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

The Republic of South Sudan is located in East-Central Africa. South Sudan’s current population is 13 million, and more than 50% of the population lacks proper access to clean water resources. Constant conflict and a civil war, which began in 2013, led to the current water crisis in South Sudan. During the war, the nation’s water systems were deserted and demolished. The 2011 East African drought and the country’s low rainfall further exacerbated the water crisis in South Sudan. As only 2% of the country’s water is used domestically, the South Sudanese peoples’ access to clean water is scarce. Furthermore, South Sudan’s water resources are trans-boundary waters shared with other African countries. The Nile River Basin is South Sudan’s primary water source, but it is shared with ten other countries. This shared ownership intensifies the water crisis in South Sudan.

Without access to clean water, South Sudanese families often drink dirty water to survive. This increases their risk of receiving waterborne diseases, such as diarrhea or parasites. Since 1990, diarrhea has been a leading cause of death for children in impoverished countries, accounting for one in nine child deaths worldwide. The disease kills more than 2,000 children every day, a toll greater than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Currently, in South Sudan, 77% of children under the age of five die from diarrhea. In addition, the country is home to 24% of the world’s lingering Guinea worm cases, a parasitic infection. Numerous water-focused charities are combating the current water crisis in South Sudan by facilitating clean water improvements.

Water is Basic

Water is Basic was founded in 2006 by Sudanese religious leaders who wanted to solve the water crisis in Sudan. The organization is a borehole drilling operation that manufactured its first water well in the Republic of the Sudan in 2008. Since then, Water is Basic has assembled more than 500 wells and improved over 300 more. In 2012, Water is Basic became a U.S. 501(c)(3) organization, earning nonprofit status under the federal law of the United States. This status allows the agency to be exempt from some federal income taxes; consequently, it was able to focus its profits specifically on water projects. To date, Water is Basic’s solutions have provided clean water to 1.5 million people in South Sudan, nearly 10% of the country’s total population.

Additionally, Water is Basic shares its expertise in developing clean water solutions with organizations in other African countries. In 2017, Water is Basic provided 30,000 people with clean water in Kibumba, Democratic Republic of Congo. Overall, Water is Basic has employed more than 100 local South Sudanese citizens who strive to bring to life the organization’s mission: that every person in South Sudan will finally have access to clean water.

Water for South Sudan

Salva Dut established Water for South Sudan in Rochester, New York, in 2003. Dut was born in southwestern Sudan to the Dinka tribe. The Sudanese civil war separated Salva from his family when he was only 11 years old. Seeking refuge by foot, Dut joined the thousands of boys known as the “Lost Boys” on their journey to Ethiopia. After living in refugee camps for more than 10 years, Dut moved to the United States and decided to aid South Sudan by giving clean water to those in need.

The organization’s mission is to end the water crisis in South Sudan by providing access to clean water and improving sanitation practices in impoverished South Sudanese communities. As of April 1, 2020, Water for South Sudan has drilled 452 new drills since 2003. The U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit has also restored 162 wells and taught 422 hygiene lessons. The hygiene lessons include information on washing hands properly, covering water containers to keep the water clean, food safety practices and how to dispose of waste. Water for South Sudan has uplifted entire South Sudanese villages. The nonprofit has transformed their lives and health by installing wells, thus helping the people gain access to clean water.

Wells for Sudan

In 2013, The Water Project, a charity concentrated at ending the water crisis across sub-Saharan Africa, partnered with Neverthirst, a sponsor group for water charities in 2013. Together, the organizations drilled wells as part of their combined project Wells for Sudan. The collaboration has installed more than 400 wells in remote villages across South Sudan.

As Wells for Sudan establish water wells to help end the water crisis in South Sudan, the collaborating organizations include holistic approaches to its water projects. Its water projects consist of on-site evaluation, pump repair training and the formation of water committees to manage the wells’ maintenance. Neverthirst has also pledged regular inspections of the wells to ensure proper usage.

With the help of these highlighted organizations, the water crisis in South Sudan is declining. Now, more than 729,100 South Sudanese citizens have improved drinking water resources. Nevertheless, Water is Basic, Water for South Sudan and Wells for Sudan all vow to continue their efforts until every citizen in South Sudan has access to clean water resources and improved sanitation.

– Kacie Frederick
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in South Sudan
Following nearly 50 years of civil war, the newly divided countries of Sudan and South Sudan remain in ongoing economic recovery. Although conflict sets the stage for poverty in South Sudan, the young country’s lack of educational opportunities perpetuates the problem. As of 2017, a jarring 72% of primary school-aged children in South Sudan do not attend school. Of these 2 million children, 400,000 are out of school due to displacement and chronic insecurity. Here are seven facts about education and poverty in South Sudan.

7 Facts About Education and Poverty in South Sudan

  1. More educational funding would reduce youth crime involvement. It is no secret that a quality education prevents crime activity among any youth population. However, extreme poverty in South Sudan compromises the quality of most of the country’s schools. The absence of extracurricular club offerings contributes to an ongoing cycle of violence in South Sudan. On the other hand, schools that UNICEF funded benefitted from student governments, peace clubs and organized volunteer activities. UNICEF also funded the South Sudan Youth Development Policy, which the government of South Sudan later developed. These programs effectively build peace and reduce youth crime in strained communities. More widespread funding for such programs would further prevent youth violence and armed conflict.
  2. Sudan’s distinct educational tracks limit the number of qualified teachers. To account for the poverty most school-aged children experience, South Sudan implemented an alternative education system. In an effort to reduce the long-term cost of education, this system condenses an eight-year curriculum into a four-year program. This program instructs students in English, which excludes many qualified teachers who received training to teach in Arabic. Although this program is more accessible, this exclusion compromises the quality of education students can gain.
  3. Children cannot physically attend one-third of schools in South Sudan. Long-standing political conflicts in South Sudan have damaged and destroyed over one-third of schools. These schools rely on the assistance of foreign aid organizations, such as USAID, in order to redevelop into functional institutions. USAID alone has provided over 514,800 conflict-affected children with makeshift learning spaces since 2014.
  4. Poverty-ridden families rely on agricultural work. Many school-aged children in rural South Sudan raise cattle in pastoral communities rather than attending school. A 2013 study found that parents in cattle-keeping communities valued practical skills (such as cattle treatment and milk production) over formal education. Since agricultural income accounts for a child’s immediate needs, many families do not see formal education as a practical option. Because funding for schools often relies on attendance and retention rates, funding falls particularly low in pastoral, non-urban areas. While the education sector itself does not prioritize this problem, donors like USAID and FAO fund more flexible education options for pastoral communities.
  5. Girls have to overcome more obstacles to obtain an education. Young women living in poverty often drop out of school to pursue arranged marriages because of financial, cultural and religious obligations. As a result, only one-sixth of women are literate in comparison to two-fifths of men. However, children born to educated mothers have a 50% higher chance of survival. In turn, prioritizing young women’s education and literacy is vital. Though more work is necessary to enroll more girls in school, donor initiatives such as the DFID’s Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) have brought more attention to the issue.
  6. Socioeconomic disparities impact access to education and future employment. In a study by Learning for Peace, representatives expressed that nepotism and tribalism often determine access to education, training opportunities and jobs. This results in unequal opportunities across states, which increases tension within the youth population. One youth representative said that “Youth who have their relatives in those places, they have those opportunities [and] it creates a gap […]. This brings conflict […], especially as a young country which has come out of war, where people have many expectations to get money to sustain themselves.” The concentration of opportunities in particular states, such as Juba, affects the cycle of poverty in South Sudan.
  7. Inclusive learning requires more funding. The government of South Sudan invests minimally in the development of education. This lack of resources prevents the implementation of an inclusive education curriculum based on the language of instruction (Arabic or English) and curriculum content (Christian or secular). Curriculum development at the state level is slowly establishing a more inclusive national identity for students in South Sudan, though more work is necessary at the county level. Such work will further increase the inclusion of different religions, cultures and histories in South Sudan’s schools.

Ultimately, funding education in South Sudan could revive the country’s economy and, more importantly, ensure that more children survive. It is imperative to support the 2 million children who cannot afford an education or who lack access to well-funded schools. In order to help break the cycle of poverty in South Sudan, foreign aid and other investments must provide much-needed educational resources.

Stella Grimaldi
Photo: Flickr

South Sudan’s Hunger Crisis
South Sudan gained independence in 2011, and in 2013 a civil war broke out. The civil war has displaced approximately more than 4 million people and caused extreme poverty. With the country still stuck in the throngs of conflict and the population on the verge of starvation, humanitarian aid has been especially important during this time. Here are nine organizations fighting South Sudan’s hunger crisis.

9 Organizations Fighting South Sudan’s Hunger Crisis

  1. Action Against Hunger: Action Against Hunger is a nonprofit organization that emerged in 1979 in Paris, France. Currently, Action Against Hunger is fighting emergencies in many countries in Africa with South Sudan being a focus area. The nonprofit has been working in South Sudan since 1985 and has focused its efforts on the recent civil war conflict and treating malnutrition. In 2018, it provided nutrition and other health services to 178,000 people; 46,607 children received malnutrition screenings and 3,250 obtained treatment in hard-to-reach-areas.
  2. International Medical Corps: International Medical Corps is a nonprofit that has been working in South Sudan since the mid-1990s. It provides seeds, tools and food to families in need to support a better livelihood as well as 24-hour stabilization centers that provide health care services. The organization works in five of the country’s 11 states providing outpatient and inpatient treatment for acute malnutrition. Nutrition programs are in Unity, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Central Equatoria and Western Bahr-el Ghazal states and have implemented a blanket supplementary feeding program to prevent malnutrition in countries children.
  3. Save the Children: Save the Children is a U.S.-based nonprofit that has been working to better the lives of children all over the world since 1932. It provides food assistance following natural disasters, builds economic and food security within communities, strengthens socio-economic conditions and gives youths the means and information to earn a sustainable income. In South Sudan, Save the Children is the lead provider in six of 11 states with 61 primary health care facilities, 45 outpatient centers and 58 feeding programs for infants and children suffering from malnutrition. Over the years, it has given 466,579 children vital nutrition.
  4. International Rescue Committee: The Emergency Rescue Committee and the International Relief Association created the International Rescue Committee in 1942, joining forces. The organization has been working in South Sudan since 1989 but has doubled its efforts since the country gained independence and civil war followed quickly behind. It mainly works in the Central Equatoria, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Lakes states where it has opened health clinics and is providing nutrition and sanitation services to the communities. In 2018, the International Rescue Committee assisted 900,000 people in South Sudan.
  5. World Food Programme: The World Food Programme is the leading organization dealing with food assistance and providing communities with the ability to improve nutrition. Established in 1961, the World Food Programme works in over 83 countries a year. The first development program launched in Sudan and since then food assistance has increased over the years. The organization works to deliver food to hard-to-reach communities, provide school meals and treat malnutrition in children throughout the country with the help of 12,000 nutrition volunteers in South Sudan; in 2019, it assisted 5 million people.
  6. World Food Program U.S.A.: The World Food Program U.S.A. is a United State-based nonprofit that came into being in 1995. It has a partner in the United Nations World Food Programme. World Food Program U.S.A. works with U.S. policymakers, corporations and foundations to fight global hunger. The organization provides funding for the use of air-drops, all-terrain vehicles and river barges to get food to people. An average of eight air-drops, which can feed 2,000 each, occur in South Sudan. Also, it uses blockchain technology, called Scope, to monitor nutrition success cases. Over 1.4 million people have registered in the system.
  7. Humanity and Inclusion: Humanity and Inclusion, previously known as Handicap International, emerged in 1983. This nonprofit works with the disabled and handicapped communities within places facing extreme poverty, disaster and conflict. It provides services, rehabilitation and nutrition health information. Humanity and Inclusion has worked in South Sudan since 2006. The facilities had to close in 2013 due to the civil war, but have returned and now focus their efforts on rehabilitation of the country’s disabled or injured. Humanity and Inclusion work in South Sudan states Yambio, Lankien, Malakal, Bor, Bientu and Yida.
  8. Care: Care started out in 1945 and works to aid communities in emergencies. It also helps farmers, fishers and pastoralists ensure the nutrition of their families. Care has been working in South Sudan since 1993. The organization delivers emergency food assistance with care packages including sorghum, lentils and cooking oil. It also provides agricultural support, cash and environmental awareness-raising training.
  9. Oxfam International: A group of independent organizations founded Oxfam in 1995. Oxfam works to help fight global poverty worldwide, and it supports over 500,000 people in South Sudan. The organization provides emergency food distribution centers and clean, safe water to communities. In 2017, Oxfam built a solar-powered water treatment plant that reaches 24,000 people within the state of Juba. It also provides families with assets like livestock, tools, seeds and fishing gear to help people provide food for themselves, and give training on better farming methods.

South Sudan’s hunger crisis is a man-made tragedy and 60 percent of the population still faces severe hunger. Still, South Sudan is a great example of humanitarian action making a tremendous impact on communities. South Sudan has avoided famine with the help of many organizations providing food assistance, emergency aid and ways to have a better livelihood.

– Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

The Life of Father Lee Tae Seok
South Sudan is one of the most poverty-ridden countries in the world. British explorer Samuel Baker originally established it as a colony named Equatoria in 1870, but the colony later joined with Sudan, which was another former British colony, in 1947. When the Arab Khartoum government, a reigning government at the time, did not grant political participation to the southern populace, the country plunged into two bloody civil wars. The first civil war lasted from 1955 to 1972, and the second civil war lasted from 1983 to 2005. During both of the civil wars, an estimated 2.5 million people died. Most of the casualties were civilians who died from starvation and drought. After numerous peace talks, South Sudan declared independence in July 2011.

Even after independence, armed conflicts between the South Sudanese government and the opposition forces riddled South Sudan. Currently, there is a peace agreement between the South Sudanese government and the opposition forces to create a transitional government by February 2020. This is the country where Father Lee Tae Seok, nicknamed “the Schweitzer of Sudan” found his calling.

Who is Father Lee Tae Seok?

Father Lee Tae Seok was born in 1962 in Busan, South Korea. After losing his father at the age of 9, Fr. Lee’s mother supported the family by working as a seamstress in a market in Busan. After graduating from medical school in 1987, Fr. Lee worked as an army medical surgeon until 1990. In 1991, he entered a Salesian seminary, and after becoming a priest in June 2001, he went to South Sudan as a deacon in November 2001. Here, Fr. Lee saw the harsh reality of South Sudan. The sight of lepers and Hansen’s disease patients made a deep mark on his memory. Fr. Lee’s fellow missionaries reported that the sight he witnessed overcame him to the point where he had to run into a bush. After his ordination in June 2001, Fr. Lee returned to South Sudan.

Father Lee’s Contributions to South Sudan

After revising his medical knowledge about tropical diseases in a Kenyan hospital, Fr. Lee made his way to a small South Sudanese village named Tonj. Fr. Lee made many contributions to the people of Tonj. He dug wells to provide more sources of water and cultivated a field to grow crops and vegetables for the villagers. Fr. Lee also erected a medical clinic in Tonj. In this clinic, he treated over 300 patients on a daily basis. In addition to daily clinical duties, Fr. Lee also went out in his Jeep to find patients who could not travel to his clinic. As words about his clinic started to spread throughout the region, an increasing number of patients came to it. Eventually, Fr. Lee erected a bigger clinic with the help of the villagers of Tonj.

Father Lee Helps the Youth

In addition to his medical contributions, Fr. Lee also made a remarkable mark upon the youth of Tonj. After erecting his clinic, he established schools and other facilities to educate the youth of Tonj. In these schools, he taught math and music for the children of Tonj. It is during this time that Fr. Lee established the Don Bosco Brass Band. In order to establish this band, Fr. Lee asked many of his friends in South Korea to send him crates of instruments. The Don Bosco Brass Band traveled throughout South Sudan to spread the message of peace in war-torn South Sudan through music.

Father Lee’s Legacy

Fr. Lee’s contribution to the people and the youth of Tonj left a deep mark. After receiving a cancer diagnosis in 2008, Fr. Lee passed away in January 2010. He was 47 years old. As of 2018, Fr. Lee’s life and efforts in South Sudan are in social studies textbooks. However, Fr. Lee’s legacy stretches beyond just textbooks. In 2018, a former student of Fr. Lee became a doctor. Dr. Thomas Taban Akot graduated from Inje University, which was Fr. Lee’s alma mater. In his interview with Hankyoreh newspaper in South Korea, Dr. Akot recounts the effect Fr. Lee had in his life. Dr. Akot told Hankyeoreh, “I could never have been a doctor had it not been for Father Lee,” expressing his desire to carry on the wishes of Father Lee Tae Seok.

Father Lee Tae Seok’s life is a story of compassion. Through his actions and efforts, Fr. Lee exemplified the message that compassion and solidarity can be a powerful force for change. Fr. Lee is also a powerful reminder that an individual is capable of changing the lives of numerous people. The country’s textbooks commemorate Fr. Lee Tae Seok’s work of love and compassion. After Fr. Lee’s passing, the Salesian order in Tonj is continuing his mission. As South Sudan moves toward a transitional government, many hope that South Sudan will remember Father Lee’s message of love and peace.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Literacy Rates in South Sudan
The Republic of South Sudan, more commonly known as South Sudan, has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. It is a very young nation, having only declared independence from the Republic of Sudan in July 2011. However, recent data shows that only 26.8 percent of South Sudanese people aged 15 or older are literate. Additionally, while 35 percent of men can read and write only 19.2 percent of women possess these important skills. The government has created several initiatives over the past few years to improve literacy rates in South Sudan.

Factors Affecting Literacy

One reason literacy rates in South Sudan are so high is the fact that approximately 2 million, or about 70 percent of children in South Sudan are out of school, mostly young girls. Instead of attending primary school, children often work alongside their families for survival.

Implementing quality literacy programs for children is also costly, and South Sudan has been struggling to fund equal opportunities for all students. For the many who are unable to communicate via writing or consume written media, radio is often a popular alternative for getting the news.

Efforts to Improve Literacy

In recent years, the government has worked to improve literacy rates for both children and adults in South Sudan. For school-aged children, The General Education Strategic Plan, 2017-2022 has been proposed. Also referred to as the Strategic Plan, it has three primary goals: “to improve the quality of general education; to enhance the management capacity of senior staff of the Ministry, State Ministries, the County Education Department and affiliated institutions; and to promote Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to improve the employability of youth and adults in the next five years.”

According to the Strategic Plan, the government’s alternative education system (AES) has three programs working to improve literacy rates and overall educational quality in South Sudan:

  • The Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) is designed for children ages 13 to 17, but people up to age 25 are allowed to attend.
  • The Community Girls’ School (CGS) is intended for primarily young girls who have not yet reached grade 5; and
  • The Pastoralist Education Program (PEP) is designated for both children and adults in pastoral areas of the country.

As gender disparities are significant, specific efforts have been created that focus on providing education for Sudanese girls. In addition to the Community Girls’ School, funding from an organization called Girls’ Education in South Sudan (GESS) will help more women and girls be able to attend school, thus improving the literacy rate among South Sudanese girls and women.

There are also two programs that have been specifically created for adults who cannot read or write: the Basic Adult Literacy Programme (BALP) and the Functional Adult Literacy Program (FALP). Intensive English courses (IECs) are included in these programs, giving participants the opportunity to improve their skills with the English language.

Moving Forward

Addressing low literacy rates in countries such as South Sudan is crucial to reducing global poverty. Without the ability to read or write, communication skills are weakened and employment opportunities are limited. Therefore, giving people the chance to access to an improved education such as literacy skills lowers the chance of one being in poverty and gets them on the path to an overall higher quality of life.

A. O’Shea
Photo: United Nations

Countries Recovering from War

Civil war often erupts in countries that suffer from perpetual poverty. At the same time, war only serves to intensify poor living conditions in regions that are already vulnerable. In countries ravaged by war, people are displaced, infrastructure is destroyed and often entire industries are disrupted, destroying the resources that a country needs to keep its people alive. This devastation often persists even after a war is over. However, several formerly war-torn countries are making significant strides when it comes to post-war reconstruction and sustainable development. Here are three examples of countries recovering from war today.

3 Examples of Countries Recovering from War Today

  1. Yadizi Farmers are Recultivating Former ISIS Territory
    When the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIS) swept through the Sinjar region of northern Iraq in 2014, they displaced millions of farmers who relied on that land to make their living. ISIS persecuted the local Yadizi people for their religious beliefs and tried to destroy their farms in order to prevent them from ever being able to live in Sinjar again. In 2015, the allied Kurdish forces retook Sinjar, but the devastation of the land and the constant threat of land mines has since caused many Yadizi farmers to fear returning to their homeland.However, the Iraqi government has begun funding post-war recovery efforts in order to allow the Yadizi people to take back their land. A Yadizi woman named Nadia Murad, winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, has started a project called Nadia’s Initiative. A group called the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has also begun to clear landmines from the land of the displaced farmers. Although progress has been slow, partly due to limited governmental support in recent years and heavy regulations on the transportation of fertilizer, the region is slowly but surely recovering.
  2. The Central African Republic is Working on Protecting its Forests
    After years of political instability and a series of coups, as of 2016, the Central African Republic has a democratically-elected president for the first time in its history. Although the election of President Touadera signaled a step in the right direction toward peacebuilding, there are many areas that still need to be addressed.One particular problem for the Central African Republic is the widespread practice of illegal logging. The country’s forests are one of its biggest resources and wood is its top export, but corrupt public officials have allowed a massive trade in illegal lumber to arise, threatening the sustainability of the forests and undermining recovery efforts. Forest managers attempt to stop the problem but are often threatened by public officials who profit from the illegal lumber trade. However, many in the Central African Republic are working on changing the status quo. In 2016, the country renewed an accord with the European Union that incentivizes the country to reform forestry laws and crack down on illegal logging in exchange for favorable trade agreements. This renewal of the country’s greatest natural resource will help post-war recovery by strengthening its income from trade, building relationships overseas and giving resources for the reconstruction of damaged buildings.
  3. South Sudan is Using Mobile Money to Reignite the Economy
    The country of South Sudan is in the middle of recovering from a civil war that lasted five years and killed about 400,000 people. Part of the devastation wreaked by this war was the collapse of the South Sudanese economy, as cell towers were destroyed, trust in financial institutions was eroded and corruption began to overtake the country’s banks. According to AP News, “Around 80 percent of money in South Sudan is not kept in banks” primarly because most residents are rural and live too far from the major cities where the banks are located. Of course, there are other barriers as well, including the fact that only 16 percent of the population has a government ID (which means more expensive withdrawals and no money transfers) and concerns about the stability of the country’s banking system.As a part of the country’s post-war recovery, the South Sudanese government is working with mobile carriers to create a system called mobile money, in which people can bank from their phones instead of relying on the country’s physical banks and ATMs. This system allows people to easily participate in the Sudanese economy and since studies have shown that having access to services such as banks helps economic growth, the mobile money boom will be invaluable to South Sudan’s post-war recovery. The government is also working on setting up biometric identification for all citizens to use in banking, and on restoring damaged mobile infrastructure in order to make services like mobile money available anywhere.

Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr

Popes help end international conflict
The Pope stands in the international arena as a unique authority without traditional elements of influence that countries hold. In place of an impressive military or a large economy, the Pope controls the hearts and minds of 1.28 billion Catholics globally.

Over the course of the past century, various Popes have stepped up in international discussions as mediators, condemned human rights violations and organized days of prayers and fasting for those caught in conflict zones. Here are the five most well-known examples of how Popes helped end international conflict.

Pope Benedict XV and WWI

Pope Benedict initially attempted to stop Italy from entering WWI and, when that failed, he offered papal peace mediation throughout the war. He wrote up the 1917 Papal Peace Appeal, which focused on free seas, war reparations, disarmament and Belgian independence. It emerged as a skeleton of a treaty that the leaders of the various states would expand upon, the negotiations in which “the Holy See would not necessarily itself be involved.” In the end, the Treaty of Versailles copied the points of the Papal Peace Appeal two years prior but excluded the Pope from talks.

Pope John Paul II and Poland’s Solidarity

As a native Pole, Pope John Paul became personally invested in the swift conclusion of martial law in Communist Poland in 1981. The Pope directed the Primate of Poland to meet with the Polish Prime Minister at the time, Wojciech Jaruzelski, to broker peace talks between the worker union Solidarity and the government. Additionally, John Paul II published a letter in which he substantiated this meeting and supported the goal of peace.

Pope John Paul II, Israel and Palestine

In 1993, after three years of negotiations, the Pope established diplomatic relations with Israel under the condition the country invite him to regional summits. When talks broke down between Israel and Palestine after the 1994 mosque massacre in the West Bank, the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin asked Pope John Paul II to help restart the discussions. Unfortunately, the Palestine Liberation Chairman, Yasser Arafat, rejected this offer of mediation due to his resolute stance that he would not resume talks unless the Israelis guaranteed that Palestinian women, children and holy sites would have protection. By 2000, the Holy See legitimized Palestinian territory, stopping just short of fully recognizing it. This put the Vatican on extremely good terms with both Israel and Palestine and strengthened its sway in the region.

Pope Francis, Israel and Palestine

In a continuation of the previous Pope’s work in the region, Pope Francis invited the leaders of Palestine and Israel to the Vatican for a day of prayer in 2014. He requested both sides to live in peace together, advocating for the two-state solution. Rather than force politically charged discussions, the Pope simply brought the two leaders together for a prayer summit followed by a private discussion. Years later, Francis’ 2018 Christmas Address further urged for peace in the region.

Pope Francis and South Sudan

South Sudan, with 70 percent of its population Christian, plunged into civil war in 2013 after an alleged coup that the vice president designed. Two years into the conflict, Pope Francis privately met with South Sudanese President Kiir in Uganda while he was visiting the region. In a similar manner to how other Popes helped end an international conflict before them, Francis aimed to create an open dialogue between the warring factions. In 2019, Pope Francis invited President Kiir to the Vatican to discuss and encourage the implementation of the 2019 ceasefire agreement.

By wielding their immense power in these five instances, these popes helped end international conflicts. At the very least, their efforts as a neutral party created opportunities for hostile forces to move towards peace. While this list highlights major interventions by recent popes, these men also influence international politics every day in extraordinarily subtle and powerful ways.

Daria Locher
Photo: Flickr

South Sudanese Children Released from Hostage Situation

On July 23, 2019, 32 South Sudanese children were released from a hostage situation. These children were released to their families and other community members in Leer County, in northern South Sudan. These children were abducted by political opposition groups, with some of the boys abducted as early as 2016. Since the abduction, these 32 children were forced to witness armed conflicts and even participate as child soldiers. Unfortunately, the abduction of these 32 boys is not an uncommon incident; it is a daunting aspect of the South Sudanese civil war.

South Sudan has been in unrest since December 2013, when a civil war was sparked by conflict between the nation’s president and vice president. Supporters for President Salva Kiir were pitted against opposition supporters for Vice President Riek Machar, creating a power struggle over which regime would control the country. This resulted in five years of violence against armed forces and unarmed civilians. The devastation from this civil war has resulted in an estimated 400,000 deaths and has caused nearly 2.5 million refugees to flee the country.

Of the many atrocities committed within this civil war, the recruitment of children into armed forces is one of them. Recruitment, in this case, means the abduction or sale of children. Child abduction across South Sudan has become more frequent due to the nation’s civil war. In 2018, the U.N. last reported that around 19,000 children have been forced into armed groups across South Sudan. Young boys are typically made into child soldiers, while the abducted young girls are made into child brides. It is not uncommon for young girls to be sold into marriage, as the nation’s civil war has economically damaged many communities.

Where these abducted children end up is a mixed bag; some of these children are taken by armed opposition groups, while some of the child soldiers wind up in South Sudanese government forces. For the children integrated into government armed forces, their placement there is not condoned by the nation’s army, South Sudan’s People Defense Force (SPLA). A spokesperson for SPLA, Lul Ruai Koang, publicly stated, “We don’t want child soldiers… We gave their names to UNICEF.” In other words, if there are child soldiers found within SPLA ranks, their information will be given to UNICEF. From there, UNICEF is in charge of what happens to these children.

As for the South Sudanese children released from their hostage situation on July 23, 2019, UNICEF has enrolled all 32 boys into a three-year integration program. This program will provide for the boys’ basic needs, along with additional educational and psychological programs. As of July 2019, UNICEF has assisted 3,143 children throughout South Sudan after they have been released from armed forces. UNICEF’s reintegration programs have become essential in helping these children cope past their traumas and become functioning members of society.

“These children are deprived of a childhood and have seen things children should never experience,” South Sudanese UNICEF representative Mohamed Ag Ayoya said about the July hostage release. “However, it is not too late to give them a future, and that future started today.”

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

Hyperinflation

When it comes to global poverty, an important factor of a country’s economy is its inflation rate. Inflation occurs when the value of a nation’s currency decreases, but the prices for goods increase. Inflation affects many facets of everyday life, such as nationwide poverty rates, food and medical supplies.

Hyperinflation occurs when inflation rates rise quickly and uncontrollably. Hyperinflation is reached when an economy’s inflation rate is at least fifty percent for a thirty day period. However, high inflation rates consistent over a prolonged period of time also qualify as hyperinflation.  Here are three countries in hyperinflation today.

Venezuela

In the 1970s world energy crisis, Venezuela was a highly profitable oil producer. After oil prices dropped once the energy crisis ended in the 1980s, Venezuela’s chief export greatly declined in revenue and its economy began to suffer. Despite the decline in exports, Venezuela still needed to spend large sums of funding on the importation of basic goods for its people. This led to inflation, as the country dug itself into deficit spending. To pay for imported goods, Venezuelan banks then printed out paper notes not backed by actual wealth.

Now, inflation in Venezuela has reached monumental levels of devastation. Venezuela has been in hyperinflation since November 2016, when the inflation rate exceeded 50 percent. The International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation in Venezuela will exceed ten million percent by the end of 2019.

Because of this economic crisis, poverty is widespread. In 2017, the poverty rate across Venezuelan households reached 87 percent. On top of widespread poverty, food and medical supply shortages are rampant across Venezuela. The health of its people has deteriorated as weight loss and the spread of disease inflict the nation.

Currently, the Venezuelan government rejects the International Monetary Fund’s option to default on its debt. Venezuelan U.N. representatives have commented that in order for the nation to progress, it needs internal structural changes, not foreign aid.

South Sudan

South Sudan’s economy is also almost entirely oil-based. Of the countries in hyperinflation, South Sudan is the newest, gaining independence from British rule in 2011. However, South Sudan was quickly caught in a civil war from 2013 to 2018, soon after its founding. Damage to oil fields and other resources due to warfare severely affected the revenue of South Sudan’s exports. Inflation began as the struggle for resources and funding inflicted this budding nation.

South Sudan’s current economic crisis has caused mass poverty and food insecurity for its civilians. According to recent reports from the U.N., 43 percent of South Sudanese households are food insecure. At its peak, inflated food prices reached about 513 percent in December 2016. By the end of December 2018, the inflation on food prices dropped to 51 percent but is still hyperinflammatory by definition.

Unfortunately, South Sudan is currently not focusing on any poverty-reduction programs. According to the World Bank Organization, South Sudan’s overall inflation rate was an estimated 130.9 percent by the end of 2018; by the end of 2019, it is expected to drop to 49.3 percent, just under the hyperinflation threshold. However, given the financial instability of the nation, South Sudan will remain under close observation of the International Monetary Fund and similar entities for the foreseeable future.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s economy thrived in the 1980s and early 1990s, after declaring its independence from British control and creating its own domestic dollar currency in celebration. In the 1990s, however, Zimbabwe’s agricultural-based economy took a major hit after a series of crop failures. Compounded by the high costs of imports and funding for the war, Zimbabwe’s economy began to falter. In a panic to pay for goods, Zimbabwean banks rushed to print excess bills, leading the nation into hyperinflation.

Zimbabwe’s economy reached hyperinflation in March 2007, just passing the 50 percent threshold. For the next year, the nation’s inflation was a tumultuous series of highs and lows, eventually reaching a staggering 79.6 billion percent in November 2008. Eventually, Zimbabwe was forced to abandon its domestic currency, as its own population boycotted using the drastically inflated Zimbabwean dollar.

Despite the nation’s inflation rate lowering back down to 59.4 percent as of February 2019, Zimbabwe is still struggling to limit its cost of imports and boost its revenue from exports.

Potential Solutions

While there are numerous potential ways to address hyperinflation, a common solution for this phenomenon is dollarization — the abandonment of a failing domestic currency in favor of a stable foreign currency. A notable success story of dollarization is Montenegro, where the considerably weak Yugoslavic dinar was replaced with the euro, a more stable currency used widespread across the European Union. Before total dollarization, the inflation in Montenegro peaked at 26.5 percent in 2001. After adopting the euro, the country’s inflation is under one percent, as of 2019.

Of the three countries in hyperinflation today, Zimbabwe did utilize this method of dollarization; however, as of 2019, it abandoned dollarization, triggering the start of nationwide economic problems yet again. Overall, for these three countries in hyperinflation today, maintaining dollarization may be their best chance in regaining economic stability.

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Wikimedia