Information and stories on Natural Disasters

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

Poverty Eradication in Dominica
In a significant step towards poverty eradication, the Caribbean country of Dominica is using the funds it garnered through a program called Citizenship by Investment (CBI) in order to become the world’s first climate-resilient nation. This effort would both prepare the island for the future while addressing poverty in the present. Dominica’s poverty rate is 39%, higher than that of neighboring countries, due in large part to its economy’s reliance on banana exports, an industry that extreme weather events increasingly impact. In the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, the government committed to the construction of affordable, weather-resistant housing that strengthens the social safety net, the expansion of its health care infrastructure and the support of its jobs program, all with CBI funding. Here are seven facts about CBI and poverty eradication in Dominica.

7 Facts About CBI and Poverty Eradication in Dominica

  1. CBI: International Investment, Local Impact: CBI issues citizenship in exchange for monetary investment. According to the Financial Times, Dominica’s CBI program is the best in the world. It is relatively affordable at $100,000, efficient due to Dominica’s experience in administering the program and has a commitment to integrity, thoroughly vetting the source of every cent that goes to the country. Recipients enjoy the business and travel opportunities that having a second citizenship affords them while the issuing country is able to invest the revenue at the local level. Though the program has been in place in Dominica since 1993, it has only recently become the primary source of the climate-resilient investments that are helping to progress poverty eradication in Dominica. This shift in focus follows the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
  2. The Storm that Changed the Face of the Island. Hurricane Maria made landfall in Dominica, aptly known as “The Nature Island,” on Sept. 18, 2017. Winds reaching up to 160 mph battered the island, triggering landslides, destroying infrastructure, washing away crops and either razing or damaging an estimated 90% of homes, left tens of thousands of people without a roof over their head. The prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, took to Facebook to announce that the hurricane blew his own roof off his residence in an effort to draw attention to the crisis as it was still ongoing. When the storm abated, the government endeavored to put the CBI funds, and the people of Dominica, back to work.
  3. The Housing Revolution. In September 2018, one year following Hurricane Maria, Dominica partnered with the Montreal Management Consultants Establishment (MMCE) to build homes across the island. As of September 2020, this initiative, known as “Housing Revolution,” has built over 1,000 affordable, weather-resistant homes, with plans to ultimately construct a total of 5,000 of these units. CBI funds support the program entirely.
  4. An Emphasis on Community. The nascent neighborhoods include commercial centers, sports fields and farmers’ markets, a reflection of the Housing Revolution’s commitment to fostering communities, not simply constructing houses. To that end, the CBI-sponsored Trafalgar Community Centre, which opened in August 2020, features a sickbay, an events space, clinic and a dining and activity hall. The government heralds the Centre as “a place where at-risk youths can receive help, neighbors can socialize with each other and anyone can receive educational classes and participate in recreational activities.”
  5. Health Care: Prior to Hurricane Maria, the Dominican health care system centered on its four national hospitals. Care was specialized and reactive rather than general and preventative. After Maria’s devastation forced every sector to re-examine priorities, the Ministry decided to use CBI funds to strengthen its primary care system. In addition to a state-of-the-art hospital, Dominica is building 12 new primary health centers that will emphasize community-based care. Further, CBI funds subsidized the complex medical treatment abroad for 16 Dominican children.
  6. Jobs: The National Employment Program (NEP), which helps young people secure internships, jobs and develop vocational skills, has stayed afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic due in large part to the CBI. The NEP has provided support to 4,500 businesses and 3,896 interns.
  7. Economic Growth. An Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) report indicated that Dominica is the fastest growing economy in the region, its GDP up 9% in 2019. One can attribute this growth to both the CBI program and the rise in ecotourism as world travelers seek out Earth’s most rugged, unspoiled gems.

Looking Ahead

The rise in GDP is an indicator of the country’s economic upside, but one will soon be able to see whether it will correlate with the eradication of poverty in Dominica. The country is still rebuilding and the people are still getting back on their feet. If poverty rates do tick down over the coming years, then the investment of CBI funds into community-based, climate-resilient infrastructure and jobs could serve as a blueprint for other developing countries as they work to lift their people from poverty while investing in their future.

– Greg Fortier
Photo: Flickr

Impacted by HurricanesOn November 2, 2020, Hurricane Eta made landfall in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. As a Category 4 hurricane, it was the strongest hurricane to hit the Central American region in many years. Shortly after, Hurricane Iota hit. Thousands have died and many have experienced displacement. Since Central America is one of the poorest areas of Latin America, the U.S. is in a position to help alleviate the crisis by providing foreign aid to those impacted by hurricanes.

Poverty in Central America

Nicaragua is the second-poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, Nicaragua’s poverty rate sits around 15.1%. Geographically, the poorest area of Nicaragua is the Atlantic Coast of the country. Similarly, Honduras is an impoverished nation located north of Nicaragua. Honduras is also one of the poorest countries in Central America. Furthermore, Honduras’ geographical location leaves it exposed to extreme weather such as heavy rainfall and droughts. The most vulnerable, oftentimes rural and coastal populations, are susceptible to these intense weather changes. Neighboring countries of El Salvador and Guatemala are also impoverished nations with vulnerable populations. The increased climate disasters leave these populations at risk of death, poverty and becoming climate refugees.

Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota

On the eve of Hurricane Eta’s landfall, the Nicaraguan government evacuated around 3,000 families living in the coastal area. According to UNICEF, more than a million Nicaraguans, which also includes half a million children, were endangered by the hurricane. El Salvador evacuated people as a precaution and many of Guatemala’s departments declared a state of emergency.

Hurricane Eta made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm destroyed houses, hospitals and businesses. Widespread flooding and mudslides were responsible for the casualties across the region. Unfortunately, Hurricane Eta was not the only storm blasting through Central America.

Weather forecasters predicted another strong storm, Hurricane Iota. Also a Category 4 hurricane, Iota made landfall 15 miles south of where Hurricane Eta did just days prior. The hurricane further stalled the rescue efforts of the region. In Honduras, the hurricanes impacted around 4 million people with more than 2 million losing access to health care. Moreover, Guatemala had more than 200,000 people seeking shelter after the two hurricanes.

Foreign Aid to Central America

The Central American region is impoverished and vulnerable to natural disasters. Furthermore, many Central American nations depend on foreign aid from the United States. The countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (the Northern Triangle) rely on foreign aid from the U.S. to manage rural poverty, violence, food insecurity and natural disasters. Moreover, that aid has been reduced under the Trump administration. Since Donald Trump took office, the aid for these countries has reduced from $750 million to $530 million. In April 2019, Trump froze $450 million of foreign aid to the Northern Triangle, further diminishing the lives of many. Foreign aid keeps Central Americans from plummeting to extreme poverty and also curtails migration to the United States.

Congress Pleads for Foreign Aid

As Hurricane Eta ravaged through Central America, Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35) wrote a letter urging Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to increase foreign aid to Central America. Torres (CA-35) wrote, “Hurricane Eta was an unavoidable natural disaster, but its aftermath is a preventable humanitarian crisis in the making.” In addition, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), Eliot Engel (NY-16), also showed his support for increased aid to those Hurricane Eta impacted. Engel wrote, “a large-scale U.S. effort is needed to provide much-needed relief to those affected by Eta so that they are not forced to leave their countries and make the perilous journey north.”

USAID Provides Disaster Relief

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has agreed to increase aid by $17 million to the countries impacted by Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Studies have shown that foreign aid is a successful policy to reduce global poverty. Any aid given to these countries benefits the lives of those impacted by hurricanes in several significant ways.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Flickr

Israel's Foreign AidIsrael, a country 18 times smaller than California, is proving that size does not matter in terms of global impact. For decades, Israel has served as a trailblazer in technology, medicine, artificial intelligence and innovation. Golda Meir, Israel’s former Prime Minister, spearheaded a program called MASHAV in 1957. MASHAV is a Hebrew acronym for “Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation.” At its onset, MASHAV worked with countries in Africa and Asia. Today, MASHAV works with more than 130 countries like Ethiopia, Vietnam and Guatemala.

Natural Disaster Response

Among the most impactful of Israel’s foreign aid is the work with refugees, natural disasters and terrorism response. For example, in 1995, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, in collaboration with the Israeli Defense Force, created a humanitarian aid unit that executes operations worldwide. Israel has sent 24 delegations of Israel’s foreign aid team to 22 countries between 1985 and 2015.

Israel’s aid to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake is among the most respected of Israel’s foreign aid efforts. Israel, one of the first countries to send support to Haiti, set up makeshift hospitals and disaster relief tents. Israel’s teams sent more than 200 doctors and volunteers to treat those affected by the disaster directly at the scene. In less than two weeks, Israel’s foreign aid teams treated more than 1,000 Haitians, performed more than 300 successful surgeries, delivered 16 babies and rescued four lost individuals.

Start-Up Nation

Israel’s foreign aid capacity can be primarily attributed to its advanced technology. In 2019, Israel received the third-largest amount of funding from venture capitalist firms for various Israeli startups. The U.S. and China are the only countries that received more funding. In the last six years, annual investments have increased from $112 million to $650 million, with more than 250 active startups.

Among Israel’s startups are various medical companies working on COVID-19 innovations. For example, the Israel Innovation Authority is working to create a robotics partnership. This partnership will connect Israeli companies to South Korean companies to collaborate on coronavirus solutions. Additionally, with more than 600 investors and 100 companies working on COVID-19 technological solutions, the Israeli private sector is far more efficient than other companies and governments.

Most recently, Israel developed a sticker called the Maya to cover medical doctors’ masks to decrease their exposure to the virus. Made of a nanofiber material, the masks contain nanoscale pores that prevent the virus from attaching to the mask’s base. The virus itself is 130 nanometers, which is small enough to attach to standard masks. However, the Maya prevents such attachment. The U.S. and Europe are expected to approve the mask. In addition, there are currently plans to export the masks to Canada, Japan and Spain.

Israel’s foreign aid efforts span from natural disaster relief to cutting edge technological advances. The country’s global impact in comparison to it’s size is proving Israel to be a trailblazer in global aid and innovation.

Maya Sulkin

Photo: Pixabay

International Aid to El SalvadorEl Salvador faces threats from multiple angles as heavy tropical flooding has been compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. While El Salvador has managed to curtail infection rates by imposing strict restrictions, in October 2020, more than 32,000 people had COVID-19, with around 1,000 deaths. Due to the stringent measures to protect against the pandemic, economic growth has been stifled and poverty reduction efforts have waned. Organizations are stepping in to provide international aid to El Salvador.

Dual Disasters in El Salvador

In May and June of 2020, the tropical storms Amanda and Cristobal wreaked havoc on the people of El Salvador. Nearly 150,000 people were affected by heavy rain, flooding and severe winds. Developing countries such as El Salvador have poor building infrastructure and during natural disasters homes are more likely to be destroyed by storms. The World Food Programme (WFP) has estimated that about 380,000 people in El Salvador do not have sufficient access to nutritious food due to the dual disasters that have weakened infrastructure and the economy. An estimated 22,000 farmers have suffered from the destruction of flooding, with over 12,000 hectares of agricultural crops being destroyed.

COVID-19 Pandemic Increases Poverty

El Salvador has been moderately successful with poverty reduction, marked by a consistent decline in poverty over the past 13 years, as poverty rates plummeted from 39% to 29% between 2007 and 2017. Extreme poverty was cut from 15% to 8.5% over this time period as well. Additionally, El Salvador has increased its level of equality and is now the second most equal country in Latin America.

Despite this positive trend in poverty reduction, El Salvador has suffered from forced economic restrictions due to the pandemic. Its GDP is projected to decrease by 8% this year due to economic restrictions, a weakened international market and diminished funds sent from El Salvadorians abroad in the United States. Additionally, low income and marginalized individuals are becoming more vulnerable to health issues and wage deficiencies and are falling victim to predatory loans. El Salvador’s economic shutdown and destruction from tropical storms have prompted calls for international aid to alleviate the crisis.

Swift Action to Mitigate COVID-19

El Salvador has seen relatively low COVID-19 cases as a result of its swift response to the pandemic. It adopted strict containment measures faster than any other Central American country and invested heavily in its health system. The government has provided cash distributions to the majority of households, food for low income households and payment deferrals for rent and mortgages in order to curb the effects of the pandemic on citizens.

International Aid to El Salvador

Requests for international aid to El Salvador have been granted in the form of assistance from USAID and the WFP. These organizations are providing disaster relief and bringing in resources to those affected by the storms and the COVID-19 pandemic. USAID has donated $3 million to be dispensed by cash in stipends for vulnerable citizens to buy food. This stipend will boost local economies and reinforce food security for impoverished citizens affected by the dual disasters.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

How Hurricanes Affect Poverty Around the WorldHurricanes are large storms that develop from warm ocean waters. As they reach land, they create a storm surge, pushing ocean water onto the land, causing extreme damage such as infrastructure loss and flooding. Hurricane season lasts from May to November and causes loss of life and property for coastal regions around the globe. This article will examine how hurricanes affect poverty around the globe and organizations that help combat their destruction.

Hurricanes And Poverty: The Cycle

Hurricanes affect global poverty as they slow development and cause a significant loss of money, pushing people and countries into poverty. Each year 26 million people fall into poverty due to natural disasters. In particular, hurricanes cause a decrease in development and a loss of GDP. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused 30 years of decreased development in Honduras and Nicaragua. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan led to losses of more than 200% of Grenada’s GDP.

Hurricanes disproportionately affect impoverished communities. Those with lower income have less access to technology, which leads to a lack of information and leaving them unprepared for a coming natural disaster. Additionally, disadvantaged populations live in less stable housing that does not fare well against natural disasters. For example, the Caribbean has a history of suffering a severe impact of hurricanes, and this is partly because 60-70% of the infrastructure is informal, meaning not professionally made or following safety protocol.

Impoverished communities also have less access to transportation and healthcare, leaving them with fewer resources after a hurricane. In Puerto Rico after the 2017 Hurricane Maria, 2975 people died as a result of not having the transportation to go to a hospital or sufficient life-sustaining medicine. Rebuilding also requires funds that many disadvantaged populations do not have. While the rich can often afford to move out of high-risk areas, impoverished households cannot. Developing countries also cannot afford to protect high-risk areas, by, for example, rebuilding structures with higher elevations and installing sea walls. Hurricanes affect those living in poverty the most and, as a result, hurricanes push them further into poverty.

The Red Cross

The Red Cross is one of many organizations that provide hurricane relief around the world. It has stations throughout the globe, so it can provide emergency services and life-saving materials quickly to those who need it in the aftermath of a natural disaster, such as hurricanes. Many people working with the Red Cross are disaster response specialists who can work quickly in a disaster zone and are trained in situations that may occur during and after a hurricane. The Red Cross also reconnects families separated in natural disasters. The Red Cross has helped in hurricanes around the globe, including Haiti after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

Other organizations that help those living in poverty recover from hurricanes include Heart to Heart International, Convoy of Hope and Tourism Cares. By donating to any one of these organizations, one could help bring an impoverished person their livelihood back and help them recover from a hurricane, helping to bridge the gap between the rich and poor in terms of hurricane recovery.

– Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr 

Kandari is Providing Aid
The government of Bangladesh confirmed its first COVID-19 cases on March 8, 2020. As cases rapidly increased, so did the number of families living below the poverty line. Two months later, a second disaster struck — Cyclone Amphan. The United Nations projected that 500,000 families lost their homes. Moreover, it destroyed the structure of the Deluti Secondary School in Bangladesh, the only school within a 50-mile radius. Kandari, a local nonprofit, plans on rebuilding it with the help of volunteers and donations. Additionally, Kandari is providing aid pertaining to feeding families and providing quality education during the present challenges of COVID-19 and the destruction from Cyclone Amphan.

About Kandari

Afsara Alvee, a 27-year-old from Khulna, was living in the United States when her mother called and told her that she and Afsara’s younger brother received positive tests for COVID-19. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Afsara said that they were able to recover from home, but she knew there were many other families in Bangladesh suffering the same fate under worse conditions. In response, she founded Kandari, a nonprofit that provides resources to low-income and middle-class families that COVID-19 affected in Bangladesh.

“When their paycheck stops coming, that’s the time it hits,” Afsara said. “Because of their social status, it’s hard for them to ask for help. They never thought of going to a food bank because of the shame. But we can provide them food for at least a week or so.”

Kandari is providing aid by feeding families. Afsara oversees 17 volunteers who have been delivering food, including rice, lentils, chickpeas, oil and onions, to about 1,400 families since the start of the pandemic. Her goal is to reach 4,000 families but obtaining funding has been a challenge. When crowdfunding runs out, she spends her own money to keep Kandari’s efforts going.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh reached 495,841 and 7,156 deaths on December 16, 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University. Although many countries were not prepared for a global pandemic, Bangladesh must also recover from Cyclone Amphan.

Providing Quality Education

Another way Kandari is providing aid, next to ensuring food security, is by working toward granting quality education. One in four people is illiterate in Bangladesh according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. Afsara said that children who must help their families with labor or have disabilities have rarely had access to education even before COVID-19 and Cyclone Amphan forced schools to close. Her proposed education program would help provide textbooks and lunches to children in orphanages or ones whose parents are day laborers.

Cyclone Amphan hit the Deluti Secondary School particularly hard. No other schools exist in a 50-mile radius and about 202 students attended the school before the pandemic. Kandari plans on rebuilding the school and has raised $865 of its $7,000 goal on GoFundMe.

“Our slogan is there is no tomorrow because there is no tomorrow. If you see that someone needs help, if you think something bad is going to happen, then you should do something today to prevent that,” Afsara said.

Plans for the Future

Kandari means “helmsman,” someone who would guide and work selflessly to reach a destination. Afsara hopes to extend her mission to other parts of the world as well.

“We don’t want to just help today, we want to help with something that’s going to impact that person who may impact the economy and definitely impact our whole society,” Afsara said.

Afsara’s latest project, A Touch of Warmth, will give hundreds of people on the streets of Bangladesh in Dhaka, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Jessore and Bandarban blankets to cope with the winter months. She said she is always looking for more volunteers and donations to contribute to Kandari’s ongoing efforts.

– Maya Gacina
Photo: Afsara Alvee, founder of Kandari

Poverty in the PhilippinesThe Philippines is a country in the Pacific Ocean that is made up of over 7,000 small islands. The Philippines struggles with issues of global poverty, healthcare and education. However, progress has been made in recent years to combat these issues and ensure that every Filipino citizen is able to live a healthy and happy life.

7 Facts About Poverty in the Philippines

  1. Data indicates that 16.6% of the population of the Philippines, or about 17.6 million people, live under the poverty line. Those who reside in rural areas have a much higher chance of experiencing poverty, with nearly one-third of those under the poverty line working as farmers.

  2. The Philippines is exposed to more natural disasters than any other nation in the world. These disasters, which include typhoons, earthquakes and cyclones, cause horrific devastation and contribute heavily to the high poverty rate in this country. Other causes of poverty in the Philippines include low job creation, low economic growth and high levels of population growth.

  3. For every 1,000 babies born in the Philippines, 28 die before they turn 5 years old. Many of these children die of pneumonia. The Philippines is one of the 15 countries that make up over 75% of the pneumonia deaths globally. A lower socioeconomic status, which often leads to limited access to vaccinations and healthcare options, contributes to this high rate of pneumonia.

  4. As of 2019, an estimated 64% of Filipino households struggle with food insecurity, and two in every 10 children under the age of 5 are underweight. The high rates of natural disasters and large numbers of people living in rural areas contribute to this hunger problem and make food inaccessible for many in the Philippines.

  5. The COVID-19 crisis has affected all aspects of life in the Philippines but especially food access. A study done in May of 2020 showed that 4.2 million families reported struggling with involuntary hunger, doubling since December 2019. This is likely due to the economic devastation and financial issues that many countries around the world have struggled with since the pandemic.

  6. The Filipino Government has launched its Philippines Development Plan in an effort to combat poverty and hunger and ramp up job creation in the country. This plan was initiated in 2011 and updated in 2017 and has reported remarkable success in job creation, education and poverty reduction.

  7. Various Filipino NGOs as well as some from outside of the country, have worked to combat poverty in the Philippines. A group called Zero Extreme Poverty PH 2030 (ZEP) has led the charge, dedicating itself to eliminating poverty in the nation by 2030 by enacting positive change in eight areas: education, environment, health, housing and shelter, livelihoods, peace and human security and social justice. In 2018, ZEP created a coalition of various NGOs from both the Philippines and around the world, with the goal of helping those living under the poverty line in the country.

Poverty Progress in the Philippines

While the Philippines still struggles with extreme poverty, especially in rural areas, progress is being made to combat the issues that this country is facing. These seven facts about poverty in the Philippines illuminate both the strides that are being made and the further steps that must be taken to improve the lives of Filipino people struggling with poverty and hunger.

– Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

floods in southeast asiaTraditionally, the people of Southeast Asia benefitted from small floods that enriched the soil and prevented bigger floods. However, human interference with the rivers has disrupted their natural ecological processes and increased long-term damage. The disruption of crops, destruction of land and the displacement of people due to flooding increases poverty, especially during Southeast Asia’s current economic crisis. Mitigating steps are necessary to prevent the harmful effects of floods in Southeast Asia.

Destructive Floods in Vietnam

In October 2020, heavy rains in Vietnam caused massive flooding that destroyed homes, land and agriculture. A massive 178,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 700,000 livestock fell victim to the floodwaters.

Described by the president of the Vietnam Red Cross Society as “some of the worst we’ve seen in decades”, the floods in Vietnam have affected around five million Vietnamese people, which will push more people toward poverty.

Urban Flooding in Cambodia

In Cambodia, cities such as Phnom Penh suffer from the effects of urban flooding. Urban flooding is unpredictable and has wide-ranging consequences, from the disruption of everyday life to the spreading of waterborne diseases. As is commonly associated with climate change, the poor are hurt the most by urban flooding, for their ability to prepare and recover from damages is significantly weaker than other classes.

Roughly 250,000 people living in Phnom Penh are living in informal settlements and deal with inadequate waste management and infrastructure. Stagnant bacteria-ridden water from floods can linger for eight months after floods, spreading a host of waterborne diseases to those in proximity. Furthermore, as the economy is projected to decrease by 4% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, poor people are increasingly likely to be trapped in cyclical poverty.

COVID-19 Stalls Decades of Growth

Despite decades of deadly civil war, Cambodia has made consistent progress towards reducing poverty before COVID-19. Over the past two decades, life expectancy has increased 10 years, poverty has been reduced from 47% to 13%, and growth in the country averaged out to 8%.  Additionally, the country lowered infant mortality rates from 10% to 2%.

While Cambodia’s COVID-19 cases are very low, with zero deaths thus far, the contraction of the global economic market has led to financial struggles for its citizens. The poverty rate is expected to balloon back up to 20% as a result of the economic crisis. The sectors hit hardest include the tourism and garment industries, where demand from its Western consumer base has drastically fallen.

Measures Against Floods in Southeast Asia

Although the nature of monsoons is unpredictable, the extent of the damage and destruction of floods can be mitigated. One recommendation is for Southeast Asian nations to commit to curbing emissions in order to combat climate change, which can increase the volatility of weather. Climate change reduces the ability for scientists to estimate long-term trends and build dams to control flood levels.

Additionally, the concept of leaving room for the river has become popular. This concept essentially promotes soft engineering, or removing human technology from rivers and allowing their ecological processes to be carried out naturally. Furthermore, allowing and managing small floods can benefit the land and those cultivating it while preventing big floods.

Though natural disasters cannot be controlled, efforts from organizations and governments may help the country’s resilience in the aftermath of floods in Southeast Asia. Such efforts can provide instant relief to affected people and may also help to alleviate overall poverty in the countries.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr