Relocate Afghan Refugees
The Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdrawal has left hundreds of thousands of Afghans either displaced or seeking refuge. The United Nations has estimated that
 up to 500,000 Afghans will flee Afghanistan by the end of 2021. As a result, as the Taliban’s power continues to grow, countries across the globe have opened their doors to help relocate Afghan refugees. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one global organization that is taking a lead in this relocation work. The IRC helps relocate Afghan refugees in Mexico, Uganda and Pakistan.

About the International Rescue Committee

Founded in 1933, the IRC responds to catastrophes and humanitarian crises across the globe. Since its inception, the IRC assists those who have had to relocate by providing them with lifesaving care and long-term stability. To date, the IRC operates in over 40 counties and 22 U.S. cities offering a range of support to people who have been uprooted and are struggling.

How the IRC Helps Relocate Afghan Refugees

For the past 30 years, the IRC has worked to provide aid to Afghanistan and continues to amid the ongoing crisis. On August 31, 2021, the IRC announced that the Mexican government will welcome 175 refugees arriving in Mexico City. Throughout its history and to date, Mexico has been a safe haven for those seeking refuge. Upon their arrival, the IRC provides urgent medical care, welcome kits, COVID-19 PPE and Psychological First Aid (PFA) to those who need it. The IRC has also announced plans to provide refugees in Mexico with cash cards to communicate with families still in Afghanistan.

Uganda is a second country that works with the IRC. Since 1998, Uganda and the IRC have supported over 1.5 million refugees and are currently working with the United States and United Kingdom embassies to provide asylum for Afghan refugees. Similar to Mexico’s approach, upon arriving in Uganda, refugees receive housing, medical assistance, COVID-19 PPE, sanitary products and temporary immigration cards. IRC staff onsite in Uganda have also provided refugees with a 24/7 medical clinic along with individual and group psychosocial services.

The IRC has also been working with Pakistan since 1980 and the partnership has helped more than 3 million Afghan refugees relocate. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has depleted much of Pakistan’s resources and ravaged its economy, Pakistani officials have assured temporary asylum for new refugees coming from Afghanistan. The IRC helps Afghan relocate refugees arriving in Pakistan by supporting them through cash assistance, health care, job training and “child-friendly spaces” where children can play and attend school in a safe environment. 

Types of Support the IRC Receives

  • Donations. The IRC website offers multiple avenues for people to donate. The Rescue Gifts page includes hundreds of gifts ranging from baby kits and survival kits to a year of school for two girls. People can also make a one-time or monthly donation that will go towards providing refugees with medical care and other emergency assistance. The IRC spends 87% of all donations on programming.
  • Volunteers. Volunteers help coordinate community outreach in various areas by hosting donation drives or working internships to get hands-on experience with refugee resettlement. They also help refugees adjust when they make it to the U.S. by hosting refugees in their homes with IRC’s partner Airbnb.
  • Community Support. Individuals can call their representatives and mobilize community members to contact their representatives. In addition, you can work alongside the IRC’s Policy and Advocacy team in the fight for policies and legislation. Text RESCUE to 40649 to start taking action

A Promising Future

The road ahead will be tough for Afghanistan and for the Afghan refugees. Nevertheless, the IRC’s support will change the course of the refugee crisis one donation at a time. 

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr


Disability and poverty in Mexico is a significant issue throughout the nation. Unfortunately, some work to address disability and poverty in Mexico stagnated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, political unrest and gang violence threatened progress. However, the work of the Mexican government and social programs are fighting to provide rights and assistance for the disabled.

According to the World Bank, in 2018, an estimated 41.9% of the Mexican population lived at or below the poverty line. Additionally, those living with disabilities made up 7.5% of the population. The majority of those disabled have either a mobile or visual disability. In fact, cognitive and speech disabilities make up 16.13% and 4.87% of the disabled population respectively.

Government Action for the Disabled

The Mexican government led the promotion of disability rights in its region for decades. In 2011, Mexico implemented into law the  General Law for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities (LGPID). This law promotes, protects and guarantees human rights to persons with disabilities and full inclusion into society and equal opportunities.

In addition, the government designated a section in its job portal to helping find jobs for those living with disabilities. And as of 2011, 47.2% of the disabled population have employment while 11.3% live in poverty.

Educational Wins for the Disabled

Mexico’s education system requires that all teachers receive training to work with special needs and disabled students. Two programs known as Unidades de Servicios de Apoyo a la Educacion Regular (USAER) and Centros de Atencion Multiple (CAM) service disabled and special needs students. As of 2011, 2,400 students under CAM and 3,700 under USAER serve approximately 28,000 schools throughout Mexico.

