Demining Zimbabwe's National ParkLocated in southeast Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park is home to 11,000 African elephants, which is how it earned its name as the “Place of Elephants.” Unfortunately, it is also the site of thousands of buried landmines. These landmines were placed by the Rhodesian army during Zimbabwe’s Liberation War and have remained there for more than 40 years. Although there have been efforts to remove these mines, they continue to be a constant threat to the people of Zimbabwe and local wildlife. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park will have several benefits for the country.

APOPO: Demining Efforts

The United States has provided a grant of $750,000 to the nonprofit APOPO to demine the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, where a large portion of the undetonated landmines reside. The Sengwe Wildlife Corridor covers a stretch of land that connects the park to South Africa and is used regularly by migrating elephants.

The area that APOPO has been designated to work is one of the largest in the world: 37 kilometers lengthwise and 75 kilometers in width. With almost 6,000 landmines per kilometer, communities in the surrounding area are unable to access potential land for farming and endangered species are at constant risk.

The presence of the minefield prevents the elephant population of the park from migrating and potentially mixing with other elephant populations. This presents a long-term risk of limiting the already shrinking African elephant gene pool.

APOPO has established a five-year plan for demining Zimbabwe’s national park, expecting to remove all undetonated landmines from the area by 2025. It estimates that it will remove more than 15,000 landmines before the end of its operation in the corridor.

The nonprofit will be working in tandem with the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust to maintain that the process will not impede conservation goals for the park.

The project also complements USAID programs to support community-based natural resource management, provide climate-smart agricultural technologies and improve the value chain for communities to sell their products for a fair market price.

Poverty in Zimbabwe and COVID-19

Zimbabwe is currently facing severe economic hardships that have only worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 50% of Zimbabweans experienced food insecurity and 40% faced extreme poverty. This number is projected to increase as conditions worsen with the onset of the pandemic and severe droughts. Inflation in the country has been rampant, with prices of food increasing by 725%, resulting in a severe loss of purchasing power for the poor. The pandemic has impacted the already economically challenged country by decreasing trade and tourism.

Aiding Economic Recovery in Zimbabwe

The United States and APOPO hope that by clearing out the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, ecotourism in Zimbabwe will begin to thrive. As it stands currently, only 8,000 tourists on average visit Gonarezhou National Park compared to the 1.8 million tourists that visit the neighboring Kruger National Park of South Africa. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park means providing an extended opportunity for increased tourism in the struggling country. The efforts of APOPO, with the support of the United States, may be able to help economic recovery, reduce the impact of the pandemic and uplift communities that are battling poverty.

-Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

Wheat to SudanSudan’s position on the list of states that sponsor terrorism restricted their trades, imports and economy. However, with the recent removal, Sudan has already reaped the benefits of foreign aid from the United States. USAID approved a $20 million payment to the World Food Programme to provide a massive 65,000 metric ton shipment of wheat to Sudan.

Diplomacy Opens Doors

The $20 million shipment of wheat to Sudan is part of an $81 million commitment from the U.S. to help Sudan fight poverty and hunger. This contribution will bring its total aid for the fiscal year to over $400 million, making the U.S. the largest aid sponsor to Sudan.

Sudan’s removal from the list of states sponsoring terrorism was contingent on Sudan’s recognition of Israel as a nation.  After such recognition, Israel also sent a $5 million wheat shipment to Sudan.

Economic Lockdown Compounds Hunger Crisis

While Sudan has found recent diplomatic success, its plight as a nation remains dire. Nearly half of Sudanese people are in poverty, with 46% living under the poverty line as of 2018.

Roughly nine million people will need food assistance in 2020, up by 9% from 2019, as widespread poverty has been worsened by the effect of COVID-19 on the economy.

Further stress on already limited food resources comes from droughts, floods and conflict that has displaced nearly two million people, compounded with hosting one million refugees who need food assistance.

The rampant poverty in Sudan has led to extreme numbers of children suffering from hunger and malnutrition across the nation. The number of children facing emergency food insecurity levels doubled over the last year to 1.1 million. According to Save the Children’s country director in Sudan, Arshad Malik, “120 children are dying every day due to malnutrition.”  Overall, 9.6 million individuals in Sudan are food insecure as a result of lockdown restrictions, a weak economy, natural disasters and conflict.

USAID Contributes to Disaster Relief

Although the weak economy has waned further from job losses and food prices soaring from economic restrictions, food aid remains the first priority for Sudan and USAID. Additionally, Sudan has suffered from its worst floods in 100 years, which has caused massive destruction due to vast underdevelopment. USAID granted another $60 million in aid for Sudan to recover from flooding and fight waterborne diseases that can spread during floods.

Foreign Aid Essential to Development

Sudan’s new democracy undoubtedly faces short and long-term obstacles with regard to the country’s development and stability. Natural disasters, economic woes, poverty and hunger, cripple an already struggling nation. The shipment of wheat to Sudan from USAID is crucial for helping the people of Sudan meet their daily needs and alleviating hunger and poverty. Extending the olive branch of foreign aid creates interdependence between nations and encourages peace and prosperity. Bringing nations such as Sudan out of poverty creates a more secure, just and prosperous world.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Efficacy Through Conditionality
During a summit in 2005, the G8 nations committed to increasing aid for Africa from $25 billion to $50 billion a year by 2010. This was a great change in the trend from previous years when foreign aid was in decline. Often, disappointment related to the effectiveness of foreign aid had caused a decrease in donors’ commitments, but recent studies have tried to prove how they can improve foreign aid’s efficacy through conditionality.

Aid Conditionality as a Way to Improve Democracy

Foreign aid can influence democratic development through three methods: first, promoting democratic institutions and the balance of power, and empowering civil society organizations; second, strengthening channels that contribute to democracy, such as the income per capita and education; and third, conditionality.

Aid conditionality is “the use of pressure, by the donor, in terms of threatening to terminate aid or actually terminating or reducing it, if conditions are not met by the recipient.” Therefore, donors can perform aid conditionality in different ways:

  1. Potential donors can require the fulfillment of ex-ante conditions regarding the requirements of democracy, governance or human rights before coming to a formal agreement or forming a relationship with the country they have the intention of donating to.
  2. They can impose ex-post conditions in a contractual relationship or legal instrument that the donor country should fulfill.

Moreover, a positive and negative conditionality exists. A positive conditionality means that the aid provider can reduce, suspend or terminate the aid if the government does not follow the conditions, while a negative conditionality consists of provisions that the donor can give as rewards when the government fulfills the requirements.

Some have provided a general critique accusing negative conditionality as ineffective, because sanctions that countries can impose due to conditionality may affect the poor more rather than the government it is targeting. Moreover, the government of the recipient country may easily obtain alternative funding sources. In contrast, the application of positive conditionality does not often experience dispute.

When Can Aid Conditionality Work?

Some argue that the efficacy of aid conditionality relies on the democracy levels of the recipients. Since governments’ primary goal is to maintain power, in an environment of open political competition, they must spend the aid they receive to the level that it allows them to comply with donors’ conditions and also stay in power, whereas autocracies can stockpile as much aid as they receive while maintaining power.

The European Union, for instance, had set aid conditionality elements when it comes to its provision for sub-Saharan countries. After 1977’s Uganda crisis, the E.U. decided not to remain neutral in situations where there are massive violations of human rights and democracy. Therefore, it imposed human dignity as a precondition for the provision of aid and, consequently, human development. Moreover, in 1995, the E.U. decided to declare the respect of democratic principles, rule of law and good governance as essential elements and that it could withdraw aid disbursements if recipients did not comply with its parameters.

The Case of Niger

With the return to power of President Tadja after the coup d’etat of 1999, Niger was able to normalize its relationship with the European Union and have a relatively successful political situation from 2005 to 2009. During those years, the government’s opposition operated through the official channels and institutions and Niger experienced great levels of political and social stability.

Despite this, after President Tadja’s efforts to remain in power caused an escalation of the political and social tensions, the E.U.-led talks failed and the party in power began to harass the opposition and media. In 2009, the E.U. decided to withdraw its support, which the coup d’etat of 2010 later followed. The return to a democratically-elected government in 2011 led to the return of the support that the E.U. gave as aid disbursements and, therefore, the effective use of the donor’s ex-post aid conditionality that later contributed to Niger’s democracy development.

After the new political transition, Niger received a consistent rating as a democracy based on the Polity IV scale. Since then, the country’s political situation remains stable although tensions remain palpable. Now, although the country’s most recent president, Mahamadou Issoufou, has had authoritarian tendencies, he is willing to step down from power and allow a new transition of government.

The Utility of Aid Conditionality

Studies have shown foreign aid’s efficacy through conditionality regarding producing democracy development under certain situations. Regardless, donor countries and organizations should not be so quick to abandon these policies as they can positively impact a country’s social and political environment. Therefore, all donors must understand in depth the different ways aid conditionality could affect policy outcomes in recipient countries based on highly complex situations where donors give foreign aid.

– Helen Souki
Photo: Flickr

African AgribusinessesOn November 30, 2020, USAID announced a joint operation with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the IKEA Foundation to contribute $30 million to Aceli Africa to help bridge the financing gap experienced by many African agribusinesses. The grant is estimated to have a tremendous impact and will unlock $700 million in financing for up to 750 African agribusinesses in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Agri-SMEs Lack Financing

Much of Aceli Africa’s work focuses on a data-driven approach to incentivizing financial institutions to provide loans for small and medium-sized African agribusinesses or “agri-SMEs”, as Aceli Africa calls them.

According to Aceli Africa’s research, agri-SMEs represent a golden opportunity to solve hunger and poverty throughout Africa and help fulfill key U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as gender equality and climate action.

This is because smallholder farmers consist of both men and women and provide direct access to food sources that are responsibly raised in accordance with the needs of the local environment. Furthermore, the expansion of the agricultural sector in Africa is two to three times more effective in eliminating poverty than growth in any other sector.

Despite the great potential of African smallholder farms, banks are largely unwilling to loan them much-needed financing to power additional growth. Banks do not have the risk appetite for small farms in Africa due to price volatility, the seasonality of farming, pest invasions and a weak regulatory environment.

The result of this is an investment shortfall of $65 billion per year for agri-SMEs in Africa. Initiatives focused on microfinancing do not provide enough financial injection for agri-SMEs, which are larger than the microenterprises that are the usual recipients of microloans. Agri-SMEs are thus left out of financing. However, the work of Aceli Africa aims to change these circumstances.

Aceli Africa Incentivizes Banks to Loan to Agri-SMEs

To bridge this gap in financing, Aceli Africa partners with numerous organizations such as USAID, the IKEA Foundation, Feed the Future and the International Growth Center to incentivize banks to loan and provide technical assistance to agri-SMEs.

This is where the aforementioned $30 million contribution has the potential to positively impact agriculture and African agribusinesses. One of the incentive programs that Aceli Africa employs is to cover the losses of the first loan that a financial institution gives to an African agri-SME.

This works by depositing 2-8% of the loan’s value in a reserve account that the lender can access when losses are experienced. This boosts risk appetite among lenders and makes banks and other institutions more willing to invest in agri-SMEs in Africa.

Aceli Africa also provides technical assistance for financial management for African agri-SMEs through online tools and other in-person approaches to help smallholder farmers optimize growth using the loans they receive. These approaches have the potential to put U.S. taxpayer dollars to effective use by addressing poverty and hunger abroad.

United States Outreach is Key in Combatting Poverty

USAID’s decision to partner with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the IKEA Foundation to contribute to the work of Aceli Africa symbolizes the value and power of international partnership in the fight against global poverty. When the United States decides to lead on an issue, the rest of the world follows. Key international partnerships are essential for the United States to take the lead and garner international support to address key global issues.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Aid to AfghanistanThe period of 2018 to 2020 brought with it a series of difficulties for the people of Afghanistan, including droughts, floods and pandemics. A severe drought in 2018 impacted 95% of the country’s farmland and dried up crucial water sources. More than 250,000 people were displaced and at least 1.4 million civilians required emergency aid. Following the drought, 2019 had the opposite occurrence: heavy rainfall activated widespread flooding in nine provinces, impacting more than 112,000 people. These crises continue to be felt in 2020 as both old and new challenges exacerbate conditions for the poorest Afghans. Countries all over the world are pledging to provide aid to Afghanistan.

Conditions Affecting Afghanistan

  • COVID-19: In November 2020, Afghanistan documented 44,133 coronavirus cases and 1,650 fatalities. The socio-economic impacts have been extensive. Average household debt rose by 36,486 AFS (US$474) and the poverty level increased from 54% to 70%. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s economy is predicted to contract by at least 5.5% due to the 2020 impact of COVID-19.
  • Displacement: Nearly 286,000 Afghans at home and 678,000 abroad suffered displacement in 2020, bringing the total displaced to approximately four million. Internal displacement camps are rife with insanitation, poor healthcare, unemployment, limited potable water and food insecurity. According to estimations by the 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview, one million displaced people will require aid by the end of 2020.
  • Political Uncertainty: Political instability has been a mainstay in Afghanistan for decades and continues to trouble both citizens and the international community. Despite ongoing 2020 peace negotiations with the Taliban, fighting continues in the region. As a result, desperately needed health clinics have suffered closures and 35,000 Afghans were displaced from the Helmand Province in October 2020 alone.
  • Women’s Rights: Conditions for Afghan women and children have improved in recent years, allowing 3.3 million girls to receive an education. Additionally, women have experienced expanding opportunities for political, economic and social engagement. However, government participation is still strictly limited and women are still at high risk of violence.
  • Food insecurity: Afghan farmers still had not fully recovered from the 2018 drought and 2019 flood before the impact of COVID-19 on the country raised food prices, and with it, further food insecurity. Estimates warn that one-third of the population have already exhausted their savings and are in crisis levels of food security, with 5.5 million of them in emergency levels. However, farmers are hopeful that improved climate conditions will alleviate some of the damage done in previous years of difficulties.

2020 Afghanistan Conference

International donations fund at least half of Afghanistan’s annual budget. This is unlikely to change anytime soon, especially as COVID-19’s toll on the country’s economy also decreases government revenues. There was concern that the 2020 Conference would see a diminished aid pledge from Afghanistan’s largest donors, but the meetings that took place on November 24 secured a minimum of US$3.3 billion annually for four years contingent upon a review of Afghanistan’s progress in areas of peace, political development, human rights and poverty reduction. The United States is one such donor, pledging $300 million for 2021 and promising another $300 million worth of aid to Afghanistan if the ongoing peace talks prove successful. To this end, the “Afghanistan Partnership Framework” details the principles and goals of Afghanistan’s growth in peace-building, state-building and market-building.

Rebuilding Afghanistan

While some have expressed concern that the donations for aid to Afghanistan are not enough to cover costs and that the contingency requirements will be very difficult for Afghanistan to implement without compromises, there nevertheless is hope that tighter restrictions will prevent fewer funds from being lost to corruption. Despite the future challenges ahead of Afghanistan, Afghan leaders reiterated their commitment to “finding a political settlement that can not only bring an end to the suffering of the Afghan people but strengthen, safeguard and preserve the gains of the past 19 years.”

– Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

Sweden’s Long-standing CommitmentOn September 22, 2020, Peter Eriksson, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, took to Twitter to announce that Sweden will continue to commit 1% of the country’s GNI to official developmental assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, urging the international community to follow in the country’s footsteps. This act is indicative of Sweden’s long-standing commitment to eliminate poverty, which is a promise the country is dedicated to keeping.

A Leader in Foreign Aid

According to the OECD, Sweden dedicates around 1% of its national income to developmental aid, making it the highest developmental assistance donor. The country’s commitment to policy development issues is the strongest in three categories: peace and conflict prevention, gender equality and women’s rights as well as environmental sustainability. Since 2006, the country has committed to regularly donate a portion of its GNI as official developmental assistance (ODA) and has since kept its word, donating at least 1% or more every year.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

Sida is a government agency of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Sida is responsible for Sweden’s official development assistance to developing countries.

Sida is a prominent international actor with an overall mission to make sure people living under poverty and oppression are able to enhance their living conditions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sida allocated $149 million to mitigate the pandemic’s effects on vulnerable communities and populations abroad. Sida has collaborated with many different multilateral organizations to uphold Sweden’s promise of helping the international community during the pandemic..

Sida has bilateral development cooperation with 35 different partner countries from four different continents and consistently supports multilateral organizations in their pursuit of increasing human rights and democracy globally.

A Leader for Women’s Empowerment

The country has shown relentless support for gender equality and women’s rights, highlighting Sweden’s long-standing commitment to ending gender discrepancies around the world. Sweden is a pioneer for many new policies regarding women’s rights. For instance, in 2014, Sweden created the world’s very first feminist foreign policy. Sweden has garnered the support of many foreign bodies and their allies by raising awareness through forums. The most notable being the 2018 Stockholm Forum of Gender Equality. The gathering brought 700 members from 100 different countries to discuss the implementation of new policies to protect women in vulnerable communities from oppressive regimes, further elevating their rights and enabling an inclusive society.

A Leader for Environmental Sustainability

Furthermore, Sweden’s clean carbon footprint is impressive, with a large quantity of the country’s waste recycled. The country has committed to net-zero emissions by the year of 2045 and it has dedicated many resources to encourage countries across the globe to implement sustainable environmental practices. The country has shown continued leadership. In 2017, Sweden had co-chaired the U.N. Ocean Conference with Fiji. In 2018, Sweden also hosted GEF-7 Replenishment, a meeting between contributing and potential participants from all around the world with efforts to eliminate non-renewable energy sources in the near future.

Sweden: A Developmental Assistance Model

Sweden’s long-standing commitment to developmental assistance highlights the country’s leadership skills as an exemplary model for other developed nations. Sweden’s relentless efforts in supporting foreign aid, even during a pandemic, is a model that needs to be mimicked by other developed nations that have the same capacity to help, now more than ever.

– Mina Kim
Photo: Flickr

Congress advocating for foreign aidThere is plenty of debate on the significance of foreign aid as well as a lot of misconceptions. John F. Kennedy once said regarding foreign aid, “…our economic obligations as the wealthiest people in a world of largely poor people, as a nation no longer dependent upon the loans from abroad that once helped us develop our own economy – and our political obligations as the single largest counter to the adversaries of freedom.” Although foreign support is met with resistance from some, the majority of Congress and its constituents see the importance. According to a Chicago Council survey in 2019, 69% of Americans thought it would be best for the U.S. to take an active part in world affairs. However, 30% thought the U.S. should not be involved at all. Despite attempts to cut the budget and its value put in question, there are many members of Congress advocating for foreign aid.

U.S. Foreign Aid

Foreign aid is funding allocated from the United States’ budget for global health programs. It also goes towards U.S. military training, United Nations peacekeeping and global development assistance. There are many aspects in which U.S. foreign aid is beneficial to the entire world. For example, foreign aid increases national security. U.S. foreign aid does this by helping alleviate the poor conditions that lead to terrorism by stabilizing poverty-stricken and conflicted countries.

When other countries are doing well, there is more exchange for American goods and the increase of global trade partners. Giving aid to others also improves our nation’s diplomacy and higher position in world leadership.

According to most opinion polls, Americans think about 25% of the U.S. budget goes to foreign assistance. However, in reality, it’s significantly less. In 2018, the United States allocated an estimated $46.89 billion to foreign aid which is only about 1% of the total federal funds. Many political leaders are aiming to protect and increase the foreign assistance budget. Here are just a few of the many members of Congress advocating for foreign aid.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH

One of the members of Congress advocating for foreign aid is Senator Shaheen. She is currently serving as the senior United States senator from New Hampshire. Senator Shaheen is also a member of the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations. She advocates for a strong and clear foreign policy to restore and sustain global relations and national security. She co-sponsored The Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009. This is a bill aiming to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective and transparent.

Shaheen also raised concerns about foreign aid budget cuts. She said there is too much humanitarian work needed in the world right now.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ

Senator Menendez served as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 113th Congress and is now a ranking member. He is serving as Senator of New Jersey and has a reputation for his global leadership and staunch commitment to helping others. While Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he sought to modernize foreign policy and give substantial support to the most vulnerable; always advocating for the underdog. In regards to cutting the foreign aid budget, he equated it to cutting funding for human rights and democracy which he states doesn’t speak to the nation’s core values.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL

Currently serving as a Majority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and senator of Florida, Senator Rubio has advocated the importance of bolstering foreign aid and foreign affairs stating, “foreign policy is domestic policy”. For instance, Senator Rubio has been noted to advocate for global engagement through foreign aid. In acknowledgment of past suggested budget cuts, he responded that retreating from global engagement is bad for national security and our economy.

Strengthening the Foreign Aid Budget

The many members of Congress advocating for foreign aid understand the importance of protecting and maintaining a healthy budget for foreign assistance. Foreign policy is a non-partisan interest and it benefits the entire world. Foreign policy is not charity, it is imperative for the nation’s diplomacy, security and economy. For all developed countries and global leaders, assisting developing nations is also a matter of human rights. It also concerns maintaining peace and prosperity for all. In conclusion, when we help others, we help ourselves.

– Tara Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Iceland's Foreign Aid
Iceland is well-known for its foreign aid commitment and effectiveness, despite its comparatively small budget. Iceland’s foreign aid agency, the International Development Cooperation Agency (ICEIDA), focuses on the promotion of human rights, gender equality, peace and security, poverty, social justice, hunger and equal living conditions. Iceland partners with other countries and multilateral institutions to support the least-developed nations in the world, making it an exemplar of international development cooperation.

Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs provides funding for various causes. In 2019, it granted ISK 187,5 million ($1,400,000) toward 16 development projects across 11 nations, as well as ISK 213,7 million ($1,600,000) to support crises in five nations. The Ministry granted these funds to a handful of Iceland’s NGO and CSO partners, including the following organizations. Here are six of Iceland’s foreign aid partners.

6 of Iceland’s Foreign Aid Partners

  1. Icelandic Red Cross (IFRC): The IFRC is part of the international Red Cross/Red Crescent movement. It engages in programs for harm reduction, emergency services, first aid, children and youth, day centers, immigrants and refugees, friendship services and asylum seekers. In 2019, the IFRC donated a total of ISK 70 million ($558,000) to aid Ebola relief efforts in Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  2. ABC Children’s Aid: ABC Children’s Aid is an Icelandic relief organization that provides educational opportunities for children in poverty. In its first 30 years, ABC established operations in seven nations in Africa and Asia. In 2020, ABC received a grant from Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs to electrify facilities in one of its Burkina Faso schools. School starts before dawn and ends after sunset, giving students no natural lighting by which to finish their homework. Once completed, this project will provide electricity for the near-800 day students and dormitory residents, many of whom come from families living in poverty, and strengthen opportunities for them to complete their education.
  3. Save the Children Iceland: Save the Children in Iceland emphasizes human rights for children, particularly in the realm of fighting “poverty, child trafficking, sex tourism” and homelessness. Save the Children has engaged in disaster relief projects in nearly 120 countries, and in 2019, assisted 144 million children worldwide. The Icelandic chapter also emphasizes the shaping of Icelandic policies, such as its 2020 commentary on a proposal for the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence.
  4. Icelandic Church Aid (ICA): ICA works to combat poverty in Iceland and abroad by providing water access, food security, housing and education to those in extreme need. In 2019-2020, ICA donated more than ISK 39 million ($285,000) to Malawi, Syria, and Jordan in the form of hurricane and war relief. At least 98% of Malawi’s target group and 2,300 individuals from Syria and Jordan received nutrition packets, sanitation and potable water. Additionally, ICA repaired wells and provided grain and agricultural tools for the next harvest year.
  5. SOS Children’s Villages Iceland: SOS meets the educational and basic needs of disadvantaged families and helps them toward self-sustainability. The Icelandic chapter, supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, funds projects in Ethiopia and the Philippines. Over the summer of 2020, one of SOS’s efforts was to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on 156 Ethiopian families and provide food supplements for their 43 malnourished children.
  6. U.N. Women National Committee Iceland: U.N. Women works to abolish violence, poverty and gender inequality in developing countries. The Icelandic chapter received approximately ISK 13 million ($96,000) annually from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs from 2016-2019 for awareness promotion and educational resources on women’s issues in developing countries. A Lebanese woman named Ibtissam Jaber is one individual who has benefited from U.N. Women’s involvement. She received encouragement to begin selling her food products at a 10-day market in Beirut and earned $4,000 on her first work venture outside of her home. She and other women have experienced increased freedom and economic equality through participation in U.N. Women projects.

These six foreign aid partners and their respective cause areas greatly benefit from Iceland’s effective foreign aid policies. According to its government website, Iceland’s foreign aid has emerged upon the principles of “safeguarding human lives, maintaining human dignity and reducing human suffering in crisis situations.” With its model for developmental cooperation, Iceland’s foreign aid stands as an inspiration to everyone working together to make the world a better place.

– Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

Covid-19 in Central America
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have left no region of the world unscathed. Central America and Mexico have certainly felt the wrath of this virus. Recent outbreaks in the region threaten to compound upon other humanitarian struggles. The U.S. has recognized this challenge and taken action to provide aid, despite facing its own issues fighting the coronavirus — the difficulties of COVID-19 in Central America and Mexico are vast.

An Issue in Central America & Mexico Before COVID-19

COVID-19 poses a health and economic challenge to Central America and Mexico. Yet, before the pandemic, the region was already suffering from poverty. As such, the pandemic has hit this area particularly hard. Our World in Data projected that the extreme poverty rate was about 8.12% in Guatemala, 14.24% in Honduras, 2.79% in El Salvador and 1.96% in Mexico in 2019. The full economic impacts of COVID-19 are not yet known.

Apart from facing extreme poverty — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico also suffer from high crime rates. In 2017, Guatemala had an intentional homicide rate of about 26.1 per 100,000, Honduras had 41.7, El Salvador had 61.8 and Mexico had 24.8.

Providing sustainable assistance to Central America is particularly important for the national security in the U.S. As of July 2019, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition explained that there is a correlation between children seeking refuge in the U.S. and murders in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Aid to these three countries could reduce poverty and crime. Consequently, the number of people searching for safety in the U.S. may potentially decrease.

The US Steps Up

The U.S. has committed to providing more than $22 million for Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The aid focuses on key areas of need. For example, the U.S. committed $850,000 in Migration and Refugee Assistance funding in Mexico. This includes funding for the dissemination of hygiene products and assistance creating a remote program to register asylum seekers and hold interviews.

The U.S. also committed to providing almost $6.6 million in aid to El Salvador, more than $8.4 million to Guatemala and more than $5.4 million to Honduras. Notably, these aid packages contain International Disaster Assistance for each country. The assistance also focuses on immediate and long-term health needs.

In recent months, the U.S. has also provided other forms of support to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Notable aid includes investments in critical infrastructures, such as energy programs. This is an important step in reducing poverty in the region. However, continued aid and investment are necessary to fight COVID-19 in Central America, save lives, reduce poverty and protect U.S. national security.

Global Help

This aid is a substantial sum targeted in areas that most need money to help fight COVID-19. However, there is more than the U.S. could do to protect global health. Global health spending has remained mostly constant for the past 10 years. Now, the future of U.S. global health aid is at-risk. The federal government’s spending on global health could reduce to its lowest point in 13 years if the proposed budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year receives approval. This could exacerbate outbreaks of other diseases that the U.S. has historically fought against. Without aid from the U.S., other nations such as China will have to step in as a global leader during this crisis.

Kayleigh Crabb
Photo: Pixabay

Influenza in sub-Saharan AfricaAfrica is known for being one of the world’s poorest continents. Poverty directly affects a person’s susceptibility to diseases like influenza. To combat this disease, the future of healthcare in Africa requires funding to improve accessibility in rural regions. Here’s what you need to know about influenza in sub-Saharan Africa.

Influenza in Sub-Saharan Africa

While sub-Saharan Africa only accounted for an estimated 7,000 influenza deaths in 2015, this remains the most common and deadly global disease. The mortality rate of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa affects children under the age of five and those over 75. Though the mortality rate seems low compared to the U.S., it does not take into account the presence of healthcare services in Africa versus the U.S. In contrast to Africa, the U.S. had 22,705 influenza deaths in 2015. While these statistics are higher, the U.S. also has more accessible healthcare.

Furthermore, studies have shown that influenza affects many more people than accounted for. Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows 40% of antibodies for flu (B) were found in community members 40 years of age and older. This reveals that the virus continued to circulate with no monitoring processes. Importantly, this lack of surveillance contributes to countries’ and NGO partners’ ability to prepare for the next outbreak.

Higher rates of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa are typically found in low to middle-income regions with little resources and access to sanitation and healthcare. In particular, influenza puts nearly “two-thirds of the 34 million” persons infected with HIV at a higher risk for infection and mortality. Existing diseases such as HIV thus put a significant amount of the African population at risk for influenza.

Healthcare in Africa

Africa continues to possess one of the world’s worst healthcare infrastructures, despite funding from the U.S. In 2006, the U.S. gave R100 billion to the South African National Health Insurance (NHI). However, the U.S. provided $28.8 billion to those uninsured in the U.S. during that year, nearly twice the amount granted for all international health.

Rural regions in sub-Saharan Africa account for 60% the population, while urban areas contain 40%. Rural regions lack accessible healthcare compared to urban regions. Due to industrialization, urban areas have greater access to healthcare facilities and university hospitals.

Across many parts of Africa, the ratio of doctors to patients “is below 1/1000 population, with the ‘ratio of physicians per 1000 population essentially unchanged between 2004 (0.77) and 2011 (0.76).” Demand for physicians within these regions is increasing. However, although Africa is producing more physicians, many migrate to the U.S. This leaves rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa with few qualified healthcare providers.

Solutions and Aid

Awareness and aid are crucial to improving infrastructure and healthcare in Africa, so that it can respond to influenza outbreaks. The W.H.O. has created the Africa Flu Alliance, finding factors leading to the underfunding of healthcare to assess its overall impact. Similarly, the Africa Flu Alliance created a “strategic road map” of targets to control influenza in sub-Saharan Africa. It hopes to influence organizations, private funding and projects to support the organization’s initiatives.

Private sectors and nonprofits contribute to approximately half of Africa’s total healthcare funding and expenditures. Twenty-two organizations and nonprofits are working to combat the gap between health services in rural and urban areas. In addition, The African Network for Influenza Surveillance and Epidemiology (ANISE) was created in 2009, with a growing network alongside the CDC. Continual meetings from 2009 to 2012 allowed officials and representatives to discuss achievements and areas of improvement.

Reducing Aid Dependency: Can It Work?

Despite the reliance on Western assistance for years, President Trump’s foreign aid budget cuts could be incredibly harmful or begin for Africa. Given the situation, governments within Africa will need to strive for improvements in monetary policies, transparency and reduced corruption. To improve self-sufficiency, experts recommend regional integration, or “the process by which two or more nation-states agree to co-operate and work closely together to achieve peace, stability and wealth.” Initiatives like Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) will enable 54 countries to trade freely. This will improve Africa’s economic stability by an estimated 50% increase in trade.

The battle of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa correlates directly with the absence of monitoring for significant health concerns. Expanding upon the existing healthcare infrastructure can not only contain and treat disease but also help grow Africa’s economy. Surveillance will be key in this process, as statistics tell actors what they need to improve. But with the support NGOs, funding can help control influenza in sub-Saharan Africa.

Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr