Homelessness in MadagascarMadagascar is an island of abundant resources and wildlife, yet remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The African country experiences high rates of poverty and vulnerability since it gained independence in 1960. It possesses a complex history of poor leadership, inadequate infrastructure and economic colonialism that continues to negatively affect its population today, specifically resulting in an issue with homelessness in Madagascar.

The Causes of Homelessness

Its geographical location off the Southern African coast makes Madagascar susceptible to natural disasters, such as severe hurricanes, floods and droughts. Unpredictable weather persists, not only destroying homes but also leading to detrimental effects on food supply, health pandemics and overall quality of life. More than 50 natural disasters have impacted Madagascar’s homelessness rate in the last 35 years.

For example, in 2019, a cyclone killed two people and left 1,400 people homeless. Two years prior, an even more powerful storm left 247,000 people without shelter. However, some villages like Antanandava rallied together to rebuild as a community.

Chaotic weather patterns also impact the key drivers of economic growth namely, agriculture, fishing and forestry. While agriculture can sometimes reap the rewards of extreme weather, like heavy rain on crops, droughts on the other hand dry up rice plants, leaving workers with a much lower income. According to a 2017 study, this inconsistent economic growth creates patterns of financial insecurity and failure to diminish the homeless population in rural communities.

Unequal Housing

While some are able to rebuild their homes after a disaster, others are left destitute. More than 65% of the population lives in rural areas, where poverty is significantly higher than in urban regions and where most of the working-age populace resides. Homes in rural communities are mostly built of local materials such as cheap wood or mud, leaving thousands of individuals homeless after one intensive environmental hazard. Southern and coastal areas are usually the first to get hit by a weather crisis, damaging homes instantaneously. This creates a widespread housing shortage and results in the displacement of many Malagasy people.

Solutions

In an effort to fight this consequence of poverty, homelessness in Madagascar has become a priority in the eyes of the World Bank Group which partners with other organizations to offer aid. The organization currently invests a combined $1.28 billion across all 15 of its programs working to reform multiple sectors of Madagascar, including energy, education and health crises. The WBG, in collaboration with the Country Partnership Framework, has created economic objectives to accomplish in its plan for 2017-2021. Some initiatives include strengthening households living in poverty and upgrading means of transportation and energy. In 2019, over 783,000 Malagasy families’ incomes stabilized, allowing them to start businesses and secure their residences.

In addition, aid from UNDP began in 2015 and the long-term goals include ending all poverty, generating universal access to clean water and nurturing sustainable communities. Achieving these goals will ensure that families will gain new homes of their own and be able to maintain them.

Homelessness in Madagascar is a complex problem with many economic and domestic factors contributing to the issue. It continues to be an urgent threat to the lives of its citizens, creating harmful short- and long-term effects. However, with the improvements made thus far, the future for Madagascar is hopeful.

– Radley Tan
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Malawi
Malawi, a small country in Southern Africa, is known for its rich culture. Unfortunately, their economy is still very poor. There are many factors that lead to poverty, but education, specifically girls’ education in Malawi, is a major source of financial turmoil that is often overlooked.

Girls’ Education and Poverty

World Bank has found that girls around the world are consistently enrolled in school at lower rates than boys. Malawi is no exception. While around 67% of boys in the country complete primary school, that number is 8% lower for girls. This gap stays consistent throughout different stages of schooling. Low-income households have a larger divide between male and female education. When analyzing upper-class families in Malawi, researchers found little difference in the percentage of girls and boys attending school.

The Malala Fund discovered that improving girls’ education has the potential to unlock trillions of dollars in revenue, while also increasing human rights. Therefore, the barriers to female literacy must not be overlooked. Data analysis proves that nations that discourage education for girls also have higher rates of financial struggle and a larger wage gap. As proven by the aforementioned connections between class and school enrollment, economic barriers are a factor to illiteracy. However, attempting to combat poverty without working toward equal access to education for girls will not yield results.

Barriers to Girls’ Education in Malawi

Daniel Moyo spoke to The Borgen Project on the relationship between education inequality and economic strain in Malawi. As the program director for Ministry of Hope Malawi, he witnesses these issues firsthand. The entrenched cultural norms that Moyo says “look at girls as sexual objects and not as equal human beings” are much more difficult to overcome than the financial burdens. Moyo explains that sexism in schooling directly impacts the economy by “creating a situation where most women are not only housewives, but also left to suffer in acute poverty.”

When charities provide economic funding for girls’ education in Malawi without understanding cultural barriers as well, their efforts are futile. Moyo cites an example of aid that went wrong due to this oversight. An NGO sponsored a secondary school in Phalombe and provided every girl with economic support. However, this backfired because it neglected to tackle the surrounding issues. Moyo discusses how the money gave the students freedom without guidance, resulting in their newfound status being used to “compete for boyfriends and men and not necessarily for financial or material gain.” Thus, “at the end of one year, almost half of the girls at this one high school became pregnant.”

Holistic Approach to Improving the Economy

The efforts by organizations such as Ministry of Hope are helping to improve poverty by recognizing its connection to girls’ education in Malawi. This nonprofit, dedicated to helping vulnerable communities, takes a holistic approach to aiding Malawians that has assisted in making tangible change. Between 2000 and 2018, almost 9% more girls were enrolled in secondary school.

Ministry of Hope encourages organizations to not blindly give money to improve the economy. Rather, “it calls for a lot of factors including policy shifts, cultural beliefs, behavior changes, and a lot of investment in girls’ education.” This is why supporting bills such as the Keeping Girls in School Act (S.1071) is so crucial for tackling poverty in the Global South.

There tends to be a narrative that poverty causes illiteracy. However, if that approach is flipped, there comes a new solution with additional potential for forging change. By advancing education, poverty can also be lowered. Those fighting for change must help organizations on the ground who are providing guidance along with their scholarships. By addressing the cultural and economic barriers of educational inequality, poverty can begin to decrease in Malawi.

– Annie Bennett
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Georgia
Sitting between Turkey and Russia, the nation of Georgia tells a unique story about successfully fighting poverty. Although the country’s poverty rate sits at around 20.1%, the current figure represents a steep decline from the 2010 rate of 37.4%. A more complete understanding of the decline of poverty in Georgia requires an understanding of the nation’s history.

Recent Georgian History

Throughout the 19th century, the Russian empire slowly annexed Georgia. In 1918, after the collapse of the Russian Empire, the Democratic Republic of Georgia declared its independence. In 1921, the Soviet Union forcibly incorporated Georgia. Under Soviet rule, the economy of Georgia modernized and diversified from being largely agrarian to featuring a prominent industrial sector.

In 1936, Georgia became a constituent republic and remained so until the collapse of the Soviet Union. After the collapse in 1991, Georgia regained its independence, but instability, civil unrest and a falling GDP plagued the nation. After the Rose Revolution of 2003, the government of Georgia attempted to liberalize the nation’s economy and pursue cooperation with the West. Russia invaded the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions in 2008 due to a territorial dispute, which is still ongoing.

When viewing the recent history, it is clear that the decline of poverty in Georgia deeply intertwines with its reforms after emerging from the Soviet Union. With a government focussed on stability and economic development, Georgia has been able to make strides to downsize poverty.

Success in Fighting Poverty

When the Georgian government made an attempt to liberalize the nation’s economy and pursue international cooperation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nation sought trade agreements with China and the European Union (E.U.) and made reforms to eliminate corruption and simplify taxes. As a result, Georgia’s GDP per capita has expanded at an average rate of 4.8% per year.

In 2007, The World Bank ranked Georgia as the world’s number one economic reformer due to its successful policies focussing on promoting competition and diversifying the financial sector. In 2014, it found that poverty in Georgia had decreased for the fourth consecutive year. Since 2014, Georgia has joined the E.U.’s Free Trade Area, and the E.U. has become the country’s largest trading partner.

Georgia has also been working with the United Nations Development Programme to pursue democratic reforms, inclusive growth, conflict transformation, green solutions and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2012, Georgia demonstrated positive growth, conducting a democratic election with a peaceful transition of power.

Fighting Poverty in the Future

Though the nation holds many statistical successes, poverty in Georgia is still a pressing matter. According to the Asian Development Bank, 20.1% of the population still lived below the national poverty line in 2018.

Unemployment remains a contributing factor to poverty in Georgia. The national rate sits at about 13.9%, though in some regions it is as high as 40%. Young people especially struggle economically in Georgia, and the country is currently working with the United Nations to improve vocational education and training. In 2017, the Georgian government put forth a rural development strategy, emphasizing its focus on the growth and diversification of the rural economy.

Despite the nation’s economic improvements, Georgia’s standard of living has decreased dramatically due to the loss of the cheap sources of energy previously received in the Soviet era. The country recognizes this problem and has made efforts to rebuild the energy sector in a sustainable way. In 2015, Georgia joined the EU4Energy Programme, which is dedicated to making effective, research-based policy decisions in the energy sector.

Healthcare also remains a contributing factor to poverty in Georgia, especially among children. The nation struggles with both a high infant mortality rate and a high rate of infections and parasitic diseases. In 2013, the country adopted a universal healthcare plan, which represents a significant step in making health care more accessible. The nation is currently working to expand the service to all areas of the population.

The previous victories in the decline of poverty in Georgia are laudable. Though Georgia still requires more work, the nation continues to make reform efforts and strives to ensure that the next chapter of economic history is one of continued success.

– Michael Messina
Photo: Flickr

Listen Up to Fight Poverty! Three Podcasts about Poverty
Podcasting is growing more than ever around the globe. In 2019, 51 percent of the U.S. population listened to a podcast. Latinx communities are the fastest growing communities of podcast growth. Experts have cited countries such as Peru, Mexico, Chile and Argentina as having the highest podcast listener growth. Meanwhile, more than half of South Korea listens to podcasts.

All around the world, there are people, companies and organizations venturing into the waters of podcasting. Podcasts can be an interesting, new and engaging way to learn about how the world is fighting global poverty. This media can be a very convenient way to learn about poverty as consumers can listen to it while doing other tasks such as chores, driving and even brushing their teeth. Here are three top podcasts about global poverty.

3 Top Podcasts About Global Poverty

  1. World Bank Development Podcast – The World Bank is one of the world’s largest sources of development assistance and knowledge. The World Bank emerged in 1944 to reconstruct WWII war-torn Europe and works in over 100 countries today. It seeks to fight global poverty by partnering with developing countries and providing these countries with the financial boost needed to reduce poverty. The World Bank aims to help people help themselves and their environment by sharing knowledge and providing financial and technical assistance. The World Bank has 189 member countries, staff in over 170 countries and offices in over 130 locations. Some of its successes include expanding access in Haiti to primary education to 240,000 children, 50 percent of which were girls. The Development Podcast, a new podcast from The World Bank, just launched at the end of January 2020. The podcast discusses some of the biggest challenges facing the global community and some of the solutions that people are developing. The podcast seeks to get the on-the-ground perspective alongside a larger umbrella holistic view. Issues it has discussed so far include obesity and the best and worst places to start a business around the globe. Each podcast is around 25 minutes. One can listen to this podcast while getting ready in the morning or on the daily commute to work or school.
  2. From Poverty to Power – Anthropologist and activist-researcher Maria Faciolince and Duncan Green, Strategic Adviser at Oxfam GB and professor at the London School of Economics, run this controversial podcast about poverty. The podcast explores the latest thinking around development and discusses issues of poverty, politics, hope and justice. The podcast has discussed topics such as decolonizing academia and democracy.
  3. Build Relationships Break Poverty – Children’s HopeChest owns this podcast. This organization aims to create a more sustainable approach to child sponsorship. It does this by building upon existing resources in communities, creating community-to-community relationships and giving children a choice on who will be their child sponsor. The podcast challenges the Western perception of international poverty by elevating the voices of local leaders and processing how people can help to alleviate poverty without harming those living in vulnerable communities. The podcast believes that building two-way relationships will break the cycle of poverty. The podcast discusses a variety of topics related to poverty such as how music can unlock the potential of children living in poverty and human profile pieces.

Start listening to these three podcasts about global poverty and see how integrating podcasts into a daily routine can be easy and informative. These three podcasts about global poverty are uncovering and disseminating information about poverty to listeners all over the world.

Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Pixabay

 

Uzbekistan’s Economic TransformationAlthough the poverty rate in Uzbekistan is only 14 percent, the standard of living and GDP per capita are low. The government of Uzbekistan has partnered with the World Bank to undertake a massive economic transformation. It hopes to develop its economy, spur investment and improve livelihoods. The government is improving infrastructure efficiency and social services to achieve high-middle-income status for its residents by 2030. This is a part of the development strategy called Uzbekistan Vision 2030. The World Bank, International Finance Corporation, Asian Development Bank and the European Union have worked cooperatively to facilitate Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Massive World Bank Loan

The World Bank has worked with Uzbekistan since 1992 and funded more than 20 projects, totaling $3.6 billion. The bank recently approved a $500 million loan to stimulate private sector growth and job creation. Uzbekistan’s transformation into a successful market economy will ultimately result in a higher quality of life for its citizens. Currently, Uzbekistan’s GDP per capita stands at $6,900, almost one order of magnitude lower than the United States’ GDP per capita of $54,541. Uzbekistan believes that poverty levels will shrink as a direct result of developing its private sector economy and boosting GDP per capita.

Cyril Muller, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, said that the loan will “boost growth, promote transparency and accountability and improve services for citizens.” In 2018 and 2019, Uzbekistan reduced trade and investment barriers, decreased strict business regulations, loosened its currency and opened markets to spur investment and boost imports and exports. These recent changes to its economic policy show Uzbekistan’s commitment to loosening its controls on prices, production and foreign investment.

Livestock Sector Receives Support

The European Union and the World Bank jointly funded a five-year project in 2019 aimed at developing Uzbekistan’s livestock sector. More than $150 million will go towards addressing supply chain problems such as low productivity, substandard animal health services, financial constraints on research institutions and poor access to markets for smallholder farmers. The Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Jamshid Khodjayev, said that this project aims to increase the efficiency of the livestock sector by increasing the number of small farmers participating in commercial value chains, improving productivity and ensuring the sustainability of incomes.

The project will also support credit lines for farmers and other workers in the livestock industry. The agriculture industry employs about a quarter of the population. Livestock is an important agricultural product in Uzbekistan. About 90 percent of “livestock production relies on small farm holdings” and about 4.7 million smallholders depend on livestock for a living.

Energy Sector Boosts Agribusiness

“More than 126,000 MWh of electricity and 50 million cubic meters in natural gas” are available for use every year thanks to $50 million of project financing to improve energy sector performance and competitiveness. Since 2012, more than 560 farms and agribusinesses received credit lines made available through six financial institutions. Investment portfolio assets include agricultural machinery, greenhouses, livestock, orchards, vineyards and vegetable farming.

The poverty rate in Uzbekistan declined from 27.5 percent in 2001 to 14 percent in 2016 as a result of strong economic growth. GDP growth was a robust 8 percent for 2015 and 2016. The business environment has improved significantly due to a more open economic policy. Uzbekistan’s economy will continue to see improvement from internal changes to business-related statutes, like reducing the number of days to register businesses and property. Support from multilateral banks like the World Bank will further promote Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Resource TrapLogic follows that the wealthier a country becomes, the more financial resources it should have to combat poverty. The European Union countries and the United States have many programs to address domestic and global poverty, administered by both non-governmental (NGO) and governmental organizations. Taking the logical argument further yields that countries with vast natural resources should be equally capable of fighting poverty. By monetizing their vast natural resources, they should have plenty to provide for their citizens. The reality though is starkly different due to the resource trap.

Resource Trap

While rich countries are capable of enacting change, the manner by which their wealth was accumulated affects how their governments appropriate funds. The resource trap, or resource curse, as called by the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), posits that resource-rich countries tend to have higher rates of conflict and authoritarianism combined with lower rates of economic stability and economic growth. Along with the NRGI, Bloomberg finds that countries with vast natural resources have high degrees of conflict, corruption and poverty.

One of the many examples of this conundrum in the world today is Iran. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Iran’s economy has a large industrial sector which makes up 35.3 percent of the country’s GDP. Iran’s large oil reserves gave rise to its top three industries: petroleum, petrochemicals and gas production. These three are resources commonly cited in reports regarding resource traps.

Even though Iran is rich with natural resources, it has an Aggregate Freedom Score of 18/100, which categories the country as “Not Free”. In their report on Iran, Freedom House cites antigovernment protests over the worsening economy and corruption as a factor in Iran’s low score. These dynamics have rendered the country prey to the resource trap. Resource traps like those found in oil-rich countries are especially troublesome because their governments are beneficiaries of vast amounts of income that would otherwise come from taxation. Since the government does not depend on tax revenues to remain in power, the will of the people tends to be ignored, which leads to unchecked corruption.

Economic Monitoring

NGOs combating corruption in oil-rich countries work to address how petroleum-based revenues are used to suppress its people. According to Radio Farda, Iran has a record of marginalizing NGOs that attempt to address the exploitation of its citizens. Solving the riddle of resource-trapped countries is a hard task and involves a multitude of tactics. Most of the work done by NGOs in Iran is done through the World Bank’s Economic Monitor program. Monitoring efforts like these where selected topics of interest to Iran and the international community are published provide data useful in liberating countries from their resource traps.

– Spencer Julian
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure Development in Micronesia

The Federated States of Micronesia relies heavily on foreign aid, yet under its Infrastructure Development Plan 2016-2025, it plans to gain self-reliance and growth in six main areas. In addition, the Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project and the Maritime Investment Project, funded by the World Bank, are two major projects that are already underway. The developments are in key areas, such as fishing and island connectivity, which many Micronesians rely on for their livelihood.

Federal States of Micronesia Infrastructure Development Plan 2016-2025

As part of Micronesia’s Infrastructure Development Plan, economic growth and self-reliance are two areas of improvement. Micronesia is a remote region containing more than 600 islands northeast of Papua New Guinea, 74 of which are inhabited. Due to its remoteness, tourism and investment in the main regions of Micronesia are sparse. The Infrastructure Development Plan is focused on six main areas: macroeconomic stability, good governance, developing a private sector-led economy, health and education services, infrastructure improvement and long-term environmental sustainability.

Under this umbrella, Micronesia already has a number of accomplishments under its belt. Specifically, the School Facility Repair and Construction Master Plan came to fruition in 2013. Likewise, the Airport Master Plan was completed in 2012 and involves safety and security in air transportation. There are four international airports, and development in air transportation is another step to attracting tourism to Micronesia, and therefore, income to those employed in the tourism industry. Although infrastructure development in Micronesia covers many areas, positive economic growth and progress in becoming self-reliant are two important goals for developing its economy.

Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project

The World Bank donated $30 million to Micronesia’s Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project in December 2018. The project aims to increase electricity access and quality and to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. The four main states of Micronesia, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk and Yap rely on fossil fuels like diesel. About 96 percent of electricity use in Micronesia comes from fossil fuels, and about 75 percent of the total population has access to electricity.

The project’s goals are the following: increase electricity status in the state of Chuuk, increase renewable energy generation in the states of Chuuk, Kosrae and Yap, improve performance of the Pohnpei Utility Cooperation and provide technical assistance relating to governance, accountability and financial performance of the energy sector. Electricity access varies on the islands. Only 27 percent of the population in Chuuk has access to electricity, yet Pohnpei has a 95 percent electrification rate. The project aims to provide access to renewable energy to the islands for long-term use.

Federated States of Micronesia Maritime Investment Project

The Maritime Investment Project is another source of infrastructure development in Micronesia that was approved on May 9. At a cost of over $38 million, its focus is to increase efficiency, safety, security and climate resilience of maritime infrastructure and operations in Micronesia, including upgrades or repairs to terminal structures at Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap ports. The project will also improve the connection between the islands with regards to access to food, water and emergency response services.

More than 90 percent of exports are fish. The project benefits not only for infrastructure development in the major ports but also for Micronesians that work in the strong fishing industry. The project ends on August 1, 2024. Sihna Lawrence, Microneisa’s Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, said, “Guided by our Infrastructure Development Plan, we look forward to working with the World Bank to improve our maritime transport and develop stronger connectivity across the archipelago.”

Ongoing Infrastructure Developments

Micronesia’s goal of self-reliance is given through the development plan and projects. Infrastructure development in Micronesia is a major move toward reducing the 41 percent poverty rate and improving health, education and the overall wellbeing of Micronesians.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Garbage CommunitiesGarbage: the word brings to mind unpleasant smells, flies and filth. But to some, it is home. Garbage communities consist of individuals making a living from and living within the confines of literal garbage dumps. For some people living in extreme poverty, the scrap cash that recycling garbage brings and the free space for building simple homes is the only option. And it isn’t an isolated, rare way of life. Nearly 15 million people across the globe live and “work” in garbage communities.

Making a Living

Members of garbage communities spend each day rummaging through the trash, hoping to find something decent enough to recycle. Once they find something — say a can or bottle — they collect these pieces and bring them to a middleman called an “agent”. The agent, (oftentimes a gang leader or crime lord) then sells the goods for much more, sucking up a large portion of the collector’s wage. This method brings in somewhere around $2.50 a day, not nearly enough for a decent living in most countries. Getting rid of the middleman is not an option, as violence and coercion are commonly used methods of silencing the garbage workers if they attempt to sell the items directly to the recycler.

Breeding Grounds of Disease

Living in waste — whether human, animal or artificial — brings with it a host of health problems. Contact with feces can cause intestinal worms, which can lead to stunted cognitive and physical growth in children. Pneumonia, spread by poor hygiene, is rampant in these communities, as are many other infectious diseases. This is likely because each gram of feces in which people in these conditions come into contact holds 10 million viruses. As a result, the average lifespan of people raised in these communities is about 35 years old.

But along with the physical burden is a huge mental and emotional weight. Garbage pickers are often stigmatized in their communities and referred to as “local rats”. Even if they are able to attend school or enter society looking for a job, they are seen as less than because of their occupation. Infections, illness, injuries from sharp objects, trauma and mental illness, spontaneous combustion from a buildup of methane gas, the list of dangers is endless. And yet, for the world’s most vulnerable, this is what it costs to live.

Promise for a Better Future

Several organizations are committed to bringing change to garbage communities and offering them a shot at a better life. ActionAid is an organization that specifically works with women and children in impoverished regions to help them stand up to sexual abuse and violence. ActionAid also helps children living in landfills get into school by pairing them with sponsors throughout the world. International Samaritan does similar work, providing promising young people in the dumps with scholarships so that they can escape the dump. This organization also funds entrepreneurs to start up their own businesses outside of the landfills.

By reaching the next generation, these programs bring promising hope for the future. Yet, many people still live under the burden of collecting and sorting the world’s waste. Although insufficient, an improvement would be providing a living wage, clean environment and benefits for garbage communities. Even by following correct rather than cheap landfill protocol, governments could greatly improve the quality of life for these communities by reducing the number of toxic waste individuals come into contact with.

Hannah Stewart
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Afghanistan
Afghanistan continues to be a major focus of U.S. foreign policy. Yet while there are hundreds of news articles about the country’s politics, there is less information about the country’s people. Below are 15 facts about poverty in Afghanistan to provide insight into problems Afghanistan’s poorest citizens face every day.

15 Facts About Poverty in Afghanistan

  1. About 90 percent of Afghans struggle to live on current income: Over the past decade, poverty in Afghanistan has risen to record-breaking heights. From 2008 to 2018, the number of Afghans reporting that their current income was insufficient to support their family grew from 60 percent to 90 percent. Keep this number in mind when reading the other 15 facts about poverty in Afghanistan. These facts apply to 90 percent of the country’s citizens.
  2. Well-being is at global record lows: Poverty not only affects people economically or physically – there is an emotional toll as well. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, only 36 percent of Afghans said that they smiled or laughed the previous day. When asked to rate their lives on a scale of 0 (worst) to 10 (best), Afghan citizen responses averaged 2.7. Most recently, in 2016, Afghan citizen responses on the same question averaged 4.2.
  3. Education has become a luxury for children: A 2018 U.N. report noted that more than 2 million children aged 6-14 worked to support their families. With an average of 58 percent of Afghan families unable to afford food, full-time work becomes a higher priority than education. In February 2019, UNICEF, the U.N. and the government of Afghanistan launched a long-term education response program projected to help half a million children in the country. The program hopes to raise an additional $35 million within the next year to help support education infrastructure and secure teachers, supplies and similar needs for schools across the entire country.
  4. Undereducated Afghan citizens are the most vulnerable: Undereducated citizens suffer the most during economic downturns in Afghanistan, with an unemployment rate of 8 percent and underemployment (employed, but unable to cover living costs) of 41 percent. With the difficulty of getting an education, the cycle of poverty continues for many families.
  5. Armed conflict is the top reason for poverty: Poverty in Afghanistan is directly linked to increases and decreases in Taliban control in the country. When the Taliban increased influence in Afghanistan between 2012 and 2017, the number of citizens living in poverty increased from 38 percent to 55 percent. The World Bank believes that political settlement with the Taliban would be an important step forward to attract the return of capital and skilled workers from overseas.
  6. Youth migration is a problem: Since 2015, about 146,000 young Afghan workers moved to Europe per year in hopes of starting a better life. The government still struggles to keep young people in the country and implemented a 2015 initiative to help the 700,000 entrants into the Afghan workforce find jobs. However, the program was unsuccessful in generating enough funding to make an impact.
  7. And so is displacement: In 2018 more than 550,000 new Afghan citizens were displaced by conflict and drought. Between displacement and a dwindling young professional population, it is difficult for Afghanistan to keep skilled workers to further its economy.
  8. Government corruption fuels the fire: The economy in Afghanistan grew only 2 percent in 2018. The World Bank reports that the sluggish economy is a direct result of government corruption. This means aid to struggling areas is often delayed or never arrives and economic growth benefits only the country’s highest elite (and former warlords).
  9. Iran affects Afghanistan’s poverty: Approximately 2.5 to 3 million Afghans left home to pursue better economic opportunities in Iran. These migrants have been a vital part of the economy as they send their Iranian wages home to their families. Unfortunately, as the Iranian economy has crashed, so have the available wages. The rial lost approximately 70 percent of its value, drastically decreasing the ability of workers to support their families back home.
  10. Programs struggle with a lack of information: Due to conflicts and a lack of resources, it has been 40 years since the Afghan government has been able to conduct a proper census or any similar survey of the population. This makes planning and poverty initiatives difficult, as there is no data available to support decisions on where to invest aid.
  11. Afghanistan ran on an “artificial” economy: From 2011 to 2014 Afghanistan had an artificial economy, meaning that economic growth and development were wholly reliant on external foreign aid with little to no internal input. With foreign aid and troops dropping after 2014, the country has struggled to reignite its economy.
  12. Research gives hope: The World Bank implemented a test-program in 2015 to help improve economic outcomes for poor citizens. The program provided households in the Balkh province with a temporary stipend and financial coaching. The results showed a 20 percent decrease in the number of households below the national poverty line, a 30 percent increase in consumption, a 17 percent decrease in depression among women and a 53 percent reduction in debt. The World Bank published these findings in 2019, providing the first-ever evidence of similar targeted programs for poor areas in conflict regions.
  13. Trends predict further growth: Based on current trends, the World Bank believes there is hope for further economic growth in Afghanistan. The 2019 World Bank assessment of Afghanistan confirmed prospects are looking positive for Afghanistan, with a projected 2.5 percent growth in 2019 and up to 3.5 percent growth in 2021.
  14. Continued aid is critical: As of 2019, grants support more than 75 percent of Afghanistan’s public expenditures. The U.N. humanitarian workers warn that the withdrawal of aid to Afghanistan could derail the slow but steady growth the country has experienced since 2001.
  15. The 2020 aid package is under congressional review right now: The Department of State and USAID have requested approximately $532.8 million in aid for the financial year 2020. At the time of writing, this request has not yet been approved.

There are tangible issues that fuel poverty, and these 15 facts about poverty in Afghanistan represent only a part of the complex issues the country’s economy faces. Remember that a country is more than just its politics – it is made up of people. We can help people through our actions and reduce the suffering of millions of Afghan citizens.

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

Technological consumer base in West AfricaThe whole of Africa is known for being an incredibly poor continent. While improvements have been made in certain aspects of life that have provided citizens with better and easier lives in some regions, Africa is still in need of advances that work towards lessening poverty throughout this vast nation. The growing technological consumer base in West Africa, particularly the digital economy and mobile outreach, is becoming a very big deal.

When it comes to technological advances in smaller countries or regions of countries, some nations are way ahead of others. This is largely due to the fact that certain countries have more money than others to invest in these advancements. Even though money may be limited, some areas have found ways to achieve technological improvements.

The technological consumer base in West Africa has experienced a major increase in users in only a decade. Subscribers for the mobile economy of West Africa have reached 47 percent, up from 27 percent ten years ago. These advancements have created new opportunities for government, various industries, start-up businesses, and more. A conference held in April 2018 addressing West Africa’s digital revolution in the last ten years revealed two major factors that contributed to this new digital age: people and technology. People are the ones who rely on, create, and consume technology in increasing numbers while technology and technological advancements continue to broaden their impact the more they are improved upon. The conference was devoted to these two factors in an attempt to bring continued support for integrating mobile and digital technology into society in these regions and bolstering the new growing base of users.

An example of the impact of the increasing technological consumer base in West Africa occurred in 2017. To begin, 85 percent of the world’s population lives in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Large companies such as Google realize that what works for citizens in western culture may not work in the most heavily populated regions of the world. When 1GB of data can cost a consumer almost 10 percent of monthly income, better user options must be considered to grow the consumer base. Recognizing this, Google broadened the YouTube Go app to Nigeria. This app is data-friendly and allows viewers to save and watch videos offline. Google also created an app called Datally for Android which helps users conserve data. As an internet conglomerate, Google realizes that areas like West Africa are the future of the world’s growth. It focuses on ways to enable these areas to grow in a technological age and improve life for its citizens.

Organizations, such as the World Bank Group, have been promoting a digital economy in all parts of Africa. A digital economy will connect Africa’s citizens to various industries, services, information, and each other. In addition, it will provide people with a digital ID to validate their identity and help them connect to necessary government services. Citizens will also gain easier access to formal financial services including mobile money, such as e-commerce and online markets. West Africa’s most recent technological developments and increasing consumer base provide proof that these advancements are possible, they work in these regions, and they make life better for its citizens. This can influence other regions of Africa to continue developing a digital economy.

West Africa’s growing technological consumer base is a possible stepping stone to a better future for Africa as a continent. This growth of the digital economy in Africa that will give citizens much-needed resources, provide more economic opportunities, and create a better way of life.

– Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr