Information and stories on Natural Disasters

Bangladesh eradicates poverty through flooding
Bangladesh, along with many other South Asian countries, is prone to flooding and increasing rainfall. For years, Bangladesh has suffered from one of the harshest torrential rains in the world. However, this year the country has experienced the worst of its effects. These torrential rainfalls lead to flooding in Bangladesh and this, in turn, has an adverse effect on poverty levels.

Monsoon Season in Bangladesh

In many cases, monsoon season in Bangladesh typically starts in June and can last for months, as situations worsen. According to satellite data, at least 24% of the land in Bangladesh lies submerged underwater, due to the rapid inundations. This environmental crisis affects at least 4.7 million people and most of them lose their houses and utilities. Specifically, people living along the Brahmaputra river are deprived of basic human necessities, such as food and shelter. This is because of the increased flooding this year, alone. For example, Tajul Isam, a local sharecropper, had to find creative ways to protect himself from the overflows of the Brahmaputra River, such as building bamboo sheds.

Assessing the Damage

Many officials claim the source of the floods is a result of the rampant rainfalls this past year. Through the analysis from a combination of satellites, many scientists also predict that Bangladesh will experience its longest flooding season since 1988. Again, this due to the recent, recurrent rainfalls. More than 1,200 kilometers of farmland is damaged, along with approximately 1.5 million houses affected. At least 100 people have died, either from waterborne diseases or drowning from the overflow of rivers, such as the Himalayas river and the Brahmaputra river. Fifteen districts are predicted to be affected by the rising water levels from other rivers — specifically the Padma, Ganges and Jamuna rivers.

Response to One of the Worst Monsoon Seasons in Bangladesh

Bangladesh and many others are initiating protocols in providing disaster relief funds and resources for the areas most affected by the monsoon season. The Humanitarian Coordination Task Team (HCCT) strategized plans to rehabilitate some of these damaged lands and provide people with resources. For example, they are currently transporting 14,000 tons of rice to over 33 districts. Additionally, they are giving over $870,000 for expenditures such as food, farming equipment and housing grants. Along with the expenditures — 50,000 farmers will receive $450,000 for tools such as fertilizers and seeds to compensate for their damaged farmland.

On top of the HCTT Response Plan, many other organizations are also taking charge to help victims of the flooding in Bangladesh. For example, the Need Assessment Working Group (NAWP) and the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) have provided at least 1,086 flood shelters to families. Specifically, these shelters went to those who lost their homes in the district of Jamalpur. Overall, however, the Start Fund Bangladesh — with the help of USAID and U.K. support — raised over $1 million to provide disaster relief in districts such as Kurigram, Gaibandha and Siraganji.

Although the government has issued many responses, smaller projects have also pursued action towards the recovery of damaged areas in Bangladesh. In particular, Friendship Organization has provided services and resources in impoverished areas— one of which is Bangladesh. As of now, they have had over 400 volunteers and 200 staff members assist in the emergency response for the monsoon season in Bangladesh. Additionally, flood shelters were provided for over 8,800 people through Friendship’s built schools and villages.

A Bright Outlook

Bangladesh has suffered through much environmental damage due to its drastic weather conditions. Nonetheless, many actors are pressing forward to ensure the safety of vulnerable communities. With the help of the Bangladeshi government and many NGO projects, Bangladesh will more than likely recover and replenish the resources that it desperately needs.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

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

Natural Disasters in the Philippines
Every year, hundreds of natural disasters are reported worldwide. In 2019, 409 natural disasters occurred, many in the Asian Pacific region. Natural disasters in the Philippines are quite common and they pose great difficulties for islands with large populations and vulnerable infrastructure.

Geography of the Philippines

The Philippines is one of highest-risk countries for natural disasters. The nation’s location exposes it to storms that lead to floods, mudslides and typhoons. Additionally, the presence of offshore trenches such as the Manila Trench puts the Philippines at risk for tsunamis. Unfortunately, the list does not end there. The Philippines is also on top of the Ring of Fire, a path in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where there is a high risk for earthquakes and active volcanoes.

Infrastructure

The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands, which poses many challenges to improving infrastructure. Natural disasters also disproportionately impact infrastructure in poverty-stricken areas. That being said, in the past decade, the Filipino government made strides to improve infrastructure and make the nation more disaster-ready.

In 2020, nearly a quarter of the Filipino government’s budget was allocated for infrastructure. President Rodrigo Duterte hopes to allocate 6% of the nation’s GDP to infrastructure by 2022. His “Build, Build, Build” program has played a large role in this increase of funds, which will be allocated to projects such as the Manila subway and other modes of transportation, water resources and energy.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) has outlined $2.5 million in funds being used for infrastructure projects in the Philippines. GFDRR focuses on understanding and reducing disaster risk, strengthening governance and improving recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. GFDRR currently has three active projects in the Philippines. First, the “Support to the Sustainable, Inclusive, and Resilient Tourism Project” is set to be complete in June 2021. The second project is “Philippines Disaster Risk Financing,” scheduled to be complete in August 2020. Finally, the “Support to the Earthquake-Resilient Greater Metro Manila Program” is set to be complete in September 2021.

Poverty Reduction

According to the World Bank’s October 2019 report, the Philippines is expected to sustain its progress in poverty reduction. The Philippines’ GDP growth was roughly 5.8% in 2019 and is expected to reach 6.2% by 2021. Many believe this growth is tied to transportation infrastructure among the Filipino islands. According to the 2013 Philippines Human Development Report, economic integration will be key to creating sustainable growth throughout all of the Filipino islands and reducing poverty in rural areas.

The main production sectors in the Philippines are electronics assembly, garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, food processing, petroleum refining and fishing. Agriculture is also a significant sector; however, self-employed farmers are the most susceptible to geographic hardships from natural disasters. Additionally, many farmers struggle due to a lack of insurance, inadequate post-harvest facilities, inadequate irrigation techniques and limited access to the market as a result of poor transportation services.

To address these problems, the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022 plans to expand economic opportunities for those engaged in the agricultural sector, especially small farmers. This plan aims to get rid of irrigation fees for small farmers, pass the National Land Use Act to protect important natural lands, implement the Agrarian Reform Program to distribute land to landless farmers.

Conclusion

The Philippines is still considered at third world country according to its GDP, human development index, life expectancy and infant mortality rate. However, while the Philippines still has many structural issues inhibiting its growth, its progress over the last decade has been momentous. Equipping islands to handle natural disasters in the Philippines and supporting farmers are two key ways the country can reduce poverty and improve livelihoods.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island and United States territory which has struggled with poverty long before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, of Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million people, 43.1% of the total population and 57% of children lived in poverty. For comparison, the U.S. national poverty rate was drastically lower at 13.1%. Poverty in Puerto Rico has become a chronic issue as a long-term recession resulted in massive debt. The island has also endured multiple disasters, the most recent being Hurricane Maria and COVID-19. These hardships have weakened Puerto Rico’s economy, infrastructure and health systems and have left vulnerable groups even more susceptible to poverty. However, Puerto Ricans have demonstrated remarkable resilience and current efforts are helping to improve this situation. Here are three factors perpetuating poverty and COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, and what some are doing to change these circumstances for the better.

Recession

While external factors have exacerbated poverty in Puerto Rico, the current crisis has been building in conjunction with a decade-long recession. Economic growth fell by 10% between 2004 and 2018, with an unemployment rate above 8% and a declining population compounding this deficiency. Some elements such as the encouragement of Puerto Rico’s reliance on U.S. loans to fill federal funding gaps, a 1996 change that mandated Puerto Rican businesses begin paying taxesin contrast to their previous tax-free status under the Internal Revenue Code Section 936and the 2008 financial crisis, which further lowered tax revenues and caused large-scale unemployment, have mainly fueled this debt crisis. These issues have culminated to create massive debt and a chronic recession that has exacerbated poverty within the territory.

The most notable improvement effort occurred with the creation of the 2016 Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Sustainability Act (PROMESA), which oversees Puerto Rico’s finances and works to restructure its debt. In 2019, PROMESA announced a plan to reduce the island’s debt by one-third to enable it to function under less financial stress and better support people in need.

Hurricane Maria

In addition to this long-term recession, the country’s vulnerability to severe hurricanes has perpetuated poverty in Puerto Rico. The most recent hurricane was also the most destructive in nearly a century. Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, and its destruction created lasting consequences. In addition to destroying thousands of homes and causing $94.4 billion in infrastructural damage, Maria wiped out about 80% of the island’s agriculture. Immediately following the hurricane, 100% of the island lost power for months and lacked access to necessary items including water, food, medicine and fuel. Though the U.S. government has promised increased funding to help fix the island’s damaged infrastructure, repairs have been slow and people are advocating for increased disaster relief funding.

Puerto Rico has repaired much of its infrastructure and widely improved living conditions. Meanwhile, the return of tourism has helped boost the economy in the three years following Hurricane Maria. Efforts by nonprofits and citizen groups have also helped bring attention to the issues that remain and attract funding to transform temporary band-aids into long-term solutions.

COVID-19

Three years after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is now facing a daunting new crisis: COVID-19. The declining population, a long-term recession and extensive hurricane damage have left Puerto Rico with a largely poor and elder population, both factors that increase vulnerability to the disease. Following Hurricane Maria, the portion of the population over age 65 increased from 14% in 2008 to 21% in 2018 as many working-age adults sought better employment opportunities in the U.S. mainland.

The high poverty level is affecting the quality of life during quarantine, as Puerto Rico has not rebuilt many homes following Hurricane Maria. Meanwhile, those who previously struggled financially are now jobless.

Due to its status as a territory, the U.S. federal government does not prioritize Puerto Rico in terms of crisis management. Although Puerto Rico receives federal funding to support critical programs such as Medicaid, this funding is insufficient under regular circumstances and does not adapt to meet Puerto Rico’s unique needs. Puerto Rico has received some extra provisions under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, however, including stimulus checks, expanded unemployment benefits and temporarily increased Medicaid funding. However, these funds comprise only a fraction of what states receive. Advocates for Puerto Rico urge policymakers to consider the fact that Puerto Rico entered the pandemic in a more vulnerable position than the U.S. when determining whether to extend funding.

Potential for a Better Future

Puerto Rico’s experience with frequent disasters has taught citizens to be self-sufficient and prepare for when disaster strikes. This silver lining helped the island quickly transition into lockdown in early March 2020, and citizens and organizations quickly acted in times of need to disburse basic necessities and medical supplies around the island to the sick and elderly.

The disasters that Puerto Rico continues to experience ravages the small island and further plunges residents into poverty. However, some are executing significant efforts to improve the territory’s infrastructure, health care systems and general living conditions. To effectively combat the factors perpetuating poverty and COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, plans to reduce debt and boost the economy are on the horizon.

– Angelica Smyrnios
Photo: Flickr

Inclusiveness in NepalIn 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the South Asian country of Nepal, killing 9,000 people, injuring 168,00 more and destroying tens of thousands of homes. The tragedy and ongoing reconstruction that followed sparked the scarred nation to adopt a new constitution. This act is in an effort to create more transparency and equality. However, Nepal’s traditional society that remained provided little support for the lower class including women. USAID has stepped in to aid with reconstruction and support Archana Tamang as a USAID-funded gender and social inclusion (GESI) advisor to the government. She wants to ensure that women, as well as other marginalized people, have a voice in creating a sense of inclusiveness in Nepal and helping lead it into the future.

A History of Gender Inequality and Violence

Women, especially those from lower castes in Nepal’s Hindu culture, have little opportunities for education, health care and work outside the home. A woman has no choice but to marry into what are often arranged marriages that define her life. Husbands control the family resources leaving women often shunned and impoverished should they be divorced or widowed. These marriages can often be oppressive and even abusive.

“During the first earthquake in 2015, Archana was traveling to Afghanistan for work; but the quake ‘was a real wake up call.'” Tamang’s choice to fight GESI issues is inspired by her experience. She got married at the early age of 17 to a man from India. Tamang lived with emotional and physical abuse for five years before escaping back to Nepal with her daughter. In Nepal, she later became involved in GESI efforts. She was working in Afghanistan when the earthquake hit and quickly returned to her home to help rebuild.

On the Road to Change

The National Reconstruction Authority is the sector of the Nepalese government that has overseen rebuilding after the earthquake. As Nepal’s government moves toward a more transparent leadership, the National Reconstruction Authority had pledged to help defenseless populations. However, a focused approach was lacking. Tamang developed a research-supported GESI Action Plan for the government where she would “empower women and ensure that they were able to earn a living.”

Tamang makes it her mission to visit women and other powerless people in their home villages to educate them on their liberties and duties. She wants to make sure they are heard in the reconstruction process. Her GESI Action Plan mandates that at least two of five posts in local governments are to be held by women. Plus, women make up at least one of two mayoral or deputy mayoral candidates in each Nepal district. The plan has also called for women to get paid the same as men for their labor helping to rebuild, further nurturing inclusiveness in Nepal.

A Future for Inclusiveness in Nepal

In 2017, Nepal had its first election in over 20 years under the new constitution and more than 1.7 million Nepalis — most of whom were women and lower-class people — registered to vote for the first time. The elections brought more than 14,000 women into government. This demonstrates the effectiveness of Tamang’s Action Plan to the point where it received full government financial support. She is happy to report that in 2019, 40% of elected officials were women. In addition, more and more girls are being educated and finding their voice to help heal their scarred nation.

– Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

Bahamian Charities Combating COVID-19Last year, Hurricane Dorian brought massive destruction to The Bahamas. The damage was unlike anything the islands had ever witnessed before, leaving around 70,000 Bahamians homeless. Although much of the Bahamian infrastructure is leveled, resilient islanders were quick to begin reestablishing their livelihoods. Now the outbreak of COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill, slicing through The Bahamas’ tourism economic sectors. Paired with the global shortage on toiletries and PPE, the citizens of these popular vacation islands are withstanding two pandemics; fortunately, however, local charities have stepped in a major way. Here are three Bahamian charities providing life-saving aid through these times of struggle.

3 Bahamian Charities Combating COVID-19

  1. The Dignified Project: People living in poverty around the world already struggled to obtain supplies and health services. Now that stores and public transports are closed due to natural disasters and the virus, combined with rising prices and economic uncertainty, the impoverished are facing even greater hurdles. But imagine a massive shortage of essential items that help manage the natural disposition of the body. No, not toilet paper. Think more on the lines of tampons. It’s called period poverty. One major, yet underrated stifle for the economic development of menstruating women is the lack of access to hygiene products that help manage menstrual health. The Dignified Project is a nonprofit organization that provides young girls with feminine hygiene products. Not only do they provide these essential items for free, but they also educate young girls in The Bahamas on building confidence, demonstrating body positivity and increasing awareness of health and “social concerns related to their biological development.” According to its Instagram page, The Dignified Project offers two kits: bras, underwear and other essential undergarments; soap and tampons or pads. Phillipa Dean, the initiative’s founder, reported that the organization has been distributing products more frequently due to heightened demand from COVID-19, which first ravaged the country on March 15.
  2. The Bahamas Light Industries Development Council (BLIDC): The Bahamas Light Industries Development Council (BLIDC) is an organization formed by and for Bahamian manufacturers and producers. The organization’s aim is to “promote and expand, and to preserve and protect light industries operating in the Bahamas.” In the past, members of the BLIDC, alongside other companies like bakeries and breweries, have rendered services to non-governmental organizations by aiding struggling households and communities. Although businesses like BLIDC are not fully performing manufacturing functions, these Bahamian charities still ensure access to food and beverages. Upon hearing about the recent shortage grits, a prominent food staple in Nassau, the BLIDC reached out to island partners in search of resources. In addition to supporting local businesses, the BLIDC donated what was harvested to the Bahamas Feeding Network.
  3. Hands for Hunger: Volunteer drivers are delivering food packages to Bahamians in need. According to its website, Hands for Hunger has delivered more than 150,000 pounds of food to 40 agencies since the dawn of COVID-19 in March including senior living homes, children’s homes and churches. As a result of this organization’s efforts, more than 2,100 Bahamians are being assisted bi-weekly with approximately 400 families having received food assistance over a three-month period.

Between natural disasters, a pandemic and pre-existing struggles with poverty, the Bahamas undoubtedly have several unique challenges left to work through. However, with continued support from passionate Bahamian charities, there is promise for the nation to repair itself in the near future.

– Katrina Robinson
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in SamoaWith a population smaller than 200,000, Samoa is a small island in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Samoans gained their independence from New Zealand and Germany in 1962, and now inhabit the westernmost islands within the archipelago. Although the United Nations has not identified Samoa as a “Least Developed Nation” since 2014, food insecurity and hunger remain in Samoa as lingering consequences of poverty, natural disasters and foreign dependency.

Lack of Resources

Samoa lacks arable land and agricultural resources; almost three decades of devastating natural disasters, including the 1990 Ofa and 1991 Val cyclones, have flooded and destroyed much of the once arable land in Samoa. Samoan hunger rates rise following such incidents. However, in 2015, despite a cyclone hitting that same year, Samoa was declared one of the 40 countries that have cut hunger rates in half within thirty years. As of 2016, 81.9% of Samoans lived in rural areas, yet only 2.8% of the country’s 1,097 square miles of land was arable. For Samoans, barren land has made agricultural innovation one of the only, yet most complex, options. In 1994, 22.1% of the Samoan GDP was derived from agricultural sales and other food production. By 2019, agricultural contribution to GDP fell to 9.8% due to a lack of farming land, knowledge and financial incentive.

Lack of Quality Food

Imported foods provide increased caloric quantity, not quality; from 1961 to 2007, the surge of imported foods made 900 extra calories available per person per day, largely curbing hunger in Samoa. Overall calorie availability nearly doubled during that time, yet dietary fat availability rose at a disproportionately fast rate of 73%. Imported foods, like meats and vegetable oils, rose from 10 calories to 117 per Samoan per day. Yet, the caloric intake of traditionally consumed and locally produced food like coconuts, starchy vegetables and fruits rose negligibly. Overconsumption of calories and high-fat foods are linked to chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, all of which are on the rise in Samoa.

Obesity, diabetes and malnutrition coexist. In 2013, 45.8% of Samoans had diabetes, compared to 22.3% in 2002. In 2017, an estimated 89.1% of Samoan adults were overweight and 63.1% obese. Yet, an estimated 4% of children aged five or less experienced acute malnutrition or wasting, and 5% experienced stunting in that same year. Such rates are related to tariff liberalization, which continues to increase accessibility to non-perishable, mass-produced foods. Samoan’s overconsumption of processed macronutrients and sodium has led to obesity, masking the underlying micronutrient deficiencies and severe undernourishment.

Lack of Financial Equality

Education, income and access to healthy foods are interconnected. The percentage of Samoans living below the food poverty line had dropped from 10.6% of the population in 2008 to 4.3% in 2014; incidences of extreme hunger and poverty have steadily declined due to heightened caloric availability. However, Samoan financial inequality continues to climb as a result of the globalization that also has nearly eliminated extreme hunger. Samoa imports goods at a much higher rate than they export goods, leading to a lack of cash in the economy as well as a lack of job opportunities for those not directly connected to the global trade market.

Those living at or below the food poverty line typically lack formal degrees and belong to the 8.7% of Samoans who are unemployed. Cultural and historical circumstances have made imported food, regardless of their quality, more desirable than traditionally consumed foods. Wealthy and impoverished Samoans alike have developed an appetite for imported foods. The most vulnerable in the population, however, do not have a choice in what they consume.

Initiatives Tackling Food Security in Samoa

An alarming uptake in cases of overnutrition and resulting chronic diseases have occurred in Samoa. As a result, strides have been taken in addressing the root causes of food insecurity and the remaining hunger issues. An example of this is the recently launched 2019 Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project. This project aims to improve food production infrastructure and implement sustainable agricultural practices over the next several years. By improving data collection of food insecurity, chronic disease and poverty rates, this project will localize Samoan food production industries. The project’s emphasis is on creating a more interconnected food landscape; this will not only continue to eliminate hunger in Samoa but will also increase cash flow and decrease chronic disease rates in the country over time.

Until then, groups like Caritas will continue to serve as a lifeline. Caritas runs two programs that prepare Samoans for natural disasters by training locals and installing emergency supplies throughout the island for distribution. The group was able to help more than 1,476 Samoans in 2012 suffering from hunger after Cyclone Evan.

Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Moldova
Moldova suffered through an economic collapse after achieving independence in 1991. Poverty in Moldova has remained high for decades with its previously weak economy and the added burden of multiple global recessions. The country continues to face the same issues in 2020. Here is some information about the severe levels of poverty in Moldova.

An Unstable Population

The foundation of a nation’s economy relies heavily upon its people. In the case of Moldova, however, the unstable population has led to a highly volatile economy.

The official population of Moldova is 3.5 million. However, estimates determine that the true figure is much less due to a significant level of out-migration ​with people seeking work in other countries. The World Bank stated that this “puts pressure on the pension system and limits the available labor force and the country’s long-term competitiveness.” As a result, poverty in Moldova will likely continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future.

Decreased fertility rates are also contributing to the unstable population. The total fertility rate (TFR) at which a population replaces itself from one generation to the next is roughly 2.1 for most countries. However, as of 2020, Moldova’s rate was 1.3. As women have fewer children within Moldova, the overall population is contracting, leaving the increased share of elderly people with very few young people to care for them in the future.

Natural Disasters

Many regions of Moldova are at increased risk of earthquakes and flooding. This has a significant impact on the economy because over half the population lives in rural areas and more than 40% of the economy relies on industry and agriculture.

Many citizens are at risk of natural disasters. People in areas of higher risk of natural disasters also suffer from weaker economies as a result. The province at greatest risk of floods and earthquakes is Chisinau–the region with the greatest GDP. However, since the region is also at high risk for natural disasters, this inevitably leads to a more volatile economy that takes significant hits during flooding and earthquakes.

According to the World Bank, natural disasters impact up to 3% of the region’s GDP, leading to a potential loss of $66 million. These events can damage arable land, create food shortages that leave people hungry and cause people to suffer from injury or loss. Environmental challenges can significantly impact the lives of citizens and drag the most vulnerable peoples of Moldova into poverty.

Sanitation and Health Care

Currently, millions of Moldovans must choose between their paycheck and their health as 60% of the economy in Moldova is service-oriented. The current global economic crisis that began as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely continue to impact Moldova significantly. According to the World Bank, it “will lead to a contraction of Moldova’s economy in 2020.” Assuming that the country can largely contain COVID-19 later in 2020, estimates determine that the nation could still suffer through an economic recession of 3.1% that could subsequently increase poverty in Moldova.

Corruption in the Government

Moldova became an independent republic in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, the new nation has massive corruption within the government. In 2015, a banking scandal that “led to public discontent over high-levels of corruption and poor living standards for citizens” led to an upset in Moldova’s economy. This transgression included the embezzlement of $1 billion by government officials, accounting for around 12.5% of the country’s GDP.

Governmental instability has driven money away from programs to help alleviate the suffering of the poor and into​ the wallets of elected officials. As a result, poverty in Moldova continues without the proper economic resources necessary to combat it.

Why Hope Persists

Even in these unprecedented times, the many projects the work to improve education, entrepreneurship and welfare within the nation have given the Moldovan people a beacon of hope. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted an estimated 1 billion students worldwide, young people in Moldova have been able to engage in home-based learning both online and offline.

The Moldova Education Reform Project is supporting the nation’s education system in order to cope with the current pandemic and prepare for its upcoming recovery. This governmental effort has ameliorated a reported nine schools and given them the technology necessary to enable students to continue learning remotely despite the current quarantine. A total of 160 schools in Moldova will benefit from the program by the end of 2020.

By building resilience for the world’s challenges, students in poverty in Moldova are preparing themselves for better and brighter futures. The government acted by implementing emergency measures. These should protect businesses from immediate bankruptcies after streams of crippling demand shock, disrupted supply chains and a lockdown. These measures should also help prevent unnecessary shut-downs and layoffs by providing qualifying businesses with liquidity while supporting employee retention and improving services through e-governance reforms.

Through these programs, the government has protected many citizens from moving further into poverty. These measures should allow the economy to continue to grow after the recovery period is complete. Ultimately, when considering the current circumstances for Moldova, one sees both the adversities and the victories. As complex as the issue of poverty is, with proper projects, education and economic goals, poverty in Moldova should reduce.

– Daniela Canales
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in GrenadaGrenada, an island country in the Caribbean Sea, is known for its beautiful tourist attractions and flourishing spice trade. Unfortunately, poverty in Grenada affects almost one-third of its 107,000 residents.

The World Bank estimates that 32% of Grenada’s residents live below the poverty line. In addition, 13% of the population is considered “extremely poor.”

Dr. Elinor Garely of eTN notes that Grenada’s poorest residents are located in the rural regions of the country. She explains that this is due to inadequate access to the mainstream economy.

The mainstream economy is based on tourism and spice exportation, among other products. Grenada also depends on foreign aid. Without suitable access to the main cities and these economic opportunities, the rural communities suffer.

Youth in Grenada

Grenada’s demographic is quite young, with one-fourth of the population under the age of 14. The poverty in Grenada impacts youth most of all. In fact, Garely explains that 66.4% of the poor are under 24 years of age.

Due to a lack of birth control resources, there are high numbers of teen pregnancy, which often correlates to violence against children.

Physical and sexual abuse have emerged as the main issues facing the children of Grenada. More than one-third of children in Grenada have suffered from sexual violence. Women and children experience significant abuse due to the lack of laws against physical punishment.

Causes of Poverty in Grenada

Poverty in Grenada is linked to a number of different factors. With inadequate defenses against natural disasters, ineffective education and unprepared workers, poverty is “entrenched in the very fiber of the country.”

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, frequently threaten the small island. The last two hurricanes occurred in 2004 and 2005. Hurricane Ivan hit first and devastated the majority of Grenadian homes. A year later, Hurricane Emily swept through the area, furthering the damage not yet repaired from Hurricane Ivan. However, significantly fewer lives were lost, as the Grenadian people took important precautions that had been neglected during Hurricane Ivan.

Education and unprepared workers are two other causes of poverty in Grenada, and they go hand in hand. Without proper education, the youth do not have the necessary skills to get jobs that offer livable pay. The jobs that are available, mainly agricultural, do not appeal to the youth because of “perceived instability, [the youths’] lack of interest in physical labor and very low wages,” according to Garely.

It would be more beneficial for the Grenadian youth to work in the tourism sector, but, unfortunately, it requires skills that many residents lack.

Efforts to Reduce Poverty in Grenada

The government is making strides to alleviate many of the issues that stem from or cause poverty in Grenada.

While it currently lacks enough funds to be effective, Grenada does have “a system to place orphans and children with domestic problems with other families.” In addition, laws are in place to protect girls from sexual assault. However, boys still remain vulnerable.

The country has taken important steps to defend against natural disasters. Creating a plan for natural disasters became a priority after the devastation of Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Emily. The change was seen immediately in how the people of Grenada reacted differently to Hurricane Emily after experiencing Hurricane Ivan; “the rush contrasted with the attitude before Ivan, when Grenadians took few precautions.”

While Grenada is still improving its ability to defend against natural disasters and internal issues such as violence, it has wonderful potential.

Abbey Lawrence
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in the BahamasThe Bahamas is a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean known for its tourism and beautiful beaches. However, despite being a relatively wealthy country due to tourism, hunger in the Bahamas remains a prominent concern.

The Bahamas also face frequent natural disasters such as hurricanes which further aggravate the issue. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has also left many Bahamians without access to food. Furthermore, these disasters also increase the price and decrease the availability of food in the country. Here are five facts about hunger in the Bahamas.

5 Facts About Hunger in the Bahamas

  1. Prevalence: According to Hands for Hunger, one in every 10 people in the Bahamas experience extreme food insecurity and have less than $4 to spend on food a day. This prevalence is significant because only 10% of the food consumed is produced in the Bahamas. A study by The Caribbean Agro-Economic Society concluded 41% of the households were food insecure and factors such as age, education and gender all played a factor. Around 20% of households required assistance from the government to provide adequate food to their families. It also concluded that people take an active role in producing at least one aspect of their food, revealing a reported 45 % caught their own fish. To combat this issue and encourage more active participation in acquiring food, the government is pushing for more local farming by encouraging farmer’s markets and community gardens.
  2. Agriculture: The soil in the Bahamans is unsuitable for commercial farming due to its high pH levels. This leads to a greater need for the importation of many crops. This increases the selling price and contributes to greater food insecurity. Additionally, farmers struggle to produce enough food to reach wholesalers, forcing them to discard most of their crops. The Ministry of and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations are working to teach farmers more sustainable farming. The Ministry is also working to create a Food and Nutrition Security Policy and Action Plan to help the Bahamas become more independent in producing food by using new farming techniques.
  3. Impact on Education:  School-aged children in the Bahamas are largely affected by hunger. Food insecurity impacts a child’s ability to comprehend and learn information effectively because they are constantly concerned about where their next meal will come from. Research shows a correlation between food insecurity and poor academic performance, which can lead to dropping out. The Bahamas has a National Lunch Program in effect and is researching ways to expand the program and provide food to children over weekends and school breaks. Researchers found that while most students on the island of Eleuthera consume breakfast, around 65 % of their schools do not have an option for breakfast. School administrators also reported children coming to school hungry and only consuming unhealthy junk food such as chips and soda. Researchers suggest more education about healthy eating habits with both parents and children as well as a National Breakfast plan should be implemented. These changes would improve children’s school performance and overall wellbeing.
  4. COVID-19’s effect: COVID-19 has revealed the extent of hunger in the Bahamas. Importing food has become more difficult with less overall production and travel restrictions causing citizens to panic. However, it has brought the issue to the forefront of the government’s mind and forced them to act. The government is considering how to gain greater accessible land and more ways to help small farmers get started. The pandemic served as a true wake up call for the government to address the problem head-on.
  5. Progress: A non-profit organization, Hands for Hunger, is dedicated to solving the hunger crisis in the Bahamas. Since its founding in 2008, they have provided Bahamians more than one million pounds of redistributed food. Hands for Hunger works to ensure a larger number of food-secure Bahamians; the group redistributes food from restaurants, hotels, etc., and provides it to families in need. Furthermore, Hands for Hunger is helping reduce CO2 emissions because less food is going to landfills. Hands for Hunger continues to expand its network and is leading the Bahamas to a brighter future.

Change is needed and coming into the food production system in the Bahamas. With improved access for citizens to independently produce more food, the Bahamas will have less obesity, greater academic accomplishments, improved economy, and better quality of life for its citizens. Organizations such as Hands for Hunger are at the forefront of this change. These changes will allow the Bahamas to be known to the world as more than just a beautiful vacation spot.

– Allison Caso
Photo: Flickr