CAM focuses on students whose disabilities require them to have to leave the classroom. USAER focuses on students whose disabilities are not severe enough for them to not be able to attend school. For example, one school in Cozumel provides a physical therapist, a social worker and a psychologist to work with the children and their parents.

Solutions to Fight Poverty

The fight against disability and poverty in Mexico reduced as economic activity slowed down due to the global pandemic. Before the pandemic, the unemployment rate was at 3.44% in January 2019. However, in January 2021, the unemployment rate grew to 4.47%. Unemployment hit rural areas the hardest. As a result, residents of the less developed south often received low productivity and low investments.

To counterbalance the effects of the pandemic, the Mexican government offered advance payments, old-age social pensions and an increase in microcredit loans. The government also halted spending except for priority social programs and major infrastructure projects.

Social programs like CONTIGO and Oportunidades are working to provide financial services to those in poverty. CONTIGO provides financial products to communities that lack access to formal banks. Additionally, the program offers loans and repayment plans to those in poverty and helps customers in financial management. Financial advisors then meet with customers each week to provide support with loan management and repayment plans.

Oportunidades works under the same framework of CONTIGO. It was responsible for reducing around a third of all poverty reduction efforts. The program’s success increased school enrollment rates, nutritional health and health prevention. The program delivers cash directly to families encouraging beneficiaries to send their children to school and the health clinic. Thus alleviating the worry to cover food costs and allows them to make financial investments into a better financial future.

The Future

The work continues in the fight against disability and poverty in Mexico. There is daily progress for disability and poverty in Mexico. Additionally, the Mexican government is making investments into policies and programs. Hopefully, these programs will ensure that all Mexican citizens receive fair treatment and have every opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

How Vertical Farming in Mexico Can Address Food InsecurityMexico is a large country home to more than 130 million people. Of the population, roughly 44% live in poverty and about 10.4 million Mexicans endured severe food insecurity in 2018. COVID-19 worsens these issues, exacerbating concerns of food security and availability. Researchers are now studying the effects of vertical farming as new companies attempt to introduce vertical farming in Mexico.

What is Vertical Farming?

Vertical farming is a method of production in which crops are grown within stacked layers on top of one another. In contrast to traditional methods, where food grows across a singular plane such as a field, the vertical method enables fruits and vegetables to grow in more confined spaces, such as skyscrapers, multi-level warehouses and even shipping containers. In these environments, plants are exposed to artificial lighting and controlled temperatures to produce the best yield. The purpose of this method is to grow more food within smaller areas.

How Can Vertical Farms Help Mexico?

Vertical farming has gained traction in recent years because it gives people the opportunity to grow food in urban cities and areas where the population is rapidly increasing. Estimates indicate that Mexico’s population could rise to 150 million citizens by 2050, therefore, it is important to ensure that food production increases over the next several decades. While vertical farming allows growers to be closer to their consumers, it also alleviates some of the problems brought by agricultural farming. For example, Mexico loses billions of liters of water every year because of the poor irrigation of traditional farming methods. By introducing more vertical farms in Mexico, water waste in agriculture will drastically reduce.

Water reduction is not the only benefit of vertical farming as there are several negative aspects of traditional farming that indoor farming completely avoids. Introducing vertical farms in Mexico can lead to a decrease in fertilizer and pesticide use, which will reduce water, soil and air pollution. Additionally, since vertical farms are much closer to urbanized areas, there will not be as great of a need for agricultural machinery or transportation to deliver goods. This will reduce overall carbon emissions.

In Mexico, 34% of food produced through agricultural farming never reaches the consumer because of problems that occur during production, processing, storing and transporting. Implementing more vertical farms in Mexico can help address this problem by reducing the need for agricultural farming. Additionally, vertical systems can create job opportunities for many people, leading to profitable activities that can positively impact the nation’s economy. Overall, vertical farming can improve the quality of life for many Mexicans by giving them access to locally produced fresh food.

What are the Downsides?

Although vertical farming has a lot of potential in Mexico, it is not without drawbacks and cannot fully replace agricultural farming. This is because indoor farming technology is limited to producing specific fruits and vegetables, primarily leafy greens. While one might be able to produce lettuce, kale and different types of herbs, there are several plants that cannot grow under the artificial conditions that vertical farms create. Potatoes, corn and other root vegetables, for example, rely on traditional agricultural farming.

Limited variety is not the only issue that vertical farming presents. Because vertical farms consume so much energy and electricity, setting them up can cost millions of dollars. In urbanized areas, starting up indoor farms can be more expensive, making marginal profits lower and leading to fewer people who want to invest. Another issue with indoor farming is that it relies too heavily on technology. One day without power or LED lighting can be absolutely devastating and result in the loss of thousands of plants. Despite this, companies are starting to open up vertical farms in Mexico, with some expanding dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Verde Compacto

In recent years, several businesses have emerged in response to Mexico’s need to address food insecurity. One example is Verde Compacto, a vertical farming company that uses shipping containers to grow crops. This method enables founders Juan Gabriel Succar and Jorge Succar to grow 5,000 square meters worth of lettuce within “a 30 square meter sea freight container.”

The business is now working on a project to reduce its LED light use by 75%. Today, Verde Compacto is collaborating with its consumers to build container farms best suited to their needs. It is also looking to bring down the price of produce in countries outside of Latin America, expanding to regions such as Northern Europe in light of the pandemic.

Karma Verde Fresh

Another vertical farming company is Karma Verde Fresh, a startup based in Monterrey, Mexico. Since its founding in 2016, Karma Verde Fresh has developed its own method of indoor farming and has successfully increased its number of vertical racks by almost 90%. In 2019, the company opened its first laboratories, two at the campuses of the Autonomous University of Nueva León and one at the Antonio Narro Agrarian Autonomous University in Coahuila.

During the pandemic, Karma Verde Fresh signed a contract with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture to collaborate and build cultivation systems in food banks in Mexico’s most impoverished regions. The partners are now working to institute a Vertical Agriculture Tech and Trainer Certification Program in Mexico City. Karma Verde Fresh’s current goal is to install vertical farming systems in universities across Mexico, Central America and Chile between 2021 and 2023.

Ultimately, vertical farming is slowly integrating itself into Mexico’s future and is capable of addressing many of the nation’s problems. The benefits vertical farming hold for the nation is truly promising, potentially inspiring other countries to follow suit.

– Eshaan Gandhi
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Mexico
Of the 127 million people in Mexico, 44% or 56 million live below the poverty line. Poverty often means a lack of shelter and food and not having the necessary resources to manage monthly menstruation. Without proper sanitation to manage menstruation, girls miss school and women miss work, along with other opportunities to overcome poverty. Period poverty in Mexico needs to be addressed to ensure that women and girls have the opportunity to progress in their lives.

About Period Poverty

Period poverty is the umbrella term for lack of access to sanitary products or the infrastructure to clean oneself during menstruation due to this economic, social and political issue. According to Global Citizen, “When people can’t manage their periods safely and with dignity, they miss out on school, [work] and opportunities to overcome poverty.” Menstrual poverty is an issue that COVID-19 exacerbated. An additional 3.8 million people in Mexico fell into poverty between 2018 and 2021 due, in part, to the pandemic. This rise in poverty is likely to have increased menstrual poverty.

Period Poverty in Mexico Schools

The lower chamber in Mexico approved a law in March 2021 to make female sanitary products, such as tampons, pads and menstrual cups, free in schools. The law still requires the Mexican Senate’s approval. If passed, the intention is to reinforce menstrual education to fight misinformation and bullying targeting menstruating girls.

There remains a lack of sexual and reproductive education, taboos about menstruation and the absence of the sanitary infrastructure for girls to maintain menstrual hygiene practices and dispose of sanitary products, adding to the obstacles around period poverty in Mexico. For women and girls, menstrual poverty perpetuates more poverty. Without menstrual products, water or pain medication, girls may miss school rather than risk humiliation at school.

Mental Health and Period Poverty

Beyond the lack of available menstrual products, missing school, work and other opportunities, girls who live with period poverty may also experience poor mental health. A limited ability to obtain menstrual products due to poverty can lead to anxiety, depression and feelings of embarrassment.

Period, a global nonprofit, and Thinx, a company that sells period underwear, recently implemented a study showing that two-thirds of teen girls experience stress due to limited menstrual supplies, along with feelings of shame and self-consciousness. In fact, UNICEF reports that half of school-aged girls would rather miss school than risk embarrassment of stained clothing from their periods. The fact that girls miss school has links to poverty, domestic violence, health complications and child marriage.

Menstrual products are necessary items that are often unattainable for girls and women facing poverty. This is partly due to the Value Added Tax (VAT) in Mexico that includes a 16% tax on sanitary pads and tampons and all items related to the management of menstruation.

In September 2020, Deputy of Movimiento Ciudadano Martha Tagle approached the Chamber of Deputies in Mexico with a proposal to eliminate VAT on sanitary products. Congress threw the proposal out after a vote with 218 voicing disapproval, 185 votes of approval and 11 abstaining from the vote. Congress stated that eliminating the VAT was not possible during the health crisis of the pandemic. However, groups such as Movimiento Cuidadano are making strides to reduce the cost of menstrual products.

Menstruación Digna Law

While Mexico is yet to remove the tax successfully, one state has made some headway. On March 3, 2021, Michoacán, Mexico, located in Western Mexico along the Pacific coastline and the ninth largest state in Mexico, passed the Menstruación Digna Law that incorporates menstrual education into health education in schools. Advocacy groups see this as a step forward for those experiencing menstrual poverty in Mexico and another positive move toward making sanitary products and menstrual education accessible to all girls and women in Mexico.

Impacts of Childhood Marriage on Period Poverty in Mexico

UNICEF has reported that girls who miss school or do not receive an education are more at risk of entering child marriage, experience pregnancy, malnourishment and domestic violence. Marriage as a child and teen pregnancies can exacerbate the cycle of poverty. Without powerful remedial measures, the World Bank estimates that the learning loss that has already occurred is going to cost girls in Mexico an average of 8% of their future income.

According to the World Bank, ending childhood marriage and educating girls can be powerful agents of socioeconomic change. Upon completion of school, girls are less likely to experience child marriage, face domestic abuse and suffer from long-term health complications. As a result, females who have education are more likely to have fewer and healthier children. These children then, in turn, are more likely to obtain an education and pull themselves out of poverty, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty. Educating girls around the world and in Mexico could shift the socioeconomic status and infrastructure of countries.

Ban on Plastic Applicators

In January 2021, a ban on plastic applicators in Mexico further exacerbated the issue of period poverty for girls and women. With a lack of access to tampons, women and girls are more at risk of missing more school. Experts have said that the ban could increase period poverty in a country where 43% of the population lives under the poverty line. For those in the lowest income level in Mexico, menstrual health accounts for up to 5% of their monthly expenses. A significant group of women in Mexico City also say that they cannot purchase tampons on e-commerce sites.

Eradicating period poverty in Mexico will support the world effort to end poverty by 2030. As Global Citizen states, “The world must act to end period poverty and guarantee clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. Promoting menstrual equity is key to supporting women and young girls.”

Advocating to end period poverty in Mexico is advantageous. Research shows that when girls receive education, gross domestic product (GDP) grows. A one percentage point increase in female education raises the average GDP by 0.3 percentage points and raises annual GDP growth rates by 0.2 percentage points.

– Sarah Mackay
Photo: Flickr

genetically modified seedsMany countries in Central and South America are home to strong agricultural economies. Since the 1990s, the growing use of genetically modified seeds has challenged traditional forms of agriculture. Companies such as DuPont, Syngenta and Bater sent these seeds to Latin America. Since this introduction, Latin American agribusiness has become largely dependent on genetically modified seeds. Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay are home to roughly 120 million acres of genetically modified crops. Promises of greater yields and less work fuel this upsurge. To understand the effects of genetically modified seeds and how farmers are gaining support, The Borgen Project spoke to Aimee Code, the pesticide program director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Seeds Endanger Farmers’ Prosperity

Two key factors explain the effect of genetically modified seeds on poverty. The first is dependence. Code explains that “many GMO seeds are intrinsically linked with pesticide use.” Code explains further that pesticide dependence can be dangerous as “this traps farmers in a cycle of needing the pesticides and needing these seeds… it becomes more and more expensive and uncomfortable.”

The difference between this cycle of seed use and traditional methods is stark as genetically modified seeds require the user to buy new seeds each year rather than harvesting and using older seeds from past harvests as is traditional. Farmers are unable to reuse genetically modified seeds and plants because they do not own them; the seeds belong to the company that sells them.

Not only do crops themselves threaten farmers’ prosperity, but the system of genetically modified agriculture also fuels poverty. With the introduction of genetically modified seeds came the promotion of farm consolidation, meaning that fewer farmers are necessary. As a result of this farm consolidation, around 200,000 agricultural producers in South America “have lost their livelihoods” in the last two decades.

Seeds Endanger Farmers’ Health

“The amount of data is woefully inadequate on the health effects experienced by these farmers out in the fields,” shares Code on the issue of health in Latin America. However, even ordinary individuals can draw conclusions just from the nature of these practices. The link between genetically modified seeds and health is best explained by the pesticide use required for these crops.

Because farmers must store pesticides in the crops’ area, the pesticides constantly endanger people living around farms. To highlight the commonality of these exposures, Code reflects on her experience working in Honduras. She says, “A young man offered me water to drink out of an old pesticide bottle.” She explains the link to poor health by concluding that “these are exposures that shouldn’t be happening.”

Along with pesticides sprayed on crops, Code explains that “the seeds are often coated with pesticides, making the seeds themselves dangerous depending on the handling practices.” Unfortunately, many farmers cannot access ample personal protective equipment to protect themselves from dangerous chemicals.

Exposure to the seeds and pesticides is grave as long-term effects can include respiratory problems, memory disorders, skin conditions, depression, miscarriages, birth defects, cancer and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. In the short term, these pesticides can result in nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, dizziness, anxiety and cognitive harm.

Solving the Problem

The effects of genetically modified seeds remain prominent in the lives of many Latin Americans. However, ongoing solutions aim to mitigate the effects. Code explains that the two most important ways to reduce the spread of genetically modified seeds and crops are education and regulation. As the pesticide program director for the Xerces Society, she works with farmers to implement more sustainable practices.

The Xerces Society is not the only organization working to spread awareness of the value of non-GMO crops. Civil society and social movements throughout Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala have mobilized people to protect seeds and the heritage of agricultural practices. These movements are vital for boosting confidence in traditional practices, challenging narratives created by genetically modified seed companies.

Governments from across Latin America have also stepped up to help reduce the use of these seeds. Countries such as Guatemala and Ecuador have implemented full and partial bans on genetically modified seeds. Most recently, Mexico passed legislation to ban the use of transgenic corn and phase out glyphosate by 2024. These mark positive steps as government regulation can stop the trend of high-risk genetically modified seeds that have trapped many farmers. Such legislation will protect food sovereignty and the health of farmers in Mexico.

More legislative measures and actions are required to eliminate the effects of genetically modified seeds in Latin America. However, recent years have seen immense progress in efforts to reduce the seeds’ prevalence through policy action and awareness.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty and MexicoThe country of Mexico has recently seen a massive increase in poverty, which impacts its population and economy. At the end of last year, reports showed that the poverty rate had grown to about 44% with 3.8 million more Mexican citizens falling below the poverty line. This increase has led to a crumbling economy, budget cuts, businesses closing down and layoffs causing more citizens to lose their jobs.

The current recession in Mexico started before the pandemic had arrived, but when COVID-19 hit the country, the livelihoods of Mexican citizens changed as access to health services and food became more difficult.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Poverty

“The Covid-19 health emergency has deepened the challenges that face social development policy in every aspect, particularly for incomes, health, education and the diet of Mexican people,” said development evaluation agency Coneval in an interview with Reuters.

Since the pandemic hit, citizens have felt its effects. Now, about half the Mexican population lives below the poverty line, with careful lines dividing standards of poverty between rural and urban areas. In total, almost 56 million people in Mexico are now below the poverty line; out of that 56 million, about 9% live in extreme poverty.

The Pandemic’s Medical and Economic Consequences

In May 2020, the number of people who were confirmed with the virus was at a then-high of 35,000. Out of that number, about 3,400 died due to the coronavirus. Health care has become difficult to come by for Mexican citizens; since 2018, “Mexicans lacking access to health services grew 12 percentage points.” This has left 35 million people unable to get adequate care for their illnesses. When businesses shut down because of the pandemic, nearly 350,000 jobs were lost. This pressured people to live off of their savings to sustain themselves.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has stated that he is prepared to look at the situation through different approaches and wants to give aid to the people.

Possible Solutions

“So, that is one form to measure poverty and to measure people’s wellbeing […] I have others. A very important one: what we are setting aside as economic support for households,” said President Obrador.

One of the ways the Obrador Administration is trying to alleviate poverty in the country is to raise the current minimum wage up to about $7.10 a day. There is hope that citizens will have more money to support themselves and their families.

In response to the overall pandemic, the government has sought to strengthen its test and trace strategy. In addition, one goal is to widen the distribution of the social protection payments in an effort to control the outbreak and stabilize the economy. The U.S. has also pledged to deliver 8.5 million COVID vaccines for citizens to become inoculated.

“We believe we are in a very good moment in our relationship with the [United States],” said Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebard in an interview with El Paso Times.

– Demetrous Nobles
Photo: Flickr

mint countries Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, also known as the “MINT” countries, are the fastest-growing emerging economies in the world. While COVID-19 has socially, physically and economically impacted the MINT countries, the nations are still playing a tremendous role in helping alleviate poverty for millions of people.

Mexico

Mexico is the perfect example of an emerging economy. Due to its strong trade relationship with the United States, its GDP is higher than almost all developing countries. However, Mexico’s overall GDP is not yet enough to meet the standards for a developed country. Similarly, while the poverty rate remains high in Mexico, the percent of people living on less than $3.20 has dropped from 12.8% in 2010 to 6.6% in 2018.

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexico’s economy has declined sharply. In fact, the Mexican GDP decreased by 8.3% during 2020, its largest drop since the Great Depression. While the country has partially recovered from its economic downturn due to increased trade, it still has a long way to make up for its GDP drop from 2020.

Indonesia

Indonesia is the fourth-most populous nation in the entire world and ranks 56th in economic freedom. This statistic is a result of low tax burdens and increasing political participation. Similarly, the country is one of the top-ranked Asia-Pacific countries in terms of its economy and the country has seen steady financial improvements since 2017. In fact, Indonesia cut its poverty rate by more than 50% from 1999 to 2020.

While COVID-19 had major effects on the country, economic activity has rebounded significantly. For example, in July 2020, the government eased lockdown restrictions, which allowed for increased exports and stronger government support. Without the burdens of the COVID-19 recession, Indonesia can continue to develop its economy and reduce poverty.

Nigeria

Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa. However, the country saw relatively minimal growth during the last few years because of high oil prices. The drops in oil prices are significant because Nigeria is Africa’s biggest exporter and contains Africa’s largest natural gas reserves. Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had disastrous effects on the country. The economy contracted by 6.1% in the second quarter of 2020 with 27% of Nigerians unemployed.

However, the country has made recent strides to tackle poverty and improve its economy. Due to eased lockdowns in the country, Nigeria’s oil prices have improved. Furthermore, its economy has grown by 0.5% in the first quarter of 2021, helping the country exit its COVID-19 related recession. In fact, the president of Nigeria inaugurated the National Steering Committee of the National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy (NPRGS) in June 2021. The inauguration marks Nigeria’s commitment to raising 100 million people out of poverty within 10 years, fueling optimism about the country’s future.

Turkey

Turkey, one of the wealthiest MINT countries, has had an impressive economic run since the 2000s due to open trade with other countries and cooperation with the EU. Similarly, the Turkish government has implemented government reforms in most impoverished regions of the country. These reforms successfully cut poverty rates in half.

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, Turkey has been able to recover, and its economy remains strong. While the leaders of Turkey have been accused of political corruption and Turkey saw a COVID-19 spike in April 2021, the number of infections has dropped by 72% since then because of a total lockdown measure. Similarly, Turkey’s recovery from COVID-19 is expected to boost the country’s GDP by 5% by the end of 2021.

Even with the factors of COVID-19, political instability, corruption and more, the MINT countries have shown resilience and progress. By decreasing poverty, implementing reforms and recovering from the pandemic, the MINT countries move toward a bright future.

– Calvin Franke
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Mexico
Human trafficking in Mexico has been a problem for years. Traffickers exploit both domestic and foreign victims. As a common tourist destination, it is important that human trafficking in Mexico is curbed.

What is Human Trafficking?

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking “involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Yearly, there are millions of individuals who are trafficked. Many instances involve Mexico, either as a transportation hub or a point of origin for trafficking victims. Traffickers will coerce individuals to lure them into labor or any sexual exploitation. There are still many gray areas regarding trafficking so it is very important to recognize indicators to protect potential victims. In addition to this, reporting any suspected trafficking is critical to keeping people safe.

Human Trafficking in Mexico

Mexico is not unfamiliar with this issue, with growing increments of human trafficking in the country. Due to corruption and disparities, both social and economic, certain groups in Mexico are considered more vulnerable to trafficking. These groups include women, children, indigenous people, individuals with disabilities and migrants.

Those suffering from poverty are also more vulnerable to trafficking. Individuals who are desperately in need of financial support will take up risky jobs in order to provide for their families, sometimes leading to human trafficking. Additionally, the undereducated are at an increased risk. Traffickers target girls that lack education, most likely due to economic reasons, to sell them into marriage. Human trafficking in Mexico is a result of socio-economic disparities, harmful social norms and economic inequity, all of which fuel the trafficking.

Government Efforts

Due to a lack of awareness and education, Mexico has struggled to reduce human trafficking. Legal solutions, such as the anti-trafficking law passed in 2004, are only the first step to effectively stopping human trafficking in the country. Currently, the Mexican government is reviewing the “failing” anti-human trafficking policy and working to provide better support for victims.

This review has shown that a direct financial approach by the government itself would be more beneficial to those who needed it the most. Investing in systems operations and rehabilitation would help more than corruptible laws. Furthermore, the government is acknowledging its shortcomings in data and analysis when it comes to trafficking. In order to correct this, it is working to create a better, more reliable system.

Receiving a mixed response, the Mexican government also announced the discontinuation of supporting anti-trafficking NGOs. The country intends to establish its own shelters and relief centers for victims in Mexico. Despite some criticism, this shift will hopefully have a positive impact on trafficking victims in the country.

Moving forward, it is crucial that the government and humanitarian organizations continue to make addressing human trafficking a priority. You can learn more about human trafficking in Mexico here.

– Nicole Sung
Photo: Flickr

Matamoros Refugee CampNot until 2019, under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols program (MMP), has a refugee camp existed on a United States border. After two years of operation, on February 24, 2021, the Matamoros refugee camp closed and the U.N. Refugee Agency began its in-person registration of the 750 people who lived there. The MPP policy forced people seeking asylum in the U.S. to remain in Mexico until their cases could be heard in U.S. immigration court.

The Matamoros Refugee Camp

The influx of immigrants to the U.S. border can be attributed to root causes of “economic problems, ongoing violence, worsening corruption, challenges to democracy as well as the devastating impact of the coronavirus.” In 2017, the majority of immigrants from Central America were from El Salvador (39.7%), Guatemala (27.2%) and Honduras (18.6%).

An asylum seeker is defined as “a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country.” Since the implementation of the MPP, roughly 70,000 people made the difficult choice to leave their country of origin to seek asylum in the U.S. and about 70,000 were returned to Mexico. A refugee camp thus formed in Matamoros, Mexico, located on the southern bank of Rio Grande, directly across the border from Brownsville, Texas. At this camp, hundreds, and at times, thousands of people wait for the duration of their immigration proceedings.

The conditions of living at the camp posed serious health risks. Furthermore, as of December 2020, there were more than 1,000 reports of “rape, kidnapping, torture and other violent attacks” against asylum seekers at the U.S. border. In addition to the risks posed at dangerous border towns, the camp faced deteriorating conditions, including a lack of access to water and sanitation. In juxtaposition to the peril faced in a crowded refugee camp, there were celebrations within the community of residents. People formed church groups and tent schools. They celebrated quinceaneras and fell in love. The refugees at the Matamoros camp showed resolve to find some level of normalcy within a period of uncertainty and fear.

Organizations Supporting the Camp

Resource Center Matamoros (RCM) is a humanitarian organization that has become a staple of social support for immigrants at the border. Gaby Zavana, the organization’s co-founder, told The Borgen Project that there were no medical resources and no infrastructure in the early days of the camp.”We initially provided food, tents and blankets, but that shifted to providing an office building for the refugees to have access to legal teams, medical teams and social support services.” The work that Zavana does within the RCM is multi-faceted. She explained that as the organization expanded, RCM started to take on the role of camp management.

Zavana says that RCM prioritized public health issues by setting up temporary camp showers so that people would not have to bathe in the river. Additionally, RCM targeted camp infrastructure, paving walkways and helping people construct better home structures and kitchens. The work of RCM extends to lobbying the Mexican and U.S. government and advocating on behalf of the asylum seekers at the U.S. border.

Angry Tias and Abuelas, the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2019, is an organization based in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. The organization has engaged in efforts to provide food to the hungry, visit the imprisoned and comfort people stranded at the border. It also set up stores in the Matamoros camp to supply essential items like diapers and cooking utensils to the migrants, free of charge.

Fixing Immigration Policy

The Biden administration announced in late February 2021 its plans to close the Matamoros refugee camp, terminate the MPP and dedicate $4 billion to address the underlying causes of migration from Central America. The administration has started processing migrants and all of the residents of the camp have now moved to await their hearings in the U.S. When asked about the environment of the camp upon hearing the news of its impending closure, Zavana told The Borgen Project that the residents were unusually quiet. The quietness could signify a deep, silent reflection of their experiences at the camp and futures in the United States.

The number of people coming to the border has increased dramatically since the termination of the MPP. Zavana says that “a big portion of RCM’s work has gone to the camp so the closure of the camp can free up resources to focus on new arrivals.” RCM is currently working on an interim shelter to house new arrivals until more shelter facilities open up.

The Road Ahead

The tides are shifting for asylum seekers at the U.S. border. The Matamoros refugee camp provided some level of security for thousands of people fleeing persecution, violence and poverty in hopes of receiving asylum in the United States. The efforts of organizations like the Resource Center Matamoros allowed camp residents to live with more dignity and humanity. The Biden administration’s upheaval of Trump-era immigration policy is promising for the past residents of the Matamoros refugee camp.

– Brittany Granquist
Photo: Flickr

Expanding Financial Access in MexicoA good indicator of a country’s overall inequality is the percentage of the population that has access to financial services. Countries lacking financial inclusion suffer from decreased growth and increased income inequality. One of the countries with the poorest financial inclusion for income classification is Mexico. Few Mexican citizens have financial resources at their disposal. This disparity perpetuates rampant economic inequalities in the country’s most impoverished regions. The government has implemented several programs in the past five years aimed at expanding financial access in Mexico.

The Problem

Mexico is a nation burdened by inequalities. With a Gini coefficient hovering around 0.5, Mexico is one of the most unequal upper-middle-income countries in the world. Contributing to the high income and wealth inequality are the massive gaps in access to financial services.

There is an undeniable correlation between financial access and inequality. For example, countries with extensive access to financial services broaden the economic opportunities for both individuals and firms. The World Bank’s Systematic Country Diagnostic for Mexico in 2019 found that expanding financial inclusion can significantly increase income for low-income individuals and populations.

The report also found that low financial inclusion negatively impacts economic inequality, productivity, growth and employment of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Mexico is a stark example of a country with low financial inclusion. Only 37% of Mexican adults have bank accounts, which is a much lower number than the average percentage for upper-middle-income countries.

The poor level of financial access in Mexico sinks even lower for rural citizens. Although more than 20% of Mexico’s population live in rural areas, only 7% of rural residents borrowed from a financial institution in 2016. Another demographic hindered by financial access inequality is MSMEs, which provide about 70% of the employment in Mexico. Just 11% of these enterprises use bank credit due to the cost and access issues.

The Programs

To address the troubling lack of financial access in Mexico, the nation’s authorities have introduced several reform programs in the past five years. The Expanding Rural Finance Project received supplemental support from the World Bank. This allowed for greater oversight and more available resources. The Expanding Rural Finance Project authorized 192 participating financial intermediaries to supply 174,000 credits to 140,000 rural producers and MSMEs between 2016 and 2020. The average loans of $1,850 have helped ease rural poverty by providing funds for workers and employers in the area. Furthermore, more than 80% of these credit recipients were women, exceeding the set target of 60%.

In addition, the Financial Inclusion DPF, supports a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework for Fintech in Mexico. Financial institutions that adopt Fintech use technology to enhance financial services and make banking more accessible and effortless. Automated transfers, mobile payments and flexible loan management are some of the many benefits offered by Fintech-associated institutions. The newly implemented framework in Mexico is groundbreaking in the global picture and will increase financial inclusion by expanding convenient financial services.

The Results

Mexico’s programs addressing inequality in financial access have shown several signs of progress. Between 2016 and 2020, the Expanding Rural Finance Project widened financial access in Mexico for impoverished citizens, rural populations, MSMEs, women and youth. It provided hundreds of thousands of credits extending to participating producers. The project particularly helped Mexican workers on the disadvantaged end of income inequality. Of people who received credits, 17% live in communities classified as marginalized by the National Council for Population. The program distributed approximately 76% of all sub-loans in the Mexican states with the highest levels of poverty. About 12% of credit recipients had never borrowed from formal financial institutions. As gender inequality permeates income inequality, 81% of credit recipients from the project were women.

The Mexico Financial Inclusion DPF program also contributed to the expansion of financial access in Mexico. Only slightly more than a year after the program’s initiation, 93 businesses have already requested authorization to operate as Fintech institutions. About 59 of the businesses are electronic payment fund institutions and 34 are crowdfunding institutions. The quick adjustment to Fintech suggests an overarching trend for Mexican enterprises. Many want to benefit from the ease of access and innovation promoted by the Fintech model. The transition will benefit non-financial enterprises and average citizens as well. This is because the Fintech framework provides for faster payment transfers, easier loan processes and more convenient services available for remote residents.

Looking Ahead

Mexico’s glaring discrepancies in financial inclusion have supported ongoing economic inequalities for decades. However, programs administered by the government in the past several years have made strides in the right direction as financial access is widening for disenfranchised groups all over the country. If Mexico continues to expand financial access through credit programs and Fintech innovation, the country will likely see a decrease in economic inequality and reap the benefits of a more egalitarian society.

Calvin Melloh
Photo: Flickr