Humanitarian Aid in Nagorno-KarabakhNagorno-Karabakh is a region in the country Azerbaijan and is home to an Armenian majority. While the region is within Azerbaijan’s borders, Armenia has claimed the region for itself. The first intense conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region was in 1988 when the Soviet Union was nearing the end of its existence. Recently, conflict in the region began again in late September 2020 and lasted for about a  month until a ceasefire was brokered by Russia. Additional ceasefires were brought into fruition by France with the help of Russia and the United States. Despite the ceasefires, the conflict in the region is continuing. The fighting in the region has drastically impacted the civilian population of the region. This has in turn created a strong need for humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The European Union Assists

The European Union (EU) is actively providing aid to the civilian populace affected by the conflict and has done so since early October 2020. The initial amount of aid provided by the EU was €900,000. Then, in November, the EU commissioned an additional €3 million to the civilians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. According to the EU, this humanitarian aid will provide the necessary assistance that humanitarian organizations partnered with the EU need to carry out their duties. This includes providing food, winter clothing and medical assistance.

The United States’ Aid

The United States is also providing its share of financial assistance. In total, the United States has provided around $10 million in humanitarian assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 2019 fiscal year. Of the $10 million, $5 million has been allocated to the International Committee of the Red Cross and similar humanitarian organizations to help civilians caught in the crossfire of the conflict. Assistance coming from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will also be used for humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh. The support these two institutions will be providing will come in the form of food, shelter and medical support for the people impacted by the conflict.

People in Need

There are also NGOs that have provided humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh as well. One organization, People in Need, has done just this. People in Need is an organization dedicated to providing immediate aid to countries should a natural disaster or war take place.

People in Need has provided support, not to Nagorno-Karabakh, but to the city of Goris in Armenia. People in Need directed its humanitarian aid to this Armenian city because many of the displaced civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh have gone there for refuge. The displaced people either move on or stay in the city. People in Need have been able to provide hygienic supplies to 1,200 displaced families in Goris. Additionally, People in Need have provided 480 children, 600 women and 110 seniors with their own individual hygienic kits. People in Need have also taken into consideration the psychosocial needs of children impacted by the conflict. To help these children, People in Need opened a child-friendly space in the city library where children can engage with other children and partake in other activities.

While the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh continues, international institutions, individual countries and humanitarian organizations are trying to provide all the support possible to help the civilians impacted by the conflict.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Vital Relief to VenezuelaThe country of Venezuela has an economy that is extremely reliant on its oil sales. About 99% of its exports come from the sale of oil. The natural resource also takes up a quarter of Venezuela’s GDP. Such high reliance on this resource has caused the country economic hardship in recent years. The GDP of the nation shrank by two-thirds between 2014 and 2019. The struggling economy has been devastating for the citizens of Venezuela. It has caused five million Venezuelans to leave the country and flee to neighboring ones. As of 2020, 96% of Venezuela’s population live in poverty when measured solely according to income levels. Despite the dire situation in Venezuela, countries and organizations are trying to deliver vital relief to Venezuela.

USAID’s Assistance

USAID is working on behalf of the United States to provide aid that Venezuelans so desperately need.USAID has provided more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid to vulnerable Venezuelan communities. The monetary aid is used by NGOs and organizations to assist the Venezuelan people. The assistance these groups provide includes food, health and sanitation supplies. The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the world has worsened the situation for many Venezuelans. On top of the severe economic situation, Venezuelans are now dealing with the impact of a pandemic a well. USAID has adapted its efforts to help Venezuelans during COVID-19. The funding of USAID has allowed affiliated partners to provide important healthcare assistance for the delivery of vital relief to Venezuela.

The European Union Helps Venezuela

The European Union (EU) has been active in providing support for Venezuela in these trying times. Since 2018, the European Union has provided a total of €156 million to not only Venezuela but to the neighboring countries that Venezuelans have fled to. Similar to the way aid from USAID is carried out, the EU’s funding goes to partners that then use it to help the Venezuelan people. The partners of the EU include multiple U.N. agencies, international NGOs and the Red Cross. The partners of the EU provide the same type of assistance the USAID’s partners do. However, the EU notes that much of the supplies go to groups that are especially at risk. These groups include children that are under the age of 5, the elderly and the indigenous people of Venezuela. The EU also provided enough aid for 500,000 Venezuelan people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The monetary support of the EU continues to help in providing vital relief to Venezuela.

NGOs Assisting Venezuela

Other small NGOs in Venezuela are trying to provide help to Venezuelans as well. Fundación Madre Luisa Casar, for example, has secured multiple donations to provide support to the Jenaro Aguirre Elorriaga School that is located in the slum called Barrio 24 de Marzo. Its goal is to make sure that the children are provided the education and human rights they need.

Hogar Bambi Venezuela also helps children under 18 who are unable to live with their families due to abuse, mistreatment or economic difficulties. These two NGOs are just a few of many that are making vital relief in Venezuela possible.

With all the humanitarian aid coming in to provide vital relief to Venezuela, it is hopeful that the country will soon be on its way to recovery.

– Jacob. E. Lee
>Photo: Flickr

European Union in the DRC
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the largest Sub-Saharan country and has the fourth largest population in Africa. Throughout the years, the DRC has been faced with a combination of local, national, and regional tensions. Those tensions were the result of violent conflicts to mass migrations, militias, and profound poverty. These issues have ultimately limited the opportunities for achieving peace and stability in the country. One of the most consistent efforts to improve the country’s conditions comes from the work of the European Union in the DRC.

History of Financial Aid

The history of the European Union in the DRC starts with the first European Development Fund (EDF) of 1958-59. After a ten-year suspension, the cooperation dynamics have been increasing exponentially. For instance, in January of 2002, the National Indicative Program (NIP) was signed under the 8th EDF with a value of 120 million Euros, while the number increased to 205 million Euros the following year.

Between 2001 and 2003, the DRC received a total of 1,868 million Euros from the EU, making the country one of the bloc’s main aid recipients. Most of the money was destined for development efforts (72%), followed by humanitarian aid and cooperation in the areas of politics and security (23.5% and 4.5% respectively).

The EU institutions persistently rank within the three top donors, together with the United States and the United Kingdom, in humanitarian aid for the DRC. Moreover, ECHO Flight is the European Union in the DRC provision for humanitarian air service, especially directed to remote areas lacking a proper road infrastructure.

Ongoing Work

Currently, under the 11th EDF National Initiative Program, the work of the European Union in the DRC designates 620 million Euros for the period of 2014 to 2020 to fund the following sectors:

  1. Health: assisting the Congolese government in the development of a health system that is accessible, efficient, and of good quality

  2. Environment and sustainable agriculture: financing conservation efforts and development through electric accessibility and sustainable agriculture

  3. Governance and rule of law: strengthening policy reforms in spheres such as defense, justice, and security

  4. Transport: contributing to the completion of the key transportation axis, which is a national road of a 150km

The EU has also undertaken three civilian missions and two military ones. This makes the DRC the country with the most Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) missions. The contributions of one of the military missions, EUFOR RD Congo (requested by the UN in 2006), were crucial for preventing the spread of violence on the eve of celebrating their first democratic elections in more than 40 years while ensuring a peaceful process. Civilian missions tend to focus on strengthening the DRC’s security forces and justice sector. These missions helped result in the creation of the Police Reform Monitoring Committee. They also assisted with the draft of the Congolese National Police’s framework of activities.

New Efforts

More recently, the EU agreed to contribute to policy reform initiatives with 60 million Euros. The aim of this funding is to increase civilians’ trust in the security forces and warranting the rule of law. Its four objectives are:

  • Enhancing the implementation of reforms and police accountability measures

  • Improving the professional level of the police and the criminal justice system

  • Improving human resource management

  • Activating and maintaining community security to restore public confidence

According to Jutta Urpilainen, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, “There can be no development and sustainable growth without a more peaceful environment. That is why the European Union is stepping up its support for security, peace, and stability in the DRC”.

Finally, the European Union is providing 19.5 million Euros of humanitarian aid to help the DRC in its fight against COVID-19. The DRC is the most impacted country in the region after Cameroon. The money will help improve access to healthcare and awareness-raising efforts. This will occur while the ECHO flights continue with their regular assistance, especially to those most vulnerable.

Helen Souki

Photo: Flickr

Tony Elumelu FoundationThe ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is affecting nations around the world, including the nations of Africa. Many African nations responded to the pandemic with strict lockdowns and social distancing initiatives, often stronger than that of European nations. However, the people of Africa face a much more severe economic impact. Although poverty reduction measures have been met with success across the continent, roughly 500 million Africans still live in extreme poverty. The sub-Saharan areas of Africa have the highest rates of poverty in the world, estimated at 55% in 2014. Foreign direct investment is down by 40% and 49 million more Africans could fall into extreme poverty in the world’s first global poverty increase since 1988. The Tony Elumelu Foundation hopes to reduce poverty in Africa through entrepreneurship.

The Tony Elumelu Foundation

A nonprofit operating since 2010, the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) fights global poverty in Africa through the funding of entrepreneurs and small enterprises, These are the very types of businesses that the pandemic impacted most, both across the world and in Africa. With an endowment of $100 million, the organization has already had significant success propagating what it terms “Africapitalism,” which is the use of the private sector for economic growth and development.

The EU Partnership

In December 2020, the European Union (EU) announced a formal partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation. The plan comes as part of two broader EU strategies: the EU External Investment Plan and the EU Gender Action Plan. It involves technical training and financial support for 2,500 female African entrepreneurs in 2021 across all 54 African countries through 20 million euros in increased capital. Speaking on the partnership, Tony Elumelu, the founder of the TEF, expressed delight in being able to partner with the EU and said the partnership will create great opportunities for African women who have “endured systemic obstacles to starting, growing and sustaining their businesses.” The Commissioner for EU International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, stated that empowering female entrepreneurs is an integral part of creating sustainable jobs and growth.

How Entrepreneurship Helps

In Central Africa, approximately 71% of jobs are in the informal sector. These jobs are particularly vulnerable to lockdowns. The strict measures put in place as responses to COVID-19 have left many of these people jobless. Entrepreneurship creates more stable jobs and allows a country to be more self-sufficient and can be just as effective as foreign or philanthropic aid in fighting poverty.

Even after the effects of the pandemic subside, Africa still has much to do to eradicate poverty. Fostering entrepreneurship is an innovative approach to this economic problem, one that the Tony Elumelu Foundation has seen significant results with, with more than 9,000 entrepreneurs mentored before the partnership with the EU. The full impact of these endeavors remains to be seen but the potential exists for African entrepreneurs to have a major impact on poverty in Africa. The TEF’s partnership with the EU will only intensify these positive impacts.

– Bradley Cisternino
Photo: Flickr

rice exportsPakistan and India are battling a rice war, as India is attempting to gain exclusive branding rights to export basmati rice to the EU. India’s trademark “geographic indication” for basmati rice has received approval from the EU and Pakistan has three months to respond to this claim or it will not be able to export basmati rice to the EU. Further implications of expanding geographic indication could compromise other markets for Pakistan, yet its response so far has been slow and inconsistent. The EU’s decision on basmati rice exports will influence each country’s economy, and with hundreds of millions of impoverished people between the two, there is much at stake.

The Value of Rice in Pakistan and India

The basmati rice industry is one that Pakistan heavily contributes to and relies on. Pakistan contributes to 35% of global basmati rice exports and its trade to the EU has grown from 120,000 tons in 2017 to 300,000 tons in 2019. A whole 40% of Pakistan’s workers work in agriculture, with rice accounting for 20% of agricultural land.

India exported 4.4 million tons of basmati rice between 2019 and 2020, which made up 65% of global basmati rice exports.

Rice Yield Challenges

Despite rice production increasing due to new practices, rice yields in both Pakistan and India are lower than the global average. Growing challenges such as drastic climate change can negatively influence annual rice production. Experts conclude that improving irrigation facilities and increasing the use of new technology will allow the countries to effectively expand their rice yields.

Population Growth & Economic Contraction

Already the fifth most populous nation in the world, projections have determined that Pakistan will grow from 220 million to 345 million by 2045. As its population continues to grow, its economy must grow at least 7% to prevent unemployment. However, in 2019, the economy contracted from 5.5% to 1.9% and the COVID-19 crisis further exacerbated this shrinkage. Unemployment has increased each year since 2014 and currently sits between 4% and 5%. It is imperative that Pakistan jumpstarts its economy or unemployment and poverty will spread.

Poverty in South Asia

Pakistan made great strides in reducing poverty in the early 2000s but has since stalled under more recent governments. By 2015, roughly one in four people, or 50 million Pakistanis, lived under the poverty line. Furthermore, there remains little opportunity for economic improvement.

India also has few opportunities for the poor to improve their lives as it placed 76 out of 82 countries in terms of social mobility. The lack of social mobility means that most people who are born poor will die poor, with minimal chances to jump to a higher social class. India also suffers from severe social inequality and a lack of growth in rural areas. A whole 364 million out of 1.3 billion, or 28% of the world’s poor live in India. However, globalization has allowed India to bring 270 million people out of poverty between 2005 and 2015. Consequently, since 1990, the life expectancy has increased by 11 years, schooling years have increased by three years and India has increased its human development index to above the medium average.

Malnutrition Causes Infant Mortality

Pakistan has an alarmingly high infant mortality rate of 55 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is twice that of India’s. A multitude of factors causes this, most notably, the malnutrition of mothers and their infants. Although wheat and rice are produced in abundant quantities, 44% of children under 5 suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. The problem is not whether food is available but it is that food is not accessible for the poor.

Rice as a Key Export

In Pakistan, rice provides value both nutritionally and economically. Rice accounts for 1.4% of the GDP and the traditional basmati rice makes up 0.6% of the GDP. However, most rice is sold as an export and is not used to feed hungry mouths domestically. In 2019, Pakistan exported $2.17 billion worth of rice, of which $790 million was basmati, a 25% increase from 2018.

A whole 90% of the rice grown in India is consumed domestically. Boasting the second-largest population in the world of 1.3 billion people, India accounts for 22% of global rice production but has many more people to feed than Pakistan. India is projected to produce 120 million tons of rice between 2020 and 2021.

Basmati rice exports generate massive profit for each country, If one country were to gain an advantage over the market, it would create enormous value for the winner and dire consequences for the loser. The winner would stand to gain economically and competitively as a result of increased production and profits. Additionally, increased demand for agricultural workers and production in rural areas would create revenue in historically impoverished areas.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Croatia is a country in Eastern Europe, part of the former Yugoslavia. It gained independence in 1991 after the Homeland War. As a result, the country struggles with poverty. It joined NATO in 2009 and the European Union (EU) in 2013, helping it advance as a country. In 2008, there was an abrupt economic slowdown that lasted into 2014, which plunged many into poverty. Now, poverty in Croatia is one of its biggest problems.

Croatia’s Economy

Croatia has high poverty rates. In 2015, an estimated 19.5% of the population was below the poverty line. Further, 15% of people were unable to even afford basic necessities, such as food, shelter and water. Poverty in Croatia increased when it left Yugoslavia during the Homeland War, changing from a communist to a free-market country.

Unemployment rates in Croatia are also high. The average unemployment rate is 12.4% (2017 estimate), which ranks Croatia 164 in the world. For youth, the unemployment rate is 23.7%. This is largely due to a lack of qualifications for jobs. Skilled professionals have moved to work elsewhere in the EU, and those remaining do not have the qualifications for the jobs that need filling.

Living in Poverty

Poverty is influenced by geography due to uneven developments throughout different regions. Small towns and other rural areas in the east and southeast, primarily near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, are the poorest areas in Croatia. There is a 5.9% poverty rate in cities, while there is up to a 34.3% poverty rate in small towns and rural areas.

Similar to the discrepancy between urban and country is the disparity between the rich and the poor. The previous government did not allow such imbalances to occur. However, those in government positions received favored treatment. As Croatia recovered from war in its new free-market system, the status of those who were previously disadvantaged worsened. After Croatia became independent, the rich received advantages while the poor received disadvantages. This created a large gap between the poor and rich. It was estimated in 2015 that the poorest 10% of households in Croatia earn only 2.7% of all income, while the richest 10% earned 23%.

Some groups are more likely to live in poverty than others. Older people, single-person households and single-parent households, large families of four or more people, children lacking parental care, people with lower education, war veterans, victims of war and their families, displaced people and ethnic minorities are most likely to live in poverty in Croatia.

Additionally, retired people are also more likely to live in poverty. Retired people are one-fifth of Croatia’s population. As a result, pension is becoming overburdened, and people on pensions are not given enough money to live. Those on pension receive less than 50% of the average Croatian salary.

Working Towards a Better Future

Croatia is working on alleviating poverty. Croatia is participating in the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy. The strategy aims to create sustainable and inclusive growth in the economy and employment while also reducing poverty and improving education. Because of regional disparities, Croatia is implementing a regional-based version of this strategy.

As a result, Croatia’s employment rate has improved from 60.6% of the population to 66.7% in last five years. This figure even includes those who wish not to work. Also, the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion has gone down from 29.1% of the population to 23.3%.

After its economic slowdown in 2008, Croatia struggled with an increase in poverty. While it has the highest poverty rate in its region, Croatia is working to address this problem. The country strives to decrease the gap between rural and urban areas as well as the divide between different social groups.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

Dairy Production in Africa
Dairy production in Africa plays a central role in the region’s economic and sustainable development. It contributes to food security, combats malnutrition and reduces poverty in the region. Dairy production in Africa has also created rural employment (nearly 80% of the African population resides in the countryside), and increased the economic potential of pastoral areas. Experts even expect strong production growth in the region due to an abundance of cows, goats and sheep.

Local Milk Production

Local milk production in West Africa has already risen by 50% between 2000 and 2016 to about 4 billion liters in 2019. Producing and selling milk provides an important source of income for locals. Around 48 million nomadic herders and agro-pastoralists participate in the milk sector, while others work in the trading and transportation of products. Additionally, the sector produces jobs in processing and marketing.

Despite substantial growth in recent years, the dairy sector in Africa faces major drawbacks such as high production costs and low yields. This is due to the lack of infrastructure and appropriate equipment in the production process. Another factor is the low-grade feed that affects animal health.

Local production does not yet have the capacity to meet 100% of demands in the sector. Only 50% of consumption comes from local production, and imported milk powder helps meet the remaining needs. On top of existing internal constraints, dairy production in Africa has to compete with cheap milk-based products imported from the European Union (E.U.). These foreign products continue to increase in quantity and threaten to overtake the African market.

Impact of Fat-Filled Milk Powder Imports

In 2018, the European Union exported 92,620 tons of milk powder to West Africa and 276,982 tons of fat-filled milk powder. That is an increase of 234% since 2008. Fat-filled milk mixtures comprise of milk constituents and vegetable oils, such as palm oil, enrich them. This milk derivative sells for 30% cheaper than whole milk powder in African markets, generating unfair competition for African dairy farmers.

For instance, in Burkina Faso, 1 liter of pasteurized local milk costs 91 cents in comparison to only 34 cents for milk made from E.U.-imported powder mixtures. Since competition is almost impossible, local livestock farmers suffer huge financial losses as imports increase. “I’ve tried selling my milk, but most of the time it goes to waste and ends up being poured away,” said Hamidou Bande, the president of Burkina Faso’s National Herders’ Union.

Furthermore, experts say that the milk lookalike does not contain the same nutritional value as whole milk with regards to its fatty acids, minerals and vitamin content. Locals are concerned about the health impact the milk import could have on their community. “It’s a milk that is flooding our schools and is very unhealthy for our children,” said Sommanogo Koutou, Burkina Faso’s minister of animal resources. Nevertheless, these products sell at wide availability because of their large consumer base, who have less purchasing power and thus prefer the cheaper option.

Change is Forthcoming

Members of the E.U., West African governments and private companies have all taken actions to support the local dairy market.

Vétérinaires Sans Frontières is a Belgian NGO supporting agriculture and breeding in eight African countries. It has involved itself in helping farmers improve all stages of production including livestock feed, herd health and animal hygiene, milk collection and processing as well as marketing for their products.

Fairebel, a Belgian milk brand, created the “advocacy brand” Fairefaso. It has partnered with local milk producers in Burkina Faso to support small-scale local farmers by helping them maximize sales and profits.

ECOWAS, short for the Economic Community of West African States, has launched the Regional Offensive for the Promotion of Local Milk. It aims to increase the production and collection of fresh milk.

With cooperation from European producers and institutional support, change is forthcoming for African livestock keepers and farmers. With increased funding and new import regulations, projections have determined that dairy production in Africa will continue growing to meet the needs of the local communities and beyond.

Alice Nguyen
Photo: Flickr

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

Healthcare in LatviaLatvia is a small country in the Baltic region with a population of fewer than 2 million people. The republic was under Soviet control from 1940 until it gained its independence in 1991. Latvia has made noticeable progress increasing its life expectancy rate at birth over the last few decades from 70.2 years in 2000 to 74.8 years in 2015. However, the country is currently undergoing major demographic shifts. While its birth rate is decreasing, its death rate is high, ranked fourth in the world. In addition to various public health threats, the healthcare system in Latvia is grappling with significant challenges that affect its efficiency and quality. Here are five things to know about Healthcare in Latvia

5 Things to Know About Healthcare in Latvia

  1. Several indicators show that the public health profile in Latvia is relatively weak in relation to comparable countries. For instance, the country’s life expectancy in 2015 was the third-lowest among EU countries. In the same year, Latvia had the highest notification rate of Hepatitis C in the EU. In 2014, adult obesity levels were at 21%, placing Latvia third among EU countries.
  2. Latvia spends less than similar countries on healthcare. In 2015, the country spent only 5.8% of its GDP, equal to €1,071 per capita. This falls considerably below the EU average of 9.9%. These statistics showcase the lingering challenges of the country’s underfunded healthcare system. Physician and hospital bed density rates also provide clarity in this respect. In 2017, Latvia had 3.19 physicians and 5.6 beds per 1,000 people.
  3. Obesity, smoking and heavy drinking are major poor health trends in Latvia. In 2015, the average Latvian adult consumed 10.8 liters of alcohol. Furthermore, 20% of adults in the country heavily consume alcohol regularly, with men being the greater consumers than women. In addition, one in four adults in the country smoked daily in 2014. This is a higher percentage than the EU average of 21%.
  4. Healthcare in Lativa has undergone many reforms since the country gained independence in 1991. In 2011, the country created a National Health Service (NHS)-type system. The NHS controls the implementation of healthcare policies, while the Ministry of Health develops policies and oversees the system. Though all citizens receive coverage through the system, patients still have to pay for user charges and other significant out-of-pocket costs. In 2014, Latvia ranked second among EU nations in its household out-of-pocket expenses to health expenditures ratio, which was 39%.
  5. A Latvian individual’s likelihood of exposure to poor health outcomes depends on his social and economic status. For instance, according to the European Health Interview Survey, more than 3% of Latvians have asthma. People from lower-education and lower-income backgrounds are the most susceptible group. Inequalities also emerge with regard to perceptions of health among Latvians. Approximately one-third of Latvians from low-income backgrounds claim to be in good health, in contrast to two-thirds from high-income backgrounds. Similarly, access to healthcare varies depending on location. Those living in rural areas may face greater difficulty accessing health services owing to shortages of medical professionals in these areas.

Based on these facts, it is clear that healthcare in Latvia needs critical adjustments in order to improve the country’s health profile. Not only is Latvia’s spending on this sector very low compared to other EU nations, but problems like obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption signal an urgent need for improvement. Ensuring equal access is also an important goal for the country to strive toward.

Oumaima Jaayfer
Photo: Pxfuel

Migrant Crisis
The migrant crisis in Italy is prevalent; Italy receives more asylum seekers per year than any other European country. Since 2017, over 192,000 individuals have sought refuge in Italy by crossing the Mediterranean in informal vessels and ships organized and manned by non-governmental organizations. Many migrants who make the perilous journey from the coast of North Africa to Italy land at the small island of Lampedusa, the southernmost area of Italian territory, located just 70 miles from the coast of Tunisia.

At the peak of the crisis, hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Afghanis and Libyans crossed into Europe to seek asylum. However, Italy’s strategic location near the coasts of Tunisia and Libya led to a continuous increase in attempted landings. These two locations are common debarkation points for Middle Eastern and North African migrants. According to Reuters, from August 2019 to July 2020, over 21,000 individuals successfully reached Italy’s southern shores. These figures represent an increase of 148% from the previous year.

Additionally, E.U. regulations regarding the resettlement of asylum seekers place high financial and administrative burdens on Italy. The 1990 Dublin Regulation is a law for E.U. member states which forces migrants coming to the European Union to make their application for asylum in the first country where they arrived. This legislation disproportionately affected the Italian government in comparison with its northern European neighbors.

Migrants and the 2018 Elections

The E.U.’s perceived ambivalence towards Italy’s economic burden and the peak of the European migrant crisis in 2017 created tension. These factors created a perfect storm for the victory of right-wing political leader Matteo Salvini and his Lega party. Salvini’s message on the campaign trail, that of blocking migrant arrivals in Italy and a renegotiation of ties to the European government in Brussels, struck a tone with many dissatisfied Italian voters in the north of the country where anti-immigrant sentiments remain common.

As minister of the interior, Salvini fulfilled his electoral promise, continuing his hardline position regarding the migrant crisis in Italy. During his tenure, the Lega leader utilized Italy’s military vessels to prevent ships carrying migrants from docking in the country’s ports and cut off funding for social programs that provide vital assistance and resources for newly arrived asylum seekers.

Looking Forward

The Lega-led government collapsed in 2019. The liberal government that succeeded it altered the dynamics of the Italian government’s role in the migrant crisis. Salvini heavily criticized the E.U. government for its laissez-faire approach to Italy’s economic and organizational woes during the migrant crisis. In contrast, the current Italian government is much more open to collaboration with Brussels. An agreement reached at the end of 2019 between Italy, Germany and France allowed for the relocation of migrants rescued at sea throughout the E.U., thus moving away from the controversial Dublin Regulation.

Even under the new liberal government in Rome, deportations of recently arrived migrants have continued into the present. However, the current national policy regarding asylum seekers differs from the issue’s handling under Salvini; instead of directly blocking migrant vessels and NGOs from docking in Italian ports, the government is directly lobbying with Tunisia to incentivize the North African country to control illegal migration from its borders by threatening cuts to development aid.

The economic and social catastrophe of the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the new Tunisian policy and continued deportations. The country faced an administrative breakdown during the spring and found a need to centralize government resources towards the virus. These factors led to the closure of numerous refugee facilities in southern Italy. Furthermore, the new liberal government had, for the first time, deployed military ships to stop migrants from Tunisia in order to maintain Italy’s national quarantine.

Although the country has policies in place to ensure all incoming asylum seekers are quarantined before entry, the fear of new cases being brought into the country as well as additional stress on an already damaged economy may lead to increased support for Salvini’s policies in the future.

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

One important organization lobbying for the rights of migrants seeking refuge in Italy and the E.U. is the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC primarily assists in the safe movement of asylum seekers. It organizes funding for secure ships and professional sailors to transport migrants across the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the IRC was instrumental in the development of Refugee.Info. This online site serves as an informational tool on how to apply for asylum. It also details statistics regarding the issue of migrants in Italy. Lastly, the IRC provides mental and physical health services for newly arrived migrants in the collection facilities in southern Italy. Though COVID-19 has posed many challenges to the migrant crisis in Italy, there are organizations making a difference.

Jason Beck
Photo: Wikimedia