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

Global MarketAfter ten years of negotiation, the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) came into action on August 1, 2020. The deal will reduce tariffs by 99% over the next 10 years and will provide relief from the economic drops caused by COVID-19. The market contains over 500 million individuals and is valued at 18 trillion USD. The trade relationship will enable Vietnam to compete in the global market better, especially against markets like Japan and South Korea. Currently, out of all of the countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Vietnam is the European Union’s (EU) second-largest trade partner behind Singapore. Compared to its regional rivals of Indonesia and Thailand, Vietnam has a stronger trade relationship and involvement in the global market.

Vietnam and the EU Ties

For exports, Vietnam relies on the EU as its largest partner. Vietnam’s exports to the EU are larger than any other ASEAN country. A World Bank study found that from 2001 to 2018, Vietnam’s exports to the EU have grown annually at an average rate of 16%, gaining it a trade surplus over the EU. According to the European Commission, these exports are mostly textiles and clothing, agriculture products like coffee, rice, seafood, electronic products, telephone sets and more.

As the agreement is implemented, both countries could see a rise in GDP and new job opportunities, amongst other positive effects. More immediately, Vietnam’s GDP will increase by 2.18-3.25%, said the Ministry of Planning and Investment. Unlike most countries, Vietnam will see positive economic growth this year – estimated to be up by 4.8%, according to a study by the World Bank. In 2030, Vietnam will see a 6.8% growth in its GDP.

Both countries will have large growths in their exports. The EU could see a $16.9 billion per year increase in exports by 2025. Vietnam is expected to increase exports by 42.7% in the first five years of the deal, mostly in farm produce, manufacturing and services. Additional domestic reforms by Vietnam could raise productivity and further increase GDP by 6.8% in the next 10 years.

Vietnam’s Participation in Global Value Chains

As Vietnam increases trade with other countries through agreements, it will become more involved in the global market. Further globalization will also push Vietnam to participate more in global value chains (GVCs), shifting away from the manufacturing market from China. The bilateral treaty signed between Vietnam and the EU will also ensure that electronics and electrical equipment (a large portion of current imports) comes to Vietnam exclusively from the EU.

Due to this shift, the EU has increased its foreign direct investment in Vietnam. The EU already was the largest foreign investor in Vietnam, with a total of 6.1 billion euros endowed as of 2017, mostly into processing and manufacturing. This investment will go towards new jobs and increased productivity by reducing the number of imports to Vietnam and shifting towards in-house production for higher gains.

To be eligible to avoid tariffs, Vietnamese products must not contain imports from other countries. In addition, agriculture must meet requirements for sanitation, meaning farmers will have to refine their growth system. The deal places especially tight regulations on the quality of agricultural and manufactured products shipped by Vietnam, pushing technological developments in order to avoid drops in efficiency.

Poverty Reduction

Over the past two decades, Vietnam has made steady progress in reducing extreme poverty. From 1992 to 2018, Vietnam’s GDP per capita increased by more than four times, pulling extreme poverty rates from 52.9% down to 2% of the population. EVFTA will continue this trend. A World Bank Study found that EVFTA is expected to reduce extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day) by 0.1-0.8 million people by 2030, 0.7% more than the poverty-reduction rate without the agreement. Overall, this will amount to an 11.9% decrease. In addition, poverty at $3.20 per day is expected to reduce from 8% to 3.5%.

Vietnam has now broadened its poverty baseline from $1.90 to $5.50. From 2016 to 2030, developments caused by EVFTA will influence this poverty rate to drop from 29% to 12.6%, allowing Vietnam to achieve upper-middle-class status. In addition, the income gap between genders will be decreased by 0.15 percent. This difference affects low-income families the most, as they are traditionally involved in manual labor jobs where this is most prevalently seen.

This agreement will open up new territories for both the EU and Vietnam to expand into. Vietnam’s primarily agricultural economy might see large shifts into one of manufacturing and processing. This agreement is a stepping stone for Vietnam’s involvement in the global market, and it might be a sign of large changes to come.

Nitya Marimuthu
Photo: Pixabay

Andorra Struggles With COVID-19 ResponseAndorra, one of Europe’s smallest and oldest countries, does not boast full European Union membership. Instead, sandwiched between Spain and France’s 11,000 foot high Pyrenees borders, Andorra relies on integrating relations with the two countries. Yet, as Andorra’s economy and demographics differ greatly from most of the European Union, Andorra has a unique agreement with the body of countries. Unfortunately, lacking full E.U. membership and the benefits this includes, Andorra has faced struggles with their COVID-19 response.

A Unique Agreement With the European Union

As evidenced by the recent Brexit controversy, E.U. membership comes with positive and negative aspects. Entry challenges proved a significant hurdle for Andorra; therefore, it initially did not join the union. Only after the 2008 recession did Andorra arrange a special agreement with the European Union, like other European micro-states.

Due to tourism, the country’s main economic draw, and Andorra’s location on a map, some economic realities have been unavoidable. After 2008, Andorra began using the Euro and entered trade agreements slashing tariffs. However, unlike the rest of Europe, Andorra continued to restrict individual taxes. This branded the small country as a hot spot for tax evasion. This caveat kept Andorra afloat but alienated the country from the rest of Europe. Due to international pressure in 2011, the country began moving towards international tax standards.

Even though it lacks full European Union membership, Andorra still retains membership in the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Does Andorra qualify for European Union aid?

Full European Union member countries qualify for aid programs. The European Union, like most international institutions, provided large amounts of COVID-19 aid–37 billion Euros in the initial program to be exact. Individual countries qualify for an additional 100 billion from the E.U. for employment assistance.

However, Andorra’s partial membership benefits to the European Union are limited to:

  1. The customs union, which is a group of countries that have agreed to charge the same import duties as each other and allow free trade between themselves.
  2. Tariff exemption to void taxes imposed by a government on goods and services imported from countries outside of the European Union.
  3. Euro use for stable and standardized currency.
  4. Access to name and tax databases.

COVID-19 in Andorra

As Andorra’s place in the European Union is unclear, so is its ability to receive COVID-19 aid. It appears that Andorra cannot and has not accessed any European Union COVID-19 aid. As neighboring Spain and France have done, Andorra implemented specific travel limitations. Uniquely, its rules included odd and even-numbered homes taking turns with short exercise periods.

Poverty in Andorra

The tough situation created by COVID-19 shutdowns and the ambiguous nature of Andorra’s relationship with the European Union have left the country exposed to further poverty. Unlike countries with widespread extreme poverty, Andorra’s poverty is specific to immigrant labor unemployment during tourism lulls and the housing crisis. Both of which, when paired with COVID-19, have the potential to drastically increase Andorra’s 4% poverty rate.

As of now, Andorra continues to encounter additional struggles with their COVID-19 response. As the post-2008 trend of strengthening relationships between Andorra and the E.U. continues, more poverty prevention aid will hopefully find its way to this small, land-locked country.

– Rory Davis
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in the NetherlandsThe Netherlands had the fifth lowest poverty rate in the world in 2019 at 13%, with an excepted decrease down to only 7% by the end of 2020. The Dutch maintain a high standard of living. They also maintain a low unemployment rate with the sixth largest economy in the European Union. There is a relatively high standard of living and a low poverty rate. However, the Dutch continue to face hurdles of social exclusion in efforts to combat poverty. Poverty rates are lower in the Netherlands than in many surrounding nations. Nonetheless, well over one million Dutch citizens are still living below the poverty line. The National Reform Programme, discussed below, outlines some of the ways the Dutch have worked toward poverty eradication in the Netherlands.

Tax Breaks to Benefit Education and Innovation

Each year, the Netherlands releases a National Reform Programme that reports on the state of the economy, the budget, future changes and reforms. Included in the 2019 program is the plan to reduce tax burden on citizens and small businesses while increasing taxes on large corporations. All of this is in addition to creating additional investments in the public sector. This plan intends to strengthen households and the Dutch economy as a whole with specific attention to fostering innovation and promoting entrepreneurship. In addition to tax cuts for citizens, the program proposes an increased investment in research of €400 million. The investment works to expand innovation, strengthen the economy and move toward poverty eradication in the Netherlands. Much of the investment will benefit research specifically through the education system.

Housing Inequality

Despite relatively low poverty levels in the Netherlands, social exclusion pervades many Dutch communities since it excludes them from participating in various associations. Not only are these associations economic but they also have to do health, welfare and education. This phenomenon leads to a deficient citizenship when citizens are unable to fully enjoy the rights and privileges the majority of the country has access to. This issue pervades the housing market in the Netherlands as the wealthy country sees continuous rises in housing prices that alienate low-income populations.

In order to combat this, the National Reform Programme lays out measures to ensure accessible, affordable and stable housing. Creating equal housing opportunities is essential to poverty eradication in the Netherlands. This program is underlined by a mortgage debt repayment plan that aims to incentivize paying off mortgages through interest deductions of 3 percentage points per year. It begins this year and plans on reaching a maximum of 37%. Additionally, the government plans to incentivize the accelerated construction of new homes as the housing supply is scarce.

Refugee Crisis

Many of those living in poverty in the Netherlands are asylum seekers, often from the war-torn region of Syria. The Dutch government is working to support the refugee population in the Netherlands. They suffer from much higher levels of poverty than their nationals. In order to do this, it has committed to creating special programs. These programs will ensure the safe reception of asylum seekers as poverty eradication in the Netherlands stars abroad. Internationally, the Netherlands supports education programs for refugee children. It supports housing opportunities for refugees in countries in their region of origin. It supports other rights protection programs as well.

Additionally, the Netherlands encourages businesses to hire from refugee populations. It also offers additional support to startups that benefit asylum-seeking populations. Further plans for assisting refugees and other vulnerable populations within the nation are laid out in the National Reform Programme. Investment and individualized support will be offered through pathway guidance and job training to aid these populations in their participation in the labor market and to increase financial freedom.

Jazmin Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

Macedonia's Housing Crisis
Macedonia’s housing crisis requires swift attention. In 2018, about 21.9% of the country’s population was living below the poverty line. With a population of 2,082,957 in 2018, more than 456,000 people living in Macedonia were experiencing poverty that year. Furthermore, Macedonia saw an unemployment rate of 17.76% in 2019, a rate which is more than double the national average of 7.04%. The collapse of state-run housing development organizations in Macedonia since its independence has led to about 15% of Macedonians living in “illegally constructed buildings.” This means that roughly 320,000 people living in Macedonia lack access to adequate housing.

Invisible Homeless

The unauthorized housing that many people in Macedonia must live in bars thousands from access to important social systems and tools. Since Macedonians require an official home address to obtain a legal ID, the state effectively renders many of them nonexistent. This prevents these people from utilizing such essential services as insurance, social safety nets and immunization services.

Macedonia’s housing crisis is also a health crisis. Without adequate housing, hundreds of thousands of Macedonians are at risk of injury and disease due to hazardous living conditions. In 2018, fewer than a third of Macedonians had thermal insulation systems in their places of residence. Inadequate heating and insulation in buildings have forced thousands of people living in Macedonia to use homemade fires to keep warm since they cannot afford the expensive heating bills otherwise necessary to heat their homes. In the capital city of Skopje, roughly “two-thirds of households use firewood as their primary source of heating,” according to the Financial Times. Without proper air circulation, this can lead to severe chronic health conditions such as heart and lung disease due to inhalation of the hazardous particles which such fires produce.

Habitat for Humanity and Roma SOS

While Macedonia’s housing crisis is a daunting problem, some are doing significant work to improve housing in impoverished Macedonian communities. Despite being an attractive country for foreign investment due to its low tax rates and free economic zones, Macedonia still has one of the lowest foreign investment rates among European countries. This can make it harder for the government to provide solutions.

A Macedonian-based organization called Roma SOS is working to improve the living conditions of those experiencing the most need in Macedonia. The organization is currently working with Habitat for Humanity to provide impoverished Macedonians with zero-interest loans for legalizing and renovating their homes. While Habitat for Humanity provides the funding for these loans, Roma SOS helps residents in navigating the legal process of receiving approval for their loans.

Since 2004, Habitat for Humanity has worked to improve affordable housing for the people of Macedonia, and in 2019 it served 4,245 individuals “through market development.” Habitat for Humanity has further worked to provide individuals in Macedonia with housing that is not only affordable but also energy efficient. Since beginning this project in 2010, it has worked to restructure more than 60 buildings to improve energy efficiency, which has saved Macedonia more than 7,910 MWh of energy usage annually. The loans that Habitat for Humanity provides are essential for giving impoverished people in Macedonia access to better housing. With these loans, Habitat for Humanity has made heating safer and more affordable for more than 1,000 families living in Macedonia.

On the Path to EU Membership

Macedonia’s government also appears to be taking steps towards increased funding for improved housing. Macedonia has recently signed a deal with Greece and is currently on its way to becoming a member of the E.U. By joining the E.U., Macedonia would see an increase in foreign investment and would be able to apply for crisis aid packages to help improve housing in its impoverished communities.

The country’s housing situation may look bleak, but there is significant work occurring to address Macedonia’s housing crisis by improving the country’s economic situation. Several organizations, both outside of Macedonia and within it, are providing poor Macedonian populations access to safe, legal housing. With Macedonia moving towards E.U. membership and its accompanying economic support, there is hope for thousands of people in Macedonia whose living conditions formerly seemed hopeless.

Marshall Kirk
Photo: Pixabay

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

Healthcare in SpainSpain is a beautiful country with exquisite landscapes and a rich culture. This country is known for its delicious, elaborate dishes such as paella. Healthcare is usually not the first thing that comes to mind when typically thinking about Spain but it definitely should be. Spain is world-renowned for its amazing healthcare coverage and for the way the Spanish citizens are usually able to stay healthy throughout their life.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Spain

  1. Spain is the healthiest country in the world. In 2019, the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index evaluated and ranked over 150 nations based on their life expectancy, environmental factors (ex: access to fresh, clean water) and health risks (ex: obesity). This study gave Spain a grade of 92.75 based on the aforementioned criteria and ranked the Iberian country first out of the listed countries.
  2.  Spain has a free, public healthcare system. Spain’s healthcare system is financed by taxes which means that residents have access to free or very low-cost healthcare, provided they pay for social security. According to HealthManagement.org, 99.7% of the Spanish population takes advantage of the public healthcare system, and only 3% of the population decides to go with the private sector. This is indicative of the Spanish healthcare system’s high quality, as the vast majority of the country decides to be covered by it.
  3. Cancer and circulatory system diseases are among the most common causes of death in Spain. The data found at statistica.com attests that “diseases related to the circulatory system and neoplasms (cancer) ranked as the main causes of death, both with over 100 thousand cases in 2017.” In addition to this, Spaniards also suffer from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
  4. Mental health is taken very seriously in Spain. Taking care of one’s mental health has become a major topic recently, but Spain has always valued the mental health of its citizens. Spain started to realize the importance of mental health in 2006 and has since worked to assist Spaniards with that issue. Spain offers amenities and services including free prescription drugs and has dedicated a portion of its health budget to mental health. For example, according to the WHO, Spain dedicated 5% of its total healthcare budget (6 million euros) to mental health expenditures in the year 2011.
  5. Child healthcare in Spain is taken equally seriously. Along with Spain’s amazing healthcare coverage for adults, this country also offers equally superb healthcare opportunities to children. According to expatica.com, “the healthcare offered to children in Spain includes prenatal and postnatal care, pediatric care up until age 15 (and standard care from a general practitioner afterwards), free vaccinations until age 14, dental care until age 15, access to 23 different types of speciality practitioners, prolonged benefits for children with physical or mental disabilities and free emergency services”.  Evidently, children are taken care of very well in Spain and have access to many amenities and medical opportunities throughout their entire life.

Spain is a country that is home to beautiful landscapes, exquisite cuisine, wonderful people and an amazing healthcare system! It truly earns its spot as one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Spain is a great place to live if someone is looking for a free healthcare system that fully covers all aspects of the medical field.

Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr