Information and stories on social activism.

U2’s Charity Work
Throughout its career, the band U2 has played for tens of thousands of people and gained millions of fans worldwide. The band’s influence, however, has gone beyond its music, as it has impacted millions of people with its charity work. Various members have done both individual charity work as well as work through the band. The band members’ collaborative efforts include poverty relief, disaster relief and health and human rights work. This article will highlight a few important instances of U2’s charity work.

Bono’s Work With ONE & RED

ONE is a campaign that Bono, U2’s lead singer and other activists co-founded. The campaign’s aim is to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases. In order to achieve this goal, Bono has personally met with heads of state and lobbied governments to pass legislation. Grassroots efforts and ONE’s lobbying for legislation have saved millions of lives over the last 10 years through newly funded government policies. Bono also co-founded RED, an organization that raises awareness and funds to help fight the AIDS crisis. RED has raised $600 million to date, which primarily goes toward AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa.

Disaster Relief Concerts

Throughout U2’s existence, it has played numerous concerts and events to raise money for various disaster relief benefits. In 1984, Bono and U2 bassist Adam Clayton performed at Band Aid, and in 1985, U2 performed at Live Aid. Both events raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The next year, in 1986, the band participated in A Conspiracy of Hope tour on behalf of Amnesty International, an organization that focuses on protecting human rights around the world. That same year, it also performed for Self Aid, which helped the homeless in Ireland. On the 20th anniversary of Live Aid, U2 played the Live 8 concert in London. This concert supported the Make Poverty History campaign.

Other Assorted Charity Work

Beyond Bono’s work with ONE and RED and the band’s charity concerts, U2 has participated in other charitable work. For instance, Bono teamed up with Muhammad Ali in 2000 for Jubilee 2000, which called for the cancelation of third world debt. Bono also founded the organization DATA, which aims to improve the political, financial and social state of those living in Africa. Bono has visited Africa on numerous occasions in an attempt to raise funds and awareness for AIDS relief. Additionally, the band donated all of the proceeds from the release of its song “Sweetest Thing” to Chernobyl Children International, which works to give those the 1986 Cherynobl accident affected medical and economic help. Most recently, U2 donated €10 million for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers on the frontline fighting COVID-19.

U2 has impacted millions of people around the world, not just with its music, but with its charity as well. U2’s charity work has helped millions of people around the world. In particular, Bono’s work with ONE and RED has helped fight against poverty and the AIDS epidemic. The band has also worked together, using its music directly by playing a variety of concerts to raise money for important causes. Even as the world grapples with the devastating effects of COVID-19, U2 has continued providing people in need with generous humanitarian aid.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty Eradication in Egypt
Innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt have taken a sustainable and decentralized form in the last four years. Through local initiatives and collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Egypt has incorporated social welfare and development programs aimed at improving the standard of living in its poorest governorates and providing a permanent path out of poverty for future generations.

With Egypt’s poverty rate rising to 5% in 2019, how exactly does Egypt plan to have a “competitive, balanced, diversified, and knowledge based economy” that would eliminate poverty by 2030?

UNDP Sustainable Development Strategies

One significant innovation in poverty eradication in Egypt is the UNDP’s adoption of a social entrepreneurial and minority centralized model. Through partnerships with Egypt’s public sector, private companies and civil society, the UNDP not only helped prioritize economic development but also made women, children and disabled people a focal point.

  1. The GSER Program: The GSER program under the Misr El-Kheir Foundation, a nonprofit development institution in Egypt, organizes social innovation camps with UNDP’s support. Youth from all parts of Egypt co-scheme solutions to improve the livelihoods in Fayoum’s fishing community, one of Egypt’s poorest governorates. Accomplishments include a redesigned shrimp peeling table for fishermen’s wives, which advanced hygiene and shell quality in Fayoum.
  2. The IBM Academic Initiative: The IBM Academic Initiative invested $70 million with the objective of providing over 25 million Africans free digital skills training and launching one of its regional offices in Egypt. UNDP’s contributions will help Egypt cultivate a STEM-oriented workforce through access to IBM’s cutting edge tools and course material.
  3. The Game Changer Fellowship: The Game Changer Fellowship is a one-year program that provides incubation support to aspiring Egyptian game designers through a partnership between UNDP Egypt and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College in Boston, U.S.A. This has enabled Egypt’s youth to uniquely approach development challenges by stimulating behavior change. Given that 84% of Egypt’s unemployment rate comprises young men and women, such initiatives are imperative in enhancing human capital in order to prevent an underdeveloped workforce.
  4. The Mobile Ramp App: The Mobile Ramp App helps Egypt’s disabled community lead easier, more integrated lives. UNDP partnered with Fab Lab Egypt and the Misr El-Kheir Foundation to launch a media campaign that promotes and teaches sign language as well as maps out locations with available ramps.

J-PAL’s (Abdul Latif Jamil Poverty Action Lab) Innovative Research

Despite these innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, reports determined that there were 32.5% of Egyptian citizens living below the poverty line in 2019. According to J-PAL, a global research center aiming to reduce poverty, this extreme poverty figure of 32.5% indicates that the policies and programs designed to alleviate Egypt’s poverty are not as effective as they could be.

In order to achieve successful innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, J-PAL’s MIT branch is launching a research center at the American University in Cairo. Through research and professional training to inform evidence-based policies and engage governments and relevant NGOs, Egypt will establish a culture of empirical policy making so that it can adequately evaluate the efficacy of its plans. 

Institutionalizing Social Innovation and Sustainable Development

While international efforts facilitate innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, government and grassroots organizations in Egypt have adopted technological and sustainable based solutions to economic problems through their own localized projects and findings.

  1. The Egyptian Government: The Egyptian government is investing EGP 47bn ($3 billion) to Upper Egypt governorates in its 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is a 50% increase from 2019, representing 25% of total government investments.
  2. The Takaful and Karama Program: The Takaful and Karama program provides income support to the poor through a conditional and unconditional cash transfer program that aims to increase food consumption and necessary healthcare. Nevin al Qabbaj, the Social Solidarity Minister, reported that by 2020 around 2.5 million Egyptian families have benefited from the program.
  3. SEKEM: SEKEM, an Egyptian sustainable development organization, is working with the Egyptian government to implement Egypt Vision 2030. The plan includes 12 “pillars” targeting economic development, social justice, innovative research, education, health and the environment. Additionally, along with local NGOs, SEKEM has revitalized Egypt’s desert land and developed its agricultural businesses using biodynamic methods.

Egypt’s ability to mitigate poverty across all demographics using sustainable, innovative and ethical practices is testimony to its economic and cultural prosperity. Egypt’s innovations in poverty eradication are unique in that they exemplify the duality of individual, entrepreneurial growth in the private sphere and collective, righteous leadership in the public sphere.

– Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr


Parents always want the best for their children, but in an increasingly overwhelming world, it can be hard to stay positive. As a society, we need to actively work harder to inspire future generations to protect our planet and its people. Thankfully, there are many amazing role models out there that can motivate children to get involved in making the world a better place.

Top 5 Role Models for Children

  1. Malala YousafzaiMalala is one of the most famous role models of our time. She was born in the small village of Mingora, Pakistan, where it was uncommon for girls to go to school. At just 11 years old, she was forced out of school when the Taliban, the Sunni Islamist military organization, took control of her village. After speaking out about gender equality and the right to learn, she was shot in the head at 15 years old. At this point, most people would have given up, but not Malala. She kept fighting and made her own organization called the Malala Fund—a charity dedicated to fighting for equal rights and providing girls worldwide the opportunity to attend school. That year, she became the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize and later went on to graduate from Oxford University.
  2. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, has made headlines across the United States. One of the most progressive candidates, and backed by Senator Bernie Sanders, AOC recently got reelected and kept her spot as a representative for New York’s 14th congressional district at just 30 years old. AOC has been vocal about the wealth inequality gap, racial discrimination and climate change. In a time of uncertainty, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s election has been seen as a progression toward an equal world.
  3. Pink — Alecia Beth Moore, known professionally as Pink, has not only achieved momentous achievements as a singer but has often used her fame to advocate for equality and children’s rights. As a UNICEF ambassador, Pink raises awareness about global poverty, malnutrition and access to education and medicine. Moreover, Pink has supported charities related to HIV/AIDS, animal rights and women’s rights, among others. The famous singer even gets her children involved in the work, making sure to instill a sense of charity in them. At one of her rehearsals, Pink’s daughter set up a backstage candy sale to raise money for the impoverished communities in Haiti. This is a great way to get the kids involved and inspire them to do more on their own.
  4. Selena Gomez — Seen as a triple threat in the entertainment industry, Selena Gomez is another fantastic role model for children. In addition to her successful career, Gomez has consistently shown support for various charities and philanthropic endeavors worldwide. She was also appointed a UNICEF ambassador in 2009 and has dedicated a lot of time to improve societal and economic equality in the world by participating in various UNICEF campaigns and continuing charitable work on her own. Recently, Gomez has used her social media platforms to spread awareness about the social and racial injustices in the United States. Selena Gomez has also shown support for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Malala Fund and Free the Children, among others.
  5. Matt DamonMatt Damon is an incredible actor who is no stranger to charity work. He has pledged to provide clean water for impoverished communities worldwide by creating his nonprofit organization. In 2009, Matt Damon and Gary White co-founded Water.org that helps more than 17 countries receive clean water and sanitation supplies. Additionally, Water.org, through its WaterCredit program and microfinancing, supports households living in poverty with loans to obtain essential water systems, making clean water safe, cost-effective and accessible for more than 30 million people.

There are many fantastic role models worldwide that demonstrate how crucial nonprofit organizations are in improving people’s standards of living worldwide. Yet, perhaps the most important role models are the parents at home. Teach children about the real impact of charity work and get them involved in both local and global humanitarian organizations. As children grow older, they will start to venture off on their own charity projects, ensuring a brighter and equal future.

Karin Filipova
Photo: Flickr

Social movements in Argentina
There is a vibrant culture of using social movements in Argentina to achieve political change. In recent years, Argentines have created community movements that push change related to hunger, sanitation, gender equality, same-sex rights, psychosocial and emotional treatment reform and much more. Notorious social movements throughout the country’s history of political and economic hardship have led to transformative policies around poverty, inequity and inequality. Here are three notable social movements in Argentina that have fostered attention to human rights and political reform.

Mothers of The Plaza de Mayo and Demilitarization

Between 1976 and 1983, Argentina experienced a period referred to as the “dirty war,” which resulted from a highly-militarized junta ruling under President Jorge Rafael Videla. This militarized dictatorship imposed extreme violence, regular kidnappings and killings of Argentinian citizens. On 30 April 1977, 14 mothers of disappeared children took to the Plaza de Mayo, located directly outside the presidential palace, to protest both the mystery behind their children’s disappearances and state violence. These 14 mothers inspired Argentines with their bravery, encouraging many to speak up about personal sufferings at the hands of the standing government. Eventually, oppositional parties, leading labor groups and other community leaders overthrew this militarized system. Democracy returned in 1983 under elected President Raúl Alfonsín — a long-term result of the heroism of The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.

The Piquetero Movement

The 2001 Piquetero social movement in Argentina brought destructive neoliberal policies to an end. The neoliberal ideals of President De La Rúa threatened the rights of many Argentines suffering from systemic injustices. Many working-class Argentines lost jobs without governmental support, which rippled to affect local neighborhood living standards. Neoliberal policies perpetuated poor living conditions, unemployment and governmental neglect of basic human rights. Many Argentines had to demonstrate for their own lives.

Neoliberal policy oppressed the primary voices involved in this social movement in Argentina. These groups included the unemployed, labor unions and even middle-class workers. As the Piquetero protests broke out in December 2001, economic minister Domingo Cavallo and President De La Rúa both chose to resign. This allowed local communities to band together with newfound power. Solidarity, equality and equity of need-based opportunity were cultivated across classes, communities and neighborhoods, resulting in permanent, unionized local powers. In 2003, the president-elect of Argentina, Néstor Kirchner, rejected Argentina’s former neoliberal economic system. Still, he brought little reform to systematized social and economic issues within the country.

The Evita Movement

Named after former Argentine first lady Eva Perón, the Evita movement responded to vestigial aggressions of neoliberal economics. Eva Perón championed multiple labor and feminist movements during her husband’s 1946 presidency. Now, Perón is a popular culture idol within the country. Her values are the face of this social movement in Argentina, which fights for the redistribution of wealth and access to human rights.

The movement started in 2003 in support of President Kirchner’s plans for economic and social reform. Although President Kirchner did not reform systemic issues of oppression, the Evita movement is committed to addressing systemic poverty that resulted from Argentina’s debilitating period of neoliberalism. Inspired by Eva Perón’s ideals, the Evita movement works to redistribute wealth and power to people burdened by systemic violence.

Argentina is rich with a history of powerful unions, leaders and communities. With courage, the country has achieved full governmental renewal multiple times and worked to empower oppressed voices. The Argentinian population provides inspiration for social and political change across the globe.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Pixabay

Hugh Evans
One of the most challenging aspects of charity work is getting the word out. Even in the era of social media, it is difficult to reach people and convince them to support a cause, especially during a global pandemic. Yet, music has the power to bring people together during divisive times. Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans found a way to fuse music and charity together. By hosting concerts around the world, he has raised billions of dollars in the fight against global poverty.

Now 37, Hugh Evans was born in Melbourne, Australia. His goal in life is to eradicate global poverty completely, and he is confident that he can do it. Evans believes that people created poverty and that people can destroy it. In an interview for the Sydney Morning Herald, Evans noted that there are more than 2,000 billionaires in the world. If they each gave as much as Bill and Melinda Gates give, poverty would cease to exist completely. Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, “could do it on his own.” But most billionaires are not pitching in enough, or at all. So, Evans calls for systematic change by engaging governments, corporations and ordinary non-billionaires.

Early Inspirations

In 1997, 14-year-old Hugh Evans went on a World Vision trip to the Philippines and saw extreme poverty first-hand. An extremely poor family hosted him. They slept on a concrete roof and had little to offer him besides a straw mat. Lying on that mat, watching cockroaches crawl around him, Evans realized that something needed to change. It was then that he decided to commit his life to ending poverty.

After returning from the Philippines, Evans earned a scholarship to study at an international school in India. There, he learned even more about global culture, language and poverty. He spent weekends doing charitable work in nearby slums or at a branch of Mother Theresa’s charity. Evans even took a gap year after high school to work with HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa. By the time he was 20, he had a much more personal understanding of global poverty than most middle-class Australians will ever have.

Charitable Concerts

In 2006 and 2007, as a university student, Evans organized the Make Poverty History concerts in Australia, featuring Bono, the Edge and Eddie Vedder. Those concerts introduced him to the idea that celebrities could harness real power in the mission to end poverty. Since then, he graduated from Monash University with a science/law degree, got his master’s in international relations and founded Global Citizen. Through this organization, he has coordinated many more concerts around the world, including Together at Home, the live-streamed concerts during the COVID-19 quarantine. Rather than buying tickets, concert-goers must earn them by taking actions as members of Global Citizen. They can do so by signing petitions, contacting world leaders and taking quizzes to educate oneself about global poverty. These may seem like small feats, but advocacy and education are some of the most powerful weapons against global poverty.

Always a hard worker, Evans often endures long days and sleepless nights to organize charitable events, often under short notice. When COVID-19 began reaching countries that already struggle to meet healthcare needs, Evans and his team immediately started planning the Together at Home concert, which they were able to organize in just three weeks.

Inspiring Future Progress

In a world with constantly changing interests and opportunities, nonprofit organizations must work hard to continue attracting attention and fundraising effectively. Hugh Evans’s first-hand experience with poverty has successfully raised billions of dollars towards the fight against global poverty, and he is only 37-years-old. His establishment of Global Citizen is one of the most prominent triumphs in helping impoverished people all around the world. Not only does the organization provide the necessities for survival, but it also gives impoverished communities the tools to bring themselves and others out of poverty. It may have started on a straw mat in the Philippines, but Evans’s optimism and diligence have reached across borders and will continue to support the dignity, compassion and humanity necessary to end global poverty.

Levi Reyes
Photo: Flickr

online activismGeneration Z has grown up in a time of endless war, online activism and extreme cultural change. With unlimited access to the internet, many Zoomers have become adept with technology. They often use the internet to self-educate on important topics and become more globalized people. Generation Z has channeled their frustration in society into online activism, creating an international movement of social awareness.

Generation Z’s Innovation

Gen Z has grown up with online activism. Teenagers care about making a difference in a way that is accessible to them. A campaign from 2015 that revived in 2019 involved turning a person’s Instagram profile picture blue in solidarity with the Sudan protests. It brought attention to the fact that the Sudan military opened fire on unarmed demonstrators and killed over 100 people. One of the demonstrators who died, Mohammad Mattar, had a blue image as his profile picture. The #BlueForSudan trend started in honor of him and the protests. Turning Instagram profile pictures blue increased awareness and encouraged many young people to educate themselves on the situation.

Most Zoomers use various kinds of social media platforms, but one of the best platforms to reach millions is TikTok. Posting a graphic on an Instagram story with a small platform frequently reaches hundreds. However, on TikTok, 100 followers could easily make a video go viral. Teens have figured out that by commenting, pressing the “copy link” button and rewatching the video, the TikTok algorithm will give more attention to the video, hence increasing its audience. This knowledge allows Zoomers to make any video go viral to inform millions of people.

Action and Awareness

Similarly, Gen Z has also found that it can mobilize and overtake certain hashtags. For example, the recent #blackouttuesday demonstration led to the creation of over 20 million posts in a day to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. As the most technologically advanced generation, Gen Z can easily operate through online activism to create change.

Gen Z members have also begun to utilize scripted emails to quickly contact their representatives in support of specific causes. A pre-written email in the U.K. has become popular to show support in ending the Yemen crisis. The Borgen Project and many other organizations have noticed this effective way to create meaningful change in government and have provided an assortment of scripted emails for citizens to send to their representatives.

Another popular way of spreading awareness about important issues is through the repost button on Instagram. Instagram stories are a popular way to spread information to many people. It is now very efficient to share important news with your followers with minimal work.

How Generation Z is Increasing Foreign Aid

Generation Z comprises of teenagers and college students. Therefore, most Zoomers do not have the funds to donate directly and have found alternative ways to fundraise. The most common way to do this is through YouTube ads. Creators put ads on their videos to generate revenue for donations. One hour-long video that the account “haera shin” created was to collect donations for Save The Children, a humanitarian organization helping end the Yemen crisis.

Zoomers also popularized Cardd.co links: free links to spread resources on a customizable single-page website. Most have links to resources to learn more about the topic, petitions to sign, how to contact your representatives and other information to know. One Yemen Cardd.co is incredibly popular and has reached a significant number of people as Zoomers continue to link the Cardd.co in their Instagram, Twitter and other social media bios.

Petitions For Change

Zoomers have popularized using petitions to create awareness and have even created a new internet trend meant to increase petition signatures. They are using a character called Manny, from the book series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” as a reminder to go sign a petition. For example, whenever a drawing of Manny pops up on one’s social media feed, it is a prompt to sign a petition. The Manny character first arose in an attempt to prank Fox News. It featured a petition to change the American flag to what Zoomers call the “Manny flag.” The petition started as a joke, but it created a reminder that gets thousands of Zoomers to sign petitions hourly.

Most petitions that people are signing at the moment are in relation to Black Lives Matter or the Yemen crisis. As petitions gain attention and signatures increase, pressure mounts on leaders to take action. By participating in online activism, teenagers are helping change the world without a single click, a feat no other generation has accomplished before.

Jacquelyn Burrer
Photo: Flickr

Sea Sponge FarmingZanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania, enjoys high financial capacity due to its successful tourist industry, fishing and seaweed production. However, many of Zanzibar’s coastal communities still suffer from acute poverty and local industries are under threat from environmental degradation. One nonprofit, Marine Cultures, aims to solve these issues by introducing sea sponge farming to households in Zanzibar.

The Benefits of Sea Sponge Farming

Sea sponge farming offers a more economically sustainable option than the traditional seaweed farming industry. Farming seaweed for the production of carrageenan, a common thickener in foods, has long been a staple industry for the employment of Zanzibari women. However, the industry is in decline, as seaweed is susceptible to pests and diseases. Additionally, the global market price for seaweed is now low and more labor-intensive farming is rewarded with comparatively minimal income. As a consequence, many single women struggle to make a living from farming seaweed.

Farming sea sponges, however, offer higher monetary returns for a lower-maintenance product. Unlike seaweed, pearl farming, or traditional fishing, sea sponge farming is less time consuming and allows farmers the time and opportunity to pursue other economic activities. Marine Cultures introduced the first sponge farm to coastal Zanzibar in 2009. Since then, the organization installs up to four new sponge farms a year and each farm generates enough income to feed 2-3 families of approximately ten people. The organization specifically targets single, unemployed women, granting them a one-year training period before turning over the farm. This strategy allows the recipient to independently establish and operate their business.

Giving Back To The Ecosystem

Zanzibar’s coastal ecosystems, although essential to the island’s wellbeing, are under pressure from a variety of factors. Overfishing, invasive species, unregulated tourism, dumping of human waste, overpopulation and rising water temperatures are just some of those.

However, sea sponge farms answer the call to establish sustainable forms of using natural resources extracted from the local ecosystem. As the market price of sea sponges remains high, sea sponge farming offers a financially viable alternative to traditional fishing, reducing overfishing and easing some pressure off of the coastal ecosystem. Additionally, sponges are filter-feeders, which means that in addition to saving farmers money on feed costs, they also act as a biofilter that filters out particles in the water.

In this way, sea sponges can help act as a buffer against pollution and encourage the health of local coral reefs. Marine Culture’s sponge farms have even been shown to improve local stocks of species on certain occasions.

Future Perspectives

Looking to the future, sea sponges pose a promising new industry to Zanzibar and beyond. Those women who have begun operating their own sea sponge farms through Marine Cultures report increased income for lower amounts of labor than they experienced harvesting seaweed. All the while, these farms pose long-term career opportunities, as farmers learn the skills not only of sea sponge farming but of marine biology, entrepreneurship and commerce.

By the end of this year, a twelfth sea sponge farm is on track to become independent. Marine Cultures hopes that by 2022, they will be able to remove themselves completely from the local industry and turn over all sponge farms to a local organization that will train future farmers without oversight from Marine Cultures.

– Alexandra Black 
Photo: Flickr


United Parcel Service (UPS) is the world’s largest package delivery company and a global leader in supply chain innovation. The company’s extensive worldwide network makes it a critical link in everyday commerce while providing the necessary infrastructure and expertise to continue operations during crises. Since its establishment, UPS has leveraged its sub-sectors, global partnerships and supply chain intelligence to provide relief for communities across the world in times of need.

The UPS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of UPS, leads the company’s response efforts. The organization donated over $6 million this year to United Nations agencies, humanitarian relief partners, non-profit and international non-governmental organizations.

UPS History of Crisis Prevention

In 2014, an outbreak of the Ebola Virus spread across West Africa, killing 11,325 people. As the second-largest outbreak in history, it highlighted the importance of assembling an efficient system for distributing medical equipment. Later that year, the UPS Foundation joined with Henry Schein, Johnson & Johnson, The World Trade Organization, World Food Program and World Economic Forum to start the Pandemic Supply Chain Network, with the goal of increasing supply chain efficiency. The partnership is a collaboration between public and private sectors that tracks global demand for medical supplies in order to coordinate the allocation and distribution of equipment during large scale public health emergencies.

In 2016, the UPS Foundation partnered with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Rwandan Ministry of Health and Zipline, a drone delivery service providing access to vital medical supplies, to establish the Rwanda Drone Delivery Network. The network is the world’s first drone delivery service whose mission is to provide medicine, vaccines and supplies to remote regions in Rwanda and Ghana. Making basic treatment more accessible is a crucial step toward achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal of universal healthcare coverage, particularly in isolated and underdeveloped areas.

Previously, UPS also joined with the Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction to provide tools and educational resources to healthcare workers about influenza vaccine administration. The organization works with low-income countries to build yearly influenza vaccination programs. These programs provide a strong existing infrastructure for vaccine distribution that can hold up during a pandemic. Through a $50,000 grant, The UPS Foundation funded the vaccination of more than 17,000 individuals in Armenia, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, as well as 130,000 health workers in Vietnam.

COVID-19 Response

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, UPS has taken an active role in supporting international recovery efforts. Through various grants and funding, The UPS Foundation has contributed a total of nearly $21 million toward humanitarian causes in 2020. The company hopes to increase the involvement of private-sector companies in relief efforts through partnerships. These partnerships would provide medical equipment, treatment, food and other basic necessities to vulnerable regions.

UPS joined Project Airbridge, a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and private-sector companies in numerous countries, to expedite the delivery of medical supplies to remote or vulnerable areas. With the help of its existing global supply chain, UPS is operating additional flights between several countries in Asia, Europe and the U.S. to aid in the distribution of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, surgical materials, thermometers and test kits.

UPS is also currently working with three COVID-19 vaccine developers and preparing to facilitate an eventual distribution and rollout. Its subsidiaries Polar Speed and Marken are using their storage facilities, designed to handle fragile and temperature-sensitive materials, to assist with holding and logistics.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, innovation and adaptation are critical skills in developing solutions. UPS has been a leader in supply chain logistics and is now using its expertise to provide global relief. The company’s ability to modify its operations to meet the world’s needs has been tested in the past and continues to show as UPS creates innovative solutions to humanitarian issues, both alone and through partnerships.

Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

Lotus flowers are used to make lotus face masks in Cambodia to address PPE waste and a high face mask demand. Several activists and actors have raised alarm over the potentially devastating effects that personal protective equipment (PPE) can have in terms of increasing pollution around the world. There have been reports of PPE waste collecting on coasts around the world. Plastic pollution negatively impacts ocean health and, for maritime nations, this could translate to economic losses and the loss of livelihoods for those working within the ocean economy. One study by Plastics Hub found that if every person living in the UK utilized a single-use face mask for every day of 2020, it would contribute an additional 66,000 tons of plastic waste. It is unclear how much of this waste could end up in marine environments, but with 150 million tonnes already circulating the earth’s water, there is a pressing urgency to address the unsustainability of single-use face masks to fight the spread of COVID-19. As a result, an eco-friendly designer in Cambodia created lotus face masks to address this PPE waste.

Is There a Way to Combat PPE Pollution?

Cambodia is not exempt from the negative impacts that pollution can have on marine environments. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) identifies Cambodia as being highly dependent on its aquatic resources for both food security and the livelihoods of the Cambodian people.  In 2013, Cambodia averaged 700,000 tons of fishing and aquaculture production.  At a conference on maritime issues in Cambodia in 2015, hosted by the National University of Management in Phnom Penh, speakers highlighted the risk pollution poses to the economic livelihoods of those who depend on the marine economy.  The FAO has also spoken about the degradation of the marine habitat in the country due to pollution. Photographer Niamh Peren described one scene of coastal pollution in Sihanouk, Cambodia as “mountains and mountains of plastic.”

Pollution in the marine environment is a global problem. Due to the nature of the ocean’s currents, marine plastic pollution does not respect national boundaries and one country’s actions will not be enough to address the problem alone. However, Awen Delaval, an eco-friendly fashion designer, is implementing an innovative solution to tackling plastic pollution, while simultaneously diversifying the economy in Cambodia and alleviating poverty rates in the country.

Turning Unwanted Lotus Stems into Organic Fabric

Delaval’s lotus face masks are made utilizing ancestral techniques of producing lotus fiber from lotus stems, which are commonly regarded as waste within the country. The entire process of creating sustainable lotus face masks is entirely eco-friendly, as well as biodegradable.  The fabric produced using lotus fibers is remarkably efficient at filtration and, according to Delaval, is a superior fabric due to its light texture and breathability. The eco-textile company Samatoa, which Delaval manages, produces lotus masks that meet the standards of both the United States’ CDC and France’s Association Francaise de Normalization, making them an effective alternative to plastic single-use face masks.

Samatoa also values the tenets of fair trade and has made a positive impact on the livelihoods of poor Cambodians in the Battambang province. The company has provided employment that empowered thirty Cambodia women to be financially independent and provide for their families. According to Samatoa, the wages earned by company workers are twice what they would receive from other textile work in the country. Additionally, the company ensures that workers have access to a number of benefits, including trade union rights, paid leave and health insurance.

Impact of Lotus Face Masks

Delaval’s innovative solution to plastic pollution produced from single-use face masks gained international attention. The company he manages, Samatoa, is striving to increase production and capacity to improve the lives of an additional 500 women. Samatoa also provides educational opportunities to lotus farmers on sustainable farming practices, further improving the lives of the Cambodian people. Deval’s lotus face masks provide a sustainable solution to the problem of PPE waste while simultaneously providing economic development to rural communities in Cambodia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Pixabay

Food Insecurity in Iraq
Decades of conflict in Iraq have effectively destroyed what was once the center of human civilization. Many view Iraq as a country very costly to the U.S.—another war from which the U.S. must recover. However, the international community’s job is not done. Today, millions of Iraqis are displaced and suffer from food insecurity, a problem that the government has struggled to control. This article will delve into the background of food insecurity in Iraq and what various groups are doing to combat it.

Governance Issues

The oil industry accounts for 90% of Iraqi government revenue. The crash of oil prices caused a $40 billion deficit in the Iraqi budget, cutting this revenue in half. Iraq’s government has been unable to properly fund various institutions. Combined with a 66% rise in population since 2000, this has placed immense stress on the country’s food supply. Constant conflict and the corrupt management of resources have hindered any ability to keep up with this population boom. USAID labels just under one million Iraqis as food insecure. The World Food Program, however, estimates that this number is closer to two million.

While much focus is on obtaining aid from the international community, Iraq has not necessarily focused as much on reforming its own institutions governing agricultural industry networks. Iraq’s State-Owned Enterprises are involved in every step of food production, processing and distribution. The government attempts to distribute food products and support the industry through its bloated Public Distribution System (PDS), which in 2019 cost $1.43 billion, and its yearly $1.25 billion effort to buy wheat and barley from Iraqi farmers at double the international price. Despite these expensive programs, Iraq still ends up importing 50% of its food supply.

Inefficient growth, processing and distribution methods and a reliance on food imports place Iraq in a delicate position. They are susceptible to global food chain supply network failures and the threat of a budget collapse due to the crash of oil prices. Such an occurrence would likely cause the food system to implode without the current level of government intervention. These governance issues, on top of decades of conflict and displacement, have exacerbated food insecurity in Iraq.

The Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of the aforementioned issues confronting the Iraqi food supply. Cases in Iraq have skyrocketed during May and June as Iraqis faced the decision of staying home without reliable state support and suffering from lack of income or holding onto their jobs and risking infection.

The pandemic has worsened the already pervasive levels of poverty and food insecurity. Inefficient state institutions and bureaucracy have combined with the pandemic to display the fragility of the Iraqi food supply. There have already been severe shocks in the global supply chain. For a government that relies on imports for 50% of its food supply, this pandemic could cause the crisis of food insecurity in Iraq to spiral. The Iraqi government has faced issues of governance for decades. The pandemic has only emphasized these issues while placing millions of Iraqis at further risk of conflict and disaster.

Humanitarian Efforts

The stark problem of food insecurity in Iraq has caught the eye of many different aid organizations, both in the U.S. government and the intergovernmental level. USAID, the primary U.S. foreign aid organization, has spent years trying to help meet Iraqis’ basic humanitarian needs, especially in the face of seemingly endless conflict. USAID has provided almost $240 million in emergency food assistance to Iraqis since FY 2014. This money goes toward food vouchers, food baskets and cash for food, all under the coordination of the World Food Program (WFP), which the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) established with the UN General Assembly.

USAID has also supported WFP efforts to create an electronic distribution platform for Iraq’s PDS, which would allow Iraqis to update their locations, use biometrics for identification and improve overall access to food supplies. The WFP, in turn, supports 280,000 internally displaced Iraqis and 76,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, providing monthly food support mainly through cash transfers. It also provides local, healthy food for over 324,000 schoolchildren in Iraq. The organization is currently looking to expand cash transfers and food access to over 35,000 refugees and 10,000 internally displaced people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FAO has worked with the WFP in Iraq by focusing on agricultural sustainability. To improve food security and Iraqi self-reliance, the FAO has supported livestock production through capital, seeds, fertilizer and resources to counter disease. It also uses “cash-for-work activities” to enhance local markets and support infrastructure in addition to its efforts to promote labor-saving technology to counteract food insecurity in Iraq.

Looking Forward

Poor food access has been an issue for many years, but the pandemic is making the situation worse. Constant conflict and a lack of effective governance are both serious obstacles to creating a stable food environment for Iraqis, but there is a significant commitment from the international community to shore up Iraqi agricultural sustainability and provide support to individual Iraqis. While many are still in dire need of access to food, organizations like these provide hope for the fight against food insecurity in Iraq.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr