Celebrities are Donating
The Amazon rainforest fires of late 2019 are some of the worst to occur since 2010 with an increase in deforestation rates as a primary cause. Celebrities are donating to the Amazon, pledging money to organizations like the Rainforest Alliance, Amazon Watch and Rainforest trust. Many celebrities are donating to help the Amazon so that the indigenous peoples that live there can continue to do so. Other celebrities are raising awareness about the role politics is playing in the Amazon fires.

The Situation

The Amazon rainforest covers much of northwestern Brazil and extends into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries. It is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is notable for its extensive biodiversity. It is also home to nearly one million indigenous peoples consisting of over 400 tribes, each with their own language, culture and territory. These people rely on their land for everything, from food to shelter to medicine, which is why the fires are so devastating to them.

 The anti-indigenous government of Jair Bolsonaro is a root cause of the fires. Bolsonaro normalizes, incites and empowers violence against the environment of the Amazon rainforest and against the tribes who live there. Bolsonaro pledged to increase agricultural activity in the Amazon by opening it to logging, industrial-scale agriculture, ranching and mining.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron tweeted “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!” Along with urging other world leaders to help on social media, Macron threatened to scrap a huge trade deal between the European Union and South America, putting pressure on Bolsonaro to take action.

Alongside the destruction and devastation, celebrities have begun to raise funds and awareness to help put a stop to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Celebrities Donating to the Amazon

Many celebrities are donating monetarily to provide aid. Vanessa Hudgens donated to the Amazon Conservation Team to try to proactively help and Violette Beane gave to multiple organizations while urging her fans to donate if they could and share information if they could not.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental initiative, Earth Alliance, pledged $5 million to Amazon relief. People widely know DiCaprio for his work as an actor, but also for his work to end climate change. Earth Alliance created an emergency fund specifically for the preservation of the Amazon. The money pledged will be going to five local organizations.

In addition to donating, many celebrities are then nominating other celebrities to do the same. Lana Condor of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” donated and then nominated co-stars Janel Parris and Noah Centineo to do so as well. Zoey Deutch donated to the Rainforest Alliance and called on Camila Mendes to do the same. After donating, Mendes nominated “Riverdale” co-star, Charles Melton to give.

“Umbrella Academy” star, Robert Sheehan, went one step further with his donation to the Rainforest Alliance by making it a monthly donation. He also plans to follow the Rainforest Alliance’s 30-day sustainability challenge.

One does not have to be a celebrity to provide aid to the Amazon fires, though. Donating is something anyone can do. The Rainforest Alliance is redirecting 100 percent of its donations to the frontline organizations in Brazil that work to protect the indigenous people. Rainforest Action Network works in Brazil’s Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory supporting the Munduruku people’s campaign to create a recognized territory and monitor the area for illegal logging and mining activity. Other organizations include, but are not limited to Rainforest Foundation U.S., Amazon Watch, Earth Alliance, Amazon Conservation Team and World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

– Darci Flatley
Photo: Flickr

Hurricane Dorian
On September 1, 2019, hurricane conditions emerged within some of the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. A mere few hours later, the conditions developed into a Category 5 storm named Hurricane Dorian with winds from 185 up to 220 mph, leaving massive amounts of chaos and destruction in its wake. The storm tore houses and buildings from their foundations as if they were cardboard and glue, leaving most of the citizens in the northwestern region of the island displaced and looking for shelter. The disaster also killed at least 50 people and many expect that number to rise as more bodies turn up. Reports state there are 2,500 people missing.

People classify hurricane Dorian as the joint strongest Atlantic storm to ever hit land. Many companies in the United States have made contributions to help the relief efforts, in addition to repairing some of the devastations in the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahamas.

Six Companies Donating to Hurricane Dorian Relief in the Bahamas

  1. Disney: The Walt Disney Company announced on September 3, 2019, two days after the hurricane struck, that it would give $1 million dollars in efforts to help alleviate some of the devastations. The Disney Cruise Line led the donation with its president, Jeff Vahle, releasing a statement saying, “The Bahamas is such a special place to us and our guests, and we have watched the devastation created by Hurricane Dorian with concern and heartache.”

  2. Lowe’s: The Lowe’s Emergency Command Center took action in the midst of the disaster on August 29, 2019. It set up a core team of people working tirelessly to send medical supplies to areas that the hurricane impacted. The company has also committed to sending a $1 million donation to the Bahamian Red Cross. 

  3. Verizon: The Verizon company waived all unlimited talk, text and data usage for its customers in the areas that suffered destruction from the storm in the Bahamas. People in this area received waived service from September 2, 2019, through September 9, 2019.                               

  4. Coca-Cola: The Coca-Cola Foundation announced a $400,000 grant to the Salvation Army in order to send immediate help to those the devastation of Hurricane Dorian affected in the Bahamas. Furthermore, Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottling and other CC1 Companies are lending a helping hand to the Coca-Cola Bottler in the Bahamas by organizing donations and supply drives with the help of the Puerto Rican business communities.

  5. Walmart: Walmart, Walmart.org and Sam’s Club pledged up to $500,000 in cash and in kind donations for the country’s recovery. The money that they committed will go to the organizations working directly with those impacted by the disaster. Walmart is also working very closely with government entities and local officials to alleviate the needs of the citizens.

  6. Amazon: In partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Mercy Corps and the Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Foundation, the Disaster Relief by Amazon team is sending two Amazon Air flights full of supplies to the areas Hurricane Dorian impacted. The planes will contain tarps, buckets and water containers. Amazon has also launched a wish list campaign, specifically created for nonprofit partners, for customers to donate materials to aboard the plane by September 13, 2019.

These six largely successful companies have made monumental efforts to alleviate some of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian and give back to communities that lost so much. Rebuilding the communities will likely take years, but these donations are a wonderful starting point.

– Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Hunger in VenezuelaFood shortages across Venezuela started to rise in 2013, around the time of President Hugo Chávez’s death. Less than a year later, the nation’s oil-dependent economy began to tank and inflation began to soar. Venezuela could no longer afford the cost of its imported basic goods, resulting in nationwide shortages in food and medicine. While the nation’s instability worsens, people are going hungry in Venezuela. Here are the top seven facts about hunger in Venezuela.

7 Facts About Hunger in Venezuela

  1. In 2017, 89.4 percent of Venezuelan households could not afford basic food supplies due to inflation and six out of 10 Venezuelans reported going to bed hungry. In February 2019, peak inflation in food prices hit a staggering 371,545.6 percent and high rates are continuing throughout 2019.
  2. Due to hunger in Venezuela, malnourishment is quite common. The United Nations reported that nearly 3.7 million Venezuelans suffered from malnourishment in 2018.
  3. Mass weight loss is also common across Venezuela as 64.3 percent of Venezuelans lost weight due to food shortages in 2017. Venezuelans who lost weight dropped an average of 11.4 kg each since the shortages began. 
  4. Available food supplies all too often end up on the black market and are sold by bachaqueros. Bachaqueros buy subsidized goods at government-set prices, then sell those goods at double, even triple, the original price, taking advantage of struggling communities. This illegal practice is exacerbated by Venezuela’s compounded crises.
  5. Without easy access to affordable food supplies, some Venezuelans resort to using alternative resources. For example, the yuca root can replace potatoes, which is a similar, yet far cheaper vegetable. In more desperate cases, scavenging for scraps has also become popular.
  6. Although President Nicolás Maduro has rejected many types of humanitarian aid, including extensive efforts to send food supplies, the government has accepted aid from nonpartisan groups. In 2018 alone, Cuatro Por Venezuela, one of the largest relief suppliers, sent 41,804 pounds of food to Venezuela, amounting to 120,000 standard meals for people in need. These supplies are distributed directly to schools, orphanages, nursing homes and homeless shelters all over Venezuela.
  7. In addition to nonpartisan NGOs, international government groups, such as the European Commission (EC), allocated another €50 million to the crisis in Venezuela, along with additional food supplies and nutritional services in March 2019. 

As food shortages continue and people remain hungry, these seven facts about hunger in Venezuela show that the country is in a clear humanitarian crisis. While there are aid efforts out there, supplies must be sent in as nonpartisan support. So long as aid efforts adhere to this restriction, there is hope for hunger relief in Venezuela.

—Suzette Shultz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

history of the Berlin Blockade
On June 24, 1948, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) cut off land access and power to West Berlin. This act hoped to discredit the U.S. by stranding 2.5 million war-weary people in the American sector without food. American attempts to breach the blockade might have resulted in war, so the Truman Administration circumvented the USSR by airlifting supplies into the city for almost a year. It was a major success. The history of the Berlin Blockade displayed the power of emergency aid and set a precedent for countless American airlift operations.

The Blockade Begins

Following World War II, Germany and Berlin split into Eastern and Western entities. England, France and the U.S. controlled the Western sectors, while the USSR administered the East. Unfortunately, the entire city of Berlin was in East Germany. The Western powers signaled West German autonomy in 1948 by instituting currency reform in their sectors.

The Soviets feared an independent Germany as a threat to its nation’s security. Dr. Armin Grunbacher adds that Soviet leaders wanted to force America to relinquish control of Berlin and discredit them as the Cold War began. The USSR increasingly provoked the West to try and achieve its goals as June 1948 approached. Tensions especially grew during the April Crisis.

A U.S. Army historical report recounts that Soviet provocations led all parties closer to war. On April 5, 1948, a patrolling Soviet jet collided with a British passenger aircraft over Germany and killed everyone on board. The Soviets finally blockaded West Berlin in June 1948, sending American leaders into a panic. Officials questioned if America should risk war with military incursions into Berlin or if there was a better option.

The Airlift

West Berliners desperately required supplies. Residents rationed food, but some still starved. Soviet ration cards enticed 20,000 individuals to go to East Berlin.

President Truman curtailed initial plans by West Germany’s military administrator, General Lucius Clay, to forcefully supply the city with an armed convoy. It was inefficient and could potentially start a major war. Instead, the Truman Administration ordered Clay to gather American transport aircrafts from around the world for an upcoming humanitarian aid operation. General Curtis LeMay ran Operation Vittles and started airlifting 5,000 tons of supplies every day into West Berlin starting on July 1, 1948.

The Airlift’s Success

The U.S. needed to airlift at least 2,000 tons of aid daily to feed everyone. By the end of the airlift, American planes delivered 13,000 tons every day to West Berliners. The breadth of planes utilized and supplies dropped still makes the Berlin Airlift the largest operation of its kind. The success of the aid humiliated the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, and the blockade ended on May 12, 1949.

The U.S. not only saved the lives of millions of people but displayed its immense generosity. Dr. Grunbacher says that the history of the Berlin Blockade showed “the manifested expression of U.S. technical superiority and willingness to defend the ‘Free World.’”

Later Operations

Many airlifts have followed the example of Operation Vittles. A report from the U.S. Air Force accounts for 560 such humanitarian operations between 1947 and 1994. America used emergency assistance to respond to both natural disasters and humanitarian crises in this period.

For example, the 1977 Turkish earthquake killed 3,600 people and left 50,000 homeless. The USAF was quick to respond and airlifted 606 tons of tents, blankets and food to accommodate those affected. The U.S. also participated in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide Relief, nicknamed Operation Support Hope. U.S. planes deposited 3,600 tons of supplies at refugee camps in neighboring nations for fleeing Rwandan refugees.

The history of the Berlin Blockade resonated as late as 2014 when the U.S. airlifted food and water to Yazidi Christians trapped on Mt. Sinjar in Iraq. The Islamic State had assaulted surrounding villages in the area and massacred members of the ethnoreligious minority. American intervention bought the Yazidis vital time. More than 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of water dropped sustained Yazidis until most escaped the mountain.

The history of the Berlin Blockade displayed the potential for emergency aid to assist millions of people and avoid violent conflict. It also showed that the reputation of the U.S. benefits from humanitarian operations. The precedent set in 1948 spawns new operations every year and it shows no sign of stopping.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Humanitarian Response Plan for LibyaIn Libya, approximately 823,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance. This prompted the World Health Organization to create a Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya (HRP). Through this plan, WHO targets 552,000 individuals suffering from the Libyan Crisis, which stems from the Arab uprisings and revolts in 2011.

WHO, as well as partner organizations, plans to provide humanitarian assistance that focuses on key needs such as protection, access to healthcare, education, safe drinking water and sanitation and access to household goods such as essential food and non-food items (NFIs). Here is a look inside WHO’s 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya.

Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya

WHO’s Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya targets seven sectors: education; health; protection; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); food security; shelter and non-food items and multipurpose cash. The health sector has the largest portion of people in need, with approximately 554,000 individuals. The two main objectives of the Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya are to

  • “provide and improve safe and dignified access to essential goods and critical public services in synergy with sustainable development assistance,” and
  • “enhance protection and promote adherence to International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law and International Refugee Law.”

This plan requires $202 million in funding. Therefore, each sector has designated funding based on the goals it plans to implement. The main sectors and their goals are as follows.

  1. Protection: The protection sector is geographically focused. The prioritized areas have the most severe conditions. The 2019 plan intends to bridge the gaps in data regarding protection from past years. The HRP also plans to expand protection monitoring, protection assessments and quality of services as well as reinforce community-based responses.
  2. Health: Several healthcare facilities were destroyed and damaged during the crisis. Non-communicable diseases have started to spread throughout Libya as well. The plan provides access to health services at primary and secondary levels. It also aims to monitor diseases. In addition, the plan prioritizes WASH programs, mental health and psychosocial support.
  3. WASH: Another key focus of the Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya is WASH. The plan hopes to focus its attention on newly displaced persons. Thus, the goals of the WASH sector aim to improve WASH facilities in detention centers, respond to urgent needs and technical support. In doing so, the plan hopes to ensure children have access to safe WASH facilities. It also advocates for the repair of the Man-Made River Project. Moreover, this sector will collaborate with the education sector.
  4. Education: The education sector plans to target 71,000 individuals. Children in high conflict areas are being mentally affected by trauma and distress. These can further affect school attendance and performance. The HRP wants to improve formal education by means of teacher training and provide more supplies for educators. As such, this sector will also prioritize mental health in grades 1-12.
  5. Shelter/NFIs: Shelter and NFI sector focuses on the population displacement as well as damages to infrastructure and homes caused by the uprisings. This sector seeks to secure safe housing for those who are displaced. This sector targets about 195,000 individuals to receive shelter aid.

Overall, the Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya is making strides. As of June 2019, WHO has provided trauma kits and emergency medical supplies to 35 healthcare facilities. This is an increase from the first provision in March. Similarly, medicines for chronic and infectious diseases have been given as well as insulin. In terms of mental health, in January, WHO trained 22 participants in mental health through primary health facilities. The sector also provided training for maternal and reproductive health as well. With this momentum, in time, WHO will continue to meet the goals and targets of the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya.

Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

drones can save livesThird-world development programs use drones to advance projects more quickly and with fewer expenses. Pilots can volunteer for projects that provide humanitarian aid to remote areas, such as delivering medicine, blood, specimens for lab testing, vaccines and anti-venom. A skilled drone pilot can provide support across the globe to help people in need. Drone pilots can support relief efforts after major natural disasters, and civilian drone pilots (who have the proper authorization) can work with officials in search and rescue missions, provide aerial photography data to help find lost persons, map out disaster areas and help assess damage to an area. Here’s how a drone pilot can use their skills to help save lives around the world.

Four Ways Drone Pilots Can Save Lives

  1. Volunteer Organizations: One of the most well-established humanitarian drone pilot associations is the UAV Aviators Organization founded by Dr. Patrick Meier. This group has more than 3,300 members worldwide and represents 120 countries. Of those members, more than 600 are drone pilots. A drone pilot can find out about volunteer opportunities by registering with the Humanitarian UAV Network and agreeing to the UAV Humanitarian Code of Conduct. There is no cost to join this association. Another volunteer organization is S.W.A.R.M. More than 7,500 SAR pilots volunteer with this organization, serving more than 40 countries. It has an active Facebook group with more than 4,400 members. 
  2. Third-World Development Projects: The World Bank reports there are many benefits when using drones for development projects in third-world nations. Some benefits include easier planning, faster project implementation, less risk to local workers and communities, lower operational costs and surveying before access infrastructure is built in remote areas. The World Bank seeks drone pilots as volunteers and interns for drone flying projects to work in land use administration, forest management, coastal zone protection and environmental risk assessment. Drone pilots can help with medical deliveries, firefighting, contamination sensing and weather prediction. They can also help with guarding endangered animals and natural resource conservation.In 2016, the World Bank executed a drone project to conduct mapping in Kosovo. This mapping occurred after the Balkan wars ended in the late 1990s. The $13.86 million Real Estate and Cadastre Project was operated by the Global Land and Geospatial Unit of the World Bank. Women from Kosovo, who lost their husbands and sons in the wars, worked alone or with other women to rebuild their homes. The wars made it impossible to prove the land was theirs because all the documentation was lost. Without the ability to prove ownership, they could not work the farmland or get loans from the bank. These women had no ability to pay for traditional surveyors. Surveying the land through the use of drones helped them register their rightful ownership to their family’s land.
  3. Disaster Relief With Search and Rescue: Coordinated efforts with local authorities create the most beneficial effects. It is important for pilots to avoid any unintentional consequences of drone deployments in disaster zones, which might interfere with official rescue and relief efforts. Following Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the Philippines in 2013, four key drones were launched by different local and international groups to support the relief efforts. They were used to discover safe and effective areas for NGOs to set up camp, identify passable roads, assess the damage from the storm surge and flooding and determine which villages were most affected by the typhoon. Drone surveillance determined some of the most affected areas, and the data was given to different humanitarian organizations to aid the relief efforts. In Dulag, aerial imagery was used to determine which areas had the greatest need for new shelters. This allowed Medair, a Swiss humanitarian organization, to identify how much material was needed and better allocate their resources to help people as quickly as possible.
  4. Vaccine and Medical Supplies Delivery: In December 2018, a drone delivery brought a life-saving vaccine to a remote part of the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific near Australia. With funding for the humanitarian project supported by UNICEF and the government of Australia, volunteers working with a company called Swoop Aero were able to deliver vaccines through 25 miles of rough mountainous terrain. Drone use helped the vaccines maintain the proper temperature due to the speed available through drone transport and delivered them and other critical medical supplies to remote areas.In Africa, UNICEF funds a company called Zipline. The staff of volunteers delivers vaccines and other medical supplies by using drones. The deliveries have been made to remote villages in the countries of Rwanda and Ghana since 2016. UNICEF sponsors other projects of a similar kind in Malawi and Papua New Guinea. It may take days to reach these remote villages by car or on foot. A drone can fly to them in minutes and land in a small jungle clearing a plane or helicopter could not use. UNICEF also sponsors programs that use drones to transport specimens from remote locations back to laboratories for testing. This helps health care practitioners make the correct diagnosis and administer life-saving treatment to patients quickly.

Drone pilots have plenty of ways to use their skills to help fight poverty and get involved in global relief efforts. Pilots are encouraged to volunteer to help out locally and/or internationally. As Dr. Peter Meir says, “The best use of a drone is to save a life.”

Mark Sheehan
Photo: Unsplash

relief for VenezuelansThe Venezuelan people are experiencing a crisis with the collapse of their economic and healthcare system. They are challenged with a lack of medical supplies and equipment. Malnutrition and food insecurity are becoming extreme issues as well. Since 2014, it is estimated that more than 3 million Venezuelans have migrated to other countries to seek food and a better life. In the wake of Venezuela’s crisis, Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) proposed the Humanitarian Assistance to the Venezuelan People Act of 2019, which will contribute to relief for Venezuelans during this time of crisis.

Aid to the Healthcare System

The Humanitarian Assistance to the Venezuelan People Act of 2019 focuses on healthcare facilities. The bill suggests offering aid by supplying the healthcare facilities with necessary medical equipment, medicines that are in great demand and other basic medical supplies that a facility might need.

With the Venezuelan healthcare system collapsing and shortages of medicine and supplies growing, several diseases, such as measles and malaria, have started to affect many people. This proposed bill will ensure the proper distribution of medicines and supplies to Venezuelan healthcare facilities via local nongovernment organizations.

Food and Nutrition Assistance

Assistance in food and nutritional supplies will also contribute to relief for Venezuelans. The children of Venezuela are experiencing extreme malnutrition in what some researchers are already considering a famine. As much as 41 percent of children can go without eating throughout for an entire day in Venezuela. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell’s bill aims to address the lack of food security and increased malnutrition. The bill will handle these issues by supplying people with food commodities and supplements.

Reports stated in the proposed bill will monitor the relief for Venezuelans. The bill proposes assistance with ensuring that all health and food supplies being distributed to Venezuelans are dutifully selected and spread throughout the entire population. Local nongovernment organizations are to oversee these distributions.

The bill’s reports will cover how well supplies are being spread out to the population and assess the degree of relief being provided to the population. The United States Agency for International Development and the Department of State will oversee the delivery of the assistance and ensure that it is properly handled.

Where is the Bill Now?

On March 25, 2019, the Humanitarian Assistance to the Venezuelan People Act of 2019 was passed in the House of Representatives and will now move on to the U.S. Senate. The proposed bill was read by the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Foreign Relations on March 26, 2019. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell states that providing $150 million each fiscal year will help to achieve the goals of providing relief for Venezuelans. The proposed bill concludes with condemning the current situation in Venezuela and the actions carried out by the Maduro regime and the country’s security forces.

– Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Efforts of Alyssa MilanoEver since she was a child, Alyssa Milano has spent almost all of her entire life in the public eye. Memories of “Who’s the Boss?” and “Charmed” come to mind when recalling her television career. Moreover, of late, Milano was featured prominently at the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, along with involvement in the #MeToo movement. Few know that Alyssa Milano is a philanthropist who gives to charity regularly on both global and domestic level. This is a closer look at some of the humanitarian efforts of Alyssa Milano.

Early Humanitarian Efforts

In 2002, the humanitarian aid of Alyssa Milano began in hosting a photography exhibition and auction in Los Angeles to raise money for a charity in South Africa. An avid photographer in her own right, Milano displayed her own work, as well as the photos of the children attending Los Angeles’s Venice Arts program. Nkosi’s Haven, an organization that runs care centers in South Africa for AIDS-afflicted mothers and children, received close to $50,000 from this event.

UNICEF Ambassador

In 2003, UNICEF invited Milano to become an ambassador due to her charitable work on behalf of children. Milano’s first trip to Angola was to see the issues that plagued the newly-liberated country. Milano launched UNICEF’s Trick or Treat campaign in the fall of 2004. Traveling with UNICEF to India six months after the tsunami disaster, she visited the worst-affected tsunami zones in South India to witness the relief and rehabilitation efforts. Milano’s trip also focused on education and spreading awareness about HIV/AIDS. India has the second highest infection rate in the world. Since her appointment as a UNICEF Ambassador, Milano has been influential in raising funds and awareness for UNICEF and its mission of saving and improving the lives of children worldwide.

As a founding lead ambassador for the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Disease Control, Milano’s her first action was to donate $250,000 to the charity’s Drug Fund. This was used to battle lymphatic filariasis (LF) in Myanmar.

The Global Network is an advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness, inspiring policymakers and working with the necessary funding to control and eliminate the most common Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). NTDs are a group of disabling, disfiguring and deadly diseases affecting people worldwide, living on less than $1.25 a day. The World Health Organization (WHO) has partnered with the Global Network to raise the profile of the neglected disease. In addition to the other humanitarian efforts of Alyssa Milano, she remained focused on bringing this issue to the public.

Charity

In addition to the humanitarian efforts of Alyssa Milano are her charity efforts. In 2009, she became involved with charity work. She began with Water, a grassroots non-profit that engaged more than 75,000 donors around the world and raised over $13 million for operations and water projects. For her 37th birthday, Milano asked in lieu of any presents or parties, that her charity campaign receive donations.

Clean and safe drinking water is not accessible to millions of people. Many suffer from waterborne schistosomiasis, caused by parasitic worms. Not having access to clean drinking water perpetuates the cycle of poverty, Milano believes, as it keeps children out of school and women from pursuing economic growth.

Milano’s campaign brought clean water to Adi Berakit Elementary School in Ethiopia. The campaign also reached 18 other projects. She raised over $50,000 in less than a week and 250 families benefited from her actions. Projects like this one use clean water as a catalyst to improve the overall health of children and the surrounding community.

Recognition

For her commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others, Milano received:

  • a humanitarian award from Sri Chinmoy
  • The Peace Meditation at the United Nations
  • The John Wayne Cancer Institute 2004 Spirit of Hollywood Award

Milano remains involved with the charities reported in this article, in addition to many other organizations. All of the humanitarian efforts of Alyssa Milano show how she used her fame, along with constant dedication and generosity, to turn her work into something incredible that helps other people.

-Colette Sherrington
Photo: Wikimedia

Poverty in MozambiqueOn March 14, 2019, a massive storm made landfall on Mozambique’s coast bringing heavy rains, flooding and chaos. The storm hit Beira, the fourth largest city in the country, hardest. With winds blowing over 105 miles per hour and torrential rains following it, Cyclone Idai became one of the most destructive storms in the past few years. Shortly after, Cyclone Kenneth struck the northern part of Mozambique with 140 mph winds and even heavier rainfall, creating more damage to the infrastructure in the region. Severe weather has affected all aspects of life in the country, and in particular, those living in poverty in Mozambique.

Mozambique is one of the poorest nations in the world with a GDP per capita of roughly $502. Although the poverty rate decreased from 59 percent to 48 percent, inequality still exists in the region between urban and rural areas. According to the World Bank, roughly 80 percent of poor people in Mozambique live in rural areas. Extreme weather conditions like cyclones or flooding exacerbate these inequalities. Because of this, the aftermath of these harsh storms more heavily affect people living in poverty.

Four Ways Extreme Weather Affects Poverty in Mozambique

1. Extreme Weather Destroys Local Infrastructure: Cyclone Idai caused more than $1 billion in damage to infrastructures like roads, bridges and dams in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The storm destroyed roughly 100,000 homes and one million acres of crops as well and it heavily damaged 90 percent of the infrastructure in the port city of Beira upon impact. Hospitals, schools and business could not withstand the storm’s high wind speeds, even though people built them to hold up against 75 mile-per-hour winds.

Many cities in Mozambique did not have the resources to combat these storms, making the likelihood of the preparedness of rural areas for these disasters significantly lower. For the most part, solving the issue of poverty in Mozambique came second to disaster relief. The Post Disaster Needs Assessment stated that the country would need $3.2 billion for reconstruction and recovery efforts. Thankfully, however, developing partners have already pledged up to $1.2 billion to help begin the process of recovering the lost infrastructure.

2. Extreme Weather Displaces Citizens from Their Homes: The storm affected roughly three million people, and about 1.5 million were children. Just outside of the city Pemba, the destruction of mud houses forced roughly 15,000 people to move to overcrowded shelters or stay outside. This displacement made relief efforts even more difficult and urgent. As the storm stranded many people outside of their homes, they required more time to administer survival equipment and begin rebuilding processes. Many rural citizens in Mozambique will not only have to rebuild their entire home, but also have to handle the economic burden of the loss of their arable land.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been working tirelessly and assisted more than half of these people in isolated and urban areas. The number of people living in shelters in the Sofala Province decreased from 16,600 people to 12,812 people in seven days. Although it is a slow process, these relief efforts are making a significant impact.

3. It increases the spread of diseases: One of the major effects of the two most recent cyclones has been the increase of cholera cases spreading across the country. Due to contamination of clean drinking water by flooding, there are reports of over 3,000 cases in Mozambique alone. Many shelters became very crowded after these natural disasters, which only increased the probability of cholera and other diseases like malaria to spread.

Luckily, there was a massive campaign by UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and other relief agencies to vaccinate people against this outbreak. These organizations distributed around 900,000 doses of the vaccine to high-risk areas around Beira. However, this outbreak heightened the effects of extreme weather and had a dangerous effect on the lives of many people.

4. It Halts Agricultural Production: A large part of Mozambique’s economy revolves around agriculture. This industry contributes to more than a quarter of its GDP and employs roughly 80 percent of its labor force. This leaves the country’s economy very susceptible to extreme weather damages. When disasters hit, they impact the poorer populations living in rural areas the most.

Cyclone Idai destroyed 50 percent of the country’s annual crops, which are the main source of income for a lot of people. If extreme weather patterns of this force continue, a food scarcity crisis might begin in the country, and the economy might suffer those effects as well. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been adamant about focusing relief efforts in Mozambique as a top priority. FAO has called for $19 million to support heavily affected regions for three months to resume food production and assist fishing communities. By fulfilling this request, these areas can begin the process of rebuilding these vital industries.

For years, poverty in Mozambique has been a persistent problem for many people living in rural areas. Recently, extreme weather events have become increasingly more powerful and destructive. Various organizations are providing relief efforts that make a huge difference in the region such as the U.N.’s International Disaster Relief System and the United Nations World Food Programme. However, rebuilding efforts from this cyclone are far from over. Disaster preparedness is now becoming a focus for the government regarding infrastructure improvements. In order to end poverty in Mozambique, the country must use better techniques to protect its citizens and the land they depend on.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr