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Poverty in ColombiaMacroeconomic trends show there has been equitable growth in Colombia. While as of 2017 Colombia holds the second-highest wealth inequality rate in Latin America, only slightly better than Brazil, it has been on a downward trend since 2000. Additionally, poverty in Colombia dropped by 15% between 2008 and 2017 to a low of 27%. Extreme poverty was cut in half from 2002 to 2014, with more than 6 million people moving out of poverty. This put more Colombians in the middle class than in poverty for the first time. Finally, between 2008 and 2017, the country’s gross domestic product grew at a rate of 3.8%. This is more than twice as fast as the members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Problems

However, increasing exports drives much of the recent growth and reduction in poverty in Colombia. Commodity prices have risen significantly over the past several years. This growth is unsustainable, as a recent drop in prices has hindered the export industry. Colombia has also been struggling with such issues as a lack of financial inclusion, low productivity, low-skilled workers and a large informal economy.

The informal economy consists of such jobs as farmworkers, taxi drivers and street vendors where “they make no direct tax contributions, have no security of employment and do not receive pensions or other social benefits.” As of May 2014, informal workers made up nearly two-thirds of the Colombian labor force. This means millions do not possess a dependable income. They do not have the opportunity to contribute to or receive a pension fund or other government benefits. For these reasons, the large informal sector is also a big contributor to inequality and poverty in Colombia.

Another major issue holding back Colombia has been its decades-long internal struggle for peace. Nearly a quarter-million Colombians have died from the conflict, with 25,000 disappearing and nearly 6 million being displaced. Although a peace agreement was reached in 2016, tensions are still high in the country between the government and the rebel militia.

Solutions

Nonetheless, steps are being taken to ensure that Colombia is able to continue its recent progress. With nearly 6 million people displaced because of the internal conflict, land restitution is a key step to make. With the help of the World Bank, 1,852 land restitution legal cases were held by the end of 2014. Additionally, the World Bank helped the Colombian government give reparations to those affected by the conflict, with a focus on Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups who were disproportionately affected.

Digitalization and use of technology are being used to help formalize businesses by simplifying the registration process and making tax collection more efficient, enabling businesses and individuals to pay taxes and contribute to the pension system and providing them access to many social benefits. Digitalization also provides greater access to financial services. This is done by providing micro-credits, expanding the outreach of banking services, lowering the cost of financial services and simplifying electronic payments.

USAID’s Role in Poverty Reduction in Colombia

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also been involved in helping decrease poverty in Colombia by increasing the presence of democratic institutions in the country. Through this, the USAID hopes to “foster a culture of respect for human rights, promote access to justice, increase public investment and provide services to historically underserved and conflictive rural areas.” This organization fights for inclusive growth and encourages investment in rural areas. Additionally, it helps producers expand their market, provides financial services and helps restore the land to its original owners before the conflict.

All of these efforts and many more are being made to reduce poverty in Colombia. The goal is to keep the country on a path toward equitable and inclusive development that leads to a reduction of inequality.

Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Daylily/Poverty in China
Chinese President Xi Jinping has made substantial efforts to reduce poverty in China for the millions living without basic necessities. In 2015, President Jinping set the goal of eliminating poverty in China by 2020. There were 1.4 billion people in poverty at that time, defined as earning less than $1.10 a day, a lower benchmark than the World Bank poverty guideline of $1.90 a day. While some of his methods to alleviate rural poverty have been conventional, like increasing tourism and promoting produce production, in one Chinese district his tactic has been far from ordinary.

The Yunzhou District of China is located about 200 miles west of Beijing, in the Yanshan and Taihang mountains. Given its remote location, the cities in this district have dealt with high levels of poverty. However, in the last decade, farmers in this area have capitalized on the fecund growth of daylilies to alleviate poverty in the region, and in China more broadly.

Medicinal Qualities of Daylilies

Daylilies are an edible flower that people use in Chinese herbal medicine. According to studies, they may have detoxification properties, aid in reducing insomnia, lessen hemorrhoids and calm nerves. Daylilies in China belong to a heartier class of flowers since they can grow in a variety of soil conditions, and the flower itself comes in many colors. Its botanical name, Hemerocallis, translates to “beauty for a day,” as most daylilies will bloom in the morning and die by nightfall. However, the flower will stay in bloom for several weeks because each stem has over 12 flower buds.

Increase in Land for Daylilies

Though areas in the district, like Datong City and the Fangcheng new village, have been cultivating daylilies for over 600 years, the district recently increased the land on which it grows daylilies by 10 times. Now, millions of daylilies in China grow on 10,000 hectares or the equivalent of over 18,000 football fields.

President Xi Jinping’s Support for the Daylily Industry

In a recent trip to the district, President Jinping encouraged farmers and locals alike to continue developing the industry to reduce poverty in China. During his visit, President Jinping spoke to the country’s efforts to reach its goal of total poverty eradication by the end of 2020. So far, daylily production has helped lift over 1 million people out of poverty. In 2019, daylily production generated $9.17 million for the district. President Jinping remains steadfast in alleviating poverty in the country despite having only a few months before his deadline.

Revenue from daylilies in China may seem like an unusual product to reduce poverty in China by Western standards. However, according to Eastern culture, the flower is a cornerstone of the Chinese market and therefore a logical aspect of poverty alleviation. Even though the Yunzhou District has been cultivating the flower for over 600 years, it is comforting to know that the towns and cities in that district have utilized daylily production in the last 10 years to bring over a million individuals out of poverty.

Mimi Karabulut
Photo: Flickr

Global Citizen: Success Stories of the Global Poverty ProjectThe Global Poverty Project, also known as Global Citizen, is an education and advocacy organization working to increase the number and effectiveness of people taking action to see an end to extreme poverty. Global Citizen’s advocacy work focuses on eight issues: girls and women, food and hunger, health, education, water and sanitation, environment, finance and innovation and citizenship.

Global Citizen has had success stories in these areas: 

  1. Girls and Women
    At the 2017 Global Citizen Festival, Accenture, Citi, Ernst & Young and Procter and Gamble committed to sourcing $100 million each through their supply chains from women-owned businesses, a majority based in developing countries. 
  2. Food and Hunger
    In 2017, the Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP), David Beasley, confirmed that $575 million of $990 million committed by Congress in May, helped by 49,291 actions taken by Global Citizen, was released to the WFP and others to immediately fight famine.
  3. Health
    Over the past seven years, Global Citizen has taken 1.47 million actions to increase access to global health services, including HIV/AIDS treatment. These actions have led to 48 commitments by governments and are set to affect 626 million people by 2030.
  4. Education
    In Feb. 2018, Global Citizen held the first Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Financing Conference hosted jointly by a G7 leader, French President Emmanuel Macron, and the president of a developing country, Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal. The conference was held in Dakar, Senegal, to support $2.3 billion for education in developing countries. GPE’s global ambassador, Rihanna, was present and spoke as well.
  5. Water and Sanitation
    At the Global Citizen Festival, Nigeria committed to getting 5.5 million people out of open defecation by the end of 2018. 
  6. Environment
    In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the United Arab Emirates Minister of Climate Change and Environment committed $50 million on the Global Citizen Festival stage to fund renewable energy supplies and another $10 million toward humanitarian relief in Antigua and Barbuda. 
  7. Finance and Innovation
    Global Citizen partners with the private sector to further fight poverty. One of the biggest successes was at the Global Citizen Festival in 2015, where the European Commission committed to increase support for the refugee crisis by €500 million over the existing development aid budget of the European Commission.
  8. Citizenship
    In 2017, over three million Global Citizen supporters’ actions helped to drive $5.7 billion in 143 commitments by calling upon leaders as a collective power to step up for the world’s most vulnerable.

Because of its advocacy and supporters, Global Citizen will continue to reduce poverty significantly in the coming years. 

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

Living on Two Dollars a Day
The phrase “living on two dollars a day” gets tossed around with great frequency as researchers, advocacy networks and politicians alike attempt to understand the magnitude and scope of global poverty. However, establishing a global poverty line isn’t so easy, and the information tends to get muddled as data is constantly updated and poverty measurements vary from place to place.

So what does living on two dollars a day really mean? Below are five key facts about what living on two dollars a day looks like and what it means for global poverty:

  1. It is a daily reality for many. As of 2012, when the World Bank most recently updated the global poverty line, it was found that 12.7 percent of the world’s population was living at or below the poverty line. Meaning that 896 million people are living on two dollars a day or less.
  2. The calculations are tricky. The poverty line and the two dollars a day measure are calculated on a cost of living that allow for the minimum nutrition, clothing and shelter needed to survive to be met.
  3. The poverty line can vary widely both within a country and between countries. In India alone, the poverty line ranges from the equivalent of $2.13 per day in rural areas to $3.08 per day in urban areas. Meaning that the severity of living on two dollars a day will look different depending on where you are.
  4. Living on two dollars a day or less is considered extreme poverty for a reason. Though the poverty line in the U.S. is just $15.77 per day, the average daily consumer spending for an American amounts to about $93.
  5. Progress is being made. The number of people living on two dollars a day or less is expected to fall below 10 percent in the coming years, and the World Bank has now set a goal to end extreme poverty within a generation. To do this, they intend to have no more than three percent of the world’s population below the poverty line by 2030.

Measuring the number of people living in extreme poverty across the globe is no simple task. While living on two dollars a day estimates brings us closer to grasping the impact of extreme poverty on the world, it is still possible that the scope of global poverty is not fully understood. No matter how it is measured, global poverty continues to be a significant issue for developed and developing countries alike. Continued support and development assistance will be key to ensuring that one day soon the world is free from extreme poverty.

Sara Christensen

Photo: The New York Times

help Refugees

According to the International Rescue Committee, Syrian refugees account for between a quarter and a third of Lebanon’s population. Jordan has about 630,000 Syrian refugees—proportionally, that is the same as the United States taking in all 64 million residents of the United Kingdom.

Those who would like to extend a helpful hand are often unsure of where to begin. Here are six ways to help refugees:

    1. With the Syrian crisis alone resulting in over 4 million refugees, many agencies doing valuable work are stretched thin. A New York Times story on the refugee crisis includes links to several well-ranked charities that are seeking donations to help refugees.
    2. For those interested in more hands-on work, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) connects volunteers to refugee programs worldwide, though this initiative is geared towards highly skilled professionals.
    3. There are several other ways the average person can volunteer, however. The International Rescue Committee has local offices across the United States offering volunteering opportunities, such as working with refugee children or helping adults with their job search.

  1. The White House has a portal for volunteering to help refugees. If you enter your location, it provides a map and list of locations in your area that help refugees. For example, if you enter Washington, D.C., one of the results is the local Ethiopian Community Development Council, which helps African refugees resettle and build new, fruitful lives.
  2. You can also donate items. While many organizations do not accept physical donations like clothing on an international level, many local offices do. The International Refugee Council, for example, says local offices are often in need of items such as clothing and children’s items.
  3. Contact your senators and contact your representative. There are a variety of things you can encourage them to do, such as make pathways to accept refugees, increase funding for foreign aid or give more support to U.N. programs working with refugees.

This list is a good starting point for those interesting in aiding refugees to overcome global crises.

Emily Milakovic

Photo: Flickr

international poverty line

Pinning down the definition of poverty is essential for the multitude of global organizations looking to improve the well-being of the global population. Measuring just income can leave out information about a community’s environment.

The World Bank’s International Poverty Line

The World Bank’s International Poverty Line is one of the most popular measures of poverty for all kinds of relief organizations. Between 2008 and 2015, this measure was defined as those individuals living on less than $1.25 a day. By this measure, “just over 900 million people globally lived under this line in 2012” and projections for 2015 pin the amount as  over 700 million.

Last year September, the International Poverty Line was moved up to $1.90 a day to account for inflation and the cost of goods in various countries.

When an organization redefines the way poverty is assessed, it can change the people whom it targets and the scope of its operations. In that way, adjusting the parameters needs to be a careful, precise process in which the target population is not misrepresented.

How Is It Used?

The World Bank uses an International Poverty Line measuring an individual’s daily purchase power so that it can gauge the population who can meet their “minimum nutritional, clothing and shelter needs” in their country. Using an average of various national poverty lines, the international financial group generates its International Poverty Line from calculations involving purchasing power parity exchange rates.

A Project Syndicate article, however, reported on the Spring Meetings in Washington D.C. in which the World Bank would begin “[recommending] additional metrics.” The establishment of the Commission on Global Poverty will research new ways to assess the quality of life that look beyond income.

The author of the article mentions an analysis done at Fundacion Paraguaya, a Paraguayan organization which spearheads “Poverty Spotlight.”

This initiative uses the power of data to help “families self-assess their level of poverty in 50 indicators grouped into 6 dimensions of poverty which are: Income & Employment, Health & Environment, Housing & Infrastructure, Education & Culture, Organization & Participation and Interiority & Motivational.”

Poverty Spotlight’s approach allows for a customized solution to the specific situation in which a family might find themselves. In addition, Fundacion Paraguaya says that the method “breaks down the often ‘overwhelm’ concept of poverty into a series of smaller manageable poverty problems.” In more ways than one, relief becomes more of a system of change than a cash donation.

Reshaping Poverty Relief Campaigns

The World Bank’s efforts to research assessment methods using multidimensional analysis could reshape poverty relief campaigns across the globe. Adopting an indicator like the Social Progress Index could change how societies are viewed. According to this measurement, the United States is ranked 16th in the world while Norway and Sweden are ranked 1st and 2nd.

The International Poverty Line will be reevaluated this month by the Commission on Global Poverty. No matter what is deemed important in rating living conditions, the goal of reducing the resulting number will prevail.

Jacob Hess

Photo: Flickr

 

Doctors Without Borders

In discussing the origins of Doctors without Borders, Bernard Kouchner, its founder stated that “It’s simple really: go where the patients are. It seems obvious, but at the time it was a revolutionary concept because borders got in the way. It is no coincidence that we called it Medecins Sans Frontiers.”

Origins

Doctors Without Borders was conceived by a group of young doctors that decided to go and help victims of wars and major disasters during the period of upheavals in Paris in 1968.

In 1971, Raymond Borel and Philippe Bernier, journalists from the medical review Tonus, “issued an appeal to establish a band of doctors to help the suffering in the midst and the wake of major disasters.”

Doctors Without Borders was officially created on December 22, 1971 with about 300 volunteers including doctors, nurses and other staff including the 13 founders such as Dr. Jacques Beres, Phillipe Bernier, Raymond Berel and Dr.Jean Cabrol, among others.

The organization is predicated on the belief that all people have the right to medical care regardless of “gender, race, religion, creed or political affiliation and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national boundaries.”

Shifting Focus

Since 1991, Doctors Without Borders has been working in Haiti and its teams have “tended to patients, assisted in births and provided access to medical care for hundreds of thousands of Haitians who otherwise would have gone without.”

In Syria, Doctors Without Borders was able to provide medical supplies to networks of doctors already in the country whilst trying to lay the groundwork to provide direct medical care to the victims of the war in that country.

In Nigeria the organization’s staff responded to outbreaks of measles and meningitis, especially in the northern region of the country, and often had to travel to remote areas to reach patients.

In Sierra Leone and Burundi, where death during childbirth has been a serious problem, Doctors Without Borders was able to create programs that set up “free of charge central referral facilities and emergency ambulance services to bring women from remote health centers to hospitals where they could deliver safely 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” These programs operated in Sierra Leone’s Bo District and Burundi‘s Kabezi District.

Thanks to Doctors Without Borders, many lives have been saved because they “reject the idea that poor people deserve third-rate medical care and strive to provide high quality health care to patients.” It is not surprising that they received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.

Vanessa Awanyo

Photo: Flickr 

girl_up
Sydney Faler and Molly Foulkes of Dundee-Crown High School in Illinois started the Girl Up Dundee student club at their school with the hope of helping girls in need across the globe.

The club is a member of the U.N.’s Girl Up campaign which aims to help girls have access to education, health care, safe living conditions as well as social and economic opportunities. The U.N.’s program helps girls in Guatemala, India, Malawi, Liberia and Ethiopia, which are among the toughest places for girls to live.

In the beginning, Faler and Foulkes wanted to do something positive, but they were not sure how to make a difference. Inspired by Emma Watson’s U.N. speech on gender equality, they decided to start the club as a way to collect support and resources for girls.

Foulkes said, “It’s a way for me as a high school student, where I don’t really have that voice, to be able to impact something globally.”

Their sentiment proved to be a common one, as the club started with 35 members and has more people joining every week. In the digital age, students seem more aware of problems in the world and they wish to have a positive impact.

Foulkes said that “we’re becoming a more globalized nation and world. It’s important to realize there are so many more people out there than just our community.” With the planet becoming smaller due to everyone connecting through the internet and social media, issues that were previously unknown are now being brought to the forefront.

People everywhere are coming together to help each other, as evidenced by the growing popularity of the Girl Up student club, which is just one of 1,000 registered Girl Up clubs in the United States. The U.N.’s Girl Up club is also represented in 51 countries around the world.

So far this year, the Dundee-Crown chapter of the Girl Up student club has raised over $300 for girls in Guatemala. The funds will provide bicycles for girls in Guatemala, so they can get to school safely. With access to education, the girls will likely be healthier, more financially responsible and better qualified for good jobs.

Most Guatemalan girls in the Girl Up-supported regions only receive about three years of schooling. This lack of education means that most girls never learn to read and write. In addition, without access to education, girls are more at risk for early marriage and childbearing, thus continuing the cycle of poverty.

In order to help break the cycle, Faler and Foulkes also plan to host a gala event with local community members so they can spread their message. Foulkes said that “a lot of people don’t really understand what we’re doing.”

They believe that once they inform others, they will reach their goal of raising $500 to help more girls in need. These two high school students’ actions are having positive impacts for girls who desperately need it.

Andrew Wildes

Sources: Daily Herald, Girl Up
Photo: Cloud Front