Information and stories about United States.

Poverty Eradication in Yemen
The U.S. has ignored a major impediment to development in Yemen, which is Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war. Instead, USAID’s development strategies focus on democracy, economic opportunity and social development. Along with resistance toward Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), USAID intends to improve water sanitation, healthcare, gender equality and natural resource management in Yemen in an effort to promote poverty eradication in Yemen.

The advancement of agriculture underpins efforts to improve Yemen’s 79% poverty rate. However, the U.S. has disregarded more pressing issues in Yemen. While Saudi Arabia provides billions in aid to the Yemeni government, the Saudi regime’s involvement in the civil war is more of a detriment than a solution to poverty eradication in Yemen. The U.S. has failed to appropriately acknowledge this involvement and continues to indirectly support the Saudi coalition with arms.

A Summary of Yemen’s Civil War

Yemen has been in conflict ever since 2015. In 2011, the Arab Spring, a series of uprisings against poverty and authoritarianism in the Arab world, deposed four autocrats. One of them was Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled Yemen for 33 years. Monsour Hadi eventually replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Houthis, a staunchly anti-American, anti-Jewish movement that emerged in Northern Yemen, rebelled against Mansour Hadi, igniting a civil war. In 2015, they seized control of the capital of Sanaa, with the death count gradually rising. Now, some reports estimate that approximately 100,000 people have died as a result of the conflict. According to Human Rights Watch, 6,872 civilians have been killed, leaving out the death toll from mass famine and the rise of cholera in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is responsible for 67% of these fatalities. Because of the growing suspicion that Iran is funding the Houthis, Saudi Arabia is attacking Houthi territory to presumably weaken Iran’s sphere of influence. In addition, the coalition has imposed a naval and air blockade, impeding food, fuel and medicine from entering Yemen.

Today, Yemen’s unclean water has bred the largest cholera epidemic in history, with 1.2 million contractions. Around 18 million people do not have access to clean drinking water. According to the U.N., Yemen is currently in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. From its inception till now, the destruction has led to an increase in Yemen’s poverty rate from 47% to 75%.

US Complicity in Yemen’s Civil War

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is the number one customer of U.S. arms imports. In fact, the U.S. has exported $13.72 billion worth of arms to the Saudi kingdom, accounting for 59.6% of Saudi arms imports.

If the U.S. is attempting to mitigate poverty in Yemen, the solution is obvious. Bruce Riedel of the CIA stated that “the United States of America and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom continue to provide the kind of support that allows this war to go on.” If the U.S. concedes that the civil war is the cause of Yemen’s rising poverty rate, development efforts should be secondary to weakening the main impediment to poverty eradication in Yemen, the Saudi coalition.

Conclusion

Many know the civil war in Yemen as the forgotten war. Not enough attention has gone to the U.S.’ indirect involvement in it. Greater opposition toward U.S. complicity in the war and more media coverage would pressure the U.S. government to cut ties with Saudi Arabia, dramatically crippling its power in Yemen. To move forward with poverty eradication in Yemen, people must address Saudi involvement in Yemen and oppose foreign meddling.

– Blake Dysinger
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Foreign Aid
People have historically looked at U.S. foreign policy as a stool supported by three legs: Defense, Diplomacy and Development. The final leg, development, refers to foreign aid. U.S. foreign aid is a vital tool in the U.S.’s national security toolbox and yet its 2019 budget did not even account for 8% of the budget for the first leg, national defense.

The need for national security is obvious, but the apparent belief that defense spending is the unilateral key to achieving this goal is dangerously reductionist. The U.S. federal budget represents a heavy reliance on military strength and a contrasting disregard for the other two facets of security. Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, called for a “whole of government approach,” when asked in his Senate confirmation hearing about how the U.S. should approach its competitive coexistence with China.

Where Does the Money Go?

In 2019, over $46 billion went toward foreign assistance, representing a roughly $6 billion decrease from appropriated funds in 2015. Where those tax dollars go matters when understanding the investment they represent in American safety and prosperity. The vast majority of those funds went to the U.S. Department of State and USAID. These are the two principal government agencies with the charge of managing U.S. foreign aid. Within those two federal agencies, funds go into nine categories with Peace and Security, Health and Humanitarian Assistance making up the bulk of aid.

Looking more closely, the Health sector received $9.5 billion in appropriations in 2019. The majority of that figure went towards HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. This can have a substantial impact on reducing poverty as AIDS-related illnesses greatly reduce life expectancy in the countries that the epidemic most affected. Additionally, statistics have proven that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has slowed economic growth in Africa as it often prevents those affected from receiving an education or obtaining a job. Prevention and treatment of this epidemic is just one aspect of U.S. foreign aid.

Slow and Steady

Proving the results of U.S. foreign aid has long been a complicated task. The absence of conflict in a region is hard to credit with just one measure and not nearly as easy to point to as the existence of conflict elsewhere. Specific examples of changes in spending do however uncover gradual successes. Peace and Security funding goes towards military equipment, training and development. However, as the situation improves incrementally in certain countries, USAID and the Department of State are able to shift their efforts towards Democracy, Human Rights and Governance projects.

One example is Afghanistan, which received more U.S. aid in 2019 than any other nation. One should not ignore the fact that 17% of funds went to Peace and Security while 49% went to the aforementioned Democracy, Human Rights and Governance sector. This represents a marked shift as previous years focused the majority of aid on the military. Furthermore, it is representative of the slow yet undeniable progress that just about 1% of the federal budget has made.

When USAID first started working in Afghanistan in December 2002, the literacy rate was 50% for men and 20% for women. The budget that the Afghan government operated on came exclusively from donor support and accounted for just $600 million. The GDP per capita, a useful measure of average living standards in a country, was $250. By 2017, the GDP per capita had risen to $2,000. In 2018, the literacy rates had increased to 55.5% for men and 29.8% for women and the government’s budget had risen to $2.2 billion. These figures are not indications that the task is finished, but just some examples that U.S. foreign aid made the task possible.

Foreign Aid is Key to Grand Strategy

U.S. history has demonstrated the strategic gains of foreign aid countless times throughout U.S. history. Dating all the way back to the Marshall Plan in 1948, the U.S. provided more than $13 billion in aid to Europe so that the continent could rebuild after WWII. This allowed the U.S. to build stronger bilateral and multilateral ties with Europe, forming lasting alliances that reaped benefits in trade and a return to reduced conflict in the region.

During the 1960s, the U.S. improved upon this practice with the creation of USAID and the Peace Corps. From there, U.S. foreign aid expanded beyond to areas like education, agriculture and health. As a result, the U.S. could continue to project more than just military might. Key democratic values like education for girls and boys, free and fair elections, freedoms for the press and more could be developed around the globe. This all occurred in the context of a great power competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union with a clear understanding of the benefits of a three-legged approach in lieu of a military standing alone. As recently as 2017, a letter to Congress authored by roughly 120 retired U.S. admirals and generals called for a continuation of aid funding in the interest of, “preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way.”

An End to “Forever Wars”

As the world becomes ever-more intertwined, the U.S. must evolve its own foreign policy to meet new challenges. Relying solely on the military places an impossible task on its shoulders as it attempts to help rebuild nations, improve foreign governments and end global poverty. This work requires professional diplomats trained for these tasks and foreign aid that allows governments and NGOs to do it themselves. In the long term, more foreign aid could mean the sending of fewer troops to war.

– Scott Mistler-Ferguson
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid  in South Sudan
As the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan has amazing potential to be an emerging economy in East Africa. Unfortunately, conflict has plagued the newly formed country, as it emerged as a result of a war for independence, and continues to see regional conflicts as it remains politically unstable, resulting in weaker public institutions and infrastructure. Due to this instability, it has been difficult for a strong and developed economy to take hold. However, with South Sudan’s access to natural resources and untapped human capital, a strong economy is definitely possible if there is enough of an investment in humanitarian aid in South Sudan.

Many nations and organizations, such as the United States and UNESCO, have planned solutions and committed resources to help South Sudan remedy its largest issues. The most prominent issue facing South Sudan is the continued conflict the fledgling country faces. These issues cannot be fixed purely from foreign donations and humanitarian aid but there has been a concentrated effort to help relieve the worst impacts the continued fighting has caused.

Peacekeeping

In a U.S. backed mandate, the U.N. has committed to providing humanitarian aid in South Sudan by maintaining a peacekeeping force in the country till at least March 2021. These peacekeeping forces have the task of maintaining the stability of the new peace agreement as well as assisting the roughly 3.9 million displaced South Sudanese citizens. The U.N.’s forces will have the job of monitoring the new transitional government for abuses of international humanitarian law.

While a lack of political stability is the root cause of most of South Sudan’s economic struggles, a lack of dependable infrastructure also hampers the country’s ability to combat poverty. Humanitarian aid workers have found difficulty reaching rural populations in South Sudan during regular flood seasons. Roughly 70% of South Sudan’s population lives in rural areas and as many work in the agricultural sector, meaning that for a lengthy portion of the year, they are inaccessible to humanitarian workers in addition to not having access to urban centers.

Education

Another difficulty facing South Sudan is a lack of a comprehensive education system. In 2018, South Sudan had the lowest rate of adult literacy in the world at 27%. This is partly due to its reliance on agriculture and the sparse rural communities where many South Sudanese people live. As a response, UNESCO is promoting non-formal educational spaces to not only educate South Sudanese youth but also illiterate adults. Expectations have determined that over 2,000 learning spaces will emerge by the year 2023, which will serve 330,000 children who cannot attend a traditional school due to displacement from conflict.

As of 2018, 70% of South Sudan’s population was under the age of 29 years old which has the potential to lead to exponential growth in the country. The young nature of the country’s population means that they can receive training in specialized skills and can create a sudden surge of development in certain sectors of industry. Combined with developing a stronger educational network for young adults, South Sudan can see a major increase in educated and skilled workers.

The United States, recognizing the potential for South Sudan to become a strong economy in East Africa, has continued to provide humanitarian aid in South Sudan as it develops. The United States has dedicated $97 million from the State’s Department’s Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration as well as an additional $11 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance in an effort to aid those displaced due to the conflict in South Sudan.

Looking Forward

South Sudan has all the makings of a stable and prosperous economy, a substantial amount of natural resources, access to undeveloped land and a population that is young enough to receive thorough training and education. All the country needs to do is to create and maintain political peace within its borders and continually receive humanitarian aid from global leaders such as the United States.

Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

Influenza in sub-Saharan AfricaAfrica is known for being one of the world’s poorest continents. Poverty directly affects a person’s susceptibility to diseases like influenza. To combat this disease, the future of healthcare in Africa requires funding to improve accessibility in rural regions. Here’s what you need to know about influenza in sub-Saharan Africa.

Influenza in Sub-Saharan Africa

While sub-Saharan Africa only accounted for an estimated 7,000 influenza deaths in 2015, this remains the most common and deadly global disease. The mortality rate of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa affects children under the age of five and those over 75. Though the mortality rate seems low compared to the U.S., it does not take into account the presence of healthcare services in Africa versus the U.S. In contrast to Africa, the U.S. had 22,705 influenza deaths in 2015. While these statistics are higher, the U.S. also has more accessible healthcare.

Furthermore, studies have shown that influenza affects many more people than accounted for. Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows 40% of antibodies for flu (B) were found in community members 40 years of age and older. This reveals that the virus continued to circulate with no monitoring processes. Importantly, this lack of surveillance contributes to countries’ and NGO partners’ ability to prepare for the next outbreak.

Higher rates of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa are typically found in low to middle-income regions with little resources and access to sanitation and healthcare. In particular, influenza puts nearly “two-thirds of the 34 million” persons infected with HIV at a higher risk for infection and mortality. Existing diseases such as HIV thus put a significant amount of the African population at risk for influenza.

Healthcare in Africa

Africa continues to possess one of the world’s worst healthcare infrastructures, despite funding from the U.S. In 2006, the U.S. gave R100 billion to the South African National Health Insurance (NHI). However, the U.S. provided $28.8 billion to those uninsured in the U.S. during that year, nearly twice the amount granted for all international health.

Rural regions in sub-Saharan Africa account for 60% the population, while urban areas contain 40%. Rural regions lack accessible healthcare compared to urban regions. Due to industrialization, urban areas have greater access to healthcare facilities and university hospitals.

Across many parts of Africa, the ratio of doctors to patients “is below 1/1000 population, with the ‘ratio of physicians per 1000 population essentially unchanged between 2004 (0.77) and 2011 (0.76).” Demand for physicians within these regions is increasing. However, although Africa is producing more physicians, many migrate to the U.S. This leaves rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa with few qualified healthcare providers.

Solutions and Aid

Awareness and aid are crucial to improving infrastructure and healthcare in Africa, so that it can respond to influenza outbreaks. The W.H.O. has created the Africa Flu Alliance, finding factors leading to the underfunding of healthcare to assess its overall impact. Similarly, the Africa Flu Alliance created a “strategic road map” of targets to control influenza in sub-Saharan Africa. It hopes to influence organizations, private funding and projects to support the organization’s initiatives.

Private sectors and nonprofits contribute to approximately half of Africa’s total healthcare funding and expenditures. Twenty-two organizations and nonprofits are working to combat the gap between health services in rural and urban areas. In addition, The African Network for Influenza Surveillance and Epidemiology (ANISE) was created in 2009, with a growing network alongside the CDC. Continual meetings from 2009 to 2012 allowed officials and representatives to discuss achievements and areas of improvement.

Reducing Aid Dependency: Can It Work?

Despite the reliance on Western assistance for years, President Trump’s foreign aid budget cuts could be incredibly harmful or begin for Africa. Given the situation, governments within Africa will need to strive for improvements in monetary policies, transparency and reduced corruption. To improve self-sufficiency, experts recommend regional integration, or “the process by which two or more nation-states agree to co-operate and work closely together to achieve peace, stability and wealth.” Initiatives like Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) will enable 54 countries to trade freely. This will improve Africa’s economic stability by an estimated 50% increase in trade.

The battle of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa correlates directly with the absence of monitoring for significant health concerns. Expanding upon the existing healthcare infrastructure can not only contain and treat disease but also help grow Africa’s economy. Surveillance will be key in this process, as statistics tell actors what they need to improve. But with the support NGOs, funding can help control influenza in sub-Saharan Africa.

Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Improve U.S. Foreign AidThe U.S. is currently ranked seventh in the list of “best countries,” according to US News. Further, the nation is known worldwide for its dominant economy and strong military power. Given its global influence, the U.S. has the power to impact the lives of citizens in developing countries. Over the years, the U.S. has provided substantial aid to help reduce famine and poverty rates in some of the world’s poorest countries. To continue assisting vulnerable areas in the future, Congress holds the power to pass certain bills that improve U.S. foreign aid policies. Every year, lawmakers introduce several bills to improve U.S. involvement in developing countries. Here are 5 pending bills designed to improve U.S. foreign aid:

5 New Bills to Improve US Foreign Aid

  1. H.Res. 517. New York Representative, Eliot Engel, introduced this bill in July 2019. It aims to support the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria and its Sixth Replenishment. It urges donor countries to help decrease the damage caused by these diseases, as well as to contribute donations. The bill also encourages recipient countries to keep their promises of utilizing the support to demonstrate progress in ending the AIDS, TB and malaria epidemics.
  2. H.Con.Res. 78. California Representative, Barbra Lee, introduced this bill in December 2019. This measure strives to promote the ideas and goals of World AIDS Day. It also supports continued funding for PEPFAR and the Global Fund to fight illnesses such as AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Additionally, it provides HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment in low and middle-income countries. Finally, this proposal supports efforts that contribute to decreased HIV rates worldwide and acknowledges the root causes of this disease in developing countries.
  3. S.Res. 169. Junior Senator for Oregon, Jeff Merkley, introduced this bill in April 2019. This measure presents a resolution to the statement under section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Concerning violations of human rights by the Government of Saudi Arabia: it states that the U.S. government should call on Saudi Arabia to release all innocent human rights activists currently imprisoned. This includes journalists and religious minorities as well. Furthermore, the bill requests that the Saudi Arabian government reverse its human rights violations.
  4. FY21. Newly introduced in response to the global crises of 2020, this bill includes $65.87 billion in foreign aid funding an increase of nearly $8.5 billion from the fiscal year 2020 budget. The bill designates $10 billion for funding global COVID-19 responses and for the World Health Organization. Also, this bill allocates $25 million to global maternal and child health, as well as $750 million for global family planning. Moreover, several million dollars contribute to various Global Health and Disease Programs.
  5. H.Res. 527. California Representative, Alan Lowenthal, introduced this bill on July 25, 2019. The goal of this bill is to promote human rights worldwide. It recognizes the violation and erosion of human rights in several countries and urges all U.N. members to promote human rights. Also, H. Res. 527 encourages the U.S. to develop programs that promote the recognition of justice for all. For example, the creation of the national holiday “Human Rights Day.”

Making an Impact

With more power and financing than many other countries, the U.S. is in a unique position to influence the economies and governments of developing nations. Through passing these bills to improve U.S. foreign aid and support, the nation can leave a lasting, positive impact on people living in poverty around the world.

– Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr

American Expenditure on EntertainmentExpenditure by the average American consumer unit (henceforth household) each year is substantial compared to what the poor in the world spend. Of the 200 million or so rich people globally, Americans make up the majority; in this decade, as determined by those in the World Data Lab, “the world’s top market segment will be America’s rich” (italicization added). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey (BLS CEX), entertainment spending made up 5.3% of the total average annual expenditure of American households in 2018. American spending on entertainment is considerable.

Collectively: Average American Households

Looking at the CEX, in 2018, average annual expenditures rose to $61,224, compared to $60,060 the year before. More specifically, spending on entertainment (EE) increased to $3,226, from $3,203 in 2017. (Inflation was higher than expenditure numbers in 2018. Nevertheless, consider that thousands of dollars went toward entertainment.) There were 131,439,000 households in the U.S. in 2018. When one multiplies that number by EE, one gets $424,022,214,000; hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on entertainment.

That amount of money is more considerable than the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 for the entire country of the United Arab Emirates (where Dubai and the tallest building in the world are), which was over $421 billion.

So what does the category of entertainment expenditure include in the BLS CEX?

  1. Fees and admissions, including admissions to sporting events and movies; fees for social organizations; recreational lessons; and recreation expenses on trips.

  2. Television, radio and sound equipment, including video game hardware and musical instruments.

  3. Pets, toys, hobbies and playground equipment.

  4. Other entertainment equipment and services, including indoor exercise equipment, camping equipment, boats, photographic equipment and supplies and fireworks.

Just $2 billion of the $72.56 billion that Americans spent on pets in 2018 is what Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, was at a minimum seeking to raise as of 7 August. That amount could immunize both those with high susceptibility to the coronavirus and health care workers in Gavi-supported countries, with doses that would be available for use where needed most. Gavi is a public-private partnership that has helped to immunize hundreds of millions of children since 2000; partners include the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

America’s Rich

By the end of 2020, there will be an average of $194 to spend per day per wealthy American; this is put forth in a Brookings Institution blog. Possibly an appropriate juxtaposition, in 2018, households and non-profit institutions serving households (NPISHs) final consumption expenditure per capita was $189 in Burundi, a country where most of the population is poor and which has the second lowest GDP in the world.

Using data from the 2018 CEX, one may learn something else concerning American expenditure on entertainment. The top 10% of highest income (before taxes) households in the U.S. had an average of 3.2 persons and spent an average annual expenditure of $142,554. That amounted to around $122 spent per day per person: each person spent approximately $6.64 a day on entertainment. Notice that the $122 is less than the $194 of America’s wealth. 

If each of the 42,134,400 persons of the above top 10% were to have given around $1.20, less than a fifth of what they expended on average on entertainment per day, that would be enough (at least in hard numbers) to meet the net funding requirements from June to November of this year about the World Food Programme in Burundi.

The Bigger Picture

Entertainment may not in and of itself be bad or good. One way that American expenditure on entertainment affects Americans is the amount of time they spend on entertainment. For example, in 2019, the BLS reports that watching television on average took up the most leisure time. Although Americans possibly can inform themselves about the poor in the world via television, Americans could use some of the time spent watching television to ask their representatives to support legislation that could help reduce poverty.

Kylar Cade
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccine
The World Health Organization (WHO) is making plans for how a life-saving COVID-19 vaccine could be distributed around the globe.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

There are concerns about countries “hoarding” stores of vaccines for their own citizens. The countries that have the most money on hand will have the ability to buy a larger portion of available vaccines for citizens. While global leaders have come together to pledge $2 billion towards the creation of a vaccine, there is currently no formal worldwide plan to successfully manage the future COVID-19 vaccine and its distribution.

The public-private partnership that lead to this $2 billion pledge, Gavi, focuses on increasing childhood vaccinations in underdeveloped countries. It has support from WHO, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates himself has promised $1.6 million towards Gavi, along with $100 million to help countries that will need aid to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

U.S. Involvement and WHO

The U.S. government has decided to stay out of the recent Gavi-organized funding pledge. The country has also pulled monetary support from WHO. In the past, the U.S. has been a large supporter of the creation of the HPV and pneumococcal vaccines, which has left many experts confused by the recent moves of the U.S. to disassociate itself from the larger global race towards a COVID-19 vaccine.

Beyond hoarding concerns, there are always issues surrounding legal and sharing agreements between countries, quality control, civil uprising and unrest and natural disasters when it comes to vaccine distribution.

A recent example of how the world dealt with vaccine distribution during a pandemic is the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu pandemic. With the money they had, wealthier countries purchased most of the vaccine available through early orders, leaving developing countries to scramble for leftover vaccine stores. Eyjafjallajökul’s eruption in Iceland in April of 2010 also created vaccine shipping delays. Many countries, such as the U.S., Australia and Canada would not let vaccine manufacturers ship vaccines outside of their countries without fulfilling their people’s needs first.

Going Forward

To create a successful global vaccination program requires the cooperation from all countries involved, not just a few. Many may die without the equitable sharing of vaccines as this pandemic will flourish in underdeveloped nations. It may be seen by the rest of the global community as selfish to not try and help other countries in their fight against the virus.

Even after a vaccine is created, different strains of COVID-19 could easily return to Australian, Canadian or American shores, wreaking havoc all over again. While there are efforts being made to prevent distribution issues with the future vaccine, without the help of the United States,—one of the wealthiest countries on Earth—it may be long before a COVID-19 vaccine is fairly distributed.

Tara Suter
Photo: Flickr

2020 election and global povertyThe U.S. remains one of the largest political powers in the world. Countries around the globe pay close attention to the presidential election and are anxious to know who will lead the country for the next four years. From COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts to foreign policies, the future of the nation’s decisions rests heavily on the outcome of the 2020 election. Read on to learn about the connections between the 2020 election and global poverty.

The 2020 Election and Global Poverty: Two Candidates

President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are running as Republican candidates on a platform similar to their 2016 campaign. Running as Democratic candidates are former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). Both candidates have already proposed new policies as part of their campaign platforms. President Trump has proposed reducing foreign aid by 21%, while increasing border security and tax cuts if he remains in office. On the other hand, former Vice President Biden, if elected, would make foreign aid the focus of U.S. foreign policy.

As much as the candidates may vary in their views on foreign aid, however, these differences are not likely to influence the election much. Overall, voters do not consider global poverty to be a core issue. In the 2016 presidential election, global poverty played little to no role in voters’ decisions. Currently, the voters’ top five issues are the economy, healthcare, the Supreme Court appointments, the COVID-19 response and violent crime, none of which are directly related to global poverty. While foreign policy remains in the top 12 issues, it is not a major concern for current voters.

The Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak

The response to COVID-19 has significantly impacted the 2020 election and global poverty reduction efforts. As of October 2020, the U.S. faces five million confirmed cases, 176,000 deaths, a declining economy and restrictions that could affect voter turnout. COVID-19 has accordingly become a major concern for many voters. Indeed, 62% of voters believe the outbreak will play an important role in the candidate they choose.

Many voters are also concerned about the condition of the economy as a result of the pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) decreased by an annual rate of 32.9%. Congress has also spent trillions of dollars on unemployment benefits and support for small businesses. Many of the voters who believe that the U.S. government should focus on the national debt worry that this stimulus spending could hurt the economy in the long run.

The Influence on Global Poverty

In 2019, the International Affairs Budget received $52.2 billion for foreign aid. This amounted to almost 1% of the entire budget of the U.S. government. With proposed budget cuts and increased concerns over the economy and COVID-19, global poverty is in danger of remaining an issue considered unimportant to many voters and secondary to policy-makers. Despite this relative neglect, it is important that the government address global poverty. Congress must be reminded to protect the International Affairs Budget as a measure just as important as any other policy. Overall, the 2020 U.S. election will likely have a minimal effect on global poverty, given other global crises. As such, the citizens of the U.S. must communicate the importance of the 2020 election and global poverty support to their national leaders, whoever they end up being.

– Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

cost of fixing poverty
Global poverty appears to be a daunting problem. With numerous countries facing high rates of homelessness, economic instability and high child mortality rates, feasible solutions may seem out of reach. However, the cost of fixing poverty with solutions such as building water wells is not an astronomical figure. It actually costs about as much as one of America’s favorite pastimes: the NBA Disney season.

The Cost of a Season

The outbreak of COVID-19 forced the NBA season to go on hiatus. It only recently reopened — this time, in Walt Disney World. The NBA is paying Walt Disney World $1.5 million per day to host 22 professional basketball teams, totaling more than $150 million for the entire Disney season. The season includes eight missed, regular-season games and then playoffs. The overall cost covers essentials such as housing, courts, meals, COVID-19 testing, transportation, entertainment, medical support and security for the players and staff. When asked about the cost, Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner, stated that it certainly was not economical for the league but that they felt an obligation to have a season.

The Cost of Poverty

With a total value of about $8 billion per year, the NBA’s usual revenue is about 20% of President Trump’s 2021 request for the USAID budget — which is about $41 billion. This request makes it clear that solving global poverty is not quite as big a task as it might seem. For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent $150 million in grants to provide hepatitis B vaccines to 4 million children. For 600,000 of these children, this was their first time receiving a vaccination. However, the foundation’s grant is equivalent to the $150-million 2020 NBA season in Disney World.

The cost of the 2020 NBA season could also make a dramatic difference in the lives of people in countries such as Afghanistan,  many of whom do not have access to clean water. The average cost of installing a water well is $8,000, although it can range from $1,700 to $30,000 depending on the location and difficulty of construction. Taking the price of an average well, $150 million could provide about 19,000 wells — each of which could serve roughly 2,000 people.

Who Would Benefit and How?

Access to clean water saves millions of lives and produces a series of solutions to poverty. Increasing access to safe water can prevent child and adult deaths from diseases such as diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition. With 19,000 wells serving about 2,000 people each, approximately 38 million people would benefit from the same amount of money that the NBA used for the end of their 2020 season. The poorest city in the world, Kabul, Afghanistan, has a population of 4.38 million people. An investment in wells equivalent to the 2020 NBA season would not only grant access to clean, safe water for all of Kabul’s population but to all of Afghanistan’s population of 37.17 million people.

A Comparison for Thought: The Cost of Fixing Poverty

The NBA season holds a lot of value to people in the United States, and it is clearly not the NBA’s responsibility to provide money for foreign aid. What the 2020 NBA season proved, however, is that the cost of fixing poverty is comparable to the cost of leisure and athletic entertainment. Understanding that the same NBA budget of $150 million could serve 38 million people makes the cost of fixing poverty a bit more concrete. Hopefully, this enables policy-makers and policy influencers in the United States to prioritize foreign aid.

Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

us and vietnam relations
The U.S. and Vietnam relations have experienced many changes over time. In 1995, the two nations normalized the alliance and since then, the partnership has become stronger. In June of 2020, Florida representative Ted Yoho introduced a resolution to the House, H. Res. 1018, to recognize the 25 years of normalized relations between the nations. It reaffirms the relationship and expresses a desire for the U.S. to continue its successful partnership with Vietnam.

The U.S. and Vietnam have established strong economic relations during these 25 years as the U.S. has advocated for economic growth within the country. In 2000, for instance, the nations agreed on a bilateral trade agreement that benefits both nations. Also, in recent years, U.S. investment has spiked in Vietnam. Throughout the nations’ partnership, Vietnam has become a growing economic power with an unemployment rate of only 2.2% in 2017. Furthermore, just 8% of its population lives below the poverty line. As noted in the resolution, the U.S. encourages Vietnam’s continued growth in leadership, stability and prosperity.

House Resolution 1018

On June 24, 2020, Representative Yoho introduced H. Res. 1018 to the U.S. House of Representatives. Less than a month later, the resolution moved to the Foreign Affairs Committee before going to the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation.

A Congressional resolution is different from a Congressional bill as it holds no legal obligation. Rather, it is a reflection on the widespread attitude of one of the Congressional institutions. House Resolution 1018 marks 25 years of normalized U.S. and Vietnam relations, celebrates the success that occurred during those years and looks forward to future relations.

More specifically, through H. Res. 1018, the U.S. encourages Vietnam’s decision to take on more global leadership in the U.N. Security Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It also encourages and celebrates the stability of the nation, reaffirming the importance of U.S. and Vietnam relations. The stability of Vietnam is beneficial for the U.S. because it lowers concerns over national security and allows for a complete sense of closure around the Vietnam War as the U.S. accounts for its military.

US and Vietnam Relations Moving Forward

In the future, the nations look to continue their normalized relations because it is a mutually beneficial partnership. As noted in the resolution, the U.S. aims to spread its values to Vietnam, continuing its “strong support for human rights and democratic values.” As these are major values of the U.S. government, it is helpful for the nation to spread them to other countries. H. Res. 1018 puts a large emphasis on this area of U.S. and Vietnam relations — signaling that it will be a significant part of the nation’s relations moving forward.

According to the resolution, human rights and democratic values contribute to advances in poverty reduction. Moving forward, much of the focus on U.S. and Vietnam relations emphasizes economic conditions. For example, the U.S. previously gave humanitarian aid to Vietnam through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). With the hope for increasing economic prosperity in the resolution, the nations are looking towards further reducing poverty through future reduction efforts.

House Resolution 1018 aims to continue the peaceful U.S. and Vietnam relations through expanding upon many of the nation’s established successes. This resolution motivates the Vietnam government to continue working with the U.S. to ensure economic success and stability.

Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr