Rights-Based Drug Policy
Rights-based drug policy has been increasing in popularity in recent years. In 2019, the U.N. Development Programme and the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policies collaborated with legal and scientific experts on a three-year project to develop guidelines for a rights-based drug policy approach. The International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy laid out recommendations that nations should follow regarding criminal justice, addiction treatment and pain relief accessibility in order to be in accordance with international humanitarian law. These recommendations include:

  • Ensuring access to all drug dependence treatment services and medications to anyone who needs them
  • Ensuring access to all harm reduction medication and services, such as those used to reduce the likelihood of overdose or HIV infection
  • Providing a reasonable standard of living to populations vulnerable to drug addiction
  • Repealing policies that strip drug offenders of their right to vote
  • Repealing laws that allow detainment solely on the basis of drug use

Worldwide, the most common approach to addressing drug use and trafficking relies on punishment. This is often in lieu of providing care to those affected by addiction and violence relating to the drug trade. According to the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy, punishing drug users and withholding addiction treatment and harm reduction services are violations of human rights.

Some nations have been reforming their drug policy to address community needs and uphold humanitarian practices. Here are a few success stories.

Britain: Controlled Treatment for Opioid Dependence

In 2009, the British government undertook a four-year trial where doctors used injections of the opioid diamorphine, in addition to counseling, to stabilize addiction patients who had not responded to conventional treatments. After just six months of diamorphine injections, three-quarters of the trial participants stopped using street heroin. Crimes that the group committed dropped dramatically.

Today, many British citizens suffering from extreme opioid addiction are qualified to receive diamorphine through the National Health Service. From 2017-2018, 280 patients received this treatment to recover from addiction. However, conservative attitudes about the treatment threaten to cut services. Experts warn that patients who are no longer able to receive diamorphine may return to street heroin.

Scotland: Saving Lives with Naloxone

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a nasal spray that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Scotland began providing communities with take-home Naloxone kits in 2011 and issued 37,609 kits between 2011 and 2017.

The Scottish Ambulance Service recently rolled out a program to send Naloxone kits home with the friends and family of users after an overdose and train them how to administer the medication before an ambulance arrives to reduce the risk of death. Some Scotland police officers are beginning to carry Naloxone, though many are resistant to the practice.

Portugal: Humane Treatment for Users

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized drug use. Instead of jail time, drug users receive fines or have to complete service hours and/or addiction treatment. Drug trafficking remains a criminal offense.

To replace incarceration, Portugal increased treatment programs. As of 2008, three-quarters of those suffering from opioid addictions were on medication-assisted treatment. Since the policy shift, opioid deaths have fallen dramatically, as well as HIV and Hepatitis C infections. In addition, U.S. research studies indicate that spending money on treatment returns more than investing in traditional crime reduction methods. Portugal also implemented a needle exchange program to provide intravenous drug users with clean needles, which experts say returns at least six times its expenses in reducing costs associated with HIV.

Decriminalization did not lead to a rise in addiction and Portugal’s prison population is lower now than before decriminalization. Rights-based drug policy has flipped the script on addiction in Portugal. Criminalization exacerbates issues related to addiction, such as poverty. Rights-based drug policies are better at breaking the cycle of addiction and thus, alleviating poverty.

Rights-based drug policy means treating users with respect and providing communities with the resources they need to address the devastation drugs can cause. Adopting legislation in line with The International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy is a crucial step towards a scientific and rights-based approach to combating the worldwide drug crisis.

– Elise Brehob
Photo: Flickr

Coldfront: Energy Poverty in Portugal
One of the latest trends in the development of anti-poverty measures in the EU is the focus on “energy poverty” or “fuel poverty.” It encompasses two dimensions. The first is the incidence with which a household provides adequate environmental conditions (heating and cooling) for its residents. The second relates to the ability of individual members to get fuel for their vehicles. Perhaps surprisingly, Portugal is one of the worst-affected states in the European Union despite its relatively mild climate in comparison to EU states further north. This article will examine details from the type of housing prone to energy poverty to the adverse health conditions. It will then offer potential means to address the sources of energy poverty in Portugal.

