Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in the Philippines
One cannot say enough about the impact SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 has had on the Asian continent. Claiming the lives of some 3 million globally and infecting close to 140 million people around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world. With the Philippines being among the first to witness the brunt of the virus, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Philippines has been significant. After imposing lockdown measures in mid-March, President Duterte of the Philippines has maintained an iron hand of control as numbers have continued to rise.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in the Philippines

The resulting lockdowns due to the virus have created a significant downturn in the job market, thus exacerbating the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Philippines. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Philippines’ unemployment rate hovered around 5%, but it has now worsened due to lockdown measures. According to the Philippines Statistics Authority, unemployment rose to 17.6% in April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, it is a figure that could rise as lockdown measures continue, leading to increased levels of poverty and hunger.

As a result of increased unemployment, poverty has risen, with expectations determining that almost 3 million Filipinos would enter poverty by the end of 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Philippines is temporary but the right measures and lifting lockdown measures as rates and vaccinations roll out could alleviate it.

Infrastructure Projects in the Philippines

While rising poverty rates, increasing hunger levels and stagnating GDP have been common for industrializing countries in this pandemic, the Philippines sees the woes as potential wins, opportunities to flip its eager human capital into a kickstarter for economic growth. Vivencio Dizon, the Presidential Adviser for Flagship Programs, said that “Infrastructure, a neglected aspect of the Philippines represents an opportunity for the country to reclaim some of its lost economic potential.”

Duterte’s government has reviewed almost $80 billion worth of physical infrastructure projects. Many government officials in the Filipino government are confident that these projects will help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Philippines as many are looking towards the future. One of the projects is the “Build Build Build” program, a project that will involve building infrastructure across the Philippines. A combination of over 20,000 smaller infrastructure projects like the construction of airports, roads, seaports, hospitals, administrative centers and more will demand both highly skilled and low skilled labor to coordinate and enact and oversee construction projects across the rural and urban areas in the country.

Looking Ahead

Despite the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Philippines, the country’s infrastructure projects may help provide employment to its citizens. Through the implementation of the “Build Build Build” program, the Philippines may find its way on the road to economic recovery.

– Alex Pinamang
Photo: Flickr

Nigerian InfrastructureNigeria is located in West Africa and shares a border with Niger to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. The hundreds of different languages spoken in the country characterize its diverse population. The country benefits from a relatively large population and economy but it still has a high poverty rate. Reducing the poverty rate will require better Nigerian infrastructure that will expand the economy to reach the countries rural population.

4 Facts About Nigerian Infrastructure

  1. A public-private partnership is the core strategy. The government has acknowledged the importance of private sector help to reduce the infrastructure deficit which has been a thorn in the side of an economy that shows immense potential. The Nigerian vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, clearly outlined what the government believes the role of the private sector should be as it pertains to improving Nigerian infrastructure. He pointed out that the private sector, which accounts for 92% of the country’s GDP compared to the public sector accounting for a mere 8% of the GDP, shows the limits of public expenditures and budgetary allocations. Osinbajo says it could require $3 trillion over 30 years in infrastructure investment to resolve the infrastructure deficit. Osinbajo included that the country would see a lot of benefit from large investments from the private sector whether it be from local or foreign resources.
  2. The president is promoting private investment in infrastructure. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria recently approved the creation of a new development firm called Infra-Co, which will be backed by an infrastructure fund worth $2.63 billion. The hope is to improve the transportation and power networks that have held back the 40% of Nigerians living below the poverty line — a staggering number for a country that boasts the biggest economy and population in Africa. It has been reported that KPMG will serve as the transactional advisor to the fund which further legitimizes the government’s plan to boost Nigerian infrastructure through partnership with the private sector.
  3. Nigeria is investing heavily in railway construction. The construction of the Lagos-Ibadan rail created history in West Africa as being the first double-track standard gauge rail in the region. The Lagos-Calabar railway is another large project costing $11 billion and running 1,400 kilometers long, which connects the western and eastern parts of the country.
  4. Other key infrastructure projects. Other infrastructure projects in Nigeria include the World Trade Centre, the Lekki Free Trade Zone and the Abuja Gateway Airport. The World Trade Centre and Lekki Free Trade Zone will create more business opportunities for foreign and local investors and increase tourism and entertainment. It will also boost commercial and residential real estate development. The Abuja Gateway Airport will be an architecturally appealing addition to the Abuja Airport. Its design will include features that symbolize the countries diverse culture. The use of solar power, green roofs and locally made laterite clay will help contribute to an environmentally friendly and modern design. All three of these projects seem to be an attempt to bring about more economic opportunities by making Nigeria’s richest cities more welcoming and luxurious for foreign investors.

The increased business opportunities created by the heavy investments in Nigerian infrastructure will significantly help the economy. The railways will allow more Nigerians across the country to work better jobs in wealthier cities such as Lekki city. But, the infrastructure spending still needs to expand to the country’s rural parts so that every Nigerian can be involved in the rapidly growing economy. Nevertheless, Nigeria is making developmental strides and its rapid economic progress should be viewed as a success.

Stephen Blake Illes
Photo: Flickr

The North-South Expressway
Vietnam has experienced incredible economic growth since its reforms in 1986. Over three decades, these new economic policies have resulted in an explosion of economic activity and a slash in the rate of poverty. However, Vietnam’s transportation infrastructure is woefully behind many other developed economies. The government responded to this need by creating a nationwide connectivity project, the North-South Expressway.

The Infrastructure Issue

Vietnam has inadequate transportation networks and requires development and investment. Empirically, Vietnam’s 2020 target goal of $27 billion for public investment, mainly dedicated to transportation infrastructure, shows this. The country’s transportation needs have steadily risen since the economic reforms. Road usage in Vietnam has been on an incline with congested streets and car accidents constituting Vietnam’s hidden epidemic. However, transportation investments have lagged behind. An increase in funding is necessary for the country to reap the benefits of efficient transportation.

The North-South Expressway

The North-South Expressway is the solution to this transportation problem. The $17.9 billion project looks to connect all of Vietnam from Lang Son to Ca Mau. The road system will be an expanse of 1,811 kilometers with a toll collection system and a smart traffic system. Travel to important tourism sites, economic zones and other transportation areas will now be feasible with the new expressway. This high-speed travel throughout diverse geographical regions will revitalize the country’s transportation infrastructure. For the first time in Vietnam’s history, the country will be well connected.

Unfortunately, the central government has run into issues with financing the project. Originally, the government split the project into 11 sub-projects, with five being a public-private partnership (PPP). However, only three of the five received financial backing; the remaining two had no investor bids. The government then changed the two unfunded projects to public projects. However, the government’s ability to finance the project on its own is uncertain. The much-needed outside investments have proven hard to obtain. The project itself is attractive but legal ambiguity within the country causes caution and concern in investors. As such, Vietnam’s government has been spurred into implementing new legislation.

Public-Private Partnership Law

The Public-Private Partnership Law (PPPL) aims to fix the legal barriers preventing the execution of The North-South Expressway. The PPPL will be in effect as of January 2021. The law will clarify the process of investing in Vietnam by creating standard form contracts and government guarantees of project fulfillment. The law will also enforce proper foreign currency payment from foreign investors and the use of a risk-sharing mechanism. Essentially, the PPPL elevates and integrates the previously passed laws, decrees and circulars that regulated PPPs into one authoritative law. It will make private and foreign investment in government-sponsored infrastructure projects simpler, less risky and more appealing.

The Light at the End of the Road

Improving transportation networks will have a profound impact on Vietnam. It will increase economic activity through improved connections between consumers and producers and decrease transportation costs. The World Economic Forum estimates a 5% to 25% economic return on every dollar that goes toward infrastructure, such as transportation. More succinctly, developed roads lubricate the flow of goods and people across regions, which increases economic activity.

Additionally, developing transportation networks directly affects society’s most impoverished members. Areas with little economic opportunity would become connected to vital economic centers. As a result, connectivity to social services, such as health care and education, would increase along with economic and social mobility. The economic rewards are well worth the financial investment into transportation infrastructure. The North-South Expressway — with the help of the PPPL — indicates significant poverty reduction for Vietnam in the near future.

Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr

Aid Poverty in MozambiqueThe country of Mozambique, located in southern Africa, has 46.1% of its population living below the poverty line. Children living in rural areas are among the most impacted as poverty in Mozambique hits rural areas the hardest. Economic growth has occurred in the country over the last decade but rural poverty persists due to meager transport infrastructure ultimately segregating rural regions. However, a new initiative is underway to help aid poverty in Mozambique.

The Integrated Feeder Roads Project

Funded by the World Bank, the Integrated Feeder Roads Project is an ongoing initiative that is enhancing road access in selected rural regions of Mozambique to support the well-being of local communities. For Mozambique and its segregated rural regions, added transport infrastructure that the Integrated Feeder Roads Project provides will connect these poverty-stricken rural regions to greater Mozambique. As a result, poverty in Mozambique is set to improve through imports, exports and overall improved levels of accessibility to and from rural regions.

Cyclones Strike

In 2019, the powerful Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth ravaged their way through the Southern Hemisphere and Mozambique was one of many countries deeply affected. Cyclone Idai was deemed to be one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit southern Africa over the last 20 years. Only six weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth hit Mozambique, marking the first time that two strong tropical cyclones struck the country in the same season. The aftermath of both cyclones was devastating, and in the destruction, the already minimal roads connecting rural regions were further damaged and relief efforts from humanitarians became nearly impossible. Poverty in Mozambique worsened after these cyclones and so did the transportive means of aiding it.

The World Bank Helps Aid Poverty in Mozambique

The Integrated Feeder Roads Project was initially approved by the World Bank in 2018 as Mozambique’s transport infrastructure has long been insufficient to sustain steady economies in rural areas and support local communities. Following the cyclones and the damage they left behind, the World Bank approved an IDA grant of $110 million to further aid reconstruction efforts given the severe aftermath of Idai and Kenneth. Overall, the World Bank is financing the Integrated Feeder Roads Project with an estimated total of $185 million.

COVID-19 in Mozambique

As if Mozambique had not endured enough, COVID-19 has been yet another unfortunate obstacle thrown at the country in its rebuilding process after the cyclones. Negatively impacting poverty, Mozambique’s economy has further declined as a result of COVID-19 due to travel restrictions and precautions affecting the flow of goods and services. Transport infrastructure built from the Integrated Feeder Roads Project will aid relief efforts and boost the economy even though COVID-19 is impacting poverty relief efforts.

The Future of Mozambique

In the face of much adversity, the Integrated Feeder Roads Project offers plenty of hope for poverty relief success in Mozambique. Added transport infrastructure will connect rural regions to greater Mozambique, and in a time of heavy need, these opened connections will help rural communities and affected individuals who desperately need it. Overall, foreign aid will help aid poverty in Mozambique.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

3 Ways Kenya Has Worked to Drop Its Poverty RatesMany countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have found the majority of their populations living below the poverty line. With a lot of work being done to eliminate poverty in these countries, there have been dramatic changes in the lifestyle and the overall economies of many regions. The most notable changes have come from Kenya, showing some great economic advances between the years 2005 and 2015. Taking a look at the numbers, in 2005, 43.6% of Kenya’s population was living below the poverty line, earning less than $1.09 per day. Then, 10 years later, in the year 2015, Kenyans saw a dramatic change in their economy, dropping its poverty rate to 35.6%, and proving a continuous downward trend. Kenya’s significant socioeconomic improvement has prompted many to look closely at how Kenya has worked to drop its poverty rates. Here are three ways that Kenya was able to drop its poverty rates.

Education

By improving the education system and focusing on its younger population, Kenya is creating opportunities for the youth, and as a result the country, to prosper. Through the use of newer classroom technology and better resources, it has become evident that Kenyan youth are coming into the world more prepared to work and increase economic growth.

By giving younger people the opportunity to build their knowledge around things they love, Kenya is dropping its poverty rate. Because the economy grows from the increase in educated people, poverty decreases as a result.

Reducing Poverty in Rural Areas

Rural regions in Kenya face the highest poverty rates. As such, in order to address the issue at hand, more economic progress was offered in more rural areas. As written in the World Bank Blog by Utz Pape and Carolina Mejia-mantilla, “this was possible because of the increasing importance of non-agricultural income (particularly commerce) to supplement agricultural income for rural households, which has been aided by the expansion of mobile money and the telecommunication revolution.” This explains one of the ways economic growth was offered in Kenya’s rural areas.

Construction and Infrastructure

Building up communities has become one of Kenya’s main methods of alleviating poverty. Partaking in construction and building infrastructure has become one of the most booming businesses in the country, overall helping the economy and allowing for newer and safer residential areas to be built all around the country. According to the Privacy Shield, the construction industry has helped Kenya tremendously in creating jobs and a safer living environment. Along with that, Kenya has been able to strike up deals with outside countries, including the United States, thanks to the progress made within the construction industry. As a result of the attention on its booming industry, Kenya has been able to drop its poverty rates.

Although Kenya is making great advancements in alleviating poverty, there is still much to be done. To completely eradicate poverty in Kenya and support the country’s efforts to drop its poverty rates, the international community and humanitarian organizations must continue to donate and support Kenya’s poverty alleviation efforts. One of the ways the international community can help is by volunteering. Through the Overseas Program, one can volunteer and take a trip to Kenya to help push forward more advancements toward a less impoverished future for the country.

Sophia Cloonan 
Photo: Flickr

Road Construction Project in Laos
The Southeast Asian country Laos has been successful in reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty. However, about 25% of the 7 million people still live in poverty, while only 20% live on more than $2.50 a day. The majority of the people living in poverty reside in rural areas where there is a lack of roads and necessities. The Road Maintenance Group (RMG) program in Laos has bettered the country’s infrastructure by improving roads in rural areas. In addition to addressing insufficient roads, the program has provided more jobs, especially for women, as the initiative works to help expand job opportunities. As a result, the road construction project in Laos helped reduce poverty.

The Poverty Reducing Results

With the help of funding from the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction Fund, the Road Maintenance Group program was able to reduce the amount of poverty in the rural areas of Laos. The program increased the chances of women becoming employed with stable income by 70% after being a part of the program. There was also an increase in people’s monthly wages due to gaining experience under the program. The RGM had produced a 75%-90% increase in income gains from participants compared to the 30%-40% range from other public work programs.

Future Road Construction Projects

The recent success of the year-long road construction project in Laos is not a one-time thing. The constant floods, heatwaves and landslides tend to destroy Laos’ roads. The damage to the roads from these weather conditions affects Laotians who do not have a safe and efficient way to access food markets, healthcare and jobs. The Lao government has approved the reconstruction of the National 13 Road. This road is the most heavily used as it is one of the largest roads in Laos, stretching from the northernmost to southernmost areas of the country. Since National Road 13 is the most important road, the project will be greater than the RGM programs, producing a better job outlook and reducing poverty. The project will also help the country’s economy as it is greatly dependent on road transportation for trade and imports.

The total funding allocated for this project is $40 million from both the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which will provide safer infrastructure and jobs to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty.

Looking Forward

There is a growing need for stable and safe roads with the constant erosion that flooding caused. The roads are the main source of transportation for Laotians, and a lack of reliable roads limits the number of people who have access to the necessary services for their basic needs. Road transportation is also a crucial form of transportation for the people of Laos and the economy since land mostly surrounds the country and it does not have any seaports. The road construction project in Laos helps reduce poverty by providing the country with a reliable source of transportation and expanding the job opportunities for the people of communities living in poverty.

– Zahlea Martin
Photo: Flickr

The Belt and Road Initiative
Approximately 26.5 million out of 221.8 million Pakistani citizens live below the national poverty line, determined based on one’s ability to afford to consume 2,350 calories a day. Indigence is particularly widespread in rural areas, which houses almost two-thirds of the national population. Due to persistent fiscal deficits, Pakistan has failed to implement appropriate anti-poverty and welfare measures. Currently, Pakistan lacks an umbrella social protection institution, while state loan schemes exclude many rural inhabitants, whose economic activity is largely informal and temporary. However, the Belt and Road Initiative may provide support to Pakistan’s poor.

The Situation

Farming and animal husbandry remains indispensable to the country’s agrarian regions. However, while almost 40% of Pakistan’s labor force relies on other sources of income, rural development may not occur without industrialization and infrastructural advancements, which is essential to connect the locals with the neighboring urban areas. Luckily, the Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013 by the Chinese and the Pakistani authorities, has endeavored to facilitate these positive changes. The BRI or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the collective name for a plethora of Sino-Pakistani projects that primarily concentrate on infrastructure and energy, with an estimated budget of more than $62 billion.

Although the BRI is not the only major investment scheme operating in Pakistan, with the Asian Development Bank similarly funding road construction and having spent circa $14 billion on developing the country’s energy sector and rural communities, the former’s scale is unprecedented. Whether one could say the same about its impact on the Pakistani poor is equally important to establish, and now that the Belt and Road Initiative’s initial projects have come to fruition, it is possible to discern that.

Energy Sector Benefits

Within the first seven years of its existence, the Belt and Road Initiative resulted in the completion of 24 energy projects, which are worth $25.5 billion altogether. These include the erection of non-renewable power plants, namely coal stations in the Pakistani towns of Port Qasim and Sahiwal, as well as of solar and wind facilities. Thanks to this, where Pakistan’s annual GDP growth has been traditionally undermined by at least 2% owing to energy shortages, and where only half of the rural population had permanent access to electricity in 2018, the projects successfully replenished its national grid with 3,240 MW.

This was an 11% increase in its overall power capacity, and it helped stabilize the electricity supply to the indefeasible benefit of rural communities due to its diversification of the national energy resources. Furthermore, rural communities are expected to benefit from the construction of natural gas pipelines from Iran to the Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh, whose rural poverty rates remain the highest in the country.

Infrastructure Benefits

Besides helping Pakistan attain energy self-sufficiency, the Belt and Road Initiative has invested $12 billion in constructing new roads and modernizing the local railway system. For example, Pakistan is currently building a 680-mile-long motorway linking its two major economic powerhouses, Karachi and Lahore. Moreover, the equally ambitious Karakorum Highway is connecting those cities to other Pakistani towns.

With faster, higher-quality roads accelerating cargo movement across Pakistan, the government determines farmers will face fewer hardships when transporting their produce to urban markets and city-based purveyors of important amenities will be able to improve their presence in rural areas. Additionally, the former will increase earnings, whereas the latter might encourage competition and bring down prices for basic goods, thereby making them more accessible to the rural public.

Other Economic Benefits

In 2019, China gave Pakistan $1 billion to cover the costs of 27 projects in education, agriculture and poverty alleviation. Most of these projects are concentrated in Southern Punjab and Baluchistan, which scored few points on the Human Development Index and correspondingly have many impoverished villages.

Analyzing the Belt and Road Initiative

Although Sino-Pakistani cooperation under the BRI has created more than 70,000 jobs in Pakistan and the World Bank believes that it could lift as many as 1.1 million Pakistanis out of poverty, it constitutes no silver bullet to the problem of domestic rural poverty.

On many occasions, the dire state of the country’s economy stifled project implementation, which suffered yet another balance of payments crisis in 2018, as well as by government bureaucracy. Thus, the construction of a power plant in Gwadar, a Pakistani port located in the province of Baluchistan and leased to Chinese companies, experienced a three-year delay, awaiting local government authorization.

Some have also questioned the Belt and Road Initiative’s socioeconomic inclusivity. According to the Sino-Pakistani agreement concerning the lease of Gwadar, the Pakistani economy will only receive 9% of the port’s revenues. An even smaller proportion of these funds will go to poverty alleviation programs. Moreover, the nation’s skilled wages have not registered significant growth, which suggests that many professionals still receive meager pay and struggle to cover their daily expenses.

The Belt and Road Initiative in Pakistan is hardly a finished enterprise. Although the majority of the so-called “early harvest” projects have reached fruition, many more are undergoing planning and construction. For this reason, we cannot conclude our evaluation of the BRI’s contribution to fighting rural poverty in Pakistan. Yet, since impoverished populations have benefited from the energy sector and job creation initiatives, this project may indeed prove helpful in alleviating poverty in Pakistan.

– Dan Mikhaylov
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in LibyaLibya has been a regular victim of severe flooding for many decades and the problem is only becoming more severe. Heavy rains have caused significant problems, with flooding and landslides in urban and rural areas making day-to-day life infeasible for thousands.

Flooding in Al-Bayda, Libya

On November 6 2020, Al-Bayda, Libya, experienced torrential rains and extreme flooding, resulting in the displacement of thousands. High water levels on public roads have made daily commutes impossible for many. Additionally, the floods have left thousands without electricity and have greatly damaged properties.

The flooding of 2020 is reminiscent of the flooding in the Ghat district in 2019, which affected 20,000 people and displaced 4,500. In June of 2019, flooding devastated areas in south Libya and damaged roads and farmland.  Central infrastructure suffered unrecoverable damages, setting the region back. Areas prone to disaster are significantly limited in their progression and development when devastation is so frequent.

Flooding and Poverty

The pattern of flooding in Libya has consistently contributed to problems of economic decline, poor infrastructure and poverty. As one of the most common natural disasters, flooding impacts impoverished areas more severely because their infrastructure is not built to withstand floods or landslides.

Poor countries take a long time to recover from the impact of flooding because they do not have the resources and money to repair property damage and help people to bounce back from the effects. War-affected countries are even more vulnerable and Libya is such a country affected by war and conflict.

Within the country, a two-day holiday was declared on November 9 and 10 of 2020 due to the extreme flooding and $7 million has been allocated to address damages in Al-Bayda municipality.  Since the flooding, there has been little recognition and support from the international community.

Humanitarian Aid

A humanitarian aid team from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operation (ECHO) assembled to provide aid to support the city of Al-Bayda and other cities vulnerable to flooding in Libya. The team worked to gather information and identify what resources are most needed to help families get back on their feet and be better prepared for future severe flooding and weather. Cleanup efforts are ongoing and teams started using satellite imaging and other data-collecting resources to help assess and plan for resource distribution.

The Need for Foreign Aid in Libya

In response to Libya’s chronic vulnerability to severe flooding, in 2019, the U.S. Government provided nearly $31.3 million to address the humanitarian needs of conflict-affected populations throughout Libya. Since the floods are ongoing, ongoing assistance is needed. Proactive and preventative measures need to be implemented in response to the devastating pattern of flooding in Libya. These are expensive investments, however, and Libya cannot implement these preventative measures alone. Help from the international community is crucial in order to create a more resilient country.

– Allyson Reeder
Photo: Flickr

Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a foundation that partners with poor communities to help provide them with basic human needs. Its mission is to build a better world with engineering projects that will help solve the world’s most urgent problems. It builds to save lives.

Building Safe Structures

Many people are without a home in poverty-ridden countries, often living without so much as clean water or electricity. Due to environmental disasters, forced refugees and internally displaced people, many must roam the streets. Back in 2015, estimates determined that there were 100 million people facing homelessness. The need for durable and permanent refugee camps and homes is more pressing than ever. This is where EWB-USA saves the day. It addresses the challenges in engineering associated with “transitioning emergency infrastructure to more permanent systems,” which helps boost host communities who take refugees in.

Engineers Without Borders often takes on villages’ needs for bridges to aid in safer and easier travel. It found that one Guatemalan village had to walk three hours on dangerous mountain roads just to reach the capital. Access to capitals or bigger towns can be dire as they encapsulate hospitals, schools, markets and so forth. So, the Engineers Without Borders project team and volunteers decided to create bridges for these communities. The foundation takes up to several weeks to construct these bridges to make sure they are sturdy, safe and dependable for these villagers.

Engineers Without Borders also discovered the need for schools. It found out that a native Guatemalan girl had biked over an hour to reach her school. As a result, the foundation started building schools and improving the schools’ infrastructures, making them safe and durable. It has brought education to places like Guatemala, Lat Cantun II, Santa Eulalia and more.

Installing Solar Panels

Electricity is a luxury that not many homeless or poor people get. However, it is a necessity for the safety and well-being of many people. This is why EWB-USA not only makes solar panels for villages in need but also introduces and installs them. The solar panels bring hot water, better food storage, increased phone access and light to homes and schools alike. Engineers Without Borders also installs solar street lights to help keep the residents and refugees safe.

University students in EWB-USA even built a solar charging station for villages. These stations could be used by all, specifically to charge phones. It found that cell phones were extremely important for youths to apply for jobs, apply for housing and communicate with friends and family.

Engineers Without Borders helps bring electricity to these areas by partnering with foundations like IKEA and UNHRC. Its partnerships have been a key way to faster and more efficient help for these communities. Currently, Engineers Without Borders is working on over 55 projects located in more than 20 states and two territories, trying to make a difference.

Providing Clean Water

Clean water is yet another widely inaccessible luxury in many poverty-stricken countries. In Uganda alone, over 23 million people must walk over 30 minutes a day to get water that is often contaminated, bringing disease and even death. Engineers Without Borders saw how water brings life and found creative ways of providing clean water for villages. The foundation has dug and repaired wells, built rainwater catchment systems and constructed water filters. Additionally, it has built gravity-based water supply systems in phases for those in the mountains.

In Cyanika, Rwanda, the villagers benefited from one of the Engineers Without Borders’ creative rainwater catchment systems that consisted of two single tank systems. It allows the villagers to save time as well as their lives. One villager even sent a letter of thanks, expressing their gratitude as it bettered many lives, health and well-being of all the villagers.

Engineers Without Borders continues to fight to provide people their basic rights and needs. It continues to live up to its mission of building to save lives through the power of engineering. For more information about this organization, check out its website.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty AlleviationFor the past four decades, the Chinese government has viewed poverty alleviation as integral to its economic development. The government’s efforts against poverty have intensified under the leadership of President Xi Jinping who proposed ambitious measures to eliminate poverty by the end of 2020.

China has made tremendous progress in alleviating poverty through the government’s efforts, as the number of people living in poverty in China has fallen from 750 million in 1990 to just 16.6 million in 2019. However, obstacles remain ahead of China’s efforts to completely eradicate poverty and improve the standard of living for its residents.

Poverty Eradication Under Xi Jinping

In 2014, China’s government implemented a strategy of Targeted Poverty Alleviation, which allows the government and local officials to address the needs of individuals and households rather than entire villages. Local officials use data from a local registration system containing information from more than 128,000 villages to identify and provide support to poverty-stricken areas. According to China’s President Xi Jinping, Targeted Poverty Alleviation follows an approach based on policies in five areas:

  • Industrial development
  • Social Security
  • Education
  • Eco-compensation
  • Relocation

 At a local level, the Targeted Poverty Alleviation program employs the pairing-up strategy, which enables impoverished families in western provinces to receive support from the more affluent eastern provinces. Officials who exclusively support rural inhabitants support impoverished households, including those in ethnic minority areas. The government supports the local industry by establishing internet commerce centers in rural areas known as Taobao villages. In Taobao villages, rural residents can support themselves by selling crops and local products online. By 2015, Taobao villages supported 200,000 shop owners and employed one million people.

The Targeted Poverty Alleviation campaign has also implemented nationwide initiatives to facilitate industrial development. In 2019, China spent 19 billion dollars on a variety of infrastructure initiatives. Through these initiatives, China has been able to build or renovate more than 124,000 miles of roads and provide 94% of rural villagers with internet access.

China also uses a resettlement program to help elevate rural residents from poverty. Under this program, the government encourages residents in remote and ecologically vulnerable rural regions to relocate to areas closer to the cities. By one estimate, over nine million people have been resettled by this initiative between 2016 and 2020. Increased economic opportunities in cities and reforms that allow greater internal migration in China have also encouraged resettlement. These migrations have resulted in China’s urbanization rate rising from 17.92% in 1978 to 57.3% in 2016.

Metrics of Success

China’s efforts to alleviate poverty have been judged as tremendously successful by most measures. Between 2014 and 2019, 68 million rural residents have risen from poverty. China’s reforms to its economy has enabled 730 million people to emerge from poverty over the past four decades, accounting for nearly three-fourths of global poverty accomplishments from this time period. According to the UN Millennium Global Development Report, China’s policies have enabled the international community to meet the UN’s goal of reducing extreme global poverty by 50%.

China’s economic success has enabled it to address disparities between its urban and rural populations in healthcare. Urban and rural populations have both witnessed infant mortality rates decline below 1%, and maternal mortality rates for urban and rural mothers have declined and attained parity at the level of two per million in 2019.

Obstacles

Despite China’s progress in eliminating poverty, the nation continues to face obstacles in attaining its ambitious standards and supporting the needs of poor residents. Local officials’ administration of financial support is often arbitrary or impeded by stringent bureaucratic procedures, which has resulted in some poor households being denied or receiving insufficient financial support. The increased funds invested in poverty alleviation efforts has also contributed to significant “corruption and mismanagement.”

China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) reported that 730 yuan (112.21 million USD) in poverty alleviation funds were misappropriated in 2018 through violations, such as embezzlement, fraud and bribery. The government uses the CCDI to maintain oversight on how its funding is used, and officials who fail to accomplish poverty reduction in their region face expulsion from the Communist Party and “career oblivion.”

The government’s poverty alleviation efforts have also been criticized for its emphasis on the rural poor while ignoring those in urban areas who are struggling to meet high living costs. China’s poverty alleviation campaign invited high polluting industries, such as those that have been associated with reduced air and water quality in impoverished regions, causing many to question whether China’s progress is sustainable. The relocation program has also been controversial as many rural residents often relinquish their land for little compensation, only to subsequently struggle to find work in the cities. Government officials have also expressed impatience with residents who were unwilling to relocate.

The progress of the poverty alleviation campaign was also complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the initial four months of 2020, unemployment rose to 6.2% and one expert calculates that 80 million people in China were unemployed when rural villagers and migrant workers were included in the calculation. Despite the economic effects of the pandemic, Beijing has not relented in its endeavor to eliminate poverty, and experts doubt that China will admit to having failed to meet its goal for 2020, regardless of the state of the economy. Regardless of whether China attains its goal for 2020, experts doubt that it will abandon its endeavors to improve its people’s standard of living.

China’s efforts towards eradicating poverty have yielded tremendous success, yet the government and the country’s people will be responsible for ensuring that its progress is sustainable and results in tangible improvements to the standard of living of people in urban and rural areas.

Bilal Amodu
Photo: Pixabay