Sustainable Guar InitiativeGuar is a bean that South Asian farmers have cultivated for centuries. The grain is the source of guar gum, a key ingredient in many products, ranging from condiments to cosmetics. The Sustainable Guar Initiative was launched in 2015 with the goal of improving the livelihoods and incomes of smallholder guar farmers in the Bikaner region, India.

The Sustainable Guar Initiative

The NGO TechnoServe leads the initiative’s on-the-ground implementation. Solvay, L’Oreal, Henkel and HiChem serve as partners of the program.

The initiative benefits more than 7,000 guar-farming households in Bikaner and operates across 36 villages. TechnoServe has facilitated the launch of a farmer producer company, which helps connect guar farmers with potential buyers. The initiative has built a traceable supply chain, which ensures that everyone from the farmers to their crops’ consumers benefits from the exchange.

Additionally, the initiative features social programs aimed at improving the well-being of farming households. One way the initiative achieves this is by educating the families on growing kitchen gardens.

The Impact of COVID-19

As of July 30, India has seen over 1,600,000 people tested positive for COVID-19. Over 40,000 people have tested positive in the state of Rajasthan and, just in the city of Bikaner, over 1,900 contracted the disease.

The Indian government declared a national lockdown on March 25 given the complexity of the situation. Since then, life has changed significantly for smallholder guar farmers in Bikaner and for the people working to support them through the Sustainable Guar Initiative.

TechnoServe’s team in India told The Borgen Project that guar farmers now face various challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many farmers can no longer sell their crops, disrupting the incomes they rely on. Lockdown measures also prevent farmers from finding daily wage labor to supplement their incomes. These farmers face a shortage of resources necessary to continue growing guar, like tractors, seeds, laborers and working capital.

These challenges could pose a real threat to Bikaner’s farmers. Though Rajasthan, the state where Bikaner is located, has made progress toward reducing poverty compared to India’s other low-income states, 15% of Rajasthan’s population still lived below the poverty line in 2012. With their incomes stagnating, guar farmers and others throughout the state could fall into (or deeper into) poverty as the COVID-19 crisis drags on.

Virtual Engagement

TechnoServe and their partners are working to keep smallholder guar farmers from this unpleasant fate. To do so without spreading the virus, TechnoServe has been engaging virtually with farming households since March 2020.

As the TechnoServe team in India told The Borgen Project, the virtual engagement strategy involves multiple communication methods. The team uses text messages, audio calls, video calls and conference audiovisual calls to communicate with households. Local personnel delivers training through digital platforms. Guar farmers who have both good communication skills and access to smartphones are then tasked with disseminating the training information throughout the villages.

Since May 2020, the TechnoServe team has reached approximately 4,959 male farmers and 1,238 female farmers through phone calls alone. The team reported technical difficulties in the switch to virtual engagement but they have been able to work around these challenges and develop closer ties with the farmers through one-on-one virtual interactions.

The TechnoServe team said that after six months, they will review the efficacy and efficiency of these virtual engagement strategies and their impact. The team will also evaluate the state of the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on these two areas of concern, the team will decide whether to continue with virtual engagement through the end of the fiscal year (ending April 2021) or to adjust training methods.

Supporting Farmers

TechnoServe and its partners are also taking larger steps to further the goals of the Sustainable Guar Initiative amid the pandemic. Here are five ways that the initiative is supporting the farmers in the longer term:

  1. Kitchen Gardens: Solvay and L’Oreal established a COVID-19 relief fund. TechnoServe identified over 534 farming families whom the COVID-19 pandemic has made vulnerable. Tapping into the relief fund, the TechnoServe team has facilitated the distribution of seeds to these families. The families can plant these seeds in kitchen gardens, which provide them with more diverse food options and give them a potential second source of income. Growing food at home also allows women to avoid shopping in crowded markets, where they could become infected with COVID-19.
  2. Farming Equipment: TechnoServe is providing 534 vulnerable farming families with weeding, plowing and hoeing equipment for the approaching monsoon season. This equipment will enable the families to continue growing guar once the season starts.
  3. Protection Against COVID-19: TechnoServe is raising awareness about social distancing and safety protocols while providing the smallholder farmers with ways to protect themselves against the virus. The TechnoServe team said they plan to provide Sanitary Protection Equipment to the 534 vulnerable farming households.
  4. Guar Sales: To help farmers who cannot sell their crops during the pandemic, the partners of the Sustainable Guar Initiative have worked together to help peasants sell their guar above the local market price. This allows farmers to pay for daily expenses and invest in another year of crop cultivation.
  5. Price Floor Implementation: Solvay and L’Oreal proposed implementing a price floor for guar. This means that farmers would be guaranteed a reasonable price for their crops. While the initiative’s partners work out the arrangement’s details, Solvay has been offering a price for the farmers’ guar above the market rate.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so do challenges for the smallholder guar farmers of Bikaner. But thanks to TechnoServe and their partners, the Sustainable Guar Initiative persevered through the crisis. The initiative provides needed support for a vulnerable population during unstable times.

Emily Dexter
Photo: Flickr

Argentia's slums, Buenos Aires slums
Argentina is the fifth-highest country with the most COVID-19 cases in South America, with 111,000 recorded cases by mid-July. Moreover, Argentina’s COVID-19 related death toll has nearly doubled since June, surpassing 5,000 cases. Confirmed illnesses continue to be on the rise, with more than half concentrated in the urban hotspot of Buenos Aires City. Approximately 88% of all cases in Argentina are reported from within Buenos Aires, its impoverished slums or its surrounding regions.

COVID-19 in Argentina

While the federal government acted early to contain the virus, including imposing a strict nightly curfew since March, Argentina’s most impoverished remain extremely susceptible to COVID-19 and its dire economic consequences. For example, within Buenos Aires’ slums, families often have to sell their homes to afford meals for their families.

Nearly half of all Buenos Aires cases were estimated to be in its slums in late May. In some instances, outbreaks became so alarming that the government would enforce security and fences around these neighborhoods to ensure residents do not spread the virus—at the expense of residents’ increased impoverishment.

Regional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within Argentina recognized these hardships faced by low-income Argentinians and are currently working to mitigate the health and economic consequences. Here are five NGOs battling COVID-19 in Argentina’s slums.

5 NGOs Fighting COVID-19 in Argentina’s Slums

  1. Chequeado, Spanish for “Checked,” is an online journalism platform that fact-checks public information on Argentinian politics and society. The organization’s website has recently launched a new COVID-19 section to keep citizens informed about the fact-based science behind the virus. The section also covers COVID-19 cases and newly implanted preventative measures. Headlines range from the effectiveness of spraying items with alcohol to the evidence surrounding the transmission of COVID-19 by air. Given the growing number of slum residents having access to the internet due to Argentina’s globalization efforts, this news outlet is accessible to slum residents who would not have access to the information otherwise.
  2. International Organization for Migration, or IOM, works with state and non-state actors to assist migrants through various means, ranging from counter-trafficking to resettlement support. During the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM is working with the Argentine Red Cross to provide food and cleaning supplies to vulnerable migrants. The organization is also ensuring all migrants understand COVID-19 precautions, translating public information to French for migrants from Haiti and Senegal, as well as English for migrants from Jamaica.
  3. Pequeños Pasos, translating to “small steps,” aims to bring sustainable development to the lives of Argentina’s impoverished. While the NGO focuses on missions ranging from education to employment, health and nutrition have been at the forefront of its efforts. Given the looming issue of extreme food insecurity due to COVID-19, Pequeños Pasos has launched an emergency food project to feed more than 12,500 people at risk of hunger in Buenos Aires slums. For a year, the NGO will provide monthly emergency food bags to vulnerable families.
  4. Asociación Civil Ingeniería sin Fronteras Argentina is a civil engineering organization that has taken on the project to quadruple the capacity of ventilators in Argentine hospitals. This solution aims to alleviate the possibility of ICU units reaching over-capacity and providing a sufficient number of ventilators for COVID-19 patients. The project aims to raise $7,015 to expand Argentina’s existing ventilator capacity, potentially saving thousands of Argentine lives. As a disproportionate number of slum-dwellers are contracting the virus, this aid will help them overcome the effects of COVID-19.
  5. Las Tunas is an education-based NGO that offers children and adolescents various educational resources, including scholarships and arts empowerment classes. In light of the socio-economic effects of COVID-19, the organization has expanded its efforts to help families remain economically stable. New website resources include a “Monitoring, Accompaniment and Early Detections” program that helps set up productive quarantine routines for families. The NGO also has a unique “Economic Development” program, which provides families with business strategies and training materials to increase household incomes. Original educational programs for youth are now also delivered online.

Looking Ahead

While COVID-19 cases in Argentina have overwhelmingly affected the country’s impoverished populations, diverse civil society organizations are working to combat the effects of COVID-19 in Argentina’s slums. Whether through economic empowerment or preventing misinformation on COVID-19, these five NGOs aim to stabilize Argentina’s most marginalized’s living conditions during the pandemic.

—Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in DRCThe Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nation in Central Africa with a population of nearly 80 million people, the vast majority of whom live below the global poverty line. While statistics are hard to come by due to the nature of the DRC, there are estimates that nearly 80% of the country’s population lives in extreme poverty. The DRC consistently ranks as one of the world’s poorest, least stable and most underdeveloped countries.

How Has This Happened?

The DRC’s current poverty and instability are rooted in its decades-long history of violence, mismanagement and corruption. This dates back to the colonial era when millions died due to the abuses committed by the Belgian colonial administration. Immediately after declaring independence from Belgium, the so-called Congo Crisis caused more woes for the nation. Even their independence would not stop interference from Europe.

Mobutu Sese Seko took power after the Congo Crisis. He made the country into a one-party dictatorship with widespread corruption, funneling money out of the DRC, and into his own inner circle. Poverty in the DRC grew significantly worse as Seko and his inner circle grew wealthier. His regime was kept afloat by his cult of personality and Cold War foreign aid, both of which dried up in the 1990s. This “drying up” resulted in two devastating wars, both of which increased poverty in the DRC.

The Longevity of Poverty in the DRC

The country began reconstruction in the mid-2000s, in an effort to tackle the growing poverty following the Congo Wars. Despite poverty reductions in some areas of the country – particularly urban ones – recovery efforts did not reduce the overall poverty levels in the country between 2005 and 2012. Roughly two-thirds of the population of the DRC remained in poverty.

Today the DRC is one of the world’s poorest nations, with stunted economic growth and poor development. According to the World Bank, poverty in the DRC is so severe that roughly half of children grow up malnourished, with most lacking access to education. The longevity of this poverty has resulted in a scarcity of drinking water and limited access to proper sanitation. These conditions are present even more often in rural areas. The present COVID-19 epidemic has only made the situation in the DRC more hazardous, especially for those in poverty.

NGO Work in the DRC

While poverty in the DRC may seem insurmountable, there are hundreds of nonprofit agencies working to help in the region. The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, or CARE, is a nonprofit NGO (non-governmental organization), dedicated to reducing poverty worldwide. They work alongside the Congolese government to provide aid.

With 12.8 million Congolese in need of urgent assistance, NGO work is more important than ever. In a country like the DRC, where poverty is so extreme, the humanitarian actions of CARE have made an important difference. This NGO has provided food security to thousands of people and assisted thousands of women to gain access to economic and health resources.

CARE is one of the hundreds of NGOs operating in the DRC that rely on donations to make a difference. Poverty in the DRC is too massive for any singular NGO to tackle. The combined efforts of multiple groups are needed. When poverty is so widespread, a widespread response is warranted.

Matthew Bado
Photo: Flickr

Chinese Re-education Camps
Currently, China is holding Uyghur Muslim prisoners in what it calls re-education camps. China is holding them captive in its re-education camps without trial, with the excuse that these centers are voluntary and a way to fight Islamic extremism. However, police forces hold power over these places, making it impossible for the Uyghur people to leave by choice. Despite the negatives these camps represent, people can do remarkable things to help from wherever they are. This article covers information about the discovery of the Chinese re-education camps and how nations and people are taking action.

The China Cables Leak

Currently, estimates state that China is holding somewhere between one and three million Uyghur Muslim prisoners in what it calls re-education camps. This number would equate to around 10 percent of the Uyghur Muslim population in China, which is about 10 million. The government is claiming that these centers are voluntary and a way to fight extremism. However, after the leak of the China Cables, China had a difficult time sustaining this narrative.

The China Cables refer to the leak of the operating manual for the Chinese re-education camps, which people formally knew as the Xinjian re-education camps. Prisoners only obtain weekly phone calls and a monthly video call with relatives. Other than that, any other contact can result in their suspension. The Chinese camps have high security and prisoners are under constant surveillance, which makes it nearly impossible for them to contact the outside without someone catching them.

One can mostly trace the documents back to 2017, and they explicitly reveal the government’s plans to use these facilities to forcibly teach manners and ideologies to the prisoners. Even though the government says the people can leave the camps and are there voluntarily, the China Cables state that the camps would only release the students after a year and only after achieving a minimum point score. Despite the evidence, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, said: “What we established are vocational training centers — they are not concentration camps as called by some people.”

The World’s Action

The world has been noticeably quiet about this issue. However, some U.S. representatives have provided comments and critiques about the camps. Mike Pompeo, the United States’ Secretary of State, has called the treatment of the Uyghurs “the stain of the century.” Deputy John Sullivan called it a “horrific campaign of repression.”

Even though it took some time, the U.S. government finally took concrete action. The administration blocked Chinese officials who carry out the repression from gaining visas to the U.S. The Commerce Department sanctioned Xinjiang’s Public Security Bureau, its subsidiaries and eight companies for their involvement in the persecution, detention and surveillance of the Chinese camps. China has used the camps as a testing ground for intrusive surveillance of the Uyghur.

Outside of the U.S., other nations are taking action. The United Kingdom has urged China to give U.N. observers access to detention camps. Belgium stated that it would continue raising the issue of human rights violations in these centers. Finally, 22 countries at the U.N. issued a joint statement directed to China to end the detentions and human rights violations of Muslims. The U.K., Canada and Australia are amongst the countries that signed.

Opensource Research

Any of these things would not be possible if it were not for the power of the people, beginning with the leak of the China Cables and opensource research. Opensource research is the type of research that includes sources available to everyone on the internet. German academic Adrian Zenz followed this type of research by using a Chinese search engine, Baidu, to discover documents that proved the existence of these camps.

Shawn Zhang is another significant contributor, who is a law student that used satellite imagery to investigate the location and size of the camps. Both of their research has supplied evidence and images to news outlets. It has also helped disprove the Chinese government’s denial of the camps. One should never underestimate the importance of the power of the people. Zhang says: “During my research, I have felt a lot of pressure from the Chinese government (…) [but] I think it is worth it because there are so many Uighur people held there. They just totally vanished, they disappear, like going into a black hole. They’ve lost contact with their families. At least my research can help international society to pressure the Chinese government so there can be a better chance of a peaceful solution.”

The Save Uighur Campaign

There has also been an increase in coverage of this issue, particularly in social media, through the hashtag #SaveUyghur. It is essential to keep talking about this, so more people become aware, and those in power feel pressured to exercise change. Finally, there are also nonprofits such as The Save Uighur Campaign, where people can donate and contact Congress. This NGO’s mission is to help the Uyghur Muslims suffering from the Chinese re-education camps. In its own words, “The project is a concerted effort to tie media exposure, public relations, and government action together into a single strategy aimed at the liberation of the Uighurs from the oppression they face at the hands of the Chinese government.” It is prompting people to protest and giving them the resources to do so as well.

A popular way of protesting, which Save Uighur also promotes, is Fast From China. China bans Muslims from fasting, which is part of their religion. As a way of protest and an act of solidarity, people stop eating Chinese products during the month of Ramadan. There is even a hashtag for this, #FastFromChina.

The Save Uighur NGO does something fundamental by encouraging people to contact Congress, as this is where one can see the most tangible progress when fighting for this issue. Congress is considering two bills that support Uighur Muslims. The Senate has already passed one, while the House of Representatives is yet to pass the other one. One can find the tools to support it and contact leaders on the Save Uighur website.

Atrocities are happening in China, but people are doing some things about them. People can start taking action and changing the circumstances by informing themselves and contacting their leaders. Some fantastic ideas are already in motion to fight against these Chinese re-education camps, both from the government and the people. From discovering the China Cables to a hashtag, everything counts in this battle. Despite the negatives these camps represent, people can do remarkable things to help from wherever they are.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Albert Einstein's Life as a Refugee
Lauded for his array of riveting breakthroughs and accomplishments in physics, Albert Einstein became emblematic of brilliance in the modern world. His general Theory of Relativity continues to aid modern astronomy and has paved the way for new theories involving black holes and the physical origin of the universe. However, Einstein’s legacy does not solely comprise of his scientific achievements. Albert Einstein’s life as a refugee was arduous and many regard him as a humanitarian for his efforts to help the underprivileged.

Albert Einstein’s Origins

Albert Einstein was born in Germany in 1879 but renounced his German citizenship 17 years later due to his fondness for Swiss education. He began his work in physics in Switzerland but returned to Germany to work as a professor at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1914. A few short years later in 1921, Einstein won the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the photoelectric effect. However, antisemitic harassment in Germany rose in the early months of 1932, and Einstein resigned from his professorship at the Prussian Academy for Sciences and relocated to Belgium.

How Albert Einstein Became a Refugee

In December 1932, Einstein and his wife visited the United States where he had secured a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933 and unleashed a wave of antisemitism across the nation. The new government curbed the liberties of the Jewish people and they became prone to vicious attacks. Because of his fame as an accomplished Jewish physicist and the Third Reich accusing him of treason, Einstein became a target, especially when he traveled to Europe briefly in 1933. The Nazis burned his books and desecrated his property in Berlin. While he was initially unfazed, Einstein began to fear for his life and moved to the U.S. in the fall of 1933 and never visited Europe again.

After settling in Princeton, Einstein and his wife, Elsa, helped other refugees fleeing Nazi Germany apply for visas and advocated for their stay in the United States. Albert Einstein’s life as a refugee finally ended when he received citizenship in 1940, but his legacy lives on to this day.

Albert Einstein as a Humanitarian

Albert Einstein is one of the most prominent scientists to have ever walked the earth, but his accomplishments do not stop there. In 1933, the International Relief Association emerged at Einstein’s behest. A group of American academics, artists and politicians, including John Dewey and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, came together to aid German Jews who were suffering at the hands of Adolf Hitler’s oppressive regime. Furthermore, Einstein was a staunch opponent of segregation, discrimination and the violation of human rights. He encouraged scientists to develop technology to help people, not destroy them. Following the atrocities of World War II, Einstein signed a document now known as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto that calls for nuclear disarmament and arms reduction in the world. Albert Einstein’s life as a refugee compelled him to predict that “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Albert Einstein’s scientific successes and humanitarian efforts will echo throughout the world for generations to come.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Nonprofits Helping Syrian Refugees

The Syrian civil war has been ongoing since 2011, making the Syrian refugee population the world’s largest group forcibly displaced from their country. At the end of 2018, there were 13 million refugees from Syria, accounting for more than half of the country’s total population. The vast majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon (70 percent) and Jordan (90 percent) are living below the poverty line. Fortunately, a number of groups are stepping in to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. Keep reading to learn more about these three nonprofits helping Syrian refugees.

3 Nonprofits Helping Syrian Refugees

  1. Sunrise USA – Founded in 2011, Sunrise USA is a nonprofit organization focused on providing humanitarian assistance for Syrians in need whether they still live in the country or not. The group is focused on sustainable development in areas including education and health care.
    • Health Care With help from donations, Sunrise USA built a full-time clinic in the Tayba camp in Syria, as well as a clinic in Istanbul and a polyclinic in Rihanli, Turkey. The organization has also established 22 trauma care facilities in Syria.
    • Education As of 2018, around 5.8 million children and youth in Syria were in need of education assistance. About 2.1 million of them were out of school completely. Sunrise USA has built four schools and provided books and supplies to students and families around refugee camps. In 2015, Sunrise USA was a lead sponsor in the creation of the Al-Salam School which had 1,200 students.
    • Care for Orphans The number of Syrian orphans, both in Syria and neighboring countries, has increased to more than 1 million since 2011. Through Sunrise USA’s orphan sponsorship, hundreds of orphans have been provided with food, clothing, education and medicine.
  2. Doctors Without Borders (DWB) – Officially founded in 1971, the organization’s core belief is that “all people have the right to medical care regardless of gender, race, religion, creed, or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national boundaries.” Here’s a look at DWB’s efforts to help Syrian refugees:
    • Jordan – In 2017, Jordan closed off the border connecting the country to Syria and in 2018 canceled all subsidized health care for Syrian refugees. Doctors Without Borders has three clinics in Irbid, Jordan that focus on non-communicable diseases, which are the leading causes of death in the region. In 2018, the organization provided 69,000 outpatient consultations, 11,900 individual mental health consultations and 2,690 assisted births.
    • Lebanon – Shatila refugee camp in South Beirut is home to Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese people living in poor and overcrowded conditions with minimal services. Doctors Without Borders has set up both a primary health care center and a women’s center inside the camp in 2013. The organization also launched a vaccination campaign around the camp, opened a mental health support branch in a clinic in Fneideq, offer family planning and mental health care services in the Burj-al-Barajneh refugee camp, and operate a care program in Ein-al-Hilweh refugee camp for patients with mobility issues.
  3. Concern Worldwide US – Founded in 1968, Concern Worldwide works in the world’s poorest countries to provide emergency response, education, water and sanitation, as well as help communities develop resilience to higher impacting climates. The organization works to help Syrian refugees in a few ways:
    • Lebanon – Concern Worldwide is not only focused on creating “collection centers,”–which are multi-family shelters–but also on improving water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in the highly concentrated refugee areas of the country. The organization has provided assistance for 56,000 refugees and is also helping hundreds of children get access to education.
    • Syria – Since 2014, Concern Worldwide has worked in Syria to tackle waterborne diseases by installing generators and chlorinated water sources and also providing hygiene supplies. The organization also provides basic necessities to Syrians by distributing food baskets and for families with access to markets, food vouchers.

– Jordan Miller
Photo: Flickr

Oil and Poverty
Oil has been a massive drive for inequality in the modern world, especially The Organization of the Petroleum Countries (OPEC) member states. Oil and poverty intertwine, especially in OPEC nations. OPEC, at its core, is a union of oil-producing countries that work together to make decisions on how much oil countries extract and export around the world. While OPEC strength has diminished in the world with increased oil supply coming in from Canada and The United States, OPEC nations still have stranglehold grips on their economies and governments. OPEC found its beginning in the 1960s with five countries, including Kuwait, Venezuela, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Reliance on Oil Revenue

One thing that all the founding OPEC nation members have in common is a poor Freedom House Index score. Kuwait currently has the highest score with Freedom House giving it an overall score of partly free while the other four have a score determining them not free. With five distinct countries with different styles of government and cultures with one being across the globe, the one common thread is the large oil reserves that each of these countries relies on. For instance, a report by export.gov finds that “oil comprises nearly half of Kuwait’s GDP, around 95 percent of exports and approximately 90 percent of government revenue.”

The fact that government revenue comes mostly from Kuwait’s nationalized oil industry and the Kuwait Petroleum Company (KPC) shows an alarming trend. With the country relying mainly on oil revenue, the government taxes the population less, meaning that the government can ignore the requests for policy reform for less risk. If everyone in the United States decided to protest government activity, the federal government would have a serious fiscal issue on its hands, but if Kuwait’s population decided to stop paying taxes, the overall fiscal attitude of Kuwait would only change minimally.

Kuwait’s failure to support its people reflects in the numbers. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Factbook, the total unemployment rate in Kuwait is 15.4 percent, with women being 30 percent unemployed and men being 9.4 percent unemployed. The CIA also cites that current health expenditures are only 4 percent of the economy, and there are only two beds per 1,000 people. These three simple metrics show a blatant disregard towards social issues such as women’s rights and political/economic issues such as health care and infrastructure.

Solutions

In some ways, the problem of oil and poverty and OPEC is self-repairing. As large and easy oil reserves start to dry out, the cost of obtaining more oil will increase to the point where it is no longer economically feasible to extract it. There is much debate as to when this will occur, but for many western countries, green energy has already become cheaper than traditional fossil fuels. This trend reflects in its GDP growth rate, which the CIA has concluded to be negative 3.3 percent and has been negative since 2015. With 90 percent of the countries’ GDP tied up in oil and the growth rate being negative, one can infer that as the world’s oil supplies dry up and people’s preferences shift towards green energy, Kuwait will eventually have to find another way to support itself.

Fighting the fight against OPEC and oil and poverty is easier than one might think. Since OPEC operates as a union based on exports, supporting NGOs and governmental policies towards green energy in any capacity either directly on indirectly damages OPEC. A great NGO to support is Green America which has the mission statement, “Our mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.” With Green America’s goals of social equity and sustainability, it is the perfect NGO to counter oppressive regimes that profit from killing the planet.

Spencer Julian
Photo: Wikipedia

 

Cryptocurrency in Bulgaria

In the years following the fall of the Eastern Bloc, Bulgaria still struggles in comparison with the rest of Europe. As of 2016, the government of Bulgaria reported that an estimated 23.4 percent of its population lived below the poverty line, while as of 2017 the unemployed constituted around 6.2 percent of the population. Bulgaria also happens to have the lowest annual salary, minimum wage and average pension amount in Europe, while also suffering high rates of outmigration, governmental corruption and overall mortality. Though these problems may appear overwhelming, the use of cryptocurrency in Bulgaria provides a means by which steps may be taken to mitigate these issues.

Fundamentals of Cryptocurrency

As a medium of exchange, cryptocurrency by its very nature expedites humanitarian aid to distressed regions. This is because it sidesteps the need for a financial institution as an intermediary between grantor and recipient, thus providing a means of direct payment for potentially large amounts. The realities of governmental and organizational corruption and incompetence that hinder international aid may be entirely evaded, resulting in more effective and efficient aid conveyance even to the most turbulent locations.

Furthermore, an estimated 40 percent of adults, mostly residing in the developing world, face impediments to the formation of a financial identity that may appear nearly insurmountable. However, cryptocurrency provides an alternative means by which people without easy access to financial institutions or who lack sufficient capital to open a bank account may establish a financial identity and improve their chances of escaping poverty. Moreover, despite the market volatility of cryptocurrency in Bulgaria and throughout the world, it provides a fairly stable alternative compared to entrusting one’s assets in banks and other financial institutions. Savings stored as cryptocurrency are less likely to be subject to the vicissitudes of inflation, corrupt governments and asset appropriation.

How an NGO Uses Cryptocurrency in Bulgaria

The BitHope Foundation, an NGO established by Vladislav Dramaliev, provides a global crowdfunding platform for humanitarian initiatives. As the first charitable platform of its kind established on the basis of cryptocurrency in Bulgaria, it seeks to facilitate NGOs and individuals alike in their fundraising efforts. This organization hopes to incentivize businesses that accept cryptocurrency to invest in these causes, which will further bolster the public impression and acceptance of cryptocurrency as a legitimate medium of exchange.

Many crowdfunding campaigns hosted through the BitHope Foundation’s website are considered to be humanitarian successes in Bulgaria. For instance, the “Support Burgas Municipality After the Floods” campaign raised €1,749 in cryptocurrency or approximately $1,925, in response to floods that damaged parts of Burgas municipality, a region of Bulgaria on the Black Sea coast. These charitable contributions went toward the purchase of household needs including refrigerators and microwave ovens for those affected by the floods.

Specific Campaigns by BitHope

  • “Every Child Deserves A Holiday” aimed to raise charitable funds for families living below the poverty line, raising €588 or approximately $647, in cryptocurrency.
  • The “Support Positive and Character Education” campaign, which raised the equivalent of €786 (approximately $865), sought funding for programs designed to inspire children and parents to persist with schooling regardless of what predicaments may arise.
  • The “Sports Charity League” campaign enabled the funding of sports competitions for children and adolescents, after raising a cryptocurrency total of €1,522 or $1,674.
  • The 2017 funding campaign “Preeclampsia? I want to know” raised €1,132 ($1,373) for the acquisition of biomedical tests for use in screening pregnant women without charge for the potentially serious medical condition preeclampsia.
  • Also in 2017, a campaign called “Hope for Mental Health” accrued €358 ($434) in funds to assist mentally disabled children and adults in obtaining health care.

BitHope in the Present

These successes emerged in spite of numerous impediments standing in the way of using cryptocurrency in Bulgaria. Besides a global decline in the total market cap of cryptocurrency from $604 billion to $131 billion in 2018, the Bulgarian government persists throughout 2019 in its refusal to allow cryptocurrency-based organizations to open a bank account for the storage of cryptocurrency. Although this complicates the withdrawal of funds, the cryptocurrency conversion process, accounting, tax payments and payments to internet service providers, such difficulties have made the BitHope Foundation more resilient in its fight to address humanitarian issues in Bulgaria.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

QANDIL's Humanitarian Efforts
Sweden’s renown as a humanitarian superpower stems from its involvement in global aid initiatives. In 2018, the country devoted 1.04 percent of its gross national income (GNI) to overseas development, making Sweden the sixth-largest humanitarian aid contributor among the world’s countries and the largest one proportional to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). From 1975 onward, Sweden’s humanitarian aid efforts have continually surpassed the U.N.’s minimum target of developed nations spending 0.7 percent of GNI on overseas development initiatives.

One of the most well-regarded Sweden-based NGOs is QANDIL. Established in Stockholm in 1991, QANDIL’s initiatives aim to foster lasting peace and development in Iraq. Beneficiaries of its aid range from refugees and returnees to internally displaced persons and local host communities. Since 2016, QANDIL has concentrated its efforts on development in the Kurdistan region, serving as the most prominent partner of UNHCR in this region. Below are seven facts about QANDIL’s humanitarian efforts.

7 Facts About QANDIL’s Humanitarian Efforts

  1. Economic Assistance — Two Cash-Based Intervention projects implemented in 2017 raised $2,695,280 for 3,829 families in need in the Kurdistan region’s Duhok governorate. In Erbil, QANDIL distributed $3,155,800 to 3,054 families in the Erbil governorate, while $648,290 went to 1,900 families in the Sulaymaniyah governorate. Ultimately, QANDIL distributed $6,499,370 to 8,783 refugees and IDP families within three of the Kurdistan region’s governorates. This provides a foundation by which these uprooted people may become economically stable and productive.
  2. Shelter — Through the Shelter Activities Project, QANDIL supported uprooted people in search of shelter, which included 7,246 families. Among QANDIL’s successes in providing shelter-based aid is the implementation of 25 major shelter rehabilitation initiatives, encompassing five camps in the Sulaymaniyah governorate. This helped resolve the long-term problem of incomplete and hazardous structures allotted to displaced persons.
  3. Legal Services — The Outreach Project, operating in the Erbil and Duhok governorates, offers legal services to IDPs and refugees. With the participation of volunteers from both the displaced and host communities, QANDIL’s efforts have granted legal assistance to 319,773 IDPs and refugees and outreach services to 19,894 persons in the Erbil governorate alone. In the Duhok governorate, beneficiaries included 69,093 refugees and IDPs. Furthermore, in 2017, QANDIL participated in an initiative to provide mobile magistrates to administer court-related matters for displaced persons.
  4. Assistance for Gender-Based Violence Victims — With the participation of UNFPA, QANDIL commits resources to finance and submitting reports to seven local NGOs that operate 21 women’s social centers. These centers function in both responsive and preventative capacities for women both within and outside camps. Services that these centers offer include listening, counseling, referrals to other institutions, distribution of hygiene kits and even recreational activities. In total, this program has assisted 67,108 women and girls in the Duhok governorate, 11,021 in the Erbil governorate and 43,797 in the Sulaymaniyah governorate.
  5. Youth Education — Starting in 2017, QANDIL devised an educational initiative targeting Syrian refugee students, funded at approximately $271,197. The soft component of this initiative provided funding and resources for recreational activities and catch-up classes, as well as teacher capacity building training and the maintenance of parent-teacher associations, in schools enrolling refugee students in the Sulaymaniyah governorate. The initiative’s hard component comprises aid for special needs students at seven refugee schools in the Sulaymaniyah governorate.
  6. Skills Training — In collaboration with the German development aid organization GIZ, QANDIL embarked on a vocational and educational initiative aiming to benefit displaced persons residing at Debanga camp. These individuals received access to skills training and qualifications certification, ranging from plumbing and electricity to language and art, in three-week courses offering free tuition. As a whole in 2017, the vocational and educational training centers that QANDIL supported with funding from GIZ have improved the employment prospects for 1,756 individuals, out of which 546 were women.
  7. Immediate Response in Crisis Situations — With an upsurge in regional conflict on Oct. 16, 2017, came an increase in IDPs in Tuz Khurmatu, a city 88 kilometers south of Kirkuk. This event tested the efficacy and efficiency of QANDIL’s humanitarian aid efforts. By Oct. 24, QANDIL’s Emergency Response Committee began dispensing out emergency kits to persons that the conflict escalation affected. Included in these packages were necessities, food and non-food items alike. By Oct. 25, QANDIL parceled out 1,237 emergency kits to aid-seekers distributed over 25 locations in the Sulaymaniyah and Garmian regions. That same day, 600 aid-seekers received aid packages in the Erbil and Koya regions, while the rest of the aid made its way to other camps in the Sulaymaniyah area.

From education to vocational training to sanitation and hygiene and shelter and legal services, QANDIL’s humanitarian efforts in the Kurdistan region of Iraq continue to make a difference for the lives of thousands of displaced and settled people alike. Thus, QANDIL serves as an ambassador for Sweden’s humanitarian aid mission. Whether in the course of sustained initiatives or responses to imminent crises, QANDIL persists in its constructive humanitarian aid role in an unstable region. It is through the tireless efforts of such NGOs as QANDIL that Sweden continues to serve as a model in humanitarian aid initiatives to the rest of the world.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Technology and PhilanthropyThe ongoing technological revolution is redefining how global political, social and economic development happens. Currently, around 50 percent of the world is online. According to “Digital Spillover” research conducted by Huawei and Oxford Economics, the digital economy was worth $11.5 trillion in 2016, or 15.5 percent of global gross domestic product. This could grow to nearly 25 percent of global GDP by 2025. This not only transforms today’s business landscape but also the business of doing good deeds. Here are three ways that the relationship between technology and philanthropy is already evolving.

  1. Direct Access to Donors Through Social Media
    Technology can be used to nurture closer links between donors and nonprofits. According to Giving USA, individuals, corporations, foundations and estates donated $410 billion to charities in 2017. This represents less than 3 percent of the United States’ GDP. Working to change this number through fundraising technology is social media platform Facebook. In November 2018, three years of launching its fundraising technology, Facebook reported that donations have broken $1 billion. No Kid Hungry, a U.S.-based child-hunger charity, reported raising $5 million from over 200,000 donors through Facebook fundraisers. Other social media platforms, like GoFundMe, have also made it easier for individuals to connect with causes they feel passionate about. Houses for Refugees is a notable beneficiary of such advancements, receiving over $2 million in donations through crowdfunding and online campaigning.
  2. Unmediated Engagement With People in Need
    Although many people in the world are not yet able to access the necessary technology, the internet is helping connect NGOs and their clientele more efficiently. This will change how NGOs are able to operate in cases of natural or financial disasters, as well as create new and innovative ways in which organizations can make a difference. Mobile cash transfers are becoming a popular way of transferring money to those in remote areas of the world. For example, in 2017, because of difficulties in establishing cash liquidity in Zimbabwe, the U.K. government partnered with CARE International, a major humanitarian organization that is fighting poverty in 92 countries worldwide. This partnership provided small monthly cash payments by mobile phone or SIM cards to over 72,000 families, enabling them to continue buying basic foodstuffs and utilities. Technology can also be used to develop help build communities from the inside, by reducing long-standing tensions between communities. One example of a technology company hoping to change lives by connecting people is Tech2Peace, a joint Palestinian-Israeli startup designed to train youth in technical skills such as website building, while also encouraging intercultural dialogue and conflict resolution sessions.
  3. Better Analytics to Improve Efficiency
    Technology companies are helping nonprofits streamline their systems of data collection and analytics. New technological developments are changing how companies can exercise “Corporate Social Responsibility,” or CSR, an ethical business strategy designed to maximize a company’s positive social influence. For example, Microsoft is currently partnered with the Virginia-based charity Operation Smile, which provides children with the free surgical repair for cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. Operation Smile has a number of programs including operating international medical missions, running care facilities, conducting research on the causes of cleft lip and providing education to improve community treatment worldwide. One area where Microsoft assists Operation Smile is by developing customized solutions that allow the organization to analyze real-time patient outcomes and feedback, sharing simultaneously this data with volunteers around the globe. This cuts downtime spent by individual surgeons for patient evaluations and allows Operation Smile to perform more operations.

Technology and philanthropy are intricately connected. Advancement in technology has improved the relationship between donors and charities, charities and beneficiaries, and streamlined all the processes that define these relationships. As the technological revolution finds new ways to change the world, it will also find new ways to help those in need.

Holly Barsham
Photo: Google Images