On the Ground

Unsurprisingly, energy poverty in Portugal does not comprise a neat package. Factors ranging from local climate, homeownership and the home’s architecture influence energy poverty. The methods a household employs to sustain its environment also impacts whether it experiences energy poverty. Additionally, researchers show that these factors can influence whether a home is energy-poor:

  • Location: Typically homes located in the north and/or the countryside were more likely to be energy-poor (though one could find many in the south as well).
  • Age: Homes designed before the 1970s were more likely to be energy-poor. This is due to a lack of thermal insulation and less advanced forms of internal temperature controls.

Similarly, there is also a general profile that tends to fit the people that live in this type of housing, such as:

  • Gender: Respondents to the study in question were overwhelmingly female.
  • Age: Half of all respondents were over the age of 50.
  • Education: Half of all respondents received only primary education or lower.

Yet, all of this merely helps to describe the problem, not substantiate it. What are the practical consequences of energy poverty for the people who have to struggle with it? And what are its implications for broader society?

It All Starts at Home 

Studies that researchers have conducted worldwide demonstrate that members of energy-poor homes tend to suffer higher rates of diseases and higher rates of mortality. A study from 2014 found that Portugal had nearly twice the EU average of excess deaths in winter. Disputes have emerged as to how much excess morbidity one can ascribe to just cold housing. However, one cannot deny that the high prevalence of insufficiently-heated homes exacerbates other causes of excess death in the winter.

Moreover, homes that struggle with energy poverty tend to shelter people who are more vulnerable to these illnesses in the first place. For example, the elderly have more vulnerability due to having weaker immune systems in comparison to the young and the poor possessing fewer resources to advocate for themselves. Under international law, adequate housing is a human right that the state has an obligation to secure for its citizens. Therefore, this is a social problem that requires a societal response.

How to Respond?

Among social scientists who study energy poverty, a disagreement exists on whether the solution to this problem lies with addressing household income or through renovating and/or replacing existing structures. In contrast, the main reason people shelter themselves in energy-poor houses is that they are affordable. Providing people with additional income to go towards rehousing could be an easy solution to this problem. Another solution could be augmenting people’s current living space.

In fact, the Portuguese government passed social tariffs on electricity and natural gas in 2010 and 2011. Respectively, the income passed on to populations the government deemed to be vulnerable to energy poverty in Portugal. While the extra income was marginally beneficial for the recipient populations, many consider it an inefficient answer to the problem of energy poverty.

On the other hand, the issue of housing itself also exists. Many of the homes these studies discuss are old public housing units that have not undergone renovations to meet the present standards. Retrofitting these structures with modern designs that incorporate better insulation and repairing existing heating and piping systems are labor-intensive and expensive. Yet the results of a successful renovation could lift more people from energy poverty than simply hoping that the markets will provide an adequate answer.

One can see the practical effects of this in nearby Barcelona, where a 2016 study found that there was a significant decline in cold-related mortality rates for public housing unit residents when housing interventions (i.e renovations) occurred on the building they lived in. Renovations are not a cure and they do not address privately-owned energy-poor homes, but they could mean a world of difference for public housing residents’ quality of life.

The Upshot

Energy poverty is an emerging field of study that has yet to experience full contextualization between its environmental, economical and socio-psychological aspects. Nevertheless, it is the new frontline in the war on poverty in Europe. Even in sunny Portugal, cold indifference costs lives yearly. Better is possible, so long as Portugal puts in the effort.

Aidan King
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in portugal
Portugal is part of the Iberian Peninsula and lies along the coast of the Atlantic Sea. It is located in Southern Europe and bordered on its northern and eastern sides by Spain. Many know Portugal for its resorts and beaches, cuisine and soccer team, especially its star athlete: Cristiano Ronaldo. However, many also know this country for its amazing, world-renowned healthcare systems and facilities. The following are eight facts about healthcare in Portugal.

8 Facts About Healthcare In Portugal

  1. Universal Health Coverage: Portugal provides healthcare free of charge to children under age 18 and adults over 65. If citizens do not meet these requirements, and unless they need urgent care or have a unique situation, the NHS offers healthcare to them at a low cost. According to internations.org, the average cost of health insurance in Portugal, “could cost between 20 and 50 EUR ($22–55) a month, depending on your age and the extent of your coverage.” This means that a Portuguese citizen could pay, “anywhere between 400 EUR ($440) a year for a basic plan and 1,000 EUR ($1,100) yearly for a more well-rounded coverage.”
  2. Twelfth in the U.N.: In an analysis of the healthcare systems of U.N.-member countries, WHO ranked Portugal 12th best out of 190 countries. Further, Portugal received a 94.5 rating out of 100 on fairness in financing and the efficiency, quality and equity of health responsiveness.
  3. Free Childbirth: Giving birth in Portugal is free if one is a citizen of Portugal. Women receive medical care in all stages of their pregnancy. This includes free appointments with an OB-GYN and delivery, for both natural births and C-sections.
  4. Prevalent Health Conditions: Cancer and cardiovascular diseases are the two most concerning health issues in Portugal. According to the State of Health in the E.U., other causes of death for Portugal’s citizens include diseases in the nervous system (dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc), respiratory diseases and external causes.
  5. High Life Expectancy: The life expectancy of Portugal’s citizens is 82.1 years. Men in the country live for 78 years on average while women can live for about 85 years. Portugal’s life expectancy is higher than the European average of 80.9 years, and expectations have determined that it could keep increasing. U.N. projections have determined that the life expectancy in Portugal could rise to 83.67 by 2030.
  6. NHS-run Hospitals: In 2016, there were about 225 hospitals in Portugal. Portugal’s National Health Service ran 111 of these hospitals, amounting to about 49.3% of the hospitals.
  7. Bad Habits: In 2014, about 17% of adults that resided in Portugal smoked every day, and adult obesity rates had risen to 16%. These habits, when coupled with excessive binge drinking, another popular activity in Portugal, lead to a high prevalence of health issues, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  8. Disability: As of 2000, many Portuguese women can expect to live three-quarters of their life with some type of disability. Meanwhile, men can expect to live three-fifths of their years with some disability, illness or ailment.

These eight facts about healthcare in Portugal demonstrate the benefits that Portuguese people face with their healthcare system as well as some of their challenges. Hopefully, the ability for Portugal’s citizens to obtain free healthcare during early life and old age can serve as an inspiration to other parts of the world.

Kate Estevez
Photo: Pixabay

6 Facts About Homelessness in Portugal
Portugal’s idyllic location near the Atlantic Ocean has made it a popular location for tourists around the globe. The Mediterranean nation’s legacy as a maritime empire, beaches in the Azores region and specialty seafood dishes such as grilled cod come to mind for many. While it enjoys its status as a developed country, it is not immune to social and economic problems. One of Portugal’s most pressing issues is homelessness. The nation has taken several initiatives to address the situation within its borders. Here are eight facts about homelessness in Portugal.

8 Facts About Homelessness in Portugal

  1. Homeless Portuguese people account for 0.04% of the population. As of early 2020, 4,414 out of 10 million population were on the streets.
  2. The majority of the homeless in Portugal are men. Recent surveys on homelessness in Portugal found that 82% of the homeless population were male.
  3. The homeless population in Portugal is rising. A recent study after the 2008 recession found that the number of homeless increased by 14% in a five-year span, from 1,445 to 1,679. This number has increased substantially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic placed unique pressures on the Portuguese capital regarding the homeless. With COVID-19 shutting down the economy, many of Lisbon’s residents lost their jobs. In addition, the pandemic affected those with odd jobs, followed by non-contract workers and eventually members of the lower-middle class. As a result, many found themselves on the streets as they were unable to provide for themselves. Before the pandemic, Lisbon had 360 homeless people according to municipal services. About 200 people stay in homeless shelters. However, these shelters are no longer large enough to accommodate the current numbers.
  5. Fortunately, the Basic Housing Law made housing an official right for all Portuguese. In 2019, a bill passed that placed the responsibility of ensuring adequate housing to citizens on the Portuguese government. This law highlights the importance of the social function of housing, with the goals of eliminating homelessness, using public real estate for price-friendly housing and forbidding tenant evictions especially in Lisbon, the capital.
  6. The Portuguese government is working with NGOs to eliminate housing problems. Since 2009, Housing First has gained significant attention from policymakers. AEIPS, an NGO, operates it in tandem with university researchers. It was first implemented in the parish of Santa Maria Maior but has since extended to the entire city of Lisbon. The project provided people with immediate access to independent apartments in various areas while offering support services unique to each individual’s issues. Over 2,051 of Portugal’s homeless benefit from the initiatives of Housing First.
  7. Portugal’s homeless receive healthcare from street teams. These street teams, which mostly consist of hired or medical volunteers, receive funding from public and private resources. Their priority is to reduce harm in substance abuse amongst the homeless. The teams typically offer risk-reduction programs and emergency first aid in cases of negligence.
  8. The Portuguese capital is spearheading efforts to combat homelessness swiftly. Teaming with the aforementioned Housing First, the Lisbon city council made a pledge for the 2019-2021 period. The city council announced its intention to invest €14.5 million in tackling homelessness. Additionally, the city council plans to build 400 homes available for use by 2023.

The economic implications of the 2008 recession paired with the effects of the current COVID-19 pandemic have aggravated what the Portuguese president defined as a national challenge. Luckily, both national and local governments are introducing initiatives to weather and reduce homelessness in the upcoming years. If Portugal continues to zero in on this issue and make good on its promise to provide housing for all, then perhaps this challenge will become a thing of the past for this developed nation. In addition, Portugal could inspire other countries struggling with homelessness to do the same.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Portugal

Living conditions in Portugal, as described by Marcel Rebelo de Sousa, the president of Portugal, are “disgraceful.” Rebelo defends the urgency to come up with a strategy to eradicate poverty in the country. He also states, “We must get this message through to the Portuguese society that no one is happy or could be happy pretending there is no poverty around them.”

With President Rebelo’s message in mind, here are the top 10 facts about the living conditions in Portugal that represent the significance of the need for change in the country.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Portugal

  1. In 2017 and 2018, Portugal had one of the widest wealth gaps. Wealthy citizens in the country are earning up to five times more money than those living in poverty. In fact, 18.7 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. In comparison to 2012, it has been increasing.
  2. Portugal was experiencing a recession illustrated by the economy growing 0 percent in 2008. The economy then fell 3 percent in 2009. Additionally, the government underwent a 3 percent budget deficit in 2008.
  3. According to Eurostat in 2019, people in Portugal work up to twelve hours per day. The average hourly rate for workers in Portugal has dropped to 12.10 euros. In comparison, the average pay per hour in European countries stands at €27.60.
  4. BBC News reports people in Portugal suffer pay cuts due to ongoing government reforms. Annual salaries have been cut down three quarters the usual wage. A majority of the population has seen their wages cut by 6 percent.
  5. Necessities such as water and electricity are increasing to an all-time high. When looking at annual income and the expenses necessary for survival, citizens of Portugal earn less than what is necessary to live comfortably.
  6. There are several factors for children misbehaving in schools For example, in addition to insufficient finances to buy food, water and clothing, there is a lack of parental guidance. In turn, these factors negatively impact the education of the youth in Portugal.
  7. Joao Carlos, the headteacher of a school in Rio Moro, notes that over the past year, violence has been increasing in schools. Similarily increasing, is the number of students arriving without having eaten breakfast. Carlos states, “If a child is going to perform well at school, they need to eat well at home and they need to stop growing up by themselves.”
  8. Child labor has become increasingly common in Portugal. Many kids under the age of 16 have to beg for jobs in order to help support the family. This is one result of children choosing not to attend school.
  9. According to Trading Economics, in January 2019, 6.8 percent of the country remains unemployed. This is a slight increase from the 6.7 percent that was unemployed in 2018.
  10. World HIV and Aids Epidemic Report states that Portugal has one of the highest incidence rates of HIV/AIDS in Europe. There are over 34,000 people infected with the virus. Of that number, 500 people died of the disease last year.

President Sousa has outlined a plan he hopes to implement in the coming years to reduce poverty in the country. Sousa’s main goal is to expand the job force while increasing wages. Additionally, he wants to provide a better education especially for women, more access to health care, and improving sanitation in the country.

In addition to Sousa’s efforts, non-profit organizations such as the ABIC- Associação dos Bolseiros de Investigação Científica and Habitat for Humanity are forming. ABIC’s main actions include forming funding agencies in Portugal while urging the government to open scientific job positions. On the contrary, Habitat for Humanity in Portugal helps low-income families by building new homes and renovating houses on family-owned land.

Although these 10 facts about the living conditions in Portugal appear devastating, the steps toward solutions have been initiated. More awareness around the issues suffocating the country is starting the process of reform for those in Portugal.

– Aaron Templin
Photo: Flickr

Sustainability in PortugalLocated on the Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe, Portugal was one of the world’s most powerful seafaring nations throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. However, environmental destruction, loss of colonies, war and political instability catalyzed the decline of Portugal’s wealthy status.

In a bid to turn things around, the coastline country has been emphasizing sustainability since 2014. Through the reallocation of resources and renewable energy, Portugal seeks to enhance economic, social and territorial development policies. Here are 10 facts about sustainability in Portugal and its dedication to responsible and sustainable growth.

10 Facts About Sustainability in Portugal

  1. Portugal 2020 is a partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission dedicated to sustainable economic and social development. Between 2014 and 2020, the European Commission agreed to allocate 25 billion euros to Portugal. This funding will allow for the stimulation of growth and creation of employment.
  2. Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth is at the center of Portugal 2020. Within the next calendar year, Portugal aims to have a greenhouse gas emission equal to that of the early 2000s. The goal includes having 31 percent of energy come from renewable sources, along with increased exports from the promotion of sustainable development.
  3. Portugal 2020 is designed to have a large impact on social development. This impact includes a 75 percent employment rate, 200,000 fewer people living in poverty, decreased early school dropout levels and a dedication to combating social exclusion.
  4. One improvement stemming from Portugal’s emphasis on sustainability is water quality. Since the beginning of Portugal 2020, 100 percent of urban and rural drinking water and bathing water meets health standards. This is just one way in which civilians are benefiting from the emphasis of sustainability in Portugal.
  5. Another area of improvement is air quality. As of 2019, Portugal has satisfactory air quality with pollution posing little to no risk on human health. However, Portugal still plans to improve its air quality further.
  6. Portugal is on target to hit the goals outlined in Portugal 2020. With the aid of the European Commission, Portugal is set up to meet the economic, environmental and social goals outlined in the partnered agreement.
  7. Portugal’s goals for after Portugal 2020 include decarbonization. By 2050, the country aims to be carbon neutral, which means they will not release any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Aside from utilizing environmentally-friendly methods of energy production, another goal is transportation reform. Portugal’s plan includes replacing more than 500 buses with electric powered vehicles and investing in two new underground networks. Increasing access to quality public transportation will hopefully have a drastic impact on the use of carbon emission via cars.
  8. Solar power is another focus of Portugal 2020. The Portuguese Minister of Environment believes the country can harvest more than 10 percent of energy production within the next five years. Currently, Portugal harvests more wind than solar energy. However, this other prospect for sustainable energy sets new goals for the future and more opportunity for job creation.
  9. Portugal has embarked on a green growth agenda. The country aims to be a national leader in sustainable and economic growth. Portugal’s Commitment for Green Growth targets a low-carbon economy, high efficiency in resources and more jobs centered around sustainability. This sets a high standard for countries wanting to build up their economies in a sustainable way.
  10. A 2030 agenda will outline new goals for a sustainable and inclusive Portugal. This new plan aims to focus on issues pertaining to peace, security, good governance, increased emphasis on fragile states, conservation and sustainable use of oceans. It also aims to focus on human rights, including gender equality. Although the seaside country will have many successes to celebrate in 2020, the Portuguese government is already preparing its next steps to keep driving forward sustainability.

Portugal 2020 and other national sustainability goals highlight the country’s commitment to investing in the future. Focusing on resourcefully building its economy, sustainability in Portugal also focuses on improving societal issues, such as poverty and education.

Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Portugal

Portugal is usually known as a hotspot for tourists; a country filled with breathtaking historical sites and exquisite cuisine. Even though it may look like a luxury spot for vacation from the outside, Portugal is actually a country filled with economic and financial problems. Behind the array of castles, cathedrals and towers lay people living on the streets because of unemployment and children that are suffering. Why is poverty in Portugal such a big problem?

Poverty in Portugal: Top 10 Facts

  1. There are almost 2.6 million people living below the poverty line in Portugal, according to the National Statistics Institute. 487,000 of the citizens living in poverty in the country are under the age of 18.
  2. Portugal is one of the most unequal countries in Europe. The wealthy citizens earn an income that is five times higher than other people who are living in poverty.
  3. Portugal is known as one of the European countries that work the most, although, the hourly wage for workers is extremely low compared to other countries in Europe.
  4. Parents have to work multiple jobs, leaving them with less time to spend with their children. Due of this, students have been known to act out more and come to school not having eaten a proper breakfast.
  5. Unemployment is one of the main causes of poverty in Portugal. In 2018, the unemployment rate dropped down to 7.9 percent.
  6. After the 2008 recession, Portugal did not progress economically compared to the other countries around the world. Economic growth has been slowing down since then.
  7. A lot of families are forced to live in shacks or shambled housing due to poverty in Portugal. The need for suitable housing in the country is increasing, especially in urban areas.
  8. Portugal has the highest rate of HIV/AIDs in all of Western Europe.
  9. Child labor is common in the northern and central parts of Portugal. Many children under the age of 16 are made to beg on the streets and even have to leave school in search of work.
  10. Elderly citizens and children are more likely to be living in poverty in Portugal than any other group of people. The elderly are the most dominant demographic in Portugal, especially in more rural areas.

What is the Future of Portugal?

Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa mentioned that citizens should not be simply pretending that poverty doesn’t exist in their country. It is indeed disturbing that in Portugal almost 2.6 million people are at risk of poverty.

In March at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, President de Sousa discussed his national strategy for increasing the growth of employment, education, housing and health to hopefully eradicate poverty in Portugal. He said that he believes the country had been in a rut since the financial crisis and a global strategy must be implemented immediately to eradicate it.

– McKenzie Hamby
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Portugal

Portugal has a population of 10.5 million as of 2016, and a mortality rate of 548.6 deaths per 100,000 people. The top ten most common diseases in Portugal in 2016 were ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lower respiratory infections, COPD, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and stomach cancer.

The rates of ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes and stomach cancer have all gone down in recent years, though they still rank in the top ten. The top ten causes of disability in 2016 were low back and neck pain, sense organ diseases, depressive disorders, migraines, skin diseases, anxiety disorders, oral disorders, diabetes, falls and other musculoskeletal issues.

Broadly speaking, the deadliest diseases are cardiovascular diseases, cancer and neurological disorders.

Addiction: A Major Success Story

While Portugal has made strides in reducing the rates of the diseases described above, its biggest success has been in tackling addiction, particularly to heroin.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a major opioid epidemic made addiction one of the most common diseases in Portugal. By the mid-1990s, over one percent of Portugal’s population was addicted to heroin, and cocaine use was also prevalent.

To address this epidemic, Portugal took the opposite approach to other countries struggling with a similar epidemic, such as the United States. Whereas the U.S. cracked down on drug use and initiated a war on drugs, Portugal completely decriminalized all drugs, including heroin, in 2001. Dealing drugs was still illegal and punishable with jail time, but users caught with less than a 10-day supply of any drug were sent to mandatory medical treatment.

This system completely bypassed the legal system, treating addiction as a health issue instead of a crime. This approach led to a 75 percent reduction in drug cases and a 95 percent reduction in drug-related HIV infections. Deaths due to overdoses or drug-related infections in Portugal are currently five times lower than the average across the European Union.

A model for change?

While any radical change in policy must be considered in the context of each country’s current legal system and culture, aspects of Portugal’s approach to addiction constitute a model that could be successfully implemented across the world.

The basis of this model are outreach programs whose employees keep track of local drug users and encourage them to quit. If they accept, they provide them with free counseling and treatment and daily methadone to wean them off the opioids. If they refuse to quit at that time, then outreach workers hand out clean needles and condoms to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

This model is also economically efficient. The U.S. currently spends approximately $10,000 per household to uphold its current drug policy, while Portugal currently spends $10 per citizen.

The most common diseases in Portugal are similar to those across the European Union. What makes Portugal stand out is its reaction to one particular disease: addiction. If Portugal brings this innovation to other realms of disease prevention, it could be poised to drastically lower its disease burden in the coming decades.

– Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr



How to Help People in Portugal

Like many countries across the world, Portugal was one of the nations in Europe significantly impacted by the financial crisis in the late 2000s. By 2009, the country began facing high levels of debt and a rising unemployment rate that, to this day, still weighs on the nation’s economy. While the Portuguese government attempts to understand how to help people in Portugal, much more needs to be done to address the country’s economic conditions.

Poverty and Unemployment
Since the beginning of the European debt crisis in 2009, Portugal has been affected by high levels of poverty, large instances of labor market segmentation and high unemployment rates.

In 2010, 18 percent of the population lived under the national poverty line, with certain groups affected more than others, such as women, children, ethnic minorities and the elderly. The incidence of poverty varies quite drastically between regions in Portugal. For instance, many areas in the northern region of the country have larger pockets of poverty due to the restructuring of the textile industry, while Lisbon may not see such a large impact, as its GDP nears the European average.

After joining the European Economic Community in 1986, Portugal experienced strong growth, decreasing interest rates and declining unemployment. However, with the economic problems faced in 2009, unemployment grew to over 10 percent by 2010, reaching a 24-year high.

By 2017, Portugal’s unemployment rate of 9.8 percent still lands the nation above the OECD average of 5.9 percent, yet the fall since 2010 has been quicker than the average across OECD countries. The main catalyst of the unemployment issues stretch beyond the recent debt crisis and are rooted in the country’s structural weaknesses.

Increasing the number of available jobs is one of the answers to how to help people in Portugal, as the country ranks in the bottom third of performers across OECD countries. The number of jobs has been decreasing in the nation since 2006 and is a major cause of the high levels of unemployment and poverty across the nation.

Portugal also needs to focus on improving the quality and inclusiveness of jobs. To improve the living conditions for Portuguese families, there must be a focus on improving earnings quality by increasing wages and reducing earning segmentation.

Certain groups are more likely to be employed on a temporary basis or through atypical contracts, which creates a barrier to inclusiveness in Portugal. This creates labor market segmentation and insecurity that also contributes to unemployment in the country.

In addition to the effects on unemployment, the segmentation has also had a large impact on the country’s demographics and immigration of refugees. Portugal’s population is expected to shrink by 30 percent between 2015 and 2100 due to low fertility rates, higher life expectancy and migration outflows. With the old-age dependency ratio expecting to more than double over the same period, the economy will suffer from low future earnings.

The government believes they have a solution for how to help people in Portugal instead of simply allowing the statistic to unfold. The economic strategy focuses on increasing the number of asylum seekers and resettled refugees welcomed into the country. By attracting more people to settle in Portugal, the idea is that openness will boost economic activity while also counteracting an aging population and falling birthrate.

While the people of Portugal support immigration, the labor market conditions, lack of immigration historically and segmentation within society discourage refugees from resettling in Portugal. Therefore, to help those looking for refuge, integration and employment prospects must be considered in policy formation.

Fortunately, there is also support beyond the political sector. Abou Ras was himself a refugee who resettled in Portugal and has formed the association “Families of Refugees” with other asylum seekers to help migrants adjust to life in the country.

With Portugal taking a proactive approach to the inflow of refugees, the country could benefit from its efforts in the long run. However, emphasizing the importance of improving labor market conditions is one of the best ways to help people in Portugal. This will not only improve the current living conditions of the population, but also improve the prospects for all those to come.

– Tess Hinteregger

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Portugal
With the passage of the European Drinking Water Directive 98/83/CE by the European Commission (E.C.) in 1998, Portugal has aimed to make 99% of its drinking water safe for human consumption. This has been done in order to protect human health from the adverse effects of water contamination as originally envisioned by the Directive.

It may seem like an ambitious plan, but water quality in Portugal has seen steady improvements. Prior to the directive, drinking water regulations in Portugal were controlled with laws that also governed the usage of both urban water and industrial water.

Today, a so-called “integrated risk analysis” approach is utilized to control the levels of pesticide in tap water, taking into account variables such as agricultural practices and type of water source that affect the presence of pesticides in drinking water.

Non-compliance with drinking water quality in Portugal is corrected by requiring the drinking water suppliers to not only register the causes for the possible health risks but also incorporate remedial actions with verification analyses.

This way, the Water and Waste Services Regulation Authority, known as ERSAR, and pertinent health authorities can apparently evaluate the water with greater immediacy. ERSAR was created in 1990 as a national regulatory agency to monitor water efficiency and ensure compliance.

However, this aim to make drinking water completely safe has not been dutifully followed in the past. Portugal initially failed to follow some of the parameters of the Directive in managing urban wastewater in 2007, forcing the E.C. to refer Portugal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

As an example, the E.C. noted that although Portugal had taken some steps to improve water treatment plants, almost 50% of water supply zones did not comply with the limits on total coliforms, while 20% of the zones did not comply with the fecal coliforms parameter.

Portugal’s water sources mainly include the rivers of Tagus, Douro, Guadiana and Minho. More than half of these water sources have significant levels of pollution.

In 2015, the director of ERSAR’s water quality department referred to the annual Quality Control of Water for Human Consumption report, stating that “we continue to be able to drink tap water in Portugal without worry and, despite already being close to perfection, the safe water percentage continues to rise, from 98.2% in 2013 to 98.4% in 2014.”

In the 1990s, Portugal could only guarantee about 50% of its water to be safe for human consumption. Even that came at a great disparity between rural and urban areas.

According to a report by European Environmental Agency in 2013, Portugal was one of the eight European countries listed as having an “excellent” water quality with 87% of the country’s bathing waters meeting environmental standards.

Luís Simas, the head of Drinking Water Quality Department at ERSAR summarized in a Regulatory Model Report that ensuring good water quality in Portugal in the future can be accomplished through “the national implementation of the water safety planning approach and the application of a certification scheme for all products in contact with drinking water.”

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr