Indigenous Poverty in Canada
Statistics dating back to 2011 indicate that Canada ranked 21st out of 27 Organisations for Economic Co-operation and Development in terms of the level of poverty. In fact, one in seven people or 4.9 million total live in poverty in Canada. Out of those estimated 5 million people, 1.34 million children are in poverty. The indigenous population of Canada has a prevalent poverty rate with one in four aboriginals, Métis and Inuit living in poverty. Of these, four in 10 of Canada’s indigenous children live in poverty making indigenous poverty in Canada a serious issue.

The Situation

Many Native Americans within Canada’s borders are trying to maintain their customs, traditions and lifestyle, but they frequently have limited access to resources. In total, around 1 million indigenous people, Inuit and Métis live in Canada.

In 2016, the chief for the Attawapiskat First Nation, on James Bay in Ontario, Canada, sounded the alarm about a spike in suicide attempts in the indigenous community. Over 116 people attempted suicide within 12 months and this does not account for unreported attempts. A report from Health Canada stated that suicide is the number one cause of death for indigenous young people and adults up to 44.

Indigenous groups in Canada frequently face poorer health, lower education levels, housing that lacks quality and crowded living conditions. Additionally, lower levels of income, high rates of unemployment, strong levels of incarceration and high death rates among the youth due to accidents and high rates of suicide are issues as well.

Reducing Unemployment Among Indigenous People in Canada

Currently, in 2020, the Canadian employment rate is at 59% and its unemployment rate is at 9%. Canada’s government grants the opportunity for indigenous people to find employment through one of its webpages. All they have to do is declare themselves an indigenous person when they apply to receive various public service-wide job opportunities and jobs from specific departments. The Indigenous Student Employment Opportunity program is open year-round to indigenous students and can help support and train them as they garner employment.

Providing Employment Through Natural Resources

Canada has a wide range of natural resources including lumber, uranium, lead, zinc, oil and diamonds. Luckily, Canada gives aboriginal people constitutional rights and all the agreements on their lands must be fair to them and provide jobs.

Diavik, Canada’s largest diamond mine, initiated mining endeavors northeast of Yellowknife in 1999. Diavik aims to aid local indigenous people by providing them with employment, scholarships, training and business opportunities. As of 2013, it provided employment to 171 aboriginal people in the area. Diavik also promised to return the mine areas back to the lake and improve the habitat for fish at the end of the contract.

If more companies include indigenous people in their businesses and policies, there will be a chance for Native Americans to increase their economic status and reduce indigenous poverty in Canada. There is still a long road to equity in Canada, but there are signs of improvement based on some economic successes for aboriginal peoples. Hopefully, with continued aid, indigenous poverty in Canada will become nonexistent.

– Elhadj Oumar Tall
Photo: Flickr

Microsoft's Global Skills InitiativeIn the wake of COVID-19, economies across the world have been hit hard. Countries alike have seen decreases across all economic sectors as quarantine and stay-at-home orders were mandated in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. People transitioned to working remotely, while millions of others lost their jobs entirely due to market crashes. In an effort to cushion the economic travesty that the pandemic has bought, Microsoft is launching a global initiative, partnering with LinkedIn and Github, to teach 25 million people across the world new digital skills. Microsoft’s global skills initiative aims to remedy the global economic impact that has come with COVID-19.

Digital Skills

Microsoft believes these newfound digital skills will give people the ability to take on jobs where digital skills are necessary in order to be successful. The initiative targets those who have lost jobs due to the pandemic, as well as minorities, women and others affected by poverty.

Recent statistics predict that over 250 million people globally may be unemployed by the end of 2020 due to COVID-19. Microsoft found that in the U.S. alone, in May 2020, women had an unemployment rate of 14.4% compared to men who were at 12%. Additionally, Latinx populations had unemployment rates of 16.7%, which is much higher than other groups. These statistics indicate why the initiative particularly targets populations such as women and minorities.

By learning digital skills, those who are at an economic disadvantage will be able to take on jobs in the digital age and improve their economic status. Those who attain these newfound skills might even be able to teach others and distribute their knowledge to uplift an entire community.

Three-step Process

The three partnered companies have come up with a three-step process that they hope will encourage economic growth in communities across the globe. The first part relates to the Linkedin Economic Graph. The Economic Graph is a digital representation of the global economy based on more than 690 million professionals, 50 million companies, 11 million job listings, 36,000 defined skills and 90,000 schools. In short, it is data that shows available jobs and their required skills as well as global hiring rates. These insights will help create economic opportunities for the global workforce.

The second part consists of free tools, programs and content that people will be provided with, in order to learn the skills necessary for job applications. This initiative will give people free access to content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn and the GitHub Learning Lab.

Thirdly, low-cost certifications and other cost-free job-seeking tools will be available to help people pursue new jobs with their newly developed skills.

Along with this digital skills initiative, Microsoft will be backing $20 million worth of cash grants that will be distributed across the globe to different nonprofit organizations. These grants will help nonprofits to combat the effects of the pandemic and allow the nonprofits to further extend reach in order to help more people.

Microsoft believes that global shutdowns and social distancing have accelerated the path to digitalization in all fields and economies. The company knows that digital tools are now necessary regardless of the field of work and will continue to be relevant far after the pandemic has passed. Microsoft’s global skills initiative may help the world’s economic recovery and may possibly uplift the entire globe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

George Hashemi
Photo: Flickr

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Akola_women_in_Uganda.jpgDiva Taxi, an all-female transportation company, recently launched in Uganda. As Uganda’s female-run rideshare, it is distinct because of its strict rule of hiring only female drivers. Diva Taxi hopes to alleviate the demand for taxis in the Ugandan capital city, Kampala while providing women with a safe method of transportation. While the company expects to thrive in the rapidly developing capital, Diva Taxi also hopes to expand to other regions in Uganda. Its emphasis on female entrepreneurship, strict screening and affordability will positively affect the transportation sector in the Ugandan economy. Moreover, it will employ women struggling financially. Here are 5 ways in which Diva Taxi will positively influence Ugandan women.

5 Benefits of Diva Taxi: Uganda’s Female-Run Rideshare

  1. Hiring Women. Diva Taxi focuses on hiring women, a demographic typically overlooked on other driving applications. Gillian Kobusingye, one of the managing partners of Diva Taxi, observes that other companies are male-dominated. She estimates that men make up 80% of transportation companies in Uganda. Because of this, companies are less likely to hire women drivers, favoring the status quo. This gender disparity is not restricted to the transportation sector alone: 14.4% of working-age Ugandan women are unemployed. This, compared with 6.2% of men. Diva Taxi eliminates this selection bias as Uganda’s female-run rideshare.
  2. Affordability. Becoming an employee of Diva Taxi is completely affordable. For women struggling financially, the need to purchase technology or equipment often restricts access to desperately-needed jobs. Like Uber and Bolt, Diva Taxi is an application, which means office registration and other bureaucratic red tape is avoidable when joining. Employees only need a functioning car to join the team. Diva Taxi drivers note how the company’s flexibility provided them the opportunity to quickly make money for their families. This is critical during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Since the onset of the pandemic, jobs shrank in Uganda, enhancing the significance of jobs that remain open to female employees.
  3. Employee Safety. The application prioritizes safety for its employees. New hires are taught basic self-defense skills to guard themselves against potentially dangerous clients. One precautionary measure for drivers includes “Panic Alerts,” a protective in-app function that safeguards employees from potential thieves. Additionally, employees and customers receive a unique registration number when they create their profile. This enables their tracking if things go awry. Lastly, customers must book rides two hours in advance so no relative trip requests can occur that may endanger the driver.
  4. Client Safety. Diva Taxi offers a safe ride home for girls and women. Despite newly-passed laws and policies to protect victims and survivors of abuse, violence against women increased by 4% in Uganda. According to the Uganda Police Force’s annual report, as of 2016 — 22% of Ugandan women between the ages of 15–49 experienced some form of sexual violence. This percentage is equivalent to more than 1 million Ugandans. A safe, female-run company like Diva Taxi is an essential form of transportation for women. This group is among the vulnerable in the bustling streets of Kampala, especially at night.
  5. COVID-19 Precautions. Diva Taxi takes the necessary precautions against COVID-19. All drivers must clean their cars routinely, as well as wear a mask to maintain the safety of the customer and themselves. As of August 2020, Uganda has 2,362 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which means these precautions are still necessary.

By Women, For Women

Diva Taxi was created by women, is run by women and protects women. Although Diva Taxi was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic (an uncertain era for transportation companies) it is a positive influence on female Ugandans which will hopefully keep it afloat.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Youth in Serbia
Serbia is a European country that was formerly a part of Yugoslavia. Located in the West-Central Balkans, it is surrounded by Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia. The majority of the population is of South Slavic origin and they speak Serbo-Croatian, which is nearly the same language that the Croats, Bosniaks, and Montenegrins speak.

Over time, a majority of Serbia’s population migrated to the capital city Belgrade from more rural areas. As recently as 2018 however, 43.9% of the people in Serbia still lived in the countryside. In 1945, when the country was still part of the former Yugoslavia, Serbians were under a socialist economic system. Although some free-market characteristics were later adopted in 1948, there was still a large emphasis on socialist self-management.

Youth Unemployment

Today, the youth in Serbia have been consistently making efforts to promote and provide a platform for entrepreneurship among young citizens. Near Belgrade—which has been a center for innovation and entrepreneurship over recent years—is the Impact Hub Belgrade.

One problem affecting the economy in Serbia is related to job availability among young citizens. The unemployment rate among youth is 40%, so providing employment opportunities to these citizens would impact a large portion of the population that is struggling to enter the job market or start businesses.

As a result of poor job opportunities, large numbers of young Serbians leave Serbia in search of work elsewhere. If the youth had more accessible jobs and economic opportunities, it may be more compelling for them to stay and stimulate their own economy, as opposed to the economies of other countries.

Impact Hub

Impact Hub focuses on supporting young entrepreneurs by strengthening their networks with investors in order to attract their investments. This provides an economic foundation for businesses to operate and produce goods and services.

One of the programs initiated by Impact Hub was called the Launch Pad, which provided these young entrepreneurs not only with tools needed to create new products, but with training to broaden their business skills. In addition, the program helped the youth in Serbia develop business models and connect with investors at home and abroad. This program received grants from USAID to help with funding.

Even though the program has ended, it raised a total of $230,000 from the domestic public sector, as well as from the private sector both at the national and international levels. Investments continued, including a $100,000 fund from the Innovation Impact Grant Program in Dubai.

Continued Efforts and Progress

Serbia’s economic freedom score by 2020 has increased by 2.1 points, bumping it to 66.0, and it saw GDP growth as recently as 2018. Even though Serbia has faced numerous economic difficulties since its independence, there are efforts being taken by its citizens to drive and stimulate the economy. The youth in Serbia have especially taken notable actions and the country continues to be supported by the USAID and many other programs and countries domestically and internationally.

Fahad Saad
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty Eradication in Iceland
With a population of 341,741 people and poverty rates rising, Iceland has continued its trend of incorporating old and innovative solutions to eradicate poverty. Valdimar Svavarsson, the manager of the Christian nonprofit organization Samhjalp in Iceland, told The Borgen Project that “Iceland is overall considered to be among the best places to live in the world in terms of quality of life.” However, the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened that quality of life significantly. Several innovations in poverty eradication in Iceland, such as welfare centers, government programs and other new ideas have emerged as the pandemic has increased the unemployment rate in Iceland.

Lowering Unemployment and the Department of Welfare

Iceland has been working towards reducing its unemployment and poverty rate by initiating welfare centers. Six welfare service centers are in Reykjavik, and they help Icelandic citizens access services related to Icelandic schools, financial support, counseling and more.

The Department of Welfare for Reykjavik, Iceland coordinates a variety of projects and events to help with poverty-related issues in Iceland with the core values of welfare, respect and activity in mind for people who request help. It mainly focuses on projects involving financial assistance, child protection and social housing programs, which all help with Icelandic low-income households. In particular, the financial assistance department of the Department of Welfare works to help unemployed citizens and families in Iceland through a simple application process. The application process requires that citizens search for employment. However, citizens can appeal the results of their applications if they receive a denial.

Homelessness and Limited Housing

The capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik, last reported that 360 people were homeless at the end of 2017. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Vilborg Oddsodottir, the Head of the Domestic Department of the Icelandic Church Aid Group, said that “there is a low-income housing company in Iceland right now” to help deal with the high housing prices in Iceland.

Solutions to Reducing Child Poverty in Iceland

Another innovation in poverty eradication is how Iceland has been working toward eliminating child poverty in the country. In fact, it ranks at the top for children’s rights. As of the latest report in 2015, the child poverty rate in Iceland was on the lower end of approximately 5% based on their families’ income levels prior to the pandemic.

The Icelandic Church Aid Group formed in 1970 and is better known as the Church Relief Society. The Church Relief Society partnered with Iceland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church for an innovative poverty solution that gives educational supplies to lower-income families across Iceland through an application process starting in late August 2020. The new initiative entitled “No Child Left Out” wants to make sure students are not experiencing social isolation based on their family’s financial situation. Vilborg Oddsodottir advised The Borgen Project thateducation is the best way out of poverty, and we have to maintain respect for all kinds of education” available to students in Iceland. In 2020, the Icelandic Church Aid Group helped approximately 30,000 children in Iceland according to Oddsodottir.

How Iceland enacted Innovative Testing Procedures and Government Aid during COVID-19

Only 5.4% of Iceland’s citizens were living below the poverty line in 2015. One of the major causes of poverty in Iceland is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused unemployment rates to skyrocket even as the country implemented innovations in COVID-19 protection early on. In the past few months, Iceland was able to test any citizen requesting a test and automatically isolate infected citizens from the public as most businesses remained open. Due to these innovative precautions, Iceland was able to reopen to tourists as early as June 15, 2020, and even implemented the requirement of testing each tourist.

After most of the Icelandic public received COVID-19 tests, the citizens were able to view their results using an innovative contact tracing application to prevent an outbreak. Even with precautions, Vilborg Oddsodottir has seen that “COVID has affected us a lot because now we have nearly 9% unemployment in Iceland. Even in our bank crisis, we have not seen unemployment like we have now.” The Icelandic government’s innovative support system is addressing the increased unemployment rate. The unemployment benefits stated that people would receive some of their salary based on the amount of part-time work they had with their company until September 30, 2020.

Food Aid

The Iceland Family Aid program has been working towards helping low-income families across Iceland since its founding in 2003. The organization is accepting food donations every month at its only two locations in Reykjavik and Reykjanesbaer. The way for the food undergoes distribution across Iceland is through an online registration process that delivers the food to low-income residents once a month, providing aid to various families and people living in poverty and aiding in poverty eradication in Iceland.

With the reduction in tourism and increasing unemployment rates due to COVID-19, Valdimar Svavarsson has found that “at the moment, the government is doing many things to support the growing group that is now facing unemployment.” The current innovative solutions and input of the Icelandic government should help the country bounce back from high unemployment rates while helping low-income citizens.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

pandemic-induced inequality in latin americaFrom 2002 to 2018, Colombia, “one of the most unequal countries in an extremely inequitable region,” cut its poverty rate in half. This reduction of poverty accompanied massive economic uplift throughout Latin America that saw wealth inequalities diminish rapidly. Before the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, economic and social inequality in Latin America had reached its “lowest point in recorded history.” Millions of families lifted themselves out of poverty, job opportunities soared and the quality of education increased. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to destroy this new progress toward equality. Although the situation is dire, there are simple steps that anyone around the globe can take to help reverse the trend of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

Economic Inequality

The World Bank predicts that due to the pandemic, the economies of Latin American countries will contract by 9.4%. This will cause 53 million Latin Americans to fall below the poverty line of less than $5.50 earned per day. With further reduction of jobs, COVID-19 will undoubtedly continue to destroy opportunities vital to the incomes of Latin America’s poor. This “setback of two decades” will further inequality between the rich and poor in Latin America, because it eliminates many jobs that poor daily wage workers depend on while hardly touching the incomes of the rich.

Francisco Ferreira, Professor of Inequality Studies at the London School of Economics, stated in an interview that “the inequality of COVID doesn’t just take place between the states of nations, but rather in neighborhoods of the same city.” Francisco commented further that “when this type of disaster arrives, poverty necessarily rises because the rich are better equipped financially to deal with it, and this causes inequality.”

Manual laborers in Latin America constitute 53% of the overall employment force. However, these individuals face especially high unemployment risks because of COVID-19. If they do manage to keep their jobs, these workers also face a higher risk of getting infected with the virus. Infection could lead to medical bills that can plunge people further into poverty and thus increase pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

Unequal wages also lead to worsened living conditions, like a lack of piped water and sanitation. In Brazil, as much as 50% of the population has no access to improved sanitation. For Bolivia, 30% of the population has no access to piped water. A lack of adequate sanitation facilities has the potential to start a vicious cycle of poverty and poor health conditions. This is especially concerning during a pandemic.

Gender Inequality

The pandemic also has the potential to severely reduce gender equality in Latin America. Women hold 55% of the most vulnerable informal jobs in Latin America. This means that when economies crash, women may be among the first to lose their financial independence. Unemployed women may be forced into care roles in communities, which may lead women to permanently leave the labor market. In the long term, this will greatly damage the economic capabilities of Latin American countries.

Overall, the pandemic stands to cause catastrophic long-term damage to the progress of equality in Latin America. By eliminating jobs and reducing the number of financially independent women in Latin America, the COVID-19 crisis has begun to retrench economic gains and further steepen earnings gaps between the rich and poor. However, those outside of the region can quickly and easily contribute to the reversal of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

How to Help

Even though the pandemic stands to undermine decades of progress towards social and economic equality in Latin America, there are simple steps that every person reading this article can take to help reduce the impact of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

  • Raise Awareness: By spreading awareness of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America, anyone with a phone or social media account can draw attention to how decades of economic progress are being reversed. Taking this step towards combatting inequality is as simple as posting a link to this article. Making more people aware of how the coronavirus stands to eliminate jobs in Latin America makes policy and aid attention toward this problem becomes more likely.
  • Contact Congress: By contacting Congressional representatives and telling them to support foreign aid initiatives, anyone reading this article can help direct funding toward reducing pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America. Only by contacting senators and representatives can individuals demand increased foreign aid spending. This money would go toward creating economic stimulus, expanded shelters and better healthcare.
  • Donate to The Borgen Project: By donating to The Borgen Project, one can contribute to a cause working to increase foreign aid spending and by extension working to reduce pandemic-induced inequality. Donating to The Borgen Project means contributing to an organization that will continue to fight for U.S. legislation that will increase foreign aid spending and funding. This is vital to eliminating social and economic inequality in Latin America.

Overall, COVID-19 threatens to reverse decades of progress toward equality in Latin America by eliminating jobs that create social mobility. Nevertheless, anyone can quickly and easily help reverse the trend of pandemic-induced inequality emerging in Latin America. It’s as easy as spreading awareness, contacting their congressional representatives and donating to The Borgen Project.

– Nolan McMahon
Photo: Flickr

innovations in poverty eradication in slovakiaIn 2008, 1.11 million Slovaks were at risk of poverty. Today, that number is closer to 872,000, while Slovakia’s steady economic growth is at almost 4%. However, uncertainty looms again as 70% of Slovakian employees are in danger of losing their jobs due to automation. Thankfully, innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia make poverty eradication possible.

Slovakia: The Heart of Europe

Entrepreneurs succeed in Slovakia because the country is a central hub enclosed by Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary. This gives the country high exporting potential. For example, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and The Norwegian Barents Secretariat have signed agreements with Slovakia to continue cross-border cooperation with Ukraine to promote economic development.

Slovakia also has a rich cultural heritage, history and modern art. The country’s Culture Program aims to bring attention to these facets of Slovakian culture. Through this program, the Slovakian government hopes to increase income and jobs through art creation and performances. This is one of many innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia that would significantly reduce poverty in disadvantaged communities.

Partnerships Are the Key to Success

The Slovakian government also encourages partnerships between students and professionals to address poverty. These programs help those in need as well as provide experience to students. Overall, they focus on technological advancements, thus creating innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia.

One of these partnership programs is the Butterfly Effect. A digital start-up, this organization assists young, tech-savvy leaders of tomorrow by offering full-time courses geared toward developers and inventive leaders. Additionally, the program encourages students to innovate for the future of Slovakia in the ever-changing digital world. For example, students developed a ride-sharing app specifically for those traveling to and from work through this program.

Similarly, LEAF focuses on developmental programs for those just starting or those who are already in their career field. They help all those who hope to build a more successful Slovakia, regardless of personal finances. LEAF also has programs specialized for teachers and skill-based volunteering that focuses on living conditions. Additionally, LEAF offers paid internships to students committed to staying in Slovakia, thus providing guidance and job security to the next generation. These programs all abide by LEAF’s four core values: ethics, excellence, entrepreneurial leadership and civic engagement.

Investors Help Equality Progress

Fueling many innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia is the country’s influx of investors, creating a demand for skilled workers. To keep up, Slovakia is dedicated to improving educational and entrepreneurial opportunities to increase its ability to adapt to new technologies. International investors have the chance to network with Slovakian startups at Innovation Day, hosted by the German-Slovak Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GSCIC).

One such digital technology startup to watch on Innovation Day 2020 is Meet ‘n’ Learn. Meet ‘n’ Learn is an app allowing parents and students to find tutors in their neighborhood. They can arrange to meet up in person or virtually through the app for lessons. Additionally, the app provides a free option where students can post questions and receive replies from multiple instructors. This app has the potential to bridge the gap between children of different economic backgrounds. Slovakia is embracing these investors that are backing these innovative ideas to give everyone equal advantages.

The Future of Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Slovakia

To facilitate poverty reduction, Slovakia encourages citizens to welcome the technological and digital world through modernization and entrepreneurship. The country’s efforts have been rewarded with a historically low unemployment rate of 7%. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría says, “Living standards are gradually catching up with the higher-income …. [T]o ensure this growth is more inclusive, [we need to] move towards more sophisticated and innovative products and ensure that everyone has the skills and training for the jobs of tomorrow.” In doing so, innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia will continue to further the country’s progress on this front.

Sam Babka
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in EstoniaIn the mid-90s and early 2000s, Estonia, a country in Northern Europe, oversaw a housing reform. This reform sought to improve the living conditions for Estonians and reduce the number of people who were experiencing homelessness in Estonia. Here’s the situation today:

6 Facts About Homelessness in Estonia

  1. A small percentage of Estonians are homeless – The Institute of Global Homelessness reported that around 864 Estonians were homeless in 2011, which amounts to 0.06% of the population. However, in 2018, the European Journal of Homelessness estimated that 1.5% of Estonians are homeless, which amounts to between 1,900 and 2,100 people.
  2. Unemployment can be a major influence on homelessness in Estonia – A 2014 study in the European Journal of Homelessness found that 5.5% of Estonians are unemployed (2% of which reside in Tallinn, the capital.)
  3. Alcohol dependency can inhibit self-subsistence – The percentage of Estonians who are homeless with mental health issues is increasing, and some of these issues may result from alcohol dependency, alongside other factors. Alcoholism can make it more difficult for people who are trying to gain self-sufficiency.
  4. Testing (for respiratory diseases such as COVID-19) is insufficient for homeless shelters in many European countries – People in shelters who test positive for airborne illnesses must be isolated, according to a report by members of the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), yet self-isolation is not always easy in shelters. In an Estonian shelter, after one individual in the shelter tested positive for COVID-19, testing was made available for the other residents, and 56% of those who lived in the shelter tested positive as well. FEANTSA argues that “housing must be reaffirmed as a human right” in order to help those who are experiencing homelessness in Estonia.
  5. Certain shelters and programs provide the homeless with residential services – Shelters like the one in Nõmme District in Tallinn provide the homeless in Estonia with a resocialization plan where residents work on gaining work skills to be able to afford residential spaces of their own. Half of the shelter’s residents pay their own fees that they gained from employment to stay in the shelter, and if a resident cannot pay, the city pays on his/her behalf. This plan lasts for six months, though residents are allowed to stay for longer if they aren’t able to afford their own place of residence at that time.
  6. Housing has improved for Estonians since the 90s – In 1989, there were more households in Estonia than there were residences. From 1994-2004, a housing reform took place, and by 2011, the number of residences was 16% greater than the number of households. Though factors such as rising rental costs can still make it hard for a struggling family to afford to live in their own residence, living conditions have improved overall.

As Estonia’s government has been working to reduce homelessness, programs that have helped reform housing have been effective in reducing homelessness in Estonia since the 1990s. Yet there is still work to be done – lessening the situations which cause homelessness is imperative.

Ayesha Asad
Photo: Unsplash

Hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas
On September 1, 2019, a massive Category 5 hurricane hit the Bahamas, bringing mass destruction and devastation to the people living there. The storm, named Dorian, took the lives of 70 people and left thousands homeless. A storm of this magnitude impacts all people in its path, yet those hit hardest are the ones living in poverty. During the hurricane season between June and November, hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas by increasing the unemployment rate, exacerbating socioeconomic inequalities and leaving many without access to food, water and shelter.

Unemployment Rates Rise

The Bahamas relies heavily on tourism from resorts, casinos and cruise lines to support its economy. Bahamians living in poverty-stricken conditions depend upon employment from these resorts to support their families. A large storm like Dorian often reduces these resorts and casinos to rubble, leaving thousands unemployed.

Before the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian, the unemployment rate stood at 10.9%; however, after the storm, the unemployment rate rose to a staggering 50%. With a fractured economy, an abundance of destroyed homes and limited food and water, survivors of these massive storms are forced to leave their homes and families to seek employment elsewhere.

Poverty-Stricken Neighborhoods Are Left Helpless

Of those missing and pronounced dead following Dorian, many were Bahamians living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The Mudd, a neighborhood well-known for its high levels of poverty, is just one of many that have been leveled by major hurricanes. Thousands of Haitian immigrants seek refuge in unstable wooden homes, which are no match for hurricane-force winds. 185 mph winds blown these neighborhoods to pieces.

In an interview conducted with Dorval Darlier, the chargé d’affaires of the Haitian Embassy in the Bahamas, Darlier described the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in The Mudd. He stated, “It looked like a bomb just exploded. It is completely destroyed. Not even a piece of wood stands up in The Mudd. If someone was not evacuated, they have to be dead.” Approximately 3,500 Haitian immigrants live in The Mudd and other poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

The devastation left by a hurricane increases public health risks, particularly for the poor. Bahamians living in poverty tend to take refuge in the most vulnerable areas. When a storm threatens the island, they are the least able to afford to evacuate and are often forced to stay in life-threatening conditions. Bahamian officials are required to visit these neighborhoods and urge residents to evacuate; however, many refuse to leave because they either have no place to go or are living in the Bahamas illegally.

Hurricanes Expose Inequality

In the past, hurricanes like Dorian have been known to expose the severity of inequality in the Bahamas. People living in poverty-stricken conditions, primarily Haitian immigrants, are left without homes. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis vowed not to rebuild immigrant neighborhoods like The Mudd: he mandated that those left without homes after a storm are to be deported.

Shella Monestime, a Haitian evacuee and resident of one of these neighborhoods, spoke out following the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and the Prime Minister’s response. She stated, “We just lost everything. We have no clothes, no home, no money. We have to start all over again. People died, and all they are talking about is people getting deported.”

Relief workers in the country have emphasized the drastic nature of this social inequality. A lack of legal papers and uncertain statuses prevent immigrants from receiving assistance after a hurricane. Fear of arrest and deportation has forced the Haitian community into hiding. The Bahamian government has instructed relief workers not to provide assistance to Haitians without proper documentation.As a result, they are often left homeless and helpless after massive storms ravage the area.

Hurricane Aid Provides Hope

The American Red Cross is just one organization that helps rebuild and aid people impacted by hurricanes. In response to Hurricane Dorian, the American Red Cross provided food, shelter, clean water and emergency supplies to thousands of families displaced by the storm. As of June 30, 2020, the Red Cross had distributed over $11 million in cash to over 3,000 Bahamian families. This funding has helped families recover financially and overcome many challenges brought on by Dorian.

In partnerships with Mercy Corps, World Central Kitchen and CORE, the American Red Cross is able to continue providing thousands of gallons of clean drinking water, cash grants to business owners, fresh meals, rent payment assistance and physical aid in rebuilding homes. More than 50 disaster respondents have been deployed to the Bahamas, each with specializations in varying categories including IT/Telecommunications, relief distributions, cash-as-aid, information management, communications, shelter and finance.

 

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has already been extremely active, with 11 storms as of August 6 and a prediction of 10 more named storms to be added to the list by the end of the year. Although hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas, aid from organizations like the American Red Cross provides hope to those affected. Despite past destruction, the island continually recovers and proves its resilience as a country.

– Jacey Reece
Photo: Pixabay

national hygiene program
Kenya’s National Hygiene Program (otherwise known as Kazi Mtaani) aims to help the hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Implemented in April 2020, the program intends to support the individuals and households that are struggling to find work as a result of the restrictions and other issues that the pandemic created.

Impact of COVID-19 in Kenya

Kenya has a population of 51.39 million people and a rapidly growing urban population, which is increasing by about 4.3% every year. As Kenya urbanizes at a quick pace, formal housing in urban areas of the country struggles to keep up with high demand. About 60% of urban households in Kenya live in a “slum,” because informal housing remains the only option for most people.

COVID-19 hit these poor households in Kenya hard, causing over 300,000 Kenyans to lose their jobs. In Kibera, a county in Nairobi and one of the biggest slums in Africa, a survey found that 90% of low-income residents said that they had lost their family income due to COVID-19.

What Is the National Hygiene Program?

The National Hygiene Program is an extended public works project that emerged as a response to Kenya’s growing unemployed population. The goal of the program is to employ young individuals from informal settlements whose former employment has been disrupted by the pandemic. The program also aims to focus on projects that create cleaner, safer communities during the pandemic.

People must meet a few requirements to be accepted into this program. One requirement is that individuals have to be over 18 years old and under 35 years old because the program’s target audience is Kenyan youth. However, there is some leeway in communities that COVID-19 restrictions hit hardest and where youths are less willing to work. Aside from age, other requirements include the possession of a valid Identification Card, registration with Mpesa — a mobile money transferring service — and a verifiable telephone number.

Phase I

The first phase of the National Hygiene Program acted as a pilot, lasting from April 2020 through June 2020 and employing over 26,000 people. Eight counties that restrictions hit the hardest were the first to implement the program. These counties include Nairobi, Mombasa, Kiambu, Nakuru, Kisumu, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera. In these areas, many people lost their daily wages, and businesses suffered because people could not afford to buy goods anymore.

Across these eight counties, the program targeted 29 settlements. The program paid workers about $1.03 per day, and they worked 22 days per month. In Phase I, the employees completed tasks like street cleaning, access path clearing, fumigation, disinfection, garbage collection, bush clearing and drainage cleaning.

Phase II

The second phase of the National Hygiene Program began in July 2020 and will run for six and a half months. The program has enrolled 270,000 workers and targets 1,200 informal settlements. Instead of employing workers for 22 days a month like in the first phase, the program’s 11-day rotation period will provide work for as many households as possible. Each worker has a daily wage of $0.78, and supervisors have a daily wage of $0.87.

In Phase II, workers will complete tasks like upgrading public sanitation facilities, creating or paving walkways, constructing community gardens and parks and repairing public buildings like offices and nursery schools.

As the National Hygiene Program continues, it hopes to cover all 47 counties in Kenya through later phases of the program. The program will allow Kenyans to escape unemployment while improving their communities, providing refuge from the destructive effects of COVID-19.

Sophie Dan
Photo: Flickr