UNICEF product innovationsUNICEF is using its global status and its passion for the rights of children to acquire investments from businesses that provide children with technology that improves their health and overall wellbeing. Many of these UNICEF product innovations are reverse innovations or low-cost technologies created in developing countries that can help save lives around the world. Out of 16 innovations, these five are exceptional for helping children thrive.

Complementary Feeding Bowl

A common problem in impoverished countries is hidden hunger, which is an essential vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Even if children are getting enough to eat, they may not be consuming the nutrients needed for healthy growth and brain development. This puts them at a greater risk of having a vulnerable immune system. Depending on the nutrient deficiency, children could also face problems such as anemia, childhood blindness and diarrheal disease.

UNICEF product innovations hope to address this problem with a complementary feeding bowl. It includes a design with nutritional facts, as well as a list of ages and measurements to ensure each child receives the correct quantity of nutrients. A spoon that comes with the bowl helps provide the first solid food for children after breastfeeding by assuring that it maintains the right texture and quality.

High-Performance Tents

Uganda has been facing extremely long droughts and intense rains, which facilitate the spread of disease. Cyclones threaten the Philippines, resulting in property damage, injuries and an increase in refugees. Additionally, Afghanistan is facing extremely cold winter weather. This intense weather plagues each country and imperils the survival of their residents.

Improving the quality of emergency response tents to be able to withstand various climate conditions is one of UNICEF’s goals, and the target product profile includes more than 1,000 requirements. Additions include a vertical wall design that resists high winds, electric and solar kits, winter liner and hard flooring. The tents are for multipurpose use: in addition to offering shelter from cyclones and earthquakes, they also provide protection against outbreaks of disease.

School Furniture Designs

Improving the quality of the school environment benefits the productivity of both teachers and students. Teachers in low-income countries in Africa and Asia work for very little money and are often unequipped with the training and resources they need.

UNICEF product innovations aim to solve this problem through furniture designed for children and teachers to engage in a productive and comfortable classroom environment, particularly in Africa and Asia. Because the design uses local raw materials and manufacturing, it will benefit local economies and leave less of a carbon footprint.

Disability-Friendly Squatting Plate

Children with disabilities in developing countries are often seen as a burden to society. As a result, many do not receive the accommodations they need in education or daily life. This can lead children with disabilities to have low confidence in their ability to be independent.

UNICEF’s disability-friendly squatting plate aims to provide children who suffer from disabilities such as immobility or impaired vision with more independence. This innovation includes two devices that work together to help children with disabilities. The first is a squatting plate that offers support and can be screwed onto the plate of a toilet seat. The second device is placed on top of the squatting plate, making it easier to move onto the seat. Handles will also be a part of the design, offering balance. UNICEF will send 2,500 devices across the world each year.

Oxygen Therapy

The high cost of oxygen equipment makes it inaccessible in developing countries. Hypoxemia, or a low concentration of oxygen in the blood, commonly occurs in children with pneumonia. It increases childhood mortality and contributes to the death of over 100,000 children in developing countries. In Nigeria, pneumonia accounts for 18% of childhood deaths.

UNICEF’s oxygen system planning tool helps countries map out the required oxygen equipment, technical specifications and guidance manuals for obtaining devices. UNICEF product innovations also include a range of products that provide oxygen, listed in its supply catalog. Responding to the need for oxygen during the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has made this particular innovation a priority.

These five innovations are working to fight poverty in developing countries. They are just a few of many products that emerged through UNICEF that, though often simple, make a large difference in improving the lives of impoverished children around the world.

– Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty EradicationA new job-search platform in South Africa seeks to put an end to youth unemployment. Entrepreneurs Anish Shivdasani and Shafin Anwarsha founded an online company called Giraffe in 2015 to help reduce the staggering youth unemployment rate. Securing jobs for young South Africans is key to alleviating life-long poverty, as well as improving education and access to resources. The startup uses a specialized algorithm to match job-seekers to employers, making it one of the many innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa.

Solving Unemployment in South Africa

Around 40% of South Africans are unemployed, and the youth unemployment rate is even higher at nearly 50%. The government has made efforts to dismantle poverty and inequality since the end of apartheid in 1994 by building over two million new houses, improving access to clean water and distributing social grants to millions of people in poverty. The economy grew by roughly 3.5% yearly from 1998 to 2008, producing millions of new jobs. The financial crisis of 2008 halted some of this progress, but all efforts for improvement will neutralize if half of the country’s young people grow up outside of the job market.

With the long-term effects of youth unemployment in mind, Shivdasani and Anwarsha set out to curb the trend. In 2015, they introduced Giraffe to South Africa’s smallest province Gauteng, home of the country’s largest city Johannesburg. A year later, with 100,000 job-seekers signed up, they brought Giraffe to the greater metro areas of Cape Town and Durban. Today, over 1 million people have joined the platform as well as thousands of businesses, both small and large, looking for the right match.

The App That is Not Just for Smartphones

As one of the innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa, Giraffe’s success is a direct result of its ease of use and technological innovation. Anyone with a cellphone that has an internet browser, not necessarily a smartphone, can use the service. Job-seekers must first visit Giraffe’s website from whatever device they have available, and then fill out a form that takes about eight or nine minutes. The company then creates a CV for the user and uploads it to their database. Employers have a short sign-up process as well.

From there, Giraffe’s algorithm does all of the work, matching the right candidates to the right jobs. The algorithm will even set up the interview at an agreed-upon time. Most recruitment agencies require an agent to contact both parties and review qualifications by hand. Giraffe works faster and keeps costs extremely low for businesses by employing technology instead, charging up to 30 times less than other recruitment agencies. The platform is free for job-seekers.

The Future of Giraffe and UNICEF’s Innovation Fund

In July 2020, Giraffe became a recipient of funding from UNICEF’s Innovation Fund, along with 10 other start-ups around the world that are focused on eradicating inequality of opportunity for young people. In recognition of the importance of education and skill-level on employability, Giraffe intends to use the money to build a job-seeker content portal, drawing from Giraffe’s labor market data and highlighting the most in-demand skills. The new feature will help educate and upskill young people to improve their career prospects and will hold Giraffe to a higher standard as one of the newest innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa.

In addition to the funding, Giraffe now has access to UNICEF’s team of innovators and networks, and plans are in place to make both the matching algorithm and content portal open source for other global organizations to use.

McKenna Black
Photo: Flickr


Parents always want the best for their children, but in an increasingly overwhelming world, it can be hard to stay positive. As a society, we need to actively work harder to inspire future generations to protect our planet and its people. Thankfully, there are many amazing role models out there that can motivate children to get involved in making the world a better place.

Top 5 Role Models for Children

  1. Malala YousafzaiMalala is one of the most famous role models of our time. She was born in the small village of Mingora, Pakistan, where it was uncommon for girls to go to school. At just 11 years old, she was forced out of school when the Taliban, the Sunni Islamist military organization, took control of her village. After speaking out about gender equality and the right to learn, she was shot in the head at 15 years old. At this point, most people would have given up, but not Malala. She kept fighting and made her own organization called the Malala Fund—a charity dedicated to fighting for equal rights and providing girls worldwide the opportunity to attend school. That year, she became the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize and later went on to graduate from Oxford University.
  2. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, has made headlines across the United States. One of the most progressive candidates, and backed by Senator Bernie Sanders, AOC recently got reelected and kept her spot as a representative for New York’s 14th congressional district at just 30 years old. AOC has been vocal about the wealth inequality gap, racial discrimination and climate change. In a time of uncertainty, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s election has been seen as a progression toward an equal world.
  3. Pink — Alecia Beth Moore, known professionally as Pink, has not only achieved momentous achievements as a singer but has often used her fame to advocate for equality and children’s rights. As a UNICEF ambassador, Pink raises awareness about global poverty, malnutrition and access to education and medicine. Moreover, Pink has supported charities related to HIV/AIDS, animal rights and women’s rights, among others. The famous singer even gets her children involved in the work, making sure to instill a sense of charity in them. At one of her rehearsals, Pink’s daughter set up a backstage candy sale to raise money for the impoverished communities in Haiti. This is a great way to get the kids involved and inspire them to do more on their own.
  4. Selena Gomez — Seen as a triple threat in the entertainment industry, Selena Gomez is another fantastic role model for children. In addition to her successful career, Gomez has consistently shown support for various charities and philanthropic endeavors worldwide. She was also appointed a UNICEF ambassador in 2009 and has dedicated a lot of time to improve societal and economic equality in the world by participating in various UNICEF campaigns and continuing charitable work on her own. Recently, Gomez has used her social media platforms to spread awareness about the social and racial injustices in the United States. Selena Gomez has also shown support for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Malala Fund and Free the Children, among others.
  5. Matt DamonMatt Damon is an incredible actor who is no stranger to charity work. He has pledged to provide clean water for impoverished communities worldwide by creating his nonprofit organization. In 2009, Matt Damon and Gary White co-founded Water.org that helps more than 17 countries receive clean water and sanitation supplies. Additionally, Water.org, through its WaterCredit program and microfinancing, supports households living in poverty with loans to obtain essential water systems, making clean water safe, cost-effective and accessible for more than 30 million people.

There are many fantastic role models worldwide that demonstrate how crucial nonprofit organizations are in improving people’s standards of living worldwide. Yet, perhaps the most important role models are the parents at home. Teach children about the real impact of charity work and get them involved in both local and global humanitarian organizations. As children grow older, they will start to venture off on their own charity projects, ensuring a brighter and equal future.

Karin Filipova
Photo: Flickr

Eritrea’s Lack of Clean WaterEritrea is a northeast country in Africa, bordering the Red Sea coast. Eritrea has faced severe drought issues over the years. In addition, Eritrea’s lack of clean water affects over 80% of its citizens. This problem has negatively impacted its ongoing poverty issue.

Climate

Eritrea’s weather varies depending on the location. The variety of weather conditions is due to the differences in elevation between plains and plateaus. The average temperature by Massawa, or the coast, is around mid-80s Fahrenheit. However, on higher grounds, like plateaus, the average temperature is around low-60s Fahrenheit. The mean annual rainfall in the plateaus is around 16-20 inches. In the west plain, it is usually less than 16 inches. That is below average in many other parts of the world.

Effects of the Lack of Clean Water

Despite the fact that Eritrea has around 16 to 20 inches of rainfall annually, almost half of the country does not have access to clean water. As of 2020, 80.7% of Eritreans lack basic water services. This problem leads to consequential outcomes such as:

  1. Hygiene & the Contamination of Public Water Sources: Without the basic access to clean water, citizens of Eritrea are forced to use public water sources like rivers and streams. Citizens use public water sources to perform their everyday activities since they do not have safe accessible water at their homes. People will cook and shower with the same water. Thus, the sources become contaminated over time. The water contamination can then lead to fatal diseases.
  2. Diseases: Diarrhoeal disease is a type of bowel infection that usually spreads through contaminated water. Bacteria and viruses from water need a host in order to survive. It is unusual for the diarrhoeal disease to be deadly, but death can occur if a person loses over 10% of their body’s water. According to UNICEF, diarrhoeal disease is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 in Eritrea. Cholera is an infectious disease that contaminated water sources also cause. The symptoms are watery diarrhea and abdomen pain. This disease can be fatal if a person does not receive treatment on time because the body will eventually become dehydrated.

Effects of Poverty

Eritrea’s lack of clean water and poverty are linked to one another. Access to clean water means being able to cook, bathe and drink. Aside from covering basic needs, it also helps businesses run safely, keep children healthy and reduces vulnerability during a natural disaster.

  1. Businesses: Farmers and local business owners rely, to some extent, on the access to clean water. Farmers need to keep their crops clean by washing them. Local businesses also need clean water to create products or sell food. Without accessible clean water nearby, owners and employees have to leave their businesses to find a drinkable water source and sanitation facilities. By doing so, they could potentially lose customers.
  2. Girl’s Education: When girls hit puberty, they begin menstruating. If girls cannot practice proper hygiene or have access to clean water at school, they often miss out on education. Some have to skip class until their menstruation ends, which is around a week. During that week, they do not learn whatever their schools teach.
  3. Vulnerability During Natural Disasters: Clean water promotes good health. If communities lack strength due to unsafe water usage, citizens may have a hard time withstanding times of disasters. Houses would possibly be destroyed and businesses may be ruined. Thus, those in poverty would be forced to leave their homes and find another by traveling long distances. Many, without access to clean water, would struggle along the way because potential diseases from contaminated water would weaken their body.

Government Involvement

Eritrea’s state government has partnered up with UNICEF to improve citizens’ drinking water and sanitation issues. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) aims to increase accessible clean water and promote safe WASH practices in drought-prone areas of Eritrea. UNICEF is also working to connect many schools to community water supply systems.

With the state government’s involvement, Eritrea’s clean water crisis will eventually improve. The promotion of good hygiene practices reduces the spread of diseases. With many schools being connected to safe water supply systems, students will be healthy and girls will not have to skip school during the week of their menstruation. This brings hope for the future of Eritrea.

Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr

Water Disparities in NigeriaIn Nigeria, clean water does not always receive treatment as a public good available to everyone. Instead, access to clean water depends on the neighborhood a person lives in. As a result, the dangers of waterborne diseases affect low-income areas disproportionately. Additionally, clean water is a privilege pertaining to socioeconomic status rather than the public good it should be. Water disparities in Nigeria often affect those who need the most help.

The Problem of Water Contamination

Adriel Garrick, who grew up in Nigeria, knows about water inequality. Garrick told The Borgen Project that “When [she] was young [she] had a friend diagnosed with Typhoid,” an infection that drinking contaminated drinking water or food causes.  She also said that “[Her] friend did not know he was drinking polluted water, and he was in the hospital for about three weeks, then later passed away.”

Death from water contamination is not unusual. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, as of 2015, 42.7% of Nigeria’s rural population and 19.2% of its urban population lacked clean, reliable drinking water. Diarrheal diseases, usually from contaminated drinking water, are the fifth leading cause of death in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s rural population is in a worse situation than the urban population for one reason: wealth. Wealth is a massive determinant of who gets clean drinking water there.

Water Supply System in Nigeria

According to Chidozie Nnaji, a researcher at the University of Nigeria, Nigeria does not treat drinking water as a social right. “The government provides water for the highly placed and charges them peanuts, but the same gesture is hardly extended to the generality of the masses who have to provide (purchase) their own water,” Nnaji told The Borgen Project. “Water is perceived as a social right for the highly placed, but as an economic good for the rest of the people. What an irony!”

Nigeria has a privatized water supply, contributing to disparities between the access of the wealthy and the poor. “Privatized water supply in developing countries is known for little infrastructure investments, neglecting low-income areas, and prioritizing profit over service quality,” Ismaila Rimi Abubakar, an associate professor at the University of Dammam, told The Borgen Project.

Not only can privatized water add to economic disparities, but it is also often unhealthy. Water vending is not a sustainable solution, according to Abubakar.

“Water vending is supposed to be a stop-gap solution to water outages or for households not yet connected to piped water supply,” said Abubakar. “Water vendors have now become the primary source of water for numerous households, . . . they should not be allowed as a long-term solution. . . . Water vendors and packaged water are expensive and not free from contamination.”

UNICEF’s Solution to Clean Water

The United Nations Children’s Fund has been working with the Nigerian government since 2005 to implement the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program. The program aims to provide clean water to all of Nigeria and implement hygiene education and sanitation facilities. WaterAid is a global federation of nonprofits. It has an initiative working with the Nigerian government to provide clean water and sanitation to families who need it most.

Safe, clean water is a necessity for all people, not a privilege. Given the disparities in access to clean water in different economic sectors, it is clear that Nigeria is experiencing a crisis that will not be resolved until the country as a whole is able to claim clean water and the physical health that depends upon this resource as an essential human right.

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Education in Sierra LeoneMany important improvements in educational outcomes have occurred in Sierra Leone since 2015, especially for women and children. The country is bouncing back from the civil war, Ebola crisis and other serious challenges. This progress is partially owed to organizations that help children go to school. Several NGOs and community-based actors support education in Sierra Leone. Here is a small glimpse into the work of many.

4 Organizations Improving Education in Sierra Leone

  1. Street Child: Street Child’s goal is to improve the educational prospects of the world’s poorest and most marginalized children. Since its founding, the organization has helped more than 250,000 children escape poverty and go to school.  It originally started by improving education in Sierra Leone, where it began a project for 100 children in a small northern village. It has since expanded to serve children in ten other countries. Some of its work involves providing young girls with school supplies and giving families financial support. The organization also trains teachers and supplies classroom materials.
  2. Mother’s Club: After setbacks and challenges from the Ebola outbreak, mothers in Sierra Leone began organizing to ensure their children would receive a full education. Mother’s Clubs are village and community-based networks that sell products to fund their children’s schooling. Profits from farming, tye-dyeing, gardening and soap making pay for school supplies, books and uniforms. Thanks to these self-starters, with aid from international partners like UNICEF, communities can help drive positive educational outcomes.
  3. Girls Access to Education (GATE): Funded by U.K. Aid and its partners, Girl’s Access to Education (GATE) aims to help girls from disadvantaged households go to school and enables out-of-school girls to resume their education. Importantly, it also empowers communities to create their own solutions. The net enrollment rates in both primary and secondary education have consistently increased since 2013, due in part to their work. Where the literacy rate for girls ages 15-24 was less than 40% in 2005, that figure rose to 62.7% in 2018. The gap between male and female literacy rates continues to drastically decrease as well. This speaks to an overwhelmingly positive impact on Sierra Leone’s children and youth.
  4. Teach for All: Teach for All is a network of education partners and nonprofits who work together to help inspire change on a global scale. The organization announced Teach for Sierra Leone as its latest partner in July 2020. Similarly to other actors, Teach for Sierra Leone is community-driven and recognizes educational disparities in the country as an urgent issue. They aim to bridge education gaps by recruiting women and teachers from under-resourced schools whose efforts will help break the cycle of global poverty.

A Brighter Future

Overall, these organizations play a critical role in improving access to education in Sierra Leone. Currently, many schools have been disrupted due to COVID-19, but now radio lessons bridge the learning gap until reopening. So long as outside actors continue to provide foreign aid, assist in educational outcomes and empower communities, children in Sierra Leone will be able to reach their fullest potential.

Rachel Moloney
Photo: Flickr

The Cost pf Ending PovertySeveral economists estimate that the cost of ending world poverty is around $175 billion. To the average person, this amount can seem like an unachievable goal to reach, therefore making any contribution futile. In other instances, some people prefer not to make direct donations to end poverty, in fear that their money is not being allocated efficiently.

Let’s consider a product that has had immense success despite its price often being called into question.

AirPods, similarly to most Apple products, have become a staple for many technology users. Chances are that you either know someone who owns a pair of AirPods or you own a pair yourself.

On different social media outlets like Twitter and TikTok, AirPods have turned into a meme in which the small product is often mocked for its big price. The first generation AirPods sold for an average of $149 per pair. On October 30, 2019, Apple launched AirPods Pro at a price of $249.

Apple sold over 60 million pairs of AirPods in 2019 and is projected to sell an estimated 90 million pairs in 2020. In 2019, AirPods generated an estimated revenue of $6 billion while the revenue in 2020 is expected to reach $15 billion.

Apple’s sales of AirPods in 2020 alone is eight percent of the yearly estimated cost of ending poverty. On a large scale, this percentage may seem like a small portion of what is needed to minimize this global issue. However, $250 on a smaller scale can go a long way to help.

6 Other Ways to Spend $250 that can Help End Global Poverty

  1. Sponsor a child – Many children from war-torn countries live as refugees in impoverished conditions. With a full $250 donation, UNICEF will be able to sponsor three refugee children for a lifetime. Through this donation, UNICEF can provide these children with access to clean drinking water, immunizations, education, health care and food supply.
  2. Buy a bed net – A bed net can help prevent the spread of malaria by creating a physical barrier between the person inside and the malaria-carrying mosquitos. The CDC Foundation’s net is an insecticide-treated net (ITN) which continues to create a barrier even if there are holes in it. Each net can protect up to three children and 50 nets can be provided with a $250 donation.
  3. Provide a community with bees – Bees pollinate around an average of a third of the food supply. Consequently, providing a community with a batch of bees could help local agriculture flourish. Additionally, these bees are often monitored by community-based youth programs that promote entrepreneurship. Through Plan International, seven different communities could benefit from a $250 donation.
  4. Register a child – By registering a child with a birth certificate, that child then has access to necessary human rights such as health care, education and inheritance. A birth certificate is also an essential part of protecting children from child marriage, human trafficking and forced labor. A $250 donation could register seven children for a record of existence.
  5. Buy a goat, baby chicks and a sheep for a familyGoat’s milk can provide children with protein that is essential for growth. Baby chicks can also produce nutritious eggs and the possibility to generate income. Sheep will yield milk, cheese and wool for a family. All of these animals will offer a family a continuous supply of living necessities. One of each animal can be given to a family through a $250 donation.
  6. Fund a community center – A $250 donation could go towards investing in the lives of youth in poverty by funding a community center. This donation goes towards building or modernizing youth centers in impoverished areas. A community center creates a space for health operations, play spots for children and technological hubs.

These are a few of the many effective ways to make a simple contribution to alleviating this global problem that costs no more than a set of AirPods.

Ending world poverty is not an easy task, nor is it inexpensive upon first glance. However, an individual can make a massive impact once the cost of ending poverty is put into perspective. A personal contribution to ending poverty can be as simple as making a donation for the same price as a pair of AirPods.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Crisis in YemenTucked between Saudi Arabia and the Gulf of Aden, Yemen is suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – and COVID-19 may be the final straw that wipes the Middle Eastern country off the map.

The current crisis in Yemen arises from a complex history of unrest. From 2010 to 2012, the Arab Spring ushered in a period of political rebellion throughout the Middle East. Accordingly, Yemen’s push for democracy facilitated the rocky transition of power from President Ali Abdullah Saleh to his vice president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Years of domestic hardship followed.

Islamic Houthi rebels and Saleh loyalists capitalized on Hadi’s weak state and seized control of the capital city of Sanaa in 2014. The following year, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates formed a coalition of states to invade Yemen, overpower the Houthi-Saleh rebels and reinstate Hadi’s government. More recently, coalition and Houthi alliances splintered, with Yemen as the battleground for new factions.

According to the Human Rights Watch, Saudi-led coalition attacks constitute a majority of the violence in Yemen, with approximately 12 airstrikes per day. Even so, all competing forces contribute to the bloodshed. Civilian deaths and injuries clock in at 17,500 since the conflict escalated in 2015.

Civil War, COVID-19 and Crisis: Yemen is a City on Fire

The onset of the highly infectious COVID-19 set Yemen’s conflict on fire; what remains is a full-blown crisis. Amid continued violence, 24 million Yemenis – 80% of the national population – are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. COVID-19 has worsened the already scarce supply of sanitation and clean water. Health care facilities have been dramatically reduced in capacity.

Thus far, the world has deprived 12 million Yemeni children of humanitarian aid. Innocent boys and girls are fighting for survival, some of which have yet to utter their first words. Moreover, pre-COVID-19, 2 million children faced barriers to education. Now, Yemen has 7.8 million children without schooling due to nation-wide closures.

The US Role in Yemen: Two Sides of a Different Coin

In the U.S., national headlines oscillate between COVID-19 and Donald Trump’s Twitter, with little to no mention of the ongoing crisis in Yemen. Though public awareness lacks, political action has indeed transpired on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. has funneled $721 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen since 2017. In response to the pandemic, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo directed an additional $225 million in USAID funding to help the resource-stricken country.

Despite seemingly well-intended aid, the U.S. government’s support of coalition states tells a different story. A coalition powerhouse, Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian regime and aggressive military tactics clash against American pillars of democracy and peace. The Saudi-led coalition fly planes fueled by the U.S. military and drop bombs purchased in ongoing munition sales with the United States.

In fact, the U.N. Group of Eminent Experts suspected that the U.S., “may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen through arms sales and intelligence support given to the Saudi-led coalition.”

This year, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to scale back detrimental U.S. involvement in Yemen, ending the practice of the U.S. military refueling aircraft and using intelligence to support the coalition. Ultimately, President Trump vetoed the resolution, and Congress neglected to override Trump’s vote.

In an exclusive interview with The Borgen Project, Rep. Jared Huffman of California explained the significance of the Congressional statement: “I think that tells you that there is bipartisan support for distancing the United States from the military campaign from the Saudis in Yemen and for taking a more humanitarian approach.”

The Future of Fighting Against Crisis in Yemen

The crisis in Yemen presents as convoluted at best and depressing at worst. Fortunately, Huffman sheds light on the efforts unfolding within Congress, and there is a reason for optimism. Huffman declares, “There will be amendments and debates in the days ahead on the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, and I am sure there will be Yemen amendments as part of that. And so, we’ll keep trying. We’re months away from a national election and some changes that could make it possible for us to go even further.”

Hence, war wages on in Yemen as people battle each other and COVID-19. Yet, another battleground begins at the voting ballot; the upcoming U.S. elections could decide the role the government plays in Middle Eastern politics. In addition, those compelled to help Yemen can donate to reputable organizations, such as UNICEF  or Save The Children.

Maya Gonzales
Photo: Wikimedia

Poverty in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is one of the least-known countries in the world. Situated between Papua and Indonesian West Timor, Timor-Leste’s economy depends largely on the production of hydrocarbon from offshore natural gas. Most people living there do agricultural work harvesting corn, rice, coconuts, coffee and sweet potatoes. To produce additional income, locals create textiles and baskets, carved ivory, pottery and handicrafts. Politically, Timor-Leste has had a turbulent past. Independence from Indonesia came at a cost in 1999, with hundreds killed by militants. The territory became a sovereign state in May 2002 and since then the government has grappled with the issue of poverty.

Facts about Poverty in Timor-Leste:

1. Investments in Human Capital

Timor-Leste’s population is 1.3 million, of which about 42% are living in poverty, down from 50% in 2007. Standards of living have improved in the past decade, with the Human Capital Index, or investments in human capital, reaching 0.43 in 2017. However, the country still needs to increase earnings and train a more skilled workforce.

2. Health Care for Women and Children

For every 1,000 babies born in 2018, 46 will die within five years. Yet child mortality has decreased by 41% since 2013. Timor-Leste has also made strides in its maternal mortality rate, which has been reduced from 694 per 100,000 live births in 2000, to 142 in 2017.

It is important to note that the country has one of the youngest populations on earth. In 2015, 42% of the populace was made up of children ages 0 to 14. This has created a high dependency ratio of 82% for young people in the working-age population. Timor-Leste’s government has been making an effort to expand education and to help it is citizens be healthier. More progress is needed in terms of providing food to fight malnutrition and in maintaining the health of its children.

3. Big Strides in Education

The government has made significant efforts to educate children and the country is investing in building schools. From 2003 to 2015, the secondary school enrollment ratio went from 46.4% to 76.8%. Still, Timor-Leste needs to invest even more resources in its younger generation.

4. Access to Food

From 2016 to 2018, the prevalence of undernourishment was 24.9% and the rate of malnutrition in children under five was 9.9%. In response, the government has established feeding programs in schools and health centers.

5. Sustainable Infrastructure

In 2019, the World Bank created a Country Partnership Framework which will support Timor-Leste in using its natural resources for sustainable infrastructure. Its initiatives include investing in human capital and promoting gender equality; investing in the digital and transportation sectors; encouraging economic growth led by the private sector and promoting tourism and agribusiness. While these efforts are helping with poverty in Timor-Leste, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought gains in this area to a standstill.

The Pandemic has Slowed Progress

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for Timor-Leste. According to the Global Health Observatory, there are only 59 hospital beds per 120,000 people. Complicating matters, only 5% of the country’s budget is dedicated to the health sector. Petroleum prices have dropped, and given its dependency on oil and trade, Timor-Leste’s per capita GDP could fall as low as negative 3.7% in 2020, and 4% in 2021. In addition, while the country has received medical support from UNICEF and other organizations, it will not receive as much help now, as countries are dealing with their own pandemic situations.

As of June 9, 2020, Timor-Leste’s government planned to give each home $15 in electricity credits and $100 per month. However, more needs to be done, since social and health services are limited, and over 40% of the populace is below the poverty line. It is the government’s hope that when the pandemic recedes, they will be able to pick up where they left off in the fight against poverty in Timor-Leste.

– Sarah Betuel

Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Ukraine
Ukraine has been severely impacted by COVID-19, and poverty rates will likely increase dramatically. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine released an official prediction on the absolute poverty implications of the pandemic. The analysis indicates that the impacts on child poverty in Ukraine will be the most severe.

Ukraine is Europe’s second-biggest and second-poorest country, just behind Moldova. The country has more than 46,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 3 July, 2020. Many of the restrictions imposed on the country have been lifted as the country enters its adaptive quarantine stage, though social distancing and mask-wearing requirements remain in place.

Ominous Predictions

According to the World Bank, the negative economic impact of the pandemic will show through several courses. These include a decrease in disposable incomes and consumption, lower remittances caused by decreased economic activity throughout the E.U. and lower commodity prices that impact Ukrainian exports.

UNICEF is particularly concerned that the economic collapse will have the most adverse impacts on vulnerable groups such as single parents, multiple-children households, households with children younger than 3 and single pensioners over the age of 65. UNICEF also predicts that the absolute poverty rate in Ukraine will rise from 27% to 44%, and the child poverty rate will rise from 33% to 51%. Under the less severe prediction, that would mean 6.3 million more people will be living in poverty than before, of whom 1.4 million will be children. The more severe prediction shows 9 million more people will be living in poverty, 1.8 million of them children. To put this in perspective, in 2019 50% of the population was financially unprotected. That will likely increase as poverty levels go up.

Government Action

To mitigate these stark numbers, the Ukrianian Government has taken action on the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. These actions include one-time payments for low-income pensioners and child disability payment beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, these payments are insufficient to combat increasing absolute poverty and child poverty in Ukraine. UNICEF says that children who live in poverty are more likely to be poor as adults, an issue that actually goes deeper than poverty itself, as the most disadvantaged children usually have disabilities, are girls or belong to minorities. For the potential 1.4 to 1.8 million children that will live in poverty due to the pandemic, this poses an immense threat to their economic mobility in adulthood.

Social Policy Programme

A solution to combat the inevitable increase in child poverty in Ukraine due to this crisis is UNICEF’s Social Policy Programme.  Through advocacy and technical support to the Government of Ukraine, this program promotes equity for children and improved social welfare. It expands across four main areas.

  1. Poverty Reduction and Macro Policies for Children: To address the drivers of poverty and social exclusion, there is a focus on improved measuring of the multidimensional aspects of child poverty. To promote child-centered family policies, issues of child poverty will be in a leading position of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy.

  2. Social Protection with a Focus on Integrated Modalities: This will improve cash transfer performance in poverty reduction for vulnerable children and/or displaced children and their families. Social protection programs will expand with a strengthened, locally driven intersectoral approach. This goes beyond cash transfers and includes case management and local social service provision.

  3. Public Finance for Children: For maximum impact of public expenditure on children, UNICEF works with line ministries and the Ministry of Finance. Children’s rights are prioritized.

  4. Local Governance and Accountability with focus on Child-Friendly Cities: UNICEF Ukraine works with local partners to fully realize children’s rights. The Child Friendly Cities initiative is a global movement that strengthens social inclusion, promotes child and youth participation and incentivizes local authorities to invest in the overall well-being of children.

While the full impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are still unknown, and with the devastating impact it has on poverty, continuing to combat child poverty in Ukraine is vital. Social welfare programs like UNICEF’s Social Policy Programme are essential to mitigate the effects of poverty, strengthen child care and enhance access to basic services. Investing in children will have a substantial impact on the future, and it is a necessary measure to combat poverty in Ukraine and around the world.

Rochelle Gluzma
Photo: Flickr