Homelessness in SurinameSuriname is a small country located in northern South America, bearing an abundance of natural resources and a range of cultures. Like many others, this nation stems from a history of colonialism. Therefore, many of its Indigenous populations experienced displacement in favor of immigrants since the 16th century. However, homelessness in Suriname remains a problem, as the country struggles with poverty and economic development.

An Ongoing Housing Problem

Despite having plenty of economic assets, Suriname has struggled to build a stable economy due to a number of factors. Corruption within the government has tarnished many economic sectors dominated by state-owned firms. Consistent economic depreciation has also made Suriname a less appealing destination for foreign aid and investment. However, the recent discovery of oil fields has ignited some interest in that market.

A failure to manage credit, public debt, tax collection and monetary policy are chief reasons for an increase in inflation. This has further led to the suppression of property rights among citizens. Unfortunately, the government’s repossession of citizens’ property and land has only worsened poverty and homelessness in Suriname. The government owns 98% of the country’s land, which has not benefited working-class citizens. Furthermore, this scarcity of private property has made it increasingly difficult for many workers to acquire their own land and achieve economic stability.

Homelessness in Suriname: The Statistics

Homelessness in Suriname is reportedly low, but the numbers are deceptive. Only homeless people in populous areas count in official statistics, which disregard people outside of these regions. This is because there are few mechanisms in place to matriculate citizens in Suriname. Additionally, only two organizations address homelessness in Suriname. There is also no day-and-night shelter for the homeless to take sanctuary in the capital city of Paramaribo. In recent years, this has left the homeless susceptible to violent attacks without any actionable means for justice or prevention.

In 2019, the government evicted 37 permanent residents from two shelters, which got shut down suddenly without clear reason. Overall, Suriname lacks a reliable infrastructure to address the growing prevalence of informal settlements, housing crises and urban sprawl. This has led non-governmental organizations to stage a plan for restoring land and property rights to destitute populations in Suriname.

The Government and an NGO Compete for a Solution

Suriname instituted a program in 2011 intending to divest land capital from the government back to its citizens. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) financed the program. Specifically, the program gave a one-time subsidy to low-income beneficiaries. Chosen by a sophisticated targeting system that subverted self-reported income statements, these beneficiaries received $3,000. This money improved current housing situations or went toward a down payment for a new home on another property.

However, beneficiaries had to own the land on which to build that house. This is an anomaly for almost any citizen, especially poor citizens. The program’s inherent bias toward those who already owned a home continued to alienate the most vulnerable. It also disregarded the goal to restore land rights to homeless people. Overall, the program exposed how unaffordable and infeasible land ownership is in Suriname. Only 87 new homes came out of this program as of November 2014, leaving homelessness in Suriname unresolved.

An Action Plan for Paramaribo

The IDB itself created an action plan in 2019 to address the alarming rate of housing disenfranchisement in Paramaribo. The plan outlines a comprehensive year-long study to map out the extent of homelessness in Suriname. It also includes strategies to transform informal living situations into habitable shelters. Specifically, one strategy the plan described was the implementation of a housing quality program. This would staff a project team to monitor and collect data from citizens who live in precarious situations.

The staff would also work in conjunction with an unburdening program to help families in financial duress. By locating and obtaining the means to build on new land, the program would help families resolve their housing deprivation.  In total, the IDB’s 264-page action plan reflects a steadfast effort to reduce homelessness in Suriname from an NGO. This is in stark contrast to the country’s government.

Conclusion

There is no one solution to the decaying stability of property rights and housing ownership in Suriname. Working-class citizens and homeless people alike can only hope for other well-funded NGOs like the IDB to intervene in issues neglected by the government. With this sort of dedicated assistance, homelessness in Suriname can decline within the next few years.

– Camden Gilreath
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in MexicoIn the past five decades, healthcare in Mexico has demonstrated significant improvement. The country has a highly effective vaccination program, which often covers over 95% of the population. This program played a significant role in lowering Mexico’s child mortality rate. Mexican life expectancy rose from 42 years to 73 from the 1940s to the 2000s. Despite this progress, Mexico’s fragmented healthcare structure persists and reflects the country’s rampant economic inequality. Socioeconomic status often determines access to quality Mexican healthcare. Therefore, the system often neglects the health of lower social classes.

The Mexican Healthcare System

Healthcare in Mexico consists of three separate structures:

Public healthcare: It is provided by a number of different bureaucratic bodies to help cover medical expenses for employees and their families, or formerly employed workers and their families. Employers, employee taxes and government contributions finance this system.

Private health insurance: It is paid for almost completely out-of-pocket by less than two million Mexican citizens.

Medical services: The Ministry of Health and NGOs provide these to cover Mexico’s uninsured population.

Since its creation in 1943, the healthcare system in Mexico has not changed significantly.

Problems with the Mexican Healthcare System

One of the biggest issues with the healthcare system in Mexico is its financing. Citizens directly pay more than 50% of the total health spending. A study estimates that over two million households commit over a third of their income to medical costs every year. This system, along with limited access to social security institutions, furthers economic gaps within the Mexican population. Rather than expanding the system to create a universal healthcare provider, “parallel social security institutions” exist to cover different types of workers, such as federal employees and military personnel. Thus an already disjointed system is further fragmented into independent arrangements that are not consistent in their financing and services.

Many people fail to qualify for insurance in such a disconnected system. Therefore, the Ministry of Health has become an increasingly important healthcare provider. Consequently, rampant inequalities in terms of both access to and quality of medical services persist within healthcare in Mexico. Wealthier economic classes have access to “excellent specialty-trained physicians and high-technology tertiary-care medical centers” comparable to those in the United States. The poorest societal classes often resort to unregulated and often unqualified private physicians.

This equity problem has a tangible impact on the overall health of the population. For example, the infant mortality rate in poor neighborhoods is almost 100 babies (per thousand live births) more than that in rich neighborhoods. The maternal mortality rate in certain indigenous communities is almost three per thousand live births, while the national rate is less than one. Less than 10% of women from low-income households deliver their babies in hospitals, compared to more than 80% of women in higher-income households.

The Mexican healthcare system calls for major changes. In the meantime, however, nonprofits are helping the Ministry of Health deliver medical services to the uninsured population.

International Community Foundation

The International Community Foundation (ICF) is a California-based nonprofit organization that works to inspire and direct American donations to Northwest Mexico. ICF “seeks to increase health, education and environmental grantmaking to local organizations in Northwest Mexico, with the goal of strengthening civil society and promoting sustainable communities”. ICF maintains relationships with Mexican nonprofits and community leaders to create a direct connection between donors and the causes they’re invested in. This allows the nonprofit to identify determinants of health, support interventions that confront Mexican public health problems and provide medical services to those excluded from the healthcare system. In 2018 alone, ICF directed over one million dollars towards humanitarian services in Mexico, with an emphasis on healthcare.

Despite having improved over the last five decades, healthcare in Mexico does not sufficiently cover its population. Fortunately, nonprofits like ICF work to fill in the gaps in the system.

Margherita Bassi

Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic has a population of about 10 million people. About 11,000 of these people experience homelessness. However, due to a lack of data collection, this number is inaccurate. According to the Expert Group, which the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs created, around 100,000 people were homeless or at risk of homelessness as of 2017. The government has stepped in to help prevent homelessness, but the current policies in place are not sufficient to reduce homelessness in the Czech Republic.

Current Policies and Issues

Policies are in place to prevent individuals and families from losing their homes. An act on assistance in material need came into effect in 2007. This act regulates how the government provides assistance and assures basic living conditions to people in homeless situations. Additionally, the system serves as motivation to active effort for ensuring a means to meet basic necessities in life and to prevent social exclusion.

According to the act, municipal authorities are responsible for providing benefits in a few ways. One way is an allowance of living. This covers cases of material need that tackles the insufficient income of a person or family. Furthermore, beneficiaries have an entitlement to an allowance of living if the person or family’s income is less than the amount of living after the deduction of reasonable housing costs.

A second way is the supplement of housing. This tackles cases where the income of the person or family including the allowance is insufficient in covering housing costs. A third way is extraordinary immediate assistance. This goes to low-income persons who find themselves in situations that require immediate solutions. These situations might include a serious threat to health, natural disasters, not having enough resources to cover essential expenditures, not having enough resources to cover basic necessities for dependent children and persons at risk of social exclusion. The act helped about 1.2 million people receive benefits in its first year of implementation.

Services for the Homeless

There are services available to help people manage homelessness. These services include hostels, day centers, halfway houses and outreach programs. Day centers offer people emergency assistance, meals and facilities for personal hygiene. Moreover, they distribute clothes and organize cultural and educational programs. However, hostels have proven to be a problem. Owners of hostels have taken advantage of people by up charging their services. Furthermore, the conditions are also substandard and unsanitary.

Additionally, homelessness in the Czech Republic faces a lack of funding for services. Regional and national authorities co-manage the current system of annual calls for proposals. This means that homeless people are reliant on unstable funding sources. As a result, facilities have shut down over time due to the lack of funding.

How the Czech Republic Plans to Tackle Homelessness

The government plans to tackle homelessness with four sets of goals in 2020. The first set of goals involves access to housing. This includes the standardization of state support for public housing and creating a functioning system of homelessness prevention. The functioning system supports formerly homeless people who obtained housing so they do not lose their homes again.

Furthermore, it supports the implementation of tools to enable the transition of people from being homeless to entering housing. It is also working toward more effective use of the existing instruments of the system’s benefits, the reinforcement of the coordinating and planning role of municipalities within extended powers in relation to people in an adverse housing situation and the creation of supporting instruments for implementing those roles.

The second goal has to do with social services. Social services will better respond to the needs of homeless people and people at risk of losing their house in adverse social situations. The third set of goals relates to access to healthcare. This plan is to increase accessibility, create possibilities and focus on prevention with comprehensive healthcare for homeless people. Additionally, this goal also includes raising awareness to the general public, healthcare workers and social service workers to de-stigmatize homeless people.

The final set of goals involves awareness, involvement and cooperation. This plan is to create a network for retrieving information that is concentrated in municipalities. It has extended powers focused on homelessness among relevant stakeholders working with homeless people. This will fulfill conditions for statistics, records, communication, mobility of homeless people and the use of social services. In addition, the plan is to create an effective system of primary prevention through training, education and awareness-raising.

How NGOs Have Helped the Homeless

Homeless people in the Czech Republic often rely on NGOs for assistance. IQ Roma Servis is an NGO that implemented a project called the Housing First concept that provided housing for more than 400 families in the Czech Republic in 2016. The project had a municipality in Brno provide flats to families who previously lived in a form of a homeless shelter. Moreover, families also received intensive case management and a substantial housing subsidy.

A study occurred to understand the effects of this project. As a result, the study found a decrease in the time families spent homeless and found an improvement in housing security. Other positive outcomes include an improvement in the mental health of mothers, decreased use of emergency health services, decreased sickness in children, better social integration of the parents, improved financial security in households, decreased feelings of social anomaly and improvement in overall quality of life.

The government has a long way to go to prevent homelessness in the Czech Republic. If the government provides additional support and organizations to help the homeless population, it should be able to provide aid to more than 100,000 citizens who are at risk.

– Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in India
India, the second-most populous country in the world, faces a surprising paradox in its health care system. Though it has become a hub for high-quality medical treatment at supposedly affordable costs, health-related expenses cause as many as 63 million people in India to fall into poverty annually. As a result, it is essential that the country makes improvements to health care in India in order to improve its accessibility to those in poverty.

Fixing a Faulty Health Care System

As of 2015, prime minister Narendra Modi proposed the National Health Policy (NHP) to provide universal health care in India, regardless of socioeconomic status. This new policy also guarantees free public health care for those living below the poverty line.

This policy suggests an ambitious reform. Private practitioners continue to dominate India’s health care market. In fact, the private sector provides approximately 70% of health care.

Many more barriers come with delivering a new and improved health care program. With a severe shortage of medical professionals, financing issues and the public’s general lack of trust in the country’s ability to implement effective health care resources, India faces a problem in reforming its health care system.

This has presented a problem for citizens and the government alike. The government wastes expenditures on underutilized resources. Meanwhile, the private sector could include illegally trained doctors and possible medical malpractice, which may entail dangerous treatment and unnecessary expenditures for citizens. The prevalence of private health care partnered with poor insurance regulations results in up to 70% of medical costs from out-of-pocket expenditures, which exacerbates the economic stresses that the nation’s poor feels.

Lack of Public Trust

The driving force behind the underutilization of health care in India is public mistrust. People typically seek help from village doctors first, who are typically closer in proximity to their homes. Many citizens are also wary of poor service in public systems: many patients experience disrespect or the public systems overcharge them for various medical expenses and treatments.

Many citizens hesitate to turn to public hospitals until it is their last resort. There are cases of individuals earning less than INR 10 per day who would seek private care facilities rather than obtain government-granted medical care.

Cases like these are some in a pool of many. There are cases of mothers waiting hours before receiving help in labor, or individuals struggling to pay for necessary medications.

The expensive price tag of private practitioners makes quality care essentially inaccessible to those living in poverty. The prevalence of many low-income individuals desperate to pay high price tags for private care as opposed to visiting free, government-funded institutions presents a clear exclamation: health care in India experience reform to prioritize the trusts and needs of its residents.

Addressing the Problem

As low-income individuals face difficulty in obtaining quality health care, a number of organizations that readily seek to help continuously emerge.

HelpAge India has been around for multiple decades and has earned multiple accolades (NGO Leadership & Excellence Award, Times Social Impact Award, etc.) for its continued support of elderly populations in India. This NGO provides free medical care (cataract surgeries, cancer care, etc.) that would otherwise be unaffordable to many individuals in India.

The Smile Foundation has also focused on providing equitable medical care, especially to underprivileged families. The Smile Foundation provides easier access to health care in slums and lower-income communities and also promotes health care awareness within these communities.

The Rural Health Care Foundation also provides health care to low-income communities all across India. It provides primary care diagnoses, medications and cataract/cleft lip surgeries for those who are unable to pay for these procedures.

These organizations are a few of many seeking to improve systems of health care in India. The implementation of a new and improved health care system is ongoing. However, a combination of both newfound public optimism and institutional change is necessary to ensure health care access to everyone.

– Vanna Figueroa
Photo: Flickr

Restore Haiti
Restore Haiti aims to reduce global poverty through a child sponsorship program and relationship building in regions of Haiti. This nonprofit organization founded and formed through friendship continues to change communities through relationships.

How it Started

In 1997, Restore Haiti founder Philip Peters went on a mission trip to Jamaica. There he met Gerald Lafleur, a student on the island. They quickly became friends over the trip and the two stayed in touch through letters. In 2004, Peters took a team of 12 to visit Lafleur. There, Lafleur shared his vision to help his homeland of Haiti with Peters. The two wasted no time and a year later Peters took a team of six to visit a local community in Haiti. “After seeing the need, I knew that the little that I had and the resources that I had were something I could use, and a long-term commitment was birthed,” said Peters. With the help of mentors and the local church, Peters gathered clothes and shoes to donate to the community.

“I want[ed] to live life with them,” said Peters. “When I saw the look in their eyes, I knew a relationship was starting to develop and I wondered what could happen as those relationships went deeper and deeper.” Go deeper the organization did, as Peters and Theresa Swain, Restore Haiti’s Executive Director, partnered with others in the U.S. and Haiti to create a child sponsorship program.

Morne Oge

Restore Haiti serves in three main locations, Morne Oge, Matador and Carrefour. All three communities operate five days a week providing education and hot meals for students through the child sponsorship program. In the Morne Oge region, where the nonprofit originated, it partners with Restoration Ministries to provide food, education and medical care to those in the sponsorship program. In addition, this program equips over 700 elementary, secondary and university/trade school students with sponsorship for their education. A medical clinic within walking distance from the feeding program gives students access to health care. The Restore Center located a short distance away in downtown Jacmel houses a computer lab for both students and staff.

The Matador Region

The nonprofit’s work in the Matador region, located on the outskirts of Jacmel a few miles from Morne Oge, serves 240 children who attend elementary school. These students suffered malnutrition and the community had no funds to pay teachers. In 2016, Restore Haiti extended scholarship opportunities to students in this region to help cover tuition to keep the school open. The nonprofit also extends hot meals and medical care to students in this region.

Carrefour

Restore Haiti’s location in Carrefour near Port-Au-Prince provides education and food for the children in this region. Additionally, this region focuses on mentorships with students, life skills training and character building. “In Carrefour, they are receiving English lessons and art classes at this time,” Juli Wendt, the Director of International Service for Restore Haiti, told The Borgen Project. In an area where most youth join gangs or live troubled lives, providing food, education and life skills gives the necessary foundation for change in this community. According to the Overseas Security Advisory Counsel’s Haiti 2019 Crime & Safety Report, gang on gang violence has risen along with homicides, which totaled 757 in the Port-au-Prince region approximately four miles from Carrefour.

Reynold Yordy, President of Restore Haiti, reported that “[The people of Haiti] need a hand up, not necessarily a handout. That is what I am excited to see us do as an organization…having people mentor someone.” With a dedication to see relationships built and mentorship continue, Restore Haiti changes the community.

Restore Haiti’s Accomplishments

Restore Haiti has several accomplishments. Along with a child sponsorship program, the nonprofit focuses on disaster relief providing water and re-establishing agriculture for local farms. In addition, Restore Haiti provides supplies and tuition for 60 schools, drills wells for clean water and prepares students for universities and trade schools.

Restore Haiti employs over 50 Haitians who serve over 1,000 students in these three communities. Juli Wendt told The Borgen Project that “38 students have graduated with the majority being female, 30 girls and eight males. We motivated the girls more to succeed as they were the most vulnerable group and it clearly paid off.” An education impacts earnings, childbearing, population growth, health, nutrition, well-being and personal decision making for girls according to a Global Partnership Study.

This cultural shift also comes from the students giving back. For instance, Larry John, a graduate of the Restore Haiti program, got to attend school and university through the sponsorship program. “We children [had] a place every day to go to school, reduc[ing] the consequences we have here in Haiti,” he said. Reducing those consequences by providing students with education and food gives them an opportunity to live life. Now he works for Restore Haiti as a photographer in the program and lives the life he dreamed. “The program gave me a monthly salary which allowed me to get married,” he said. In addition to having a life of his own, he gets to give back hope to his community.

The Future for Restore Haiti

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Philip Peters said that “As Restore Haiti has been in existence for 15 years, we…started with wanting to see [kids] eat, have access to medical care and go to school. As those students have grown up, it is our desire to continue to offer [them] opportunities for life. That could be enrolling in university, pinpointing skills and having them get a job, get married and build a life of their own.” When asked how Restore Haiti can help graduates and the community going forward, Peters said that “With the program, we currently offer over 50 jobs, from medical staff, cooks, teachers and now creating photography, video and social media teams. We are committed to dream, find jobs, opportunities and team up with people to help us provide jobs as we see more and more [students] move into adulthood.”

– Danielle Beatty
Photo: Flickr

civil society response to HIV in South AfricaAccording to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), South Africa has the largest population of people infected with HIV globally. One of the first countries afflicted with the epidemic in the 1980s, South Africa holds one eighth of the world’s AIDS population. One in nine South Africans and one in four adults are infected. The civil society response to HIV in South Africa has been crucial in addressing the virus and encouraging the government to take action as well.

Government Inaction

South Africa’s HIV statistics are staggering, even in comparison to other countries with large numbers of infected people, like Brazil and India. The problem of HIV in South Africa results from the government’s inadequate response to the epidemic until 2008. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the nation’s health minister from 1999 to 2008, refused to promote efficacious treatments such as antiretroviral therapy (ART). He called the antiviral treatments, widely endorsed by the global scientific community, “poison.” Tshabalala-Msimang instead promoted unscientific and largely ineffective treatments such as vitamins, beetroot and garlic. None of these have been shown to protect the health of people who are fighting the effects of the virus.

The year 2002 marked a turning point for the civil society response to HIV in South Africa. AIDS activists and others pushed back against a government policy that attempted to stifle access to effective treatments. In a historic judgment that initiated the fall of Tshabalala-Msimang, the South African courts ruled in favor of the activists. The ruling forced the government to take a more proactive role in fighting the epidemic. Later in 2006, the South African government established a national policy addressing HIV/AIDS following court processes instigated by AIDS activists. This policy broadened the distribution of life-saving drugs such as ART, addressed the shortage of healthcare workers and improved the treatment of HIV in pregnant women.

HIV/AIDS Activism

The South African government’s policies of misinformation and its ill-advised public health approaches to the epidemic worked to downplay the virus as a pressing threat. Because of Tshabalala-Msimang’s respectability and position of power, his rhetoric only fueled AIDS deniers. Still, South African scientists, medical professionals and activists banded together to challenge the government’s deadly inaction with the civil society response to HIV in South Africa.

From the onset of the epidemic, NGOs, CBOs, faith-based groups and activist groups took action to promote the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. This civil society response to HIV in South Africa effectively addressed the acute inadequacy of the government’s response. These groups understood the importance of comprehensive responses to HIV even before international agencies drew connections between the various moving parts associated with the virus. For example, they emphasized the importance of condoms, bringing a wide range of issues into the public eye. Additionally, the groups stressed information, education and communication (IEC) initiatives to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Foundation South Africa

A large part of the civil society response to HIV in South Africa, AIDS Foundation South Africa (AFSA) was the first registered AIDS NGO in South Africa, and it is currently one of the largest. The organization recognizes the complexity of the virus and the need to address it in a comprehensive way. AFSA focuses on a combination of treatment, prevention, child protection, food security, education and access to basic services. Additionally, AFSA recognizes that different communities have different needs when it comes to AIDS treatment and prevention. As such, the organization serves as a liaison for smaller organizations that might require research, funding, strategies and general aid.

In 2012, for example, AFSA conducted a program in KwaZulu-Natal to engage in work that supported various community programs. These programs included AIDS education and testing, childhood development, community care programs and food security endeavors. The organization is currently on track to meet its 2020 goal of 90% of all people living with HIV to know their status. It also aims to have 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV receiving ART and 90% of people receiving ART having viral suppression, a sign of the treatment’s efficacy.

New Administration

The importance the civil society response to HIV in South Africa is especially clear with the resignation of President Mbeki as well as Tshabalala-Msimang. Elected in 2009 by a large majority, President Jacob Zuma ran on a campaign that acknowledged the urgency of stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Once elected, Zuma appointed Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi as minister of health. Motsoaledi turned the government’s focus to HIV response.

During Zuma’s term, which ended in 2018, South Africa launched a massive national HIV counseling and testing campaign (HCT), and Zuma himself publicized his HIV test. This campaign also included large-scale medical male circumcision (MMC), which mitigates the spread of the virus in many cases. By the end of 2010, more than half of adults and a third of children eligible for ART were receiving the treatment. Furthermore, the average price of HIV drugs decreased by more than 40% between 2010 and 2014.

Moving Forward

South African society has made monumental strides in addressing HIV/AIDS. However, stigma against several groups particularly afflicted by the disease stands in the way of a truly holistic response. For example, transgender women in South Africa are two times as likely to have HIV than men who have sex with men, but they are routinely excluded from studies and comprehensive care. Additionally, HIV among sex workers is as high as 71.8% in Johannesburg. Because sex work is criminalized in South Africa, AIDS treatment and potentially life-saving health information are less accessible. To more fully address HIV/AIDS, South Africa will have to turn to these issues next.

Kate Ciolkowski-Winters
Photo: Flickr

NGOs Have Evolved
Non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, have worked to assist those in the most need around the world. With the development of a global pandemic, COVID-19, however, multiple NGOs have had to reform multiple aspects of their organizations’ systems, changing elements from distribution of services to availability of staff around the world. Despite the coronavirus, however, many NGOs and large companies have collaborated in order to further their missions and goals, while still maintaining strict protocols for staff in order to minimize the development of the negative effects associated with COVID-19. This article will explain how NGOs have evolved amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is an NGO?

According to the United Nations, a “non-governmental organization,” most commonly referred to as an “NGO,” is defined as, “a not-for-profit, voluntary citizen’s group that is organized on a local, national, or international level to address issues in support of the public good.” NGOs often aim to address certain issues faced by vulnerable individuals, including those who are living in poverty or are disabled. NGOs are crucial in international development, often receiving funding from individuals in relatively richer countries and bilateral development agencies as well. In addition, while some NGOs focus on pursuing an individual policy objective, others uphold a more multifaceted approach, promoting various policy objectives, such as homelessness eradication or the reduction of global hunger.

Changes to the Ford Foundation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With the recent development of the prevalence of the coronavirus pandemic around the world, NGOs have evolved with both minor and drastic changes to the implementation of their services while also ensuring the safety of their processes. Elizabeth Knup, the regional director in China for the Ford Foundation, explained that staff has primarily been working from home as a result of the fact that the organization is deemed non-essential with regard to the maintenance of the economy. According to Knup, approximately 40% of what the Ford Foundation does includes getting together with grantees, paying visits to their locations and taking part in their events. However, much of the work of the Ford Foundation has experienced severe limitations due to the necessity to maintain social distancing and personal quarantining measures, along with the prevention of government events, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite this, the Ford Foundation has decided to partner with one of its grantees to better promote volunteerism among individuals with white-collar jobs. Such a decision to pursue volunteerism has also involved the government making it increasingly possible for more and more individuals to partake in volunteering services. In addition, in this way, the government is working to enhance its ability to conduct effective organization of volunteers. The Ford Foundation has also been collaborating with one of its other grantees in order to enhance a platform for domestic Chinese foundations to fuse their particular resources and be stronger and more supported as a larger network. When questioned about the likelihood that civil society NGO roles would increase in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, Knup explained that, in crises, NGOs have provided a large amount of aid to those in the most need, not only with regard to relief but also in the case of continued aid post-crisis.

Other NGOs

In addition to the Ford Foundation, however, other NGOs have evolved to further their missions with the aid of others. For example, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, also known as OCHA, has been contributing funds to NGOs around the world in order to further the positive effects of their services. As a result of this funding, for example, CARE Sudan has been able to develop isolation centers in the South Kordofan State and provide training to about 150 volunteers to kickstart awareness campaigns regarding the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the Humanitarian Fund in Yemen collaborated with the Abyan Youth Foundation in order to incorporate coronavirus education measures into its programs. In addition to making prevalent such information, however, the organizations have also worked to distribute hygiene kits to populations in the most need. The Kachin Baptist Convention in Myanmar has served as one of multiple NGOs that has consistently been working to ensure that individuals resulting in camps for internally displaced people (IDP) are able to access clean water in order to prevent themselves from contracting coronavirus. With such funding, the NGO has also ensured that over 2,400 vulnerable individuals would take the necessary hygiene protocols to minimize the prevalence of COVID-19.

Globally, COVID-19 has negatively impacted aspects of society, including increasing violence among workers, bringing about the sudden development of outbreaks as a result of missed vaccinations, global remittances getting squeezed as a result of business shutdowns and being observed to increase the number of individuals facing a food crisis dramatically. With these warnings in mind, however, NGOs like those previously mentioned, have evolved and are working tirelessly to enact positive change globally, bringing hope to those who need it most. From collaborating with other NGOs and companies to working independently with the aid of funding from other resources, NGOs have brought about massive reform to their structures of service in order to function more efficiently. Although the future of NGOs is uncertain as a result of the current global pandemic, it is evident that many are becoming increasingly aware of how to restructure in ways they most likely have never imagined. With this in mind, then, NGOs seem poised to emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever.

– Aprile Bertomo
Photo: Flickr

poverty eradication in Spain
While Spain is officially classified as a high-income country, it is not exempt from unceasingly high rates of poverty. Philip Alston, a U.N. expert, recently commented that poverty rates in Spain are “appallingly high” and among the highest in all of Europe. However, efforts to achieve eventual poverty eradication in Spain are underway.

Context

In 2018, over 26% of people in Spain were at high risk of poverty or social exclusion. Moreover, poverty particularly affected children (minors under the age of 18) — with nearly 33% of them either currently living in poverty, or at-risk. A contributing factor in the lingering poverty within these communities is the perpetuation of social immobility among citizens. According to Forbes, Spanish citizens born into families of wealth earn 40% more than people who are born into low-income households. The opportunities these people have to rise out of poverty on their own are nearly non-existent.

The Spanish government and nonprofit organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the issue of high poverty rates within the country. The government, along with other organizations are employing strategic innovations and other strategies every day to address poverty eradication in Spain. 

Government Innovations & Strategies

In March 2019, the National Strategy to Prevent and Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion passed as a new poverty-reduction movement. With its effective timeline lasting through 2023, the strategy includes four key components: (1) the reduction of current poverty, (2) raising social investment in education and employment, (3) increased social protections for at-risk citizens and (4) improving the effectiveness of public policies surrounding poverty eradication in Spain. This movement serves as an important step for the country’s government because it creates a space to address poverty eradication in Spain on a federal level — catering to the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Spain has recently made vast improvements to its minimum income scheme. With the goal of bringing 1.6 million people out of poverty, the new plan will ensure that families have an income between $514 and $1,130 per month, depending on their eligibility. The social program will take into account the number of children per household, single-parent households, annual income and finally, assets. In the words of Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, this poverty reduction strategy has birthed “a new social right in Spain” and looks to dissolve deeply ingrained social inequalities among its people.

Nonprofit Initiatives

The Spanish government is not the only body taking action to alleviate poverty. Organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages are actively working on lifting communities out of poverty. While the organization recognizes that Spain is actively working to address national poverty at large, it believes there is more to do in supporting individual families. Spain has the third highest childhood poverty rate in all of Europe and SOS Children’s Villages primarily targets these vulnerable and at-risk children through their many day centers and homeless villages. In hopes of creating more safe and secure Spanish households, it also focuses on psychological counseling for families and works to aid unemployed citizens in finding work. With ongoing humanitarian work in eight locations within mainland Spain and the Canary Islands, SOS Children’s Villages is an example of an organization that is actively working towards poverty eradication in Spain.

Implications

On both the public (federal) and private levels, Spain is developing new innovations and strategies to address its crippling poverty rates. The government’s plans to improve social programs and safety nets while ensuring income guarantees will potentially affect millions of people in struggling Spanish communities. Supplemented with the aid of nonprofit organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages, the goals of these programs hold promises of a better, more secure future for millions of people.

Karli Stone
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Israel
Despite being a high-income country, Israel has one of the highest rates of hunger and poverty in the developed world. Many citizens experience hunger and have relied on NGOs to provide food. They are also asking for the government to take further action, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Israel is a small country located in the Middle East with an estimated population of 8.7 million people. Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt border it. Established as an independent country in 1948, its gross domestic product (GDP) has grown significantly over time. This has made Israel a high-income country.

Food Insecurity in Israel

Despite Israel having the categorization of a high-income country, about 25% of individuals living in Israel experience food insecurity, and up to 40% are living with extreme hunger. According to the Poverty and Social Gaps Annual Report by the National Insurance Institute of Israel, Israel has one of the highest rates of hunger in the developed world. In particular, food insecurity and poverty tend to disproportionately affect:

  1. Orthodox Jewish communities
  2. Arab communities
  3. Single mothers
  4. Elderly individuals
  5. Families
  6. Children

There is adequate food available in the country as a whole. However, there is a notable discrepancy between income levels and nutritious food available. The risk of hunger in Arab and Orthodox Jewish families attributes to potentially larger families and lower employment levels. For ultra-Orthodox Jews, 50% of men and 73% of women do not have employment. Additionally, more than 800,000 children were living in poverty as of 2016. This has resulted in almost one-third of Israeli children experiencing hunger on a regular basis.

The Response of the Israeli Government

In response to hunger in Israel, nonprofit organizations have taken the large responsibility to provide for people in the country. On the other hand, the response of the Israeli government in regard to this issue has left many dissatisfied.

In an interview with Channel 12 in Israel, Minister Tzachi Hanegbi made controversial remarks. He said people in Israel who claim to struggle with food insecurity are talking “nonsense” and are not actually starving. He has since apologized, stating that he intended to convey that “[his interviewers’] extreme and gross criticism of the government creates fear amongst the public, instead of hope,” and that “the government that I am part of works day and night to put Israel back on the track of a healthy and flourishing economy.” Hanegbi’s initial comments have caused public disbelief and outrage in Israel and around the world.

Response of NGOs

Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new economic hardships that further complicate efforts to reduce inequality and provide adequate food. Many expect that a major food crisis will occur as a result of the pandemic. GDP in the country has fallen 1.7% in the first quarter of 2020, while it had previously been rising.

As a result, there has been an increasing reliance on NGOs. Leket Israel, the largest food rescue program in the country, fed over 175,000 people in need before the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the pandemic and resulting economic situation, it began a new program that delivers food directly to homes. With this program, it sent over 700,000 meals to people, many of whom never needed food assistance before the pandemic.

Other NGOs like Latet and Mazon made significant impacts regarding combating hunger in Israel and providing food to lower-income citizens. Latet is a large NGO that fights food insecurity in Israel and is partnered with 180 other local organizations in the country. It provides monthly assistance to 60,000 families, according to its website.

Policies and Government Efforts

The amount of policies toward the reduction of poverty has increased by 3.4% in 2016 in comparison to the previous year. This demonstrates the importance of continued governmental support.

The Israeli Forum for Sustainable Nutrition has been campaigning for changes toward better nutrition, improved health and environmental sustainability. Some of its projects include creating a data center for public use about nutrition and the environment, counseling municipalities, advancing research and holding the government accountable for advertising misinformation about food and the environment. It holds annual conferences and has had over 60 professional seminars with government officials, policymakers, academic experts and others.

In 2017, there was an increase in the minimum wage. It went from NIS 5,000 per month at the beginning of the year to NIS 5,300 by the end. In addition, in 2016, 80% of households had employment. This has resulted in a reduction in poverty and hunger for elderly individuals, Arab communities and immigrants in Israel. However, since COVID-19, unemployment has again increased within a month from under 4% to nearly 25% in April 2020 and leaving more than 1 million people without jobs. While there is continual progress, the government still relies mostly on NGOs and third-party organizations. Overall, more change must occur to improve the issue of hunger in Israel and support a more balanced world.

– Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Unsplash