impact of conflict on poverty
Conflict can be a catalyst for an array of poverty-related events. It can impact poverty by depleting resources, interrupting supply chains, destroying infrastructure, taking lives and much more. Unfortunately, this trend has held in the country of Mali, which currently shows the significant impact of conflict on poverty.

Conflict Background and Economic Impact

The Mali War is an ongoing conflict that began in January of 2012. Since then, violence between the North and South of Mali has ebbed and flowed in severity but never subsided. Malian people, including the Tuareg, in the North of Mali, have expressed resentment and concern, as they feel that governmental groups and political factions have been neglecting their concerns and treating them unfairly. Ethnic divides, fundamentalist fighters and an unstable political system are a few issues that have caused this conflict.

There have been thousands of deaths and thousands of more people fleeing the conflict. As mentioned previously, many connect the weak economic sector in Mali to the outbreak of unrest and violence. Almost cyclically, this violence is now negatively impacting the economic sector. Before the conflict broke out, tourism accounted for more than 40% of Mali’s GDP. Researchers estimate that 8,000 people lost their job due to the drastic decrease in tourism after the conflict began. The economic connection highlights the ranging impact of conflict on poverty.

Many of those living in the North of Mali, mostly Tuareg and Arab groups, depend on the agricultural sector for their income. The government has invested very little in this sector and focuses primarily on tourism and the export of gold and cotton from the South. This has led many agricultural producers in the South to grow jaded towards the government due to their increased likelihood of experiencing extreme poverty.

The Impact on Public Health

Roughly 1 in 3 children in Mali are facing chronic malnutrition. An annual average of nearly four million people in Mali do not have access to an adequate amount of food. More than half of Mali’s children and young adults are illiterate and have been pushed out of school due to displacement. Many children in Mali are at great risk of being recruited into militant groups, further threatening their safety, educational resources, and ability to climb from poverty.

At its base level, the conflict in Mali threatens public health by the sheer loss of life it has caused. In 2018, hundreds of civilians were killed by armed groups. The byproducts of this violence caused even more people to experience extreme poverty, malnutrition and death. Additionally, more than 200,000 people have fled Mali altogether to avoid the violence. This stunts Mali’s economic growth, which reaffirms the dangerous impact of conflict on poverty.

Current Aid and Support Efforts

A military coup ousted the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, on August 19th, 2020. President Bah Ndaw became the interim leader of Mali and will hold the position until an election can be held. Some are hopeful that if a legitimate election can be held, much of the conflict in Mali will subside. In the meantime, many local and international nonprofit organizations have mobilized to aid in poverty-reduction efforts throughout Mali.

  1. For example, World Vision began providing aid in Mali in 1975, even before the conflict. In 2012 during the height of the conflict, World Vision provided aid in the form of food, clean water, and shelter to more than 150,000 people throughout Mali. Additionally, more than 60,000 children in Mali are currently benefiting from World Vision’s child sponsorship program. The program allows donors to provide monetary assistance to and communicate with an impoverished child. Many of these sponsored children in Mali reside within conflict-ridden areas.
  2. Peace Direct, another nonprofit organization, focuses on peacebuilding efforts in Mali. They support communities in their implementation of peacebuilding; in 2019 alone, they supported more than 20 projects throughout Mali. Peace Direct realizes the importance of community growth, both physically and emotionally, to peacebuilding. A lack of communal trust can be detrimental to poverty reduction, as teamwork makes progress more effective and efficient. Additionally, the building of trust and understanding among conflict groups is essential to support continued growth and stability throughout Mali. This trust will prevent future conflicts and allow Mali to focus on joint economic growth and poverty-reduction tactics throughout their country.

    3. “The Peacebuilding Stabilization and Reconciliation Project,” run through USAID, began in April of 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in March of 2023. This project focuses on rebuilding many of the conflict-ridden areas throughout Mali, providing rehabilitation resources to those impacted by the violence, increasing civic engagement and helping Mali’s government introduce barriers to prevent violent outbreaks in the future. USAID believes that providing community members with an active role in their governance will decrease dissent, enhance democratic values, reduce the likelihood of future conflict and decrease the joint poverty level throughout Mali. Success will also ideally increase GDP and overall well being while mitigating the impact of conflict on poverty in Mali.

The Future of the Region

The domino effect that violence can have on the prosperity of a nation is not a surprise. Violence decreases an individual’s ability to focus on economic growth or public health. It overtakes governmental initiatives and attention from the media, forcing poverty-related issues to take a backseat. The importance of the international community supporting peacebuilding efforts in Mali remains essential. The path toward peace will trickle-down benefits for many subsets of Mali’s society and will decrease the occurrence of extreme poverty throughout the nation.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: UN Multimedia

Child Poverty in EritreaMilitarism and instability are endemic to Eritrea. The degradation of civil society is a result of those two factors. Child poverty in Eritrea is rampant due to such foundations; however, the country is not without benefactors. UNICEF’s aid efforts are improving children’s health within Eritrea despite the current conditions.

A Brief History

Eritrea is one of the few countries that can truly be considered a fledgling state in the 21st century. After a decades-long secession war, the Eritrean government achieved full independence from Ethiopia in 1993. They solidified the totalitarian one-party dictatorship that has retained power since. A brief period of peace followed, during which promised democratic elections never materialized. Then, Eritrea’s unresolved border disputes with Ethiopia escalated into a war that lasted from 1998 to 2000. It killed tens of thousands and resulted in several minor border changes and only formally ended in 2018. In the wake of this war, the Eritrean government has sustained a track record of militarization, corruption and human rights violations that has continually degraded civil stability. As of 2004, around 50% of Eritreans live below the poverty line.

Eritrea’s Youth at a Glance

Housing around 6 million people, Eritrea’s youth make up a significant proportion of its population. Eritrea has the 35th highest total fertility rate globally, with a mean of 3.73 children born per woman. It also has the 42nd lowest life expectancy at birth at a mere 66.2 years, with significant variation between that of males (63.6 years) and females (68.8 years).

Forced Conscriptions of Children

Under the guise of national security against Ethiopia, Eritrea has maintained a system of universal, compulsory conscription since 2003. This policy requires all high school students to complete their final year of high school at Sawa, the country’s primary military training center. Many are 16 or 17 years of age when their conscription begins, which led the U.N. Commission of Inquiry to accuse Eritrea of mobilizing child soldiers.

The Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report also blamed Eritrea’s conscription practices for a number of grievances. Its prolonged militarization has wide-reaching effects for the country. Many adults are held in service against their will for up to a decade, but it is particularly damaging to Eritrean youth. Students at Sawa face food shortages, forced labor and harsh punishment. Many female students have reportedly suffered sexual abuse. Besides fleeing, “Many girls and young women opt for early marriage and motherhood as a means of evading Sawa and conscription.”

Further, “The system of conscription has driven thousands of young Eritreans each year into exile,” HRW claims. They estimate that around 507,300 Eritreans live elsewhere. Because of its conscription practices, Eritrea is both a top producer of refugees and unaccompanied refugee children in Europe – they not only result in child poverty in Eritrea, but in other regions as well.

Education Access

HRW claims that Eritrea’s education system plays a central role in its high levels of militarization. It leads many students to drop out, intentionally fail classes or flee the country. This has severely undermined education access and inflated child poverty in Eritrea.

Eritrea currently has the lowest school life expectancy – “the total number of years of schooling (primary to tertiary) that a child can expect to receive” – of any country. Eritrea has reportedly made strides to raise enrollment over the last 20 years. However, 27.2% of school-aged children still do not receive schooling, and the country retains a literacy rate of only 76.6%. Illiteracy is much more prevalent among females than among males, with respective literacy rates of 68.9% and 84.4%. In general, girls and children in nomadic populations are the least likely to receive schooling.

Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

As mentioned earlier, over half a million Eritreans have fled the country as refugees. Around one-third of them – about 170,000, according to the WHO – now live in Ethiopia. A majority reside in six different refugee camps. As of 2019, around 6,000 more cross the border each month. Reporting by the UNHCR shows that “children account for 44% of the total refugee population residing in the [Eritrean] Camps, of whom 27% arrive unaccompanied or separated from their families.” Far from being ameliorated by domestic education programs, child poverty in Eritrea is merely being outsourced to its neighbors.

Children’s Health as a Site for Progress

Adjacent to these issues, UNICEF’s programs have driven significant improvements in sanitation, malnutrition and medical access. Its Health and Nutrition programs, among other things, address malnutrition by administering supplements, prevent maternal transmission of HIV/AIDS during birth and administer vaccines. Teams in other departments improve sanitation and lobby against practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation.

In its 2015 Humanitarian Action for Children report on Eritrea, UNICEF wrote that Eritrea “has made spectacular progress on half the [Millennium Development Goals],” including “Goal 4 (child mortality), Goal 5 (maternal mortality), Goal 6 (HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases) and is on track to meet the target for access to safe drinking water (Goal 7).”

Figures illustrate this progress on child poverty in Eritrea. Since 1991, child immunization rates have jumped from 14% to 98%, safe water access rates are up at 60% from 7%, iodine deficiency has plummeted from 80% to 20% in children and the under-five mortality rate sits at 63 deaths per 1000 births, rather than at 148.

Child poverty in Eritrea is a far cry from being solved, but it is not a lost cause.

Skye Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Sudan
Public discourse surrounding political, human and women’s rights in Sudan is experiencing a major shift. Issues of political and social participation and freedoms have been at the forefront of Sudanese protests in recent years. Women have played a major role in breaking down norms and building up a new female identity.

The Protests

Sudan still faces major internal conflict due to the secession of South Sudan and the ensuing conflict in 2011. In recent years, the role of women and their rights has come into question for the Sudanese people. Women in Sudan have specifically felt subjugated due to legal regulations and celebrated when the country eradicated these laws.

A key facet of these issues is class. Upper-class women wear different clothes than poorer women in Sudan. This discrepancy is not only troubling but deeply rooted in socio-political inequity. BBC reported that “in recent years it was common to see rich Khartoum women wearing trousers in public—while those targeted by the morality police were often poorer women from the marginalized areas on the periphery of this vast country.”

The Reason

The Global Fund for Women outlines the varying causes for many of the protests in Sudan. Some of the protests took place at military headquarters. The protestors staged a sit-in and called for “civilian rule, women’s rights and an end to the nation’s civil wars.”

Some of the specific regulations that women want to change are in regard to their physical appearance. Some examples Sudanese would like to change include how they must dress or cover their hair. Breaking any of the current rules can result in harsh and demeaning punishments. GFFW reported that “thousands of women have been sentenced to floggings under the laws, with poor and minority women particularly affected.”

Violent Response

The protestors filling the streets are primarily women, an estimated 70%. These women come from many backgrounds ranging from students to housewives to street traders. This diverse group of females march the streets while chanting, clapping and singing. Amidst the clamoring for change, human rights violations also occur.

There was an increase in violent attacks during many of the protests in favor of women’s rights in Sudan and the ending of the civil conflict. There have been instances of rape, disfigurement and burnings. The military more subtly uses sexist language and insults as another weapon against those protesting for women’s rights in Sudan. Human Rights Watch asserts that this retaliatory violence “escalated following the Arab uprisings, the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan’s economic downturn and the proliferation of new wars in southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.”

Looking Forward

The push for women’s rights in Sudan is progressing forward and incorporating the issues of class and poverty. The country now realizes that the need for comprehensive human rights laws (and specific laws protecting women) is urgent.

The women’s movement is strong but needs continued organizational support. There are few laws currently in place to protect women and children and this must change. Protests, as well as the documentation of human rights violations, are not enough. The government needs to create change and protect its citizens. Women, just like all other citizens, deserve human rights.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

U.S. and ChinaCOVID-19 has brought nearly all facets of normal life and governance to a screeching halt. On all fronts, from the economy to the military, the coronavirus has changed the way this planet runs. One area that has been heavily affected by the pandemic but does not get as much attention is international relations.

Diplomatic relations between countries is one of the toughest areas of government. It has become even more difficult to fully engage in with the onset of COVID-19. With more states turning to domestic engagement, the status quo of international relations has been shaken. In no foreign relationship is this more clear than that between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

U.S.-China Diplomatic Relations

Current diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China were established under President Richard Nixon in 1972. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has experienced highs and lows. In 2020, it is nearly at an all-time low. The hostile status of this relationship now mainly stems from the ascension of President Xi Jinping of China to power in 2013, and the election of the U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

Under these two leaders, U.S.-Chinese relations have greatly diminished over the last four years. A rise in nationalism and “America First” policies under President Trump’s administration has alienated the Chinese amidst constant public attacks on the ‘authoritarianism’ of Jinping’s government. For example, China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy over the last two years has been the subject of extensive international condemnation, particularly from President Trump and the United States. In addition, the two countries have been engaged in a high-profile trade war since the beginning of 2018.

More recently, a dramatic escalation in the deteriorating relationship between the two countries was taken in July 2020, when the U.S. ordered the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, on the basis of technological-espionage on China’s part. In retaliation, China ordered the American consulate in the city of Chengdu to close as well. Another significant strain on the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China is COVID-19.

The Outbreak of the Coronavirus

Since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, more than 4,600 people have died in China, over a period of nearly nine months. In the same amount of time, almost 180,000 people have died in the U.S. The U.S. government has consistently blamed the Chinese for failing to contain the virus. China has firmly denied these accusations. COVID-19 has seriously damaged the economic and healthcare systems of both the U.S. and China. Both systems have lost nearly all economic gains they’ve made since the 2008-2010 recession. While state economies around the globe also suffer, the decline of the economies of these two specific countries has far-reaching implications. Not only is the global economy in danger, but military alliances and foreign aid are as well.

Global Economy

Nearly every nation on earth has some kind of economic partnership with either the U.S., China or both. For example, the United Arab Emirates has been an ally of the U.S. since 1974, but in recent years has engaged in a pivotal economic partnership with China. Continued threats of tariffs and pulling out of trade agreements threaten the balance of these partnerships. These threats could force smaller nations to choose sides between the U.S. and China, should this confrontation escalate.

Military Alliances

While the U.S. enjoys a military advantage over China, China has allied itself with many of America’s adversaries, such as Russia, Iran and North Korea. These alliances have been solidified in recent years, for example, just before the coronavirus broke out in China in December 2019, China, Russia and Iran conducted nearly a week-long military exercise in the Gulf of Oman, a strategic waterway for oil tankers. An American confrontation with any one of these countries could draw China into the conflict, which could spell disaster for the world order.

International Aid

As part of China’s “charm offensive” in the early 2000s, the country began to heavily invest in the reconstruction of the economies and infrastructure in impoverished African states. In exchange, China received rights to natural resources such as oil in these countries. The U.S. also maintains a high level of foreign assistance in Africa. COVID-19 forces the U.S. and China to put more of their respective resources toward rebuilding their own economies. However, the aid they both provide to developing states worldwide diminishes at a time when those states need it most.

It is clear that even before the coronavirus spread to all corners of the globe, the turbulent relationship between the U.S. and China was advancing toward a breaking point. The pandemic has, to some extent, halted the diminishing state of relations between the two countries. However, any further provocations similar to the closing of the consulates in Houston and Chengdu could result in a catastrophe. The impacts of this relationship extend beyond the U.S. and China; they affect nations that heavily depend on the aid they receive from both powers.

Alexander Poran
Photo: Pixabay

Zero Poverty in Wake Island
Wake Island is a small landmass resting between Hawaii and the Northern Mariana Islands. The Spanish discovered the island in 1568 and received its name from William Wake, a British Captain who came across the island in 1796. It covers a total of 6.5 square Km, which is approximately 11 times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC. This island boasts an impressive statistic: there is zero poverty on Wake Island.

Wake Island’s Background

In 1899 the U.S. created a cable station on the island after seizing it from Spain. In 1941, the country then constructed an air and naval base. However, the Japanese stole it shortly after, forcing the U.S. to bomb the island until Japan surrendered. By 1945, the U.S. recaptured Wake Island. During World War II, the island served as a military landing strip for the Pacific region. Wake Island is a National Historic Landmark due to its involvement in WWII. It has been under preservation by the National Preservation Act since 1966 and is protected by the United States Air Force. The U.S. government maintains the Island for emergency landings.

Reasons for the Absence of Poverty

However, Wake Island has no indigenous people: the only residents on the island come from the United States government and are contractors or military personnel. The sparse population watches over the facilities and airfields. There is currently one military doctor on the island for emergencies. There are no commercial flights to or from Wake Island, making it accessible solely to military personnel. The only telecommunication systems on the island are the Defense Switched Network circuits off the Overseas Telephone System (OTS), located in the Hawaii area code.

Approximately 150 people live on Wake Island as of 2019. Wake Island’s small perimeter does not have the structure or capabilities to hold more people. Thus, the small population creates the condition of zero poverty in Wake Island.

The U.S. regulates, and the present military personnel manages the island. The U.S imports all of the island’s food and manufactured goods for the limited population. By having the food and products imported, Wake Island has a lower possibility of falling into poverty. The island’s currency is in U.S. dollars due to its status as a United States territory. With the U.S. defensive base and government support, the island stays out of poverty.

Environmental Impacts on the Economy

In 2006 a super typhoon almost hit Wake Island, carrying the potential to devastate the island. The government evacuated all residents, but due to the storm’s size, there was a possibility of severe damage. The storm could have destroyed the island’s economy; however, despite the storm’s 155 miles per hour winds, no significant impact affected the military base or buildings. With wreckage of only trees, power lines and rods, the island was fortunate to escape destruction narrowly.

Since 2006, there have not been any storms or other major disasters to threaten the island’s economic status. The island also did not contribute to any wars: following WWII, the island sat peacefully with zero damage. This overall safety has significantly contributed to the absence of poverty in Wake Island.

– Mackenzie Reese
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Aid to Afghanistan
For the past 18 years, U.S. involvement has been a constant in Afghanistan. Much of that involvement takes the form of financial aid. The economic and development aid offered to Afghanistan by the U.S. since 2001 has had a positive impact, but an emphasis on military aid diminishes that impact greatly. This article provides 10 facts about U.S. aid to Afghanistan.

10 Facts About U.S. Aid to Afghanistan

  1. As of 2016, U.S. aid to Afghanistan amounted to $5.1 billion per year. Of that aid, $3.7 billion went towards security. Afghanistan also received more economic help from the U.S. than any country outside Africa.
  2. Total annual U.S. spending on Afghanistan amounted to about $45 billion as of 2018. Most of that spending was funding to military forces and security objectives. The U.S. spent only $800 million on economic development.
  3. Afghanistan’s GDP has increased from $4.055 billion in 2002 to $19.444 billion in 2017. Primary school enrollment increased from about 22 percent in 2001 to 98 percent in 2004 after only three years of U.S. aid and has not gone below 90 percent since then. In 2002, the average life expectancy in Afghanistan was about 56. It has increased steadily since then and reached about 64 by 2017.
  4. USAID involvement in Afghanistan began in 2002. Humanitarian aid from USAID has had long-term impacts on conditions in the country. USAID faces more challenges with regard to development projects because of ongoing violence. USAID cooperated with the U.N. to transport emergency food supplies to Afghanistan by air.
  5. In 2018, USAID spent over $145 million on initiatives in Afghanistan. The three primary initiatives of 2018 focused on responding to natural disasters and providing food-related aid.
  6. In 2018, U.S. aid to Afghanistan targeted agriculture more directly. USAID repaired 177 kilometers of irrigation systems, positively affecting about 30,000 hectares of land. USAID also distributed vouchers allowing Afghan farmers to purchase more farming equipment and formed the Agriculture Development Fund, which provides credit and assistance for farmers and their families.
  7. USAID also works to improve Afghan infrastructure. USAID increased access to electricity in Afghanistan by 73 percent from 2010 to 2016. Currently, USAID is supporting a project to expand access to electricity to the entirety of southern Afghanistan. The construction of hundreds of schools and hospitals occurred in Afghanistan with U.S. support. In the past decade, over two million Afghans gained access to clean water thanks to USAID cooperation with the Afghan government.
  8. Despite the amount of U.S. aid sent to Afghanistan, poverty persists. The poorest Afghans continue to struggle with illiteracy and unemployment. High amounts of military aid have not affected the high rates of poverty that exist in Afghanistan.
  9. As of 2018, the U.S. was spending more on Afghanistan than ever. But the U.S. only used $780 million of the $45 billion for economic and development purposes. Most of the $45 billion was used for military and security purposes.
  10. Since 2012, the majority of U.S. aid to Afghanistan has been military aid. In 2012 alone, $9.95 billion of the total $12.9 billion in U.S. aid to Afghanistan was military aid. This decision led to criticism from the Human Rights Watch.

Military aid cannot solve poverty in Afghanistan alone. U.S. development and economic aid are vital to Afghanistan at this time. To protect this type of U.S. aid to Afghanistan, U.S. voters can email their representatives in Congress.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

 

Diplomacy in the Middle East
In a time clouded by violent Middle Eastern conflicts, the spotlight is focusing on how quickly the U.S. can militarize these regions. However, it is important to take note of diplomacy in the Middle East. The following is a list of the U.S.’s current diplomatic efforts in the Middle East and the ones it could potentially make in the future.

The Iraq-U.S. Alliance

Iraq is proving itself to be a key alliance for the U.S., as America seeks to put an end to the Islamic State of Iraq. The importance of preserving this alliance is more vital now than ever. To nurture this alliance, U.S. aid goes to the government of Iraq in the hopes of helping the country attain its domestic goals. This aid will hopefully allow Iraq to respond to pressing matters such as finding living quarters for the displaced and putting reforms in place to meet the needs of its people. As Iraq continues to stabilize domestically, it will help both the U.S. and Iraq militarily by giving them the ability to build up their security forces.

Natural Disasters in Iran

In 2019, a flood struck Iran which resulted in over 60 deaths and only succeeded to add on to the country’s existing troubles. The country was already in an economic crisis as a result of President Trump’s decision to impose secondary sanctions. While the Trump administration has been harsh in its stance toward Iran, there are steps the U.S. can take to aid Iran in its recovery.

Many developing countries, like Iran, constantly face under-preparedness for natural disasters which then adds to its existing financial pains. If the U.S. were to aid Iran in preparedness by providing access to better weather monitoring technologies, the country would be better equipped to handle natural disasters. To help Iran accomplish this and save lives, the U.S. government could consider creating a new general license to allow for access to this technology.

Military and Economic Aid to Israel

Israel has been a longstanding ally of the U.S. In fact, America sends Israel over $3 billion in military and economic aid each year. Through strong diplomatic relations with Israel, the U.S. prevented radicalism movements in the Middle East. Israel also provided the U.S. with valuable military intelligence. The U.S. remains committed to this alliance, and as of August 21, 2019, the U.S. Agency for International Development released a statement indicating that it would be increasing efforts to create employment opportunities and stable communities in Israel. The U.S. also committed to continuing to provide “water, education, technology, science, agriculture, cyber-security and humanitarian assistance.”

Humanitarian Efforts in Syria

After President Trump’s targeted airstrike, humanitarian efforts in Syria have begun to garner interests again. The airstrike was in response to Bashar Al-Assad’s usage of chemical weapons on his people. Since the airstrike, the U.S. discussed different ways to aid Syria through helping displaced refugees, coordinating with other countries and giving more aid. People consider the crisis in Syria to be one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern times.

If America wishes to aid Syrians in this humanitarian crisis, the U.S. could make it easier for Syrian refugees to enter the country. Since the beginning of the Syrian refugee crisis, the U.S. has only accepted 20,000 refugees. There are still millions of Syrians in need of resettlement. The U.S. could also provide insight and intelligence to countries that are dealing with refugees on the frontlines. Countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan need help learning how to deal with a mass influx of refugees.

While the world has shown more interest in U.S. militarization, the U.S. government demonstrated its interest in facilitating diplomacy in the Middle East, indicating that diplomacy in the region is never off the table.

– Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Wake Island

Wake Island is a small island located between Hawaii and Guam. Though people know the island as Wake Island, it is actually an atoll consisting of three smaller islands: Wake, Wilkes and Peale. Together, these islands create a 12-mile long coastline. The island is an “unincorporated territory of the United States” with restricted access. Here are 10 facts about living conditions on Wake Island.

10 Facts About Living Conditions on Wake Island

  1. Climate: Wake Island is a tropical area that receives fewer than 40 inches of rainfall annually. This contributes to why Wake Island has never had a population. Due to the lack of rainfall, “rainwater catchments and a distillation plant for seawater” provide the necessary water for the U.S. Army and military and contractors on the island. The island’s wet season runs from July to October with temperatures ranging from 74°F to 95°F.
  2. Population: In August 2006, a typhoon caused severe damage to structures on the land. The few inhabitants on the island had to evacuate to Hawaii. Wake Island has never been known to have a set population. It has been occupied by the military dating back to World War II. The island was previously used as a meeting ground between U.S. President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur. After that, it served as a refugee camp for Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon.
  3. Economy: All food and manufactured goods are imported to Wake and all economic activity is highly restricted by the United States Army and military. Activity is limited to providing for military personnel and contractors located on the island.
  4. Healthcare System: Aside from the one doctor and nurse, there are no medical facilities available on the island. Inhabitants must travel to nearby hospitals located in Honolulu, almost 3,000 miles away.
  5. Vegetation: The three islands of the atoll are covered with smooth fragments of coral. The island has tropical trees and grasses scattered throughout that provide shelter for the island’s inhabitants. Though trees are found throughout, the island does not have any trees that provide food.
  6. Inhabitants: Besides the United States Army and military, Wake Island is not home to any other humans except for few contractors. The island’s largest inhabitants are rats and hermit crabs. At one point, rats counted for two million of the island’s population. Due to the overpopulation of rats, night rat hunting has become a popular sport on Wake. A project in 2012 was supposed to completely eradicate the rats, but it wasn’t entirely successful.
  7. Environment: The nearest disposal facility, located more than two-thousand miles across the ocean, makes ridding the island of solid waste difficult. Wake Island has accumulated large amounts of waste in open dumps. Since the island only stretches 12 miles across the coastline, waste takes up a majority of the island. This has been a contributing factor to the rat population. In 2014, the Department of Defense decided to calculate the amount of solid waste on Wake Island, and it determined that several thousand tons of waste are festering on the island, some of which dated back to WWII.
  8. Rehabilitation: Before environmental rehabilitation could begin, the AFCEC/611th Civil Engineer Squadron surveyed the waste first in bird nests because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. After surveying, they found that 80 percent of the waste was wrapped in vegetation. The squadron removed the affected trees and shrubbery and collected and cleaned the waste.
  9. Waste Disposal: After they inspected, cleaned and sorted the waste, they brought barges to the island to assist in removal. Every barge used and filled was sent out to Seattle for disposal and recycling. In total, it took three barge seasons to remove a total of more than 3,000 tons of waste from Wake Island.
  10. Wake Island Now: As of now, the entire atoll has been named a National Historic Landmark because of the WWII battle that took place on the island in 1941. In order to protect the landmark and any surrounding wildlife, the United States Air Force has taken on the responsibility of preservation under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

These 10 facts about living conditions on Wake Island provide a little more insight into day-to-day life on the islands. Although this tropical island may look like paradise, it is simply a small military-run operation. Its historical significance will help to preserve the island as a Historic Landmark.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

The Militarization of U.S. Foreign Aid to Africa
“If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition” – Secretary of Defense Gen. Mattis. This kind of sentiment expressed by Gen. Mattis is shared by military and civilians alike. As the gap between foreign aid and military expenses increases, so does the concern from these officials toward the militarization of U.S. foreign aid to Africa.

The 2019 U.S. Proposed Budget Changes

The proposed 2019 budget from the Trump Administration underscores this worry. In the anticipated budget, the Dept. of Defense would receive an estimated $686 billion, which would be an increase of $80 billion (13 percent) from 2017. In comparison, the Dept. of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development would only see a budget of $25.8 billion; which means a $9 billion decrease (26 percent) from 2017 levels.

Furthermore, 2016 serves as a case study for how these resources are being applied in Africa. Of the $26 billion given to Africa through USAID, the Dept. of Defense was actually the leading implementing agency (beating out even USAID). While USAID carried out $9.5 billion worth of foreign aid operations, the Dept. of Defense oversaw $10 billion worth. Alongside low funding due to Congressional budget approval, civilian agencies don’t have the resources to operate, disperse and oversee foreign aid.

On the ground, the picture is becoming more and more clear. It was the Dept. of Defense, not the Dept. of State, that was the first to conduct high-level meetings and summits in African countries, such as Libya, Malawi, Chad and Djibouti, signifying it as the lead diplomatic agency in Africa.

Concerns with an Increasing U.S. Military Presence in Africa

When looking at the statistics, America’s leading military officials are among some of the most vocal advocates against the militarization of U.S. foreign aid to Africa. They worry that by cutting aid and favoring the military in poverty-stricken parts of the world, the U.S. is creating an environment for even more conflict. More specifically, they claim that by choosing military bases over schools, the U.S. is allowing more openings for militant groups, hurting U.S. interests in the long-run by pushing development aside.

For instance, Gen. Carter Ham, the former commander of Africa Command, sees the favoring of the military over diplomacy as a loss of hope for the people of Africa. Per his example, a young Nigerian man faced with no work, education or healthcare would much sooner turn to a militant group that offers money, prestige and a purpose.

His view is echoed by a 2017 testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee. This testimony was written by a long list of retired U.S. military officials, including Gen. Petraeus, Gen. McChrystal and Adm. Michael Mullen. Here, they stated, “…how much more cost-effective it is to prevent a conflict than to end one.” Their views reinforce the idea that Africa is much better served by civilian agencies than by military ones.

The Importance of Civilian Agencies in Africa

Not only do U.S. military officials recognize the harm of militarizing aid but also the importance of returning this role back to civilian agencies. Before leaving office, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates highlighted the importance of the Dept. of State in a 2010 speech. In this speech, he emphasized the necessity of keeping the Dept. of State as the main actor for conducting foreign policy because foreign aid and security reinforce one another. In addition, he called for a new foreign policy, requiring all sectors of U.S. foreign policy to form new partnerships and implement U.S. interests for long-term successes.

Now, the militarization of U.S. foreign aid to Africa does not mean that the military is an adversary to foreign aid. All of the examples used in this article critiquing this militarization process have all been expressed by current or retired military officials who are simply recognizing the need for humanitarian aid and the limits of military power.

Preventing conflict certainly makes more sense than instigating it, but it is up to U.S. citizens to decide whether a voter or a 3-star general holds Congress accountable for a better foreign policy towards Africa. Or in the words of Alexander Laskaris, a senior Dept. of State official with African Command: “How do we operate in an environment when we are willing to send peacekeepers, but we’re not willing to take the steps necessary to make peace?”

Tanner Helem
Photo: Flickr

 India

It is shocking how much governments spend on the military, and how much more are weapons prioritized compared to human lives, In fact, only 10 percent of world military spending could eliminate global poverty. But why is it that countries allocate their resources in expanding their military, rather than fighting poverty, home or abroad? What is the relationship between the military and global poverty? This article will provide a few different aspects of militarization, and help understand the dilemma that countries face regarding this issue.

The Numbers

According to statistics provided by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 2017 saw a total of $1.74 trillion spent on the military globally. This entails an approximately 3.1 percent increase compared to 2016.

Sources of military spending around the globe are concentrated on these top ten countries, order by the size of military expenditure: the U.S. ($609,758 million), China ($228,231 million), Saudi Arabia ($69,413 million), Russia ($66,335 million), followed by India, France, U.K., Japan, Germany, and South Korea. As seen, the U.S. spent more than the next seven countries on the list combined.

More than 2 percent of global GDP goes to military expenditure. The Middle East is the sole region around the globe that exceeds this number, having 5.2 percent of its GDP spent on the military. Oman, most notably, spent 12 percent of GDP on the military.

The Military and Global Poverty Efforts

Many point out that the relationship between the military and global poverty is not always a negative one: the military could often provide humanitarian assistance at times of crisis, technologies from the military could often help alleviate poverty, especially in dire, emergent situations. Furthermore, planes, other transport tools, food, construction materials and skills, medical assistance and communication could all be vital to civilians in regions suffering from conflicts or natural disaster.

The specific roles played by the military vary in different scenarios. The military could simply be a provider of resources such as food items and other needed commodities. It could also send soldiers to assist with humanitarian tasks on the ground. The military could also play the role of the police to maintain peace, though this is a much more controversial use.

There have been arguments, however, regarding the defects of such deployment of the military. It has been pointed out that aircraft is not usually the fastest and most reliable way to distribute food in adverse environments, since planes are also vulnerable to weather conditions, while other transportation means could be cheaper, more effective and more sustainable. Whether humanitarian assistance is offered from a neutral party could also influence the accessibility of poverty alleviating efforts.

The Military: A Cause of Poverty

The amount of humanitarian aid that the military could implement or help provide, sadly, is meager compared to the huge drain of resources needed to maintain a military, the destruction of existing social and economic institutions, or the elimination of potentials for development. Ultimately, conflicts and wars fought by the military are a leading cause of poverty, instead of a solution. Out of 10 poorest nations in the world, eight have recently been in or are still facing significant violent conflicts.

Compared to peaceful developing countries, countries suffering from wars and coups see have a twofold increase in the risk of malnutrition for their people and a threefold increase in the chance of infant death.

The military sometimes takes away what is essential for a nation’s future. An extreme example is that, instead of sending children to school, some nations send children to war to assist with operations, fight as soldiers, or even act as human bombs. The United Nations’ 2018 Children and Armed Conflict report listed seven countries and 56 armed groups that recruit and use children in war.

How Necessary is the Military for National Security?

Despite the unfavorable relationship between the military and global poverty, some still support large military expenditures due to concerns over national security.

However, according to researchers, an increased military presence does not decrease the potential of conflict in the case of civil war. Good policies and administrations are often much better at preventing rebellion.

War causes poverty, and in turn, poverty and inequality lead to conflict. According to surveys, some young people join militant groups because they face unemployment otherwise. Other researches find that, historically, inequality has been an important factor leading to civil war.

Poverty also significantly contributes to terrorism. It is unclear whether poverty drives individuals towards terrorist causes, but historical data shows that regions with high unemployment and poverty are more prone to the rise of radicalism.

The relationship between the military and global poverty is a complicated one, but it is obvious that funding economic development and durable physical and social infrastructure are more sustainable and reliable long-term solutions to reduce poverty and resolve security problems. It is time for nations to consider whether large militaries are really worth the cost.

– Feng Ye
Photo: Flickr