Key articles and information on global poverty.

Renewable Energy in Zambia
Zambia has enjoyed significant economic growth in the past few decades. With prosperity, its demand for electricity has increased. However, the current energy supply has struggled to meet this demand. Zambia relies on hydroelectric power for more than 85% of its electricity, and frequent droughts have prevented these plants from operating at full capacity. Further, the average nationwide access to electricity is 30%. Worse yet, only 5% of the rural population has electricity access. The Zambian government has set a target of 50% electricity access across the nation by 2030. As electricity demands continue to grow, the expansion of renewable energy in Zambia is critical for the country’s social and economic development.

Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project

To aid in the sustainable development of Zambia’s energy resources, renewable energy projects are underway. One such initiative is the European Union (EU)-funded Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project. The project is a collaboration between the EU and the Zambian government to provide technical assistance to the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) of Zambia. The project’s assistance will help fund the REA’s development of energy infrastructure. The project began in 2017 and should have reached completion in 2021.

Specifically, the Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project is striving to establish a collection of solar-powered mini-grids to provide electricity to rural Zambian communities. Mini-grids are small electricity generators interconnected to an energy distribution network. These are useful in Zambia because they do not require the construction of long stretches of electrical lines. They will provide electricity to an estimated 10,000 people living in rural communities in Zambia.

Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant

Another initiative to develop renewable energy in Zambia is the Renewable Energy for Sustainable Development in Zambia project. Created by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, this initiative seeks to bring readily available and local renewable energy sources. One of the initiative’s projects is the construction of the Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant, which the Zambian government commissioned in 2012. The Shiwang’andu plant supplies a solar mini-grid that will provide electricity to more than 25,000 people in the Mpanta region.

Hydropower plants generate power using the energy that the flow of water creates. This energy generation requires the water to flow across an elevation difference, from a higher point to a lower point. Usually, dams are built in running bodies of water, such as rivers, to construct this elevation difference.

Because constructing hydropower plants involves building dams in bodies of water, the developers of the Shiwang’andu plant had to consider the plant’s impact on wildlife. They installed a second dam during construction to divert water, which maintained normal downstream water flow. They also included a 1.5-meter gate within the dam to help fish, crabs, shrimp and other migrating animals.

Renewable Energy Key to Expand Sustainable Access to Electricity

As Zambia continues to see economic growth, and as it aims to provide electricity access to a greater percentage of its population, its energy demands will continue to increase. The development of renewable energy in Zambia is an efficient and eco-friendly way to expand the country’s energy resources.  It should provide sustainable access to electricity for more Zambians in the years to come.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Lebanon
Children living in Lebanon have been experiencing the full impact of the weakened economy in the country. Due to the Beirut explosion and the collapse of the Lebanese pound, child poverty has been on the rise in Lebanon. Child’s education, health and protection have become difficult to acquire.

The Deterioration of the Economy

Lebanon has struggled with its economy for a while due to its reliance on foreign imports and the limited exports coming from its country. As of 2021, Lebanon has failed to see economic growth, but the government is continuing to borrow money from other countries.

In addition, Lebanon’s government consists of 18 politicians of different religious denominations, such as Christian and Muslim. Because of this, Lebanon is susceptible to interference from other countries. As a result, Lebanon has become “one of the world’s largest debt burdens as a result of years of inefficiency, waste and corruption,” according to Reuters.

Moreover, in October 2019, the Lebanese pound began to lose its value due to the shortage of foreign currency in their commercial banks. This caused high-interest rates, leading to the emergence of a black market. Because there is an absence of taxes on the transactions and the government is not aware of the activity happening in the black market, this harms the economy.

While Lebanon was struggling economically, an explosion in Beirut worsened its situation. For instance, on August 4, 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in agricultural fertilizers and bombs, exploded throughout the city of Beirut. Due to this, the air filled with dust, causing concern about the toxins people were consuming in the air.

Unfortunately, the explosion killed 140, wounded 5,000 and displaced 300,000. Of those 300,000, 100,000 of them were children, as UNICEF reported.

About Child Poverty in Lebanon

Due to the deterioration of the economy, Lebanon’s poverty rate has doubled from 42% to 82% between 2019 to 2021. As a result, many families cannot afford basic necessities for their children because of inflation, thus increasing child poverty in Lebanon. These families face shortages of food, water and electricity in their homes. Under these circumstances, many children have no choice but to skip meals, according to the OWP.

In addition, “34% of children were not able to receive necessary primary health care,” the OWP reported. In fact, many families need to access water through private providers at a cost because water from public works is insufficient to drink.

Child poverty in Lebanon leads to children living in conditions where they cannot grow and thrive. As economic inequality increases, children become susceptible to child marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Education in Lebanon

Additionally, many children do not have the option to attend school anymore because of the Beirut explosion. Unfortunately, the explosion damaged 163 schools, leaving children struggling to obtain an education through other means.

Due to the lack of technology and internet connectivity, many children cannot participate in remote learning activities. As families endure the hardships brought upon by the explosion, families are resorting to  “sending their children to work in often dangerous and hazardous conditions, marrying off their daughters or selling their belongings,” said UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon, Yukie Mokuo.

To avoid child marriages and selling their belongings, children need to work. Many of them work in agriculture, metalworking or factories under inhumane conditions. Addressing child poverty in Lebanon, the government signed the ILO’s Convention on Child Labor, but it failed to become a law.

Save the Children

Lebanese children are receiving help from various organizations, such as Save the Children. Save the Children believes that children are the most vulnerable when disaster strikes, so it created an organization that focused on protecting them and giving them a chance at a new beginning.

Specifically, it is asking for donations to achieve its goals to improve the lives of Lebanese children. Some of the organization’s goals for child poverty in Lebanon are to increase the quality of education, restore schools and install water, sanitation and hygiene resources for the children to access.

Lastly, it hopes to protect Lebanese children from “psychological stress, neglect, violence, and abuse.” By doing this, Save the Children hopes to show the Lebanese children that they have the right to obtain these basic needs for a better future.

UNICEF

UNICEF has also been aiding children in Lebanon by providing Lebanese families with children with cash grants in the form of U.S. dollars, aiming to help 70,000 children in need. This is an effort to remove children from working and avoid skipping meals.

To add, UNICEF “is also providing mental health support and psychological first aid to children who are engaged in child labor, those who have experienced or are at risk of violence,” as stated on its website.

As a result, the children will have the ability to think for themselves and gain confidence and self-esteem. Similar to Save the Children, UNICEF has spent $6.9 million to help repair Lebanon’s water systems, aiding children’s health. The organization is continuing to reach more vulnerable children and their families, offering them support in any way it can.

With the increasing poverty rate in Lebanon, living conditions are becoming unbearable for many Lebanese children. Fortunately, Save the Children and UNICEF are assisting Lebanon, providing education measures, health services and protection for Lebanese children.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania Builds Infrastructure
The Tanzanian government announced that it will begin construction on a $1.9 billion railway throughout the country to better increase the country’s infrastructure and connect communities. The country will pay for the railway from loans and the government said it will not raise or impose any taxes on the citizens to afford the railway. The railway is part of a larger railway line that will cover 1,219 km with the hopes of boosting Tanzanian trade with its neighbors. The section that the government announced will connect two towns, Makutopora and Tabora, in central Tanzania. Once the full 1,219 km railway line is complete, it will run from Tanzania’s Indian Ocean port, Makutopora, to a port city on the shores of Lake Victoria, Tabora, which Tanzania also shares with Uganda and Kenya. During the announcement of the project, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan stated that the line will be a priority because of its importance in connecting the country to its neighbors.  The fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure will help bridge the divided country.

Earlier Railway Construction

In January 2021, the Tanzanian government announced a different railway line that would be built in the country using Chinese companies. The announcement, which occurred a year ago, lengthens Chinese involvement in Tanzania to now more than 10 years. In the announcement, the government of Tanzania said that the railroad will connect Mwanza to Dar es Salaam and span a distance of 341 kilometers from one side to the other. The announcement was part of a 2,561 kilometer of new railways through the country that will connect Dar es Salaam to the rest of the country.

According to Reuters, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and China Railway Construction Limited won the contract worth 3.0617 trillion shillings or $1.32 billion to build the railway. The former has already won several other projects in Tanzania and is now working on the railway.

Economics

In recent years, the fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure increased its debts as more infrastructure projects are in the works across the country. In 2021, fiscal spending was $15.7 billion while donors only covered 8% of the amount. The government expects to see a 6.3% growth in the economy by 2023 from 2021.

In July 2020, Tanzania was upgraded from a low-income country to a lower-middle-income country and the government has hopes of being a middle-income country by 2030. To reach this goal the government of Tanzania is working to develop its infrastructure, energy, and agriculture sectors to grow its economy and provide more opportunities for exports.

Along with this, the private sector is working to expand mining in a country that has faced underinvestment in the past. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Tanzania was not as badly affected as its neighbors mostly affecting its travel and tourism sector of the economy.

Extreme Poverty

It is estimated that the percentage of people in extreme poverty in Tanzania increased from 49.3% to 50.4% from 2019 to 2020 and 1 million Tanzanians have fallen into that group in 2020 alone.

Before this time and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country was experiencing rather low poverty rates based on the national poverty line according to data from the World Bank with 26.4% of the population living in poverty. An overwhelming majority of the urban population at 71% falls under the non-poor category while only 42% of the rural population falls into the same category.

The fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure could benefit future generations as they grow up and improve Tanzania’s ability to make sure it can take care of its citizenry and provide a reliable source of transportation and movement of people and goods throughout the country.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Health Insurance in Morocco
By the end of 2021, health insurance in Morocco covered 11 million citizens. With the final count of covered citizens, the Moroccan government announced its expansion of health insurance to unconsidered sector workers. The number of protected citizens will grow in 2022 as proposals are under review to expand health insurance to uncovered workers, such as artisans, taxi drivers, farmers and more.

Morocco’s Health Insurance System

Morocco’s health insurance system is a mixture of government-run and privately owned insurance businesses. Most in Morocco have coverage through the primary source of health insurance. This is the Mandatory Health Insurance, L’Assurance Maladie Obligatoire (AMO).

Morocco implemented its first health care policy in 1959 and established free health services in the public sector. After 1959, the Moroccan health care system went through various changes. However, in 2005, it established and stabilized with the implementation of new programs to regulate and differentiate between the private and public health insurance systems.

In 2005, the Moroccan government created a mandatory, payroll-based health insurance plan that increased coverage from 16% of the Moroccan population to 30%. The payroll-based system is the AMO. The AMO covers the costs of general medicine and medical and surgical specialties, pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal care, laboratory tests, radiology and medical imaging, optical care, oral health treatment and paramedics.

The Regime d’Assistance Medicale (RAMED)

The second insurance policy that Morocco implemented is the Regime d’Assistance Medicale (RAMED). RAMED is a public, government-financed program to fund insurance for those living in poverty and without the income needed to access the AMO.

The private insurance sector, which people often choose simply due to availability, is a system based on a fee-for-service policy. For whatever the service may be, private insurance requires the individual to pay a minimum of 20% of the fees due. However, fees sometimes range as high as 50%.

Morocco’s health insurance system guarantees free care to anyone. However, it is specifically free for anyone living in poverty at any clinic that Morocco’s government runs, as long as the clinics obtain a certificat d’indigence. Thankfully, the poverty rate in Morocco is as low as 3.6%. However, health care remains concentrated in the cities leaving the rural population without easy access to health care.

The rural population often remains uncovered and without the funds to be a part of the private insurance operations. The impending health insurance expansion promises to cover the rural workers. This will ease the economic burden of health insurance from their income.

Impending Expansion of the System

The expansion to cover more workers is not the first one the government has made since 2019. In 2020, the Moroccan government expanded its health insurance system to cover all costs, for every citizen, for COVID-19 treatment. The treatment coverage is available through the AMO.

Morocco’s health insurance system will expand pending the implementation of six drafted policy proposals. The overarching plan for Morocco’s health insurance system is to generalize all health insurance for uncovered workers. The first step in this plan is the creation of coverage beginning with the farmers in the outlying reaches of Morocco, the taxi drivers in the cities and the artisans spread around the country.

The Need for Health Insurance in Rural Communities in Morocco

Morocco’s rural and farming areas are often unconsidered, with doctors and clinics needing to open in said rural areas. The average salary of a Moroccan farmer is 11,700 Moroccan Dirham (MAD) per month, which translates to slightly more than $1,200.

Unfortunately, since the AMO did not cover the farmers, the farmers were often unable to afford private insurance due to having little income to spare. Therefore, with the flexibility of the cost of services due, the farmers could not risk paying anything that might exceed their income.

The Single Professional Contribution System (SPC)

The farmers are only one of the groups that will benefit from the expanded insurance availability. The Moroccan health insurance system’s expansion also covers artisans, who are part of the Single Professional Contribution system (SPC). The SPC allows workers reliant on a flat rate of income to pay fixed taxes and receive health insurance under the new expansion.

The workers who are part of the SPC do not have high incomes and often live on less than the living minimum wage. Much like the farmers, the AMO would not consider them, leaving them unable to afford the private insurance system.

The Moroccan health insurance system’s expansion allows access to basic health care that many could not access before. The government is increasing the annual amount spent on health care as well. The private and public systems will receive additional funding to hire more doctors. Hopefully, more clinics will open in the rural areas to help these newly insured farmers and rural dwellers.

The Moroccan health insurance system will help both the individual and the public. Expanded health insurance could reduce debt, both health-related and non-health-related. It could permit more opportunities to spend money in the local economy.

Increased economic flow can increase income and wages for all business sectors, including the lower-paid individuals, like the farmers. It can also decrease the poverty rate and the number of individuals at risk of poverty.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Pixabay

Iceland’s Tourism Industry
Iceland’s tourism industry is one of the country’s most dependable money-makers and job providers. Like many countries, Iceland’s tourism industry underwent severe economic losses and lacked new jobs and job security because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Bank of Iceland, Islandsbanki, released a report publishing its expectations for a significant resurgence in tourism for Iceland in 2022.

Tourism’s Importance to Jobs and Economic Growth in Iceland

Tourism provides 39% of Iceland’s annual export revenue and contributes about 10% to the country’s GDP. Iceland’s tourism industry accounts for 15% of the workforce. In 2017, 47% of Iceland’s newest jobs were in some way related to the tourism industry.

Iceland experienced a devastating financial crisis in 2008. Job availability dropped nationwide, the poverty rate increased and the GDP dropped dramatically in the following years. It took some forecasting, but the Icelandic government developed plans calling for the tourism industry to be the savior of the Icelandic economy.

To this end, the government established a brand new Tourist Control Centre, which coordinates the government’s work in tourism nationwide. It creates new typical tourist surveys and improved cooperation under the government’s four tourism ministries. The government also implemented efforts to track the most popular tourist destinations and receive input from tourists on how to improve their experiences at those destinations.

Iceland’s tourism is so popular that the government has had to devise limits on how long individuals can rent on Airbnb and on whom must receive limitations. Rental cars are similarly limited, with nearly 80% of tourists reported renting a car at least once during their visit to Iceland. The airfare to Iceland is one of the cheapest deals year-round.

The tourism industry has been primarily responsible for the economic boom that has occurred since 2012. The plans that the Icelandic government developed went into effect in Fiscal Year 2012 and involved the government’s expanding funding opportunities in the tourism industry.

Since the expansion of the tourism industry, the increase in job availability and economic growth, Iceland has made great strides in keeping the poverty rate low and the population of those at-risk of poverty lower than what was possible pre-2012.

Impact of COVID-19 on Iceland’s Tourism Industry

Iceland has the lowest poverty rate in the world, but the COVID-19 pandemic put this at risk. The international average for a country’s poverty rate is 11%, but Iceland has the world beat. The country’s poverty rate is at 4.9% and has been dropping since the expansion of the tourism industry.

Furthermore, there were an estimated 36 Icelandic citizens for every 1,000 who were at risk of falling into poverty in 2008, at the beginning of the economic crisis. Since then, the number rose briefly above 40 individuals then rose and fell for several years, but distinctly dropped in 2014. This coincided with the beginning of the full establishment and implementation of Iceland’s expanded tourism industry.

The pandemic’s impact on tourism left the country with another drop in jobs and an economic dip. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Iceland experienced a 10-month long halt in tourism. Iceland’s GDP dropped from $24 billion to $19 billion in one year largely because of the loss of tourism between 2019 and 2020, according to Data Commons.

Expected Resurgence in Iceland’s Tourism

As soon as it became feasibly safe, Iceland reopened its borders to tourists with clear instructions. First, it allowed tourists to travel to the country as long as they isolated themselves for 14 days prior to their trip and were able to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival in Iceland. Since then, Iceland has allowed its visitors to arrive without those other restrictions as long as the tourists are fully vaccinated and boosted against the virus.

The increase in Iceland’s tourism is not unprecedented. In 2018, the increase in tourism was 5.4% and in 2017, it was 24.1%. Icelandair, the main airline for travel to Iceland, has its own plan for balancing safety and getting as many tourists to Iceland as feasible in the works.

Iceland’s central bank, Islandsbaski is expecting a minimum of 1 million tourists to Iceland, but as many as 1.3 million may come. In November 2021, there were a meager 75,000 tourists for the entire month. However, this is more than 20 times the final tally for tourists for that month in the preceding year.

Even though tourism paused for the better part of a year, the tourism industry is ready and raring to go. Despite the pains of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Icelandic tourism industry will reopen in 2022 as much as possible and the economic boost to come from it is invaluable.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a small, tropical country located on the west coast of Africa. Despite its six-month “wet season,” characterized by 90% humidity and torrential rainfall, Sierra Leone struggles to provide quality drinking water to its citizens. As of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 98% of Sierra Leoneans do not have access to clean drinking water and that “most households lack basic sanitation.” Fortunately, there are many organizations, both internal and external, that are seeking to combat poor water quality in Sierra Leone. These organizations utilize five strategies to broaden access to clean water.

5 Strategies to Broaden Access to Clean Water

  1. Installing Wells. Many of the wells in Sierra Leone are dug by hand and are unable to reach underground aquifers where clean water is stored. For this reason, many nonprofit organizations, such as World Hope, Living Water and Sierra Leone Rising, are prioritizing efforts to install deeper wells in both urban and rural areas of Sierra Leone. Generally, the installation of a quality, long-lasting well costs about $11,000. To minimize the cost of developing these much-needed wells, World Hope and Sierra Leone Rising are teaming up, splitting the cost of building 20 wells. Between 2017 and 2018, World Hope drilled 45 wells in Sierra Leone and its neighboring country, Liberia. When people have local access to clean water wells, they are less prone to diseases and do not have to waste as much productive time seeking out potable water.
  2. Monitoring Local Water Sources. Many of the water sources in Sierra Leone are polluted and spread diseases to the people who drink from them. This is why the CDC is partnering with public health officials in Sierra Leone to better monitor water quality and respond to waterborne disease outbreaks. The CDC began guiding “public health staff” in 2018, successfully training 50 employees “to detect and respond to waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid.” Those 50 staff members went on to teach 500 other community members the same methods of water testing. As a result of these training sessions, new job opportunities are arising, the spread of waterborne illness is decreasing and water quality in Sierra Leone is improving nationwide.
  3. Expanding the Sanitation Sector. The Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a foreign aid agency based out of the United States, working in Sierra Leone since 2015 in an effort to improve the country’s poor water quality. The program helped draft the first digital map of the water distribution system in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, which will allow water companies to “better assess the water system’s performance” and “more efficiently address service delivery problems,” ultimately providing more Sierra Leoneans with access to clean, safe water. The nation also recently drafted blueprints to expand all water and sanitation services in urban areas and neighboring towns by 2023, aiming to reach all cities by 2030. With the expansion of the sanitation sector, improved water quality in Sierra Leone is inevitable.
  4. Developing Rainfall Collection Systems. During Sierra Leone’s six-month wet season, the country experiences torrential rains and flooding. However, “from November to April,” the country experiences a harsh dry season during which droughts and water shortages are commonplace. This is why the Freetown city mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, campaigned in 2021 to install “more than 160 rainwater harvesting systems” in rural areas outside of the capital. Each rainwater harvesting system has the capacity to collect between 5,000 and 10,000 liters of water, which means that citizens can harness excess water during the rainy season to use during the dry season droughts.
  5. Installing Public Latrines and Handwashing Stations. In an effort to fight the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr is also working to install easily accessible latrines and handwashing stations throughout the city of Freetown. So far, she has built handwashing kiosks in 23 different marketplaces and has hired citizens to monitor each station and use a megaphone to remind shoppers of the importance of washing their hands. Many of the natural water sources in Sierra Leone are contaminated due to poor waste management and a lack of access to functional latrines. To help improve the water quality in Sierra Leone, the mayor is installing public bathrooms in addition to the handwashing kiosks. These public restrooms will help contain liquid and solid waste so that it does not seep into the nation’s water supply, significantly reducing the spread of disease.

Looking Ahead

Historically, Sierra Leone has faced many obstacles, including civil war, extreme seasonal weather and devastating outbreaks of the Ebola virus and COVID-19. However, the small African nation is taking great measures to improve the water quality in Sierra Leone so that its citizens have access to clean, safe drinking water all year round.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr

Women in the Philippines utilize solar energy
Natural disasters are a major threat to all, yet even more so when electricity is absent. Women in the Philippines utilize solar energy and TekPaks to better endure hurricanes. Renewable solar energy has been on the rise for those in poverty, due to its inexpensive and environmentally-friendly aspects. A group of strong Filipino women is taking charge to bring solar energy and life-saving technology to their town.

Learning From Experience

In 2013, tropical cyclone Haiyan hit the middle of the Philippines, killing 6,000 and displacing 4 million. With winds reaching 195 miles per hour, this was one of the biggest and most powerful typhoons ever recorded. One town, Marabut, managed to have zero casualties due to its evacuation plan. The town did not have a designated building to go to for safety. As a result, residents had to find shelter in a cave.

The Tinabanan Cave has provided shelter for centuries and is 32 feet high. When the typhoon hit, more than 1,000 people made the trek up a stairless hill to safety. Lorna dela Pena was alone in Marabut when the super-typhoon struck. She described how her “grandfather’s dream was for it to have stairs” when questioned on the evacuation, as Reuters reported. Building stairs and implementing solar energy became a priority after the tropical disaster.

The Philippines-based Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) trained Lorna dela Pena and Azucena Bagunas, both from Marabut, as solar scholars. They use their training to educate their community and implement vital technology.

TekPaks “Light” the Way

TekPak is a portable solar energy generator, which prepares communities for disasters preemptively. It is capable of powering phones, lights, kitchen appliances and more. The portable feature allows for easy evacuation and installation. Counting the number of people evacuated and communicating are greatly improved as well.

ICSC developed TekPaks and utilized them for storms since its first introduction. Azucena Bagunas described how ICSC used TekPaks “to power a nebulizer when someone had an asthma attack.” Additionally, it trained Pena and Bagunas on how to use TekPaks and educated others on its benefits.

Since electricity is a luxury for those in poverty, solar energy raises more ideas on its use, like harnessing solar energy as a replacement for coal energy. Not only is solar energy cheaper than coal, but it is safer as well. TekPak technology spread across the world for energy solutions and its new versions bring greater success.

Women Warriors in the Philippines

Bagunas and Pena work to educate and improve their community’s quality of life. Their women-led TekPak training sessions in their town make great strides to efficient evacuation drills and protocols. Women and children are among the most vulnerable to disasters, making solar energy a vital initiative.

Natural disasters disproportionately affect women since they “are more dependent on accessing resources that may be impacted.” Domestic work that women endure doubles during a disaster. Further, “women remain susceptible to poor health outcomes, violence and inequalities in all stages of a disaster,” according to Women’s Agenda. Solar energy provides solutions to many problems women face during and after natural disasters.

The use of solar lights rather than oil lamps has been extremely beneficial for the women in Marabut since it prevents crossing the sea for fuel. Collecting water after dark is hazardous for women yet once again, solar energy improves the task.

A Bright Future

Solar energy brings affordability and renewability together. Electricity is vital for the development and quality of life in communities. Solar energy provides a unique opportunity for those far away from power grids to have power. Ending extreme and energy poverty starts with basic necessities.

Women in the Philippines like Pena and Bagunas provide education and innovation to natural disaster victims. With the continuation of their work, the future of solar energy is bright.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

Starvation Tactics in YemenSince 2014, the conflict in Yemen has raged without an end in sight. In a November 2021 article, the World Bank estimates that Yemen’s poverty rate rose from approximately half of the population pre-conflict to as much as 78% because of the conflict. Although a Saudi-led coalition offensive largely defines the conflict, human rights abuses are apparent on both sides and by all parties. Starvation tactics in Yemen stand as one of the most malicious violations, bringing a wave of shock to the international community.

Background of the Conflict

The conflict in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthis, a Shia Muslim minority in Yemen, captured the major city in Yemen’s northern province and began moving southward. The rebellion was strategically timed as the Houthis have fought several rebellions against Yemen’s government over the years but chose to attack this time because of a new sitting president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Unfortunately for Hadi, the country initially supported the rebels, who overran and seized the capital city of Sanaa in 2014.

The Houthis are Shia Muslims and have a close affiliation with Iran, the Middle East’s Shia bastion. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia largely adheres to Sunni Islam and views Shia power as a threat. Therefore, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen alarmed Saudi Arabia, prompting “Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states” to launch an air campaign in 2015 to end the rebellion and reinstate Hadi’s government. The United States, United Kingdom and France provided “logistical and intelligence support” for the air campaign.

Human Rights Consequences

The conflict in Yemen has come at a steep cost to human life. As of December 2021, Yemen notes nearly a quarter of a million deaths and 4 million displacements. Furthermore, about 24 million Yemeni people require humanitarian aid. Due to these dire statistics, many world organizations deem the situation in Yemen the “worst humanitarian crisis” in the world.

One of the most concerning developments to arise out of the conflict in Yemen is the use of starvation tactics. Human rights groups documenting starvation tactics in Yemen show that both sides use such tactics “as a weapon of war.” The Mwatana Organization for Human Rights and Global Rights Compliance, both human rights organizations, have records of Saudi airstrikes destroying water facilities and fishing vessels as well as farms.

In a report, the groups indicate that the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of air and seaports has slowed the flow of food into Yemen. Their reports also detail Houthi rebels denying civilians aid, which includes food. Specifically, the report says that “restrictions were so severe that they forced the World Food Program (WFP) to suspend its operations in 2019 and again in 2020.” The report also states that the rebels’ use of landmines prevents farmers from using their land productively.

The humanitarian cost of the starvation tactics in Yemen is astounding. In September 2021, in a plea for urgent funding from the international community, the United Nations warned that 16 million people in Yemen may face starvation. According to Henrietta Fore, the head of UNICEF, more than 11 million children in Yemen need humanitarian aid to survive and close to 400,000 children enduring “severe acute malnutrition are at imminent risk of death.”

Humanitarian Aid

Donors cut funding to the World Food Programme (WFP) in 2020, citing aid obstruction as their concerns. As a consequence, in April 2020, the WFP had to halve “food aid to every other month in parts of Yemen” under the control of the Houthis. However, donors took heed to U.N. warnings about the famine, and in June 2021, the WFP resumed monthly distributions to millions around Yemen. Since then, the WFP has taken extensive efforts to combat the effects of starvation tactics in Yemen.

The WFP says that despite barriers to access, it manages to provide humanitarian aid “to the vast majority of vulnerable people in the country.” The WFP is providing daily snacks to more than 1.5 million Yemeni students and nutritional support to more than 3 million “pregnant and nursing women” as well as children younger than 5. The WFP also provides food aid through food rations or cash assistance to purchase food.

Despite significant suffering in Yemen, there is no shortage of organizations eager to provide aid. With enough advocacy and aid, there lies a possibility to end starvation tactics in Yemen and bring an end to the conflict overall.

– Richard J. Vieira
Photo: Flickr

Fair Fashion Industry
In 2019, an Oxfam report exposed the conditions of workers who were making clothes for the Australian fashion industry. The report showed that these workers, predominantly women in Bangladesh and Vietnam, were making wages as little as 51 cents per hour. Oxfam is taking action to spread awareness, create a fair fashion industry and ensure that these women receive a living wage.

Poor Wages for Workers

The 2019 report interviewed nearly 500 women making clothes for the Australian fashion industry. It concluded that they often do not make enough money to meet their basic needs. Nine of 10 workers in Bangladesh cannot afford to feed themselves and three quarters cannot afford medical treatment.

In Vietnam, more than half of workers cannot afford medical treatment and three-quarters of workers cannot afford to make ends meet in general. The report found that the workers are making clothing for major brands that Australians enjoy wearing.

Oxfam’s Initiatives

As a result, Oxfam is campaigning to create a fair fashion industry. The nonprofit’s campaign, What She Makes, has taken several steps to secure appropriate living wages for those workers making some of the continent’s most beloved brands.

Oxfam Australia spreads awareness by publishing reports detailing the relationship between major brands and their underpaid workers overseas. There have been four reports since 2017. The most recent one is Shopping for a Bargain, which anyone can download for free. It outlines price negotiation, poor management of orders and other practices to help keep wages low.

Another way Oxfam is campaigning to create a fair fashion industry is by publishing its Naughty or Nice List. The list shows how different brands have fared in regards to paying workers. It ranks companies in order, using a sliding scale ranging from being transparent, making a commitment, separating labor costs and ultimately paying a living wage.

The Naughty or Nice List did not list any companies as paying a living wage. However, a number of companies, including fashion giant H&M, have separated labor costs. Even more brands such as Target, Kmart and Cotton On have made commitments to fair pay while others such as Zara have yet to make a commitment.

Oxfam is campaigning to create a fair fashion industry by appealing to private citizens. While the nonprofit does not advocate for boycotting any specific brands, Oxfam involves people by asking them to sign a pledge. This demands that Australia’s major brands pay workers making their products a living wage. The nonprofit reports that because of the public’s push for transparency, 14 major brands have published their factory locations online in the past three years.

Signs of Progress

Oxfam’s campaign is not without adversity. COVID-19 has slowed the global supply chain, cutting employment and leaving many workers without severance pay. However, many companies have made clear commitments to pay workers living wages. In January 2021, H&M’s regional manager for Bangladesh made an argument to increase workers’ minimum wage and stated that the Swedish retailer had paid more for garment items the increase of wages.

In the past, protests over low wages in Bangladesh have resulted in retaliatory dismissals, blacklists and even criminal charges. However, Oxfam’s campaign to create a fair fashion industry, coupled with other nonprofit work and public opinion may be a step in a different direction.

– Richard J. Vieira
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Batwa People Facing Extreme Poverty
Being among the poorest populations in one of the poorest nations, Uganda, the Batwa people face extreme poverty in their everyday life. Once known to live in the depths of the African forests as one of the oldest indigenous tribes in the continent, they now reside in town slums. Many have come to wonder how a population that thrived for centuries started resorting to scavenging garbage cans for their next meal.

The Forest: A True Loss For The Batwa

In 1991, the Ugandan government “reclassified lands of the Batwa” to national parks. This move forced many Batwa people to relocate from their homes, sometimes by gunpoint. A 2008 report indicated that 45% of the Batwa people were landless and lived in poverty.

The Batwa people went from a community that once thrived in hunting and gathering to now struggling to find means of survival. The report also highlighted that many Batwa people are seeking work from foreign people under “bonded labor agreements,” resulting in them experiencing discrimination from “their ethnic neighbors.”

In addition, it is important to note that the Batwa people have lost more than their home; the forest was their place of worship and healing. With strong “spiritual and religious ties to the forest,” Batwa people have lost a significant part of their history and livelihood that provided them with herbal remedies when members became sick. The forest was incredibly significant to the lives and culture of the Batwa people.

The Batwa People’s Current Conditions

As aforementioned, some Batwa work for foreign people who are not part of their tribe. Others make a living from performing for tourists who visit the country. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been limited travel of tourists which means that many Batwa people lost their income, resulting in poverty. Due to these circumstances, many Batwa have resorted to “eating from garbage bins” to stay alive.

Solutions

With the massive displacement that took the place of the Batwa, their community is shrinking more and more as time goes by. With little to no resources to stay alive, extinction is knocking on their door. Furthermore, tourism is a key component to the Batwa people’s survival.

To keep the community going, Uganda is encouraging local tourism where the Batwa people are now giving tours of the Ugandan national parks, a place they once called home. With a keen knowledge of this territory, the Batwa people are the perfect tour guides for the forests.

Additionally, Uganda contains an impressive gorilla population that many people travel to see in person. Having shared the forest with them for centuries, the Batwa tour guides introduce visitors to this impressive species with respect and caution. Such tours, which now target even local tourists, offer a memorable experience that is a “culturally sensitive” visit whose proceeds go to people who truly need them.

The Takeaway

It is incredibly important to bring awareness to the Batwa tribe who live in extreme poverty and could disappear after centuries in the forest. With the modernization of their territory, this community has suffered a great loss of their home and livelihood and now faces extreme poverty and famine.

By supporting their efforts to survive through tourism and lobbying the Ugandan government to aid displaced peoples, this community could find hope again.

– Kler Teran
Photo: Flickr