Poverty Eradication in Germany
Historically, Germany has not been without its economic or financial hardships. Since the 1990s, nearly a quarter (or 15%) of Germany’s population has had the classification of being poor. What is Germany doing in the modern age to combat a significant and stagnant impoverished population? Additionally, why have Germany’s poverty rates not reflected the country’s staggering economic growth? Finally, how is Germany’s poverty-reduction legislation impacting refugee families? This article will illuminate the radical legislation and innovations about poverty eradication in Germany including what the country has implemented to reduce inequality, domestically and globally, in the 21st century.

The BMZ Behind It All

Poverty eradication in Germany began with the BMZ (a German-language acronym for the English-translated “Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development”). The BMZ is solely responsible for all affairs regarding poverty relief and economic development in Germany and abroad. In recent history, the BMZ has committed itself to addressing the underlying factors, circumstances and mechanisms that create poverty in the first place. In the early 1990s, the BMZ published international and domestic development goals which, to this day, influences the nation’s fight against poverty. Strong social welfare, personal incentive for work and widespread access to education reduced the national proportion of people experiencing poverty to as low as 7% in 2007.

At the time, radical steps like systemic reformations and direct focus on franchising majority impoverished groups of people were novel and began Germany’s repertoire as a powerful benefactor to its poorest constituents. With recent international crises (like the Syrian Civil War) and the advent of automation, however, Germany’s poverty line has all but slowly grown. However, a recent 6.1 billion euro ($7.2 billion USD) expansion of Germany’s social welfare program, Hartz IV (dedicated to long-term unemployment) spells relief for many displaced and at-risk peoples in Germany.

Young Families, New Challenges

Starting a family is, unquestionably, one of the most difficult and unique things a couple (or individual) can undertake. Additionally, it is no short order to both raise a young family while providing for it – and, sometimes, it is nearly impossible to maintain a “work-life balance,” which typically ends in financial hardship. Poor families are at risk to begin with; a new child may well be the tipping point into impoverishment, and the cycle only proliferates when families raise children in poverty. Enter one of Germany’s most radical pieces of legislation, the Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act, created exclusively to alleviate the financial stresses that new families often face. New parents may receive up to 60% of their income for up to 3 years, addressing underlying systemic cycles of poverty, especially with already at-risk, younger individuals, rather than focusing on short-term manifestations of it.

Providing low-risk, low-stress economic stability for growing families almost ensures that the cycle breaks as well. As of 2014, only 9.5% of children in Germany lived in poverty, compared to the nation’s average of 14%. The Parental Allowance and Leave act has proven to be an extremely successful player in poverty relief in Germany.

International Commitments

Germany has not only invested in domestic poverty relief, it is also interested in working toward poverty relief internationally. Chancellor Angela Merkel has committed to doubling the nation’s UNDP core funding to combat the economic hardship that COVID-19 has brought on internationally. Germany has been the largest single contributor to the UNDP’s core resources since 2017 and has solidified that position by donating nearly $124 million to the core fund this year alone. What that means is increased spending power for the UNDP during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the UNDP predicts will cause the first reversal of human global development since the early 1990s. Germany’s increased budget for the UNDP will go to essential poverty relief efforts in 130 countries that the pandemic has greatly affected, providing assistance for hundreds of millions across the globe.

COVID-19 Relief in Germany

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany experienced its impact economically, socially and culturally much like the rest of the world. In Germany, the unemployment rate from March to April 2020 increased by 0.8%. Poverty rates have remained consistent as well, with surprising research showing that poorer workers are at no greater risk of succumbing to the novel coronavirus. What differentiates Germany’s COVID experience is its radical response and mobilization against the extreme economic fallout COVID spelled.

The German government has committed an unprecedented $868 billion relief package for its most vulnerable populations, small businesses and manufacturers. In addition, Germany has expanded wage subsidies for furloughed individuals and executed a tax slash of 3%. In this exceptionally trying time, Germany has revolutionized the way the world thinks about social security, and it stands that German citizens will feel the impact of this emergency poverty relief in Germany for decades to come.

Germany has been a litmus test as a standard for social welfare since the dawn of the modern age. Poverty eradication in Germany is a multifaceted, extensive and progressive approach to the seemingly Sisyphean task of battling poverty at home and abroad. Strong COVID-19 relief plans, the groundbreaking Parental Leave Act, a dedicated ministry of economic affairs and a commitment to international well-being makes for innovative anti-poverty measures that are paving the way for the world.

– Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Getty Images

homelessness in liberia
Liberia is a country on the coast of West Africa with a population of about 4.61 million people. Around 1.3 million people live in extreme poverty—a classification that food insecurity and no access to shelter characterize. In the urban population, about 65.7% of the people live in slums, while the rural population makes up 75% of the poverty-stricken population. Many of the rural homes consist of a thatch roof with mud walls, providing little security to families. Here is some information about homelessness in Liberia.

Causes of Homelessness in Liberia

As one of the least developed countries in the world, economic and national instability are the main causes of homelessness in Liberia. Liberia struggled with 14 years of civil wars, beginning in 1989 and ending in 2003. The first of the two civil wars began in 1989 after Charles Taylor established the National Patriotic Front of Liberia and set out to overthrow President Samuel Doe’s administration. Taylor recruited thousands of children to fight as soldiers and was responsible for the massacres of many Liberians. He eventually murdered Samuel Doe and took his seat as president in 1997, thus ending the first civil war.

Shortly after, in 2000, LURD, or Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, began its militant attack on Taylor’s administration, which, in retaliation, formed the Revolutionary United Front. As LURD continued its campaign through Liberia, Movement for Democracy in Liberia, or MODEL, became a predominant force. It also set out to challenge Taylor’s administration. Collectively, the movements recruited about 15,000 children and about 200,000 people died.

President John Kufuor of Ghana, who was also the chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), organized a peace convention to reconcile the violence in Liberia. In July 2003, LURD declared a ceasefire and Taylor resigned and fled to Nigeria. The Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), facilitated by ECOWAS, established a new election for Liberia in 2005 and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took office to lead a newly peaceful Liberia.

The Aftermath of the Civil Wars

When the wars began, Liberis had a population of about 2.1 million people. Over the course of the conflicts, fear and extreme violence caused about 780,000 Liberians to become refugees, and 500,000 became internally displaced. These displacements resulted in camps for families to stay in. These camps then served as recruiting grounds for young children to fight in the war. Those who did not feel protected by the government fled to nearby countries and many abandoned their villages to avoid an attack. By 1990, displacement had affected 50% of Liberia’s population, with women and children making up 80% of the displaced.

Since the end of the civil wars, the government has given little acknowledgment to the issue of homelessness in Liberia. In the Presence of Absence. Today, data estimates that about 400,00 Liberians returned to their villages after fleeing war, and many struggled to find permanent homes. With an unemployment rate of 80%, orphaned child soldiers and a lack of benefit programs from the national government, there has been limited improvement in the housing conditions of Liberia.

Homelessness and Disease

In 2014, Liberia recorded some of the highest Ebola virus case numbers in the world. By the time Liberia declared itself Ebola-free, the CDC recorded 10,678 cases and 4,810 deaths. As a result, 5,900 Liberian children lost one or both parents, leaving many with no option but to live on the streets. Housing also became difficult for those who were on the frontlines of the Ebola fight; landlords, relatives and foster homes often pushed away children and volunteers who came in contact with the virus. Fear of Ebola treatment centers and their occupants has created a stigma against survivors. Consequently, Liberians often find themselves without work or shelter and 70% of the urban population lives in the slums.

Following the outbreak, the government provided very little aid to help Liberians rebuild their lives. As a result, many children who lost their parents during the outbreak resorted to sleeping on the streets. In Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, children often sleep in the tombs in the cemetery, as they have nowhere else to go, thus creating their label of “cemetery children.”

Nonprofits Making Change in Liberia

Despite the lack of aid that the government provides, many programs from abroad have begun work in Liberia. The current president, George Weah, also championed a new initiative. In 2010, Shelter for Life, a nonprofit development organization, built 1,300 temporary refugee shelters and 10 community buildings. Shelter for Life also provided micro-loans to struggling farmers in order to help rebuild and jumpstart the community.

Shelter Afrique, the Liberian National Housing Authority and President Weah signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2019 to provide affordable housing, with facilities, to Liberian citizens. The pro-poor housing initiative will create more opportunities for Liberians to buy and retain homes. The initiative creates more dwellings on the lower end of the market, increasing affordability to combat homelessness. Data shows that Liberia has a housing shortage of 512,000 units, emphasizing the need for more homes.

Homelessness in Liberia is beginning to be a priority for its government; however, Liberia can not accomplish this alone. Foreign aid from the United States will create homes for families and take orphaned children off the streets.

Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

inventions that help people in povertyResearchers and innovators across the world are creating new inventions that help people in poverty meet their needs for adequate nutrition and medical care. Here are five inventions that are helping those in need.

5 Inventions That Help People in Poverty

  1. The Lucky Iron Fish: The Lucky Iron Fish is a small cooking tool that aims to conquer iron deficiency in marginalized communities. Iron deficiency impacts over 2 billion people globally, making it the most widespread nutritional disorder around the world. People affected by iron deficiency may experience negative impacts on their energy levels, concentration, memory and cognitive development. Iron deficiency affects women more than men, and it is especially common during pregnancy. Users just add the Lucky Iron Fish to boiling water so that it can enrich their liquid or vegetables with iron.
  2. 3-D Food Printing: Food printing is relatively new among inventions that help people in poverty. Nevertheless, 3-D food printing can create a stable food source for impoverished areas. This innovation can also address malnutrition through custom features that allow creators to set standards for nutritional additions. Additionally, 3-D printing may be a solution to food scarcity when a country is dealing with a natural disaster. While bringing all of these benefits to impoverished areas, food printers also produce less waste than traditional methods of food production.
  3. Feedie: People around the world already love to snap pictures of their delicious meals before posting them onto their social media. Feedie is an app that allows users to help feed people around the world by just taking a picture of their meal. Each picture turns into a donation to The Lunchbox Fund. This donation will go toward producing meals for people in poverty all around the world.
  4. Golden Rice: Vitamin A deficiency is a serious public health issue due to its severe impact on children around the world. This deficiency is responsible for over 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness in children under the age of five. Invented to solve this problem, Golden Rice is a new type of rice that has been genetically modified to contain three new genes that help create provitamin A. Many countries rely on rice as a food source, which means that switching to Golden Rice will not be a drastic diet change. In 2019, the Filipino government became the first among developing countries to allow Golden Rice for direct use among citizens.
  5. Growing Shoes: Many children in poverty around the world are at risk for soil-transmitted diseases and parasites if they cannot afford a suitable pair of shoes. Growing Shoes is a durable shoe that expands in several places, which allows children to adjust the size as their feet continue to grow. In all, the shoe can grow up to five sizes. These shoes therefore provide a long-term solution to protecting children in poverty from dangerous environmental factors, like disease.

People around the world are creating new inventions that help people in poverty and those experiencing hunger. These small inventions help an entire community with just one iron fish, grain of rice or growing shoe at a time.

Jacey Reece
Photo: Flickr

Social Activism by Musicians
Music continues to unite people all around the world despite social distance. With cities urging self-isolation, celebrities are stepping up through charity donations and virtual concert performances. Here are several ways social activism by musicians is making a difference.

Online Concert Streaming

Musician friends Lucius and Courtney Barnett, joined together to raise money for Oxfam’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. Their 4-hour live performance streamed via Instagram was packed with new song debuts and famous cover remixes. Accompanied by individual performances from singers like Sheryl Crow and Lukas Nelson, the event raised more than $38,000.

Through his “Living Room Concert for America,” Elton John joined with musicians such as Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga to raise more than $10 million for Feeding America and the First Responders Children’s Foundation. The Lumineers also raised over $600,000 for MusiCares and the Colorado Restaurant Association through their live stream concert on May 8th.

Relief Efforts to Fight COVID-19

Through the Clara Lionel Foundation, Rihanna has given $5 million in grants to organizations such as Direct Relief, the International Rescue Committee and the World Health Organization to help underprivileged communities fight COVID-19. Musician Dierks Bentley has also demonstrated interest in alleviating pain from the vulnerable communities. In 2019, Dierks Bentley performed at a benefit for the Troy Gentry Foundation, which works with families in need. Bentley has also worked with WE Day, Stand Up to Cancer, Amnesty International and the Children’s Miracle Network to raise awareness and provide financial support.

Donations Given to MusiCares

On June 29th, The Weeknd announced a $1,000,000 donation to support relief efforts. The donation will be split in half with $500,000 for MusiCares and the other half for the Scarborough Health Network, which aids front-line healthcare workers.

Dolly Parton, widely recognized for her philanthropic efforts, was named the MusiCares Person of the Year. She founded the Imagination Library in 1995, which gives kids one book per month until they reach kindergarten. To date, more than 100 million books have been provided through her literacy program. In 2016, she put together the Smoky Mountains Rise telethon, which raised more than $13 million to be given to victims of the wildfires in Gatlinburg. Parton continued her strides in 2020, when she gave $1 million to fund research by Vanderbilt University Medical Center on a cure for COVID-19.

Taylor Swift is also known to lend a hand when she can, and in the face of the Coronavirus, she did just that. Swift supported her favorite record shop in Nashville by making a disclosed donation and giving three months of paid health insurance to the staffers. She has also donated to her fans in need and to Feeding America.

Looking Forward

While much still needs to be done in regards to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, social activism by musicians like these is bringing about change by providing relief to organizations and underserved communities. Through music, these musicians are making change by giving hope and comfort to the world in light of the pandemic.

Erica Fealtman
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in India
Poverty has been at the forefront of India’s issues for an incredible amount of time. Based on the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) from Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, about 55% of Indians were poor in 2005-06. However, despite this grim reality, there have been various innovations in poverty eradication in India. The Indian government, with help from nonprofits, has come a long way in improving the welfare of the people. The number of people in poverty decreased from 630 million poor people to 360 million.

Nonprofits Making a Difference

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a not-for-profit NGO that works with the Indian government to provide poor children meals during school. Its goal is to keep children both nourished and wanting to go to school. Since 2000, it has grown into the largest nonprofit lunch serving organization in the world. Akshaya Patra provides food every day to over 1.8 million children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has provided poor and at-risk people with almost 60 million meals and 760,000 grocery kits.

Another great organization helping in the fight against poverty is SOS Children’s Villages, with over 500 SOS Children’s Villages and 400 SOS Youth Facilities in more than 133 countries around the world. SOS Children’s Villages is a nonprofit that has dedicated itself to providing children with safe, loving environments with better access to food, education and health. In India, SOS Children’s Villages cares for over 25,000 children across 22 states, ensuring stability and better situations for those in need.

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is an international organization dedicated to researching effective ways to reduce poverty around the world and help create programs and policies that better alleviate these issues. IPA conducts randomized evaluations to find accurate insights into the causes of poverty. It then utilizes its findings to help governments and other institutions create more effective programs. Through its extensive network of world-class university researchers, IPA has “…designed and evaluated more than 550 potential solutions to poverty problems…” with over 280 more evaluations in progress.

The Work of the Indian Government

Additionally, the Indian government has initiated multiple programs and policies to help reduce poverty. India is the first country to make corporate social responsibility mandatory in the world. This ensures that big companies like Mahindra use their resources to help the poor. The government also has an important green initiative, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or “Clean India,” that ensures the health of the environment and people improves. This initiative focuses on increasing sanitation accessibility and standards in India, with the building of over 100 million toilets since October 2014.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian government has proved its dedication to upholding these standards. It issued a three-month-long campaign, Samudayik Shauchalaya Abhiyan (SSA), from June 15, 2020, to September 15, 2020, to emphasize the construction of Community Sanitary Complexes (CSCs) in villages. This campaign supports the influx of migrant workers/merchants traveling back to their home villages due to the pandemic.

Levels of poverty in India have improved over the years, but the country and nonprofits need to do more work. Fortunately, there are many institutions and programs in place continuing innovations in poverty eradication in India.

Saayom Ghosh
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Germany
Germany plays an enormous role in the battle against global poverty, from its sweeping refugee integration efforts to its special initiatives against world hunger. It was also one of the three largest UNICEF contributors in 2019, alongside the United States and the United Kingdom. Given the country’s position, it may come as a surprise that hunger persists in Germany. However, as of 2015, nearly 20% of children were at risk of poverty. The majority of the population has a high standard of living, but around 4% experienced moderate to severe food insecurity between 2016 and 2018.

Poverty in Germany

According to Ulrich Schneider, the chief executive of Germany’s Equal Welfare Organization, the gap between rich and poor German states has increased since the reunification in 1990. Poverty is heavily concentrated in areas such as North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Lower Saxony, Germany and some Eastern German states. Lack of access to nutritious food has affected the health of the German population. The prevalence of obesity was 26% in 2016, with an average risk of premature death due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at 12%.

Unemployment in Germany

Although unemployment rates have fluctuated during the past 30 years, low-paying employment among low- and middle-skill workers and women is a driving factor of poverty and hunger. Unemployment surged past 12% in 2005, and the current rate is 6.4%. Since the rapid influx of refugees began in 2015, Germany has seen lower unemployment rates and higher economic growth. The majority of asylum seekers are working in low-skilled, low-paying jobs, but the long-term trends are encouraging. As of 2019, around one-third of refugees have a job, but many individuals rely on social welfare and federal expenditures in order to feed their families. Unemployment and underemployment among parents in Germany is the main factor in putting families at risk of poverty.

Delivering Aid

The federal government provides a variety of programs and subsidies to make up for disadvantages resulting from poverty and a lack of societal integration. German municipalities and states are primarily responsible for this task, but many other actors also work to resolve poverty and food insecurity. Thankfully, Tafel Deutschland food banks are widely accessible throughout the country. There are more than 940 nonprofit Tafel locations, which together serve more than 1.5 million people. Nearly one-third of them are children and youth. Many locations temporarily closed due to COVID-19 risks, but numerous new volunteers have gotten involved to deliver needed assistance in various regions.

Private organizations and religious communities play an increasingly important role as well. They complement the work of food banks and often extend the reach of aid to residents facing food insecurity in Germany. For vulnerable groups such as women, children and the elderly, the solidarity and tolerance these organizations provide has been paramount.

Hunger may not be as prevalent in Germany as in other parts of the world, but the work of private and nonprofit organizations helps mitigate food insecurity across the country. Ensuring that no one goes hungry is a complicated task, but the current course in Germany is positive.

Rachel Moloney
Photo: Flickr

poverty relief reduces disease
The universal rise in global living standards has helped combat diseases, spurred on by international poverty relief efforts. In fact, one study found that reducing poverty was just as effective as medicine in reducing tuberculosis. Poor health drains an individual’s ability to provide for themselves and others, trapping and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Better public health increases workforce productivity, educational attainment and societal stability. Here are 5 ways poverty relief reduces disease.

5 Ways Poverty Relief Reduces Disease

  1. Better Sanitation: According to the WHO, approximately 827,000 people die each year due to “inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene.” Poor sanitation is linked to the spread of crippling and lethal diseases such as cholera and polio, which hamper a nation’s development. By investing in the sanitation of developing nations, the rate of disease decreases and the food supply improves. Furthermore, an all around healthier society emerges that can contribute more to the global economy. In fact, a 2012 WHO study found that “for every U.S. $1.00 invested in sanitation, there was a return of U.S. $5.50 in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.”
  2. Improved Health Care Industries: A hallmark of any developed nation is the quality of its health care industry. A key part of reducing poverty and improving health, is investing in health care initiatives in developing countries. When the health care industry is lacking (or even non-existent), the population experiences high levels of disease, poverty and death. Many American companies have already invested millions into the medical sectors of developing nations, however. In September 2015, General Electric Healthcare created the Sustainable Healthcare Solutions, a business unit that donates millions in money and medical equipment to developing nations.
  3. More Informative Education: Knowledge is power when it comes to fighting disease. Educational institutions provide a nation with one of the best tools to fight diseases of all kinds. According to a WHO report, “education emphasizing health prevention and informed self-help is among the most effective ways of empowering the poor to take charge of their own lives.” Schools must teach about proper sanitation, how to spot warning signs and form healthy behaviors. School health programs are also an invaluable resource in times of pandemics and disease outbreaks, as they coordinate with governments. This cooperation has helped tackle diseases, including HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. Eritrea, for example, has one of the lowest rates of infection in the region (less than 1%), partially due to an increase in HIV/AIDS education measures.
  4. Enhanced Nutrition: Malnutrition and food insecurity weaken the immune systems of the impoverished and significantly lower one’s quality of life. Millions of children each year die from famine or end up crippled due to dietary deficiencies. By investing in and supporting agricultural sectors of developing nations, aid programs help in not only decreasing poverty, but also in cutting down on illness of all kinds. Likewise, international aid during conflicts and natural disasters is crucial to ensuring the continued health and productivity of a country. One nation combating such an issue is Tanzania. With the help of aid organizations like UNICEF, Tanzania has decreased malnutrition for children under five.
  5. More Effective Government Services: Arguably encompassing all the previous categories, governments with more money and resources can effectively help stop diseases. A healthy general population leads to more productivity, which increases tax revenue. Central governments can then invest that money back into health care and sanitation, creating a positive feedback loop. Governments also provide a centralized authority that can cooperate with organizations like the WHO. In the 21st century, communication and cooperation between world governments is key to halting pandemics and working on cures.

Impact on COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how improved government resources provide poverty relief, which helps combat the virus in the developing world. Kenya is a good example of how developing nations can help contain and combat the virus with effective government actions. The systems and governmental services built up over past decades sprang into action and coordinated with organizations like the WHO. The government has also implemented various economic measures to help mitigate the negative economic side-effects. Moving forward, it is essential that governments and humanitarian organizations continue to take into account the importance of poverty relief for disease reduction.

– Malcolm Schulz 
Photo: Flickr