Information and stories on Natural Disasters

Solutions to Volcanic EruptionsThroughout history, volcanic eruptions have caused countless injuries, deaths and destruction. Many of the eruptions include concurrent disasters beyond the direct flow of lava. These include tsunamis, agricultural deterioration and aerosols that cloud the atmosphere and reduce local or even global temperatures. This was the case during and after the eruption of Tambora in Indonesia in 1815, which claimed more than 100,000 lives. Since then, volcanoes continue to cause numbers of casualties while damaging infrastructure and impacting productivity around the globe. Many people view volcanoes as unstoppable forces of nature. In reality, there are several ways to mitigate the damage that volcanoes cause and the resulting poverty. It is impossible to stop volcanoes from erupting, however, several solutions to volcanic eruptions can help prevent loss of life and property.

Volcano Observatories

The most important factor in mitigating the damage caused by volcanic eruptions is predicting when the eruptions will occur. The endangered people are then able to evacuate accordingly. Accurate predictions tend to rely on established observatories near a given volcano. Each volcano observatory is occupied by a handful of experts who monitor the volcano’s behavior in order to predict eruptions.

Beyond merely existing and making accurate predictions, observatories should “have credibility and formal agreements with local and national governments.” This promotes effective action in times of crisis, as referenced by geologist Jacob Lowenstern. Historically, observatories were among the most important solutions to volcanic eruptions. However, the observatories can be expensive to build and maintain and require investments in equipment, technology and software. Recent innovations may allow developing countries to predict eruptions at a more affordable cost.

Deep Learning AI and Satellites

Historically, volcanologists have relied on ground observatories to predict eruptions. Due to recent innovations, it may be possible to reliably predict eruptions from satellites. Satellites are much less expensive to maintain as a whole. Satellite information was once unreliable due to noisy data, however, deep learning AI is increasingly proficient at filling the gaps in the data to form useful information. Currently, a group of researchers from Penn State University, with support from NASA, are working to improve the models to allow for accurate predictions of eruptions around the world.

Redirection of Lava Flow

While prediction methods and observatories can save countless lives, the facilities have little to no impact on the amount of property damage caused by inevitable eruptions. Many large cities in developing countries, including Managua in Nicaragua and Legazpi City in the Philippines, are built next to active volcanoes. Fortunately for the cities, there is still the option of diverting or stopping the flow of lava in order to prevent loss of infrastructure.

Lava redirection may be an expensive process, but when a lava flow is headed directly toward a city, redirection protects the city. In 1983, a large team armed with bulldozers, explosives and firehoses was able to divert the flow of the eruption from Mount Etna in Italy. While the project required an estimated $2 million, volcanologist John Lockwood says the diversion prevented the loss of around $100 million in property damage. Stopping the flow of lava is easier in the case of eruptions near the coast. In 1973 in Iceland, damage was mitigated by channeling large amounts of seawater into the lava to solidify it.

Lava diversion has its risks and some attempts have been unsuccessful. Some communities are not open to lava redirection. For example, some Hawaiians hesitate to interfere with lava flows due to spiritual beliefs surrounding Pele, the volcano goddess. However, as a last resort attempt to protect a city, lava redirection is still worth considering.

Continued Research on Solutions

Although volcanoes remain a force of nature that will inevitably cause damage, recent solutions to volcanic eruptions may improve safety and prevent poverty in the affected regions. Continued research into the solutions could make the solutions even more affordable and practical, resulting in more stable economies and the reduced risk of poverty.

Sawyer Lachance
Photo: Flickr

Aid for Earthquake Victims In Iran
Iran faced an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 in 2017. This is one of the worst natural disasters Iran has faced. It shook the ground and caused catastrophic damage. Iran sits on major tectonic plates. As a result, earthquakes are common in this nation. Additionally, fault lines cover about 90% of Iran. These earthquakes cause damage to homes, outdoor markets, businesses and schools. Earthquake victims in Iran often face homelessness and hunger. Fortunately, the Iranian Red Crescent Society provides relief to people natural disasters and other life-threatening emergencies displace. Volunteers at the Iranian Red Crescent have provided aid for earthquake victims in Iran.

The Iranian Red Crescent

Iran established the Iranian Red Crescent in 1922. It was originally known as The Red Lion and Sun Society. However, its name changed after it received admittance to the Red Cross Society in 1923. The Iranian Red Crescent provides employees and volunteers with life-saving training to manage all medical emergencies. In addition, many people require medical help after a natural disaster. Falling debris, leaking gas lines and live wires are dangerous and can easily injure someone in emotional disarray.

One of the most recent earthquakes happened near the town of Sisaket in February 2021. It was a magnitude 5.6 earthquake that resulted in 30 people injured and damage to infrastructure.

The earthquake destroyed the majority of houses in Sisakht. Villagers were nervous about the next quake due to the frequent seismic activity. Most people remained outside for fear of aftershocks. Outdoors is the safest place to be after or during an earthquake. The damage to Sisakht caused major power outages and damage to villages.

Helping Find Shelter

On the eve of February 17, 2021, The Iranian Red Crescent dispatched teams from Fars and Isfahan into the city of Sisakht. These teams assisted in providing materials such as blankets, tents, water and food. The organization placed six additional teams on standby in case further help was necessary. Furthermore, it sent three trucks of essential supplies to these outer regions.

It set up about 60 tents as emergency shelters. The tents provide privacy to families and individuals as the city rebuilds from this natural disaster. Additionally, the age of the pandemic has made sanitation a necessity. All Iranian Red Crescent workers wear masks to protect others and themselves from the COVID-19 virus. Furthermore, the support that The Iranian Red Crescent gave provides people with peace of mind that even in the worst times they are not alone.

Building a More Stable Future

In late 2019, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook the city of Kermanshah. This earthquake caused mass damage and resulted in 620 deaths. The devastation of this quake prompted earthquake safety training to go to schools. The Iranian Red Crescent participated in teaching children the importance of escaping danger, digging out of rubble and taking the injured to safe places. Additionally, more than 14,000 students in more than 110 schools received quake and safety exercises.

The Iranian Red Crescent deploys helps to ensure the safety and well-being of the people of Iran. While Iranians continue to face natural disasters, earthquake victims in Iran are more equipped to handle the situation now.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disaster Aid in Paraguay
The landlocked Republic of Paraguay is prone to a wide range of natural disasters. Floods and droughts affect the most benighted areas of the country. Fortunately, both national and international agencies are taking action in aiding the local population, working through COVID-19 preventive measures that have delayed the arrival of natural disaster relief packages.

Natural Disasters in Paraguay

Paraguay experienced its worst floods in 2015 and 2019. Since then, the country has confronted subsequent natural disasters in the regions of Boquerón, Presidente Hayes and Alto Paraguay, with more than 2,400 families and 80,000 individuals affected. Even though Paraguay is one of the most humid countries in the region with a fairly high precipitation rate, climate oscillations have been destabilizing already vulnerable communities. As a country relying primarily on crops and cattle raising, fluctuations in climate and natural disasters can prove fatal for the rural population, not only putting the local economy at risk but also increasing the chances of infections through water-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.

As the South American country that has experienced the steepest exponential economic growth in the last thirty years, Paraguay has taken long strides to increase income per capita and reduce inequality. However, most of its economy is commodity-based, which makes it extremely sensitive to fluctuations in climate. Floods tend to be an especially dire calamity since they directly affect the agriculture, animal husbandry and hydroelectric energy industries.

Increasing Climate Resiliency

According to the World Bank, Paraguay ranks 95 out of 181 countries in the 2019 Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative. This renders the country fairly vulnerable to climate catastrophe, primarily because of a lack of response and strategic planning. Climate indexes such as this one serve to acquire relevant diagnoses and eventually form sector-specific policies that can aid development outcomes.

It is necessary for the national government to take action to increase climate resiliency by adopting adaptation implementation efforts. Policymaking is crucial in this area, prioritizing investments for more efficient climate mitigation techniques in vulnerable rural areas.

A Four-Part Plan

The Paraguayan government has been taking action against these threats. The Ministry for National Emergencies (SEN) alongside the country’s National System of the Environment (SISAM) have devised a comprehensive plan to diminish natural disaster impact in Paraguay. The plan has been included in Paraguay’s Sustainable Development Goals for disaster risk reduction and consists of four parts:

  1. Understanding the extent of damage that natural disasters may cause. This includes encouraging research for preventive purposes and using ancestral indigenous techniques in farming to reduce the environmental impact that slash-and-burn techniques have on climate catastrophe.
  2. Increase governance in areas prone to natural disasters. The government is committed to creating laws related to aid in cases of floods and droughts, and beginning to build sound infrastructure to easily aid affected areas.
  3. Invest resources in building said infrastructures, such as roads and municipal buildings that can withstand harsh environmental conditions. This goal also expects to increase cooperation between national and regional authorities for quick aid relief.
  4. Ameliorate time of response by authorities and communities. This means not only investing in disaster-proof establishments but also empowering individuals and promoting universal access to reconstruction and rehabilitation.

International Assistance

In addition to the government, international aid organizations are also providing natural disaster relief to Paraguay. For example, USAID has been active in Paraguay since 2004, providing aid in the aftermath of 10 disasters. The World Bank has also been focused on helping Paraguay improve disaster preparedness. The organization has identified research gaps within Paraguay’s climate disaster response, including climate variability and water resources. Additionally, the World Bank has led economic-environmental feasibility studies, which are currently lacking. These efforts are all designed to ensure Paraguay has the resources necessary to overcome natural disasters.

Alongside conscientious data-gathering for the prevention of natural disasters and natural disaster relief, international assistance is crucial: it has not only proven helpful during calamitous environmental instances but also during a yellow fever outbreak, the subsequent seasonal dengue epidemic and COVID-19. Moving forward, USAID, the World Bank and other international organizations must continue to prioritize addressing natural disasters in Paraguay.

Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in the Bahamas
Hurricane Dorian was the strongest hurricane to touch land in The Bahamas, leaving destruction in its wake. While recovering from Hurricane Dorian, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, placing mental health in The Bahamas in a state its people have never seen before.

Hurricane Dorian’s Impact on Mental Health

Hurricane Dorian left scars not only on the affected communities but also on their mental health. Pastor Robert Lockhart, a local Bahamian pastor, offered up his church as a place for people to express their emotions. Only a few people spoke, but the 200 other people in the audience clapped and cried along with the speakers. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that natural disasters usually leave people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), causing increased anxiety, nightmares or depression-like symptoms.

For example, Eulese Cooper, a fisherwoman living in The Bahamas, struggled to deal with her loss. After experiencing a concussion during the storm, she received an advisory to rest. However, she could not sleep because nightmares about the disaster plagued her. Although these mental health issues are justified, people in The Bahamas still worry about public opinion. According to Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands, the increasing suicide rate stems from Bahamians ignoring mental health issues. Dr. Sands states local people often see those that struggle with mental illness as weak and not connected to God.

Discrimination and poverty only worsen issues of mental health in The Bahamas. Such factors are speeding up the progression of this epidemic. Poverty and shaming are the leading causes of depression in the country, and this shaming deters people from seeking help for fear of others calling them “crazy.” Instead of seeing those struggling with mental illness as victims, others tend to see them as violent individuals that are a risk to the community. Projections determined that the Caribbean would have a more than 50% increase in people with mental disorders by 2020, and reports estimated that 80% of these people would not have access to mental healthcare.

Improving the Bahamian People’s Mental State

Luckily, some organizations have recognized the situation in The Bahamas and are attempting to provide aid. Heart to Heart International (HHI) has been doing work on the ground following Hurricane Dorian’s aftermath in providing mental health and medical professionals for Bahamians. HHI has also partnered with the Bahamas Psychological Association (BPA) on a project to provide psychological and mental health services to Hurricane Dorian survivors during the pandemic. The project seeks to alleviate the trauma and anxiety caused by these unexpected events.

The project’s objectives are:

  • Creating and teaching coping mechanisms to help those struggling.
  • Making mental health hotlines more available by expanding hours of operation.
  • Reopening two specialized Creole hotlines.
  • Improving availability for over the phone mental health services for at-risk populations in areas with higher poverty rates or areas that Hurricane Dorian heavily affected.
  • Training and establishing mental health coordinators on more islands to raise awareness about the mental health services available.

It is apparent that mental health is an important issue, but in light of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bahamian people are obtaining more information about mental health. Once the country adopts new strategies to address mental health, its people will begin to recover from the mental strain they have endured.

– Solomon Simpson
Photo: Flickr

Aid to the Philippines
In November 2020, the Philippines faced several moderate-strength typhoons: typhoons Vamco, Goni and Molave. After the disastrous effects of these storms, organizations based in the Philippines and the U.S., as well as ambassadors from European countries, pulled together to provide resources to aid the Philippines in its time of need. In particular, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) both stepped in to assist those who lost their homes and who were in great need of supplies like food, shelter, water and soap.

The Philippines’ 2020 Typhoon Season

Each typhoon occurred within weeks of one another during the Philippines’ 2020 typhoon season. Typhoon Molave was the first to hit the Philippines and Vietnam. The Category Two natural disaster began on Oct. 25, 2020, in Batangas. Eight days later, Typhoon Goni hit Bicol on Nov. 2, 2020, destroying cities as a Category Five typhoon. Typhoon Goni was the strongest to hit the Philippines since Typhoon Meranti in 2016.

Typhoon Vamco

The situation worsened beginning on Nov. 11, 2020, as Typhoon Vamco reached the islands. According to the Saffir-Simpson Scale, which generally moves from 210-249 kilometers per hour, Vamco was a Category Four typhoon. Typhoon Vamco affected areas across the Philippines such as Bicol, Calabarzon, Central Luzon and Manila. Moreover, around 350,000 people lost their homes due to this most recent tragedy. Additionally, the storm affected 4 million people due to the destruction of farmland and businesses.

What is the PDRF?

In November 2020, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation teamed up with Dutch, German and United Nations ambassadors to help the Philippines and Cagayan Valley. The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, or PDRF, is a private organization the provides aid during emergencies and disasters within the Philippines. The PDRF managed to deliver food and non-food items to Cagayan Valley in an event called “Aksyon Para Sa Cagayan.” People secured hygiene kits and food, while other organizations like AirAsia provided labor by helping move supplies and managing transportation and temporary housing. The PDRF, along with Netherlands Ambassador Saskia de Lang, German Ambassador Anker Reiffenstuel and U.N. Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez cooperated to distribute food and organize hygiene kits and other supplies to those in need.

What is NAFCON?

One other group that is working to provide aid and resources to those the typhoon has affected is NAFCON, or the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. NAFCON is a U.S.-based Filipino advocacy alliance intended to focus on Filipino and Filipino-American wellness. Various organizations involved with NAFCON include Kabataan Alliance, Filipino Community Center, Filipino Migrant Center and Malaya Movement. NAFCON uses connections with the U.S. to gain exposure to provide aid to the Philippines following Typhoon Vamco.

A super typhoon has hit the Philippines that has robbed many people of their homes and livelihoods. Still, Filipinos are lucky to have organizations like PDRF and NAFCON mobilizing to provide aid to the Philippines following Typhoon Vamco. With continued efforts both at a national and international level, Filipinos can hopefully recover and prosper in spite of the effects of this natural disaster.

Alyssa Ranola
Photo: Flickr

storm resilienceThe Caribbean region is facing an accelerated amount of devastating storms and severe weather incidents. With the Atlantic hurricane season becoming longer and more aggressive, as well as the additional crippling effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, Caribbean nations are struggling to persevere. It was predicted that from June 2020 to November 2020 there would be as many as 19 named storms, with up to six potentially becoming major hurricanes. In the Caribbean, a typical hurricane season has 12 named storms and three major hurricanes. Caribbean nations have united on storm resilience in the face of disaster in order to strengthen their disaster response.

COVID-19 and Caribbean Storms

The COVID-19 pandemic has already made it difficult to rebuild from past storms. Economies have been critically damaged as many regions depend on tourism. Furthermore, the government has to now prioritize already minimal resources for the public health crisis instead of disaster relief efforts.

With more devastating storms to come, the well-being of these Caribbean nations is a critical concern. Amid the uncertainty, Caribbean nations have united on storm resilience to implement effective emergency preparedness and response.

Initiating Institutional Reform

Nations throughout the Caribbean are acknowledging the obstacle of insufficient investments in National Disaster Management Organizations (NDMOs) that stem from deficiencies in their institutional frameworks. In January 2021, The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) launched an initiative to augment disaster preparedness and enact institutional evaluations for Eastern Caribbean countries like Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines and St. Lucia. These evaluations, conducted by in-person interviews and questionnaires from national disaster experts and program representatives, will find weaknesses in each countries respective NDMOs. From there, the initiative will create a foundation that will support future regional cooperation.

During these institutional assessments, a reoccurring fault was the inadequacy of the NDMOs ability to collect and manage triable data and information. In response, the project received further funding to implement data collection training workshops that cover managing COVID-19 and the oncoming hurricane season. To guarantee the sustainability of these reforms, the project needs to engage policymakers and stakeholders within the government as well as gain input from ministries of finance in the countries involved.

Mobilizing Finance and Insurance Coverage

Caribbean nations have united on storm resilience by developing the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) in 2007 which provides the region with insurance coverage for hurricanes and earthquakes. This “sovereign parametric” insurance method is bought by the government and relies on risk modeling instead of on-the-ground damage evaluations to estimate the cost of disasters. The insurance policy automatically pays out when pre-agreed conditions like wind speed, rainfall and modeled economic losses meet or exceed a certain limit.

This creates fast payouts that avoid time-consuming damage evaluations. This also allows businesses to reopen sooner, roads and airports to quickly start operating again and affected communities to recover faster, preventing further long-term damage.

USAID Collaboration in Disaster Response Training

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has continued to support the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to expand the Red Cross national societies in Caribbean countries. USAID allocated more than $43.1 million in 2020 to support disaster risk reduction activities in Latin America and the Caribbean. These tools will empower communities to adequately prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

Setting an Example During Turbulent Times

Preventing future destruction from violent storms and natural disasters will require serious commitment and collaboration among Caribbean nations. In addition, these circumstances call for increased international support during a time where pre-existing vulnerabilities have been intensified by a threatening pandemic. Witnessing how Caribbean nations have united on storm resilience in face of disaster can provide a positive example for other countries during a time where global unity is most essential.

Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

5 More Projects from GlobalGiving
GlobalGiving is a worldwide nonprofit network that connects charities to potential donors. The website primarily acts as a platform for other nonprofits to gain traction in fundraising efforts. Since the organization’s establishment in 2002, it has helped raise over $552 million for projects in 170 countries. GlobalGiving vets each project thoroughly so donors can feel confident their money is going to those who need it most. Here are five GlobalGiving projects.

5 GlobalGiving Projects

  1. Of the top 10 most popular fundraising campaigns on the GlobalGiving website, six have dedicated themselves to natural disasters. Hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires have created an enormous need for relief in the past several years. In 2018, in the U.S. alone, the cost of natural disasters was $91 billion. The Puerto Rico & Caribbean Hurricane Relief Fund is a campaign that has obtained 71,630 donations totaling over $12 million to provide aid in regard to natural disasters. Following this is the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, the Mexico Earthquake Relief Fund, The Island Spirit Fund, the Australia Wildfires Relief Fund and the Hurricane Dorian Relief and Recovery Fund. Initially, the money that these projects raised went toward immediate response efforts. These efforts included search and rescue, medical supplies, food and water. However, with the severity of damage that natural disasters have left in several areas, the long-term needs of impacted communities require additional funding. All the money that these GlobalGiving campaigns now raise goes exclusively toward local organizations helping communities rebuild and improve resources for future challenges. In total, these six disaster response campaigns have received 175,671 donations and raised over $32 million.
  2. The Coronavirus Relief Fund campaign has raised the most money on the GlobalGiving website. This is unsurprising, as COVID-19 has infected over 118 million people worldwide and over 2.6 million have died. Therefore, a definite need for relief exists as a result of the many consequences of the pandemic. That is why GlobalGiving is raising funds for the protective gear for frontline health workers, essential resources for families in need, education on prevention and access to necessary healthcare in low-resource communities.
  3. The Alawite Islamic Charity Organization is currently raising funds through GlobalGiving to provide 24 months of wages for the nurses working in its pediatric wing until it is possible to find new funding for this project. Lebanon is currently experiencing a financial crisis due to the debt that the nation’s government incurred following the country’s 1975-1990 civil war. At its worst, Lebanon’s currency was over L£7,000 to $1. As a result, the Alawite Islamic Charity Organization, which runs a free vaccination program serving over 5,000 people a month, is currently one of many organizations financially suffering amid this crisis. The nurses receiving support are crucial to distributing government-provided vaccinations to children in Lebanon. The name of the project is For Healthy Children & a Better Tomorrow, and it is seeking to raise $10,000.
  4. Educate a Girl, Educate a Nation – Sierra Leone is raising money to help educate young girls and break them out of the cycle of poverty. Girls in African countries often do not have access to the same educational opportunities as boys. In Sierra Leone specifically, the literacy rate for boys and girls over 15 years of age is drastically different at 51.6% and 34.9% respectively as of 2018. The organization running this campaign, Develop Africa Inc., uses the funds it raises to provide scholarships to girls most likely to drop out of school. This project also funds training for girls in vocational, computer literacy and business skills. Currently, GlobalGiving and Develop Africa Inc. have raised over $132,000 toward this initiative.
  5. Lighthouse Relief is responding to this crisis by raising funds for its project Advance Relief Efforts for Refugees in Greece. There are close to 100,000 people living in refugee camps in mainland Greece. Over 15,000 refugees arrived in 2020 alone. Often, people stranded in these camps experience difficult living conditions while having to wait months or years for a decision on their status. The project’s goal is to continue to fund efforts in “safe spaces” in Ritsona Camp. These efforts include building skills through camp volunteer programs, presenting young refugees with the opportunity to advocate for themselves and targetting programs to help grow psychosocial skills. Lighthouse Relief emphasizes the need for response efforts focused on empowering refugees. It has raised almost $100,000 toward its $111,000 goal.

GlobalGiving is an example of the remarkable power of change in the world. Millions of people have donated since 2002 and millions more experienced others’ kindness. To explore the 5,713 current GlobalGiving projects, visit the website.

– Emma Maytham
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in Malawi
In March 2019, Cyclone Idai submerged vast regions of Southern Malawi, displacing 86,980 people. Local fishermen in dugout canoes found families stranded in tree branches and brought them to the displacement camps that UNICEF built. Communities escaped the flooding in Malawi because UNICEF and the local population worked together tirelessly.

Paddling to Safety

Heavy rain and strong winds led to dangerous flooding in Malawi, resulting in the worst natural disaster in Southern Africa in 20 years. In just a few days, fishermen brought tens of thousands of people to safe, dry land. Once the floods came, one fisherman (a watchman at a port in Nsanje) paddled across a cyclone-induced lake and helped people who were stuck along the way. He found people stranded in trees or rooftops who were hungry and injured. Many of them lived in branches for days because the floods suddenly engulfed their farmland and village. He charged $1.37 per person but allowed people to ride for free if they could not afford the price.

When Maria’s village became inundated, she lived in a tree for several days with her child and five chickens. Finally, she saw a canoe on the horizon, and a fisherman came to offer his services. Maria could not save her belongings in the flood so she used all she had left, her chickens, to pay for the ride. Onshore, they traveled to a temporary shelter in Khungu Bwe Camp, one of 187 camps in Malawi where UNICEF helped those displaced by the cyclone.

UNICEF Displacement Camps

Children are at risk of diseases such as typhoid, cholera and diarrhea if they do not have sanitation and hygiene services. In the camps, UNICEF built temporary toilets, filtered the water supply and hired local actors to educate residents on hygiene, health and sanitation. One cast in Malawi performed a comedy skit about the dangers of open defecation for several hundred people. Through skits and community radios, UNICEF sent information about hygiene, especially cholera prevention, to 600,000 Malawians.

Updates

Fortunately, Malawians are returning home or resettling into safer areas. However, women and girls face additional challenges after the storm because their unpaid labor typically includes collecting clean water. Water points and sanitation facilities are farther away, which increases their commute and risk of gender-based violence. Additionally, women are extremely unlikely to legally own land, so they struggle to reclaim their farmland when they come home.

In Malawi, UNICEF holds “children’s corners” which foster children’s psychological support, play and recreation in the aftermath of traumatic events. By May 2019, 10,000 children participated each week.

The death toll in Malawi, 60 people, has decreased from the 2015 Cyclone Bansi death toll which almost hit 200. This reduction is due to lessons Malawians learned from the last cyclone and meticulous preparations for another disaster. UNICEF stockpiled supplies in flood-prone areas so it could relocate people faster than before. Most importantly, it involved the local community, creating a more efficient and knowledgeable response team. Cyclone Idai caused insufferable flooding in Malawi but it was no match for a team of local fishermen and humanitarian workers.

– Rebecca Pomerantz
Photo: Flickr

Spain’s Foreign Aid
Spain is a great example of a country with a diverse and organized foreign aid plan. The European nation provides aid in many different sectors to a diverse set of recipients and its population places a high value on international support. Spain’s foreign aid expenditure was a total of $2.9 billion USD in 2019, making it the 13th-largest provider of foreign aid in the world. While Spain’s foreign aid allocations fluctuate due to economic trends and fortune, the nation displays a strong commitment to development across the world. 

Spain’s Aid Strategy

Spain’s foreign aid primarily goes towards Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America as a whole, but there are some exceptions. Some of the main countries Spain gives aid to have a long history or a strong relationship with the country. The top 10 nations that receive aid from Spain are:

  • Venezuela
  • Colombia
  • Turkey
  • El Salvador
  • Syria
  • Morocco
  • Guatemala
  • The West Bank and Gaza Strip
  • Bolivia
  • Ukraine
Of these nations, some were former colonies of Spain whereas some are very close to Spain. For example, Morocco is a mere 8 miles from Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar. This could be a primary reason why these nations are among the top receivers of Spanish foreign aid. Still, aid to these top 10 recipients only accounts for a quarter of Spanish foreign aid, showing how balanced and wide-reaching the nation’s aid planning is.

Spain’s foreign aid is diverse and targets many different sectors for development. The primary sector Spain invests in is governance and security, followed by education, industry and trade, humanitarian aid and health care. This makes up about half of the aid that Spain sends out, with the rest unspecified or in smaller sums going to sectors like water and sanitation, infrastructure and debt relief. Spain has recently made crucial contributions in these sectors to donor countries. For example, Spain sent €2 million in aid to Venezuela during its economic crisis, which Spain’s foreign aid agencies spent getting food and medical supplies to the most impoverished.

Aid in the Past Decade

Unfortunately, Spain’s commitments to foreign aid have dropped in recent years, mainly due to economic considerations. The economic crisis of 2008 hit Spain hard, and the country’s foreign aid budget mirrors its economic troubles. Spain currently contributes 0.21% of its GNI (Gross National Income) to foreign aid. This is down from a high of nearly 0.5% in 2009 when the effects of the crisis first hit. While foreign aid commitments suffered in the past decade, Spain has a strong plan to revamp its foreign aid budget in the coming years.

Still, in recent years, Spain has put its foreign aid to good use. The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation’s Humanitarian Action Office identified five current crisis areas that Spain’s current foreign policy plan for 2018 to 2021 emphasized. These are the Syrian regional crisis, the Sahel and Lake Chad, the Palestinian Territories, the Sahrawi Refugee Camps and Latin America and the Caribbean. Spain also participated in various emergency responses to natural disastersThese include the 2018 earthquakes in Indonesia, the 2018 Fuego volcano eruption in India and Cyclone Idai in Mozambique in 2019. The aid Spain provided included on-the-ground disaster response support and the deployment of a team of medical professionals from its health care system in response to the cyclone.

Public opinion towards foreign aid in Spain remains remarkably strong despite the recent downturn in the foreign aid budget. According to a 2018 Eurobarometer survey, Spaniards attached the greatest importance to international aid of any European nationality. It also ranked highest in Europe regarding citizens’ belief that their government should give more emphasis to international aid

Looking to the Future

The future of Spain’s foreign aid is bright and signifies a return to the country’s previous strong commitments to foreign aid. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez supports a target of 0.5% GNI contribution to foreign aid and included it as a part of his governing coalition’s agreement.

Spain has been displaying a commitment to a new future of foreign aid recently, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. The country’s foreign development agencies released the Spanish Cooperation Joint Strategy to fight COVID-19, which included an extra $2 billion budget for foreign aid in 2020 and 2021. It also announced that it will prioritize global health and epidemic prevention in its development cooperation policy.

Since 2020, Spain has pledged to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to multilateral institutions such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the Green Climate Fund, the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals Fund and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. These contributions, its balanced aid policies and the populace’s enthusiasm for foreign aid indicate that Spain will continue to be a global leader in thiarea. 

– Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

GiveLight FoundationWhen Alfin Nur was 11 years old, he lost his mother, father and one of his siblings in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Two years later, the GiveLight Foundation found Alfin and began to invest in his life. He studied at a boarding school in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, which GiveLight fully sponsored, while also providing him with love and emotional support. In 2015, he graduated from Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

The GiveLight Foundation

GiveLight Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides orphans with stability so that they can rise out of the cycle of poverty. Its mission is to build quality homes for these children and support them in receiving proper education that will serve them long-term. It emphasizes raising children in a loving and supportive environment and providing a sense of belonging.

“GiveLight Foundation is one big home for all orphans,” described Fatima Jaber, the founder of the GiveLight Baltimore Chapter, in an interview with The Borgen Project.

The same disaster that destroyed Nur’s family, hit and devastated the hometown of Dian Alyan, in Aceh, Indonesia. The tsunami killed a quarter of a million people overall, leaving many orphans. Alyan decided to build an orphanage called Noordeen Orphanage. A year later, with the help of friends, family and generous donors, the orphanage was housing 50 orphans. Through that, the GiveLight Foundation was founded.

It now has orphanages in many countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Morocco, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, providing a loving home for around 1000 children.

The Baltimore Chapter

GiveLight provides opportunities for people to start “chapters” in their own city. The chapters focus on raising funds and sponsoring the orphans of GiveLight. Most of these chapters are located within the United States in cities like Chicago, Southern California, Seattle, Baltimore, New Jersey and Orlando. GiveLight is also beginning to focus on opening chapters internationally. Currently, there is one in South Africa, Paris and Toronto and there are efforts to open chapters in Istanbul, Sydney, Brussels and Dubai, UAE.

Jaber, the founder of the Baltimore Chapter, talked about how she opened up the chapter in Baltimore around three years ago. “I heard Dian Alyan’s story when I lived in California in 2012 and knew I wanted to be involved. After moving to Baltimore and meeting supportive friends and a generous community, I thought it would be great to start a chapter here.”

Raising Funds for Orphanages

The Baltimore Chapter raises funds by hosting galas, game nights, scavenger hunts and walkathons. Soubia Balkhi, one of the other members of the Baltimore Chapter, told The Borgen Project in an interview that the last two galas had been very successful, with the team raising more than $10,000.

Because the cause is so broad, beforehand the team decides which GiveLight project the funds will contribute to. They typically like to focus on where the need is the most for that year. “For example, this year Bangladesh needs it the most and so the money from this year’s fundraiser will go to building an orphanage in Bangladesh,” said Balkhi.

The funds are then sent to the headquarters which has on-site representatives distribute the money specifically where it is needed.

Despite the limits due to COVID-19, the Baltimore Chapter continues to raise funds. Jaber discussed its latest event, taking place next month. “I’m excited to announce our next virtual scavenger hunt event! It is a fun and interactive social event where families can join, create teams and still follow all COVID-19 protocols.”

Empowering Orphans Alleviates Poverty

GiveLight is not a typical orphanage that solely provides children with a place to stay. It ensures that the orphans under its care are given a home and a proper life. The strategy that GiveLight uses allows the orphans to become self-sufficient through education, enabling them to be independent and to be able to give back. This is especially important considering that education is proven to positively contribute to reducing poverty.

Alfin Nur was not the only orphan who was able to graduate due to the opportunities that GiveLight provided for him. Rahmat Mico is now on his way to become a scientist and  Nursawami is a working mother who continuously gives back to GiveLight.

With more time, orphanages, chapters and supporters, GiveLight will be able to broaden its support in the qualitative manner that it has been doing since the very beginning.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr