Universities Fighting Global Poverty
In any global issue, college students are some of the most useful people in spreading awareness about global poverty. Throughout the years, many colleges have joined to spread awareness about impoverishment and the following five are just a few examples of the many domestic and international universities fighting global poverty.

5 Universities Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Manhattan College: This NYC liberal arts college joined the One Campus Challenge, an initiative for universities fighting global poverty, back around its conception in 2007. The college remains one of the over 2,000 participants in the challenge. In an article by Thomas Hallissey, the then leader, Kieran O’Shea, managed to recruit 66 students into the campus’ chapter of the challenge. O’Shea became inspired to join the initiative after he saw other colleges join.
  2. Ohio State University: Sally Miller, a plant pathologist and professor from OSU, has focused her research on the availability of food in developing countries. According to an article from 2014 and about Miller’s travel to the African nation of Senegal, Miller’s research focuses on pest control and agricultural development as a means of fighting global poverty. Her travel and research was part of the International Plant Diagnostic Network. The project was incredibly widespread involving scientists from several U.S. universities including Ohio State and partner institutions in the 12 member countries of the IPDN.
  3. The University of Chicago: With so many universities fighting global poverty head-on and coming up with solutions, it is important to have a view of the areas in need of attention. In October 2019, researchers from the University of Chicago created the Million Neighborhoods Map. According to UChicago’s article, this map is “a groundbreaking visual tool that provides the first comprehensive look at informal settlements across Africa, helping to identify communities most in need of roads, power, water, sanitation and other infrastructure.” People could use such technology to lay a foundation for future solutions, as it is difficult to come across a solution if one cannot view the problem on a widespread scale. Reports determine that this map shall receive updates to include other African regions as well as Asian areas as well.
  4. Harvard and MIT: It would make sense that profound solutions to global poverty would come from two of the most prestigious universities in the world. MIT professor Abhijit Banerjee and his wife, Esther Duflo, as well as Harvard professor Michael Kremer, received Nobel Prizes for their research on “how to improve school results in Kenya and India, studies on micro-financing, price sensitivity to health-care costs and lifting vaccination rates,” according to a Bloomberg article. These professors and economists take a different standpoint on the issue of global poverty, treating it from a scientific point of view. They also focus on the poor as people in need of help rather than mere numbers.

Whether students or professors lead these initiatives, one cannot doubt that universities fighting global poverty have and will continue to have a significant impact. The efforts to raise awareness about poverty, understand and improve agriculture in developing countries and map countries to determine infrastructure needs are just a few of the components that should help reduce poverty around the globe.

– Christian Moore
Photo: Flickr

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

Newly released U.N. data suggests that violence decreased in the Central African Republic in the aftermath of a peace deal between the government and armed groups in February 2019. While it is yet unclear whether this peace deal will be successful in the long-term, this represents a small bit of hope for the Central African Republic, which has been entrenched in a civil war since 2012.

Organizations including the U.N., USAID and Mercy Corps have been providing humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic, and a successful peace agreement may change the humanitarian context in the country.

Conflict Overview

In December 2012, armed Muslim groups, organized into a coalition known as the Seleka, attacked the Central African Republic government, seizing the capital city and staging a coup in early 2013. Anti-Balaka — Christian armed forces — rose up in response, committing violence against primarily Muslim civilians and contributing to the displacement of innocent citizens.

Although the new government officially disbanded Seleka forces, many ex-Seleka fighters initiated revenge attacks. Both the ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka groups have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to the U.N. and other human rights groups. The continuing violence caused thousands of deaths.

The government maintains control of the capital, but armed groups who continued fighting dominate the rest of the nation. In addition to ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka forces, a number of other armed groups joined the conflict, many of which were already in existence. These include The Central African Armed Forces (FACA), Revolution and Justice (RJ), The Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), The Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), The Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ), Union of Republican Forces (UFR), The Popular Front for Recovery (FPR) and The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The widespread conflict caused by these groups has had disastrous effects on the economy of the Central African Republic, causing approximately three-quarters of the population to live in poverty, with nearly 650,000 civilians displaced.

Humanitarian Aid

In response to the crisis, several international actors became active in the nation, providing humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic.

Mercy Corps began working in the Central African Republic in 2007, in response to its already high poverty rate. It estimates that 2.9 million people in the Central African Republic need humanitarian assistance, noting that basic services, including clean water, health care and education, are scarce.

In the Central African Republic, some of the work that Mercy Corps does involves providing assistance to displaced families, operating support centers for victims of gender-based violence, leading child protection committees, constructing wells to provide clean water and training community leaders to manage disputes and help maintain peace.

In addition to Mercy Corps, USAID also provides humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic primarily through funding for humanitarian partners. USAID helps fund programs by organizations such as Oxfam, Plan International and UNICEF in the Central African Republic to provide relief to victims of violence and displacement.

According to USAID, the U.S. government provides the most humanitarian funding to the Central African Republic, with more than $173 million provided in 2018 and early 2019. Following the U.S. are Germany and the European Commission, both contributing just over $50 million. Other countries, including Sweden, the United Kingdom and Canada, also made significant contributions.

Finally, the U.N. is active in the Central African Republic through its peacekeeping organization known as MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic). MINUSCA was established to protect civilians and disarm militia fighters. The U.N. has 15,000 personnel providing humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic and working towards peace.

New Developments

The government and 14 armed groups reached a peace deal in February 2019, after talks began on Jan. 24. Though whether the deal will ultimately be successful is still unknown, this represents a crucial step in ending the cycles of violence that kept the Central African Republic trapped in poverty and suffering.

In the aftermath of the peace deal, MINUSCA noted that between January and June 2019 there were only 565 incidents of human rights violations or abuse, including rapes, violent attacks and the recruitment of children into armed groups. Between January and June in 2018, there were 1,674, nearly three times as many incidents. MINUSCA is reluctant to be optimistic, however, as peace talks failed in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Musa Gassama, the director of the human rights division of MINUSCA, stated the armed groups still control much of the nation.

The U.N. Special Representative for the Central African Republic, Parfait Onanga-Nyanga, noted that support from the international community is crucial to successfully implementing a peace agreement.

Moving Forward

A successful peace deal would not stop the need for humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic in the near future, but it could alter the humanitarian context. Increased assistance may actually be needed if peace is achieved. Indeed, internally displaced persons and refugees will need assistance in returning to their homes and re-establishing their lives there.

The need for humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic will continue to be high, even in the aftermath of the conflict. Hopefully, organizations such as USAID and Mercy Corps will continue to be active in the nation, adapting to new contexts and working to benefit as many civilians as possible.

– Sara Olk
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

Hurricane ResilienceHurricane Dorian is the latest in a long series of hurricanes that have hit the Caribbean — impacting the Bahamas the worst. Initial reports from the U.N. estimated that nearly 70,000 people were in need of food, water and shelter in the archipelago and that around 30 people had died as a result of the hurricane.

For the estimated 10 percent of the population of the Bahamas who live below the poverty line, recovering from natural disasters such as this is a particular challenge. As a result, there is a massive need for programs that not only address the short-term impacts of hurricanes but also focus on the importance of long-term hurricane resilience.

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), based in Barbados, has pledged to provide $1 million in aid to the Bahamas, with $700,000 in the form of a loan and the remaining $300,000 as a grant. While disaster relief helps improve recovery for local economies and minimize the impact for impoverished communities, there are also other avenues of aid that the CDB could pursue which take the form of mental health programs and debt repayment plans.

Mental Health

As a part of the Stronger Together campaign, in collaboration with the Pan-American Health Organization, the CDB has also placed an increased focus on addressing the negative mental health impacts of hurricanes — which traditionally get little attention. However, this type of support is key to help uplift those who experience the trauma of losing their homes or worse, their loved ones.

The campaign, launched in July 2019, aims to train 16 new mental health service professionals, ranging from psychologists to social workers to promote resilience in the face of natural disasters. This program could have a major impact on helping people in the Bahamas recover, while also offering a path towards future mental resilience in the event of another damaging hurricane. This is especially valuable for communities living in poverty.

Debt Repayment

High levels of debt are a substantial impediment to the massive discretionary spending needed to successfully recover from a hurricane, as nations are often forced to choose between allocating resources towards serving the immediate needs of their citizens or maintaining their current repayment plans. As such, a debt relief program could prove incredibly beneficial in the Bahamas, as the country had a debt burden of $8.2 billion prior to the events of Hurricane Dorian.

There is already precedent for the CDB to offer debt restructuring opportunities. For instance, following Hurricane Ivan, Grenada was able to re-negotiate its debt repayment plan to cease repayment following a natural disaster. Some have argued that this program should be extended to all nations in the event of a natural disaster.

This would help to reduce an unsustainable reliance on foreign aid, as nations find themselves falling deeper into debt and failing to provide adequate assistance to their own citizens. Not only do such increases in debt leave countries less prepared for another similar natural disaster, but they also limit the amount of aid which governments can extend to the citizens facing the most significant damages as a result of the disasters.

Conclusion

While the recent pledge of $1 million in aid to the Bahamas by the CDB is a useful step in mitigating the impact of Hurricane Dorian, the CDB also has several other methods of improving not only hurricane recovery but also hurricane resilience. With investment in the mental health field, the CDB is working to train mental health services professionals who can provide psychological support to citizens. This could be supplemented by a re-negotiated debt repayment plan for the Bahamas, with many arguing that such a program would reduce the financial burden placed on the Bahamas by the need to take more loans.

Alexander Sherman
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 Venezuela

Food 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

History of The United States Agency of International Development
Foreign aid refers to any donation that one country makes to help another. The United States has proven itself to be a leading figure in foreign aid projects through the work of the United States Agency of International Development (USAID). This article focuses on the history of USAID.

USAID is the United States’ foreign aid branch which is responsible for diminishing poverty, innovating development and ideological progress around the world. The organization harbors an interesting history scattered with different approaches and methods. Each decade has acted as an era to test new theories on how to best assuage purveying poverty.

A Quick Historical View

On November 3, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order that created the first U.S. agency that would take on global development challenges. USAID emerged “with a spirit of progress and innovation.”

The need for a specific agency to handle global development projects became clear after World War II. The Marshall Plan, active from 1945 to 1949, focused on rebuilding European nations after the damaging war. This demonstrated to U.S. lawmakers that providing assistance to stabilize countries is an effective way of initiating positive change. The 1960s was the decade of development. International powers united under the belief that poverty was a moral blot in the world. Groups like UNICEF and UNDP formed to strengthen infrastructure and industrialization in third-world countries.

Since its early stages, USAID has morphed and shifted focuses. The 1970s had a humanitarian ideal, the 1980s a market-based one and the 1990s saw an effort to stabilize democracy. The 2000s have thus far been reminiscent of USAID’s original purpose.  The all too numerous episodes of violence and war have caused much of USAID’s efforts to go towards rebuilding destroyed neighborhoods and governments.

How Does USAID Implement Aid?

The history of USAID shows that while the organization has taken on multiple approaches, funding methods have remained stagnant. USAID sometimes gives donations to governments and predominantly channels them through NGOs that use the money for very specific purposes.

Many NGOs use their budget to directly affect the lives of individuals and families. Communities receive humanitarian aid in the aftermath of natural disasters. Events like these are particularly harmful to impoverished individuals, as many of them rely on agriculture as the sole means of income. Education and health services are also a primary focus of NGO groups as these are both methods to bring third-world countries onto the modern development stage.

 Which Countries Receive the Most Aid?

There are over 100 countries that receive foreign aid assistance from USAID. The history of USAID shows that countries riddled with violence are often the highest receivers.

To date, USAID has given Afghanistan the most foreign aid from the United States. The country has received a considerable $4.89 billion in total. About 73 percent of this aid has gone directly to military projects. Counter-terrorist projects are particularly important in Afghanistan, as USAID attempts to stabilize legal and judicial systems that work to hinder the threat of violent groups. This not only protects the domestic Afghan population but also works to improve U.S. national security.

Iraq, Israel and Jordan are the next three countries that receive the most foreign aid assistance from USAID. The purpose of these donations is similar to that of Afghanistan.

Ethiopia, South Sudan and Kenya are also big receivers but for different reasons as economic aid is the primary concern. These programs are diverse and unique to the concerns of each country. Many, however, focus on relieving the spread of disease and allocating food security to suffering populations.

 A Recent Project

When reviewing the history of USAID, it is difficult to pick just one outstanding success. The record has shown that it has integrated democracy, erected countless schools and brought the miracles of modern-day science to neglected regions.

One of its recent projects that focuses on agriculture shows that USAID plans for the future and is also pragmatic. The Avansa Agrikultura Project from April 2015 to March 2020  focuses on farming in East Timor. At its completion, the project should help 5,500 individuals in earning more income and benefitting from a nutritious diet. USAID hopes to improve the daily goings of farm life in East Timor in addition to opening international trade markets to recipients.

A glance at the history of USAID personifies it as an organization dedicated to eradicating worldwide poverty through appropriate methods. With its record, it is no secret that this U.S. foreign aid branch poses as an international leader and will more than likely continue to be so in the future.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya

In 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