the debt crisisBefore the COVID-19 pandemic, the poverty rate was expected to drop to 7.9% in 2020. But, according to the president of the World Group Bank, the pandemic may cause more than 1.4% of the world’s population to fall into extreme poverty. Since March 2020, these countries have seen lower export prices, less capital and remittance inflows and shrinking tourism revenue. Many low-income countries are facing limited resources and weak institutions that prevent them from supporting their economies. Furthermore, the debt crisis has only worsened the economic situation of developing countries during COVID-19.

The Global Debt Crisis

Half of low-income developing countries entered the pandemic with high public debt. The U.N. hoped to raise $10.19 billion to help the poorest countries during COVID-19 but only managed to raise $2.8 billion. With 150 million people threatened to fall into extreme poverty, experts are worried about the long-term economic effects of the debt crisis.

The debt crisis is becoming increasingly more destructive in many countries. The borrowing of money is occasionally controversial because citizens are not always aware of the purpose of a loan or its terms and conditions.  Sometimes these loans are used to benefit a small group of people in the country. In 2020, low-income nations were expected to pay at least $40 billion to service debts. The 76 countries with the lowest incomes owe at least $573 billion in debt. These economies are forced to handle massive amounts of debt while facing rising domestic demands, dwindling tax revenues and shrinking economies.

Consequences of Defaulting on Debt

Failure to repay a debt, including interest or principal on a loan, is called debt default. According to research from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), waiting to restructure debt until after a default is associated with larger declines in GDP, investment, private sector credit and capital inflows. Several studies have suggested that debt crises result in a substantial drop in economic growth. For example, failure to repay debts will decrease a country’s rating. Debt defaults affect a country’s ability to borrow money, exclude countries from international capital markets and increase borrowing costs.  Furthermore, since international debts have to be paid back in the creditors’ currencies, it could force governments to mine their natural resources to generate hard cash, thus continuing harmful environmental practices.

The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI)

The World Bank has proposed a new idea for countries suffering from “unsustainable” debt. The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) is a tool that global institutions have created to stave off the debt crisis, which would allow countries to pause debt repayments to creditors interested in participating. According to The New Humanitarian, if all eligible countries join the initiative, it will free up approximately $11 billion for social spending by governments. Those who sign up for the DSSI will be expected to open its books, reveal its debt and refrain from taking more commercial loans on the side. Debt intervention for the poorest countries is, however, not a new idea.

The debt crisis affects a wide group of people, many of whom already face extreme poverty. The Debt Service Initiative may be expanded at future World Bank meetings. According to analyst and executive director for global policy, David McNair, “Countries need money now to respond to the pandemic and the quickest way to do that is to basically stop debt repayments.”

Pausing Repayments to Prioritize Pandemic Recovery

The debt crisis demands attention, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic interferes with access to resources while highlighting weaknesses in developing countries’ institutions. The World Bank is focused on using a new initiative to pause repayments in hopes of freeing up money for social spending. The initiative will also steer countries away from the consequences of debt default, such as declines in investments, capital inflows and lowered ratings. The goal is to see leaders in developing nations using the pause from payments to access resources necessary for solving prominent issues in the country.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

Aid Poverty in MozambiqueThe country of Mozambique, located in southern Africa, has 46.1% of its population living below the poverty line. Children living in rural areas are among the most impacted as poverty in Mozambique hits rural areas the hardest. Economic growth has occurred in the country over the last decade but rural poverty persists due to meager transport infrastructure ultimately segregating rural regions. However, a new initiative is underway to help aid poverty in Mozambique.

The Integrated Feeder Roads Project

Funded by the World Bank, the Integrated Feeder Roads Project is an ongoing initiative that is enhancing road access in selected rural regions of Mozambique to support the well-being of local communities. For Mozambique and its segregated rural regions, added transport infrastructure that the Integrated Feeder Roads Project provides will connect these poverty-stricken rural regions to greater Mozambique. As a result, poverty in Mozambique is set to improve through imports, exports and overall improved levels of accessibility to and from rural regions.

Cyclones Strike

In 2019, the powerful Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth ravaged their way through the Southern Hemisphere and Mozambique was one of many countries deeply affected. Cyclone Idai was deemed to be one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit southern Africa over the last 20 years. Only six weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth hit Mozambique, marking the first time that two strong tropical cyclones struck the country in the same season. The aftermath of both cyclones was devastating, and in the destruction, the already minimal roads connecting rural regions were further damaged and relief efforts from humanitarians became nearly impossible. Poverty in Mozambique worsened after these cyclones and so did the transportive means of aiding it.

The World Bank Helps Aid Poverty in Mozambique

The Integrated Feeder Roads Project was initially approved by the World Bank in 2018 as Mozambique’s transport infrastructure has long been insufficient to sustain steady economies in rural areas and support local communities. Following the cyclones and the damage they left behind, the World Bank approved an IDA grant of $110 million to further aid reconstruction efforts given the severe aftermath of Idai and Kenneth. Overall, the World Bank is financing the Integrated Feeder Roads Project with an estimated total of $185 million.

COVID-19 in Mozambique

As if Mozambique had not endured enough, COVID-19 has been yet another unfortunate obstacle thrown at the country in its rebuilding process after the cyclones. Negatively impacting poverty, Mozambique’s economy has further declined as a result of COVID-19 due to travel restrictions and precautions affecting the flow of goods and services. Transport infrastructure built from the Integrated Feeder Roads Project will aid relief efforts and boost the economy even though COVID-19 is impacting poverty relief efforts.

The Future of Mozambique

In the face of much adversity, the Integrated Feeder Roads Project offers plenty of hope for poverty relief success in Mozambique. Added transport infrastructure will connect rural regions to greater Mozambique, and in a time of heavy need, these opened connections will help rural communities and affected individuals who desperately need it. Overall, foreign aid will help aid poverty in Mozambique.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

Extreme Poverty in MoldovaFrom 1999 to 2015, Moldova went from a 36% extreme poverty rate to zero, effectively ending extreme poverty in Moldova. By analyzing Moldova’s poverty reduction strategies, organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank can form a blueprint to fight extreme poverty globally.

IMF Focus on Poverty Reduction

In 2000, the IMF instituted a three-pronged approach for ending extreme poverty in Moldova, which involved major reforms in governance and the public sector. Economic development, healthcare changes, educational developments and social safety nets were the primary focus to kickstart growth in the country.

  • The IMF’s focus on economic development revolved around public spending and lack of private business. Aside from ensuring fiscal responsibility from the government, government retirement plans and debt were swallowing the countries budgetary resources. The IMF advised Moldova to revise its tax system to be more equitable while strengthening its private sector by easing regulations and tax burdens on small and medium businesses.
  • Education was a foundational part of the reform process. The IMF ensured Moldova improved its education system through guidance from the World Bank. The primary focus was on improving education standards and increase the availability of secondary education to needy students.
  • The health sector developed more substantial healthcare access to reduce long-term expenses and to involve the private sector.
  • Developing better social safety nets was a key pillar for the IMF in Moldova. Most importantly, the goal of the program is to keep children out of poverty. This included food security and funding to access human development services. Also on the agenda was reforming the nation’s pension system to protect aging populations.

Impact of Changes in Moldova

These changes were to be implemented by no later than 2003 and most changes are ongoing. How well did the changes work? In 2000, Moldova’s GDP per capita was at $1,439 and by 2019 the GDP per capita rose to $3,715, doubling the nation’s economic growth. The secondary education enrollment rate was 48% in 1999 and grew to an 86% enrollment rate by 2019. Though absolute poverty remains high, these strategies were instrumental in ending extreme poverty in Moldova. Even by 2006, the extreme poverty rate was down to 4.5%.

The World Bank’s Evaluation

The World Bank processed an analysis from 2007 to 2014 using data to determine how ending extreme poverty in Moldova was effective. Compared to most of Europe, Moldova is still impoverished, but extreme poverty no longer plagued the country by 2014. There were four primary factors that the World Bank determined to be the cause of this success. Economic expansion, advanced opportunities for workers, better retirement fiscal responsibility for aging populations and international work being funneled back into Moldova’s economy, were the most effective tools for alleviating extreme poverty.

  • Despite a setback during the financial crisis in 2009, Moldova has seen steady GDP growth up until the COVID-19 pandemic. Of significant note is that Moldova showed continued growth rather than ups and downs experienced in most impoverished nations. Moldova’s commitment to attaining the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals and effectively using guidance from the World Bank and IMF are reasons for this growth. Responsible governance and low corruption were instrumental in ending extreme poverty in Moldova.
  • Moldova’s workforce lowered from 2007 to 2014, primarily due to migration; however, wage growth was significant in jobs outside of the agricultural sector. Growth in food processing, manufacturing and ICT industry jobs increased wages exponentially, while the agricultural sector still struggled. These higher-skill jobs are attributable to the country’s focus on improving secondary education access, as outlined by the IMF, providing upward mobility.
  • Responsible pension disbursement was a chief agent for ending extreme poverty in Moldova. The significant increase in distributions to aging rural citizens living in extreme poverty was an essential investment by Moldova’s government.
  • The World Bank also found that after the economic crisis, remittances from Moldovan migrant workers sent back disposable income. Most of these migrants were from low-income rural areas of Moldova. From 2007 to 2014, rural households’ disposable income from migrant transfers rose from 16% to 23%. In Moldova, remittances played a considerable role in poverty reduction.

Using Moldova as a Blueprint Worldwide

Evaluating the success in ending extreme poverty in Moldova helps pave the way to implement similar strategies globally. So, what is the blueprint for ending extreme poverty?

  • The most crucial aspect is government accountability and a strong commitment to attain Millennium Development Goals. Strong oversight to prevent corruption and ensure fiscal responsibility to follow through with plans laid out by organizations like the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF.
  • A commitment to make secondary education more accessible, especially in rural areas, advances what a nation’s workforce is capable of and helps create job and wage growth.
  • Protecting vulnerable populations by distributing funds where they are most needed reduces extreme poverty.
  • The success of remittances in Moldova is a necessary imperative. An analysis across countries worldwide shows the significant poverty reduction effects of remittances

Ending Extreme Poverty by 2030

The U.N. aims to end extreme poverty by 2030, and when looking at Moldova’s success, it is not an outrageously unrealistic goal. With fiscal oversight, dedication to protecting the impoverished and the world’s willingness to engage, extreme poverty can be eradicated.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: pxfuel

LeAP initiativeAccess to education is a global issue that is deeply connected to issues of global poverty. Education often provides impoverished people with a way to escape poverty through improved job opportunities and better knowledge of healthcare. In this way, reducing poverty in developing countries often requires improving access to education. The World Bank is currently implementing a program called the Learning Assessment Platform, or LeAP, which it hopes will allow world leaders to better track how effective and efficient their nations’ educational systems are. Through the LeAP initiative, the World Bank hopes to improve global education.

Learning in Crisis

Poor and absent education is a serious global issue, with UNESCO finding that roughly 258 million children were not enrolled in school in 2018. That number has likely increased since then as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even for children in impoverished countries who do get an education, many times the education they receive is poor in quality and ineffective. Among developing nations, only 44% of children enrolled in school had obtained proficiency in mathematics and reading in 2017. In sub-Saharan Africa, that number fell to only 10%.

According to the World Bank, a significant factor contributing to these low education rates is the fact that many developing countries lack systems to measure learning outcomes among populations. Without such systems, leaders in these countries are unable to accurately identify the reasons why their education systems are failing, which prevents them from implementing effective policies that would improve the education systems.

The LeAP Initiative

Despite these challenges, the World Bank is hoping to use its resources to improve education by leaps and bounds. In order to meet this goal, the World Bank is working to improve learning assessment systems in developing countries by developing a Learning Assessment Platform. The LeAP initiative would provide countries with the tools and resources needed to develop more effective systems for assessing the state of education among populations.

For the past decade, the World Bank has been working to build a solid base of learning assessment resources for the LeAP program to build off of. With the help of Russia’s similar learning assessment program, called the Russia Education Aid for Development (READ) Trust Fund program, the World Bank has developed a wide range of tools and resources specifically designed to help countries accurately gauge the effectiveness of education systems. These include free online courses for educating policymakers and specialists on effective learning assessment techniques, tools for benchmarking education success and access to more than 60 reports detailing the student assessment systems of dozens of countries.

Investing in Learning

In its efforts to improve global education, the World Bank has done more than just provide developing countries with learning assessment resources. Working with the READ Trust Fund program, the World Bank has helped secure more than $20 million in learning assessment system improvement grants for 12 different countries, including Ethiopia, Cambodia, India and Vietnam.

Through the LeAP initiative and several other global education programs, the World Bank hopes to reduce worldwide “learning poverty” by at least 50% by 2030.

The World Bank’s goal of cutting learning poverty is ambitious but its work on improving learning assessment systems around the world is an important step toward making it a reality. When countries are able to accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses of education systems, they are able to craft policies that more effectively improve these systems while also allowing other countries to learn from them and develop their own learning assessment systems. In this way, The World Bank’s LeAP initiative is pivotal in its effort to improve global education.

– Marshall Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Innovative Projects Empowering WomenIn our booming technological world, the gender digital divide continues to suppress women’s access to technology and the global economy. In low- and middle-income countries, women are 10% less likely to own a mobile device than men, and 23% less likely to use the internet. A 2019 report from the GSMA highlights four main reasons for the divide, including affordability, literacy and tech-literacy rates, safety and security, and relevance to daily life. The report also estimates that closing the digital divide in just mobile internet usage by 2023 could increase GDP growth by $700 billion in low- and middle-income countries over the next five years.

Through the U.S. government’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), presidential advisor Ivanka Trump and USAID Administrator Mark Green launched the WomenConnect Challenge. With this funding, initiatives seek to shrink the barriers of digital illiteracy and “technophobia” fueled by a lack of complex resources, such as Internet access or formal education. That these barriers unequally limit women and girls leaves entire populations further and further behind in an increasingly digital world. In the first round of the challenge in 2018, USAID awarded more than $2 million to an initial nine projects working to close gender-based digital divides. The W-GDP initiative hopes to connect 50 million women in developing nations by 2025.

The First Projects that Received Funding

  1. Mali Health – Launched in 2019, the Mali Health application’s trial run proved useful in the lives of 65 women, most of whom live under the poverty line. The women were provided with a smartphone as well as training on the app’s features. The app allows users to search for medical information, advertise their small businesses and connect with larger markets using voice navigation in their native language. An upcoming feature will allow users to voice-record their medical questions and receive a recording back from a doctor. Surveys from the trial run indicate that innovative projects empowering women with knowledge and information boost women’s views on gender equality.
  2. GAPI and Bluetown – GAPI-SI and technology partner Bluetown established the Women in the Network program in Ribaue, Mozambique in late 2019. The project created content “clouds” for locals to access at lower costs than traditional network access, as well as a rent-to-own cell phone program. Additionally, they are training a team of Ribaue women in technology and internet use so that they may bring this knowledge to their peers and promote widespread connectivity.
  3. GramVaani – Meri Awaz Meri Pehchan, or “My Voice My Identity”, is an app from GramVaani enabling women to connect with other women and spread important information securely in Bihar, India. The application is voice-based, removing the literacy barrier from the equation. Women are trained as “reporters” and sent to rural communities to play informational recordings. They gather voiced comments on topics ranging from government programs and water availability to women’s rights. Innovative projects empowering women such as GramVaani make an impact through the dissemination of knowledge, a resource that cannot be taken for granted.
  4. Viamo – The Calling all Women program from Viamo makes use of a voice-based informational platform called the 3-2-1 Service, which allows for individuals to share valuable information for free on topics like health, hygiene, and financial literacy. The information has reached over 150,000 people in Tanzania and Pakistan. Additionally, Viamo’s program includes recorded lessons for women on mobile technology and the internet to help bridge the gender digital divide.
  5. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) – HOT’s project #LetGirlsMap trains women and male allies to map data from Tanzanian villages and report significant issues via mapping platforms. The program has reached 78 villages and has partnered with schools to gather and disseminate knowledge on gender-based violence and economic literacy. Such innovative projects empowering women and girls help them to confront gender norms and inequality while learning about technology and the economy.
  6. Evidence for policy design (EPoD) India at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) – EPoD’s project Mor Awaaz utilizes a preexisting government program that is distributing 2 million mobile phones to women in rural India. Mor Awaaz offers training and voice-recordings for women on technological literacy and has reached 11,000 women so far, eliminating barriers like caste, mobility, and affordability.
  7. AFCHIX – Innovative projects empowering women like AFCHIX are addressing inadequate internet access in poor communities. AFCHIX created four women-led “community networks” in Kenya, Namibia, Morocco and Senegal. In these countries, women in community networks lead development projects to bring internet access to their communities and learn the skills needed to upkeep the hardware. They serve as both technicians and role models.
  8. Equal Access International – Based in Northern Nigeria, Equal Access International created the Tech4Families program to address the cultural norms that prevent women from accessing technology. Tech4Families launched a radio production in August consisting of twelve episodes that teach listeners about the benefits of technology and justify women’s use of technology via religion and social concepts. They will be meeting with families to discuss the show’s impact and the next steps toward destigmatizing the idea of women in tech.
  9. Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) – Low-income women in the Dominican Republic are often unable to access credit from financial institutions because they do not have a credit score. IPA, along with the World Bank, a couple of American universities, and other institutions use machine learning and specialized algorithms to redo the credit-earning criteria for women, separately from men. This will allow more women to gain financial credit, and many have reported that they will use the money for entrepreneurial endeavors, to feed their families, and to invest in education.

– McKenna Black
Photo: USAID

Women's Rights in Ghana
People have explored the topic of gender rights for many decades as women’s conventional role in modern society drastically changed. This evolution changed how genders interacted with one another and challenged the conventional norms of patriarchy that went unchecked for centuries. Women’s rights in Ghana is important socially and economically. Although ahead of its neighboring counterparts economically, politically and developmentally, there is still a wide gender gap that needs bridging.

Beginning of Women’s Independence

Ghana is a West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea and enjoys a tropical climate. Ghana gained independence from British colonial rule in 1957. There is no denying the role of Ghanaian women’s benefaction to the outcome of this freedom, as it segued into the establishment of the National Council of Ghana Women in 1960. The council’s intent was to empower and benefit women’s rights in Ghana by developing vocational training centers and daycare facilities.

Efforts to propel women to the forefront of the country’s progression were lacking. The numbers show how far behind women were in comparison to their male counterparts. Ghana is “in the bottom 25% worldwide for women in parliament, healthy life expectancy, enrolment in tertiary education, literacy rate, and women in the professional and technical workforce.”

Enrollment in Tertiary Education

Tertiary education illustrated the gender gap in Ghana best. Looking at the reasons separating women from pursuing higher learning exposes the patriarchal ideology woven into society. In general, keeping girls in education raises a country’s GDP. According to a report by Water.org, increasing accessibility for children in Ghana “on a global scale, for every year a girl stays in school, her income can increase by 15-25%.”

Impact of Literacy Rates

The impact of literacy is as severe as reducing a country’s GDP. However, with such devastating numbers related to the gender gap in Ghana, the sinking literacy rates had to be addressed. Women in Ghana do not necessarily obtain the ability to read and write from receiving a formal education due to the consequences of the quick development of schools in low-income countries such as Ghana. There is a current disruption in educating students due to the exponential growth within education systems, which impacts the school’s full potential. However, the literacy rate for women in Ghana has made significant progress over the years. According to the World Bank’s data report in 2018, the literacy rate for females aged 15 or older is 74.47%. While the literacy rate for females aged 15 to 24 years old is 92.2%, increasing young girls’ independence.

Women’s Employment and Labor Force

Currently, 46.5% of the labor force in Ghana is female. However, these women participate in domestic labor, such as in the agricultural field, without any pay, which limits their independence. Despite the rights Ghanaian women have gained since the 1960s, the country has recognized that economic growth does not necessarily reduce gender-based employment and wage gaps.

Contrary to the women who receive no pay, women who earn a subsistence wage through agriculture are at risk of significant health issues due to the physically demanding nature. Ghana is a traditional-based society explaining gender-based roles. However, one nongovernmental organization defending women’s rights in Ghana is Womankind. The organization emerged in 1991 with the goal of ending violence against all women in Ghana. This can help increase their social rights and political power within the government. Over 600 women in Ghana received recognition for their professional training experience to construct their own political decisions within the last five years. The secondary school leadership roles consist of 30 young girls who studied management within the organization. As a result, this increases the chances of independence and rights for women in Ghana.

Developing Women’s Rights in Ghana

Women and men are legally equal in Ghana, and women’s rights in Ghana have made significant progress. However, multiple aspects of traditional society affect gender equality, impacting their rights as women. With educational empowerment and recognizing that economic growth does not necessarily mean women are receiving the same job opportunities as men, gender equality will be more promising in Ghana.

Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in CongoThe Republic of the Congo is a country located in central Africa, right next door to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo River separates the capital, Brazzaville, from the neighboring country’s capital, Kinshasa. Both cities were formerly one capital under French Equatorial territory. After the Republic of the Congo gained independence in 1960, a series of coup d’états and successive rulers from 1963-1997 lead to political and economic instability throughout the country, eventually culminating in a civil war in 1997 and ending in 2001. The inefficient political rule that followed the war exacerbated the economic devastation of the country. A dictatorial leadership under Denis Sassou Nguesso began when he became president in peace agreements formulated in 2001. The political instability in the Republic of the Congo is necessary for understanding the economic disarray throughout the population. It is also important for understanding why poverty in Congo remains rife despite international aid interventions.

What Poverty Looks Like in the Republic of the Congo

Poverty in Congo is vast and covers all areas of the country. This is mostly because the civil war displaced over one-third of the population. The return of natives to a weakened Congo led to many facing poverty and disease from poor infrastructure and government.

Rural areas are affected most out of the country, as there are many people who do not have efficient access to clean water sources or sanitation. Artesian wells or unclarified water sources account for over 20% of all water access throughout the entire country. In addition, there is little improvement in urban areas. Much of the population, almost 1.5 million, live in unplanned settlements with little sanitation procedure or adequate housing throughout the two largest cities of the country, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. This creates a difficult atmosphere to combat preventable diseases like malaria and various respiratory or parasitic diseases.

Another problem facing is the country is the lack of, and lack of access to, education. Over a third of the population never enrolled or completed primary school. Higher education has even less attendance, with only about 3% completing. This is mostly because there is a severe lack of access to basic educational materials. Also, many girls have little to no encouragement to get an education. This leaves half of the population out of school. This impacts the Republic of Congo’s human capital, which makes it harder for people to find jobs domestically or internationally. Therefore, this leads to a higher unemployment rate across the country. Lack of education leads to a lack of opportunity.

The Good News

The Republic of the Congo has been making great strides in trying to counteract its issues since 2001. It created The Future Path project with the aim of modernizing society as a whole. The plan also aims to industrialize the economy to help the Congo gain international footing. Increasing jobs and economic performance through large-scale building projects and international cooperation are the goals of the government.

The World Bank is currently assisting the Republic of the Congo with economics and societal development projects with 10 current national projects worth $451 million. The new Country Partnership Framework will help improve the Congo’s economic management, help create “economic diversification and strengthen its human capital and basic service provision, particularly in the areas of health, education and social protection.” Improvement of water sources and better sanitation is a priority of the government and also many initiatives funded by the World Bank. The World Bank is also financing $61.31 million in emergency COVID-19 funding to help combat the pandemic in the country. The current levels of poverty in Congo and the level of disease exposed to people exacerbate the issue of COVID-19.

What Needs to be Done

The overall gross national income of the country has improved by 50% since 2011. In addition, improvements in education account for 14% of poverty reduction as a direct result of improved standards of living. Educational skill gains and an uptick in the enrollment of girls in urban areas also attributed to lowering unemployment levels. This subsequently increased educational enrollment levels across the country. However, rural education slightly deteriorated. This is because the rural population with only primary or no educational achievement increased from 46% to 53%. This highlights how the government needs to focus the fight on poverty in Congo in rural areas. The government needs to focus on encouraging more students into education past the primary level. They must also reduce gender disparities in school to create a more holistic student body and future workforce.

Overall, the Republic of the Congo has been making great strides toward leveling its poverty numbers. While the current situation is not perfect, the reduction of poverty in Congo and the improved standards of living are miles away from what the country experienced in 2001.

– Avery Benton
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

poverty relief in haitiPlagued by historical political oppression and a series of recent natural disasters, Haiti is among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere today. An estimated 8.5 million Haitians live below the poverty line, 2.5 million of whom survive on $1.12 a day. Thus, it is not surprising to see an influx of immigrants from the country. According to the activist organization RAICES, Haitian immigrants make up nearly half of families detained in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. Immigration policy must consider the origin countries of migrant families and why they chose to migrate in the first place. Though the U.S. has prioritized harsh security measures at the border, investing poverty relief in Haiti may improve the situation.

Haiti’s History of Poverty

Haiti’s ongoing economic crisis stems from a long history of political unrest. From national corruption to human rights violations and the damaging effects of colonialism, Haiti’s economy has never fully recovered. After regaining independence from France, the small country owed 150 million francs to the European nation. Haiti finally finished paying off this debt in 1922.

A World Bank report estimated that 6.3 million Haitian citizens could not afford certain consumer goods in 2012, while another 2.5 million struggled just to buy food. Additionally, despite some poverty relief in Haiti, about half of the population cannot access public services. From 2001 to 2012, Haiti saw improvements in tap water, energy and sanitation accessibility, but coverage rates remain well below 50%. Furthermore, recent statistics from the World Bank claim that Haiti’s GDP per capita was only $756 in 2019. This poverty, along with a particular susceptibility to natural disasters, creates incentives for mass migration from Haiti.

The Price of Immigration Enforcement

When it comes to immigration enforcement, the U.S. spares no expense. The American Immigration Council found that, since 2003, the federal government has spent approximately $381 billion on immigration control. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE  have grown, with nearly triple their original budgets today. In 2020, federal spending was $8.4 billion for ICE and $16.9 billion for CBP.

Despite the generous contributions to these enforcement agencies, immigration issues have not necessarily disappeared. Instead, this tough approach at the border has created a new set of problems. Claims of trafficking, abuse of power by enforcement officials and poor conditions in holding facilities have surrounded the departments. Specifically, RAICES found that Haitian and other Black immigrants face discrimination and mistreatment while under ICE custody.

With an estimated 40,000 Haitians making up a large portion of border detainees, some government officials are proposing investing in poverty relief in Haiti. Politicians, such as Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL), are fighting to restore stability in Haiti during the pandemic. Wilson and some of her colleagues believe that this will have a slowing effect on migration.

Poverty Relief in Haiti Shows Promise

The World Bank has demonstrated the benefits of investing in poverty relief in Haiti. From 2000 to 2012, extreme poverty decreased by 7.4% largely due to economic progress in Haiti’s big cities. Similarly, poverty rates in rural areas reached 74.9%, while the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, only had a rate of 29.2%. By increasing and distributing aid, the rest of the country can achieve poverty reduction rates similar to those in urban regions.

The same report details how, with the help of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, Haiti eliminated a large part of its public debt. This in turn increased the economy by 2.3% annually from 2005 to 2009. The financial help also “contributed to the generation of optimism in the country and among the country’s partners.”

Researchers urge U.S. policymakers to begin looking at remittances as having investment returns. For example, temporary work visas significantly bolster Haiti’s economy and raise the quality of life for Haitian households. This lessens the need for migration. If the U.S. changes its perspective on immigration, it could begin developing a mutually beneficial relationship with Haiti while decreasing emigration.

Lizt Garcia
Photo: Flickr

Vaccines in Developing CountriesHow much can the world really rely on vaccines as a cure to disease? For many impoverished communities, the jury is still out; many recent studies show that vaccines in developing countries are more ineffective than those in developed, high-income nations.

However, developing countries are at greater risk for all infectious diseases than developed countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) documented that the “total number of healthy life years lost per capita was 15-times higher in developing countries than in developed countries.” In addition to this imbalance, vaccines in developing countries also threaten these nations with ineffective treatment. Due to the many factors that impact disease, it is difficult to pinpoint specific causes behind vaccine acceptance or denial. However, the health effects of poverty contribute to the reasons why vaccines in developing countries are often ineffective.

How Poverty Increases Sickness

Poverty is a health epidemic. In 2008, PBS aired an original docu-series called “Unnatural Causes” that outlined the ways diseases disproportionately affect poor and marginalized groups. The show posed one overarching, famous question: “Is inequality making us sick?” In the assessment of vaccine effectiveness in rich versus poor countries, the creators of “Unnatural Causes” say the answer is yes.

A functioning immune system is largely responsible for an individual’s ability to make antibodies, the infection-fighting proteins developed via vaccines. Impoverished people often do not have high-functioning immune systems. This means that they cannot produce antibodies as well as their developed-nation counterparts.

Multiple factors contribute to the prevalence of ineffective immune systems in developing countries. The overpopulation and crowding common in low socioeconomic areas increase the risk of disease exposure. Pre-existing health conditions, resulting from vitamin deficiency and little clean water or sanitation, increase individual susceptibility to sickness. Further, unreliable health care places systemic, structural constraints on impoverished communities. In this way, poverty and disease continually reinforce each others’ negative effects.

Comparison Studies: Developed Nations vs. Developing Nations

Water-borne diseases, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS continually afflict developing countries. They may be responsible for damaging people’s natural immunity, thus decreasing the likelihood of vaccine acceptance. Indeed, one study found that these diseases “may damage lymph node structures that are crucial to developing immunity after a vaccine.”

This study from the University of Minnesota compared Americans to Ugandans. Researchers discovered all the Ugandans had “significantly higher levels of inflammation in their bodies and a depleted supply of protective T cells.” In addition, the Ugandan’s lymph nodes (which help filter infections and respond to vaccines) were inflamed and scarred. None of the American participants had these issues. After administering a yellow fever vaccine to the Ugandan test subjects, researchers discovered a positive correlation. The more damaged their lymph nodes, the less likely it was for antibodies to form.

Another series of studies in Dhaka, Bangladesh discovered that a poor response to vaccines in developing countries could be correlated to the small intestinal bacteria endemic to low-income countries. Petri’s team surmised that “inflammation [in the intestine] could prevent vaccines from lingering in the gut and could keep the immune system from reacting to them.” The team also identified a similar issue with rotavirus vaccine response. In contrast, 98% of children in the developed world do not have complications after vaccination.

The Future of Vaccines

According to the World Bank, “nearly half of the world lives on less than $5.50 a day.” In addition, only 59 of the 195 countries in the world possess a Human Development Index (HDI) at or above 0.8, making them developed countries. This means that ineffective vaccination responses affect the majority of the world’s nations. Thus, the world needs a systemic change in public health to fix this issue. Studies in Bangladesh and Africa “are testing whether sanitation interventions such as installing hand-washing stations in rural homes” can relieve the gut inflammation thought to be causing poor responses to vaccination.

However, even though vaccines in developing countries are sometimes ineffective, routine vaccination for infants and children may help. Young children are less likely to have the long-term health effects responsible for ineffective responses to vaccines, with the exception of illnesses inherited from a mother’s womb. WHO estimates that approximately 70% of the 9 million deaths from children under five “could be prevented or treated with access to simple, affordable interventions,” including vaccines.

Vaccinating Children in Developing Countries

Still, the complicated relationship to vaccines in the developing world is palpable. One study in India found that there is only a 55% rotavirus vaccine efficacy rate in young children. However, India’s plan to make the rotavirus vaccination routine may “save 27,000 of the 78,000 young lives that infections claim every year.”

Thus, expanding coverage of vaccines in developing countries has proven successful in many cases. Various programs work to extend this success. Since 1990, WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization has helped decrease mortality rates among infants and children via vaccination. The Global Vaccine Alliance has also “vaccinated more than half a billion additional children since its founding in 2000,” often in developing countries. While routine vaccination is not a panacea, it helps prevent disease before long-term health issues develop.

Improving World Health

Obviously, this is a hefty challenge. Changing human response to vaccines will take years of improving sanitation and living conditions. In addition, developed countries often receive vaccines first and in larger quantities due to having more money. In the meantime, scientists and doctors are experimenting with speedier methods to the vaccine problem. Take mesalazine, a drug that treats the bowel inflammation preventing antibody response to vaccines. This drug could possibly treat unreliable oral vaccines for stomach illnesses. Recognizing the issue of vaccines in developing countries is the first steps in improving global health.

Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr

Limited access to healthcare is a challenge that millions of people face globally. According to data collected by the World Bank and W.H.O., roughly half of the global population had no way to access necessary health services in December 2017. The high costs of getting healthcare forced nearly 100 million people into poverty that year. For hundreds of millions of people across the world, even basic healthcare is economically out of reach. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put additional strain on healthcare systems around the globe. The pandemic has disrupted medicine supply chains in many parts of the world, preventing vital medical supplies from reaching hospitals in a timely manner. This is particularly dangerous for developing countries with healthcare systems that were already struggling to meet their countries’ needs. However, recent technological innovations like BraineHealth are seeking to revolutionize healthcare to overcome these issues.

How BraineHealth Can Help

This problem may seem insurmountable, but not to BraineHealth. The Swedish company is hoping to use artificial intelligence and robotics to make healthcare more accessible for people throughout the world. BraineHealth’s healthcare innovations can apply many areas of healthcare, such as primary healthcare, senior healthcare and mental health services. In all these areas, BraineHealth hopes to connect doctors and other medical professionals with their patients in a way that is easy, affordable and safe.

With BraineHealth’s system, patients could potentially receive diagnoses and expert medical consultations without having to leave their homes. This would reduce medical costs and travel expenses for patients, and it would provide a safer alternative to in-person appointments. Here are four BraineHealth programs that seek to revolutionize healthcare.

4 BraineHealth Programs Revolutionizing Healthcare

  1. Artificial Intelligence: BraineHealth is developing an AI program that will allow for quicker and more efficient remote diagnoses. This program receives information about a patient’s symptoms provided by the patient and analyzes this report. By examining it against a database of thousands of documented diagnoses, the algorithm can provide as accurate a diagnosis as possible.
  2. Diabetio: This program combines social robotics and artificial intelligence to assist diabetic patients with managing their diabetes. The Diabetio robot will help manage the patient’s carbohydrate intake, and it will keep the patient informed about whether they are at risk of developing diabetes. To help the patient most efficiently, this program will retain and process information about the patient’s daily activities.
  3. Medipacker: BraineHealth is also looking to revolutionize healthcare by expanding access to medical information and education through its Medipacker education program. This program aims to give backpackers the opportunity to become qualified first-aid providers at little to no cost. By removing economic barriers to first-aid education, BraineHealth hopes to encourage more people around the world to learn about emergency medicine.
  4. InEmpathy: Recently, BraineHealth has partnered with the charity InEmpathy. InEmpathy’s work focuses on building better systems of healthcare in developing countries. Crucially, this organization is now helping to bring BraineHealth’s technological innovations to communities in need. BraineHealth will therefore be able to adapt its technologies to best fit the needs of their destination countries.

Looking to the Future

Millions worldwide lack adequate access to healthcare. Even in areas that have hospitals, the costs of health services are often too high for poor communities. Using technological innovation, BraineHealth is working to revolutionize healthcare so that the people in these communities can have access to healthcare that would otherwise be out of reach.

Marshall Kirk
Photo: Flickr