Foreign Aid Policies In 2019, the Overseas Development Institute came out with the principled aid index to assess the degree to which donor countries are contributing to a prosperous world. According to the report, the principled foreign aid policies not only benefit the country that receives the aid, but it also serves the interests of the donor country. Below is a list of how this report’s top five countries are using their foreign aid:

5 Countries Foreign Aid Policies

  1. Luxembourg is a small country in Western Europe that has pledged 0.96% of its gross national income (GNI) to go towards development and aid. It is one of the few countries that meet a goal set by the U.N. to dedicate 0.7% of a country’s GNI to foreign aid. Luxembourg starts by targeting some of its partner countries, which include Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Mali and Senegal. With remaining funds, Luxembourg helps provide humanitarian assistance in Kosovo, the Palestinian territories and Vietnam. The country also focuses on private enterprises through microfinance and inclusive finance to help promote productivity. In 2020, Luxembourg joined the International Aid Transparency Initiative which motivates the government to share data about foreign aid spending with the public. Accountability is an important factor in creating sustainable aid.
  1. The United Kingdom is another country that has met the U.N. goal of 0.7% of GNI for foreign aid. The U.K. set the goal back in 1974 but recently achieved it in 2013. Additionally, the government inscribed the goal into law in 2015 so that the country now has a legal duty to achieve it. Around 64% of the U.K.’s foreign aid goes to countries for bilateral aid. The main recipients of bilateral aid include Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria and Afghanistan. The remaining 36% of the U.K.’s foreign aid goes to multilateral institutions like the E.U. and the U.N. Additionally, the U.K. has also provided humanitarian aid for Liberia and Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak. Also, the country offered assistance to Nepal and Indonesia — following natural disasters and Somalia during the hunger crisis.
  1. Sweden has continuously met the U.N. goal since 1976. The country even made its own goal to dedicate 1% of its GNI to foreign aid in 2008. In 2019, Sweden allotted 0.98% of its GNI for foreign aid. Along with Norway, Sweden is considered to be a “humanitarian superpower.” The Swedish development cooperation, also known as Sida, is Sweden’s leading agency for providing foreign assistance. Sweden has 33 partner countries that it helps by creating income opportunities and strengthening democracy. Sweden is dedicated to helping achieve the U.N., 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The country’s primary goals include human rights, democracy and the rule of law, gender equality, the environment and climate change, health equity and education and research.
  1. Norway has met the U.N. goal for providing foreign aid since 1976. In 2019, Norway apportioned 1.02% of its GNI for foreign aid and development. Norway’s foreign aid policies use an approach that follows the 2005 Paris principles. These principles value ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing for results and accountability. Norway provides foreign aid funding for civil society organizations and budget support. The country also uses a large part of its budget to help people inside its borders. For example, Norway has used part of its budget to provide for its refugee population, which included more than 50,000 refugees in 2019.
  1. Ireland currently does not meet the U.N. goal, but the country is hoping to double its impact by 2025. In 2017, 0.36% of Ireland’s GNI went toward its foreign aid budget. Ireland’s foreign aid focuses on developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The country hopes to combat the issues of displacement and conflict, which Ireland’s main concern — climate change, tends to exacerbate. Additionally, developing countries are more likely to feel the effects of climate change disproportionately as compared with developed countries.

Striding Forward

These five countries’ foreign aid policies are impressive examples of how developed nations can make valuable contributions to global well-being. Hopefully, more undeveloped countries continue to benefit from foreign aid policies of more developed nations. Likewise, it is important these developed countries continue their efforts to achieve the U.N. goals, for theirs and the world’s greater benefit.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Sweden
When discussing global poverty, most tend to think of cases of extreme poverty. However, poverty exists everywhere, even in prosperous countries. Sweden, a Nordic country in Northern Europe known for its progressive politics, is home to a population of 10.3 million. Although Sweden is a relatively wealthy country, 16.2% of its people are at risk of falling into poverty. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Sweden.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Sweden

  1. As referenced above, Sweden’s “risk of poverty” is defined as meeting the criteria for severe material poverty or low-income standards. Citizens with low-income standards are those whose household income is inadequate to afford necessary living costs. Currently, 6% of Sweden’s population (570,000 people) fall under low-income standards.
  2. In 2016, Statistics Sweden announced that less than 1% of the population in Sweden suffers from severe material poverty. Sweden defines “severe material poverty” by not being able to afford at least four of the following six components: unforeseen expenses, a week’s holiday per year, a meal with meat or fish every other day, satisfactory heating and housing, capital goods and bills.
  3. Since 2015, Sweden’s unemployment rate has declined by more than 0.35% per year. In 2018, the unemployment rate was 6.35%, which was a 0.37% decline from 2017. However, due to COVID-19, unemployment rates grew to 8.2% in Sweden as of April 2020. 
  4. Sweden’s welfare system reduces poverty across the country. Sweden offers a standard minimum income for all its citizens, providing approximately 60% to 70% of the average wage in Sweden. Swedish law additionally ensures all workers earn 25 paid vacation days and 16 public holidays each year.
  5. Sweden offers equality between genders, especially in the workplace. In 2009, The Swedish Discrimination Act required employers to promote equality between men and women and ban workplace harassment. Then in 2016, Sweden updated its parental leave for both parents to have three months of paid leave. Nevertheless, Sweden has room for improvement, as there is still a 10% wage-gap between men and women.
  6. Sweden’s incorporation of equal education opportunities, beyond gender or socioeconomic status, help increase opportunities for Swedish citizens, thus limiting poverty expansion. Sweden’s Education Act protects free education equality for citizens aged 6-19. In 2017, Sweden reported more than 90% of Swedish students received leaving qualifications equivalent to that of a United States high school diploma. 
  7. The free, universal healthcare in Sweden aids the country in fighting poverty. The healthcare system is highly tax-funded, and it ensures all citizens have equal access to substantial health benefits. Sweden’s Health and Medical Service Act protects universal healthcare, and Sweden’s central government oversees it.
  8. The life expectancy of Sweden is one of the highest in the world: 84 years. Municipal taxes primarily fund elderly care in Sweden. Statistics from 2014 show that the total cost of elderly care was SEK 109.2 billion, or more than USD 12.7 billion. Yet, the patients compensated for only 4% of the total cost themselves.
  9. Sweden’s aim for equal opportunities benefits everyone, including the disabled. The Swedish government and parliament authorized several disability policies. The policies cover accessibility regulations for disabled citizens across housing, transportation and employment sectors. 
  10. Although Sweden offers its citizens free education, universal healthcare and a standard minimum income, the country’s taxes are monumentally high. The tax range in Sweden is 29.2% to 35.2%, depending on the citizen’s income, compared to the lowest federal income tax in the United States, which is 10%.

As the Swedish government fixates on opportunities for its citizens, aiming for equality across genders, age and socioeconomic status, the country offers hope to its citizens that they will continue to reduce their poverty statistics.

Kacie Fredrick
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Sweden
Sweden is a predominantly urban Scandinavian country with a population of more than 10 million people. Its economy blends ideas of free-market capitalism with extensive welfare components. From 2016 to 2017, Sweden’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased while its unemployment level decreased. As a result, the nation has achieved a high standard of living and high life expectancy in comparison to many other nations. Here are four facts about hunger in Sweden and how the government is addressing it.

4 Facts About Hunger in Sweden

  1. Sweden reports very low rates of poverty and few issues with malnutrition. Malnutrition can occur from lack of food accessibility and hunger. According to Smart City Sweden, malnutrition is a limited issue in the nation and rarely impacts children’s growth. However, the organization has revealed there are inequalities in those who experience hunger depending on the resident’s social and economic positions. Hunger is more likely to impact people living in poverty.  Depending on the definition, there are varying rates of poverty in Sweden. Currently, absolute poverty is nonexistent in Sweden. Yet, when focusing on relative poverty, 15% of the Swedish population is impoverished in comparison with the national median income. These low poverty rates also correlate with low rates of hunger in Sweden.
  2. The Swedish welfare system and charity organizations help the hungry. The Swedish government provides its impoverished inhabitants with essential needs through its sizable welfare programs. For example, everyone in the nation has access to universal social insurance, making them less economically vulnerable and keeping hunger in Sweden low. In 2018, Sweden spent 26.1% of its GDP on social spending. This money goes towards helping low-income households sustain their basic needs. Additionally, Sweden has organizations, such as Sweden’s City Missions, that aid those in need by supplying sleeping accommodations, clothing and food. According to its report, 62% of the organization’s poverty interventions deal with feeding the hungry; therefore, Sweden’s City Missions is helping eradicate hunger in Sweden.
  3. Sweden is working on hunger initiatives with the United Nations. In 2018, the Swedish government and the United Nations World Food Programme partnered to combat global hunger through the signing of a Strategic Partner Agreement. The government made the most substantial contributions the organization has ever seen at $370 million. These funds go towards food assistance to help food crisis victims. Also, the Swedish government has partnered with the United Nations on global goals, one of which focuses on hunger. The objective is zero hunger and it aims to internationally end hunger, improve food security and advance nutrition.
  4. There are numerous Swedish networks that have committed themselves to fighting world hunger. Many Swedish organizations are focusing on globally eradicating hunger as the issue of hunger becomes less prevalent in Sweden. The Swedish International Agriculture Network Initiative involves government officials, citizens and the private sector in the conversation on hunger. Its mission statement expresses the goal of encouraging discussion around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal: zero hunger. To reach this goal, the initiative creates expert groups that educate people on hunger through articles and connects people who aim to take action in fighting hunger. On a larger scale, Smart City Sweden, the state-funded organization, works to end hunger by focusing on sustainability. For instance, Smart City Sweden has successfully worked towards this goal through intervening in global agriculture. The organization has donated a large amount of money towards making agriculture more effective, moving the world closer towards ensuring food security.

Although hunger in Sweden is low in comparison to other nations, the nation puts a substantial amount of money into fighting it. It has become an international leader for combating hunger through partnerships, organizations and networks.

– Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in Sweden
Sweden
is known for its generous welfare state; however, homelessness in Sweden is a rising concern. Swedes spend a larger proportion of their disposable income on housing compared to other European countries, and that figure is rising rapidly. The lack of affordable housing and the growing population has led to a housing crisis and an increase in homelessness.

The definition of homelessness in Sweden is divided into four categories:

  • acute homelessness

  • institutional care and category housing

  • long-term housing solutions

  • short-term insecure housing solutions

The Swedish government conducts a national survey every six years to analyze trends in homelessness. The survey reported that 33,269 people were homeless in 2017. Since the last report in 2011, acute homelessness increased from 4,500 to 5,935 people, and those in long-term housing solutions increased from 13,900 to 15,838.

Who Are The Most Vulnerable to Homelessness?

Women are increasingly more susceptible to homelessness, compared to men. More than one-third of the homeless in Sweden have children younger than 18, resulting in at least 24,000 children with parents who are homeless.

The majority of parents struggling with homelessness stated the main cause as having an income too low for them to qualify as tenants in the ordinary housing market. This factor forces them to enter the secondary market and into long-term, but insecure, housing situations.

In recent years, a large influx of migrants including refugees has contributed to rising homelessness in Sweden. Around 43% of people that are homeless were born in a country other than Sweden. Sweden has the highest rate of homelessness per 1,000 inhabitants in Scandanavia.

More people are becoming homeless due to evictions, sudden unemployment, or relationship breakups than due to mental health or substance abuse issues. Since more than 20% of the homeless do not need additional social services besides housing, they do not get support at all. The largest contributor to homelessness in Sweden is the housing crisis.

The Housing Crisis

There is a lack of available and affordable housing in Sweden, especially in cities. In 2017, 88% of municipalities reported a housing shortage. The wait time for an apartment is significantly increasing over time, making it nearly impossible to secure a rental apartment.

A reason for the shortage is that new construction is not keeping up with the growing population. There is low production of new public housing or rental apartments due to the cost of land, workers and materials; the cost is high due to the extremely high demand. There is little space left to build, and architects and city planners are reluctant to build taller to adhere to Swedish building customs. The rentals that are built are directed to upper-class markets with an average rental rate substantially higher than what social services will pay. Rising costs have made it even more difficult for marginalized groups to enter the conventional housing market.

What is the Solution?

To deal with the lack of housing, some have turned to co-housing. Companies such as Colive are remodeling large houses where tenants would pay for a bedroom and shared common spaces. The plan is to create tens of thousands of units within the decade.

Homelessness in Sweden is more of a structural issue than a social one, although the social aspects should not be ignored. While there is no explicit national strategy to address homelessness, there have been calls for an integrated housing provision strategy in which the state, region and municipality are all jointly responsible for providing adequate housing. Policies need to be more proactive to tackle the large proportion of people stuck in the secondary housing market. Measures need to be put in place to incentivize affordable housing builds with specific goals for low-income housing, according to the Stadmissionen report.

Having one’s own home is a fundamental need that also offers safety and security. Housing First, a method for dealing with homelessness in New York City, was implemented in Stockholm and Helsingborg in 2010. This approach eliminates conditions for housing and treats housing as a fundamental human right. Now, 94 municipalities in the country have Housing First strategies; these programs are local and not national.

Overall, the solution to homelessness in Sweden requires solving the housing crisis. The government needs to enact policies that spur affordable constructions while simultaneously moving the responsibility of homelessness prevention to municipalities and the state rather than social services.

Katie Gagnon
Photo: Pixabay

Health Care in SwedenSweden has the highest income tax rate in the world. More than 57% is annually deducted from people’s incomes. However, Sweden placed seventh out of 156 countries in the World Happiness Report 2019, and its healthcare system is one of the best in the world.

In 1995, Sweden joined the European Union and its population recently reached over 10 million people. Healthcare is financed through taxes and most health fees are very low. Sweden operates on the principle that those who need medical care most urgently are treated first. Higher education is also free, not only to Swedes, but also to those who reside in the rest of the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Switzerland. Like healthcare, it is largely financed by tax revenue. Here are 10 facts about healthcare in Sweden.

 10 Facts About Healthcare in Sweden

  1. Sweden has a decentralized universal healthcare system for everyone. The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs dictates health policy and budgets, but the 21 regional councils finance health expenditures through tax funding; an additional 290 municipalities take care of individuals who are disabled or elderly. To service 10.23 million people, Sweden has 70 regionally-owned public hospitals, seven university hospitals, and six private hospitals.

  2. Most medical fees are capped and have a high-cost ceiling. According to the Swedish law, hospitalization fees are not allowed to surpass 100 kr (Swedish Krona), which is equivalent to $10.88, a day and, in most regions, the charge for ambulance or helicopter service is capped at 1,100 kr ($120). Prescription drugs have a fee cap and patients never pay more than 2,350 kr ($255) in a one-year period. In the course of one year, the maximum out-of-pocket cost is 1,150 kr ($125) for all medical consultations. If the person exceeds the cap, all other consultations will be free. Additionally, medical services are free for all people under the age of 18.

  3. The cost for medical consultations not only has a price cap, but is generally low. The average cost of a primary care visit is 150 kr-300 kr ($16-$33) and the cost of a specialist consultation, including mental health services, ranges from 200 kr-400 kr ($22-$42). The cost of hospitalization, including pharmaceuticals, does not exceed 100 kr ($11) per day and people under the age of 20 are exempt from all co-payments. Healthcare services, such as immunizations, cancer screenings, and maternity care, are also free and have no co-payments.

  4. All dental care for people under the age of 23 is free. When a person turns 23, they no longer qualify for free dental health care in Sweden and must pay out of pocket. However, the government pays them annual subsidies, or an allowance, of 600 kr ($65) to pay for dental expenses. In Sweden, the cost of a tooth extraction is 950 kr ($103) and the cleaning and root filling for a single root canal costs 3,150 kr ($342). If dental care costs total anywhere between 3,000 kr-15,000 kr ($326-$1,632), the patient is reimbursed 50% of the cost. If it exceeds 15,000 kr, 85% of the cost is reimbursed.

  5. To battle its large medical waiting lists, Sweden has implemented a 0-30-90-90 rule. The wait-time guarantee, or the 0-30-90-90 rule, ensures that there will be zero delays, meaning patients will receive immediate access to health care advice and a seven-day waiting period to see a general practitioner. The rule also guarantees that a patient will not wait more than 90 days to see a specialist and will receive surgical treatment, like cataract removal or hip-replacement surgery, a maximum of 90 days after diagnosis. Sweden’s government also committed 500 kr million ($55 million) to significantly decrease wait time for all cancer treatments. In 2016, Sweden developed a plan to further improve its health services by 2025 through the adoption of e-health.

  6. In 2010, Sweden made private healthcare insurance available. The use of private health insurance has been increasing due to the low number of hospitals, long waiting times to receive healthcare, and Sweden’s priority treatment of emergency cases first. In Sweden, one in 10 people do not rely on Sweden’s universal healthcare but instead purchase private health insurance. While the costs for private plans vary, one can expect to pay 4,000 kr ($435) annually for one person, on average.

  7. Sweden’s life expectancy is 82.40 years old. This surpasses the life expectancies in Germany, the UK, and the United States. Maternal healthcare in Sweden is particularly strong because both parents are entitled to a 480-day leave at 80% salary and their job is guaranteed when they come back. Sweden also has one of the lowest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. Four in 100,000 women die during childbirth and there are 2.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. There are 5.4 physicians per 1,000 people, which is twice as great as in the U.S and the U.K, and 100% of births are assisted by medical personnel.

  8. The leading causes of death are Ischemic heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and colorectal cancer. While the biggest risk factors that drive most deaths are tobacco, dietary risks, high blood pressure and high body-mass index, only 20.6% of the Swedish population is obese and 85% of Swedes do not smoke. The Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ Index) also estimates that, in 2016, the rate of amenable mortality, or people with potentially preventable diseases, were saved at a rate of 95.5% in Sweden. The HAQ Index estimates how well healthcare in Sweden functions; the index shows that it is one of the best in the world.

  9. Sweden’s health expenditure represents a little over 11% of its GDP, most of which is funded by municipal and regional taxes. Additionally, in Sweden, all higher education is free, including medical schools. There are no tuition fees and a physician can expect to have an average monthly salary of 77,900 kr ($8,500).

  10. In Sweden, 1 in 5 people is 65 or older, but the birth rate and population size are still growing. Because Sweden has one of the best social welfare and healthcare systems in the world, people live longer and therefore 20% of the population does not generate income or pay taxes from their salary. This dynamic stagnates social welfare benefits and slows down the economy. Increasing immigration and a rise in births are the two solutions to ensure that the younger generations will receive the same benefits. Swedish-born women have an average of 1.7 children and foreign-born women have an average of 2.1 children. In 1990, Sweden broke the 2.1 children fertility rate but quickly dropped below 2.0 in 2010. Since 2010, Sweden has seen an increase of 100,000-150,000 immigrants and has seen 45,000 citizens emigrate.

In 2018, Sweden reached its record highest GDP (PPP) per capita of almost $50,000. Despite having the highest taxes in the world, the living conditions and healthcare in Sweden are some of the best. With time, its population will continue to grow and the healthcare system will continue to advance.

Anna Sharudenko
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in SwedenHomelessness is an issue that plagued Sweden for a long time. Well known for its national welfare system, the Swedish government provides a large safety net for its citizens to fall back on if they ever fall ill or lose their job. The Swedish government provides universal healthcare, family support and financial support for the elderly and retired. All Swedes, regardless of need, could call upon the government to receive the benefits provided by the Swedish welfare system. However, this doesn’t mean that the Swedish welfare completely shelters its residents from homelessness. What is causing homelessness in Sweden? Who are the homeless people in the famous welfare state? What is being done to alleviate this issue?

Defining Homelessness

Because numerous factors can cause homelessness, every country has a different definition of homelessness. In Sweden, a person is homeless if they are in:

  1. acute homelessness.
  2. an institution and not having any housing prior to release, or in an institution even though they should have been released because they lack their own housing.
  3. long-term living arrangements organized by Social Services.
  4. in private short-term living arrangements.

This certainly is a broad definition to determine if someone is homeless. However, even with this broad definition, counting the exact number of homeless people in Sweden is a challenge. In Sweden’s 2011 survey, for example, there were 34,000 homeless people. Around 4,500 people were classed as being in an acute situation, which means that they were on the streets or in homeless shelters. However, some homeless organizations estimate that the total number could be higher. Stockholms Stadsmission, a Swedish homeless charity, pointed out that the data only presented 370 E.U. migrants. The organization claims that the survey’s estimate of these E.U. migrants is too low.

Causes of Homelessness

People fall into homelessness in Sweden for multiple reasons such as breaking up with a significant other, escaping domestic abuse or suffering from mental illness. However, the lack of affordable housing seems to be one of the main causes of homelessness in Sweden. The housing prices in Sweden, especially in Stockholm, have increased homelessness significantly. Sweden’s steadily growing population, which reached 10,183,175 people in 2018, is definitely affecting the ever-rising housing price. While an industry expert suggests that Sweden is building more homes to meet the rising demand for housing, these housings are often not affordable due to the cost of materials, land and labor.

The ones who are most affected by this rising housing prices are the marginalized and vulnerable members of society. Furthermore, Sweden’s welfare system is attracting an increasing number of immigrants into the country, which puts a strain on the system.  While many migrants to Sweden are financially stable, there are groups of migrants who are not as fortunate. There are marginalized groups of E.U. migrants who fall into homelessness in Sweden.

Amnesty International’s 2018 report on the Romani population in Sweden found that there is a sizable population of Romani and other E.U migrants who are suffering from homelessness in Sweden. Romani, in particular, are marginalized more than other races in the entirety of Europe. In Sweden, the report suggests that many Romani people suffer from prejudice and lack of access to basic amenities such as water, shelter and healthcare. Lacking heated shelter, for example, is dangerous for the homeless since night temperature in Sweden usually falls below freezing. One homeless man described in an interview for the report that he had to wander around the streets to keep himself from freezing to death after being kicked out of a bus station at 2 am.

Measures Being Taken to Help

Some people aim to alleviate homelessness in Sweden. The Swedish government, for its part, is taking measures to alleviate the current issue. Stockholms Stadmission, for example, opened the first food bank in Stockholm. Human rights activists in Sweden are also calling for multiple reforms to alleviate the homelessness in Sweden. Since the highest cost of land, workers and materials to build new housing is negatively affecting the lives of the homeless in Sweden, human rights activists are calling for rental, tax and land reforms. Swedish politicians are responding to this call. Recently, the Swedish government introduced measures to encourage housing turnovers and subsidies to encourage the construction of more affordable housing.

Homelessness in Sweden is a complicated issue. The rising demand and price of housing are putting pressure on Sweden’s steadily increasing population. While Sweden’s broad definition of a person’s homelessness might broaden the number of people who can receive assistance, the task of counting the exact number of homeless people in Sweden is still challenging. Many EU migrants, the Romani people in particular, still face the danger that homelessness in Sweden brings. The Swedish government and charity organizations are taking measures to address this issue both on the local and governmental levels. While a long road still lies ahead for the homeless of Sweden, many hope that a better life is coming for them.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

QANDIL's Humanitarian Efforts
Sweden’s renown as a humanitarian superpower stems from its involvement in global aid initiatives. In 2018, the country devoted 1.04 percent of its gross national income (GNI) to overseas development, making Sweden the sixth-largest humanitarian aid contributor among the world’s countries and the largest one proportional to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). From 1975 onward, Sweden’s humanitarian aid efforts have continually surpassed the U.N.’s minimum target of developed nations spending 0.7 percent of GNI on overseas development initiatives.

One of the most well-regarded Sweden-based NGOs is QANDIL. Established in Stockholm in 1991, QANDIL’s initiatives aim to foster lasting peace and development in Iraq. Beneficiaries of its aid range from refugees and returnees to internally displaced persons and local host communities. Since 2016, QANDIL has concentrated its efforts on development in the Kurdistan region, serving as the most prominent partner of UNHCR in this region. Below are seven facts about QANDIL’s humanitarian efforts.

7 Facts About QANDIL’s Humanitarian Efforts

  1. Economic Assistance — Two Cash-Based Intervention projects implemented in 2017 raised $2,695,280 for 3,829 families in need in the Kurdistan region’s Duhok governorate. In Erbil, QANDIL distributed $3,155,800 to 3,054 families in the Erbil governorate, while $648,290 went to 1,900 families in the Sulaymaniyah governorate. Ultimately, QANDIL distributed $6,499,370 to 8,783 refugees and IDP families within three of the Kurdistan region’s governorates. This provides a foundation by which these uprooted people may become economically stable and productive.
  2. Shelter — Through the Shelter Activities Project, QANDIL supported uprooted people in search of shelter, which included 7,246 families. Among QANDIL’s successes in providing shelter-based aid is the implementation of 25 major shelter rehabilitation initiatives, encompassing five camps in the Sulaymaniyah governorate. This helped resolve the long-term problem of incomplete and hazardous structures allotted to displaced persons.
  3. Legal Services — The Outreach Project, operating in the Erbil and Duhok governorates, offers legal services to IDPs and refugees. With the participation of volunteers from both the displaced and host communities, QANDIL’s efforts have granted legal assistance to 319,773 IDPs and refugees and outreach services to 19,894 persons in the Erbil governorate alone. In the Duhok governorate, beneficiaries included 69,093 refugees and IDPs. Furthermore, in 2017, QANDIL participated in an initiative to provide mobile magistrates to administer court-related matters for displaced persons.
  4. Assistance for Gender-Based Violence Victims — With the participation of UNFPA, QANDIL commits resources to finance and submitting reports to seven local NGOs that operate 21 women’s social centers. These centers function in both responsive and preventative capacities for women both within and outside camps. Services that these centers offer include listening, counseling, referrals to other institutions, distribution of hygiene kits and even recreational activities. In total, this program has assisted 67,108 women and girls in the Duhok governorate, 11,021 in the Erbil governorate and 43,797 in the Sulaymaniyah governorate.
  5. Youth Education — Starting in 2017, QANDIL devised an educational initiative targeting Syrian refugee students, funded at approximately $271,197. The soft component of this initiative provided funding and resources for recreational activities and catch-up classes, as well as teacher capacity building training and the maintenance of parent-teacher associations, in schools enrolling refugee students in the Sulaymaniyah governorate. The initiative’s hard component comprises aid for special needs students at seven refugee schools in the Sulaymaniyah governorate.
  6. Skills Training — In collaboration with the German development aid organization GIZ, QANDIL embarked on a vocational and educational initiative aiming to benefit displaced persons residing at Debanga camp. These individuals received access to skills training and qualifications certification, ranging from plumbing and electricity to language and art, in three-week courses offering free tuition. As a whole in 2017, the vocational and educational training centers that QANDIL supported with funding from GIZ have improved the employment prospects for 1,756 individuals, out of which 546 were women.
  7. Immediate Response in Crisis Situations — With an upsurge in regional conflict on Oct. 16, 2017, came an increase in IDPs in Tuz Khurmatu, a city 88 kilometers south of Kirkuk. This event tested the efficacy and efficiency of QANDIL’s humanitarian aid efforts. By Oct. 24, QANDIL’s Emergency Response Committee began dispensing out emergency kits to persons that the conflict escalation affected. Included in these packages were necessities, food and non-food items alike. By Oct. 25, QANDIL parceled out 1,237 emergency kits to aid-seekers distributed over 25 locations in the Sulaymaniyah and Garmian regions. That same day, 600 aid-seekers received aid packages in the Erbil and Koya regions, while the rest of the aid made its way to other camps in the Sulaymaniyah area.

From education to vocational training to sanitation and hygiene and shelter and legal services, QANDIL’s humanitarian efforts in the Kurdistan region of Iraq continue to make a difference for the lives of thousands of displaced and settled people alike. Thus, QANDIL serves as an ambassador for Sweden’s humanitarian aid mission. Whether in the course of sustained initiatives or responses to imminent crises, QANDIL persists in its constructive humanitarian aid role in an unstable region. It is through the tireless efforts of such NGOs as QANDIL that Sweden continues to serve as a model in humanitarian aid initiatives to the rest of the world.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Smoking in Developing Countries
Smoking rates among adults and children in developing countries have been increasing for years. In developed nations, such as the United States, people have implemented certain policies in order to increase taxes and therefore reduce tobacco consumption, successfully. Such policies have not yet enacted in areas of extreme poverty around the world. In fact, tobacco companies have responded by flooding low-income areas with reduced-priced cigarettes, tons of advertisements and an excessive number of liquor stores and smoke shops. It is time to have a conversation about smoking rates in developing countries and whether or not tobacco control policies are the best approach long-term, worldwide. Here are the top 6 facts about smoking in developing countries.

Top 6 Facts About Smoking in Developing Countries

  1. Smoking affects populations living in extreme poverty differently than it does those in wealthy areas. Stress is a harmful symptom of poverty and contributes to smoking rates in low-income areas. Oftentimes living in poverty also means living in an overcrowded, polluted area with high crime and violence rates and a serious lack of government or social support. Stress and smoking are rampant in these areas for a reason. It is also important to note that smoking wards off hunger signals to the brain which makes it useful for individuals to maintain their mental health of sorts if food is not an option.
  2. Smoking rates are much higher among men than women across the globe. While the relative statistics vary from country to country, smoking rates among women are very low in most parts of Africa and Asia but there is hardly any disparity in smoking rates between men and women in wealthy countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The pattern of high smoking rates among men remains prevalent worldwide. One can equally attribute this to two factors that go hand-in-hand: the oppression of women and the stress that men receive to provide with their families.
  3. The increase in smoking rates in developing countries also means an outstanding number of diseases and death. The good news is that countries have succeeded in reducing consumption by raising taxes on the product. Price, specifically in the form of higher taxes, seems to be one of the only successful options in terms of cessation. Legislation banning smoking in certain public spaces is one example of an effort that places a bandaid on the problem instead of addressing the root cause. There is no data that shows a direct correlation between non-smoking areas and quitting rates among tobacco users.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 6 million deaths per year which one can attribute to smoking tobacco products. It also estimates that there will be about another 1 billion deaths by the end of this century. Eighty percent of these deaths land in low-income countries. The problem at hand is determining how this part of the cycle of poverty can change when it has been operating in favor of the upper class for so long.
  5. Within developing countries, tobacco ranks ninth as a risk factor for mortality in those with high mortality and only ranks third in those with low mortality. This means that there are still countries where other risk factors for disease and death are still more prominent than tobacco use, but that does not mean that tobacco is not a serious health concern all over the world. Of these developing countries, tobacco accounts for up to 16 percent of the burden of disease (measured in years).
  6. China has a higher smoking rate than the other four countries ranked highest for tobacco use combined. The government sells tobacco and accounts for nearly 10 percent of central government revenue. In China, over 50 percent of the men smoke, whereas this is only true for 2 percent of women. China’s latest Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) called for more smoke-free public spaces in an attempt to increase life expectancy. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Beijing goes for 22元, which is equivalent to $3. This is far cheaper than what developed countries charge with taxes. This continual enablement is a prime example of why smoking rates in developing countries are such a problem. While many people mistake China for a developed nation because it has the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest military, it is still a developing country.

In countries like China where smoking rates are booming and death tolls sailing, tobacco control policies may not be the best solution. While raising taxes to reduce consumption may seem like a simple concept, when applied to real communities, a huge percentage of people living in poverty with this addiction will either be spending more money on tobacco products or suffering from withdrawals. While it might be easy for many people to ignore the suffering of the other, in this case, a lower-class cigarette smoker, one cannot forget how the cycle of poverty and addiction and oppression has influenced their path in life.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

The International Commitment for Foreign Aid SpendingCurrently, there is an international commitment among developed countries to spend 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) on foreign aid. The goal for this aid is to assist the world’s poorest countries in developing sustainably. However, the majority of the richest countries in the world have not met this commitment. In fact, the United States ranked last in 2018 (27th) on the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) after only spending 0.18 percent on foreign aid. While the U.S. is reducing foreign aid spending, four countries are choosing to invest even more into developing countries than international commitment. They are doing so not only for humanitarian reasons but for strategic reasons as well.

Here are the four countries exceeding the international commitment for foreign aid spending.

4 Countries Exceeding the Commitment for Foreign Aid Spending

  1. Denmark – In 2018, Denmark allocated 0.72 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. The majority of this amount took the form of bilateral aid, which means Denmark provided aid directly to foreign governments rather than international organizations. With its commitment to foreign aid spending, the country seeks to enhance its soft power and to reduce immigration to Denmark. Development Minister of Denmark Ulla Tørnæs stated, “Through our development work, we create better living conditions, growth and jobs in some of the world’s poorest countries and thereby help prevent migration.”
  2. Norway – Norway spent 1 percent of its GNI on foreign aid in 2018. Although the country directed a higher percentage of its GNI to foreign aid than Denmark, Norway’s quality of foreign aid is not as strong. According to the Center for Global Development, the country’s aid score has declined due to struggles in the transparency and learning categories. According to Børge Brende, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, foreign aid spending enhances Norway’s soft power and national security interests. Additionally, the promotion of business development in foreign countries “is a good example of how aid can be used as a catalyst to mobilize other, larger flows of capital.”
  3. Luxemburg – Luxemburg spent 1 percent of its GNI on foreign aid in 2018. Luxemburg’s aid score is quite high, ranking fifth out of 27 among CDI countries. As explained by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), efficient bilateral foreign aid spending “enables Luxembourg to maximize its visibility, impact and international influence.” Currently, Luxemburg focuses its foreign aid spending in sub-Saharan Africa due to its particularly high rates of poverty.
  4. Sweden – At 1.01 percent, Sweden ranks first amongst developed nations for the highest percent of GNI directed towards foreign aid. Foreign aid has become a primary focus for Sweden due to the high influx of immigrants Sweden has taken in within the past few years. Like Denmark, Sweden sees foreign aid as an opportunity to reduce the inflow of immigrants by improving the economic conditions and overall wellbeing of developing countries. This high level of foreign aid spending is one of the main reasons why Sweden ranked eighth in the world in terms of soft power in 2018. In that sense, foreign aid spending is a long-term investment for Sweden because it helps Sweden manage immigration flow, build up the global economy and increase its influence on foreign countries. Since Sweden views foreign aid as an investment, the country heavily focuses on learning about the effectiveness of its foreign aid spending in order to maximize results.

Denmark, Norway, Luxemburg and Sweden all demonstrate that foreign aid spending is in the national interest of developed nations. Since these countries do not perceive foreign aid spending as a mere charity, they have become more incentivized than most other developed countries to provide high-quality aid.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Sweden
As one of the more progressive countries in the world, Sweden boasts multiple government agencies and nonprofit organizations actively working toward improving citizens’ health and longevity.  Sweden also possesses an efficient and well-equipped health care system. Thanks to these efforts, the country’s average life expectancy is improving. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Sweden, including current initiatives to continue improving the country’s average life expectancy.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Sweden

  1. The average life expectancy in Sweden is 82.2 years with men living an average of 80.3 years and women living an average of 84.3 years. Sweden has the 16th-highest life expectancy from birth in the world. The average life expectancy in Sweden is about four years more than the United States’ average life expectancy (78.6 years). The average, including every country in the world, is a little over 79 years.
  2. In the past century, the life expectancy of Sweden improved from about 55-58 years to 82-84 years, a significant jump of about 25 years.
  3. Citizens’ longevity is due in part to Sweden’s commitment to environmental cleanliness. The water quality is satisfactory; 96 percent of those included in a poll approved of their country’s drinking water. A lack of pollutants may also contribute to Sweden’s higher-than-average life expectancy.
  4. A sense of community helps many achieve a high quality of life in Sweden. Ninety-one percent of citizens report that they know “someone they could rely on in time of need.” Along with high voter turnout, the country’s civic engagement keeps citizens socially involved, enhancing their health and well-being.
  5. Sweden’s health care system has one of the highest rankings in the world. The country’s universal health care system enables those in poverty to access important services for themselves and their families. Affordability of services is crucial for many citizens and Sweden is only improving in this regard.
  6. Life expectancy is improving thanks to efforts to curb self-harming behaviors and remedy preventable lower respiratory infections. As the country’s health care system improves, the rates of premature death from preventable causes are declining for those in poverty. Premature death from lower respiratory infections has decreased by 49 percent from 1990 to 2010.
  7. The Public Health Agency of Sweden commits to improving the lives of Swedish citizens. A recent study showed the effectiveness of vaccines for children. Since Sweden offers universal health care, children from varying socioeconomic backgrounds receive the medical treatment they need. New studies are being conducted to measure the effectiveness of treating boys for human papilloma virus (HPV), even though the virus normally afflicts girls. These studies help Sweden continue to improve life expectancy for all its citizens.
  8. Seven percent of Swedes live below the EU’s poverty threshold. This is lower than the average of people living below the poverty threshold in other EU countries (10 percent). While the poverty rate has remained relatively unchanged in recent years, efforts to reduce the poverty rate and enhance life expectancy are growing. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, or Sida, is a Swedish government agency that functions to eliminate global poverty. In the fight to end poverty domestically and abroad, Sida makes enhancing life expectancy a priority in its humanitarian work. The agency is public under the jurisdiction of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  9. In Sweden, government grants and municipal taxes fund the majority of elderly care. The country’s health care system subsidizes its elderly citizens for medical care. In different municipalities throughout the country, elderly patients can request in-home caregivers or relocation to live-in facilities that provide medical services.
  10. Easy access to sanitation has also helped Swedes live longer than the world average. Just over 99 percent of the urban population has access to sanitation, while 99.6 percent of the rural population have such access. No matter where one lives in the country, Sweden offers sanitation to all citizens, improving the overall life expectancy of Sweden.

The Swedish government involves a large body of agencies dedicated to providing the best health care to its citizens. As a result, life expectancy in Sweden is one of the best in the world. Even those living below the poverty line can still access the services they need, and the life expectancy of all Swedish citizens is improving.

– Aric Hluch
Photo: Flickr