Topics covering about USAID

Support the Keeping Girls in School
Congresswoman Jeanne Shaheen first introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act. The bill claims to “support empowerment, economic security, and educational opportunities for adolescent girls around the world.” Specifically, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Foreign Relations will both work and engage in the implementation of providing opportunities for adolescent girls to obtain a secondary education. This is why support for the Keeping Girls in School Act is so crucial.

Assistance Needed

Congress will also need the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in managing and assisting international matters, such as providing global security for adolescent girls in vulnerable countries. Every five years, these federal committees will meet to monitor the progress of the bill and provide input on the upcoming protocols in improving the status of the situation.

As for quantitative costs, to support the Keeping Girls in School Act requires a large financial budget to be most effective in serving those countries at-risk. Cost estimates are about $340 billion, which is a substantial amount in providing lower-income countries access to secondary education, primarily for younger girls. However, with the economic benefits of this bill, it will prove to be a fulfilling investment.

The Problem At Hand

Every year, more than 130 million girls go unenrolled in school. The U.N. predicts that this rate will increase by up to 150 million girls by 2030. For example, in Yemen, 66% of women are illiterate. Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, only 1% of girls complete secondary school.

One factor is how many girls enter into child marriages and are not able to obtain an education. In fact, in Ethiopia, 40% of girls are likely to marry under the age of 18. Similarly, in Bangladesh, at least 42% of girls marry younger than age 18 and 22% marry younger than age 15.

Many other external factors contribute to this global crisis. For example, girls with disabilities are less likely to enroll in school and only 1% of girls from the disabled community are literate.

Infections have also proven to hinder access to secondary education for girls under the age of 18. Especially through child marriage, girls are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS. More than 380,000 girls, primarily from Africa, contract HIV or develop AIDS every year. In sub-Saharan Africa, at least 80% of HIV victims among adolescents are girls. A Harvard study noted that if an extra year of secondary education was available for adolescent girls, the risk of contracting HIV would decrease by 12%.

The Economic Benefits

Although it is a large investment, the benefits will far outweigh the costs. For example, if every girl attends school for 12 years, free of cost, estimates have determined that it will generate between $15 trillion to $30 trillion globally by 2030. Moreover, each year a girl attends school, the government saves approximately 5% of its educational budget. When girls have an educational background, they are more likely to obtain jobs and careers and thus, stimulate the economy.

What Now?

It is imperative to lobby support from local, congressional leaders to support the Keeping Girls in School Act, as it can help millions of girls obtain an education. Furthermore, the bill will substantially stimulate the economy in the future. A quick method to accumulate support is to email local representatives about endorsing the bill. With this template by The Borgen Project, emailing local congressional leaders will take less than one minute and benefit more than 130 million girls that do not have access to secondary education.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Maternal Health in Yemen
The Yemen civil war, which began in early 2015 and still devastates the nation today, has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. A total of 24 million people require assistance. This crisis affects all aspects of life in Yemen, including healthcare. Millions are without access to life-saving medical treatment and supplies, leading them to die of preventable diseases, such as cholera, diabetes and diphtheria. Pregnant women and infants are particularly vulnerable during this health crisis as adequate medical care throughout pregnancy and birth is essential. Maternal health in Yemen is of the utmost concern now.

Yemen has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world with 17% of the female deaths in the reproductive age caused by childbirth complications. Maternal health in Yemen has never been accessible to all women. This crisis has escalated even further during the Yemeni civil war. However, global organizations are acting to save the lives of these pregnant women and infants who desperately need medical care.

Yemen’s Maternal Health Crisis: Before the Civil War

Even before the war began in 2015, pregnant women were struggling to get the help they needed. Yemen is one of the most impoverished countries in the world — ranking at 177 on the Human Development Index (HDI). Poverty is a large factor in the insufficiency of maternal health in Yemen as impoverished women lack the finances, nutrition, healthcare access and education to deliver their babies safely.

Many Yemeni women are unaware of the importance of a trained midwife during childbirth. Of all the births in rural areas, 70% happen at home rather than at a healthcare facility. Home births increase the risk of death in childbirth as the resources necessary to deal with complications are not available.

The Yemeni Civil War Increased the Maternal Health Crisis

Since the civil war began, the maternal mortality rate in Yemen has spiked from five women a day in 2013 to 12 women a day in 2019. A variety of factors caused this spike. The war has further limited access to nearly every resource, including food and water. This, in turn, depletes the health of millions of women and thus their newborns.

Also, the civil war has dramatically decreased access to healthcare across the nation. An estimated 50% of the health facilities in the country are not functional as a result of the conflict. Those that are operational are understaffed, underfunded and unable to access the medical equipment desperately needed to help the people of Yemen. This especially affects pregnant women — who require medical care to give birth safely.

Organizational Aid

Though the situation in Yemen remains dire, various global organizations are acting to assist pregnant women and newborns. The United Nations Children’s’ Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is taking the initiative to help millions across Yemen, including pregnant women. The organization has sent health workers and midwives into the country’s rural areas to screen and treat pregnant women for complications.

Similarly, USAID trained more than 260 midwives and plans to send them into Yemeni communities to help pregnant women and infants. USAID is partnering with UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Yemen Ministry of Public Health and Population and other organizations to ensure that maternal health in Yemen, as well as all types of healthcare, are adequate and accessible for all affected by the civil war.

Maternal health in Yemen, while never having been accessible for many, is now in crisis as a result of the Yemeni civil war. While the situation is still urgent, organizations such as USAID and UNICEF are fighting to ensure that all pregnant women and infants in Yemen have access to the medical care they desperately need.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

The Rohingya Refugees: What to Know and International Response
According to the U.N., the country bordering Laos to the east and Bangladesh to the west is called Myanmar, but to the U.S. and U.K., it is Burma. Its name is just one source of the conflict that has plagued the country for years; another is regarding relations between the government and the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group living in the Rakhine region. After Myanmar’s independence in 1948, the Rohingya people in the Rakhine region became stateless and the Myanmar government refused to give them citizenship. The animosity between the Rohingya and Myanmar’s government continued to grow until the group experienced exclusion altogether from the national census in 2014. In 2017, the Rohingya faced a crisis that forced them to seek help from other nations and become refugees.

Background Information on Rohingya Refugees

In August 2017, the perpetuated institutional discrimination against the Rohingya hit its limits when the Burmese military launched a campaign of targeted violence. In the first month after violence broke out, at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed and 300 Rohingya villages were burned. As a result, an estimated 740,000 Rohingya were displaced out of Myanmar’s Rakhine region and into Bangladesh. Today, more than 900,000 Rohingya still live in Bangladesh.

Upon arriving in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees found shelter in refugee camps that are now some of the largest in the world. Due to the pace at which mass numbers of Rohingya became refugees. Camps did not have adequate resources including shelter, food, clean water and medical facilities. Many refugees have also become traumatized after witnessing the acts of violence in the Burmese military campaigns. The U.S. State Department now deems the actions as ethnic cleansing.

US Humanitarian Assistance

Since the outbreak of violence in 2017, the U.S. has contributed $669 million in humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya refugees. According to USAID, this funding goes toward addressing the needs of Rohingya refugees including emergency shelter, food, health services, psychological support, education, water and sanitation. Additionally, the U.S. funding aims to support programs that will improve disaster preparedness and education for Rohingya in Bangladesh.

With this assistance, the U.S. also aims to augment existing systems and programs that provide relief to refugees. For instance, the increased number of vouchers that are going to Rohingya refugees should allow them to buy food in local markets. Furthermore, the U.S.’s push for educational programs for refugees should yield more access to better economic opportunities in Bangladesh.

US Diplomatic Stance

The U.S. State Department has consistently and publicly condemned the actions of the Burmese military against the Rohingya. It also stated a commitment to justice and accountability on behalf of the Rohingya people. Furthermore, the State Department urges Myanmar to formally acknowledge the acts of injustice and violence. It calls on other nations to support this stance as well. In 2018, the U.S. imposed sanctions on four Myanmar military and police commanders and two army units for their human rights abuses against the Rohingya. The Myanmar government did not respond to this stance. As a result, the U.S. imposed more sanctions on a high-ranking general and three senior officers in 2019. The U.S. State Department is also working with international organizations to encourage Myanmar to adopt conditions that would eventually allow Rohingya refugees to return to their homes.

After the outbreak of violence in Myanmar, the U.N. Human Rights Council established the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in March 2017 to investigate and make conclusions concerning the extent of human rights abuses committed. Its findings conclude that Myanmar committed crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide against the Rohingya.

With Myanmar’s lack of indication that the country will acknowledge the violence the government committed against the Rohingya, almost 1 million Rohingya remain in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The international response has strongly condemned Myanmar’s government and offered humanitarian assistance. However, more permanent plans for the Rohingya refugees will likely need to occur soon. The U.S.’s push for more education in camps is one example of a positive step in the direction toward relief for the Rohingya. In addition, the U.S. along with other nations and international organizations should continue to develop these programs with further humanitarian assistance.

Isabel Serrano
Photo: Flickr

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

Efforts to Eradicate PovertyOn July 29, 2020, Ghana released its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report, which outlines the various conditions that contribute to poverty in the country. Instead of using a monetary metric, the report looks at education, health and living standards to interpret the rate of poverty and determine the efforts to eradicate poverty in Ghana.

Using data collected between 2011 and 2018, the report found the rate and severity of multidimensional poverty have reduced across Ghana, with significant improvements in electricity, cooking fuel and school attainment.

Overall, Ghana reduced its incidence of multidimensional poverty by nine percentage points from 55% in 2011 to 46% in 2017. This indicates that poverty itself has been reduced and the experience of the impoverished has improved.

Each dimension examined in the report is measured through specific indicators relevant to poverty in Ghana. The government then prioritizes the country’s needs by examining the various deprivations that the poor experience most.

The report concludes that the indicators that contribute most to multidimensional poverty are lack of health insurance coverage, undernutrition, school lag and households with members that lacked any education.

The report also reveals stark differences between poverty in rural and urban populations, with 64.6% of the rural population and 27% of the urban population being multidimensionally poor.

Based on the results of the report, it is paramount that resources must be allocated to the health and education sectors to improve the quality of life for the most at-risk members of Ghana, particularly in rural areas.

Efforts to Eradicate Poverty: Healthcare

The USAID is addressing the need for comprehensive healthcare reform through a multi-pronged approach to improve care for children and women in rural Ghana.

Since 2003, the Ghanaian government has developed and expanded the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which provides residents with public health insurance. The program has provided many improvements to the healthcare system, but systemic barriers continue to limit the quality and accessibility of care.

In particular, a 2016 study published in the Ghana Medical Journal found that rural hospitals’ lack of personnel, equipment and protocol put women and children at the highest risk. This is attributed to poor nutrition, inability to seek neonatal care and lack of health insurance.

To address barriers to healthcare, the USAID first compiled a network of preferred primary care providers to allow healthcare workers to communicate, educate and synchronize their standards of quality care.

“The networks help connect rural primary health facilities with district hospitals, enabling mentoring between community health workers and more experienced providers at hospitals,” the USAID stated.

The second prong was providing training to government staff and frontline healthcare workers to better understand health data and its uses for maternal and child health decision-making. By using the network of providers and standardizing data, doctors are better equipped to determine whether patients need a referral to a specialized caregiver.

The USAID reports that these improvements have resulted in a 33% reduction in institutional maternal mortality, a 41% increase in the utilization of family planning services and a 28% reduction in stillbirths.

As the healthcare sector has grown stronger and poverty has decreased, the USAID and other outside support have scaled back aid to allow the network of health providers to operate autonomously.

This is a positive indication that the country is moving in the right direction to end poverty and improve the quality of life in the coming years, but it is also a critical moment in its development. The Duke Global Health Institute warns that the country must secure a robust medical infrastructure for the transition to independence to be a success.

According to the Duke Global Health Institute, if global aid is removed too early, the poor will suffer the most. Therefore, they state that it is essential that the government has a firm grasp on funding and organizing principals before they move away from outside aid.

Efforts to Eradicate Poverty: Education

The level of deprivation of education is also heavily dependent on rural or urban residence. The educational dimension is measured by school attendance, school attainment and school lag. In rural areas, 21.1%, 33.9% and 34.4% of the population is deprived of each respective indicator. In contrast, the deprivation is only 7.2%, 10% and 12.8%.

To combat education deprivation, the current government has vowed to make secondary education free in an attempt to retain students who cannot afford to continue their education past primary schooling.

Before secondary school was made free in 2017, 67% of children who attended elementary went on to secondary school. In 2018, the ministry of education reported that attendance had increased to 83%.

To promote education in rural areas, this past March the ministry of education presented over 500 vehicles, including 100 buses, to secondary schools throughout the country.

Efforts to Eradicate Poverty: Living Standards

Deprivation of proper sanitation ranked highest out of all indicators for living standards, health and education. The report stated that sanitation deprivation affected 62.8% of the rural population and 25.8% of the urban population.

Although more than 75% of the country lacks access to basic sanitation, little improvement has been made. Between 2000 and 2015, access only increased from 11% to 15%.

To encourage private investments in the sanitation sector, the ministry of sanitation and water resources hosted a contest between public and private entities to design liquid waste management strategies for different localities throughout the country.

In 2019, nine public and six private partners were announced as winners of a total prize of £1,285,000 and US$ 225,000 respectively – for excellence in the implementation of urban liquid waste management strategies.

Winning strategies included an aquaponic system that sustained vegetable growth with treated water and the rehabilitation of a treatment center to raise fish.

Overall, the competition provided education about sanitation to rural communities, increased access to private toilets and spurred economic interest in developing the sanitation system in Ghana.

Sophie Kidd
Photo: Flickr

Rich results on Flikr when searching for USAID in Indonesia "spice market"USAID partners with farmers in developing countries to provide economic opportunities and greater access to the global market. Not only does this partnership program improve the lives of the individual farmers, but it is also strengthing the overall economies of these countries. This story of an Indonesian farmer shows how beneficial these partnerships are for both them and the U.S. USAID in Indonesia is helping small farmers.

Agustinus Daka, Indonesian Small Farmer of Vanilla

Agustinus Daka is a hardworking vanilla farmer from a village in the Papua province, the most impoverished region in Indonesia. He exemplifies his dedication to farming the labor-intensive vanilla crop by pollinating each vanilla orchid by hand since the crop has no natural pollinator in Indonesia. Daka is a great example of how USAID In Indonesia helps small farmers. Due to his partnership with USAID, Daka doubled his income over two short years.

This increase in revenue has allowed Daka to afford a better life for his family including access to better living conditions, education and healthcare. However, Daka does not want to stop at improving only the lives of his family. In a province where most farmers are only capable of subsistence farming– growing only enough to provide for their families – Daka’s dream for his village is to “move beyond subsistence.” He has steadily begun to introduce more of his fellow farmers to the partnership program.

Improving Poverty Statistic in Indonesia

Despite successful democratic and economic improvements, approximately 25.1 million people in Indonesia are living in poverty and around 20.6% of the population is at constant risk of falling below the poverty line. Although these numbers may look grim, they are remarkable results of successful poverty reduction across the nation. Over the past two decades, Indonesia has cut its poverty rate by more than half, gradually improving from 23.4% in 1999 to only 9.4% in 2019. In the past five years, Indonesia has seen its economic growth improve at a rate exceeding 5% each year, demonstrating the success of USAID in Indonesia.

Economic Opportunity in Both Indonesia and the U.S.

USAID and the National Cooperative Businesses Association (NCBA) established Cooperative Business International (CBI) Global in 1984.  The company based in Ohio links spice farmers all over the world to over 160 partner companies in 40 countries. PT AgriSpice Indonesia is the branch of CBI Global that works with USAID to help more than 15,000 Indonesian farmers facilitate trade with companies across the globe. The company exports about $150 million in spices annually.

More importantly, PT AgriSpice works with farmers to teach valuable techniques for cultivating larger, more sustainable farms. The connection to the global market allows farmers to secure greater profits and provides approximately 400 to 700 new factory jobs with about 90% of them going to women. New job opportunities reduce poverty rates and the economy of Indonesia, making it more attractive to U.S. businesses.

These potential partnerships with U.S. companies are also mutually beneficial. The equipment used in these new factories is imported from the U.S. With more factories and products, more trade occurs between Indonesia and the U.S., requiring more jobs to be created in both countries, and simultaneously stimulating their economies.

Agustinus Daka’s vanilla is now in grocery stores across the U.S. McCormick, the U.S. top spice seller and long time partner of USAID in Indonesia, uses vanilla sourced from Indonesia in its products. It’s a long time, mutually beneficial partnership.

The Measure of Support from USAID in Indonesia

Through the support of USAID programs and partner companies, Indonesia has now grown to be the second-largest producer of vanilla in the world, the world’s number one exporter of nutmeg and the number one exporter of cloves to the U.S. USAID’s intends to continue fostering a healthy business environment for Indonesian producers to access the global market and conduct mutually beneficial trade with the U.S. This USAID-led program in Indonesia is a part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s initiative to fight global hunger and promote food security in partner countries across the world.

– Hanna Rowell
Photo: Flickr

International COVID-19 Relief
While COVID-19 relief policies have provided much needed economic support to the American people, Congress has passed several international COVID-19 relief measures as well. These relief packages have provided various resources, from supplying healthcare commodities to funding research vaccine development. These packages assist foreign nations in preparing for and responding to the novel coronavirus 2019.

International COVID-19 Relief Efforts

As the virus has developed, Congress has approved several measures to respond to the outbreak and assist the international community. In early March 2020, the first of these measures allocated $1.25 billion in supplemental funding to the International Affairs Budget. Later in the month, Congress allocated $220 million more in international resources, followed by a third supplemental of $1.12 billion. Finally, in early July 2020, Congress allocated nearly $10 billion in emergency funding for COVID-19 relief.

In total, Congress has allocated nearly $12 billion to respond to the needs of the international community and fight against the reversal of decades of poverty reduction work. The funds have had a broad effect, reaching nearly all regions of the global community.

Africa

The United States’ response to COVID-19 in Africa has been extensive. However, the country’s partnership with UNICEF in Senegal highlights just how much of a difference international funding makes. Through financial support, USAID has partnered with UNICEF in training over 500 community health workers, constructing just under 500 hand-washing stands and distributing over 2000 hand-washing kits. In total, the funding has supported the disinfectant measures of over 400 schools, 1,800 houses and 1,400 health structures.

Asia

Perhaps no Asian nation has benefited more from international COVID-19 relief than Nepal. As part of USAID’s Sahara project, the organization has “assisted nearly 400 municipalities in locating areas at heightened risk of COVID-19 transmission, screening migrant returnees for COVID-19 symptoms, and coordinating relief efforts related to the disease outbreak.” The program has assisted nearly 7,500 households in finding medical assistance. It has also supplied over 1 million families with counseling on sanitation practices over the phone and reached nearly 3.6 million people via social media.

Europe and Eurasia

One of the most severely affected European nations, Italy is an excellent display of the effectiveness of international COVID-19 relief. According to USAID’s website, the “U.S. support includes $50 million in health, humanitarian, and economic assistance implemented by USAID to bolster Italy’s response to COVID-19.” To be most effective, USAID has both paired up with non-governmental organizations to supplement its efforts and the Italian government in order to provide health commodities.

Latin America and the Caribbean

USAID has been extremely active in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly in Haiti. Through financial support, the organization has been able to provide Haiti with health commodities. USAID has also trained nurses to assist in testing, which is critical for an efficient response to the virus. According to its website, USAID has “assisted with the sampling and testing of more than 2,600 people since the beginning of May.”

The Middle East and North Africa

The nation of Tunisia provides one of the most compelling examples of the effectiveness of international aid in the Middle East and North Africa. Along with UNICEF, USAID helped provide sanitation kits to schools, daycares and health care facilities. Their efforts reached nearly 100 facilities. The organization also granted $6 million to support frontline workers and aid in a national campaign to spread awareness and prevent a second wave.

As COVD-19 has unfolded, the United States has made several contributions to aid the global community. These examples highlight a few of the many ways that the international response has made a difference in nations worldwide.

– Michael Messina
Photo: Pexels

End Tuberculosis Now Act
Kosovo is a country in southeastern Europe that declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. It is Europe’s youngest nation, but also one of its smallest and poorest. Kosovo ranks 137th in the world for GDP per capita and the country’s overall budget is just above $2 billion. Despite the fact that Tuberculosis (TB) is a completely preventable, treatable and curable airborne infection, the virus continues to spread throughout developing nations—including Kosovo—killing more people per year than any other infectious disease. The End Tuberculosis Now Act seeks to address this silent pandemic by refocusing U.S. efforts towards effective TB prevention and treatment in Kosovo and other developing countries. Neither the House nor Senate has held a vote on the End Tuberculosis Now Act since its introduction in August 2019. Kosovo demonstrates the importance of this act and why Congress needs to address it.

Kosovo’s Tuberculosis Rates

Among its neighbors in southeastern Europe, Kosovo has one of the highest TB infection rates, trailing only Moldova and Romania. From 1999 to 2006, total TB cases in Kosovo were declining. This progress has since stopped, with infection rates plateauing at the rate they were in 2006. A limited budget has severely hampered Kosovo’s efforts to combat and eradicate TB.

Kosovo’s insufficient health system is one reason behind the country’s spread of TB. A majority of Kosovo’s residents are dissatisfied with their health service. In addition, the nation’s top health authority is not responsible for contact tracing, testing, treatment or any other method that people use to combat TB. Instead, non-governmental organizations have received this responsibility, resulting in a lack of central planning. The End Tuberculosis Now Act would refocus USAID efforts on TB prevention and treatment in developing nations like Kosovo, providing a unified example of how to properly stop the spread and financially support affected individuals.

Kosovo and COVID-19

For some of the same reasons it struggles with TB, Kosovo is also struggling to stop the spread of COVID-19. Compared to its neighbors, the country’s pandemic response is falling short. Kosovo is much smaller than Albania, Montenegro and Greece, but has many more COVID-19 cases and deaths than these nations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the aforementioned weaknesses in Kosovo’s healthcare system. For example, temporary medical facilities built to increase the nation’s hospital capacity have not been properly set up to prevent COVID-19 transmission between healthcare workers and infected patients.

No matter how valiant Kosovo’s efforts to combat COVID-19 are, the country is ultimately limited by its $2 billion yearly budget. The same is true when it comes to their fight against TB. Kosovo simply lacks the capital to properly test, treat and prevent the spread of both COVID-19 and TB. The End Tuberculosis Now Act will give developing nations like Kosovo a better chance of defeating TB while teaching them how to tackle similar pandemics.

Putting the Tuberculosis Fight on Hold

As the COVID-19 pandemic takes center stage, the fight against TB has been put on hold across the world. Despite this, TB has continued its spread. Approximately 80% of worldwide programs to combat the disease have experienced disruptions in their supply chains since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manufacturers of TB tests have pivoted to developing COVID-19 tests, reducing the overall availability of TB testing. This means massive drops in diagnosing TB. In one year, an infected individual can spread the virus to 15 people, making the diagnostic process extremely important. As testing capacities decrease, TB will continue its spread unabated in developing nations. Kosovo was already struggling to contain TB before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it could now get much worse. The End Tuberculosis Now Act is a critical component in increasing testing capacities in Kosovo to combat the spread of TB.

More Important Than Ever

TB is a preventable and treatable disease, yet it continues to kill more people worldwide than any other infectious disease. The End Tuberculosis Now Act would increase investments in TB prevention and treatment measures while saving countless lives in developing nations like Kosovo.

Furthermore, the bill would ensure that nations and non-governmental organizations receiving aid from USAID would stand by their commitments to eradicate TB. This refocusing of aid would provide the World Health Organization and the Stop TB Partnership with more resources to fulfill their missions.

Moving Forward

Kosovo’s continued fight against TB demonstrates the importance of the End Tuberculosis Now Act. The bill, introduced in August 2019, would save lives in developing nations and help combat a completely preventable and treatable disease. Congress must pass this bill to increase the quality of life for the world’s poor and help eradicate TB in developing nations.

Marcus Lawniczak
Photo: Flickr

Bangladesh eradicates poverty through flooding
Bangladesh, along with many other South Asian countries, is prone to flooding and increasing rainfall. For years, Bangladesh has suffered from one of the harshest torrential rains in the world. However, this year the country has experienced the worst of its effects. These torrential rainfalls lead to flooding in Bangladesh and this, in turn, has an adverse effect on poverty levels.

Monsoon Season in Bangladesh

In many cases, monsoon season in Bangladesh typically starts in June and can last for months, as situations worsen. According to satellite data, at least 24% of the land in Bangladesh lies submerged underwater, due to the rapid inundations. This environmental crisis affects at least 4.7 million people and most of them lose their houses and utilities. Specifically, people living along the Brahmaputra river are deprived of basic human necessities, such as food and shelter. This is because of the increased flooding this year, alone. For example, Tajul Isam, a local sharecropper, had to find creative ways to protect himself from the overflows of the Brahmaputra River, such as building bamboo sheds.

Assessing the Damage

Many officials claim the source of the floods is a result of the rampant rainfalls this past year. Through the analysis from a combination of satellites, many scientists also predict that Bangladesh will experience its longest flooding season since 1988. Again, this due to the recent, recurrent rainfalls. More than 1,200 kilometers of farmland is damaged, along with approximately 1.5 million houses affected. At least 100 people have died, either from waterborne diseases or drowning from the overflow of rivers, such as the Himalayas river and the Brahmaputra river. Fifteen districts are predicted to be affected by the rising water levels from other rivers — specifically the Padma, Ganges and Jamuna rivers.

Response to One of the Worst Monsoon Seasons in Bangladesh

Bangladesh and many others are initiating protocols in providing disaster relief funds and resources for the areas most affected by the monsoon season. The Humanitarian Coordination Task Team (HCCT) strategized plans to rehabilitate some of these damaged lands and provide people with resources. For example, they are currently transporting 14,000 tons of rice to over 33 districts. Additionally, they are giving over $870,000 for expenditures such as food, farming equipment and housing grants. Along with the expenditures — 50,000 farmers will receive $450,000 for tools such as fertilizers and seeds to compensate for their damaged farmland.

On top of the HCTT Response Plan, many other organizations are also taking charge to help victims of the flooding in Bangladesh. For example, the Need Assessment Working Group (NAWP) and the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) have provided at least 1,086 flood shelters to families. Specifically, these shelters went to those who lost their homes in the district of Jamalpur. Overall, however, the Start Fund Bangladesh — with the help of USAID and U.K. support — raised over $1 million to provide disaster relief in districts such as Kurigram, Gaibandha and Siraganji.

Although the government has issued many responses, smaller projects have also pursued action towards the recovery of damaged areas in Bangladesh. In particular, Friendship Organization has provided services and resources in impoverished areas— one of which is Bangladesh. As of now, they have had over 400 volunteers and 200 staff members assist in the emergency response for the monsoon season in Bangladesh. Additionally, flood shelters were provided for over 8,800 people through Friendship’s built schools and villages.

A Bright Outlook

Bangladesh has suffered through much environmental damage due to its drastic weather conditions. Nonetheless, many actors are pressing forward to ensure the safety of vulnerable communities. With the help of the Bangladeshi government and many NGO projects, Bangladesh will more than likely recover and replenish the resources that it desperately needs.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

International Law and Global Poverty
To understand the relationship between international law and global poverty, it is important to first acknowledge which laws are relevant. Among others, these include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides the right to life; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which provides the right to social protection, an adequate standard of living and access to food, health and education; and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to an education.

Philip Alston, the former Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, states that poverty is a political choice that countries make. There is a clear relationship between poverty and failure to fulfill basic human rights. Some indicators of poverty that are relevant to international rights laws and standards include primary school enrollment, nutritional indicators, life expectancy and disease.

Is a Rights-Based Approach Better?

The World Bank indexes poverty rates across countries using the International Poverty Line (IPL). A wide range of institutions use the IPL — including the U.N. — and is based on an absolute line that is well below the national poverty line of some countries. According to Alston, this leads to less than optimal progress and a false perspective of the state of global poverty.

Low-income individuals can rise above the IPL that the World Bank established yet continue to face barriers in accessing basic human rights, which suggests a need for an alternative approach to addressing poverty. David Woodward, a British economist, developed one such alternative, which he claims resolves the problems inherent to the World Bank’s measurement and the wider way in which poverty is addressed. His alternative, termed the Rights-Based Poverty Line (RBPL), recognizes the relationship between income, poverty, and economic and social rights, which are enshrined in international law.

A rights-based approach to poverty eradication garners support across a wide range of international organizations. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights directly references poverty as the gravest impediment to the fulfillment of human rights globally. The Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Development Programme establishes that a rights-based approach can result in a higher degree of effectiveness due to the legal obligations for states to ensure those rights. The United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural organization maintains that poverty eradication will only occur when poverty receives acknowledgment as a violation of human rights.

Leveraging International Law to Eradicate Poverty

COVID-19 represents a serious challenge to the eradication of global poverty; however, it may also provide an opportunity for utilizing a rights-based approach. Estimates determine that the global population of people who will fall into poverty will increase by 8% as a result of the economic shocks that the pandemic brought on. Other figures estimate an additional 70 million people could fall into extreme poverty due to the impact of COVID-19.

COVID-19 has lifted the veil shrouding the vast social inequalities present in the world. The poorest margins of society that the pandemic most heavily impacted, in terms of both vulnerabilities to the virus and economic consequences. This is the result of socioeconomic inequalities and discrimination faced by those living in poverty. One example is a lack of adequate housing, which leads to a higher risk of contracting the virus because of either cramped living spaces or a lack of adequate water and sanitation.

Given the links between international law and poverty, a rights-based approach may be a suitable option for the global COVID-19 response. Most countries’ current COVID-19 responses fail to adequately protect the rights of those living in poverty. Discriminatory social protection policies are widespread, in direct violation of international rights standards. For instance, food assistance in Uganda is only reaching an estimated 17% of the population living in poverty, thanks to exclusionary policies mandating that assistance goes to specified urban areas. Meanwhile, a recently proposed emergency stimulus bill completely circumvents the 80% of Nigerian workers who are employed in the informal sector, providing support only for those in the formal sector.

The Human Rights Watch provides recommendations for overcoming these shortcomings through the implementation of a rights-based approach. At the government level, there is a need to ensure social protection, access to adequate living and health, among other rights. In terms of international assistance, there is a need to uphold human rights standards through the allocation of funds in favor of socioeconomic programs, minimum basic incomes, adequate housing protections and fiscal policies relating to poverty and inequality.

In Conclusion

Current U.S. policy regarding foreign assistance relating to the COVID-19 response does not detail a rights-based approach. However, USAID’s Feed the Future has adapted its programs to the pandemic, supporting the right to food and alleviating hunger. A number of international organizations and experts suggest that a rights-based approach will be the most effective means of integrating international law and global poverty to protect lives around the world, especially in the face of COVID-19.

Leah Bordlee
Photo: Pixabay