McDonalds Combats Global PovertyFounded in 1955, McDonald’s is one of the largest fast-food companies in the world. Renowned for its burgers and fries, McDonald’s currently offers a variety of food options in 118 different countries. As a result, the company operates more than 38,000 restaurants, employs millions of people and garners billions of dollars in revenue every year. Considering the fast-food giant’s worldwide presence, it is in a unique position to help impoverished communities around the world. Recognizing this, McDonald’s combats global poverty in several ways.

5 Ways McDonald’s Combats Global Poverty

  1. McDonald’s is one of the top employers in the world. According to Forbes, McDonald’s currently employs more than 1.9 million people worldwide. The only employers that outrank McDonald’s are the U.S. Department of Defense (3.2 million employees), China’s People’s Liberation Army (2.3 million employees) and Walmart (2.1 million employees). McDonald’s gives people around the world an opportunity to earn a living, work toward advancement opportunities and escape poverty.
  2. McDonald’s prioritizes employee education and advancement. In 2018, Mcdonald’s expanded its Archways to Opportunity program, an education initiative available to “restaurant employees in 25 countries.” The program allows employees “the opportunity to graduate from college, earn a high school diploma, learn English as a second language, complete an apprenticeship and gain access to advising services.” In Australia alone, more than 48,000 certifications have been awarded as of April 30, 2021.
  3. McDonald’s joined the European Alliance for Apprenticeships. Along with several other companies, McDonald’s supports the European Alliance for Apprenticeship’s mission to “improve access to vocational training” throughout Europe. Apprenticeships are important because they allow young people to acquire practical job experience and on-the-job skills to increase their chances of employment. Overall, in Europe, McDonald’s and other companies committed “to offer 45,000 apprenticeships by 2025.” These apprenticeships will take place in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K.
  4. McDonald’s supports Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). RMHC is a nonprofit organization that “creates, finds and supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families.” RMHC runs 260 Chapters in 62 nations around the world. These programs assist families with ill children by providing free accommodation near the medical center so that families can afford to be present while their child receives medical care. Additionally, the nonprofit organization Meals From The Heart works closely with McDonald’s and RMHC to provide families with freshly cooked meals during their stay. Overall, RMHC aims to offer a housing option to families experiencing financial hardship due to child medical bills.
  5. McDonald’s donated food during the COVID-19 pandemic. McDonald’s partnered with organizations, including Food Donation Connection and the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), to donate food surpluses to families in need around the world. For example, McDonald’s donated eggs, bread and milk to struggling families in Ireland, England, Germany and Italy. Additionally, McDonald’s donated 250,000 pounds worth of food to Canadian food banks and NGOs. The company also gave thousands of liters of milk to migrant workers in Singapore.

A Significant Impact

Overall, McDonald’s combats global poverty by financing and supporting education, housing and food aid programs around the world. Despite economic and financial challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s support for communities abroad never weaned. McDonald’s continues to have a significant impact around the world by combating global poverty and helping those in need.

– Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr

Olympics Forward Fashion

The 2020 Olympics officially started on July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. During the traditional opening ceremony, countries participated in a commencement parade dawning various outfits and garments that paid homage to their home countries and cultures. Following this event, the world’s audience became interested in these cultures and used the internet to learn more about them. The forward fashion at the Olympics was especially interesting to viewers of the games. As a result, international poverty-based nonprofits and tourism websites have seen heavy traffic, which will help the economies of dozens of nations.

The 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony

The Olympic Games have continued to be the most anticipated sporting event across the globe. After the pandemic-induced delay of the 2020 games, the world can finally watch the events it has waited five years for. According to VOA News, more than 17 million people watched the opening ceremony. 

Millions of viewers appreciated the outfits of the athletes. Competitors wore dazzling cultural garments to represent their ethnicities and home regions. For example, AP News highlighted the beautiful outfits adorned by representatives from Iran, Cameroon, the Virgin Islands and other nations. They called the affair “a mosaic of cultures and fashions and traditions.” Viewers reviewing and commenting on the parade flooded popular social media outlets like TikTok and Twitter, with hashtags like #OlympicsOutfits trending.

How the Fashion Boosted Poverty Related Research

After the opening ceremony concluded, Google searches for countries like Kenya and Ghana skyrocketed. According to Google Trends, these countries received a 20% boost in searches across the globe. In turn, websites promoting tourism and aid to these nations also experienced heavy web traffic. This was a significant and much-needed boost since the pandemic diminished these essential international discussions. Organizations like UNICEF and the World Bank also had more site visitors than average.

Multiple articles also highlighted the cultural importance of the athletes’ outfits. News about the clothing trended worldwide. While some media firms praised the fashion of the ceremony, others scrutinized the seemingly lackluster outfits from Italy and the U.S.

How Poverty Will Diminish as a Result

As more and more people continue to research the Olympics forward fashion, expectations have determined that poverty could decrease globally. Of course, a rise in tourism will help a country’s economy, but furthermore, the positive cultural representation will also relieve impoverished conditions in a myriad of regions.

According to the Community Action Programme on Social Exclusion, optimistic outlooks on a nation and culture can alter the probability that countries enter an impoverished state. Without a positive viewpoint of the region and its people, countries are less likely to have policy development in government. Further, these countries get less international appreciation, which leads to the migration of the rich and a sinking economy for the poor. However, with further representation in the Olympics and continued research from the international audience, appreciation of the teams’ cultures is likely to spread across the world. Whether or not the Olympics forward fashion will continue to be a hot topic, the impacts of cultural knowledge will last.

– Laken Kincaid
Photo: Unsplash

growing Poverty in ItalyBefore the outbreak of the pandemic, the number of Italian families living in absolute poverty — those without the means to buy basic necessities — was decreasing. In 2020, 7.7% of people lived in absolute poverty as compared to 6.4% of the population in 2019. A recent report released by the Istituto Nazionale di Statistica (ISTAT) found that in 2020, the number of Italians living in absolute poverty reached its highest level in about 15 years, rising by one million or 9.4% of the population. Linked to a severe economic recession, the growing poverty in Italy signals a growing economic crisis amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Economy

As the worst economic crisis, Europe has witnessed since the end of World War II, the coronavirus pandemic has had devastating consequences on the Italian economy. In 2020, Italy’s gross domestic product shrank 8.9% compared with the 6.2% average decline across the EU. As for the unemployment rate, at the start of 2021, the country’s unemployment rate stood at 10% while the youth unemployment rate ran at 31%.

Those Most Affected by Growing Poverty in Italy

Of the more than two million households under the poverty threshold, those most affected have been families with an employed head of household between the ages of 35 and 44. Since the start of the pandemic, in families with a middle-aged employed head of household between the ages of 35 and 44, the rate of absolute poverty grew from 8.3% to 10.7%. While families with working members saw a rise in absolute poverty rates, families with unemployed members suffering from absolute poverty remained at 19.7%.

Further, increases in absolute poverty were more prevalent in the north of the country where the rate increased from 5.8% in 2019 to 7.6% in 2020. In the south, or the Mezzogiorno as known by Italians, absolute poverty is more widespread reaching 9.3% of  Italians but has not grown as significantly as in the north.

In terms of urban and rural differences, the ISTAT report did not find many differences. Instead, the report found a common increase in absolute poverty across urban, peripheries and rural areas. In metropolitan areas, the rate of absolute poverty increased from 5.9% to 7.3% while in the outskirts of cities, the rate jumped from 6.0% to 7.6%. In areas with less than 50,000 inhabitants, those living in absolute poverty increased by 1% going from 6.9% to 7.9%.

During the pandemic, the more members in a family resulted in an increase in the rate of absolute poverty. For example, in families with two people, the rate jumped from 4.3% to 5.7%. For families with three members, the rate increased by 2.5% going from 6.1% to 8.6%. For families with four members, the number experiencing absolute poverty increased from 9.6% to 11.3%.

Italians’ Purchasing Power

Because of the strict lockdown measures imposed since the start of the pandemic, Italians have reduced consumption by almost 9.1%. In 2019, Italians spent on average €2,560 euros a month; now, they spend €2,328. This decrease in consumption largely explains the fall in the country’s gross domestic product and reflects the inability to spend on certain goods and services that people did pre-COVID-19. For example, in 2020, consumption of foods, clothes, water and electricity remained relatively stable. What changed was the consumption of services that require close proximity to other people, such as restaurant dining, stays at hotels and vacations homes, live shows and transportation.

Post-COVID-19 Poverty

As restrictions ease in Italy and vaccinations become more widespread, consumption will once again increase and have less of an impact on the country’s GDP. Nonetheless, it will be difficult for those who have fallen under the poverty line to once again earn enough to buy basic necessities. It seems such a change may happen with intervention as Prime Minister Mario Draghi gears his approved €315 billion spending plan toward public investment and incentives. He also plans to allocate 40% of the total core spending to the depressed south and seeks to prioritize women, who only represent 53% of the country’s workforce, to reduce growing poverty in Italy.

Overall, in efforts to reopen the country safely and recover from the pandemic’s economic consequences, targeted action toward those most in need will prove critical to decrease the heightened rate of absolute poverty.

– Annarosa Zampaglione
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in ItalyHuman trafficking is not an issue that occurs in just a single country or region of the world. Rather, it is a global dilemma requiring a global solution. However, human trafficking rates vary per country. Human trafficking in Italy represents an issue affecting other European nations as well.

Human Trafficking in Numbers

As of 2018, Italy ranked in the top five EU Member States with the highest number of registered trafficking victims. Italy also tied fourth for the highest percentage of sexually trafficked people at 82%. The other EU countries with similar statistics include Greece, Czechia and Hungary. In comparison, EU states like Sweden and Croatia have rates of 24% and 28% respectively.

Basics of Human Trafficking in Italy

Unaccompanied, young migrants seeking asylum are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking in Italy. Italy’s government reported at least 1,660 victims of trafficking, with many other victims unaccounted for. Save the Children points out the concerning increase in children and minors affected by trafficking, which increased from 9% to 13% within a single year. Many of these children end up contributing to underground labor, which fuels the Italian economy.

The risk factor for other workers falling victim to forced labor and labor trafficking in Italy feeds to these statistics. The United States Department of State found that, in 2020, roughly 3.7 million irregular workers and 1.5 million unregistered workers were at potential risk of labor-related trafficking.

Preventing Human Trafficking in Italy

The U.S. Department of State classifies Italy as a Tier 2 country. This means that the Italian government has participated in some efforts to combat human trafficking but still has work to do. For example, the country has demonstrated greater cooperation with international policies and laws against human trafficking. It has also prioritized additional fundraising to support victims of trafficking and places more emphasis on training Italian law enforcement to address trafficking.

In addition, many global groups such as the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) have worked hard to hold countries like Italy accountable for strengthening their policies. GRETA has noted decent progress on the issue of human trafficking in Italy. GRETA monitors human trafficking as the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings stipulates.

The Council maintains a human rights treaty among European Nations and the Council of Europe to reach an overarching goal of assisting and protecting trafficked human beings. GRETA thus performs legislative evaluations to ensure countries meet these goals and provides comprehensive reports and guidelines on combatting trafficking and prosecuting identified traffickers.

GRETA has acknowledged the progress in combating human trafficking in Italy as recently as 2019. The Italian government increased its funding for anti-trafficking projects, which has gone toward safeguarding protections for unaccompanied children who have fallen victim to human trafficking in Italy.

Challenges in Combatting Human Trafficking in Italy

The U.S. Department of State has noted that Italy still has not reached the “minimum standards” necessary to adequately and fully combat trafficking. As a result, the U.S. government has kept Italy at a Tier 2 status. Italy is not meeting the standards due to a decrease in trafficking investigations and prosecutions. The Italian Ministry of Interior reported only 135 trafficking investigations, which is a substantial decrease from 314 persons in 2018 and 482 persons in 2017. The government also does not have a consistent database for consolidated information about trafficking investigations, convictions or prosecutions. This adds to the difficulty of monitoring and assessment efforts.

Hope for the Future

Nevertheless, hope still exists in the fight against human trafficking in Italy. The U.S. government noted improvement in Italy’s 2020 trafficking report, acknowledging the measures the country implemented, even though there is still room for improvement. For example, improvements have emerged in victim assistance and increased funding for victims and victim’s rights groups. Funding has also gone toward NGOs advocating for trafficking rights, which GRETA specifically acknowledges as a step toward overall improvement in policies. With these efforts, Italy can reduce incidents of human trafficking in the country,

– Rebecca Fontana
Photo: Flickr

NextGenerationEU programThe COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light how nations must be prepared for the most unexpected crises. Countries all over the world have conjured up ideas of recovery plans to help restore and improve the world. One country to look at as a model for the rest of the world is Italy. Specifically, the Italian government has formed ENEA Tech as a Foundation that will invest in new technology and generate jobs in order to jumpstart the economy. Through this Foundation, the NextGenerationEU program formed. The NextGenerationEU program has an approximate budget of €800 billion and will be a temporary tool to aid the recovery of economic and social consequences that COVID-19 caused. This will help Italy heal from the pandemic while changing the lives of Italian citizens and providing them with new opportunities.

The Main Elements

The extraordinary effort will contribute to the recovery of socioeconomic losses that the COVID-19 pandemic inflicted. It will also allow for the transition to a more efficient and sustainable Italy. More than 50% of the funding will go toward research and technology innovations, sustainable environmental and cultural reforms while providing planning and protection within the European Union. Additionally, 30% of the budget will address other issues including climate change, environmental conservation and gender equality. Meanwhile, 20% of the financial resources will support the digitalization of the economy and other technological innovations. Finally, between the years 2026 and 2027, 10% of the yearly investment will go toward preventing and repairing biodiversity degradation. The funding will undergo investment and dispersal to Italy and other European Union countries. Recipients will obtain resources in the form of grants and loans.

The Benefits

Through the NextGenerationEU program, Italy and other European countries will become more sustainable, digitized, healthy and diverse. In addition to the previous investments, the many benefits of the program’s efforts include:

  • Investing in “green” technology, which will introduce more environmentally friendly means of transportation and make infrastructures and public areas more energy efficient.
  • Protecting the environment through conserving water, minimizing pollution, using more sources of renewable energy and improving agricultural practices.
  • Making the internet more accessible and affordable, meaning user data and electronic commerce will have more secure protection. The E.U. will also finance online education training to help people improve their digital abilities.
  • Combatting health concerns by creating new vaccines and treatments, increasing access to medical supplies and investing in professional healthcare training.
  • Creating more opportunities for internships and higher education while allocating more funds to loans and scholarships.
  • Increasing job opportunities for people with disabilities and people living in impoverished communities.
  • Fighting racism and xenophobia and supporting gender equality to honor diversity in all of its expressions.

The Next Steps

The European Commission and the European Parliament have made significant measures to ensure that authority leaders prioritize financial support and seek assistance through various NextGenerationEU mechanisms. Although the NextGenerationEU program is coming to fruition, individuals must continue to urge their respective national government leaders to help in developing and enacting recovery programs.

– Anna Lovelace
Photo: Unsplash

Italy's Foreign Aid
On October 30, 2021, Italy will host the G20 summit, the annual economic forum on international cooperation and financial stability. In addition to policy coordination between the world’s major, advanced and emerging economies in efforts to achieve global economic growth, the summit also focuses on development programs in impoverished countries. A closer look at Italy’s foreign aid shows the extent to which Italy helps the world’s most vulnerable people.

Italy’s Foreign Aid

According to U.N. standards, Italy is not contributing enough to foreign aid. Italy is the 10th-largest Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) donor for the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). The country spent $4.2 billion on official development assistance in 2020. However, this represents only 0.22% of the country’s gross national income. It falls below the U.N. target of 0.7% as well as the DAC average of 0.32%.

Current Fund Allocation

Bilateral aid consists of grants that go to countries without a multilateral intermediary. Italy dedicates 31.1% of its bilateral aid to hosting refugees in donor countries. The country was on track to reach the U.N.’s official development assistance (ODA) target up until 2017. It then started to decrease funding as in-country refugee costs decreased by 76% from 2017 to 2019.

Furthermore, along with many other countries in the European Union, much of Italy’s foreign aid has gone toward border control instead of basic services such as water, food and education. These services are key elements that help fight poverty and decrease the likelihood of forced migration or the need for border control. A June 2019 Instituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) report found that the country lacks a consistent strategy surrounding development cooperation, largely due to Italy’s fixation on migration and its opportunistic and transactional approach to foreign policy.

Bilateral vs. Multilateral

Although it seems Italy could be doing more to help the world’s impoverished, it is important to note that most of its official development assistance (62%) goes to multilateral institutions. This means that the government authorizes non-governmental organizations (NGOs), think tanks and multilateral institutions such as the World Bank Group to allocate foreign aid accordingly. While some multilateral groups can have political leanings, NGOs and think tanks tend to operate apolitically. This minimizes the risk that Italy’s foreign aid only serves to reinforce political ambitions or national security through distribution.

For example, through Italy’s earmarked contribution of more than $82 million to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UNDP considers Italy a “vital partner in their mission to end extreme poverty” and is helping the country operationalize its G7 commitments through the Africa Centre for Sustainable Development in Rome. Once established, the goal of the Centre is to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa by advocating the best practices regarding food security, access to water and clean energy.

Italy in the G20

As host of the G20 economic forum, Italy has an important position among other members in leading discussions on development and poverty. In fact, in a telephone conversation with the European commissioner for international partnerships, Emanuela Del Re, the Italian vice minister of foreign affairs, asserted that the G20 could be “the relevant international forum to define measures to ensure that vulnerable countries are part of the socio-economic recovery.”

While Italy should be contributing more toward its foreign aid as a whole, its commitment to multilateral cooperation is a promising step in alienating aid from internal politics. Furthermore, by prioritizing the management of the pandemic in economically developing countries in the G20, Italy could reevaluate its interest in migration as a central development issue and create the opportunity for a more balanced allocation of foreign aid.

– Annarosa Zampaglione
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in San MarinoSan Marino is a small Southern European state surrounded by Italy. Despite having a small population of just 33,000 people and a mountainside location, the country is surprisingly one of the wealthiest in the world based on GDP per capita. San Marino acquires most of its wealth from tourism and the sale of local goods. However, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly destroyed the country’s tourism industry. The campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino will allow the economy to recover as industries begin to reopen, igniting economic activity.

The Impact of COVID-19

In terms of the poverty rate in San Marino, minimal data exists. But, like the rest of the world, San Marino’s economy has also experienced adverse impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, tourism rates decreased due to stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. Before the pandemic, the small country averaged around two million tourists in 2019, a clear indication of the significant economic role of the tourism sector. With regard to COVID-19 rates, San Marino has confirmed 5,092 cases and 90 deaths. The campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino has been successful due to small population numbers and a steady supply of vaccines.

COVID-19 Vaccinations in San Marino

All of San Marino’s people have either been partially or completely vaccinated against COVID-19. The country administered mostly Sputnik V vaccines after signing a deal with Russia. Starting May 17, 2021, San Marino is offering a COVID-19 vaccine holiday package to boost tourism with an incentive. The holiday package allows non-residents access to vaccines in San Marino by booking accommodation for a certain duration at one of 19 hotels.

“The initiative is open only to those coming from countries that Italy has opened up to for tourism.” Two separately administered Sputnik V doses are available at a cost of €50. To receive the second dose of the vaccine, tourists must return to the country and stay in a hotel for at least three days. This way, San Marino makes up for its loss of tourism revenue while helping to eradicate the virus with vaccines.

The Road to Recovery

More than 66% of the population has been fully vaccinated through the campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino. With no patients hospitalized for COVID-19, the country is effectively controlling its COVID-19 infections. With an adequate vaccine supply to cover its population, San Marino has found an innovative way to put the vaccine surplus to good use while boosting the tourism industry. The COVID-19 vaccination holiday package in San Marino is a unique solution to ignite economic recovery in the country. The offer has caught the attention of tourists who trust in the efficacy of the Sputnik V vaccine. Through innovative solutions, San Marino is finding creative  ways to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

– Matt Orth
Photo: Flickr

Italy's Pandemic Recovery
Italy quickly became a coronavirus hot spot at the pandemic’s onset, and its healthcare system and economy have struggled ever since. In early 2021, the Italian government announced a €235 billion Resilience and Recovery Plan (RRP) that will launch several economic initiatives over the next five years. Prime Minister Mario Draghi seeks to emphasize institutional reform and GDP growth in Italy’s pandemic recovery process.

How Italy Handled the COVID-19 Pandemic

Italy has documented more than 4 million COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. It has confirmed more than 127,000 deaths as of July 6, 2021. The pandemic hit Northern Italy the hardest and fastest, with nearly 80% of COVID-related deaths coming from the northern region in the first four months of the pandemic.

Italy’s unemployment rate rose from 9.2% in 2020 to 10.2% in 2021, with youth disproportionately affected. In the regions of Sicily, Calabria and Campania, youth unemployment climbed to 46%. Additionally, 45% of Italians agreed that the pandemic has impacted their personal income.

A four-level color-coded system sorts locations in Italy by infection risk. White and yellow areas have “total freedom, by day and night,” representing a lower risk of coronavirus infection. Orange represents a higher risk, and red represents an extreme risk. Orange and red regions observe a curfew between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. As of June 28, 2021, all regions are white areas. It is no longer mandatory to wear a mask outdoors, but the country is suggesting that people continue carrying one and observe safe social distancing rules.

Italy’s Plans for Tourism

Tourism is a vital component of the Italian GDP, and in just one year, the country saw a 60% drop in tourists due to COVID-19. Italy estimates a loss of around €120.6 billion in tourism revenue for 2020, and so far, 2021 has also been a lackluster year for tourism.

Italy’s pandemic recovery process includes once again allowing foreign visitors. In June 2021, the country opened to tourism from most European countries and a few others as well. Visitors from the U.S., Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates who arrive on COVID-tested flights can also enter the country. All tourists from outside the European Union, Israel or on COVID-tested flights must quarantine for 14 days and provide a negative COVID-19 test. However, most tourist attractions, including beaches, theaters and museums, are open to the public at limited capacity.

Italy’s Economic Recovery Plan

Draghi continues to work with the E.U. to secure aid for Italian citizens. As a result, Italy will receive the largest share of the E.U.’s €705 billion recovery fund because of the economic strain the pandemic placed on the country. The plan will offer environmentally conscious solutions for economic expansion.

The Italian government will allocate €18.5 billion to hospitals to reduce pressure on the healthcare system. The RRP will help hospitals digitize and will invest in “community hospitals” for patients not needing extensive care. It will also set aside €7 billion to strengthen home care. All these plans are efforts to relieve hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

Forty percent of the RRP is for green-related investments. A study by Scientific Reports found that Italy’s air pollution played a larger role in spreading the pandemic than population density, so Italy plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. The RRP will also fund construction, which will offer many citizens job opportunities. The construction market is estimated to grow 3.5% in the COVID-19 recovery process.

Many Italians are looking forward to life returning to normal. Italy’s pandemic recovery plan offers hope that the country will succeed in its economic expansion and infrastructure development.

Camdyn Knox
Photo: Flickr

the Clooney's donationThe COVID-19 pandemic has impacted millions of lives all around the world, causing more than three million deaths globally as of April 2021. The pandemic has caused rapidly rising poverty levels due to economic shutdowns and widespread job losses. In 2020, the pandemic-induced, newly impoverished population is expected to stand between 119 and 124 million people. In 2021, this number is expected to rise to between 143 and 163 million people. Many celebrities are using their platforms to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts, including George and Amal Clooney, who have prioritized philanthropy throughout the majority of their careers. The Clooney’s donation to COVID-19 relief efforts aims to cushion the impact of COVID-19, especially for vulnerable populations.

The Clooneys COVID-19 Relief Efforts

The Clooneys donated more than $1 million to COVID-19 relief efforts in 2020. Hollywood’s power couple has directed the donation to six different organizations, both domestic and international, aiming to relieve the strain COVID-19 has put on the world. The Clooneys graciously donated $300,000 to three particular international beneficiaries: the Lebanese Food Bank, the Lombardy region of Italy and the National Health Service COVID-19 appeal.

The Lebanese Food Bank

Like the rest of the world, the pandemic has harshly impacted Lebanon. Lebanon has reported more than 540,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 7,700 deaths as of May 30, 2021. On top of that, nearly 50% of Lebanon’s population lives below the poverty line. Lebanon was enduring an economic crisis even before the COVID-19 pandemic came about. In terms of food security, according to an ESCWA report, almost 50% of Lebanese people express concerns about their ability to obtain adequate food, with 31% reporting that they had not eaten “healthy and nutritious food” for a year.

The Lebanese Food Bank plays a vital role in ensuring impoverished people in Lebanon are able to access food. The organization accomplished this “by collecting wasted food of good quality and impartially distributing it to charities and people in need.” However, with the increasing food insecurity due to COVID-19, the Lebanese Food Bank is in need of donations to help expand its reach. The donation from the Clooneys is a personal ode from the couple as Amal Clooney is of Lebanese-British descent.

Lombardo Italy Region

The donation to the Lombardo Italy Region is also particularly significant to the Clooneys who have lived there for many years. The money will go to local hospitals in the region. Since the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected Italy. The country has recorded more than four million total cases and more than 121,000 deaths as of May 1, 2021. Lombardy has the most recorded cases in the country.

The Lombardy Italy Region was overwhelmed by the first wave of the global pandemic. Doctors were pushed to ration ventilators and hospital beds, unable to cope with the influx of patients and limited resources. About three-quarters of hospital beds in Lombardy were filled with COVID-19 patients at the peak of the pandemic, almost double the level considered dangerous by the National Health Ministry. This was mostly due to a lack of coordination between private and public healthcare systems and facilities. The Clooney’s donation will certainly ease the strain on healthcare in Lombardy during COVID-19.

National Health Service COVID-19 Appeal

The U.K. has also suffered greatly during the pandemic, with more than four million cases and 127,000 deaths recorded as of May 30, 2021. Between March and December 2020, more than 850 frontline medical workers reportedly died from COVID-19. Frontline medical workers have struggled with the mental health consequences that come with being an essential working during a pandemic. More than 21% of surveyed National Health Service (NHS) workers reported “high levels of depression compared with 5% before the pandemic.”

Considering these circumstances, the Clooney’s donation will provide vital relief to NHS frontline workers treating infected patients. The NHS has provided support services to health and care workers throughout the pandemic. In addition, the NHS also provides staff with mental health services as well as “specialist bereavement support.”

The Clooneys have chosen to use their celebrity platforms for a humanitarian cause, publicly supporting COVID-19 relief efforts, and hopefully, inspiring others to follow their lead.

– Simran Pasricha
Photo: Flickr

Migrants in ItalyIllegal immigration to Italy had been dropping significantly in recent years. The numbers went down from 181,000 in 2016 to 11,500 in 2019. However, in 2020, the number of migrants who landed in Italy by boat had risen by roughly 148%. This increase in numbers reignited negative attitudes toward immigration, which in the past had led to large-scale protests that called for stricter and more intensive migrant laws. In 2014, a mere 3% of people from a 999-person survey were bothered by migrants in Italy, however, by 2017, that number rose to 35% of those interviewed. The additional strain of COVID-19 increased the negative views already present, despite government insistence that migrants were but a smaller portion of the problem.

Immigration Policy in Italy

During the late 2010s, it was found that many in the Italian government were in favor of pushing for more emphasis on a migration-focused dialogue among the EU member states. The Italian government hoped that by communicating more with the countries of origin, it would be able to support migrants in a more humane manner that would give more control over the number of people on Italian land. The EU accepted several suggestions put forth by the non-paper called the Migration Contact. Some of these recommendations include urging greater investments in border control and security while also reaching out to readmission and resettlement programs to improve upon local asylum systems. This would give migrants better opportunities to return home should they be unable to stay or attain citizenship in Italy.

Slow Yet Steady Progress

Although the anti-immigration policies were strict, late 2020 and early 2021 have seen a slow but steady change to improve the laws that cracked down on those seeking asylum and any who tried to help them. The new legislation is currently taking steps to make it easier for migrants to become citizens and withdrawing orders given to coastal guards to harass those attempting to come ashore. One such action would be the reintroduction of special protection permits. This would be given to those who have relations with established Italian citizens, those with serious health issues (mental and physical) and people who do not meet asylum requirements but are escaping inhumane treatment in their homelands.

Current Migrant Policies

The political view toward immigration and migrants was originally negative, however, many in the government did not want to withdraw the extended helping hand from those who needed it. Italy’s current migrant laws have designated funds for integration policies, funding for language courses as well as intercultural activities, housing and educational purposes. The newer policies also want to focus on the risks involved when migrants come to Italy. This includes personal preferences such as refusing regular fingerprint collection, which used to lead to an immediate rejection of any requests for asylum.

Organizations Helping Migrants and Refugees in Italy

Organizations within Italy are working to provide the support that the government has not yet granted to refugees. Groups such as Choose Love, Donne di Benin City and Baobab Experience work within Rome and Palermo to ensure that migrants receive accommodation, food and clothing. The organizations also offer legal assistance so that individuals have better chances of gaining citizenship.

Choose Love has reached more than one million people through more than 120 projects in Italy and 14 other countries. These organizations help to fulfill the essential needs of migrants in Italy who are unable to return to their homelands and have no other means of support.

Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr