Denmark's Foreign Aid
When it comes to foreign aid, one of the most widely-commended countries is the small nation of Denmark. The Danes are well-known for their generous aid spending and both donor and recipient nations recognize Denmark as a highly effective partner in the fight against global poverty. Here are five facts about Denmark’s foreign aid.

5 Facts About Denmark’s Foreign Aid

  1. Denmark is a world leader in foreign aid spending. In 2019, Denmark spent $2.55 billion on foreign aid, a seemingly small figure compared to the $34.62 billion the United States spent, but Denmark’s population is only about 1.76% that of the U.S. When adjusted for population, Denmark’s foreign aid totals $447 per-capita, much higher than the United States’ $95 per-capita. In fact, Denmark is the fourth-highest per-capita spender of all OECD countries after Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg.
  2. Denmark has consistently been a world leader since the 1970s. The United Nations uses foreign aid as a percentage of Gross National Income to measure a country’s proportional spending, and Denmark is one of the few countries that has met or exceeded the U.N.’s target of 0.7% of GNI since 1978. Denmark’s foreign aid currently amounts to 0.71% of its GNI, trailing only Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden among OECD countries. However, for a brief period during the 1990s, Denmark actually increased this number to over 1%.
  3. Low-and-middle-income countries rate Denmark high for usefulness, influence and helpfulness in foreign aid. In a new study that AidData conducted, leaders from 40 aid-receiving nations ranked Denmark as a top development partner. Besides meeting the U.N.’s foreign aid target, Denmark scored second among all countries for its usefulness regarding policy advice, second for its influence in setting agendas and first for its helpfulness regarding reform implementation. Since 2009, these reforms have included promoting greater private sector expansion and focusing on social progress as a catalyst for economic growth. Denmark’s long-term commitments to implementing such policies in a small number of prioritized nations have proven to be highly effective in reducing extreme poverty.
  4. Denmark manages its foreign aid spending and implementation through DANIDA, the Danish International Development Agency. DANIDA’s top priorities for 2020 are advancing human rights and equality, developing sustainable green growth, providing humane asylum for displaced people and maintaining international cooperation in all global efforts. Denmark’s foreign aid reaches over 70 low-and-middle-income countries, but those of the highest urgency include Afghanistan, Somalia and Niger. Efforts in Afghanistan largely center around education as Danish aid provides teacher education, updated textbooks and curriculum development. In Somalia, DANIDA works to develop safety nets, human rights advancements and strengthen national and local governance. Niger receives policy advice on properly handling the irregular number of migrants in the country as well as basic delivery of living essentials to impoverished children.
  5. Denmark can still improve. While the country is one of only six to meet the U.N.’s target of 0.7% GNI in 2019 with 0.71%, this is a substantial drop from 2015 when Denmark spent 0.85% of GNI on foreign aid. Addressing this cutback, which was largely due to increased spending on refugees within the country, should be a top concern. Reverting back to 2015’s percentage or higher is a positive step Denmark can take, and such a move is all the more likely now as Denmark’s 2019 net migration was negative for the first time in almost a decade. As the country spends less on internal migrants, more of the Danish budget is available to supplement the once-highly-robust foreign aid sector.

One of the most effective ways developed governments can help to improve conditions in poverty-stricken nations is by properly funding and managing healthy foreign aid budgets. By taking Denmark’s example, more countries should seek to meet the U.N.’s 0.7% GNI target and implement this aid in a manner that best fits the needs of impoverished individuals in low-income countries.

– Calvin Melloh
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Somalia
Female genital mutilation (FGM) impacts more than 200 million women all around the world. The practice, which girls mostly experience between their infancy and teenage years, encompasses a range of procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia. It usually occurs in an informal setting without anesthesia. FGM is a global concern, but sadly there is a collection of nations in Africa, the Middle East and Asia that grant it legitimacy. One of these nations is Somalia, and as the COVID-19 pandemic forces many people to stay at home, circumcisors are subjecting women to door-to-door mutilation. Here is some information about female genital mutilation in Somalia and how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting it.

A Universal Ritual

While the prevalence of FGM varies greatly across the many countries that practice it, Somalia has the highest percentage at 98% according to UNICEF. Many nations, including the United Republic of Tanzania and Togo, have met the practice with disdain and objection; however, more than half the women in Somalia think it should continue.

To most people, this would seem outside the realm of possibility, but tradition runs deep in Somalia, and disputing the practice of genital mutilation holds a gravity on par with blasphemy. The procedure itself is a family experience and a rite of passage where, according to Islamic Relief Worldwide, local women use “knives, scissors or razor blades to remove parts of the genitals, while female relatives hold the girl down.”

Cutting Season

There is no law in the Somali Constitution that specifically criminalizes and punishes the practice of female genital mutilation in Somalia, so the tradition remains stable; so much so that experts recognize summer vacation as “cutting season” for girls. Breaking from school means they have time to undergo and recover from the procedure before the next school year starts.

While there is little formal data to strengthen this case, Somali circumcisors agree that the months of July and August are their peak season for FGM. They even pride themselves on the fact that girls travel from other countries like Djibouti to undergo circumcision in Somalia; however, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) saw a “massive” jump in the number of girls who underwent the procedure in 2020 due to coronavirus lockdown.

COVID-19 and FGM

The UNFPA projected that 290,000 girls experienced cutting in 2020 and that an extra 2 million girls could undergo cutting in the next decade due to the setbacks of prevention programs along with the vitality of circumcisors in their efforts to lobby the public into believing that FGM is a healthy rite of passage into womanhood. The lockdown has also led to this massive increase in FGM and the economic state has driven circumcisors to go from door to door, offering to cut the girls stuck inside. While the frequency of mutilation rises, the awareness declines as advocates cannot access communities where FGM is popular.

Solutions

The pandemic has had detrimental effects on efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation in Somalia, but the country has not lost hope. Young women from all across the region are taking a stand against female genital mutilation and those who perpetuate it. The Y-Peer Youth Network is one such group. In 2002, the UNFPA founded the network to educate young people, communities and even health care workers about sexual and reproductive health. Other topics of advocacy are gender-based violence and child marriage.

While FGM is a widespread issue in Somalia, the young girls working to stop it are making waves and shaking the status quo to its core. To learn more about the Y-Peer Youth Network, check out its website.

– Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr

Examining Human Trafficking in SomaliaHuman trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain labor or a commercial sex act. Today, human trafficking is a modern term for slavery. Mayumi Ueno, the counter-trafficking project manager at the International Office for Migration (IOM)’s Somalia Support Office, said the scale of human trafficking in Somalia is unknown. Somal women are often trafficked to Kenya, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates to be sexually exploited.

How Human Trafficking in Somalia Happens

Every day, Najib Jama Abdi’s sister got up and walked to school. One day, she did not return. The Abdi family heard from the media that she had been trafficked to Somaliland. “By Allah’s mercy she was saved,” said Najib Jama Abdi to The New Humanitarian. Organizations like the Somali Police Force’s criminal investigations division 40-officer Counter-Trafficking and Organized Crime Unit work to rescue girls who have been kidnapped off the street and sold into human trafficking, like Abdi’s sister.

Human Trafficking in Somalia is a widespread issue. Women and girls are sometimes lied to and offered job opportunities, marriage or education in far-away places and then sold into sex slavery. In 2009, IOM began the Counter-Trafficking Project for Somalia. In Puntland and Somaliland, its activities included promoting awareness and informing citizens of the risks and dangers of being trafficked through media such as billboards.

History of Trafficking in Somalia

For decades, military dictator Siad Barre committed widespread atrocities, which effectively destroyed Somali civil society. Then, in May 1991, Barre was overthrown. The east desert region of Somalia declared itself the “Republic of Somaliland” after the overthrow of Barre. Somaliland now has a population of 3.5 million people, a functional political system, its own currency and a police force.

Before 1991, the federal and regional laws criminalized slave labor and certain forms of sex trafficking. Then, after Barre was overthrown, No progress was reported again until September 2017, when a human trafficking law was drafted and endorsed by Somaliland.

What’s Happening Now

Officials said they are concerned about the increasing amount of human trafficking in Somalia, specifically in the region of Somaliland. This region lies in the south-central region of Somalia. As a result, the lack of government in Somaliland makes child trafficking easier for traffickers to get away with. In November 2017, the city-state of Puntland in northeastern Somalia made valid a human trafficking legislative framework. It was made of new criminal procedures, penal codes and laws that specifically prohibit trafficking. The authorities recorded two trafficking cases that involved six individuals in 2020, during the period the U.S. government reported on the issue.

The Trafficking and Smuggling Task Force was the government’s anti-trafficking coordinating body. However, slow steps are being taken by the government to mitigate human trafficking in Somalia. Nevertheless, new anti-trafficking initiatives are moving in the right direction to end human trafficking in Somalia.

Madeline Drayna
Photo: Flickr 

Outbreak of Locusts in Somalia Predicted to be Worse in 2021In the past several decades, Somalia has faced a variety of challenges, including foreign imperialism, religious extremism and a struggling infrastructure system. Literacy and education have long been areas of concern, as has access to food, water and healthcare. In 1991, President Muhammed Siad Barre was overthrown, and the country descended into civil war with various political and military factions vying for control of the country. Peacekeeping groups from the U.S. and the United Nations attempted to restore a central government and restrain violence, but they were met with opposition and eventually left, unsuccessful, in 1993.

A Destabilized Country and Poverty

There have since been many attempts to create a functioning national government, but for years progress stalled. The Islamic extremist group Al-Shabab gained momentum in the mid-2000s, causing huge amounts of violence and destruction in the region. They attacked national infrastructure, and at various points forced agencies who had been providing aid to withdraw. These tactics caused thousands to die, displaced thousands more and destroyed access to healthcare and education for many.

Human Rights Watch estimated in 2018 that over 2.5 million people were internally displaced, and agencies providing relief faced continued attacks and the inability to access those who need help. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in Somalia today is roughly 70%, and “almost nine of 10 Somali households are deprived of at least one fundamental dimension: access to income, electricity, education or water and sanitation.” Life expectancy is low as well, figured to be roughly 53 years for men and 57 for women. These issues are both caused and compounded by the constant violence; the civil war deprived many of access to necessities like food and housing, and it continues to be a daily worry even with other equally pressing needs.

Locusts and Food Security

It is against this backdrop that Somalia is currently dealing with a plague of epic proportions. Every year, there is an outbreak of locusts in Somalia and neighboring countries, and locals are accustomed to their presence on some level. However, 2020 is entirely different: Warming temperatures and increased flooding over the last several years created ideal conditions for locusts to breed and reproduce, leading to two separate waves of locusts this year alone. By all accounts, this invasion is the worst in 25 years, decimating a country that was already ill-equipped to deal with a disaster.

The first infestation of locusts in Somalia numbered in the hundreds of billions, blotting out the sky and destroying crops, farmland and any other vegetation they found. The second was even more devastating—trillions of locusts descended on East Africa and wiped out any chance of a successful harvest. The LA Times reports, “In a single day, a swarm can travel nearly 100 miles and eat its own weight in leaves, seeds, fruits and vegetables—as much as 35,000 people would consume. A typical swarm can stretch over 30 square miles.” It is nearly impossible to deal with them individually, and a lack of centralized response has left farmers to fend for themselves in an attempt to mitigate economic loss and save what they can of the most recent crop yield.

These waves of locusts ruined economic prospects for many Somali citizens, and left many in debt, unable to sell their harvest or participate in the local economy. The U.N. Food and Agriculture division estimates that 100% of sorghum and maize—both vital to the Somali economy—were affected or harmed by the infestation. Experts also worry that they will return in the spring of 2021 if allowed to continue breeding and growing to maturity unchecked. The unprecedented quantities this year make it difficult to contain, and there is now only a short window in which to act. Avoiding another round will require a timely and focused response.

Moving Forward

The good news is that there are tangible solutions, and possibilities remain for Somalia to revitalize their economy and recover from this devastation. Pesticides are proven to contain the insects, and the challenge now is to deploy them in high enough quantities that it might have a tangible effect. Currently, Somalia lacks the political will and infrastructure to supply enough planes to be useful, but the U.N. FAO has been meeting with both West African and European countries in an attempt to gather the resources necessary to fight the locusts.

Scientists have been working to develop a worthy biopesticide over the past decade, and there is now a working product that’s “cheaper, more effective, longer-lasting in the desert and easier to store,” according to Science Magazine. Somali politicians and leading experts in the field from around the world have been working to provide relief, and although locusts in Somalia have not been seen like this in many years, there are reasons to be hopeful, given the scenario. If aerial spraying becomes financially viable and available, it could provide significant relief and a renewed opportunity for those who have been affected.

One FAO official commented, “We’re already partnering with NASA, with NOAA, with the European Space Agency, with Cambridge University… all of these different entities have their own expertise.” Ultimately, a solution to locusts in Somalia is within reach—and it requires a combination of pesticides, more accurate predictors of future outbreaks and cheaper methods of delivery for needed chemicals. If this can be achieved, it would be critical in the fight for food and job security in the country, allowing the economy to flourish and crops to grow.

– Leo Posel
Photo: Flickr

BECO’s Solar Power, Bringing Cheaper, Cleaner Energy to SomaliaIn June 2020, Somalia’s largest electricity provider, BECO, announced the opening of a new solar power plant in the capital city of Mogadishu. BECO is the only company that provides electricity for Mogadishu, Afgooye, Balad, Barawe, Kismayu, Marka, Jowhar and Elasha. Although the company turned to solar power primarily to cut down on the cost of diesel fuel, its decision will have the added benefit of lowering air pollution. Additionally, BECO’s solar power plant will grow in capacity over time and lower electricity bills. BECO’s solar power plant could have a significant impact on Somalis, lifting many out of poverty.

Electricity in Somalia

Lack of access to electricity is widely cited as a large contributor to poverty. Without electricity, families don’t have a non-polluting source of energy for cooking. Refrigerators are unusable. Children can’t do their homework after dark. Communities can’t access all that the Internet offers for education and upward mobility. Hospitals and schools can’t offer full services. As a result, increasing access to electricity is often a goal of development efforts.

Somalia has particularly struggled with a lack of access to electricity. Before the civil war broke out in 1991, Somalia had a national power grid that produced 70 megawatts (MW) of electricity for the whole country. But the power grid was destroyed during the war and private corporations now provide any electricity available to residents. Currently, BECO produces 35 MW of power for eight cities, which is much less than its demand of 200 MW. Many Somalis avoid using electricity in order to avoid the monthly costs as 69% of Somalis are currently living in poverty.

Power companies in Somalia heavily rely on imported fossil fuels for diesel-powered generators. These generators are CO2 emitters and can heavily pollute the air. Despite the widespread use of generators, Somalia has only 106 MW of power nationwide, according to the United States Agency on International Development. The World Bank reported in 2018 that 64% of Somalis didn’t have access to electricity.

BECO’s Solar Power Plant

Because Somalia struggles with a lack of electricity and high electric costs, BECO’s new solar power plant has the potential to positively impact many people’s lives. When it opened, the power plant had the capacity to produce 8 MW. The solar power plant is only in use four hours a day, with BECO’s preexisting generators providing the rest of the electricity that the city needs. But residents’ electric bills have already gone down.

With the addition of the solar power plant, electricity costs in Mogadishu have already dropped from $0.49 to $0.36 per kilowatt-hour. BECO had originally decided to invest in solar power because of the high cost of importing diesel fuel for generators. By cutting costs, the company can offer cleaner energy at a more affordable price.

BECO plans to invest $40 million to bring the plant’s capacity to 100 MWp by 2022. This increase would enable the power plant to produce more electricity than twice its current output. However, the success of the solar plant will depend on battery storage.

Somalia’s Potential Future with Renewable Energy

BECO’s solar power plant is just the first step in Somalia’s possible path toward renewable energy. The African Development Bank reported in a study that Somalia had a greater potential for renewable energy than any other country in Africa. Onshore wind power could produce up to 45,000 MW of electricity. Solar energy has the potential to produce 2,000 kWh/m². If other Somali electric companies follow BECO’s example, Somalia’s electrical production could increase many times over.

It’s fortunate that in Somalia’s case, solar power is more affordable than the alternative. Simple market forces might solve Somalis’ lack of access to electricity. Although constructing facilities to produce solar power is expensive, companies would be able to provide electricity more cheaply and easily if they switch from importing fossil fuels to renewable energy. As a result of this cost decrease, electric bills would drop considerably as well. Once electricity becomes significantly cheaper, more Somalis will be able to access its benefits. BECO’s solar power plant is already reducing costs, and there’s no reason to believe that this trend won’t continue.

– Sarah Brinsley
Photo: Flickr


Somalia is a country located on the horn of Africa, with a population of almost 14 million people. Although women and girls in Somalia consist of 50% of the country’s population, women and men are far from equal. Globally, Somalia places fourth highest on the gender inequality index. In Somalia, gender inequality is exacerbated by poverty, disability, social class and harmful practices that violate the rights of women and girls. Today, women in Somalia are susceptible to gender-based violence and sexual violence, an issue that is heightened in areas of conflict.

Genital Mutilation in Somalia

Common problems that perpetuate gender inequality in Somalia include female genital mutilation, child marriage, maternal mortality rates and a lack of access to fundamental tools for success, such as education, healthcare, credit and more. Women in Somalia, especially adolescent girls are susceptible to undergo genital mutilation. Often, these girls undergo this before they turn 13 years old, according to a 2013 report by the World Health Organization. Somalia has the highest rate of genital mutilation, with 98% of girls subjected to it. With the upsurge in coronavirus cases, girls in Somalia are forced to stay home. This leads to higher rates of genital mutilation. According to the United Nations Population Fund, the coronavirus could contribute to two million more instances of genital mutilation over the next decade that could have been stopped. Although genital mutilation remains legal in Somalia, the practice has no health benefits and harms women in girls in a plethora of ways, as it poses health risks and robs women of the full capacity of their reproductive organs.

Maternal Mortality in Somalia

Another issue plaguing Somalia that perpetuates gender inequality is the maternal mortality rate, which is the highest of any country in the world. For children in Somalia, four in 100 infants die within the first month of their lives. Women in Somalia suffer from these high rates of maternal mortality due to poor healthcare infrastructure within the country and a lack of access to adequate services. In the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda, the central principle is “leaving no one behind”. This commitment from the United Nations involves prioritizing the rights, access and abilities that women in Somalia have.

Lack of Education and Leadership

For women in Somalia, there is a lack of women involved in political and social leadership roles. One of the reasons behind this is a lack of education. In Somalia, primary schools have one of the lowest rates of enrollment, with only 30% of children in school. Of the children in school, less than half of them are females. For girls living in rural areas, these numbers are lower. Compared to men, women in Somalia have much lower literacy levels. In Somalia, only 26% of women can read, compared to 36% of men.

The Future for Women in Somalia

Somalia remains a state of male power but there is hope that the country will become more focused on gender equality. The Somali Provisional Constitution, created in 2012, is being revised. In 2021, the country is participating in a one-person-one-vote election. With the future revision of the Somali constitution, there is opportunity for empowering women and girls across the country by implementing gender equality provisions. It is hopeful that 2021 may promise more widespread opportunities for women and girls in the country.

– Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in SomaliaWhat do people tend to think about when they first hear the word “Somalia?” A Google search of Somalia would bring up pirates. Somalia is a small country off the coast of Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 50% of its population living in poverty. Poor living conditions and homelessness in Somalia afflict many of its citizens.

Somalia as of 2018

Government policy in Somalia is leaving the citizens out on the street. At the end of 2017, Somali government officials damaged around 3,000 homes in the city of Mogadishu. They used bulldozers to tear down houses and evicted people from their homes. In 2018, the government displaced more than 2 million people living in Somalia. Moreover, the number of homeless citizens in the nation reached millions.

Droughts have left the second-largest city in Somalia with hundreds of homeless children. Interviews with the children of Hargeisa revealed terrible conditions in which children left their homes due to neglect and loss of means. Moving from rural to urban cities has resulted in these children living on the street, addicted to smelling glue to ease the pain required to fight for their lives. The drought along with a lack of food, water and shelter has resulted in child death, every day in Somalia.

Homelessness in Somalia

Somalia is in grave need of humanitarian aid. Whether due to droughts, violence or politics — millions of Somali citizens have been displaced from their homes. Homelessness in Somalia has progressively become a more urgent issue. In October of 2019, flooding washed away thousands of homes, separating families. Another factor affecting homelessness in Somalia is the migration of citizens from rural areas to cities. People moving into urban areas are settling in tents with little protection.

Poor sanitation is also a significant issue in Somalia. The lack of proper housing combined with a lack of water and food can increase the risk of disease. The number of people affected by malnourishment in 2019 was in millions. Furthermore, this tragedy has a major effect on children. Malnourishment is one of the leading causes of death for 14% of children less than age five. The lack of humanitarian aid in Somalia is also causing citizens to flee from home and move toward urban housing. Those who choose to move, settle in “makeshift shelters” which increase their exposure to terrorism and abuse.

Hope for Somalia

Overall, homelessness in Somalia is the result of multiple factors. Violence and terrorism cause a majority of people to flee from their homes. Yet, forced evictions pose a major threat to families in the agricultural sector as well. Changing weather patterns and year-long droughts result in death, famine and the loss of homes. Political instability and regime changes are also an underlying cause of homelessness in Somalia.

On a more positive note, there is hope for the future of Somalia. In February of 2020, the World Bank announced it would normalize its relations with Somalia. This new relationship will go a long way in helping to grow the country politically, socially and economically. The World Bank is providing Somalia with grants of over $250 million to help reduce poverty. The grants will provide natural disaster recovery for citizens impacted by the droughts. In the same vein, these grants aim to increase security for families by improving education, the health system and providing basic, household utilities such as water.

Hena Pejdah
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Polio Program in SomaliaSomalia is one of the few countries remaining with a risk of poliovirus transmission. The polio program in Somalia was established as a way to eradicate the virus completely as part of the global immunization effort. However, with the arrival of SARS-CoV-2, the polio program in Somalia has been stifled. Somalia ranks 194 out of 195 on the Global Health Security Index. The international recommendation for healthcare workers is 25 per 100,000 people; however, Somalia only has two per 100,000 people. The country also has only 15 intensive care beds for a population of 15 million. It is considered to be among the least prepared countries in the world to detect and execute a quick response to COVID-19.

Effects of the Pandemic on the Polio Program in Somalia

Many of the workers that are part of the polio program in Somalia have suspended all door-to-door immunization due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With travel kept to a minimum, polio samples cannot be flown abroad to external medical labs for testing. In addition to this, millions of polio vaccines will expire in a matter of months.

The global polio immunization program paused at the end of March 2020, leaving more than 20 million workers and medical practitioners without work. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the number of unvaccinated children could reach 60 million by June in the Mediterranean region.

The Polio Program Fights COVID-19

Polio surveillance systems are developed disease surveillance systems. This network of disease surveillance has been able to track the poliovirus and deploy medical teams throughout the world. Now, the polio program in Somalia has shifted its efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The system’s infrastructure, its capacity and the experience of its medical staff make it prepared to deal with the novel coronavirus. As of July 2020, Somalia had approximately 3,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 930 recovered cases and 90 deaths. The number of actual cases is likely significantly larger, but many cases go undetected due to a lack of testing.

Thousands of frontline workers for the polio program in Somalia started curbing the spread of the coronavirus. These workers form rapid response teams trained to detect COVID-19 cases as well as to educate and raise awareness about the ongoing pandemic in Somalia. WHO’s national staff and local community healthcare workers have joined theses polio response teams, utilizing their resources and skills to tackle the virus.

WHO Support

These teams have traveled to remote areas in Somalia, providing critical information regarding physical distancing, hand-washing, detection of symptoms and prevention. With WHO’s aid, the program has acquired testing kits and equipment to evaluate potential cases of the virus. The surveillance teams have adopted the same procedures that they used for the polio program in Somalia for COVID-19. After collecting potential COVID-19 samples from suspected cases, the rapid response teams transport the samples to external laboratories for testing. Outside humanitarian agencies use the same protocols and operations that they used for the poliovirus.

Furthermore, the response teams continue polio immunization simultaneously with the COVID-19 response. It is essential for the polio program to continue immunization, as Somalia experienced a polio outbreak earlier this year.

How Other Countries Have Adapted

Other countries in the same region have realized the practicality of the polio network. They have accordingly redeployed their own immunization programs to fight COVID-19. For example, South Sudan has converted approximately 80% of its polio workforce to track coronavirus cases in the country. It has trained polio contact tracers to evaluate people for symptoms of COVID-19. Mali has also been engaging its own polio program in response to the ongoing pandemic.

Even though polio and COVID-19 do not have much in common, the polio program is an important tool to fight the pandemic. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the WHO, has been working to equip these polio networks to help countries deal with the pandemic. The suddenness of the pandemic has left no time for countries such as Somalia to prepare. As such, the global polio immunization campaign is a valuable resource for this unprecedented emergency.

Abbas Raza
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Somalia
Somalia, a country bordering both Ethiopia and Djibouti, has faced recent struggles in regards to poverty. An estimated 70% of its population under the age of 30 faces a wide range of social, economic and political challenges. Many of Somalia’s citizens are enduring hardships. However, certain programs have emerged, leading to massive innovations in poverty eradication in Somalia.

Issue in Numbers

Almost nine in 10 Somali households do not have a fundamental dimension. This dimension is access to income, electricity, education or water and sanitation. Basic necessities become rarer among the majority. As a result, Somalia needs help to see growth in the long term. One must also note that only 27% of children are enrolled in primary school. With these statistics projected to decline in the future, human capital development is at risk due to the issue of poverty. However, various forms of aid have jumpstarted Somalia’s economy while developing innovations in poverty eradication in Somalia.

International Aid

Somalia is currently $4.7 billion in debt. However, it has partnered with many other countries, significantly boosting its funding. Britain, the European Union and Qatar have offered to cover about $150 million of the roughly $330 million that Somalia owes. After Somalia handles its finances, it will receive grants worth about $300 million per year. This will help boost funding towards job opportunities, infrastructure and transportation.

Remittances for Poverty Reduction

In an attempt to aid the Somalian citizens who poverty impacts, Somalia utilized remittances. This is where the country provided families with financial assistance. It also distributed resources for families to meet basic needs and requirements. These remittances reduced the wage gap among impoverished citizens while giving them an outlet towards new jobs and opportunities.

Organizations Pushing for Change

Many nonprofit organizations have also stepped up to aid the ones in need. A massively impactful organization is Action Against Hunger, which has developed programs for adults and children battling poverty. By providing integrated nutrition, health and food security services as well as water, sanitation and hygiene services, 213,986 Somalians received treatment, with 103,407 being for minor illnesses and 41,502 being children under the age of 5 obtaining treatment for malnutrition. With the lack of resources becoming an ongoing issue, Action for Hunger contributed to 51,908 Somalians receiving clean water. It also contributed to 97,011 Somalians receiving sufficient resources through food security programs.

Another prominent organization is Alight, which has heavily focused on efforts aiding the youth. Through building support camps for refugees, it provided thousands of Somalians with water, protection and shelter. In addition to these camps, it partnered with the private sector, opening up 50,000 job opportunities for those in need. It also educated children on health services, where it shared information on improving hygiene.

Although various countries, organizations and financial plans have acted, Somalia still has over 4.9 million citizens battling poverty. With seven in 10 Somalian facing financial burdens, only governmental intervention will combat this issue on a larger scale. If the Somalian government can effectively partner with nonprofit organizations and countries to produce meaningful policies, then Somalia will see rapid economic growth. The country might only see effective innovations in poverty eradication in Somalia through these acts.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: Flickr

Africa Polio Resources
Africa is using its polio resources to find creative solutions to the new pandemic. COVID-19 halted employment for many Africans and placed strains on international polio laboratories. These laboratories are members of the Global Polio Laboratory Network. Therefore, health organizations are now using polio resources to tackle COVID-19 in African countries. Already facing many challenges, these groups must balance fighting COVID-19 with continued administration of polio vaccinations.

Polio Eradication in Africa

Vast amounts of global research aid polio eradication in Africa. It is appropriate to alter these successful strategies now to fight COVID-19. In fact, expectations determined that Nigeria would be officially void of the disease between March and June 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in July 2020 that Nigeria was the last African country where polio was endemic, but that polio is no longer in African countries.

WHO’s Method of COVID-19 Mitigation

WHO is fighting COVID-19 through 16 polio testing facilities across 15 countries. To do so, it reconfigured machines that it originally used to display polio symptoms with COVID-19 data. These cell phone devices have the contact information of outreach teams, making data tracking easier. Another example of Africa’s use of polio resources is an outreach center developed in Brazzaville (2017). The research center assists countries with data-keeping technology to fight COVID-19.

COVID-19 Eradication in Sudan and Somalia

The WHO Polio Eradication Program provides training across 14 states of The Republic of Sudan. This training allows citizens of all seven localities of The Republic of Sudan (Khartoum, Ombada, Omdurman, Karary, Bahri, Sharq Elnil and Jabal Awliya) to assist potential COVID-19 victims. Recipients of the training are front line essential workers trained in healthy behaviors, COVID surveillance and COVID data interpretation. The training sessions empowered over 300 rapid response individuals, all of whom tested satisfactorily while demonstrating their competency.

Current difficulties such as social distancing and the minimal availability of face masks and gasoline make it difficult to continue to serve patients who need polio vaccinations. The short supply of resources also makes it difficult to provide diagnoses to individuals potentially affected by COVID-19. With Africa using polio resources to control COVID-19, polio vaccinations themselves had to take a back seat. These programs will re-obtain regular importance when possible. Many children still need vaccinations regularly to maintain Africa’s ‘eradicated’ polio status or they could be susceptible to the disease.

WHO training in Somalia empowers workers and allows staff to educate the community. Polio teams train and educate Somalians on the techniques and importance of reporting suspected COVID-19 cases. Polio Eradication Program associates can then continue sending feces samples labs for testing. These same techniques used for polio eradication allowed teams to hit the ground running in April of 2020.

The Reason Africa Must Continue to Monitor Polio and COVID-19

While techniques for testing polio and COVID-19 are similar, the diseases are not. Africa, while recently declared free of polio, must continue to monitor both diseases and refocus its attention on polio following the pandemic. Polio has numerous dangers: it attacks children, is highly contagious and leaves individuals paralyzed, all with a high risk of death. Continued vaccinations are the only hope of keeping Africa polio-free.

Polio laboratories need to increase efforts against COVID-19 to regain a singular focus on polio vaccinations. Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari increased polio funding in 2016. His efforts highlight how ending disease allows a country to continue leveraging those resources. The COVID-19 pandemic is a major obstacle to Africa’s safety from polio.

DeAndre’ Robinson
Photo: Flickr