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disability and poverty in Israel
While the national rate of poverty in Israel sits at roughly 19%, the relative poverty rate of Israelis with disabilities is 24%. Disability and poverty in Israel are not dichotomous.

Cyclical Poverty and Disability

Poverty can cause disability because it frequently leads to polluted environments, unsafe working conditions and lack of access to medical care, proper nutrition, safe drinking water, hygiene supplies and education. Disability also causes poverty. According to the United Nations, discrimination causes many disabled people to experience “limited access to education and employment,” causing disabled people to disproportionately live in poverty.

According to the United Nations, “For every child killed in warfare, three are wounded and acquire a permanent disability.” These children have a 1.7 times greater risk than children without disabilities of becoming victims of violent crime. Furthermore, without proper education and employment opportunities, it is unlikely that disabled children living in poverty will escape it as they grow older.

How Israeli Innovations are Revolutionizing Accessibility

Accessibility is not only a human right, it is also the means by which disabled people achieve equal opportunity. Lack of accessibility often means inequitable treatment for people with disabilities and assistive technologies are a major component of accessibility. Today, several Israeli companies are at the forefront of assistive technology development. A few innovations that have come out of Israel in recent times are:

  • The Sesame Phone: The Sesame Phone is a smartphone that people can operate solely by “hands-free, head-controlled access.” It is ideal for people living with a variety of conditions that cause paralysis.
  • ReWalk: ReWalk is a wearable robotic skeleton that provides “powered hip and knee movement to those with spinal cord injuries (SCI).”
  • EyeMusic: EyeMusic is a Sensory Substitution Device (SSD) that emerged to provide auditory sensory substitution in order to simulate visual stimuli for the blind.
  • Lola: Lola is a multilingual, fully voice-controlled SMS application that voice commands control, catering to a wide variety of people with disabilities.
  • Playwork: Playwork is common physical therapy equipment that received rebranding as various games in order to ease the transition to rehabilitation.

While all these innovations are changing the landscape of accessibility, the innovations are not cheap. Not only do those hoping to acquire innovative accessibility options have to worry about affordability, but these technologies’ creators also have to worry about funding their production. Finding funding for a startup or development project is not an easy task.

Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled

Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled — “Ezer-Tech” is a collaborative program between the Innovation Authority and the National Insurance Institute that seeks to encourage research and development of assistive technologies. Through Israel’s Innovation Authority, the program supplies grants to Israeli companies and nonprofits who are working to develop assistive technologies. A grant from the program can cover up to 75% of a project. The Innovation Authority also works to establish partnerships between startups and small businesses and international partners. Companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Amazon Web Services to name a few, have benefitted from the funding that the Innovation Authority provides.

The Future

Through grant programs like Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled — “Ezer-Tech,” Israeli developers, like those who created the Sesame Phone, ReWalk, EyeMusic, Lola and Playwork, can receive funding for research and development of assistive technologies. Providing assistive technologies to people with disabilities opens up many possibilities in the job market, which in turn, contributes to economic growth and lifts disabled individuals out of poverty.

Access to funding for developing assistive technologies would allow the brutal cycle of disability and poverty in Israel to cease and create ways to prioritize accessibility for citizens with disabilities. Through assistive technologies, many disabled people could achieve full integration into both society and the labor market, allowing a reduction in the correlation between disability and poverty in Israel.

Michelle Schwab
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disasters Shaping Global Poverty
When people discuss the causes of global poverty, natural disasters do not often come up, but there is a correlation between natural disasters and global poverty. This may be due to the fact that natural disasters tend to be completely out of human control, while human choice and behavior can either cause or greatly reduce other factors that contribute to poverty. However, natural disasters shape global poverty through post-disaster destruction and economic and societal instability. Geographical location and weather patterns, as well as vulnerability to natural disasters, are immensely pertinent to a society’s poverty rate.

The Danger of Natural Disasters

According to the World Bank, natural disasters force over 26 million people across the globe into poverty annually and cost the global economy around $520 billion every year. These disasters also reinforce the cyclical nature of poverty; they ruin progress that countries have made to reduce poverty and leave impoverished people completely vulnerable due to their inability to cope and recover after the calamity. The five countries with the highest Climate Risk Index ratings from 1998 to 2017 all have national poverty rates above 20 percent. Honduras and Haiti rank two and four on this index, respectively and are great examples of how natural disasters shape global poverty.

Hurricane Mitch

According to a Penn State University report, Honduras lost $3.8 billion after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The agricultural economic sector dropped by 7 percent as both domestic and cash crops disappeared. According to Honduras Compassion Partners, the agriculture sector has dropped by almost 33 percent over the last 20 years. Adequate sanitation and clean water were rarities and are still not too ideal levels. The health and education system took a $33 million hit. Penn State University also reported that societal instability increased after the storm. The country saw a surge in gender inequality and sexual and domestic violence after the hurricane. Extreme weather is so influential to poverty rates because its devastation is multifaceted. Like in Honduras, natural disasters simultaneously strip individual necessities like food, shelter, security and sanitation and weaken socioeconomic resilience, that is, the ability for society as a whole to recover after a catastrophe.

Haiti

Another example is Haiti. The 2010 earthquake that ravaged the island nation cost the economy around $7.8 billion. The natural disaster affected all facets of life. A Global Foundation for Disaster Reduction and Recovery report revealed just how vast the consequences of a disaster like this can be:

  • Social sectors like water, food, sanitation, health and education suffered $553.3 million in economic loss.
  • Infrastructure sectors like housing, food, energy and transportation suffered close to $1.3 billion in economic loss.
  • Production sectors like agriculture, industry, retail and finance suffered $933.3 million in economic loss.

These figures do not even include the cost of damages, which more than double the total expense. Almost a decade later, partially due to more natural disasters, Haiti is still recovering from the earthquake. These calamities bombard all of the indicators of poverty and all of the variables that have the potential to lift an individual and a society out of poverty (i.e. food security, capital, sanitation, education, health care) in one fell swoop. The post-disaster consequences underpin the cyclical complexion of poverty. This is how natural disasters shape global poverty.

Direct Relief

Direct Relief is a non-governmental organization that provides relief from natural disasters in over 80 countries in Asia, Africa, South America, Central America, North America and Europe. To date, Direct Relief has provided $747,210,716 in international aid, given 160,038,758 doses of medicine and provided 3,531,448 pounds of medical supplies to victims of natural disasters. The organization distributes products such as emergency medical packs, cholera treatment kits, oral rehydration salts and hurricane prep packs. It also employs a hurricane prep map to supply aid to the affected countries. Direct Relief has been the largest provider of aid to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.

Natural disasters and global poverty have a close relationship. The ability for one extreme weather event to negatively influence all of the factors that decide poverty makes it much more difficult for countries prone to these storms to end the cycle of poverty. More research and development on disaster preparedness and recovery are necessary to allow countries the opportunity to break the feedback loop. These disasters are stymying poverty reduction efforts in countries like Honduras, Haiti and even now in Zimbabwe which is suffering from severe drought. Response and preparation to natural disasters and climate tendencies need to be a higher priority in the strategy of mitigating global poverty.

Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr