Uganda’s Economic Recovery
Uganda, like many other global nations, is battling the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic reversed a decade of economic progress for the country. On June 28, 2021, the executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $1 billion Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement for Uganda’s economic recovery in a critical time of need.

COVID-19’s Impact on Uganda’s Economy

According to the World Bank, Uganda’s real GDP grew less than half as much in 2020 than in the year before. A four-month nationwide lockdown deterred the economic activity of the industrial and service sectors. The country’s COVID-19 lockdown forced company closures and permanent layoffs, especially in the industry and services sectors. Many informal jobs were impacted, leading to a reliance on farming for income creation and food security.

A Rise in Child Labor

A 69-page report by the Human Rights Watch and the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights explains that many families’ household incomes dropped due to the pandemic’s effects. Furthermore, with schools shut down, the burden of decreased income fell on many children. Child labor surged as many children as young as 8 years old had to work in hazardous conditions in order to provide for their families.

Nearly half of the Ugandan children interviewed in the report worked at least 10 hours a day, sometimes every day of the week. Some children even reported working as much as 16 hours a day. Most of the children only earned a meager $2 a day while subject to dangerous work conditions. Children in agriculture were injured by sharp tools used in fieldwork and “the sharp edges of sugarcane stalks.”

Other children working in quarries “suffered injuries from flying stones.” Many children also reported violence, harassment and pay theft during their employment. Many employers try to exploit child labor and maximize production. Due to these circumstances, Human Rights Watch asserts that part of Uganda’s economic recovery must include targeted assistance to households with children.

Funding From the IMF

The three-year loan approved by the board under the ECF includes the immediate disbursement of $258 million for much-needed budget support. The disbursement follows the $491.5 million release of emergency funds in May 2020 to support the post-pandemic recovery of Uganda. In an effort to strengthen Uganda’s economic recovery, authorities seek to increase household income throughout the country. Authorities are encouraging inclusive growth by investing in the development of the private sector and enacting reforms in the public sector.

Uganda’s Economic Outlook

Uganda seeks to combat its financing issues as it goes forward. Hopefully, the crucial aid from the IMF will help create jobs by investing back into the industrial and service sectors. Also, the financing aid may help children return to school as parents find new work. Economic growth in 2021 and 2022 is estimated to climb to 4.3% before reaching pre-pandemic levels of growth. While some industries such as tourism may remain subdued for a while, other sectors such as “manufacturing, construction and retail and wholesale trade” expect to rebound in 2021. However, Uganda’s economic recovery is currently still tenuous. The government will need to tread carefully as the economy remains vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.

– Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Uganda
The landlocked country of Uganda is located in East Africa. Poised to be a significant oil-producing country, Uganda has an estimated 6.5 billion barrels worth of oil reserves in its territory. Nevertheless, Uganda remains a lower-income country. The people of the country have struggled to combat hunger in Uganda even though poverty decreased from 56% in 1993 to 21.4% in 2016. Because of poverty, Uganda faces widespread malnutrition, which has led to more than 110,000 deaths of children between 2004 and 2009. Organizations have committed efforts to address the issue of hunger in Uganda.

4 Key Facts About Hunger in Uganda

  1. Uganda has a fast-growing population due to refugee intake. The refugee population in Uganda has increased from 200,000 in 2012 to more than 1.2 million. As a whole, these refugees are coming from Uganda’s neighbors, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is partly because of Uganda’s willingness to accept and aid refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has praised the country’s refugee policies. Rather than placing refugees in designated camps, Uganda gives refugees a plot of land and access to services such as healthcare and education. As benevolent as these policies are, the rise in Uganda’s refugee population strains already limited resources and funds.
  2. Dependence on agriculture increases hunger in Uganda. In order to reduce malnutrition, there has been a focus on increased agricultural output globally. The rate of global agricultural production has increased, but the level of undernourishment in developing countries remains at 13.5%. In Uganda, for example, agriculture makes up 25% of the GDP and it provides the main source of income for all rural households. But, despite this agricultural output, Uganda still suffers from a 30% malnutrition rate. A study conducted in Eastern Uganda finds that some rice cultivators starve as they sell all the food. While the effects vary, agricultural reliance in Uganda has increased supply, but access to food has not necessarily increased. This leads to high levels of food insecurity.
  3. Hunger in Uganda has significant economic impacts. The effects of malnutrition extend far past the immediate deaths it causes, having substantial and negative consequences for the economy at large. Specifically, malnutrition negatively impacts “human capital, economic productivity and national development.” High rates of malnutrition require healthcare intervention, which puts strain on the healthcare sector and economy. Moreover, malnutrition makes individuals more prone to diseases, incurring costs to families and the health system. Undernourished children are more susceptible to diseases like malaria and anemia, which can burden the country with a cost of $254 million annually. Overall, the national income is reduced by 5.6% as a result of the undernourishment of young children stemming from hunger in Uganda.
  4. International aid organizations address hunger in Uganda. Aid organizations are committing to creating significant progress in the fight against hunger in Uganda. The World Food Programme (WFP) has dedicated efforts to prevent and treat malnutrition in Uganda. Among other activities, the WFP initiatives provide nutrition-sensitive money transfer as well as nutrition counseling in the areas of Uganda most affected by malnutrition. Action Against Hunger provides nutritious food vouchers to refugees and implements digital, data-driven technology to optimize agricultural production. To date, Action Against Hunger’s nutrition and health programs have reached more than 110,000 people. Moreover, the government has joined multiple international commitments to reduce hunger in Uganda. As a signatory of the Malabo Declaration, by 2035, Uganda seeks to reduce the impacts of childhood malnutrition to 10% for stunting in children younger than 5 and 5% for wasting.

Overall, the efforts of organizations and the commitment of the Ugandan Government show a strong dedication to combating hunger in Uganda and improve the lives of people in the country.

Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Okere CityThe city of Okere Mom-Kok began as a project created to rebuild more rural communities destroyed in the wake of the Ugandan Bush War in the 80s. With the death of roughly 100,000 to 500,000 people, this war plagued the Northwestern region of Uganda the most. This project is already spreading throughout the country and reaching global headlines because of the progressive, sustainable methodologies offering accessible living alternatives.

The Ugandan Bush War

From 1980 to 1986, the Ugandan Bush War (also known as the Luwero War) ravaged several Ugandan villages. The conflict began with former General Idi Amin’s rise to power. Early in his presidency, Idi Amin established a military dictatorship. The Uganda National Liberation Front soon overthrew him. Originally implemented by Tanzania to replace Idi Amin, the UNLF’s regime lasted from early 1979 until it was eventually dismantled due to the attacks of Amin loyalists in 1980.

Detached groups of Amin loyalists massacred most of the Ugandan National Liberation Army. With the attacks on the previous Ugandan prime minister, Apollo Milton Obote, and the capturing of most villages along the West Nile, the Uganda Army wreaked havoc in Northwestern Uganda until internal conflict resulted in the separation of the insurgent group. This division generated a new, opposing group known as Uganda National Rescue Front.

Not long after, Obote regained office in 1981 and inspired the emergence of even more rebel armies. In 1982, however, the National Resistance Army, Uganda Freedom Movement, Uganda National Rescue Front and the Nile Regiment came together to create the Uganda Popular Front.

The conflict did not stop there, as the ex-soldiers continued to rebel against the new government well into 1994. Following Idi Amin’s presidency, President Yoweri Museveni took office in 1986 after allying with the rebellions that toppled the reign of his predecessors. President Museveni is currently in the sixth term of his presidency and suppressed the continuous attacks.

The Situation Today

An estimated 1 million Ugandan’s lost their lives throughout the 80s and early 90s. The end of the Ugandan Bush War left the remaining villages uprooted and their residents devastated. President Yoweri Museveni is still working to rebuild the toppled infrastructures of these villages and the Ugandan economy as a whole. The increasingly innovative solutions invented in Okere Mom-Kok are one prime example of the efforts.

The City of Okere

The city of Okere is located in the Otuke District, Uganda and consists of 14 villages, each with about 200 people. Made famous for its shea trees, Okere City is the inspiration for Marvel’s “Black Panther.” The shea tree is currently in high demand due to its scarcity after the war. Furthermore, their energy-efficient components make them very coveted.

This area was hit the hardest and is still recovering, thus the pioneering of greener and more sustainable living technologies. From the use of shea butter as a charcoal substitute to solar energy being accessible to the entire network of villages, the city of Okere continues to thrive and evolve. The main village currently consists of a church, markets, schools, clinics and several other crucial establishments.

Okere City is one of the many villages left destroyed by the Ugandan War and is still building towns essentially from the ground up. But this development created greener, more accessible technologies and spread throughout the country. The future for Okere City is bright and illuminates a beacon of hope for the livelihoods lost throughout the travesty that was the Ugandan Bush War.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

Pedals for Progress
The organization Pedals for Progress (P4P) has an intriguing origin story. In a small town in 1970s Ecuador, a poverty-stricken carpenter dragged 40 pounds of steel hand tools down a dirt road. Each step felt heavier than the last. Moreover, this was the trip back home after hours of work nailing boards together and fastening tables. This man had to carry his tools with him at all times; after all, it was his livelihood. It was too risky to leave them in a workshop. Despite his talent and passion, the man was broke and persistently, unbelievably tired. Without a way out of this painful trek, he felt his body would surely give out before he could retire.

The carpenter knew of a much wealthier man, Cesar Pena. A landlord and fellow carpenter, Cesar owned several strips of land in the jungle along with several farm animals. Missing an eye and multiple fingers, his situation was much worse than the poor man who lived in the same town. Yet others regarded Cesar as an incredibly productive worker despite doing his job just five days a week.

This baffled a young American Peace Corp volunteer staying in the town. The volunteer asked the poor carpenter why he was unable to keep up economically with Cesar Pena. Incredulous, the poor man informed him of Cesar’s bicycle. The bike allowed him to travel several miles on either side of his home.

Pedals for Progress

Decades later, that Peace Corps volunteer, David Schweidenback, is now the founder of Pedals for Progress. Pedals for Progress is one of the largest distributors of used bikes to developing nations. Since 1991, it has operated as a nonprofit organization in New Jersey. It started when Schweidenback noticed that people threw an abundance of bikes into garbage cans in his neighborhood during a bleak financial time while working as a carpenter. Connecting his experience overseas with what U.S. citizens were wasting at home, he chose to make a difference.

As he explained to The Borgen Project, “I decided if I wasn’t doing anything and I’m not making money and I’m just sitting here bored, I’m going to go out and collect a dozen bikes and I’m going to ship them back to Ecuador. Just like a freebie, a one-off freebie, just to help some people out. And that was the beginning of it.” That dozen eventually exceeded over 100,000. Schweidenback’s work has earned him awards from Rolex and Forbes. He even received the title of a 2008 CNN Hero.

How Does Pedals for Progress Work?

P4P operates both internationally and domestically. On the international side, the company teams up with partners based in those countries rather than opening up bike shops around the globe. These international partners provide the shops. In turn, these shops serve to also create jobs in the community whilst selling bicycles at a fraction of the cost they would be in the United States.

Pedals for Progress innovated a new system to keep these shops self-sustaining called a “revolving fund.” First, P4P foots the bill for the first shipment of bicycles. This leads to the domestic side of the operation. Working with organizations like Rotary Club and various churches, it runs collections at a minimum of $10 per bike donation. Other methods to raise money include fundraisers, grants and donations from rich individuals or corporations. With these monetary donations and selling within the impoverished communities at affordable prices, overseas partners can continue to function for years without extra assistance.

Can a Bike Really Make a Difference?

Studies show that the simple introduction of a bicycle can have a lasting impact on the economies and well-being of peoples in developing countries. A 2009 series of studies by three organizations ran quantitative experiments in multiple nations. The purpose was to see if offering bikes to people for transportation as an alternative to walking would financially improve their lives.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy study in Uganda found that all the households that received bicycles improved regarding cultivation and agriculture. Diversity of time increased, showing that the select Ugandans were more able to perform non-agricultural duties. In addition, the study indicated more trips to the markets and medical centers of their respective regions. Overall, bicycles resulted in a 35% increase in income over the course of the experiment. The other two organizations, Tanzania’s International Labor Office and World Bicycle Relief in Sri Lanka, yielded similar results to varying degrees.

What About Sewing Machines?

In 1999, Schweidenback included sewing machines in his list of items to ship. His reasoning: while riding a bicycle can take one to a job, a sewing machine is a job. However, Pedals for Progress was unable to ship more than 200 per year for a long time. It took until 2015 when he adopted a new brand, Sewing Peace, that he was able to ship out more than 500 bikes each year.

Sending out sewing machines as an alternative to bicycles can reap a few benefits that could not come anywhere else. For one, shipping them costs much less and puts less of a burden on overseas partners that cannot handle a full container of 500 bikes.

Early Setback, Lasting Results

Ironically enough, Schweidenback’s first mission to help Ecuador’s bike shortage never came to fruition in the way he hoped. Before Pedals for Progress was what it is today, he held a meeting with the Ecuadorian Consulate to donate bicycles to those who need them.

Speaking with The Borgen Project, Schweidenback relayed his early challenges shipping bikes to Ecuador. However, despite his early setbacks, his passion for giving the less fortunate a leg up drove him to help over 30 countries around the world.

Zachary Sherry
Photo: Flickr

Ugandan Science Show
A new Ugandan science show called N*Gen (pronounced “engine”) has exploded in popularity over the past year. The show is delighting kids across Africa and presenting a new and engaging way to learn science. The show debuted on Ugandan television in September 2020. Afterward, television networks in various African countries picked up the show. The show is even now available in North America and the Caribbean. N*Gen presents science through a “decidedly African Prism” and seeks to promote greater African and female representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. With the show’s massive popularity, it has encouraged children to learn more about science and pursue careers in STEM. 

The Origins of N*Gen

Six teachers from the Clarke Junior School in Kampala created the Ugandan science show in 2020. They created the show in conjunction with the East African nonprofit Peripheral Vision International. Peripheral Vision International produces and funds the show. The show is shot in Kampala, Uganda and airs weekly in 35-minute episodes. It also features episodes shot on location for specific topics at times. N*Gen targets 8- to 12-year-old African children as its audience and has proven to be very popular with this demographic.

N*Gen seeks to be both engaging and entertaining to its audience. This is important in a culture where science is often labeled a more challenging subject. The show centers around engaging presentations of STEM topics through guest teachers and presenters, animations, quizzes and experiments, fitness and mindfulness exercises, on-location episodes and more. The creators stated the show’s goals are to be to:

  1. Foster a culture of curiosity and discovery
  2.  Model new holistic ways of approaching learning
  3. Promote positive gender norms
  4. Nurture trust in science
  5. Help families stay safe during the pandemic

How N*Gen is Changing Science Media

A persistent complaint about science education is that it has focused primarily on Western male perspectives. N*Gen’s ability to change this and engage its viewers in new ways has perhaps been the greatest success of the show. The show focuses on African issues and topics that are present in African kids’ lives. It primarily involves African female perspectives. This gives young girls role models and hopes to look to for a future in science.

N*Gen tends to cover topics that are specific to Africa. For example, they had a segment on the Turkana Boy fossil located in Kenya. A paleontologist from the museum where the bones are located spoke about the fossil. The show visited other locations including Lake Victoria and a local chocolate factory in order to bring science under a more relatable and close-to-home lens for the show’s viewers.

N*Gen’s Depiction of Women

N*Gen has emphasized the depiction of women as scientific experts and presenters as an important aspect of the show. A study shows that at age 6, girls draw 70% of scientists as women compared to 25% at age 16. This is likely due to a lack of female representation in media as scientists and scientific experts. However, N*Gen has made this a strong area of focus and helps to inspire young girls by showing exceptional women in the scientific field.

The two main presenters are teachers at the Clarke Junior School: Irene Nyangoma Mugadu and Annah Komushana. Guest teachers, scientists and presenters are predominantly women although men are certainly present in the show as well. This has influenced its audience and had the intended effect. A 10-year-old girl from Kampala who watches and even appeared on the show explained, “It’s boys who do all the fun stuff, and sometimes, a girl like me gets a little left out. But girls can be scientists and go to the moon.”

Going Global

After its debut in September, N*Gen was quickly picked up by television networks in over half a dozen African countries. After becoming a smash hit, the show was picked up by The Africa Channel and is now available for viewing in North America and the Caribbean every Saturday and Sunday at 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. ET.

– Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Uganda
Many know Africa as having a high amount of poverty. Uganda is becoming one of the most impoverished countries, which is significantly affecting the children. The life-threatening impacts children in Uganda face every day include malnutrition, health assistance deprivation, access to education, shelter deprivation and exposure to crime. Here are five life-threatening impacts pertaining to child poverty in Uganda.

5 Life-Threatening Impacts Due to Child Poverty in Uganda

  1. Malnutrition: One of the biggest problems with child poverty in Uganda is malnutrition. Child hunger and malnutrition result in poor health and failure to reach educational potential. Malnutrition in young children can result from a lack of nutritious food but disease, including diarrhea, can also cause it. At least half of all children aged 6-59 months old are anemic as a result of malnutrition. In 2003, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture created a policy that aims to “reduce malnutrition among children; reduce low birth weight among newborns; and eliminate micronutrient deficiencies (in vitamin A, iodine and iron).”
  2. Health Assistance Deprivation: Most of the children in Uganda lack access to healthcare assistance and are not able to receive vaccinations at a young age because of their inability to afford them. According to the UNICEF Child Poverty and Deprivation analysis, “Children slept under treated bed nets to prevent malaria, which was the (leading) cause of 27% of deaths in Uganda in 2016.” A significant amount of children, mostly orphaned, have been suffering from HIV/AIDS in Uganda without any medical treatment. Without parents to provide for their children, the children end up being unable to access any medical assistance. Furthermore, small households with a single parent and a single child are more prone to catch illnesses.
  3. Access to Education: As a result of child poverty in Uganda, children are not always able to garner education and they frequently lack access to school supplies because of the inability to afford them. A majority of the children are unable to read or write, causing Uganda to have one of the highest illiteracy rates in Africa. Lacking nutrition in diets may cause them to miss school; even if they attend class, they may have trouble focusing on their lessons. In Uganda, the deprivation rates are increasing, with nine out of 10 children not having access to educational resources like uniforms, books, chairs and desks.
  4. Shelter Deprivation: Most Ugandan children in poverty live in rural areas with their families. In Uganda, the typical poor family is one that cannot afford access to basic necessities of living. This includes shelter, water, food, beds, blankets and cooking equipment, etc. Additionally, poorer families are not always able to afford any damages that might occur to their homes, causing the damages to worsen over time. A common living condition that the poor in Uganda have to deal with is leaky roofs, which may cause dampness in dwellings and the formation of mold. Also, most children live in households that are unable to put aside money for emergencies. Moreover, they cannot always afford to replace broken pots and pans that their households use for cooking.
  5. Exposure to Crime: Due to Child Poverty in Uganda, a growing number of children are becoming victims of criminal activity. Some forms of crime include theft, housebreaking, abuse, assault, defilement, murder, property damage and robbery. The percentage of defilement cases involving juvenile offenders rose from 28% in 2008 to 42% in 2010. The most frequent form of crime children and their families have experienced in Uganda is theft and housebreaking. Child abuse is more common in girls than boys, with 60% of child abuse crimes involving girls. Even if the crimes are not violent, the constant exposure to such crimes can cause an impact on the social and psychological health of a child.

Save the Children

The life-threatening effects of malnutrition, limited healthcare access, lack of education, shelter deprivation and higher exposure to crime rates could significantly increase if no one addresses child poverty in Uganda. Luckily, the organization Save the Children is aiming to fight for children’s rights to education, healthcare and safety around the world. In 2020, Save the Children and its donors changed the lives of over 552,000 children in Uganda by providing education, protection and health assistance.

While child poverty in Uganda is prevalent, the efforts of Save the Children have had a significant impact. Through continued work, child poverty should continue to reduce in Uganda and around the world.

– Mary McLean
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in UgandaFemale genital mutilation (FGM) is an invasive violation that impacts the short- and long-term health, safety and well-being of girls and women. Internationally recognized for its harm, much work goes into preventing female genital mutilation. Nonetheless, it remains a modern issue. As of 2016, UNICEF reported that one in three girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years old has been subjected to FGM. In the past couple of decades, East Africa has recorded the largest decrease in the use of FGM. Female genital mutilation in girls between the ages of 0-14 has decreased from 71.4% in 1995 to 8.0% in 2016. In 2010, Uganda created the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act. This played a significant role in the reduction of female genital mutilation in Uganda. However, cultural norms, traditions and beliefs continue to create challenges in completely eliminating FGM.

Activist Grandmothers

Lonah Cheptilak, one of the Trail Blazers Foundation’s activist grandmothers, is a “Role Model Mother,” advocating for women and girls in the Amudat District of Uganda. Cheptilak mentors 20 adolescent girls, visiting them at school, tracking their progress and providing counseling. Cheptilak is currently lobbying the district to set up a rescue center in Loroo Sub-County due to the prevalence of FGM and child marriages in the area. She is also fighting for schools to reopen to provide protection for young girls during COVID-19. Cheptilak states, “FGM in Amudat is a bigger problem than COVID-19. Students used to find refuge at school. Now some parents are using the closure as an advantage to cut their daughters in gardens.”

Involving Cultural Leaders

In Uganda, if a woman does not undergo FGM, she faces not only public ridicule but will be in danger of losing her bride price. This is a significant deterrent in choosing to remain uncut, even though legislation makes the practice punishable by law. Research shows that young girls have utilized COVID-19 lockdowns to cut themselves in private and receive medical care afterward. Because of the cultural norm that pressures girls as young as 11 to conduct the atrocity on themselves, it is vital that governments and organizations engage leaders in the community to transform the system from the inside out.

Dorcas Chelain, the vice chairperson of the Amudat District, advises social workers and activists by sharing her cultural knowledge. For instance, Chelain understands that simply speaking to the women in Amudat has proven ineffective. While they may agree that FGM is harmful and must end, the women lack the power to change the system. In order to survive, they defer to the male influence and cultural norms that dictate their reality.

Girls Resist FGM

Innovative problem-solving techniques are required to involve communities in the elimination of harmful traditions. In the conservative Pokot community in the Amudat District of Uganda, the Straight Talk Foundation has been actively engaging with the people and persevering through the difficult process of convincing girls to defy FGM in Uganda. Through this work, 20 girls refrained from undergoing the FGM procedure. Empowered by the support of their parents and the church, they were able to resist FGM and get married despite being uncut.

The women have become an example of possible alternatives for communities that base financial, moral and marriageable worth on FGM. The government of Uganda strategized to include these 20 couples as ambassadors representing the possibility of a new way of life. For their brave resistance, each woman was rewarded with 20 roofing sheets which would help in the construction of a permanent home.

It is clear that to truly end female genital mutilation in Uganda, such a deeply ingrained cultural practice, government, organizations, families and communities must be involved to create lasting change.

– Hannah Brock
Photo: Flickr

Uganda and Universal Basic Income
Uganda is a southeastern African country neighboring Lake Victoria, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania. Its population sits below 50 million people and although it has been one of the poorest countries in the world as of 2012, the U.N. determined that it made enormous leaps in eradicating poverty thanks to ambitious ideas and thoughtful programs. For example, Eight, a Belgian pilot project, highlighted the effectiveness of universal basic income (UBI) in places where extreme poverty is a problem. The Borgen Project spoke with Eight, which enacted its first program in 2017 and showed the rest of the world just what Uganda and universal basic income might mean to the fight against global poverty.

How Eight Began

Maarten Goethals and Steven Janssens founded Eight in 2015 after finding poverty in their travels hard to swallow. “We see a lot of inequality and that is so unfair. A lot of people think poverty is a character problem, but it’s a money problem.” That unfairness inspired them to develop actionable solutions and experiments. In this case, they launched a basic income pilot program in Busibi, a remote village, in 2017. The idea was simple; give every inhabitant (about 150 people) 16 euros per month and children 8 euros per month. with no strings attached. The money would transfer to mobile bank accounts that the people of Busibi could access by telephone.

While some might believe this to be a futile attempt at utopia, the academic literature supports this kind of unburdened cash transfer system as a means of raising communities out of poverty. The Borgen Project has profiled universal basic income programs in the U.K., India, Iran, Kashmir and other places. All this research leads to one conclusion: when people receive money and freedom of choice, they make remarkably astute decisions. As co-founder Steven Janssens said in his interview with The Borgen Project, “people deserve to be trusted.” Likely because of the freedom and dignity it allows, UBI yields remarkable results in lifting people out of poverty. Without mandates, universal basic income restores agency and allows people the opportunity to insist on what is right for themselves.

What it Became

Eight’s pilot program took place over the course of two years from 2017 to 2019 and immediately showed the work ethic of the villagers. Inhabitants built businesses and sent kids who would otherwise be working to school. Maarten Goethals noted that “Shops started up in the village and a new dynamism arose.” Free money worked, as Rutger Bregman said in his 2014 book “Utopia for Realists.” It turns out that eradicating global poverty is much easier than many think tanks make it out to be.

Ortrud Lebmann, chair of labor relations at Helmut Schmidt University, conducted landmark research about those who live in poverty and their “restricted opportunity to choose among different ways of life.” His research, in essence, confirms what Eight intended to study. The Eight pilot project proved just how necessary and effective freedom of options are for those with inadequate resources. Janssens noted how bizarre of a concept UBI was to many in Uganda and elsewhere. “The people of Busibi reacted with a kind of disbelief… That they would receive money without conditions. Aid is always project-oriented.” By lifting the onus of conditions, the environment improved.

The Results

After two years, the data appears irrefutable. Most people in the group spent around 50% of their money on food, investments, clothes, health and education. Self-reported happiness improved by 80%. Only 50% of children in the village went to school before the unconditional cash transfers began compared with 94.7% after. Twenty businesses populated the town compared to the two that stood before the program. All markers of poverty declined with the advent of cash and choice.

Eight now plans to bring its ambitious idea that began with Uganda and universal basic income to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “EIGHT wants to find out if the people from the villages close to a mine can be given more choices.” The question is not only if it will work (the evidence suggests it will) but how it might work in a place where children work in mines and risk their wellbeing for a dangerous but lucrative practice. Will unconditional cash transfers facilitate less child labor in these mines? Previous experiments tend to predict just such an outcome.

For now, there is a film about Goethals and Jansens’s project entitled “Crazy Money,” set to debut later in 2021. What Eight did with Uganda and universal basic income was nothing short of revelatory. Although UBI is not new, this is further proof it represents an actionable solution against global poverty. Maarten Goethals and Steven Janssens provided more evidence for choice, dignity and compassion for those who live in poverty.

Spencer Daniels
Photo: Flickr

University of CalgaryThe University of Calgary (UCalgary), one of the premier research universities in Canada, has been establishing meaningful global partnerships which have produced tangible results. While the university has multiple international campuses and partnerships, the successes of a few have particularly stood out. UCalgary’s global health partnerships with the Mbarara University of Science and Technology and other global health organizations are working to improve health in Uganda and Tanzania.

Healthy Child Uganda

UCalgary’s global health partnerships work with the Cumming School of Medicine. This allows medical students to gain experience and provide much-needed help in health outcomes and projects in Uganda and Tanzania.

One of UCalgary’s most important partnerships is Healthy Child Uganda. Healthy Child Uganda is a partnership between Mbarara University, UCalgary and the Canadian Paediatric Society, with some funding from other universities and associations. It “works with national and district health planners, leaders and communities themselves to develop, implement and evaluate initiatives that strengthen health systems and improve health for mothers, babies and children.” It is based adjacent to Mbarara University’s campus in Mbarara town, Uganda. The Healthy Child Uganda partnership operates in the districts of Mbarara, Bushenyi, Buhweju, Ntungamo and Rubirizi in Uganda as well as two districts of the Mwanza Region in Tanzania.

Healthy Child Uganda was established in 2002. Its multitude of efforts aims to improve health services in Uganda, especially in maternal and pediatric care.

The Impact of Healthy Child Uganda

Since its establishment, Healthy Child Uganda has partnered with local health authorities to train more than 5,000 community health workers for service in almost 1,000 villages in Uganda. Community health workers promote health in their villages, take part in development activities, spread awareness and monitor sick children and pregnant women to see if they need treatment. Healthy Child Uganda shares its training curriculum for community health workers online, providing valuable information to other medical providers. It is also a leader in maternal and child health research, having developed many different practice approaches that have provided models for many other organizations.

Healthy Child Uganda has also worked to combat COVID-19 in Uganda, with funding largely provided by the UCalgary. In the early stages of the pandemic, it was able to provide cleaning products, PPE, handwashing stations, fuel, hand sanitizer and hygiene soap. This was crucial in providing protection in Uganda before provisions came in from Uganda’s Ministry of Health. Healthy Child Uganda also worked to train frontline health workers in fighting COVID-19.

Mama Na Mtoto

The University of Calgary is also a valuable partner in Mama na Mtoto, a partnership that seeks to improve women and child health in rural Tanzania. Mama na Mtoto does its work in the Mwanza Region of Tanzania.

Mama na Mtoto performs many of the same functions as Healthy Child Uganda, just in a different location. It works with the government and existing health facilities to “support communities to adapt and lead activities and innovations that address their own health challenges.”

Mama na Mtoto plans activities that emphasize information and teachings about women and child care, from adolescence to pregnancy. This, therefore, helps to take the burden off of government health services and equip mothers with the best tools to succeed in places where there is little access to health information.

UCalgary’s Successes

UCalgary’s work in Uganda has had tangible results. In 2020, Bushenyi District was recognized as the best performing district for healthcare in Uganda. UCalgary helped this district under Healthy Child Uganda. UCalgary is also working with Mbarara University on another initiative known as HAY! (Healthy Adolescents and Young People in Uganda), which will educate youth on family planning, sexual health, menstrual hygiene and gender-based violence. The University of Calgary is showing how universities can be proactive and provide support that improves health in vulnerable areas.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

Norway's Foreign Aid
Many countries in Europe regularly distribute foreign aid to developing economies in an effort to contribute to global welfare. Norway’s foreign aid makes up a significant portion of the aid that wealthy nations distribute. It has a long history of emphasizing the importance of foreign aid and continues in this legacy today.

The History

According to a Developmental Assistance Committee review by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Norway’s foreign assistance history dates back to more than 50 years ago. It has been donors to different nations around the world, and its government has most regularly distributed economic aid to countries in Africa and Asia. Norway’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play a large role in distributing its foreign aid. As of 2008, 30% of Norway’s development assistance went through NGOs. One of the earliest years of recorded foreign aid in Norway is 1965. In 1965, Norway distributed 8.1 million NOK (~$980,760) in aid to Africa. The top five countries that received aid were Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar, Kenya and Ethiopia. Also in 1965, Norway earmarked 14.1 million NOK (~$1.7 million) in aid for countries in Asia. The vast majority of that aid went to India and Korea.

Norwegian Foreign Aid today

Norway’s total foreign aid budget for 2021 is $4.1 billion, which amounts to a little more than 1% of its gross national income. Norway distributes its foreign aid in an effort to help with humanitarian, education and economic relief efforts. It has also expressed a willingness to help promote peace around the world. Like many other nations that distribute foreign aid, Norway has emphasized environmental improvements. The government supports expanding clean and renewable energy, as well as forest conservation and agricultural productivity.

Foreign Aid Goals

Norway’s foreign aid focus is on emergency assistance, developmental and economic aid, climate programs, education, food and governance. Although some are easier to meet than others within a certain timeframe, the Norwegian government works to meet each one of these goals. Over the years, Norway has distributed billions of dollars in foreign aid while keeping the focus on the goals listed above. By meeting these goals, the Norwegian government can try to help other nations rebuild economies, improve education and governance.

According to Ine Eriksen Søreide, the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway will continue its humanitarian and economic aid efforts in 2021. This will be especially pertinent as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic play out. Since 2013, Norway has increased its humanitarian budget by about 67%. In 2020, it was the sixth-largest donor worldwide. Its special focus on green humanitarian aid is also very important during today’s climate crisis.

In conclusion, Norway is a top distributor of foreign aid every year and an important player in the world’s response to humanitarian crises. It focuses on issues such as economic development, food distribution and education for young people. And especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Norwegian government recognizes the increased need for assistance in developing nations around the world.

– Amina Aden
Photo: Flickr