Homelessness in AlgeriaAlgeria is a country rich with resources, particularly oil, which makes it one of the richest countries in Africa. It is also the largest country in Africa, boasting a population of nearly 43 million people. However, one of the richest and largest African nations battles a decades-long fight: homelessness. Homelessness in Algeria is not a new phenomenon but is a critical one.

Low-Income Citizens Need Affordability

Homelessness in Algeria comes in various forms. It is typical for individuals without permanent and adequate housing to sleep on the street. It is not uncommon for individuals to sleep in their cars. Groups of strangers sometimes live in garages, often thought of as slums.

Low-income Algerians suffer the most from the housing crisis and homelessness. Although the government closely regulates property ownership, the same cannot be said of the rental market. According to a report published by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing in Algeria, speculation and prohibitive rents keep low-income Algerians from accessing permanent housing.

The independent think tank Center for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa reports there is a housing deficit of one million while the number of vacant dwellings is estimated at two million. The latter is a result of private property owners manipulating the rental supply. They eliminate vacant units for rent in an effort to drive up demand and pricing.

Reports published by LKeria, an Algerian real estate agency, indicate that another reason housing is unavailable is that attempts by the government to build housing are often poorly planned and assessed. These low-quality housing developments offer some relief for Algerians facing homelessness. However, many developments do not survive due to building hazards, and residents once again face housing insecurity.

Homeless Women in Algeria

Until 2005, there was no Algerian law that protected divorced women from the housing crisis or the possibility to become homeless. The traditional Family Law code denies Algerian women full citizenship rights. A recent amendment to the code guarantees housing to divorced women.

Per the terms of the family law amendment, settlements of the divorce offer one of two options to the former wives. The first option entitles the woman and children to live in the conjugal residence. The second enlists the man to provide housing for the woman and children if she retains custody and if the man will not forfeit the conjugal residence.

The amendment was a significant step to dismantle parts of the densely patriarchal culture present in Algeria. Still, women’s rights activists say the modification was purely lip service.

According to the women-focused nonprofit SOS Women in Distress based in Algiers, 540 women were homeless as a result of divorce just two years after the new law’s passing, and the trend continues. Authorities largely dismiss the law, and therefore it goes unenforced. As a result, large groups of women often gather with their children on the streets at night.

Solving the Housing Crisis

The central government recognized the housing and homelessness crisis in Algeria for the last two decades and implemented a program to resolve the widespread issue. The program requires Algerian citizens to apply for public housing, also known as diara commissions. The government then creates lists that determine which families will be placed in subsidized living units.

The locals view these lists as both a solution and a recurring problem. Because housing is still scarce, not every family that applies for a living space will make the list. The publication of the lists often spurs protests and riots, reflecting a lack of trust between the country’s decision-makers and the civilians.

However, forecasts indicate that the government is encouraging more buildings. They aim to build 10.9 million more housing units in 2019, with 3.6 million already built in 2018. Additionally, government officials are shifting focus to allow more private developers whose expansion includes development for middle and low-income segments so that homeownership is affordable for majority low-income citizens.

– Victoria Colbert
Photo: Pixabay

Women's Empowerment in AlgeriaIn Algeria, women are typically viewed as insignificant and lesser than their male counterparts. Ironically, the honor of a family rests almost solely upon the shoulders of the women.

The literacy rate of women in Algeria is 73 percent, for men it is 87 percent. The unemployment rate for women rests at 41 percent, for men it is only 22 percent. There is clearly a disparity in how women are treated in Algeria. Fortunately, efforts are being made to encourage women’s empowerment in Algeria.

Algeria is a country with Islamist values where women are expected to wear conservative clothing. Even at the beach, women are expected to be almost completely covered up. Recently, however, women have begun to push back against these values by wearing what they like, including bikinis.

An Algerian woman, Sara, started a Facebook group to garner acceptance in favor of the bikini. “Swimming in beachwear at the beach shouldn’t be an exploit or shocking,” she said. Some 200 women have gone to the beach in bikinis in support of women’s freedom to wear what they want when they want to. It is a small step for women, but a crucial one for women’s empowerment in Algeria.

Even more significant to women’s empowerment is that more women are appearing in parliament in Algeria.  Despite a patriarchal system, women now occupy 31 percent of parliamentary seats, due to political reforms supported by the UNDP, ranking the country first in the Arab world. According to its website, UNDP “helped establish a legal framework that granted women 30 percent representation in elected assemblies.” Building upon this framework, UNDP founded a program to support elected women officials and ensure that they got the proper education for these roles.

Yasmina, a resident of Algeria who is a lawyer and has been in training to learn about the democratic process understands the importance of this work. “Through these exchanges with the trainers, I’ve come to understand the importance of having women participate in the decision-making process and the impact this has on the future status of women in Algeria,” she said.

Educating women leads to gender parity. Gender parity is a way in which poverty can be reduced. With women gaining more powerful roles in society, gender parity can more likely be achieved and, by extension, reduction of poverty.

While Algeria has made significant strides, there are still some roadblocks to overcome. A woman was set on fire after refusing a man’s advances and a pamphlet instructing men how to beat their wives has been circulated. Women’s rights need to be adopted and respected by everyone in Algeria for progress to be fully realized. Women’s empowerment in Algeria still has a long way to go.

– Dezanii Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Algeria Poverty RateA look at numbers alone illustrates gross inequalities in the Algerian economy. According to Trading Economics, the poverty headcount ratio at the national poverty line was 5.5 percent in 2011. Despite the statistic, 11.8 percent of the population lives in the slums, and the lowest 10 percent of the population share just 2.87 percent of the country’s total income. Although those living in extreme poverty account for only 0.5 percent of the population, 10 percent or almost four million citizens, are seen as vulnerable to falling back into poverty if any slight circumstantial variations work against them.

Currently, unemployment is one of the biggest factors leading to setbacks in improving the poverty rate in Algeria. The World Bank reports that unemployment increased to 11.2 percent in 2015 and has remained that way through population increases in 2016. High levels of unemployment also occur among women and youth at 16.6 percent and 29.9 percent respectively.

Combined with low oil prices and deteriorating living standards, tackling inequality has become increasingly difficult in Algeria. Many disparities exist regionally, with almost 75 percent of Algeria’s poor living in urban areas and working informal jobs. Looking beyond the blanket statistical figures that exist, regional disparities indicate that twice as much poverty exists in Algeria’s Sahara, and three times as much exists among the population living on the Steppe, a Mediterranean forest and woodland region of North Africa.

Moving forward, the United Nations and other organizations such as the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) are working toward improving early childhood development and nutrition, health coverage, implementing cash transfers and strengthening rural infrastructure to displace inequality and decrease the poverty rate in Algeria. In 2005, Algeria launched the UNICEF Unite for Children Against AIDS global campaign, and other campaigns and movements have progressed alongside those efforts.

A 2017 UNICEF analysis covering 11 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including Algeria, Comoros and Egypt among others, has also led efforts to improve education, provide adequate housing, provide access to clean water and improve antenatal care and birth assistance.

Through political advocacy and policy implementation, solutions can be found and goals achieved to leverage inequality, continue moving citizens above the international poverty line and lower the poverty rate in Algeria.

Katherine Wang

Photo: Pixabay

Algeria’s Facts and Figures
Situated in the northernmost part of Africa on the south side of the Mediterranean Sea between Tunisia and Morocco, Algeria is the continent’s largest country—and for the past half-century, it has been plagued by violence. This country is ripe with history, and here’s some of the most important of Algeria’s facts and figures.

France first seized the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria back in 1830, ending three centuries of Algeria as an autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire. By 1954, the Algerian War of Independence had broken out, which was largely motivated by the National Liberation Front (the FLN—the nation’s primary political party), and they successfully gained their autonomy from France in 1962.

The current President of Algeria is Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who won the presidency in the 1999 election and has held power ever since. In 1991, a civil war broke out with Muslims against the government; when Bouteflika was elected in 1999, he was able to restrain the conflict of a brutal civil war by introducing a national reconciliation policy, restoring economic stability within the country.

When regarding facts and figures on Algeria’s economy, it is largely dominated by hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons account for 30 percent of the country’s GDP, 60 percent of budget revenues, and close to 95 percent of all export earnings, as Algeria holds the 10th-largest reserve of natural gas globally. Algeria’s economy also enjoys an extremely low debt, at just 2 percent of GDP.

When it comes to Algeria’s facts and figures regarding its climate, it is mainly arid to semi-arid, with wet winters and hot, dry summers along the coast—dusty, sand-laden wind is very common in the summertime. The average elevation is about 800m, contains 17.3 percent of usable agricultural land, and its main natural resources are petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, lead and zinc.

Algeria’s environment is subject to biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species, hazardous wastes and ship pollution, among others.

Some of the leading current issues involving Algeria’s environment include the Mediterranean Sea becoming polluted from factors such as oil wastes, soil erosion and fertilizer runoff.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency, as of July 2016, facts and figures regarding the population of Algeria were at 40,263,711 people, with 99 percent of the population being Muslim and predominantly Sunni. The most common of languages in the nation are Arabic, French and Berber.

When broadcasting to the population, the government exercises a strong hold over the media, and the radio sector of the media is entirely state-run.

A major issue within Algeria is human trafficking, with women being subjected to atrocities such as forced labor, sex trafficking, prostitution, domestic service and begging. As for men, they can be subject to forced labor, criminal networks and domestic servitude.

Fortunately, slight improvement has been made with Algeria moving from a category three to a category two in human trafficking.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Google

With 40 million citizens, Algeria is the largest country in Africa, and for the past 40 years, its government has worked hard to improve health care by providing it for free to its citizens. Free health care in Algeria is funded by taxes, social security and economic growth. It has helped millions of Algerians, providing medical care and services to extend the lives of millions. Early intervention through infant vaccines, for instance, has prevented many major diseases in Algeria.

The free system remains lacking. A shortage of doctors means that people seeking medical treatment have long waits and sometimes do not receive proper screening that might prevent curable diseases.

The Algerian government recently passed a new health care bill to improve access for the poor, provide patient e-files to better access medical records, and help in the detection and care of disease. The bill added programs to facilitate organ transplants, tissue and cell transplants and treatments for infertility.

Early detection is key to improving the lives of millions of citizens, as many of the major diseases in Algeria are treatable. Others are preventable. Here are the most major diseases in Algeria, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation:

  • Coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease, also known as ischemic heart disease, which results in a reduced blood supply to the heart.
  • Cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain and may cause strokes. High cholesterol is a leading cause of cerebrovascular disease. Cholesterol drugs are expensive in Algeria. Ministers of health since 2002 have tried to lower the cost of these drugs by allowing local pharmaceutical companies to open and manufacture cost-efficient medication.
  • Neonatal preterm birth is another medical issue that causes multiple medical issues and death. Infants born earlier than 37 weeks are considered preemies. Babies born this early are susceptible to heart and lung issues and permanent disabilities including cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness and learning disabilities. Some learning disabilities can not be detected until the child reaches school age.
    • Prenatal education can help prevent and improve the chances of full-term births. Some risks that can cause premature birth if left untreated are high blood pressure and diabetes. Early intervention increases the odds that a baby will be born healthy.
  • Diabetes is among the major diseases in Algeria. This silent and sometimes debilitating illness, which can result in blindness, loss of limbs and death, can be treated, and certain diabetes drugs are being produced locally. Proper nutrition and exercise can help prevent diabetes.
  • Congenital anomalies result in the deaths of children within the first month of life, according to the World Health Organization. Those babies who survive will need long-term medical care. Proper diet, prenatal vitamins, vaccines and early screenings can help. Prenatal care has increased over the last several years in Algeria with improved health care.
  • Chronic kidney disease is another slow, progressive disease that results in the need for long-term medical care. Medication alone is not enough for the treatment of this disease. In severe cases, people need to go on kidney dialysis to help filter their blood. This process is both painful and expensive. With early monitoring of diabetes and high blood pressure, kidney disease can sometimes be prevented.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is another growing issue in Algeria. There is some early treatment medicine on the market today, but such treatment can only slow down the illness. Alzheimer’s is a growing concern as life expectancy rises in Algeria.
    • The progression of Alzheimer’s disease is very slow, causing memory loss and dementia. As the disease worsens, people suffering forget all sense of themselves and their loved ones. People with Alzheimer’s eventually lose the ability to care for themselves in the most basic of functions.
    • People with Alzheimer’s eventually need long-term care, which can put a strain on family and caregivers. There has been an increase in privately-owned nursing homes in Alegria. An estimated 250 nursing homes have opened up thus far, with more expected in the future.

By improving and expanding Algeria’s health care services, impoverished people who otherwise might not have access to medical services and life-saving treatments are being helped. With ongoing improvements to these free health care programs, the pervasiveness of many of the most major diseases in Algeria can be lessened and, in some cases, eradicated completely.

Jacqueline Bowser

Photo: Flickr

Potential Rise in Poverty Among OPECThe drastic plunge that oil prices have taken from record figures of over $100 a barrel, down to averaging between $40-$45 a barrel, has left the economies of several OPEC countries beleaguered.

A potential rise in poverty among OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is expected as oil is indeed the cornerstone of a majority of their exports and revenue has swung drastically since 2014.

The combined effects of excess supply and competition among markets over the years have impacted OPEC nations like Algeria, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Iraq. The economic uncertainty has deterred these large developing economies adversely.

An estimated 250,000 jobs have been lost as a result of the progressive decline in oil prices and many more are threatened owing to the 50 percent drop over the last two years. This crisis will result in a potential rise in poverty among OPEC, with declining national incomes overall.

Moreover, the presence of Boko Haram in Nigeria has also been a factor that is currently impacting its oil exporting capacity. The 50 percent price decline has only fueled this.

To combat a potential rise in poverty and economic instability, the African Development Bank plans to provide loans worth $10 billion by the year 2019 to bolster various sectors, including energy and electricity. Despite Nigeria’s depreciating currency and 70 percent poverty rate, this method can greatly increase investment capacity and attract more investment.

The Abidjan, a bank based in the Ivory Coast, also resolved to provide $1 billion for supporting the Nigerian budget.

A report by Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper has commended its diversification projects as a means to boost economic growth amid uncertainty.

Existing tensions between oil-producing nations have also escalated as a result of the plummet. Many nations argue about freezing and regulating their output. Consequently, mediating between countries is a viable way to ease the pressure. Iraq is currently heading a conciliation with Iran and Saudi Arabia in an attempt for both countries to reach a consensus regarding the crisis.

Ecuador, OPEC’s smallest member, was especially plagued by the plunge in oil prices as the government has to control and curtail public expenditure. The government has looked to OPEC remedy the situation in some way.

President of OPEC and minister of energy and industry in Qatar, Mohammed Saleh Abdulla Al Sada, is also working actively to agree upon a benchmark price and output level for all countries to adhere to. A renewed benchmark output of 32.5 million barrels has recently been discussed. This could alleviate the price volatility and circumvent a potential rise in poverty among OPEC countries.

Similarly, Algeria has also been a strong advocate of cutting production among OPEC nations as a means to raise oil prices again. Algeria is expected to see a 3 percent drop in its GDP this year.

Furthermore, political and economic turmoil in Venezuela, owing to the oil price decline and President Nicolas Maduro’s ration laws has resulted in food shortages and a 700 percent crippling inflation rate. Venezuela already has a concurrent poverty rate of 32.1 percent.

However, many neighboring countries like Chile, Peru, Argentina and Colombia are in the strategic position to aid the people and reach out to Maduro. Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski recently called upon leaders to engage in the situation.

He believes that Peru’s pharmaceutical industry can be effectively used to help the country. Venezuela’s democratic Unity Alliance also echoes this view. Foreign aid is the only sustainable way for Venezuela to find its way through this major economic and financial bulwark.

Overall, a potential rise in poverty among OPEC countries may be the outcome of the drastic tumbling oil prices. It is vital that countries comply with OPEC proposals and guidelines to safeguard the interests of the economy and the people.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Water supplies
Algeria, a country on the northern edge of Africa, has an arid and semi-arid climate with less than 300 cubic meters of water available per capita each year. This amount is well below the U.N.’s water poverty threshold, making Algeria a severely water-scarce country. Water supplies are few and far between, and the continuous water overexploitation worsens the country’s water situation — naturally available water resources are degrading drastically and quickly.

Algiers hopes to employ high-cost technological solutions to support the growing population and maximize limited water supplies, but procuring funding will be a challenge.

A water quality monitoring system has already been established in Algeria to monitor its surface water. The system is comprised of 100 stations that cover major watercourses and dams. The country’s groundwater is also tested every three months.

Despite this, most of the water resources in Algeria remain polluted due to a lack of working wastewater treatment plants, as well as untreated industrial waste which is illegally discharged into natural water bodies. This misuse of water and water treatment creates even more sanitation and health issues for the Algerian people.

Anticipated climate changes, with rising temperatures and less rain, will also impact the scarcity of water in Algeria. These factors, along with a growing population which is using more water than ever before, has put an even greater strain on the country’s water resources.

Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, has developed a water management strategy that focuses on maximizing the country’s limited water supplies through redistribution, increased water storage capacity and enhanced desalination capacity.

This plan will require mobilization of resources, restoration of existing infrastructure, institutional reforms and a large amount of funding. Investments from both the government and private institutions, as well as additional planning, will be necessary to keep Algeria’s already limited water supplies from declining even more.

Alice Gottesman

Photo: Flickr

Although not yet confirmed, there have been reports that the Algerian national football team will donate their World Cup prize money to the Gaza Strip.

Islam Slimani, renowned striker for the Algerian team, supposedly announced after their loss in the round of 16 that they will give their estimated $9 million prize money to Gaza.

If the reports are true, the team may be accused of bringing politics into sports. Last month, FIFA announced Argentina would face disciplinary action after the team presented a political banner prior to a match against Slovenia bearing the phrase “The Falkland Islands belong to Argentina.”

Since 2007, poverty and unemployment have increased greatly in Gaza, a territory self-ruled by the terrorist organization Hamas. About 1.2 million people out of the 1.8 million that live in the Gaza Strip live in refugee camps.

Poverty has been the only way of life for 50-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud al-Ashqar, who lives in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza. Al-Ashqar primarily depends on the education, health care and food rations provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. He has asked UNRWA many times to save his house, but his calls have been met with no success.

“The walls may collapse anytime, they would seriously fall down over our heads if I do not make some repair from time to time,” al-Ashqar said. “I have asked many organizations, including UNRWA, which is the care taker of refugees, to help us restore the house, but they all gave us a cold shoulder.”

Algeria’s alleged donation to the impoverished people of Gaza would help people like Mahmoud al-Ashqar. “They need it more than us,” Slimani said.

The Israel-Palestine issue is complicated, due to a long history of territory disputes and religious conflict. Violence has once again erupted from both sides and international organizations are actively working to quell tensions.

– Colleen Moore

Sources: The Independent, Daily Mail, The National, PressTV, Global Post
Photo: Fox Sports
Photo: International Business Times

humanitarian aid
People talk about it all the time: should we be giving more, less, at all? To whom? When? But exactly how much do people really know about humanitarian aid? Here are 10 facts about humanitarian aid you should know:

1. How much?

It’s difficult to get an exact read on the amount of humanitarian aid given per year because there is no central reporting database and no organization has any obligation to share the amount of humanitarian aid they give. That said, a reasonable estimate for the amount of humanitarian aid given worldwide in 2013 was $22 billion.

2. Span

Humanitarian aid doesn’t just encompass international aid – it also accounts for domestic humanitarian spending.

3. What’s the difference?

Humanitarian aid is different from international aid in another way as well. For aid to be considered humanitarian, it must be allocated according to the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality. That is to say, humanitarian aid must be given to save life and prevent suffering considering only the need of the people affected and without supporting any political or military campaign. To put it simply, it’s giving for the good of giving.

4. When is it used?

Political instability in Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria sent the amount of humanitarian aid given in 2013 to a record high. Humanitarian organizations respond not only to natural disasters and global health conditions but political unrest as well. Not only did government aid increase by nearly a quarter, but private donations increased significantly as well.

5. Is it enough?

It is estimated that one-third of all global need is still not being met.

6. What does it cover?

Responding to death and suffering is only one component of humanitarian aid. Another important part is preventing the situations that cause preventable death and human suffering. In fact, the U.N. recommends donors focus more aid on prevention, as it produces the greatest return on investment in terms of both saving money and reducing human suffering.

7. How much do we give?

Although the U.S. is the top national donor in terms donor in terms of raw dollars allocated to humanitarian aid ($4.7 billion in 2013), the percentage of its GDP it donates is among the lowest in the developed world. We can afford to give much more than we do.

8. Where does it go?

Despite overall increases in humanitarian aid during the past several years, nearly 25 percent of global humanitarian aid goes to just five causes, leaving many other important causes (such as refugees in Algeria) largely neglected.

9. What can it do?

Preserving human dignity is another central goal of humanitarian aid. It’s a hand up to fellow humans with the aim being that those people can eventually help themselves.

10. Is it effective?

Humanitarian aid is effective. For example, aid to West African countries experiencing drought in the last few years was effective in reducing the number of hungry individuals in the region. Though humanitarian aid may not initially be able to completely solve a problem, it is a proven way to improve lives.

– Elise L. Riley

Sources: Global Humanitarian Assistance, The Guardian
Photo: NYSED 

Rural poverty in North Africa is similar to rural poverty in South Africa, though the national poverty line varies dramatically. According to Rural Poverty Portal, this includes the differences between 6% in Tunisia and 90% in Somalia. North-African economies are in dire straits.

Poverty-ridden people, they said, “constitute about one third of Tunisia’s poor population, and about three fourths of Somalia’s poor.” However, poverty in Northern Africa is still concentrated in rural areas.

This has deep causes such as the limited availability of “good arable land and water,” and “the impact of droughts and floods.” Conflict has similarly disrupted agriculture and thus intensified poverty, especially in Somalia and Sudan.

Algeria is a country in Northern Africa whose economy is dominated by the state, according to the CIA World Factbook.

“Hydrocarbons have long been the backbone of the economy,” the Factbook explains, “Accounting for roughly 60 percent of budget revenues, 30 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) and over 95 percent of export earnings.”

This hydrocarbon exportation has brought relative “macroeconomic stability, with foreign currency reserves approaching $200 billion.”

Despite Algeria’s relative stability, things such as transportation and a stable social infrastructure remain obstacles for Northern Africa. High rates of illiteracy, especially among women, also negatively affect the economy.

Rural Poverty Portal furthermore illustrated that the northern region of the continent has “weak local institutions, poor integration with the national economy, and the migration of rural youth to urban areas.”

However, the urban areas in Northern Africa hold the most political influence. “Government policies and investments in the region tend to favor urban areas over rural areas,” they said.

Just south of Algeria lies Niger, a land-locked, Sub-Saharan nation. Though it shares a border with Algeria, a relatively stable African country, it has a very low income – less than $250 USD gross national income per capita, according to the World Bank Development Indicators as of 2005.

Moreover, CIA World Factbook states that Niger qualified for “enhanced debt relief under the International Monetary Fund program for Highly Indebted Poor Countries.” This significantly reduced Niger’s debt and annual obligations, and freed up funds for “basic healthcare, primary education, HIV/AIDS prevention, rural infrastructure and other programs geared at poverty reduction.”

The Factbook said that food security remains a problem in Niger, and is enhanced by refugees from Mali.

Sixty-three percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the most recent data which was gathered in 1993.

Northern Africa has a wide disparity between the very poor and the middle-class. Though some countries are more stable than others, education, food stability, access to clean water and social stability remain significant obstacles for the reduction of African poverty as a whole.

– Alycia Rock

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, BBC, Rural Poverty Portal, Central Intelligence Agency
Photo: Reuters