The United Nations' Fight Against Poverty
The United Nations’ fight against poverty began as early as 1945. The U.N. General Assembly declared the years 1997 to 2006 as the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. The Second U.N. Decade for the Eradication of Poverty then ran from 2008 to 2017 and the Third U.N. Decade for the Eradication of Poverty began in 2018 with an end date of 2027. The United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed by U.N. member states in September 2000, is a commitment from global leaders to “combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.” The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) formed part of this Declaration and set targets to reach by 2015.

Progress in Reducing Extreme Poverty and Hunger

The target of reducing global extreme poverty rates by 50% occurred “five years ahead of the 2015 deadline,” the U.N. website notes. Since 1990, more than 1 billion individuals rose out of extreme poverty. Close to 50% of people in underdeveloped countries in 1990 survived on less than $1.25 per day. In 2015, this rate declined to 14%.

Furthermore, since 1990, the percentage of undernourished individuals in developing regions has decreased by about 50%. However, the percentage of employed working-age people reduced from 62% in 1991 to 60% in 2015, with a particularly notable decline occurring during the global recession of 2008/2009.

Here are three significant programs and funds aiding in the United Nations’ fight against poverty.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

A pledge to “eradicate poverty everywhere, in all its forms and dimensions by 2030” is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which came about in 2015 after the MDG deadline. The UNDP is the “U.N.’s global development network” that works across 170 nations and territories to help further the SDGs. Its work also centers around “democratic governance and peacebuilding” as well as “climate and disaster resilience.”

From 2019 to 2021, thanks to the UNDP, 71 million individuals in 36 nations obtained “access to essential services” and labor market policies safeguarded 1 million jobs globally, the UNDP website highlights.

About 81 nations adopted “policies based on COVID-19 socio-economic impact assessments” and “82 countries adopted more than 580 digital solutions for e-commerce and e-governance.” While “2.4 million rural households in 33 countries benefited from clean, affordable and sustainable energy,” about 3 million individuals across 29 nations “benefited from jobs and improved livelihoods in crisis or post-crisis settings,” the UNDP website notes.

UNICEF

In more than 190 nations and territories, UNICEF strives to protect children’s lives, uphold their rights and assist them in realizing their full potential from infancy through adolescence. Thanks to UNICEF, several million children by 1950 received “garments made of wool, leather and cotton” and more than 6 million received meals on a daily basis.

By 1973, UNICEF had assisted approximately 70 nations in reducing the number of deaths resulting from ingesting contaminated water. The Child Survival and Development Revolution, which UNICEF started in 1982, aimed to save more children by implementing four main strategies: tracking development, delivering immunizations, encouraging breastfeeding and providing oral rehydration therapy.

Compared to the end of World War II, life expectancy rates had climbed by more than 33% by 1993. A rise in school attendance coincided with a sharp decline in child mortality rates. The standard of living was also fast increasing; many households who had previously struggled to find clean water now had easy access. More recently, in 2012, polio saw eradication in India thanks to UNICEF’s global immunization program for the poor. Africa celebrated one year without any confirmed cases of polio on August 11, 2015.

World Food Programme (WFP)

The WFP is the largest humanitarian organization in the world, saving lives in dire situations and utilizing food aid to create a road to peace, stability and prosperity for those recovering from war, natural disasters and the effects of environmental changes.

The WFP collaborates with governments and humanitarian partners on the front lines, responding to an increasing number of disasters, such as droughts and floods, which can destroy crops, disrupt markets and demolish roads and bridges. The WFP also implements preventative measures that lessen the number of people in need of humanitarian aid. In 2021, 12.2 million individuals from 47 different nations benefited from climate risk management strategies, including 2.7 million in 14 nations who were insured against climate-related risks.

The WFP has shifted its emphasis in recent years from emergency interventions to tackling all types of malnutrition, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies, overweight and obesity. In 2021, 23.5 million people, a 36% increase from 2020, mostly children, pregnant and lactating females, benefited from WFP programs to treat or prevent malnutrition.

Smallholder farmers produce most of the world’s food yet also ironically suffer from hunger. In 2021, WFP and partners provided assistance to around 947,000 smallholder farmers in 44 countries. In 2021, WFP purchased 117,000 metric tons of food from smallholder farmers in 27 countries, valued at $51.9 million.

Looking Ahead in the United Nations’ Fight Against Poverty

Apart from these three programs, other U.N. initiatives also play a significant role in supporting the world’s most impoverished. For example, the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, U.N. Women and U.N.-Habitat. The World Bank, the IMF, the WHO, the ILO, the FAO and other U.N. Specialized Agencies play a significant part in addressing emerging global issues. Overall, the United Nations has had a positive influence on the eradication of poverty worldwide.

– Karisma Maran
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Colombia
Despite its economic growth, with Colombia being the fourth-largest economy in Latin America as of 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated poverty in Colombia where the poverty rate in 2020 was 42.5%. However, with long-term trends toward declining poverty and better economic policies, there is hope for better living conditions in Colombia in the near future. Here is everything you need to know about poverty in Colombia as of 2022.

Quick Facts

  • In a population of 50.9 million, around 2.5 million people live on less than $1.90 as of 2019.
  • The poverty rate in 2021 was 39.3%, with a large gap between rural and urban poverty.
  • The Gini Index, a measure of inequality, is 51.3 as of 2019, according to the World Bank.
  • Annualized gross domestic product per capita growth is 1.02% from 2014 to 2019.

Factors Contributing to Poverty

When learning about poverty in Colombia, it is integral to note that it has a number of factors, including internal conflict, government policies, unequal distribution of land and more.

From the 1960s, Colombia engaged in a decades-long internal conflict between the government, paramilitary groups and antigovernment guerilla groups, which was funded primarily by the drug trade. Peacemaking efforts have been actively worked on since the 2000s and the Colombian government officially signed a peace deal with the main guerilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, in late 2016.

Many Colombians faced internal displacement due to the conflict when they had to abandon their homes and land due to threats to safety. Internally displaced people find it difficult to rebuild their assets and find stable housing or employment after they move, which often leads to living in poverty or extreme poverty. The World Bank estimates that Colombia still has around 5 million internally displaced people as of 2021.

During the conflict, paramilitary groups also seized large amounts of land from citizens, using it to fuel the drug trade. This had a disproportionate impact on the rural population — 18% of the total population as of 2021 — who still largely rely on agriculture, causing higher rates of poverty in the underdeveloped rural regions of Colombia.

Many accuse the Colombian government of pursuing a “pro-rich” model when it comes to the economy, according to Transnational Institute (TNI). Among these policies is an unregulated taxation system in which the wealthiest 20% contribute little in terms of tax revenue, despite receiving 55% of the country’s income in 2018. In addition, the government invested in international and private corporations as well as encouraging domestic export and international fair-trade agreements, leaving small-scale farmers vulnerable to price fluctuations and unable to compete with large agricultural operations.

Recent Trends

Despite these factors contributing to poverty, Colombia made significant improvements through other measures in the past two decades. According to the World Bank, Colombia worked on a debt management system, invested in the domestic market and improved policy coordination between various financial institutions in the country. The government also worked on better welfare programs, such as improving education outcomes as well as restoring land rights taken away during the conflict. The result of these efforts is steady economic growth and a long-term trend of declining inequality and poverty.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic initially disrupted this progress, Colombia’s economy recovered quickly due to its strong economic policy framework in place. Poverty decreased from 42.5% in 2020 to 39.3% in 2021 and extreme poverty is down from 15.1% to 12.2%.

New Challenges

Due to recent global economic trends and the Russia-Ukraine war, Colombia joins a host of Latin American countries grappling with rising inflation. The country experienced the highest rate of inflation in 21 years in April and food prices. The Russia-Ukraine war has disrupted the trade of wheat and fertilizer, which has contributed to food prices rising by 26%.

The United Nations Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean expects another spike in Colombia’s poverty rate, meaning that as many as 880,000 people could enter poverty in 2022 — the largest impact of any Latin American country — due to the economic effects of the Russia-Ukraine War.

Hope for the Future

On June 19, Colombia elected President Gustavo Petro, its first leftist leader, who promised to tackle inequality and poverty in the country. His plans include the improvement of social programs, such as increasing access to higher education, revamping the health care system and more. Petro’s focus on Colombia’s socioeconomic inequalities has the potential for a path toward poverty reduction.

– Ramona Mukherji
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the UAE
The president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, passed away on May 13, 2022, at the age of 73. The leader’s health had been declining since suffering a stroke in 2014. Many expect that his brother and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed, will step into the role of president. Mohammad served as the de facto leader of the UAE since Khalifa’s 2014 stroke, which limited his public appearances.

Khalifa led the UAE through a period of great technological and societal advancement. He strengthened the economy of the nation and secured its place among the other powerful nations of the world. Khalifa also leaned pro-West. He worked to strengthen the connection between the UAE and the U.S. and its allies, a bond that Biden promised to maintain following the leader’s death. The ensuing transition of leadership raises questions, most notably about future policy decisions and poverty in the UAE.

The Policy Impact of Khalifa’s Death

Sheikh Khalifa was a respected and well-liked leader, with many mourning his death in the UAE and around the world. Since the predecessor people expect spent the last eight years handling the majority of presidential matters, not much could change concerning foreign policy. However, the internal politics of the nation may look slightly different.

Being the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammad’s presidency could strengthen the already empowered emirate. Abu Dhabi grew in influence under Khalifa and may grow even more so now. It is likely that Mohammad will not need to consult with the other emirates before coming to any important decisions. This development, though expected, could prove to be divisive.

Poverty in the UAE

Many hope that the new leadership will address the underrecognized prevalence of poverty in the UAE. While the UAE is indeed a very wealthy nation, it is a common misconception that no poverty exists there at all. It is estimated that around 19.5% of Emiratis live below the poverty line. This is an estimation because the UAE does not formally update these statistics themselves. Despite the underreported number of impoverished people in the nation, the government provided support to only 27.1% of Emiratis in 2011.

The high poverty rate derives in part from the nation’s high cost of living, which results from the wealthy stature of the upper class. According to the Beit Al Khair Society, around 17,000 families living in the UAE need help from the government. It is a sad reality that many ordinary people have experienced neglect in the nation’s pursuit of becoming a global powerhouse. UAE invested unprecedented amounts of money into its large cities, particularly Dubai, along with notable developments such as the construction of the Burj Khalifa and The Jumeirah Golf Estates.

The Positives

Poverty in the UAE is far from a lost cause. The government does issue help for those families in need. The government has also formed specialized foundations and ministries to aid with the effects of the high cost of living. Of those families in need of help, few live in completely unbearable conditions. Most just need help to support their families, with the average size of an Emirati family being six people. It is also possible that the poverty rate is lower than estimated because of the underreported statistics. All in all, the UAE is quickly rising up the ranks of world powers. The nation’s economy continues to grow, but people should not ignore the individuals living in poverty in the UAE.

– Thomas Schneider
Photo: Pixabay

End to Poverty in China
In a speech on February 25, 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that China had eliminated extreme poverty. China defines extreme poverty as surviving on $1.69 a day. Over an eight-year period, President Xi Jinping stated that almost 100 million individuals rose out of poverty in China, ultimately putting an end to poverty in China. As the news of President Xi Jinping’s official declaration of China’s successful fight against poverty spreads worldwide, China’s anti-poverty legislation has become a popular topic for anti-poverty advocates, especially considering the vast history of poverty in China. China’s anti-poverty initiatives and reports have also acquired a fair amount of international criticism as the country continues to claim victory in eliminating extreme poverty.

China’s Battle Against Poverty: A Brief History

Following the impact of Chairman Mao Zedong’s failed Great Leap Forward initiative in the 1950s, approximately 10 to 40 million people died between 1959 to 1961 in what is labeled as the “most costly famine in human history.” However, economic reforms beginning in 1976 reshaped the economy as Deng Xiaoping granted farmers rights to their own plots, which led to better living conditions and more food security.

Since China opened up its economy in 1978, GDP growth has averaged about 10% a year and an estimated 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty over the past 40 years, according to the World Bank. After China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and lifted trade barriers and tariffs, growth increased even more as China grew into the economic superpower it is today.

Under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, eliminating extreme poverty in China became even more of a priority. Over the last eight years, China has spent 1.6 trillion yuan, or $248 billion, to put an end to poverty in China. Local officials even traveled door-to-door in some communities, delivering assistance either in the form of loans or farm animals. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterreś describes China’s anti-poverty efforts within the last decade as the “greatest anti-poverty achievement in history.”

China’s Anti-Poverty Infrastructure

China has issued a large number of subsidies to create jobs and build better housing over the last decade in order to put an end to poverty in China. Since 2015, local governments have constructed “more than 700,000 miles of roads.” As the most impoverished province in China, the Guizhou province alone spent RMB 1.8 trillion ($280 billion) on anti-poverty projects. Beijing has invested $700 billion in loans and grants for poverty reduction efforts in the past five years, amounting to about 1% of the nation’s annual economic output, according to The New York Times.

Critics and Sustainable Solutions

With China’s tremendous recent success in ending extreme poverty, critics globally questioned the sustainability of China’s anti-poverty strategies. The World Bank country director for China, Martin Raiser asserts the World Bank’s standing that “China’s eradication of absolute poverty in rural areas has been successful.” However, due to the resources utilized, Raiser is uncertain whether the poverty reduction is “sustainable or cost-effective.”

Critics also point out that China’s poverty relief programs only aid people in extreme poverty and do little to help the population just above the poverty threshold. The government’s poverty aid program eligibility excludes car owners, people with more than $4,600 in assets, homeowners and people who recently rebuilt a house. According to a New York Times report, “people hovering just above the government’s poverty line struggle to make ends meet, but are often denied help.”

The World Bank reports that China’s growth from “resource-intensive manufacturing, exports and low-paid labor” has reached its limits and has led to social and economic imbalances across society. The World Bank also reports that while China is the only major economy that has achieved positive growth in 2020, that growth has been uneven as wealth inequality and other societal imbalances in China have increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s Influence and Anti-Poverty Progress

While organizations, including the World Bank, are urging China to focus on societal imbalances informing sustainable anti-poverty solutions, the recent success of China’s anti-poverty legislation is a significant accomplishment for the nation and the world. As reported by the United Nations, China’s anti-poverty efforts contribute significantly to advancing global efforts to alleviate poverty by 2030, the U.N.’s first Sustainable Development Goal.

China’s anti-poverty work has raised the current standard for all world leaders aiming to combat poverty within their own nations, especially when understanding how far China has come in anti-poverty efforts over the last few years and even the last century.

– Lillian Ellis
Photo: Flickr

Poverty reduction in Peru
Peru, a small country of 32 million located on the western coast of South America, has made significant reductions in poverty in the 21st century. Over the last 20 years, Peru’s GDP quadrupled and its poverty rate decreased by nearly 30% by 2019. Peru’s rapidly growing economy, combined with substantial social welfare programs, resulted in a drastic increase in quality of life for poor and middle-class Peruvians. But notably, these gains largely concentrate in urban areas. While the Peruvian economy was not exempt from a COVID-19 induced recession, expectations have determined that it could rebound in 2021. Here is a review of how things stand in regard to eliminating poverty in Peru.

Eliminating Poverty in Peru

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peru experienced 14 consecutive years of poverty reduction. Its economy ranks as one of the 21st century’s fastest-growing economies due to the high demand for its natural resource exports of copper, petroleum and zinc. While Peru’s middle class enjoys substantial growth due to its booming economy, inequality persists, especially in rural areas. A web of social welfare programs has been integral to Peru’s successful war on poverty as well as increased access to education and financial institutions. Previous administrations successfully balanced growth and poverty reduction in Peru, but more work is necessary.

Rural Poverty in Peru

Despite Peru’s strong growth and successful anti-poverty initiatives, much of the rural population still suffer material deprivation. In 2014, Peru’s rural poverty rate was nearly 50% with an estimated 15% of rural children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

Past administrations created several initiatives to expand welfare access in rural areas. However, Peru’s diverse geography and mountainous rural terrain make them difficult to implement. Rural Peruvians experience limited access to social programs and high transaction and transportation costs. Additionally, they enjoy far less economic opportunity or connection to growing markets than their urban peers.

Rural poverty concentrates most widely among the indigenous population, who often live in geographically isolated areas. Exacerbating the urban-rural cleavage are conflicts between the government and indigenous rights groups over mining and energy projects in the Andes. This conflict highlights the friction between extractive policies that constitute the base of Peru’s growing economy and the lived experience of rural Andeans who bear the cost of these industrial initiatives.

Peru’s New President

Pedro Castillo of the socialist Free Peru party won the June 2021 election. His election marked a paradigm shift in Peru’s political landscape. The former teacher and son of rural peasants, Castillo won a close election against Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Peruvian dictator Albert Fujimori who ruled the country from 1990 to 2000. Fujimori claimed that election fraud was responsible for Castillo’s victory, but the Peruvian election authorities ultimately dismissed her claims. Representing his rural constituency, Castillo declared that “Votes from the highest mountain and farthest corner of the country are worth the same as votes from San Isidro and Miraflores” in response to the baseless claims of election fraud.

Castillo promises to aggressively fight poverty and increase the state’s role in the economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Castillo’s posture as an anti-establishment populist will make his economic revolution difficult in the face of elite opposition. However, Peru’s difficult year increased the appetite for radical reforms to the neoliberal economy. Peru has experienced the highest deaths per capita of any country in the world and has seen its poverty rate increase due to the 2020 recession. Castillo’s five-year term will be a new chapter for a country that has not seen a truly left-wing president in a generation.

Snowballing Success in Eliminating Poverty in Peru

Peru has made impressive gains against poverty in recent decades. However, a multitude of factors has prevented these gains from undergoing equal distribution among urban and rural Peruvians. COVID-19’s impact led to the election of a socialist president who has pledged to take aggressive steps toward poverty reduction, especially in rural areas. While Peru’s poverty rate is less than half of what it was two decades ago, there is still a long road ahead to ameliorate the material deprivation that nearly 7 million Peruvians experience.

– Will Pease
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in PortugalCOVID-19 has heavily impacted the way people live, even more so for those living in poverty. According to a report published by Agencia EFE Portugal, 21.6% of Portugal’s citizens were already at risk of poverty before the outbreak of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 have pushed thousands of people to poverty.

The Effect of a Pandemic on Poverty

The social, economic and health consequences the pandemic provoked worldwide are undeniable. While eradicating poverty has always been at the core focus of many nonprofit organizations, since the beginning of COVID-19, many nonprofit organizations have prioritized sanitation and clear water programs to eradicate COVID-19 and diminish poverty levels.

Poverty in Portugal is partly due to the enormous social and economic inequalities governing the country. Furthermore, COVID-19 has only exacerbated existing poverty rates. As reported by the World Bank, poverty in Portugal had been decreasing since 2017. During 2018, approximately 17% of the population lived in poverty. However, the situation has dramatically changed. The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to 400,000 additional impoverished citizens in Portugal and “a 9% increase in inequality,” according to a study by PROSPER published in June 2021. Unquestionably, COVID-19 is directly linked to a social and economic crisis that is bringing instability to many countries. As this health crisis evolves, economic hardship increases too.

How Portugal is Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic

The United Nations has published a country report analyzing how the Portuguese government is dealing with the economic situation amid COVID-19. As reported, poverty in Portugal is becoming a core issue for the country. As such, the government has designed several programs covering education, health and social security to combat inequalities. For example, there is a compelling need to adjust pensions as many pensions equal €180 a month. If pensions increase, pensioners will be able to access and afford higher quality products and services and poverty will be alleviated.

Poverty in Portugal is also being addressed by several NGOs. The Portuguese Non-Governmental Development Organizations Platform (NGDOs) is a nonprofit society composed of 62 NGDOs. Cuerama and Caritas are two of the major organizations helping the most vulnerable communities in the country.

Caritas has steadily diminished poverty rates in Portugal. As Caritas published in 2018, the level of citizens demanding social services decreased by 12.7%, which is a historical record. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, disparities have increased again. The Social Observation Centre has been concisely preparing a platform to gather and track as much data as possible to improve the performance of Caritas.

Additionally, in Portugal, the coalition Global Action Against Poverty concisely combats poverty and inequalities. Since 1990, poverty in Portugal has been diminishing. However, as stated above, since the outbreak of COVID-19, the situation has worsened and Portugal is still one of the most unequal countries in Europe. As published by The Portugal News, Portugal “comes ninth in the ranking of most unequal countries out of the 34 the OECD measured.” Tax benefits are one of the most efficient policies introduced by the authorities trying to alleviate inequalities and poverty.

Tackling Poverty in Portugal Amid COVID-19

Poverty in Portugal has always been present. Yet, the outbreak of COVID-19 has tremendously aggravated the situation. As displayed above, figures have been dramatically increasing as social and economic inequalities have risen from the crisis. However, poverty in Portugal has become one of the main focuses for authorities and organizations. Policies like increasing pensions and tax benefits are already in place to combat poverty. Besides creating policies, there is a need to strengthen communication and education to ensure all these programs are successfully implemented.

With the efforts made by the government and NGOs alike, Portugal will hopefully be able to tackle poverty and COVID-19 simultaneously.

– Cristina Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Solutions to PovertyChanging ecosystems from economic development have increased the risk of poverty and food insecurity around the world. Informal sectors, which mostly exist in lower-income countries, sidestep environmental regulations. This further degrades the environment and puts more people at risk of poverty. However, these high-risk environments also provide an opportunity to implement environmental solutions to poverty and lower the risk of environmental destruction.

Demi-Lune Agriculture to Stop Desertification

In the past century, deserts have expanded rapidly due to industrialization and rising global populations. This threatens millions of people living on the periphery of deserts who farm for a living, people who may see their crops dry up in coming years. Environmental solutions to poverty often focus on stopping the expansion of deserts.

For example, farmers on the periphery of the Sahara Desert have adopted a new style of farming to adapt to the desertification of their farmland: half-moon agriculture. This environmental solution to poverty, introduced in the 1980s, has many benefits.

Half-moons retain water much more efficiently than traditional agricultural techniques, an important feature in water-scarce climates. Farmers can easily understand and execute the process, which only requires basic tools, increasing its usability in communities with poor education and literacy.

In West Africa, half-moon agriculture has led to an incredible transformation of the landscape, with formerly arid land now covered in grass, trees or crops. Binta Cheffou, a farmer in Niger, planted half-moons in the 1990s when her community’s land was bare and unproductive.

Now, according to Cheffou, “Many people are no longer hungry” due to increased livestock yields and more agriculture. Communities using this environmental solution to poverty have witnessed a large increase in biodiversity as well, a useful safeguard against ecological disasters.

Planting Trees to Reduce Landslides

Natural disasters pose a large barrier in the fight against poverty, causing $210 billion in damage in 2020, according to major insurers. Landslides, a common disaster in developing countries, kill nearly 4,500 people each year, according to earth scientist Dave Petley. There are several environmental solutions to poverty and natural disasters, including a simple one: planting trees.

Landslides largely occur in environments where erosion is widespread and the ground can no longer hold its weight. These conditions often emerge just after deforestation and unregulated mining, where people extracting resources leave hillsides barren and organic structures rotten.

The lack of organic structure holding the slopes together leads to these tragic natural disasters. Reverting the hillside to its natural state with biodiverse trees can provide the structure necessary to prevent landslides while also providing revenue to those caring for the trees.

This strategy, popularized worldwide in the past few years, has seen major success in preventing landslides and reducing poverty. In Ethiopia, studies in communities with tree-planting initiatives noted a dramatic increase in community income and food supply. In Indonesia, research confirmed a decrease in landslides where trees were present. The study found that coffee trees prevent landslides especially well with the added benefit of providing coffee beans for communities to harvest and sell. This would decrease the motivation for unregulated logging and mining, further reducing landslide risk.

Cleaning Rivers for Clean Water

Rivers serve as key assets for countries to fuel their development. Rivers can provide power, food, drinking water and trade routes. Furthermore, recreational activities on rivers provide economic stimulation. However, many of the world’s key rivers, especially in developing countries, are experiencing a crisis of pollution and wastewater. This pollution costs countries billions of dollars. As such, key environmental solutions to poverty should focus on cleaning rivers and ensuring proper wastewater systems to prevent pollution.

In Indonesia, where riverway pollution costs $6.3 billion each year, or 2.3% of GDP, the government aims to make river water drinkable by 2025. Indonesia is implementing several strategies to address river pollution and protect the environment, including tree planting to combat erosion and regulations to ensure water factories produce drinkable water from rivers. Indonesia also focuses on environmental education as many people discard domestic trash in rivers without considering the consequences.

India also suffers from polluted rivers. The Ganga River, sacred to Hindus, serves almost 400 million people, providing water for drinking, irrigation and industry. It also deposits significant amounts of plastic into the Bay of Bengal and is filled with damaging pollutants which cause waterborne diseases that kill 1.5 million children per year.

The Indian government is focusing on the tributaries to the Ganga, ensuring clean water flows into the major river for a long-term cleaning strategy. So far, the government has spent $3 billion on cleanup initiatives since 2015 and has doubled sewage capacity.

The Future

These environmental solutions to poverty can increase both wealth and living standards. Studies show that access to a green and clean environment can boost mental health and life expectancy. Clean rivers, green hillsides and re-purposed desert land can provide access to these benefits worldwide. Going forward, governments should focus on innovative solutions to both improve the environment and reduce poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

Safari Rally Can HelpThe Kenyan Safari Rally is a car racing event “first held in Kenya in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.” The Safari Rally became inactive for almost 20 years “due to concerns over safety, organization and finances.” Now, in 2021, the car racing event is making a comeback in Kenya. The event may be an important source of revenue for Kenya as it has the potential to increase tourism in the country. The revival of the Safari Rally can help Kenya since the country’s “economic outlook remains highly uncertain” due to COVID-19.

Impact of COVID-19 on Kenyan Tourism

From 2009 to 2019, the tourism sector’s GDP value in Kenya grew by about $4 billion. Since almost 40% of Kenya’s youth experience unemployment, a growing tourism industry has the potential to provide employment opportunities, thus reducing poverty in the country. International tourism in Kenya is more profitable than domestic tourism with arrivals of more than two million tourists between 2018 and 2019. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, pandemic-induced restrictions have limited the economic potential of tourism in Kenya.

As is the case for most countries, COVID-19 harshly impacted Kenya’s tourism and hospitality sector with a loss of more than $500 million in hotel revenue alone. Due to decreased travel in 2020, more than 36,000 airline workers in Kenya were at risk of unemployment. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed an additional two million Kenyans into impoverished circumstances due to job losses, wage cuts and reduced household income. The Safari Rally offers hope to a struggling Kenyan economy, providing a chance to revitalize the tourism sector after the harsh impacts of the pandemic.

How the Safari Rally Can Help Tourism

By hosting 24 foreign and 34 Kenyan drivers, the Safari Rally will boost not only international tourism but also domestic tourism. Domestic tourism is just as important as international tourism in preventing tourism-based economies from collapsing during the pandemic. The Safari Rally enables local Kenyan residents to travel to the race venues to support Kenya as domestic tourists.

The hospitality industry will see a rise in activity as sponsors and participants in the Safari Rally book hotels for accommodation. A Kenyan betting company, Betika, sponsors the event along with companies such as Toyota. The event will increase the prominence of Kenyan businesses harmed by the lack of sporting activities due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Additionally, the Safari Rally will give Kenyans a chance to boost their sporting culture and patriotism. The itinerary of the race consists of 18 stages that pass through key tourist attraction sites in Kenya. Locations such as Lake Naivasha and other wildlife conservancies give spectators and participants a chance to enjoy the sight of lions, leopards, giraffes and elephants, all while boosting the Kenyan economy.

The Road to Economic Recovery

While tourism may have been the worst-hit sector globally, for developing countries it may be a way to escape the economic impacts of the global pandemic. The Safari Rally can help Kenya by offering Kenya’s tourism sector an opportunity to recover, igniting economic growth and reducing poverty in the country.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Flickr

International Poverty Reduction Center in China
The Chinese government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other organizations founded the International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC) in 2004. Its goal is to allow for the sharing of knowledge and information to reduce poverty and encourage development throughout the world. It also engages in research on international poverty reduction theories and practices and provides reviews of China’s poverty reduction policies. While its work extends beyond Asia, it participates in poverty reduction in Southeast Asia and takes part in ASEAN forums and conferences.

What the International Poverty Reduction Center (IPRCC) Does

One of the major issues of programs seeking to help raise people out of poverty is that they rely too much on giving people what they need today, rather than ensuring they have the resources and knowledge to provide for tomorrow. The International Poverty Reduction Center is trying to prevent this by focusing on involvement at the village level. It pays attention to ensuring those on the ground have the knowledge, resources and ability to continue to grow sustainably even after the IPRCC leaves.

The Ban Xor Example

In December 2016, Ban Xor, Laos became the site for the pilot program of the IPRCC. There were 2,007 residents at the time and half lived on less than $700 a year. The goal of the involvement in Ban Xor is to share knowledge of farming techniques, assist in the construction of public infrastructure and give people market access to sell their products. The emphasis is on using China’s experiences to help others as well as sharing information between both the Chinese and Lao teams. The Chinese experts learned what people in Ban Xor required and what their living situation was like, and the Lao executives’ team learned management methods as well as how to tackle poverty issues based on China’s experiences.

As a result of this program, the people of Ban Xor have improved their corn and cattle farming techniques and have been able to increase their yields. Additionally, women have been able to sell their traditional weaving to Chinese buyers. Some of the infrastructural changes include the building of a bridge to allow easier travel throughout the village at all times of the year. Furthermore, they constructed a school, which caters to students from kindergarten through secondary school, with 60 teachers and 550 students as of 2019. This school includes a playground and places for people to live. As education is one of the best ways to lift people out of poverty and ensures that the next generation will be better off than the current, this is a vital part of this program.

The use of both “hard methods,” such as building roads, bridges and schools and “soft methods,” such as knowledge sharing, is vital. These methods provide the people with the groundwork and the knowledge needed for sustainable development.

The Importance of the Program

While this program is still ongoing and the results of such programs can take years or even decades to come to fruition, changes have already occurred in Ban Xor and other villages to improve the quality of life.

China is still a developing country but has made incredible strides in decreasing poverty within its own country. In 1990, two-thirds of the population was living below the international poverty line. By 2016, it was only 0.5% of the population. That is not to say that there is no inequality in China, but more to show how quickly China has been able to increase the standard of living. This rapid growth has given Chinese poverty reduction experts the knowledge and experience to help others in the region and globally.

Countries like Laos have been steadily decreasing the number of people living in poverty, due in part to programs such as this which facilitate knowledge sharing and encourage people on the ground to make sustainable change. Regional cooperation is vital to ensuring stability and sustainable growth and this program is just one example of how a country can go from a major aid recipient to a major aid donor and help bring change to a region.

– Harriet Sinclair
Photo: Flickr

health and wellness centersIndia has long lacked an adequate healthcare system, with disadvantaged communities being particularly excluded. Initiatives were implemented throughout the years to improve healthcare in India, culminating in 2018 with the inauguration of the Ayushman Bharat program. The program includes a two-pronged approach to achieving universal healthcare: the establishment of an insurance scheme aimed at impoverished people as well as the creation of 150,000 health and wellness centers (HWCs) throughout the country. While the former has been widely analyzed, the latter is underrated in its potential to improve the lives of India’s most vulnerable. The new HWCs will greatly expand India’s primary healthcare system and will provide impoverished communities with quality healthcare.

Ayushman Bharat and India’s Healthcare System

The Ayushman Bharat program was initiated in 2018 as a response to shortcomings in India’s healthcare system. Indian policymakers have directed much attention toward combating the rates of communicable diseases or diseases that are spread by bacteria. As a result, deaths due to these conditions have decreased. Meanwhile, non-communicable diseases were the cause of 62% of deaths in 2016. The need to reorient India’s healthcare system to this issue became apparent.

The Indian government’s National Health Policy 2017 detailed the need to upgrade the country’s existing health facilities by investing 2.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in healthcare by 2025. Ayushman Bharat launched the next year to facilitate this with one of the main goals of the program: the establishment of health and wellness centers throughout the country.

Health and Wellness Centers

India’s health and wellness centers (HWCs) intend to upgrade 150,000 existing health facilities by December 2022. These upgraded facilities are designed to remedy the country’s substandard healthcare by providing a greater range of services and being in touch with local needs. The expanded range of services is key to reaching more people as HWCs will treat issues such as non-communicable diseases and mental health while also providing dental care.

Additionally, HWCs seek to emphasize community engagement to effectively serve the areas they are located in. This includes health promotion through schools and other community centers as well as the empowerment of individual volunteers to improve local capacity. Furthermore, HWCs will encourage the participation of civil society and will engage with local nonprofit organizations to provide additional care.

With a goal of creating 150,000 HWCs by December 2022, India appears to be well on its way. As of November 2020, 50,000 facilities have been made operational, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In terms of COVID-19, the work of HWCs is integral as they have been involved in efforts for contact tracing, community surveillance and early identification of cases. They have also ensured the provision of health services for people with co-morbidities who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

The Road Ahead

With the combination of expanded services and community engagement, HWCs are designed to encourage Indians to pursue proper healthcare, thus decreasing the rates of diseases and other ailments. This is especially beneficial for India’s disadvantaged communities as they will have greater access to quality healthcare that is specifically tailored to their needs. In all, HWCs will greatly improve India’s chances of achieving universal healthcare.

Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr