverage is free. The NHS Constitution states that patients have rights to drugs and treatments when deemed necessary and approved by their physician. Through the NHS’s services, primary care, specialized care, longterm care, after-hours care and mental health care available.

What is the Role of the Government?

The Health Act (2006) requires that the Secretary of State has a legal duty to promote comprehensive healthcare services to the public free of charge. The NHS Constitution outlines the rights for those eligible for national healthcare, including access to care without discrimination and prompt hospital care. While the Department of Health supervises the overall health system, the day-to-day responsibilities rest with NHS England. In addition, the local government authorities hold the budgets for public health.

Ensuring Quality and Reducing Disparities

Research shows healthcare quality is worse for those living in poverty in England. The health gap between the rich and poor has widened over the past few years. The more economically deprived an area is, the more quality-deprived those same struggling areas are. Underfunded local services lead to poorer health of the most vulnerable.

Strategies to reduce inequality include monitoring statistics of access and outcomes, particularly for at-risk groups. The requirement to host “health and well-being boards” mitigates local government authorities’ relative autonomy in creating budgets for public health in their communities. These boards aim to improve the coordination of local services and reduce disparities.

What is the Impact of COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic makes health inequalities in the United Kingdom more visible. Those who live in the most deprived areas have a higher risk of contracting the virus. Fortunately, citizens have largely obeyed the government’s social distancing pleas, limiting the spread of the virus. However, this comes with social and economic consequences for those who were already suffering from inequality.

The weight of the pandemic does not fall evenly on society. Adjusting for age, those who live in poorer areas have faced more than double the deaths compared to those in richer areas. Additionally, research has found that minority ethnic communities have a higher risk of death from the virus. The reasons for this are complicated and research on these issues is advancing. However, discrimination and the resulting lack of socio-economic opportunities for these groups in education and employment can lead to their overall health being disproportionately impaired.

Solutions

To help healthcare in the United Kingdom obtain equal accessibility and quality, acting against the systemic barriers facing minority groups and encouraging overall economic development that will enable healthier living for all is necessary. Increased government support for the NHS and its relating voluntary and community sectors could mitigate the pandemic’s devastating effects.

Well Communities is an example of a nonprofit organization in the United Kingdom that empowers local communities to reduce inequalities. By working on the neighborhood level, Well Communities addresses specific concerns in improving local coordination through training and engagement around a themed project. Past projects have promoted healthy eating, exercise, mental health, employment, green spaces, culture and arts.

More than 18,700 individuals participated in Well Communities’ Well London activities, representing 35 percent of the population in that neighborhood. The outcome exceeded the targeted goals. Strikingly, 82 percent reported increases in physical activity and 54 percent reported an increase in mental wellbeing. Additionally, 60 percent reported increased levels of volunteering.

These statistically significant changes in the community indicate the value of organizations like Well Communities’ work. With more organizations implementing programs like these, there is hope to reconcile the increasing inequalities of healthcare in the United Kingdom.

COVID-19 and its lockdown will deepen inequalities unless the U.K. mounts a great effort. Through much-needed increased government support for the NHS and its relating voluntary and community sectors, the U.K. is working to abolish inequality in healthcare.

– Mia McKnight 
Photo: Flickr

facts about girls' education in RomaniaRomania is a country settled in east-central Europe bordering the Black Sea. The country has a rigid education program that falls short in some areas of girls’ education, particularly for Roma girls who come from a minority making up about 10 percent of Romania’s population. While improvements are being made to the overall education of the country, some pupils are more neglected than others. These six facts about girls’ education in Romania shed some light on the achievements and shortfalls of the Romanian education system and what is being done to further improve girls’ education.

6 Facts About Girls’ Education in Romania

  1. There are more girls in pre-primary schools than boys. As of 2016, 75.26 percent of Romanian girls were enrolled in pre-primary school—the equivalent of kindergarten—while only 74.52 percent of boys were enrolled.
  2. Female literacy rates are on the rise. In 1992, 94.98 percent of the Romanian female population older than 15 were literate. As of 2018, that percentage stood at 98.6.
  3. Half of the women in rural Romania don’t finish secondary school. Half of the female population living in rural areas of Romania don’t manage to finish secondary school according to Tatiana Proscuryakova, World Bank’s Country Manager for Romania and Hungary.
  4. Roma women often don’t have the same opportunities as other women in Romania. One of the largest minority groups in Romania is the Roma people. Roma girls are disproportionately impacted by poverty conditions and continue to face societal discrimination. On average, Roma girls leave school at age 10 so that they can contribute to the household in some way.
  5. Female unemployment rates are increasing. As of 2019, only 45.17 percent of Romanian women are part of the workforce. This number dropped from 62.31 percent in 1992 and is likely a direct result of the struggle among many women to complete a proper education. Without an education, many women find themselves without the skills necessary to make themselves a valuable member of the workforce.
  6. Save the Children is working to fix the gap in Roma girls’ education. The American nonprofit, known for its work in helping children around the world, launched a preparedness program in the summer of 2016 for children in Romania. The goal of this program is to help Roma children be better equipped for pre-primary school, both academically and socially.

Romania has an impressive literacy rate among both men and women but has seen a dramatic drop in the number of women in the workforce. Most Romanian women are able to receive an education, but Roma girls seem to be subject to a prejudiced struggle. While the number of girls in the workforce is declining, education is increasing and the hope of overall improvement of girls’ education and the consequent life opportunities is bright.

Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

 

European Energy Security
H.R. 1616, The European Energy Security and Diversification Act of 2019, is a bill in the U.S. Senate that aims to incentivize and assist European and Eurasian countries to develop and utilize diverse energy sources. H.R. 1616, that Representative Adam Kinzinger introduced and nine other Representatives co-sponsored, focuses on European energy security that will incentivize American investment into European and Eurasian energy infrastructure and energy markets. According to the European Commission, European energy access is a problem for many Europeans.

The European Commission estimates that between 50 and 125 million people (at the highest estimation, 17 percent of the European population) in Europe are unable to afford the energy necessary for proper indoor thermal heating. H.R. 1616 would directly benefit these individuals, the energy poor, because of the introduction of more cost-effective energy infrastructure, an increase in accessibility in the energy markets.

European Energy Security

The Council of European Development Bank reports that energy poverty is a result of poor energy infrastructure and of the inaccessibility to energy markets. Because the majority of energy insecure homes are already poor, the lack of access to energy compounds the effects of poverty. The choice between energy and food, for instance, is a common choice for those in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. In Europe particularly, the lack of energy infrastructure across borders is detrimental; 85 percent of those who are energy insecure live in 10 of the 32 European states. Meanwhile, natural gas is 20 percent of the energy in Europe and coal makes up 20 percent of European energy markets. Both are inefficient and the grid infrastructure makes gas and coal inaccessible.

H.R. 1616 Policy Goals and Income

H.R. 1616 would increase access to energy markets by funding the transition away from natural gas and coal through aid, increasing European access to the American energy market and funding accessible infrastructure. The bill also allocates $579.5 million to help properly create supply routes throughout Europe, and between European states, which would ensure rural access to energy. H.R. 1616 would also negotiate cross-border energy infrastructure, including negotiating environmental standards and the accessibility of an array of energy sources.

The E.U. has been diversifying some forms of energy in the status quo by increasing energy production in the Baltics on the Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea. However, Europe would be unable to sustain the diversification of energy on its own due to current regulatory restrictions that the U.S. put in place, as well as the economic barrier of opening new markets. H.R. 1616 would raise the regulatory restrictions and fund the new markets, allowing for Europe to continue to decrease energy insecurity in its states. 

A Lasting Effect

H.R. 1616 will decrease energy insecurity in Europe, alleviating the effects of poverty in the lowest echelons of society, and fund the transition away from unsuccessful forms of energy production. The infrastructure that H.R. 1616 would build would increase access to energy and allow cross-border energy trade, making sure that poor states have access to energy. The current European trend of diversifying energy would continue, ensuring European energy security and diversification. The House passed the bill, and the Senate has read it and referred it to the Committee on Foreign Relations for further review.

Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr