Health Crisis in the Congo
The spread of a deadly disease is threatening The Democratic Republic of the Congo. This disease has led to a rise in unemployment, an uptake in crime, a decrease in the economic growth rate, as well as the illness and death of many Congolese people. Presently, the Congo is dealing with the aftermath of one of the most deadly outbreaks of Ebola yet, creating a certified health crisis in the Congo. Within the previous two years, records have determined that there have been over 3,000 Ebola cases and 2,000 resulting deaths. Additionally, the country’s deficit rating has been on a decline of over 2% in that time period.

Financial Troubles in the DRC

The Democratic Republic of the Congo also suffers from serious financial hardships. Over the years, things have improved somewhat for the region. The poverty rate has decreased slightly within the previous two decades. In addition, the overall economic growth rate had risen to 5.8% as of 2018. Despite these incremental increases, the Democratic Republic of the Congo ranks as one of the most impoverished countries, with its average citizens having to scrape by on as little as $1.90 per day.

Unfortunately, the positive economic factors occurred before the presence of this health crisis in the Congo. This caused the growth rate to drop back to 4.4% by 2019. The influx of disease within the region also stressed the economy, dropping it to the aforementioned deficit of 2%.

Violence in the DRC

Furthermore, the violence within the region has amplified the health crisis in the Congo. The Congo has a long history of violence with genocides occurring in both the 1800s and 1900s. Additionally, recent reports from the UN indicate that terrorist groups such as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and an estimation of 100 other armed groups are in the region.

This not only makes it difficult for the delivery of medical supplies to combat this crisis, but it also dissuades the assistance of foreign aid, with many countries believing that their assistance will only entangle them in conflict. The presence of these groups has continued to expand in the area, and other terrorist affiliates, including ISIS, are taking notice. In 2019, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi speculated that ISIS may grab a significant foothold to invade the Nord Kivu within the Congo.

The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA)

The health crisis in the Congo forces responders to take action towards large-scale health care efforts. Not only has the Ministry of Health shown great awareness and urgency in addressing the needs of this crisis, but other non-governmental organizations have been making great strides to help as well.

The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, has created a treatment center in Beni to care for those speculated and confirmed to have Ebola. Preventative measures have received assistance through the provision of CUBE units and PPE by these organizations respectively. Additionally, WHO has provided over 1,600 individual responders to help combat the crisis.

Challenges

The battle against the health crisis in the Congo still holds many challenges. This is the latest outbreak of the disease in the Congo overall, with the first signs of it occurring as early as the 1970s. It was only during the last outbreak that the country utilized the Erevbo vaccine in the disease’s prevention. Over 300,000 people received the vaccine with a 100% efficacy rate, which represents a huge milestone along with other treatment and preventative measures.

Looking Forward

In November 2020, The Ministry of Health declared this crisis over. The DRC itself expects to increase its economic growth rate by 4.5%, thereby nullifying the 2.2% drop that it has seen. Yet, this supposed end is not as substantial as it may seem.

The disease still exists within animal DNA spread across the region, and infectious strains are able to remain in recovering victims for months following infection. The Ministry’s own announcement of the 10th outbreak’s end was quickly rescheduled in June 2020, due to the reemergence of this latest Ebola outbreak.

When asked about the possibility of a resurgence, WHO responded that “a robust and coordinated surveillance system must be maintained to rapidly, detect, isolate, test and provide care for suspected cases.” More alarmingly, the organization expressed that without this effort, the spread of Ebola could have easily eclipsed the borders of the DRC and become a global pandemic.

How quickly a resurgence could occur is unknown. However, it is clear that without a continued and international effort geared toward Ebola’s prevention that the possibility of a health crisis in the Congo could become an all too tragic and preventable reality.

– Jacob Hurwitz
Photo: Flickr

Stopping Gang Violence Success Stories from Within HondurasHonduras is trapped in a cycle of violence and poverty that creates the perfect environment for gangs to thrive. Reports state that gangs and drug traffickers pay off members of the criminal justice system to get away with their crimes. However, despite these injustices, violent crime rates have dropped by half over the last decade as community outreach programs join humanitarian organizations’ efforts in stopping gang violence.

Poverty in Honduras

In 2018, Honduras had a poverty rate of 48.3%. Inequality in the country has led to an extremely small middle class and a large income gap. Gangs feed off of poverty and a lack of government services. Moreover, gangs become the only way young people could get an income and find a semblance of a supportive community.

Honduras has a Corruption Perception Index score of 26 out of 100, which is directly reflected in the fear citizens have of reporting crimes. Gang members can be killed for attempting to leave a gang and many businesses are forced to pay “war taxes” for protection. Luckily, nonprofits and community outreach programs have arisen to intervene in this cycle of violence. Here are a few anti-violence success stories from within Honduras.

The Association For a More Just Society

The Association For a More Just Society (AJS) is a nonprofit that works to create strong community bonds to dissuade violence in Honduras. In terms of working against corruption, AJS investigates and publishes reports about the health care and education sectors. Additionally, they hold youth services in small Honduran communities.

AJS has had remarkable success in terms of reporting cases of corruption by the government and wealthy elites in Honduras. In the public health sector, AJS found that the government purposely overpaid connected businesses for medical supplies and ignored cases of theft. Its reports led to the arrest of 13 officials and increased access to life-saving medication in public hospitals.

The organization also reported corruption in education as teachers who were not showing up to work were being paid and the average student only had 125 school days available to them. The Honduran government had the highest spending budget on education in the region, yet its test scores were still very low. AJS has reduced the percentage of non-working paid teachers from 26% to 1%. Additionally, many schools now hold an average of 200 days of school.

Skate Brothers

Skate Brothers is a community outreach program that was started by the Honduras local, Jessel Edgardo Recinos. He was shot at the age of 16 after being accused of stealing a cell phone from a prominent gang member. This near-death experience inspired Recinos to create a community youth program that taught kids about skateboarding instead of violence.

The group provides a place for Honduran youth to gather after school with friends while learning fun skills like skateboarding, BMX bike riding and rollerskating. Additionally, Slate Brothers provide counseling services to prevent youth from joining gangs. The group performs in parades and street fairs as well as volunteers for the community.

Recinos has convinced members of his youth group to leave gangs and join his community outreach group instead. His goal is to create a supportive community that serves as an alternative to gangs and does not mandate illegal activity. Skate Brothers is one of 64 outreach programs created by USAID’s Honduran Youth Alliance, which now serves 34,000 youth around the country.

Looking Ahead

While gangs in Honduras is still a major issue, nonprofits and community support programs like AJS and Skate Brothers have been instrumental in stopping gang violence. The cycle of violence, poverty and corruption is beginning to break because of the dedication of AJS and the Honduran Youth Alliance. Reciono’s creation of Skate Brothers shows how people in impoverished communities can inspire their peers to join them in stopping gang violence.

– Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

CBT Eliminating Violence
Although humans’ basic needs must be met to set the foundation for healthy behavior and break the cycle of poverty, some have already been affected by various mental conditions. Due to the side effects and social stigmatization associated with many of these mental health issues, individuals can feel forced to engage in crime or violence to make ends meet. In the African country of Liberia, this is an issue facing thousands and it prompts many questions. How do these individuals gain access to care? What effect do these conditions have on future generations? How do we break the cycles of crime and violence already apparent in Liberia? To approach answers to these questions, it is essential to understand therapeutic options. Particularly, people can learn many lessons by observing CBT eliminating violence in Liberia.

What is CBT?

According to the American Psychological Association, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that aims to change behavioral and thinking patterns. CBT centers on the understanding that complications in psychological makeup can be a result of learned behavior — hindering the thought processes.

Recipients of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work on improving self-confidence, adopt effective coping mechanisms and alter the thinking patterns that contributed to negative behavior. Clients also learn to modify their habits such as confronting, rather than avoiding difficult situations. Additionally, patients practice self-control and prepare for real-life scenarios they may find challenging.

One distinguishing factor of CBT is its focus on the current and future aspects of the patients’ life. While medical professionals take into account a person’s past, the main goal of this therapy is to create effective techniques to deal with the patients’ present issues.

Current Prevalence of Crime In Liberia

The Overseas Security Advisory Council’s (OSAC) 2020 Liberia Crime and Safety Report states that the country has seen increases in violent robberies and home invasions. The council also reports that “sexual assault and rape are the most commonly reported violent crimes.” In addition to this rise in crime, Liberia experiences greater social upheaval (than previously) due to escalating difficulties in the economy, healthcare and employment.

As urban poverty surges among Liberian cities, homelessness, pollution and deteriorating infrastructure have become increasingly concerning issues. Impoverished citizens face coinciding problems concerning lack of opportunity and inequality. Discrimination, poor education and epidemics such as Ebola all impact the poor most severely. Moreover, these unstable environments catalyze crime and violence rates in Liberia especially in young men.

CBT & Cash Impact Violence in Libera

One study in the nation’s capital of Monrovia revealed the benefits of CBT on eliminating violence in Liberia. More than 1,000 men participated in this experiment, all of whom researchers considered at-risk for crime and violence. Researchers placed the men in one of four groups. I.e., one that received only therapy, one that received only cash, one that received both, and one that received nothing. Notably, the cash incentive provided to designated participants was enough to start a small business.

Therapy alone improved behaviors significantly, decreasing many of the men’s objectionable behaviors. However, the most lasting effects were seen in the men receiving both therapy and cash. The men were able to practice what they learned in therapy while taking advantage of the opportunity to feel like a “normal” member of society. These men received means, motives and opportunities. However, this time, it was all in favor of improving their lives and their influence on the community.

CBT eliminating violence in Liberia is not the only approach necessary to ending poverty. Yet, it does offer promise for positive change and highlights the importance of the long-term measures needed for vulnerable communities.

Amy Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

CBT Eliminating ViolenceAlthough providing for basic needs helps break the cycle of poverty, consider those who have already been affected by unstable conditions. How do we help them? What effect do they have on future generations? How do we break the cycle of crime and violence? These questions plague Liberia. However, one answer comes from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) eliminating violence in Liberia.

What Is CBT?

According to the American Psychological Association, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that aims to change behavioral and thinking patterns. CBT understands that complications in our psychological makeup result from learned behavior and thought processes.

People treated using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work on improving their self-confidence, adopting effective coping mechanisms and altering harmful patterns of thinking. Clients also exercise modifications in habits, such as confronting rather than avoiding difficult situations. Additionally, they practice self-control and prepare for real-life scenarios that they may find challenging.

One of the distinguishing factors of CBT is its focus on the current and future aspects of the client’s life. Although this method takes a person’s past into account, it aims to create effective techniques that deal with the client’s present issues.

The Situation in Liberia

The Overseas Security Advisory Council’s (OSAC) Liberia 2020 Crime and Safety Report states that violent robberies and home invasions have increased. The Council also reports that “[s]exual assault and rape are the most commonly reported violent crimes.” Simultaneously, Liberia also faces a rise in social upheaval due to escalating difficulties in the economy, healthcare and employment.

As urban poverty surges in Liberian cities, so has homelessness, pollution and deteriorating infrastructure. Impoverished citizens face a lack of opportunity and inequality. Discrimination, poor education and epidemics such as Ebola all have the hardest impacts on the poor. Overall, these unstable environments catalyze the high rates of crime and violence, especially among young Liberian men.

CBT Eliminating Violence in Liberia

A study in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, revealed the benefits of CBT eliminating violence in Liberia. More than 1,000 men participated in this experiment, all of whom were at risk for crime and violence. The men were placed in one of four different groups. These included receiving only therapy, only cash,  both therapy and cash and nothing at all. The cash provided enough to start a small business. As such, it was an incentive for participation.

Therapy alone improved behaviors significantly, and much of participants’ objectionable behavior decreased. However, the men who received both therapy and cash saw the longest lasting results. These men could practice what they learned in therapy while feeling like a “normal” member of society. Providing them with means, motive and opportunity helped improve their lives and their place in their communities.

CBT eliminating violence in Liberia is not the only approach necessary to ending poverty. However, it does contribute to progressive change. It also highlights the importance of the long-lasting and widespread measures that can help communities plagued by violence.

Amy Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

Sorcery Killings in Papua New GuineaIn modern times, science can explain the causes of sickness and death. However, it is not difficult to find areas of the world in which superstitions can overpower fact, sometimes with disastrous consequences. One prime example is the rise of sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea. Many families have suffered both physically and psychologically from accusations of sorcery and subsequent torture. Furthermore, some communities have even displaced people from their homes and murdered innocent victims.

In many cases, young women and occasionally even children become scapegoats for issues plaguing the entire community, such as AIDS. Members of the community accuse these women of sanguma, the local term for sorcery. They then torture them into admitting their crimes in a frightening scenario resembling the Salem Witch Trials. Ending sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea is necessary to save these lives.

Cultural Perspectives on Sorcery

There are several factors as to why many cases of sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea have not yet been resolved by the authorities. Many communities target suspected sorcerers with supposedly good intentions: the hope of protecting friends and family from becoming victims of the supposed sorcerer. In many cases, members of the community are afraid to report crimes that they have witnessed due to fears of community backlash.

As such, the proper authorities never address dozens of cases of sorcery killings, as individuals who could potentially report the issue are too frightened to come forward. Whistleblowers can ironically experience accusations of conspiring with or supporting sorcerers. Due to threats and intimidation, families are afraid of possible torture or death if they attempt to report a killing. Not to mention that geographic limitations and limited police presence in these areas mean that there are not always means to make a report. This makes ending sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea an exceptionally tall order.

Declining Health, Increasing Blame

The idea in Papua New Guinea that sanguma can manifest itself in individuals, granting them strange powers, is not new. It used to be a benign belief in the past. However, it is only more recently that communities started to seek out witches and sorcerers to remove them from society. Several key factors have contributed to the issue of sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea. Through the spread of Western culture, communities in the country have altered their diets and lifestyle choices to match the trends of countries like the United States. However, an unfortunate side effect of these changes is that they have an increased risk of various health issues and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and HIV/AIDS. As the general health of a community decreases, individuals often inflict violence on scapegoats as a means of coping with grief and stress.

The Role of Technology

Sorcery-related murders of men are also connected to climbing land prices related to industrialization. New technology and improved land have caused some individuals to target landowners and their families, revealing that personal gain also plays a part in this tragedy.

In addition, social media has had an adverse effect. Western nations are all too aware of how an endless stream of news articles and strong claims can lead to arguments and hate-filled polarization. But the sudden proliferation of smartphones and social media platforms like Facebook is even more unsettling across the developing world, where tech neophytes are less discerning consumers. In Papua New Guinea, accusations against suspected witches spread rapidly thanks to new technology. In one case, a woman accused of sorcery but relocated to a remote community suffered mutilation after recognition from viral Facebook posts. Ending sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea requires acknowledging the role of technology in spreading accusations.

Hope for Change

However, there is hope in an initiative called the Sorcery Accusation Related Violence National Action Plan (SARVNAP), which was created in 2013 following the execution of a 20-year-old mother named Leniata. An organization of human rights activists and church leaders, SARVNAP emphasizes a holistic approach to addressing sanguma. It depends on aid from Australia to fund these initiatives to end violence and assist victims. The program holds promise, but it must achieve many goals to make a difference, including securing more political roles for women and improving health care, education and employment. With funding and awareness, ending sorcery killings in Papua New Guinea is possible.

Aditya Daita
Photo: Pixabay

Child Poverty in Brazil
According to a study that the United Nations published on August 14, 2018, 60% of Brazilian children live in poverty. These include children up to 17 years old who are financially poor, meaning that they do not have access to one or more of the following: education, information, water, sanitation, housing and protection against child labor. Despite these challenges, some have made efforts and improvements to address the issue of child poverty in Brazil.

Child Poverty in Brazil

A UNICEF representative claimed that in order to understand the sincerity of child poverty in Brazil, one must have an understanding of whether or not the country is enforcing fundamental rights. Rural areas do not enforce 87.5% of children’s rights whereas 41.6% do not enforce rights for children in urban areas. As a result, children do not have a guarantee of adequate access to education, proper nutrition and housing. This leaves children with no choice but to participate in child labor.

About 13.3 million Brazilian children do not have access to sanitation, while 8.8 million lack education, 7.6 million cannot access clean water and 2.5 million lack protection from child labor. Meanwhile, 13,900 children have absolutely no access to the six qualifications (education, information, water, sanitation, housing and protection against child labor) due to the fact they are beyond the limit of public policy.

Violence

The extreme poverty of Brazil’s children also results in increased violence toward them. In 2016, 18.4% of murder victims were children and adolescents. In fact, roughly 11,000 adolescents are murdered annually, giving Brazil the highest number of adolescent victims of homicide in the world. Inadequate educational programs and social services for children puts them at higher risk of violent situations.

Child Labor

In November 2017, a survey found that roughly 1,000,000 Brazilian children engaged in child labor. Forms of child labor that they participated in were commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking and agriculture. The Brazilian government has committed itself to the eradication of child labor. In fact, in 2019, it removed 1,040 victims from child labor.

A key way to combat child labor is to provide adequate education and increase attendance. Although Brazilian law requires that children gain an education, there are many issues with overpopulation, poor infrastructure and lack of resources and educators, and particularly in rural areas. Brazil is continuously making efforts to improve the education system for its citizens. For example, students previously needed to provide birth registration documents to attend schools and even when families received assistance in obtaining these documents, the process often had delays. As a result, the Brazilian government approved a bill that made it so that birth certificates were no longer necessary to register for school. This of course received the Education Committee’s approval in 2018.

UNICEF Brazil

UNICEF Brazil, in partnership with Samsung, has made distinctive efforts to improve the quality of education in Brazil. In 2018, students started creating apps to facilitate learning. About 100 groups submitted ideas and 31 garnered acceptance. These groups received mentoring and help to develop their educational app. Winning teams received funding to fully develop their project.

UNICEF also implemented a safe and clean environment for children in 1,571 cities. As a result, the cities gained the UNICEF Municipal Seal of Approval. By the end of 2018, the lives of over 23,000 adolescents improved. In order to increase the safety of Brazil’s children, UNICEF trained 550 members of the Brazilian Ministry of Defense to combat sexual exploitation and abuse within the course of only six months.

Brazil’s Government Programs

In addition to UNICEF’s many contributions, Brazil’s government has instituted numerous programs aiming to improve child poverty. The National Program to Eradicate Child Labor specifically works to raise awareness and defend victims. As of 2019, the program serviced 8,982 children involved in child labor.

Additionally, a family stipend program called Bolsa Família distributes funds to families that live in both poverty and extreme poverty. To date, it has administered 14 million messages to outline the dangers of child labor. Meanwhile, Specialized Social Assistance Reference Centers has dedicated itself to providing mental health resources for victims of child labor and sexual exploitation. The organization has successfully opened 143 help centers. Another effort to fight child labor in Brazil has involved South-South Cooperation Projects, which facilitated the meeting of 24 Brazillian government representatives to discuss the best ways to eradicate child labor in connection with child poverty.

Brazil faces a massive difficulty in providing adequate protection and resources for its children in order to combat child poverty. With the dedication of the country’s government as well as nonprofits like UNICEF, massive progress has occurred and should continue in the years to come.

– Adelle Skousen
Photo: Flickr

Gender Violence and Domestic Abuse in AfghanistanGender violence in Afghanistan has reached epidemic levels. Due to a healthcare system in a state of crisis, victims are unlikely to come forward, and even less likely to receive care for injuries sustained from long-term abuse. Thankfully, many organizations are working to address this problem in Afghanistan.

The Facts about Gender Violence in Afghanistan

Eighty-seven percent of women have experienced one form of gender violence in Afghanistan, and 62% have experienced all 3 forms: psychological, physical and sexual. Impoverished victims are more likely to remain silent because they lack the ability to speak to a healthcare professional. Plus, they are less likely to be taken seriously. Long-term physical abuse can lead to burns, disabilities, internal bleeding and gastrointestinal disorders, among other physical and mental health problems. Sexual violence also often leads to STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

An often overlooked form of gender violence in Afghanistan is child marriage, which is extremely prevalent despite the multiple laws in place to prevent it. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that one in five girls will be forced into a union by age 18, with 5% forced to marry by age 15. The biggest concern for forced child marriages is the chance of a high-risk pregnancy, which often puts the victim’s life at risk and hinders any possibility of growth or education. Child marriage is born of poverty because impoverished families will marry their daughters off in exchange for money, or the chance of the girls marrying someone financially stable enough to provide for them. This practice dehumanizes young girls and effectively denies them human rights.

Working Against Domestic Abuse

The World Health Organization, in a new healthcare protocol for gender-based violence, defines 22 forms of abuse and sets the standards of care for healthcare professionals. The report emphasizes the seriousness of gender-based violence. However, the lack of healthcare workers in Afghanistan limits its ability to respond to this problem. Healthcare professionals are the first witness for most victims, which means that they are extremely important in making sure that the victim doesn’t go home to an unsafe situation. Witnesses are also valuable to the prosecution of the offender.

The UNFPA has trained more than 2,500 new recruits in how to spot signs of violence and respond with sensitivity to victims in Afghanistan. Along with these recruits, the UNFPA trained 875 judges and 850 healthcare staff. The UNFPA has multiple Family Protection Centers with hundreds of trained counselors, whom they dispatch to hospitals and centers for emergency care. These new centers, which allow women and girls to make discreet reports, saw over 1,400 disclosures of violence in just one year after their foundation. This is a big step forward, since Afghanistan’s government did not formally make violence against women illegal until 2009.

The Future of Girls in Afghanistan

Violence against women in Afghanistan not only common but expected. In the current environment, it is up to the country’s health ministry and the public to take women seriously and give young girls a chance to thrive. However, solutions to domestic violence don’t just have to focus on the health care and justice systems. For example, by funding STEM and political programs for young girls, the Girls LEAD Act would give girls a chance to climb out of poverty and craft a future where violence does not belong. In addition to the work being done by the UNFPA and the WHO, this act shows the potential for international action to help reduce gender violence in Afghanistan.

Raven Heyne
Photo: Pixabay

domestic violence and covid-19

More than 50 female celebrities have pledged funds and support to actress Charlize Theron’s Together For Her Campaign. The campaign’s goal is to address additional cases of gender-based violence that could result from the lockdowns around the globe. When quarantine began, Charlize’s thoughts immediately turned to the people in her native South Africa. Theron had concerns regarding women and children experiencing domestic violence and how COVID-19 could potentially worsen conditions for these women and children.

Domestic Violence and COVID-19

According to the United Nations Population Fund, “Significant levels of lockdown-related disruption over 6 months could leave 47 million women in low- and middle-income countries unable to use modern contraceptives, leading to a projected 7 million additional unintended pregnancies. Six months of lockdowns could result in an additional 31 million cases of gender-based violence.” Although estimates, these numbers reveal the startling consequences that women could face.

There are two main ways the pandemic has led to increased domestic violence. The first is through the disruptions in services provided to prevent abuse and help those who have experienced it. The second is that the lockdowns are tying women down at home where their abusers are.

There have already been increases in abuse. In only the first two weeks of quarantine, calls to the National Hotline on Combating Domestic Violence increased by a reported 25%. Ghadeer Mohammed Ibrahim Qara Bulad, the director of the Women’s Development Project at the Islamic Charitable Association in Homs, Syria, has seen cases firsthand. While raising awareness for disease prevention, she witnessed husbands beating their wives, sometimes openly in front of their children.

Together for Her

Charlize’s organization, the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP), partnered with the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) and CARE to address increased domestic violence during COVID-19. Both were very supportive of the cause and Together For Her. So far, the CTAOP has donated $1 million to fighting the coronavirus, with $500,000 going to the Together For Her Campaign.

Funds from the Together For Her campaign are being distributed to “shelters, psychosocial support and counseling, helplines, crisis intervention, sexual and reproductive health services, community-based prevention and advocacy work to address gender-based violence,” said Charlize in an interview with Vogue.

The campaign has united women across the fields of film, entertainment, sports and more. Some figures that have pledged their support include Octavia Spencer, Amy Schumer, Lauren Conrad, Reese Witherspoon and Viola Davis. Many are survivors of abuse themselves. Viola Davis stated “I am a child survivor of domestic violence. It is the last of the acceptable abuses. It thrives on silence and metastasizes into lifelong trauma that can’t be quantified. The abused have been physically, emotionally and financially incapacitated as a result. They stay…. They are continually abused and, in a lot of cases, killed. Providing funds to give them the means to get out and the emotional support to know they are worthy is everything. They are worthy of better, of real love.”

In the midst of a chaotic pandemic, issues like domestic violence are often overshadowed. Fortunately, Charlize Theron’s Together For Her Campaign is working to ensure that victims of abuse can receive the help and protection they need.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Dominican RepublicThe Dominican Republic is known for its beautiful beaches, exquisite cuisine and all-inclusive resorts. Tourists can expect to witness beautiful sunsets and take amazing pictures during their stay. What tourists don’t see, however, is the crime, poverty and extreme homelessness in the Dominican Republic — a dark side to this island that must be brought to light.

5 Facts About Homelessness in the Dominican Republic

  1. Many homeless children are subject to violence and abuse. A homeless shelter in Santo Domingo named Niños Del Camino serves children from impoverished families. As of 2009, 77% of these children have experienced domestic violence. Children without a home are left unprotected and subject to abuse from people on the street, in a shelter or anywhere they can find a home.
  2. A significant percentage of children are homeless and need help. The Dominican National Council for Children and Adolescents serves about 19,000 children, out of the 4.7 million children that live in the Dominican Republic. Close to 600,000 children under age 15 lack parental care, and over 1 million children live in poverty. This means that far too many children in the Dominican Republic are homeless, and countless more are suffering from extreme poverty.
  3. Homeless children are referred to as “palomos.” The term comes from the Spanish word for dove, but it also refers to pests and nuisances. This name indicates how little homeless children mean to their country, and how desperately they must fend for themselves on the streets of the Dominican Republic.
  4. Street kids become desperate and turn to crime. When children are abandoned with nowhere to go, it makes sense that they turn to a life of crime. According to AmeriHand, “The longer they stay in the street, the more likely they are to start using and selling drugs, then escalate to armed robbery or other violent crime.” These kids have nothing to lose, so they do whatever they can to earn some money and get off the street.
  5. The National Council for Children and Adolescents is here to help the homeless children of the Dominican Republic. This organization aims to guarantee “the fundamental rights of children and adolescents and [promote] their development,” which includes helping them get off the street and back into their homes. The Council works with the government to increase the accountability of the government for vulnerable children in the Dominican Republic.

Palomos lead a life of sadness and poverty. These children get through difficult times by finding companions on the streets and sticking together. Most of children on the street are homeless for one of two reasons: either they were kicked out or abandoned by their family, or they left on their own accord after enduring horrible circumstances at home. While some children return home, others remain on the streets, subjected to the natural elements, abuse, muggings and other misfortunes. The Dominican Republic must do better for its homeless population, especially its children.

– Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and FragilityThe year 2020’s biennial World Bank Fragility Forum is a series of seminars and discussions about working to build peace and stability in conflict-ridden areas. It brings together policymakers and practitioners in many different sectors from around the world, including the government, to address poverty and fragility and use international aid to promote peace in fragile settings. The Forum exists in conjunction with the World Bank Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence for 2020-2025 and focuses on fighting poverty as a means to eliminate conflict and violence in fragile settings, acknowledging and addressing the link between poverty and fragility.

What is Fragility?

There is no simple definition for a fragile setting or context since each fragile region is circumstantially unique. The Fragile States Index (FSI), though, says there are many common indicators that include state loss of physical control of territory or social legitimacy, loss of state monopoly on legitimate force, loss of connection to the international community and an inability to provide basic public services. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also explains that there are common characteristics of fragile settings, like extreme poverty, authoritarian regimes, high rates of terrorism, high rates of armed conflict and short life expectancy. The majority of fragile settings currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Fragile States Index lists Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan as the three most fragile contexts in the world.

Poverty and Fragility

The World Bank explains that addressing poverty and fragility go hand-in-hand. While only 10% of the global population live in fragile contexts, more than two-thirds of the people around the globe who live in extreme poverty live in fragile contexts. Experts expect this figure to rise to 80% by 2030. Poverty and fragility exist in a sort of feedback loop, as it becomes more difficult to escape poverty in a fragile setting given poor living conditions and likely economic ruin, while poverty is also an initial driver of fragility. Global Washington reports that fragility hurts economic productivity – violent conflict caused a 12.4% decrease in economic activity in 2017 alone – and is the main driver of both global hunger and refugee crises.

Fragility Forum Highlights

Three lectures from the Forum in particular address key components of poverty and fragility by looking at case studies: the social and economic inclusion of refugees, the use of country platforms to increase the effectiveness of global aid and the effectiveness of existing economic programs in fragile contexts. These lectures were:

  1. Refugee Policies: Increasing Self-Reliance & Economic Inclusion in Protracted Crises – Around 80% of refugees today live in developing countries and, as Global Washington reports, the violence and conflict of a fragile region are the main drivers of forced migration. Lecturers in this session explained that aid to refugees and their host countries must address both the immediate needs of refugees with investment in basic needs like healthcare and in long-term, policy for economic and social inclusion of refugees in their host countries. Refugees currently do not have permission to work in 50% of host countries and refugee mobility is severely restricted across the globe. This makes refugees dependent on aid from international agencies like the U.N. Economic self-sufficiency for refugees shifts the responsibility from these international bodies to the host country and both enhances the living situation of refugees and develops the host country’s economy. The Senior Director of Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank Franck Bousquet explains in the lecture that the World Bank focuses largely on support to the host country and strengthening national systems through emergency response programs and using grants to incentivize host countries to include refugees in their economies.
  2. Reducing Fragility and Conflict: What We Are Learning from Impact Evaluations – This lecture looks at the impact of a wide range of interventions in fragile settings from behavioral studies on social interventions to how labor market programs and economic intervention can increase stability in fragile settings by creating a market opportunity for individuals through vocational training. One particular study in Liberia explored the claim that economic insecurity can encourage violent or criminal behaviors in individuals. The study also explored how giving impoverished Liberians agricultural training increased the employment and average wealth of the individuals in the study, the root connection between economic opportunity and criminal activity, large-scale questions about what motivates violence and whether poverty causes criminality. The theory that underwent testing hypothesizes that increased economic returns to noncriminal activities will minimize the incidence of criminal activities by occupying individuals’ time, building social skills in youth and reducing grievances with poor economic opportunities. The study found that vocational training can decrease the time that individuals spend on illicit activities, but found little effect on individuals’ attitudes about democracy and violence.
  3. Revisiting Development Cooperation in the Hardest Places: The Case of Somalia – This session discussed “country platforms,” which the featured Center for Global Development (CGD) podcast defined as a “government-let coordinating body that brings together partners and stakeholders to define shared goals and coordinate development efforts in the country.” Places like Afghanistan and Somalia have utilized these country platforms, which are part of the World Bank’s Strategy for Fragility, Stability and Violence for 2020-2021, to streamline aid efforts by encouraging collaboration and joining local government and civic leaders with international donors to better implement international aid projects in fragile settings. Country platforms allow for more streamlined and effective flow from a donor to the recipient country, as evidenced by the organizational progress made in Somalia, where the U.S. invested over $400 million in aid in 2019; the country platform in Somalia has been developing clearer plans for development, humanitarianism and politics and shifting control of aid efforts into the hands of the Somali government to both increase aid efficiency and promote state legitimacy.

The World Bank Fragility Forum has made the link between poverty and fragility apparent. Hopefully, an increased understanding of how these two topics interlink will help eliminate poverty in fragile settings.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Wikimedia