Social unrest
Social unrest is something that the world has seen a lot throughout history. Pandemics, which can lead to job loss and food insecurity, only exacerbate the issue. Over time, people have experienced the Black Death, Spanish Flu and COVID-19.

Historical Ties

World history is full of examples that show pandemics being incubators for social unrest. In an article on the history of epidemics, the author stated, “academics have warned that the level of social unrest around the world may spike once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.” This is a common theme following epidemics. Massimo Morelli, a professor of political science, and Roberto Censolo, an associate professor at the University of Ferrara, studied evidence on protest and unrest. Between the Black Death in the 1300s and the Spanish Flu in 1918, there were around 57 epidemics. Of those, only four did not have a clear connection to the outbreaks.

This study showed that epidemics and pandemics can lead to social unrest in three ways:

  • Policies that try to curb the spread of disease can conflict with people’s interests
  • The pandemic’s impact on mortality and the economy can worsen societal inequalities
  • The psychological shock can lead people to believe irrational narratives about the disease and its spread

Recently examples of the third example have occurred in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicknames like the “kung flu” and the “China virus” have caused rifts between the Asian community and people using phrases like those. This has only further exacerbated the racial divide in the United States. Any one of the above factors could make people quite aggressive when the pandemic ends.

Current Events

During the first half of 2021, Cuba, South Africa, Colombia and Haiti have had violent protests with their citizens hitting the streets. Each country has faced pre-existing economic, social and political hardships that the COVID-19 pandemic inflamed. For Haitian citizens, this culminated after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Additionally, existing tensions in countries around the world are morphing into civil unrest and protest against inequalities deepened by the pandemic. COVID-19 has worsened the weaknesses in food insecurity and increased the number of people affected by chronic hunger. With these factors in mind, perceptions have determined that the spike in global unrest and long-term rebellion will continue.

Economic and Political Impacts

Pandemics unquestionably cause long-term economic effects globally. By straining economies, COVID-19 could be the source of potential political instability, which increases the number of people living below the poverty line. Curbing a pandemic takes a lot of work including:

  • Imposing quarantines
  • Preparing health facilities
  • Isolating infectious cases
  • Implementing an effective contact tracing system involving public health resources, human resources and implementation costs

This also includes the cost of creating antibiotics and providing medical supplies and personal protective gear. Frontiers in Public Health stated that “Pandemics can also result in declined tax revenues and increased expenditure, which causes fiscal stress, especially in lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) where fiscal constraints are higher.” Labor shortages, restricted travel or trade and disruption of transportation are factors in how pandemics tie into global poverty.

In addition to the points above, pandemics can cause clashes between nations and populations that have experienced displacement. In nations with weak institutions, pandemics can cause political tensions and unrest, like what is currently happening in Cuba. The pandemic exacerbated economic hardships, leading to civil unrest and protests.

Future Avoidance

People cannot do anything to stop pandemics from happening, but they can change the fallout and subsequent social unrest. History has shown that epidemics more often than not lead to social and political unrest. To avoid that in the future, it is necessary for countries to better prepare themselves. Authorities should take into account how prevention methods affect people’s lives. Next, it is essential to set up programs to account for businesses closing. Furthermore, countries should implement more mental health care so that people do not suffer. Finally, people must consider the economic divide and those living in LMICs.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Pandemic Refugees in the United States
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected refugees, causing a migration crisis and hindering equality among poor people. Millions of people have experienced displacement from their homes since the outbreak began. This massive displacement created a concentration of immigrants in urban areas seeking asylum. The term for these individuals is “pandemic refugees.” Pandemic refugees in the United States are individuals the virus severely affected who desire a place to seek asylum and better-quality health services. However, the virus spread rapidly across borders, making it harder for refugees to find places that are genuinely safe.

Actions from the IOM

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is the United Nations’ migration agency, has worked hard to provide shelter to those the COVID-19 pandemic displaced. The organization also partnered with the World Food Program (WFP) to fight for people currently facing food and sanitary crises. Poverty deprives people of access to health facilities, allowing them to potentially avoid the virus. Additionally, the lack of new jobs and the government imposing quarantines have led people to seek help from organizations or even become pandemic refugees forced to cross borders looking for a better living standard.

Reaching the United States

Devastated economies have caused millions of individuals to flee to the United States, potentially traveling long distances in their journeys. Dozens of people pile up on the border between Mexico and the United States. These refugees pack minimum necessities and hit the road, attempting to cross the border and start a new life as unauthorized U.S. citizens. The Biden administration has encountered a significant number of refugees seeking prosperity and asylum in the aftermath of the pandemic. The U.S. Border Patrol has stated that refugees try to cross the borders daily. These numbers are quickly growing to overwhelming amounts.

Opportunity and Despair

While pandemic refugees in the United States seek a better life, they also encounter difficulties when searching for jobs. Compared to documented citizens, opportunities for undocumented citizens are different. Governments frequently attempt to send them back to their home country. Because of this, vulnerable groups like refugees are paying the highest price during the COVID-19 pandemic. Complications from the pandemic have created despair for individuals who flee their land and families. The closure of borders and restrictions on movement limit individuals’ access to food, housing and overall security. There are few cases of success and opportunities for refugees who fled their home countries seeking better opportunities. Security is also a significant problem for refugees since they are vulnerable groups and can spread the virus.

US COVID-19 Response

The United States has responded to the pandemic with a relief package of $11 billion for a global response. The U.S. government has worked hard to stop extreme poverty levels during the pandemic, and increase vaccination numbers and sustainable development. The country has also implemented unemployment benefits to give extra money to qualified unemployed individuals. Nevertheless, the U.S. must extend more of these protections to pandemic refugees. If it does, pandemic refugees in the United States will obtain the assistance and security they deserve to protect themselves and their families.

– Ainara Ruano Cervantes
Photo: Flickr

increased poverty in PalestineThe Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been ongoing for more than 70 years, has placed strain on the economic stability of Palestinian citizens. In the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has further contributed to the economic challenges that people have faced in Palestine, leading to a widespread and worsening state of poverty. Increased poverty in Palestine calls for increased international aid and support.

Poverty in Palestine

A large portion of Palestine’s population lives below the poverty line and cannot afford food, clothing and shelter. In 2017, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) found that one in every three Palestinians lived in poverty, equating to almost 30% of people. The Gaza Strip had the highest concentration of citizens living in poverty at a rate of 53%.

Inadequate work opportunities and low wages play a large role in poverty in Palestine. Research indicates that the job status of the head of the house greatly impacts the risk of poverty. The PCBS also found that 42.1% of households whose heads did not have a steady job lived in poverty compared to 25.8% of households with an employed head of the house.

This is especially alarming when one takes the unemployment rate into account as 43.1% of Gaza’s citizens were unemployed in the last quarter of 2020. The average monthly wage for those with a steady source of income in Gaza is a mere 682 ILS (about $207). Many people earn below the minimum wage, making it difficult for Palestinians to pull themselves out of poverty.

The Effect of COVID-19 on Poverty

The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed the little progress that Palestine made toward economic stability. While Palestinians were able to narrowly dodge the first wave of the pandemic, the next two waves destroyed economic gains. The World Bank predicted that “after growth of a mere 1% in 2019,” the Palestinian economy may contract by a minimum of 7.6% in 2020. In addition, due to decreased revenue, the financing gap could increase from $800 million in 2019 to more than $1.5 billion in 2020. Vaccines have become an issue as well.

Although the U.N. released a statement declaring that Israel is responsible for providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel excluded Palestinians from the vaccination campaign until recently. Israel prioritized only Palestinians working in Israel, overlooking the millions of Palestinians living in or near Gaza, for whom Israel has allotted only 5,000 doses.

Without vaccines, Palestinians are unable to leave their homes for work and food, plunging them further into poverty. The international COVAX scheme, backed by the WHO, should cover up to 20% of vaccine requirements for Palestinians. Palestinians have also sourced “limited quantities of vaccines from elsewhere” but have a long way to go to achieve herd immunity.

Education in Palestine

Many Palestinian children no longer have access to safe schooling. A U.N. report detailing the violence keeping children out of school mentions “threats of demolition, clashes on the way to school between students and security forces, teachers stopped at checkpoints and violent actions of Israeli forces and settlers on some occasions.”

These conditions impacted more than 19,000 children in the 2018 school year, limiting their ability to safely obtain an education. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the struggles of securing an education, especially for the impoverished population of Palestine. The Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights reports that 34.83% of Palestinian students could not join virtual classes due to a lack of resources and internet connection.

Due to a lack of education and opportunities, Israeli officers have arrested many children trying to cross the Israeli border for a better life. As of April 2021, 71.4% of children who attempted to cross the border were school dropouts trying to escape increased poverty in Palestine.

Organizations Working to Reduce Poverty

Organizations like UNICEF are addressing the education crisis through initiatives such as the Life Skills and Citizenship Education Initiative, which began in 2015. The program focuses on enhancing life skills and improving citizenship education. UNICEF also conducts “entrepreneurship skills programs for adolescents to support their future employment.” The program includes internships and career counseling.

In 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) spent $57 million of U.S. funding to ease poverty in Palestine, assisting more than 430,000 citizens. This included 33% of women-led households and 4.3% of the disabled population. The WFP provided cash-based transfers, food packages and “agriculture assets and training” to address increased poverty in Palestine.

The Road Ahead

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has severely worsened the state of poverty in Palestine as citizens end up in the crossfire. However, the ceasefire that Palestinian and Israeli officials announced in May 2021 may be a step in the direction of safety and stability for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Greater international support will help lower poverty rates and raise the quality of life in Palestine.

Mariam Abaza
Photo: pixabay

Craft AssociationThe incidence of poverty in Nepal had been dropping before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic could increase Nepal’s poverty rate to the levels of more than a decade ago due to a loss of jobs and income. A UNICEF-sponsored survey indicates that, in October 2020, a shocking 42% of families in Nepal had no income at all. Furthermore, in the same month, 45% of people reported job losses. In addition, one in five households surveyed reported being unable to secure adequate food to feed their families. Even people who still have jobs are earning less than before the pandemic. The tourism sector has also been severely hurt by the pandemic and more than half of all households are at risk of returning to poverty. The Association for Craft Producers (ACP) is helping combat poverty in Nepal.

The Association for Craft Producers

Helping to counter the effects of poverty in Nepal is the Association for Craft Producers. The organization founded in 1984 is a not-for-profit, fair trade organization that helps low-income Nepalese craft producers with design, marketing and management services for their craft products. Due to its success, it has grown to roughly 1,000 artisans, 90% of whom are women. The artisans produce beautiful crafts such as ceramic teapots, woven rugs and wooden tables. Nepali Craft Trading Ltd. exports the artisans’ products to 18 different countries. Since 2003, ACP has been certified as a Fair Trade organization. The group abides by the principles of fair trade as outlined by the World Fair Trade Organization to ensure artisans are provided with adequate compensation and benefits for their work.

Benefits for Nepali Artisans

The ACP artisans have access to a number of benefits to help lift them out of poverty and progress. For instance, artisans are provided a clothing stipend, 90 days of paid maternity leave and an allowance for emergencies. The ACP also provides information to the artisans on matters such as health, education and other important development topics. Since many of the women have never earned enough to be able to save money for the future, producers are encouraged to deposit 10% of their pay into an interest-producing account.

To encourage the education and empowerment of girls, ACP provides a monthly allowance for up to three years to producers who ensure their daughters are enrolled and participating in school for a minimum of four consecutive years. Furthermore, the ACP rewards the three best students with support for an additional year. In addition, the ACP provides the producers with funds for retirement. In these ways, ACP encourages financial security while providing outlets for the artisans to sell products.

Environmental Awareness

The ACP also takes specific actions to preserve its local environment at the foot of the Himalayan mountains. The practices include using recycled paper, installing a rainwater treatment plant and a wastewater treatment plant and discouraging the use of plastic bags. The artisans use an environmentally friendly acid for dyeing and water-based pigments for printing instead of oil-based paints. Finally, the artisans have switched to electric firing methods for ceramic products rather than kerosene-based firing. The women artisans remain environmentally conscious while helping to support families and reduce the devastating effects of poverty in Nepal.

Overall, the ACP craft association is supporting artisans in Nepal in several ways in order to ensure that they are able to rise out of poverty and secure better futures.

Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr