covid-19 in africa

On a world map of the distribution of COVID-19 cases, the situation looks pretty optimistic for Africa. While parts of Europe, Asia and the United States have a dark color, indicating relatively high infection rates, most African countries are light in comparison. This has created uncertainty over whether the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is as severe as other continents.

Lack of Testing

A closer look at the areas boasting lighter colors reveals that the situation in Africa is just as obscure as the faded shades that color its countries. In Africa, dark colors indicating high infection rates only mark cities and urban locationsoften the only places where testing is available.

Although insufficient testing has been a problem for countries all over the world, testing numbers are strikingly low in Africa. The U.S. completes 249 tests per 100,000 people per day. In contrast, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, only executes one test per 100,000 people daily. While 6.92% of tests come back positive in the United States, 15.85% are positive in Nigeria. Importantly, Nigeria is one of the best African countries for testing: it carried out 80% of the total number of tests in Africa.

As a continent housing 1.2 billion individuals of the world’s population, Africa is struggling to quantify the impact of COVID-19 without additional testing. To improve these circumstances, the African CDC has set a goal of increasing testing by 1% per month. Realizing the impossibility of reliable testing, countries like Uganda have managed to slow the virus’ spread by imposing strict lockdown measures. As a result, the percentage of positive cases in Uganda was only 0.78% as of Sept. 1, 2020.

A Young Population

COVID-19 in Africa has had a lower fatality rate than any other continent. In fact, many speculate that fatality rates may even be lower than reported. Immunologists in Malawi found that 12% of asymptomatic healthcare workers had the virus at some point. The researchers compared their data with other countries and estimated that death rates were eight times lower than expected.

The most likely reason for the low fatality rate in Africa is its young population. Only 3% of Africans are above 65, compared with 6% in South Asia and 17% in Europe. Researchers are investigating other explanations such as possible immunity to certain variations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and higher vitamin D levels due to greater sunlight exposure.

Weak Healthcare Systems

Despite these factors, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is likely high. Under-reporting and under-equipped hospitals unprepared to handle surges in cases may contribute to unreliable figures. In South Sudan, there were only four ventilators and 24 ICU beds for a population of 12 million. Accounting for 23% of the world’s diseases and only 1% of global public health expenditure, Africa’s healthcare system was already strained.

Healthcare workers are at the highest risk of infection in every country. In Africa, the shortage of masks and other equipment increases the infection rate among healthcare workers even further. Africa also has the lowest physician-to-patient ratio in the world. As it can take weeks to recover from COVID-19, the infection and subsequent recovery times for healthcare workers imply that fewer are available to work. Thus, COVID-19 in Africa further exacerbates its healthcare shortage.

Additionally, individuals who are at-risk or uninsured can rarely afford life-saving treatment in Africa. For example, a drug called remdesivir showed promising results in treating COVID-19. However, the cost of treatment with remdesivir is $3120. While this is a manageable price for insurance-covered Americans, it is not affordable for the majority of Africans. Poverty therefore has the potential to increase the severity of COVID-19 in Africa.

Economic and Psychological Factors

Strict lockdowns have helped some nations control the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, but at a heavy price. A general lack of technology means that, following widespread school shutdowns, students have stopped learning. Many adults have also lost their jobs. More than 3 million South Africans have become unemployed due to the lockdown.

Furthermore, the lockdowns have also resulted in much higher rates of domestic violence, abuse and child marriage. Many such cases are unreported, meaning that the real scope of the problem is probably larger. Mental health services for victims or those struggling through the pandemic are also often unavailable. In Kenya, the United Nations has appealed for $4 million to support those affected by gender-based violence.

The slow spread of COVID-19 in Africa has allowed the continent and its leaders to prepare. Importantly, its young population will lessen the severity of the virus’ impact. Although these circumstances provide reasons to be hopeful, there is no doubt that Africa’s economy and future will suffer from the virus. This potential highlights the need for foreign assistance not only in controlling COVID-19 in Africa but in the continent’s recovery for years to come.

– Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

Schooling During COVID-19As COVID-19 started spreading, schools around the world shut down. For countries with already poor schooling systems and low literacy rates, the pandemic created even more challenges. The world’s most illiterate countries are South Sudan with a 73% illiteracy rate, Afghanistan with a 71.9% illiteracy rate, Burkina Faso with a 71.3% illiteracy rate and Niger with a 71.3% illiteracy rate. Schooling during COVID-19 has only increased the struggles these countries face as they try to promote literacy.

Literacy is an important aspect of reducing world poverty, as countries with the lowest levels of literacy are also the poorest. This is because poverty often forces children to drop out of school in order to support their families. Since those children did not get an education, they will not be able to get a high-paying job, which requires literacy. Thus, a lack of education keeps people in poverty. If countries with low literacy rates make schooling harder to access due to COVID-19, the illiteracy rate will increase, and the cycle will continue. Below are the ways that the four least literate countries are continuing schooling during COVID-19.

South Sudan

After almost a decade of fighting due to the South Sudanese Civil War, literacy rates are already low in South Sudan, as the war inhibited access to education. The government-imposed curfew in response to COVID-19 forced children to stay home. This especially challenges girls, whose families expect them to pick up housework at home due to gender norms. The government provided school over the radio or television as a virtual alternative to schooling during COVID-19. However, impoverished children who lack access to electricity, television and radio have no other option. This lack of access to education for poor Sudanese children will further decrease literacy rates. As a result, children may be at risk of early marriage, pregnancy or entrance into the workforce.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, there was already a war going on when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, creating a barrier to education. In 2019 alone, 200,000 students stopped attending school. COVID-19 has the potential to make this problem worse. Importantly, Afghanistan’s schooling crisis affects girls the most; by upper school, only 36% of students are girls. Further, 35% of Afghan girls are forced into child marriages, and not being in school makes them three times as likely to be married under 18. If they do not finish school, there is a high chance they will never become literate.

COVID-19 may exacerbate girls’ lack of access to school. When schools shut down, the schooling system in Afghanistan moved online in order to continue schooling during COVID-19. But only 14% of Afghans have access to the internet due to poverty. Since many parents are not literate, they cannot help their children with school. School shutdowns may also decrease future school attendance, especially for girls. As such, COVID-19 will perpetuate illiteracy in Afghanistan, with many children missing out on school due to poverty.

Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, school shutdowns have put children at risk of violence. Jihadist violence, tied to Islamic militants, has increased in the country. Violence forces children out of school, with many receiving threats, thus decreasing the literacy rate. Though school was a safe space for children, COVID-19 is making this situation worse.

As an alternative for schooling during COVID-19, Burkina Faso has broadcasted lessons on the radio and TV. However, many students do not have access to these technologies. Even if they do, staying at home does not protect them from violence, which could prevent them from going to school. In Burkina Faso, many children also travel to big cities to go to school. But without their parents being able to help them economically, many are now forced to get jobs, entering the workforce early. This lowers the number of children in school as well as the country’s literacy rate.

Niger

In Niger, 1.2 million children lost access to schooling during COVID-19, lacking even a television or radio alternative. Schools have since reopened, but children still feel the impacts of this shutdown. Before COVID-19, at the start of 2020, more than two million children were not in school due to financial insecurity, early marriage or entrance into the workforce. COVID-19 forced many children to give up schooling forever, as they had to marry or begin work and fell behind in school. As a result, this lowered the country’s literacy rate.

Improving Literacy Rates During COVID-19

While COVID-19 did prevent many children from accessing the education they need, many organizations are working to help them meet this challenge. One of these organizations is Save the Children. It is dedicated to creating reliable distance learning for displaced students, support for students and a safe environment for students to learn.

COVID-19 has left many students without access to education, jeopardizing the future for many. In the countries with the highest illiteracy rates, a lower percentage of children with access to education means a lower percentage of the population that will be literate. Improving literacy rates is key reducing poverty, as it allows people to work in specialized jobs that require a higher education, which then leads to higher salaries. If literacy rates drop, poverty will only continue to increase. This makes the work of organizations like Save the Children crucial during the ongoing pandemic.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

water insecurity in south sudan
South Sudan has been in a civil war since December 2013. As a result, millions uproot themselves and thousands die. Essential resources are scarce, particularly for the most vulnerable people. Specifically, water insecurity in South Sudan is a major crisis within the country. Moreover, this water insecurity permeates both the lack of drinking water and essential water for sanitation.

The South Sudanese Conflict

South Sudan’s people are currently engaged in a civil war between the government (led by President Salva Kiir) and the opposition rebels — led by former Vice President Riek Machar. The country splits along ethnic lines, which primarily determine where support lies. That is to say, the president is supported by the Dinka and the former vice president’s opposition forces, supported by the Nuer.

The conflict results in major displacement, creating internally displaced persons (IDPs) and casualties throughout the country. Due to this displacement, regular access to living resources and basic services, such as healthcare and education, have been greatly diminished. Of the displaced persons, it is estimated that 40% are adults and 60% are children.

A consequence of the conflict: 7.2 million people require humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, 3.7 million people displaced — 383,000 people have died and 1.8 million children are unable to attend school.

Does the Conflict Affect Access to Resources like Water?

In short, yes. The continued violence and inability to secure stable conditions with access to utilities like clean water and sanitation have caused a major water insecurity crisis in South Sudan. The water crisis specifically presents major issues for civilian populations, including a lack of water for infectious disease prevention.

USAID outlines the extent of limited access to water in South Sudan, as a result of the conflict. The organization estimates that only about 34% of people in rural areas have access to water. Given that 84% of the nation lives in rural areas, this statistic quite alarming. Additionally, 90% of those living in poverty reside in rural areas with the aforementioned, limited (or lack of) access to water. This affects vulnerable populations like IDPs, women and children. Furthermore, it hinders their ability to ensure basic health needs like hydration and prevention of infectious diseases like cholera, hepatitis E and Guinea worm disease (GWD).

Weaponizing Water

Infrastructure specifically used for water access systems has been a major resource that the warring parties target in attempts to harm the opposition forces, both military and civilian. To destroy their enemies’ access to water is to debilitate their ability to recover. Equally important, targeting water sources puts severe pressure on the civilians whom an adversary protects. Women in South Sudan particularly feel the effects of this strategy as it can take days to get to a safe source of drinking water. Women are the primary “water fetchers,” but the journey to water sources leaves them extremely vulnerable to death by starvation or thirst (during these on-foot trips). Worse still is the fact that women traveling into rural areas amid the country’s conflict puts them at risk of being killed or assaulted.

Water Insecurity, Nutrition and Disease Prevention

South Sudan’s resource security crises reveal how internal conflicts within countries do not just affect the warring parties or military; they affect civilians, infrastructure and public health alike. Water insecurity in South Sudan, especially, is one of the many resource insecurity crises that should remain a priority of USAID. The crisis shares an intimate connection to nutrition and disease prevention; addressing it will likely have multiple benefits for the citizens of South Sudan.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in AfricaOn a world map of the distribution of COVID-19 cases, the situation looks pretty optimistic for Africa. While parts of Europe, Asia and the United States are shaded by dark colors that implicate a higher infection rate, most African countries appear faint. This has created uncertainty over whether or not the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is as severe as other continents.

Lack of Testing

A closer look at the areas wearing light shades reveals that their situation is just as obscure as the faded shades that color them. Dark spots indicate more infections in places like the U.S. However, in Africa these are usually just cities and urban locations, often the only places where testing is available.

Although insufficient testing has been a problem for countries all over the world, testing numbers are much lower in Africa. The U.S carries out 205 per 100,000 people a day. Nigeria, the most populous country, carries one test per 100,000 people every day. While 8.87% of tests come back positive in the U.S, 15.69% are positive in Nigeria (as of Aug. 4, 2020). Nigeria was one of 10 countries that carried out 80% of the total number of tests in Africa.

As a continent that accounts for 1.2 billion of the world’s population, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is even more difficult to measure without additional testing. To improve this, the African CDC has set a goal of increasing testing by 1% per month. Realizing the impossibility of reliable testing, countries like Uganda have managed to slow the spread by imposing strict lockdown measures. As a result, the percentage of positive cases in Uganda was only 0.82% (as of Aug. 4, 2020).

A Resistant Population

COVID-19 in Africa has had a lower fatality rate than any other continent. Fatality rates may even be lower than reported. Immunologists in Malawi found that 12% of asymptomatic healthcare workers were infected by the virus at some point. The researchers compared their data with other countries and estimated that death rates were eight times lower than expected.

The most likely reason for the low fatality rate is the young population. Only 3% of Africans are above 65 compared with 6% in South Asia and 17% in Europe. Researchers are investigating other explanations such as the possible immunity to variations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as higher vitamin D in Africans with more sunlight exposure.

Weak Healthcare Systems

Despite these factors, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is likely high. Under-reporting and under-equipped hospitals contribute to unreliable figures. Most hospitals are not prepared to handle a surge in cases. In South Sudan, there were only four ventilators and 24 ICU beds for a population of 12 million. Accounting for 23% of the world’s diseases and only 1% of global public health expenditure, Africa’s healthcare system was already strained.

Healthcare workers have the most risk of infection in every country. In Africa, the shortage of masks, equipment and capacity increases the infection rate further amongst healthcare workers. Africa also has the lowest physician to patient ratios in the world. As it can take weeks to recover from COVID-19, the recovery of healthcare workers means less are available to work.

Additionally, those that are at-risk and uninsured can rarely afford life-saving treatment in Africa. For example, a drug called remdesivir showed promising results in treating COVID-19. However, the cost of treatment with remdesivir is $3,120 – an unmanageable price for the majority of Africans. These factors will determine the severity of COVID-19 in Africa.

Economic and Psychological Factors

Strict lockdowns have helped some nations in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in Africa but at a very great price.

Lack of technology often means that all students stop learning and many lose their jobs. More than three million South Africans have become unemployed due to the lockdown. The lockdowns have also resulted in much higher rates of domestic violence, abuse and child marriage. Many such cases go unreported and mental health services for victims or those struggling through the pandemic are unavailable. In Kenya, the U.N. has appealed for $4 million to support those affected by gender-based violence.

The slow spread of COVID-19 in Africa has allowed the continent and leaders to prepare, and the young population will lessen the impact. Although there’s reason to be hopeful, there’s no doubt that there will be an impact on Africa’s economy and future. This calls for the need of foreign assistance – not only in controlling COVID-19 in Africa but in the recovery of the continent for years to come.

Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Newly Independent Nations
Poverty in newly independent nations is an extremely common phenomenon. Within the past two decades, millions of people have sought independence through referendums and massive social movements, and have succeeded in severing ties with parent nations. However, these grand pursuits of freedom can often lead to instances of large-scale poverty. When analyzing the economic statuses and poverty in newly independent nations likeMontenegro, Kosovo and South Sudan, it is evident that they are no exception.

Montenegro

After the end of World War II, Montenegro became a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. When Yugoslavia dissolved in 1992, Montenegro unified with Serbia, originally the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Later in 2003, it joined Serbia and Montenegro in the much looser association. In the spring of 2006, Montenegro held a referendum on independence from the state union, citing its right under the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro. The vote for severing ties with Serbia exceeded 55%, officially allowing Montenegro to formally declare its independence on June 3, 2006.

Since this success, the country has experienced many changes and the growing issue of poverty. The majority of the poor in Montenegro, however, is its own citizens, despite housing an impressive number of refugees. When considering economic development by region, one can observe large disparities. In fact, in the northern region of Montenegro, the poverty rate has risen to 10.3%, much higher than the national average. Much work remains to combat poverty in Montenegro that its struggle for independence may have been temporarily overshadowed.

Kosovo

After declaring independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo established a parliamentary republic. It officially declared independence on February 17, 2008, and more than 100 United Nations members and 23 out of 28 members of the European Union currently recognize it as a fully independent nation.

Kosovo’s economy has experienced tremendous growth in the past decade. However, despite its economic inclusivity characterizing it, it has not been able to provide a sufficient amount of formal jobs for citizens, particularly for women and the youth. Additionally, Kosovo has failed to significantly reduce the high rates of unemployment across the nation. As a result, unemployment and poverty have been on the rise since 2008. There have been solid efforts on the part of the government, foreign aid and service projects–such as the Kosovo Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Project, a $31 million project to reduce energy consumption– to help alleviate poverty in the new nation, but it remains an issue requiring further attention.

South Sudan

The Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest nation, as well as Africa’s 55th country, on July 9, 2011. However, resumed conflicts in late 2013 and mid-2016, undermined the development it achieved since independence, negating much of the progress that it had made.

With over half the population currently requiring humanitarian assistance, South Sudan faces massive challenges in economic development despite receiving considerable foreign aid and owning significant oil reserves. Not long after South Sudan’s independence, the country encountered successive crises, resulting in a large-scale conflict and an economic recession. By late 2017, nearly 4.5 million people experienced displacement from their homes, accounting for more than a third of the country’s population. Prolonged financial insecurity and large-scale displacement have taken a huge toll on the lives of the South Sudanese people.

Furthermore, private consumption has consistently fallen since the beginning of the civil war that prompted the nation to seek independence in the first place. Amid continuing violence, the economy is experiencing a significant reduction due to sinking oil revenue and disruptions of economic production.

Conclusion

These nations are a testament to the complications that may arise post-independence, including rising poverty levels and the difficulty of developing a robust economic sector capable of supporting citizens. However, the progress that some have made to reduce poverty in newly independent countries demonstrates that there is hope for these countries’ future success.

Daniela Canales
Photo: Pixabay

Deforestation-in-Uganda
With only 10% of the rural population of Uganda having access to electricity, it is no surprise that the rest of the population is forced to rely on other sources for food and energy. Unfortunately, this means that many people cut down trees leading to one of the highest global deforestation rates. Each year, nearly 3% of Uganda’s forests are cut down for fuel, agriculture and to make room for an increasing population. At the current rate of deforestation in Uganda, the country is likely to lose all of its forests in the next 25 years.

The repercussions of these actions are clear to see. Besides the landscape almost being completely devoid of trees, the dry season has become longer and filled with more droughts. The loose soil has caused heavy rainfall to turn into deadly floods, while crops are producing less and less yield. The wood from cut trees is mostly used to fuel stoves for cooking. But this has caused a separate issue where the smoke collects inside homes and causes respiratory issues for family members who stay at home and cook.

How Mud Stoves Can Help Reduce Deforestation

Badru Kyewalyanga, a local man frustrated by the minimal action from the government on the matter, developed a solution to this issue: mud stoves. The stoves are made of mud, water and straw, and require little time to be constructed. Balls of mud are thrown into the ground to remove air bubbles and prevent cracks. The mud is then molded around the trunk of a banana-like plant called the matooke tree. The stove is cut and arranged to form a combustion chamber, a chimney and several ventilation shafts. After two weeks, the mud hardens and can be removed from the tree and is ready for use.

The stoves are incredibly efficient as they require only half the amount of wood for fuel compared to a traditional stove and oven. In addition, the placement of the chimney when attached to a wall of the house means that the wood smoke can escape without being trapped inside. Kyewalyanga, along with local and international volunteers has worked together to build over 100 stoves helping villagers to breathe cleaner air, while also reducing the rate of deforestation in Uganda.

Use of Mud Stoves in South Sudan

The stoves have now begun to spread their usefulness to other groups of people in Africa as well. Refugees from South Sudan are often forced to venture into the forests for firewood or charcoal to prepare meals, which is risky due to the prevalent violence in the region. Unfortunately, they are left with little choice if they are to survive. However, they were introduced to a newer and more efficient method of cooking by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

ADRA’s mission was to provide necessary supplies to the refugees escaping South Sudan. One of the items provided to the refugees was the mud stove developed in Uganda. Because the stove emits a smaller amount of smoke than a conventional stove and minimizes the number of trees to be cut down to collect fuel, they became incredibly popular. Members of ADRA were able to give demonstrations and trained women and children on its usage. These projects have shown that mud stoves are a useful and efficient way to provide a cheap way to cook food as well as fight deforestation in Uganda and other parts of Africa.

Aditya Daita
Photo: Pixabay

Child Labor in South Sudan
South Sudan is an East-Central African nation considered to have one of the worst cases of child labor in the world. The crisis of child labor has been amplified by the outbreak of civil war in 2013, spreading violence and insecurity nationwide. Child labor in South Sudan is a complex issue that negatively affects children’s health and education. However, UNICEF is working to end child labor in the nation.

4 Causes of Child Labor in South Sudan

  1. The civil war has increased the number of displaced persons vulnerable to recruitment by armed group or abduction for forms of child labor including spies, messengers, child soldiers and prostitutes.
  2. Many communities in South Sudan have inadequate access to schools and overall poor quality of education. Thus, much of the population does not see education as a viable alternative to work.
  3. Embedded cultural traditions and social attitudes increase rates of child labor by perpetuating ideas, such as work building character and girls being better suited to domestic work than education. Furthermore, many children in South Sudan are expected to follow their parent’s career paths and learn their trade from an early age, resulting in family sponsored child labor over child education.
  4. Poverty is arguably the most significant factor contributing to child labor globally, with South Sudan being no exception. Child’s incomes are often understood to be necessary for the survival of the household, with 91.9% of South Sudan living in multidimensional poverty. The mass impoverishment of South Sudan has been amplified by the civil war that has devastated the economy, and thus fueled child labor.

Formal vs. Informal Sector

Data on child labor can only be effectively collected from children working within the formal sector. As of 2019, nearly 46% of children aged 10-14 work in the formal sector. About 60% of these children find themselves working in agriculture, over 38% percent in industry and nearly 2% in services. While these ratios of children engaged in formal labor are large, even more children likely work in the informal sector, including jobs such as child soldiers and prostitutes.

Impact on Education and Health

Poor education in South Sudan increases participation in child labor. As a result, only 31.5% of children aged 6-14 were enrolled in school in 2019. Despite the fact that education is free, the rate of primary school completion sits at just 25.7%. Consequently, as of 2019, only about 27% of the adult population in South Soudan is literate. Not only does a lack of education stunt individual children’s development, health and economic opportunities, but also those of communities in which they live.

South Sudan also has a poor healthcare structure. This is reflected in the national life expectancy of 57.6 years, which is only worsened by the institution of child labor. Children working in the informal sector are placed at great risk: these jobs are life-threatening and drastically reduce life expectancy. However, children working in the informal sector are not the only children at risk. Jobs in the formal sector, such as construction and mining, are labor heavy and place great strain on children’s bodies. Journalist Losika Losepio reported in 2018 that an 8-year-old girl in South Sudan working in the mines said “It’s hard work digging and the shovel is heavy. I just want to be in school,” while holding an infected wound on her elbow. In the best of cases, child labor only takes children out of school; in the worst of cases, they are injured by their labor and potentially even killed.

The Good News

UNICEF is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children. Programming by UNICEF has made great progress in regard to child labor in South Sudan. In 2018, UNICEF freed over 1,000 children, many of whom were child soldiers for various armed groups. Additionally, UNICEF combats the root causes of child labor, such as lack of education. In 2018, the organization helped to rehabilitate schools damaged by conflict by leading teacher training and providing necessary classroom supplies. Through such efforts, UNICEF also helped 550,000 children re-enroll in school in 2018.

Children everywhere have a right to education, health and safety. Child labor in South Sudan serves as an obstacle to each of these rights and must be counteracted. Progress has been made through organizations such as UNICEF, but the situation remains dire: these efforts must not only continue but expand across the nation.

Lily Jones
Photo: Wikimedia

Poverty and FragilityThe year 2020’s biennial World Bank Fragility Forum is a series of seminars and discussions about working to build peace and stability in conflict-ridden areas. It brings together policymakers and practitioners in many different sectors from around the world, including the government, to address poverty and fragility and use international aid to promote peace in fragile settings. The Forum exists in conjunction with the World Bank Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence for 2020-2025 and focuses on fighting poverty as a means to eliminate conflict and violence in fragile settings, acknowledging and addressing the link between poverty and fragility.

What is Fragility?

There is no simple definition for a fragile setting or context since each fragile region is circumstantially unique. The Fragile States Index (FSI), though, says there are many common indicators that include state loss of physical control of territory or social legitimacy, loss of state monopoly on legitimate force, loss of connection to the international community and an inability to provide basic public services. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also explains that there are common characteristics of fragile settings, like extreme poverty, authoritarian regimes, high rates of terrorism, high rates of armed conflict and short life expectancy. The majority of fragile settings currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Fragile States Index lists Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan as the three most fragile contexts in the world.

Poverty and Fragility

The World Bank explains that addressing poverty and fragility go hand-in-hand. While only 10% of the global population live in fragile contexts, more than two-thirds of the people around the globe who live in extreme poverty live in fragile contexts. Experts expect this figure to rise to 80% by 2030. Poverty and fragility exist in a sort of feedback loop, as it becomes more difficult to escape poverty in a fragile setting given poor living conditions and likely economic ruin, while poverty is also an initial driver of fragility. Global Washington reports that fragility hurts economic productivity – violent conflict caused a 12.4% decrease in economic activity in 2017 alone – and is the main driver of both global hunger and refugee crises.

Fragility Forum Highlights

Three lectures from the Forum in particular address key components of poverty and fragility by looking at case studies: the social and economic inclusion of refugees, the use of country platforms to increase the effectiveness of global aid and the effectiveness of existing economic programs in fragile contexts. These lectures were:

  1. Refugee Policies: Increasing Self-Reliance & Economic Inclusion in Protracted Crises – Around 80% of refugees today live in developing countries and, as Global Washington reports, the violence and conflict of a fragile region are the main drivers of forced migration. Lecturers in this session explained that aid to refugees and their host countries must address both the immediate needs of refugees with investment in basic needs like healthcare and in long-term, policy for economic and social inclusion of refugees in their host countries. Refugees currently do not have permission to work in 50% of host countries and refugee mobility is severely restricted across the globe. This makes refugees dependent on aid from international agencies like the U.N. Economic self-sufficiency for refugees shifts the responsibility from these international bodies to the host country and both enhances the living situation of refugees and develops the host country’s economy. The Senior Director of Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank Franck Bousquet explains in the lecture that the World Bank focuses largely on support to the host country and strengthening national systems through emergency response programs and using grants to incentivize host countries to include refugees in their economies.
  2. Reducing Fragility and Conflict: What We Are Learning from Impact Evaluations – This lecture looks at the impact of a wide range of interventions in fragile settings from behavioral studies on social interventions to how labor market programs and economic intervention can increase stability in fragile settings by creating a market opportunity for individuals through vocational training. One particular study in Liberia explored the claim that economic insecurity can encourage violent or criminal behaviors in individuals. The study also explored how giving impoverished Liberians agricultural training increased the employment and average wealth of the individuals in the study, the root connection between economic opportunity and criminal activity, large-scale questions about what motivates violence and whether poverty causes criminality. The theory that underwent testing hypothesizes that increased economic returns to noncriminal activities will minimize the incidence of criminal activities by occupying individuals’ time, building social skills in youth and reducing grievances with poor economic opportunities. The study found that vocational training can decrease the time that individuals spend on illicit activities, but found little effect on individuals’ attitudes about democracy and violence.
  3. Revisiting Development Cooperation in the Hardest Places: The Case of Somalia – This session discussed “country platforms,” which the featured Center for Global Development (CGD) podcast defined as a “government-let coordinating body that brings together partners and stakeholders to define shared goals and coordinate development efforts in the country.” Places like Afghanistan and Somalia have utilized these country platforms, which are part of the World Bank’s Strategy for Fragility, Stability and Violence for 2020-2021, to streamline aid efforts by encouraging collaboration and joining local government and civic leaders with international donors to better implement international aid projects in fragile settings. Country platforms allow for more streamlined and effective flow from a donor to the recipient country, as evidenced by the organizational progress made in Somalia, where the U.S. invested over $400 million in aid in 2019; the country platform in Somalia has been developing clearer plans for development, humanitarianism and politics and shifting control of aid efforts into the hands of the Somali government to both increase aid efficiency and promote state legitimacy.

The World Bank Fragility Forum has made the link between poverty and fragility apparent. Hopefully, an increased understanding of how these two topics interlink will help eliminate poverty in fragile settings.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Wikimedia

Homelessness in South SudanSituated in Central East Africa, South Sudan holds the title of the newest country in the world. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, an agreement ending the longest recorded civil war in Africa. In the midst of conflict, people were forced out of homes and into the streets. This created a large population of poverty and homelessness in South Sudan.

The Effect of the Civil War

Rampaged by civil war and the aftermath of independence, 20% of South Sudan has been homeless since 2013. After the falling out between President Salva Kiir of the Dinka ethnic group and former Vice president Machar of the Nuer ethnic group, violence exploded throughout the newly founded country.

The conflict created 2.2 million displaced people within the country and forced one million people to become refugees. Because of the eviction from homes, people lacked access to their fields, starting a severe famine. Many homeless people reside in camps because they have a bit of food. Although the civil war ceased in 2018 with a mutual peace agreement, there are 1.76 million displaced people in the country.

Children in Need

4.2 million children need immediate assistance due to homelessness in South Sudan. Many children live on the streets after losing their families in the war, being forced into the workforce to sustain themselves. Due to the chaos, the education rate rests at 28%. Education provides students the ability to become professionals in their chosen route of study. It also starts a “brain gain” effect within the country. Students could earn money for their household and start building homes for their families.

Famine and Healthcare

As a result of the war, six million people lack proper water and meals. The United Nations estimated that around 12 million people are hungry every second in South Sudan. Without nourishment, there isn’t enough energy to suffice labor-heavy work. This makes them unable to sustain their household.

According to WHO, South Sudan has one of the world’s weakest healthcare systems. It also has the weakest poor quality treatment and limited resources. Along with malaria and other common diseases, the country reported over 2,000 cases of COVID-19. This puts a toll on the healthcare system, lacking both facilities and skilled healthcare workers. Homeless people live shorter lives when stripped from proper healthcare. With the body prepared and treated to bounce back from viruses, homeless people have the energy to make a living.

Change in Action

Despite the dire situation of the country, many organizations have volunteered their efforts to rehabilitate this promising country. For example, the International Rescue Committee provides over 1.1 million people in South Sudan with medical treatments and healthcare facilities. The organization has been at the country’s aid for over two decades, rehabilitating sanitation systems and giving out food. World Concern has set out to rebuild villages by providing people with food, shelter and clean water. It does this in hopes of creating a sustainable way of life. In 2018, World Vision sponsored 700 children to return to education, reuniting them with their families along the way. With help like this, homelessness amongst children can be reduced drastically and prevented in the future.

 

It may seem pessimistic at times for these communities, but homelessness is close to disintegration. Helping people gain access to their basic needs supplies them with the foundation to rise above homelessness and poverty. The country is full of potential; once chaos runs through homelessness in South Sudan, their light will shine.

Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

corruption worldwideThere has been no shortage of Americans raising awareness about the domestic hardships of disadvantaged communities at the hands of an imperfect system. At the very least, Americans are still able to protest systems and spread their message to a broad audience across social media. What is less known, however, is how many people experience similarly dehumanizing conditions globally but lack the tools to change their environment or even tell others about their struggles. American protests for equality have been and always will be important, but it is a humanitarian necessity to address social injustices and corruption worldwide, not just where it is convenient for people to do so.

What is Corruption?

Before addressing the logistics of foreign poverty, it is necessary to define what that word “corruption” means in this context. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) will be the standard definition of what corruption is, as it has been a common definition since 1995. The CPI ranks countries in terms of how much they embody “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”

Where to Find It

Even with the guidelines provided by the CPI, there is still room for interpretation, and as such there are many different survey results from individual sources (two, for example, come from the World Population Report and U.S. News and World Report). However, that is not to say there are not general trends throughout each of the results. Several lists that were used as sources cited at least half of the top 10 most corrupt countries as coming from South America, Africa or the Middle East.

The ways in which corruption has reared its head have mostly been economical. For instance, bribery is so prevalent in Afghanistan that 38% of the population sees it as normal. Somalia has a similar perception and prevalence of corruption. Ever since the Siad Barre regime was overthrown in 1991, there has been no strong government in control of the entire country. Instead, pirates, militias and clans fight over individual territories, preventing any chance of united progress without foreign intervention.

How Does This Relate to Poverty?

Anyone can understand in a broad sense how corruption is related to poverty, since one would assume that any country riddled with poverty would have to be the result of a misuse of power. For any changes to occur, however, people need to understand clearly what exactly is going on. In 2010, a sample of 97 developing countries was examined by the University of Putra Malaysia in a study that attempted to find the casual relationship between corruption and poverty.

In short, the study’s original data and other literature it cited concluded that “countries with high income inequality have high levels of corruption… After countries attain a specific level of income equality, corruption exponentially decreases.” This is no surprise considering how authorities in Sudan, Afghanistan and other nations have bribed and hoarded billions of dollars that should have helped citizens out of poverty.

Solutions

The study found three main ways to create a culture change in the corruption of developing nations.

  1. Promoting Inclusiveness: Citizens need to have a voice in their government through establishing democratic policies.
  2. Promoting Lawfulness: There must be laws and punishments by police for the disproportionate mistreatment of the disadvantaged.
  3. Promoting Accountability: Governments need to be made aware of the relationship between poverty and corruption and how officials may be implicit or responsible for these hardships.

These ideas may seem like common sense, but in a country that is not taking action, they need to be restated, just as they have been for America’s own domestic issues. All it takes to begin the fight against global corruption is simple civil engagement, such as an email to a senator.

– Bryce Thompson
Photo: Flickr