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Clean Water in SomaliaSomalia is facing an ongoing humanitarian crisis that has affected millions. Over 70% of the country’s population is currently living in poverty, with more than 4.8 million people suffering from food insecurity. Political instability, armed conflict and extreme weather coupled with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has caused the country’s GDP to decrease by 1.5%. Extreme weather caused over $3 billion worth of damage to Somalia in 2018 which was more than 50% of the country’s GDP. The current state of Somalia has only deteriorated with the need for humanitarian support increasing. Food insecurity, malnutrition and access to clean water in Somalia are major issues requiring continued humanitarian attention.

Access to Clean Water in Somalia

The United Nations has reported that over 2 billion people globally lack access to clean water. UNICEF reports that only 52% of the population of Somalia has access to a water source. With such a low percentage of the Somali people having readily accessible clean water, preventable diseases become a greater threat. Access to clean water in Somalia means improving sanitation, hygiene and decreasing susceptibility to diseases like cholera, diarrhea and respiratory infections.

Save the Children has reported that droughts have left 70% of Somali families lacking access to clean water. The survey gathered responses from over 630 families in 18 provinces of Somalia. Droughts have led to crop failures resulting in more people struggling with food insecurity. Without access to clean water, women and children face an increased risk of health-related issues, like preventable diseases and childbirth complications.

Providing Clean Water in Somalia

Mercy-USA for Aid and Development is a nonprofit organization from Michigan that has been working in Somalia since 1997. The United States-based nonprofit has projects spanning several countries including Syria, Kenya and Yemen. The programs in Somalia are developing self-reliance skills through education, skill training and food and water assistance. In order to combat the crisis of accessibility to clean water in Somalia, Mercy-USA is building wells for the Somali people. The organization has built over 700 wells, which have provided clean water to over 750,000 people. The organization can build a new well for $3,500 which can provide water to an entire community.

CARE International is a non-governmental organization based in Switzerland that has been providing humanitarian aid to Somalia since 1981. The organization has been helping mitigate the damage that extreme weather like floods and droughts have had on Somali agriculture. CARE’s programs in Somalia have helped over 250,000 people through improvements to clean water accessibility, sanitation and hygiene. The organization works with local authorities and international organizations to treat preventable diseases like acute watery diarrhea. CARE International has provided over 10,000 people access to clean water. The organization’s ongoing projects include efforts to improve agriculture, sanitation and develop local businesses.

Looking Forward

With extreme weather displacing communities and damaging agriculture, more people are finding themselves without access to clean water in Somalia. The Somali government is working to expand assistance and opportunities to those suffering from the effects of poverty with the support of humanitarian organizations like Mercy-USA and CARE International. The poverty rate is expected to remain at 71% as the Coronavirus pandemic further exacerbates food insecurity and displacement. Continued humanitarian support is necessary to improve the situation of the Somali people and ensure everyone has access to clean water in Somalia.

– Gerardo Valladares
Photo:Flickr

COVID-19 and Global Poverty
Since early 2020, the entire globe has been battling the COVID-19 pandemic and attempting to address the outbreak properly. Most of the world’s population is currently under some form of social distancing as a part of a response to the outbreak. From scientific research to increased travel restrictions, almost every country is working on ways to boost the economy while managing the spread of the virus. However, COVID-19 has affected much more than the economy. Here are four ways COVID-19 and global poverty connect:

4 Ways COVID-19 and Global Poverty Connect

  1. The Consumption of Goods and Services: For most developing countries struggling with poverty, much of their economies depend on commodities, such as exports. Food consumption represents the largest portion of household spending, and the increase in food prices and shortages of products affect low-income households. Countries that depend on imported food experience shortages. The increase in food prices could also affect the households’ inability to access other services such as healthcare, a major necessity during this time. These are two significant connections between COVID-19 and global poverty.
  2. Employment and Income: The self-employed or those working for small businesses represent a large portion of the employed in developing countries. Some of these workers depend on imported materials, farming lands or agriculture. This requires harvest workers and access to local farmers’ markets to sell produce. Others work in the fields of tourism and retail. These fields require travelers, tourists and consumers — all of which lessen as COVID-19 restrictions increase. Without this labor income, many of these families (now unemployed) must rely on savings or government payments.
  3. Weak Healthcare Systems: This pandemic poses a major threat to lower-middle-income developing countries. There is a strong correlation between healthcare and economic growth. The better and bigger the economy, the better the healthcare. Healthcare systems in developing countries tend to be weaker due to minimal resources including beds, ventilators, medicine and a below-average economy. Insurance is not always available for low-income families. All of this affects the quality of healthcare that those living within the poverty line receive. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Public Services: Low-income families and poor populations in developing countries depend on public services, such as school and public transportation. Some privatized urban schools, comprised of mainly higher-income families, are switching to online learning. However, many of the public rural schools receiving government funding do not have adequate resources to follow suit. This could increase the rate of drop out. Moreover, it will disproportionately affect poorer families since many consider education an essential incentive for escaping poverty. Aside from school, COVID-19 restrictions could prevent poorer families from accessing public transportation. For developing countries, public transportation could affect the ability of poorer families to access healthcare.

Moving Forward

There are many challenges that families across the globe face as a result of COVID-19. Notably, some organizations have stepped forward to help alleviate circumstances. The World Bank, Care International and the U.N. are among the organizations implementing programs and policies to directly target the four effects of COVID-19 mentioned above.

For example, the World Bank is continuously launching emergency support around the world to address the needs of various countries in response to COVID-19. By offering these financial packages, countries like Ethiopia, which should receive more than $82 million, can obtain essential medical equipment and support for establishing proper healthcare and treatment facilities. These financial packages constitute a total of $160 million over the next 15 months as a part of projects implemented in various countries, such as Mongolia, Kyrgyz Republic, Haiti, Yemen, Afghanistan and India.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Kosovo
In the aftermath of a civil war in the 1990s, Kosovo is riddled with hunger and poverty. Inadequacies in education, employment and healthcare all contribute to food insecurity and scarcity in Kosovo. Here is some information about poverty and hunger in Kosovo.

Obstacles

Kosovo is Europe’s youngest country, just inland of the Adriatic sea and is home to around 1.85 million people. Available poverty data from 2011 shows that almost one-third of the population (29.2%) lives on less than $2 per day and an additional 10% live in extreme poverty ($1.20 per day). Many households reported that aside from property, food was their most significant expense. Research indicates that in many low-income houses, as much as 40% of a household’s income went toward food.

In the 1990s, Kosovo suffered from a prolonged civil war and as a result, its economy is still recovering. Long term stability seems distant with high unemployment rates. As the USCIA reported, youth unemployment sits at 51.5% for males and 64.8% for females, making it the second-highest in the world at 55.4% (ages 15-24). Meanwhile, reports determined that the unemployment of the working-age group was 32.9%. Due to a lack of economic reforms and investments, these unemployment rates remain high and unwavering.

Protracted problems of environmental degradation, drought and biodiversity loss contribute to problems of food scarcity. Once an agriculturally sustainable area, droughts and infertility made land unfarmable. As a result, the country gradually has become less self-sufficient and is now heavily dependent upon imported goods.

Healthcare

Nutrition insecurity is widespread. In addition to lacking consistent access to food, it is even more difficult for people to find foods with adequate nutrition. Unsurprisingly,  obesity and anemia rates have risen due to a lack of consistent access to nutritious foods. The World Bank states that “[food] producers also face large losses on perishable and nutritious food as consumption patterns shift towards cheaper staples.” The loss of local nutritious foods further contributes to the problem of nutrition security and perpetuates health conditions like obesity and anemia.

Historically, chronic hunger as a result of poverty has characterized Kosovo. “In 1999 in Kosovo, 11,000 children older than 5 years were estimated to be acutely malnourished and about 17,000 would be affected by stunting. Over 5% of the surveyed mothers had a BMI below 18.5 and more than 10% were obese.” The same report stated that “58% of the children were anemic.” These statistics are significant obstacles to the country’s development.

Solutions

While there have been considerable improvements in Kosovo’s development, there is still plenty of room to grow. Until Kosovo can reach a point of self-sufficiency, aid should go to those in need.

The good news is that there are several nonprofit organizations operating in Kosovo to help relieve some of the stressful effects of poverty on its citizens. One of these organizations is CARE International, which aims to promote peaceful resolution of conflict and stability in the country. Since its foundation in 1993, effective strategies have been petitioning to increase foreign aid, educating the public and encouraging volunteer work and fundraising for the most vulnerable communities in Kosovo.

Along with functioning nonprofit organizations, the U.N. has implemented a plan, the Stabilization Association Agreement (SAA), which establishes an official relationship between Kosovo and the E.U. Through this agreement, Kosovo has received more aid and is on a more sustainable path. “This agreement is a milestone for the E.U.-Kosovo relationship. It will help Kosovo make much-needed reforms and will create trade and investment opportunities.” The economic stability produced through this agreement will provide jobs and allow for progress within the country, eventually leading to more independent governance.

Allyson Reeder
Photo: Flickr
Poverty in NorwayNorway, a European nation known for its beautiful national parks, winter sports and northern lights, is ranked eighth by USA Today on the list of Top 25 Richest Countries in the World. The average life expectancy for a Norwegian at birth is 82.5 years, over a decade more than the global average. Norway is also one of the countries with the lowest child mortality rate. Impressively, Norway also has a very low poverty rate (at 0.5% as of 2017). However, contrary to the conventional image of Norway being a very affluent country, many Norwegians still live in poverty. Here are five facts about poverty in Norway.

5 Facts About Poverty in Norway

  1. Due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, the unemployment rate in Norway is 15.7% as of June 2020. The unemployment rate in Norway is at its highest since WWII. Pre-COVID-19, however, the unemployment rate in Norway had been already decreasing since 2016, from 4.68% (the nation’s highest unemployment rate since 2005) to 3.97% in a matter of 3 years. The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration has a website for unemployed Norwegians to use in order to seek unemployment benefits.
  2. As of 2016, 36% of children born to immigrants live in poverty in Norway, compared to 5% of children with parents native to Norway.  This economic discrepancy is due to Norwegian immigrants often having large families but only one source of income. Many immigrants also have skills that were considered valuable in their home countries but inapplicable in the Norwegian job market. Another factor to consider is how common it is for Norwegian children in poverty to lack access to proper education, perpetuating issues related to poverty as they become adults and for families of their own.
  3. As of 2017, around 60% of children in Oslo, Norway’s capital city with the most residents, live in poverty. Researcher Ingar Brattbakk from the Labour Research Institute at Oslo University College led a study that concluded that “nowhere else in Norway is near that figure.” However, it seems to be a universal issue that cities with high populations are more likely to have more poor people than those with lower populations. Raymond Johansen, current Governing Mayor of Oslo and a member of the Norwegian Labor Party, had stated in 2018 that more funds will go toward area-based initiatives, such as crisis packages for people in increasingly affected districts.
  4. The age range with the highest risk of being in poverty in Norway is 18-34 years of age. Many people in this age group are more affected by poverty because they are graduating from universities with debt, have large families and/or cannot find suitable employment within the Norwegian job market. There is also a sharp increase in poverty rates for elderly Norwegians (from 70 to 90 years of age) because they are past the typical working age. Other determinants of poverty include education level, family size, employment and marital status.
  5. Poverty is low in Norway due to the nation’s emphasis on collectivism and efficiency with job placement. The nation places major significance on cultural identity, values and practices, all of which add to their homogenous society that allows for many native Norwegian people to prosper socioeconomically. The country also has a rather small population (5.4 million as of 2020) even though Norway has a large amount of landmass. Norway also significantly contributes to petroleum export, which improves its economy greatly. Sustained tourism also positively adds to the nation’s wealth. Norway has a lesser rate of migration compared to other nations such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The nation has a stable democratic system of government with highly effective and trustworthy politicians who are extremely proactive in handling the welfare system. Reasons such as these have contributed to recent miscellaneous surveys citing Norway as “the best country to live in.” While this may be true for some, this ranking does not take into account the voices of those who live in poverty.

Although Norway has a very small poverty rate, the nation still experiences poverty: more specifically, poverty in Norway’s immigrant communities. One way Norway can address poverty is by helping ease the transition of immigrants. Potential methods include more school funding, free or low-cost language lessons and an expansion of the job market. An example of a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Norway’s poor is Care International’s Norwegian chapter, a global group whose volunteers participate in humanitarian aid and poverty-fighting projects. Being such an affluent and progressive country, with some more money, time and energy, Norway can be on the track to lowering its poverty rate to zero.

Kia Wallace
Photo: Pixabay

Where is the Northern Triangle?
With a long history of political and economic instability, the Northern Triangle has provided little reason for citizens to stay. Where is the Northern Triangle? This emigration haven lies in Central America and comprises of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Causes of Emigration

In short, the main emigration drivers in the NTCA involve political corruption (due to past wars and ongoing greed), economic instability (due to droughts and poor trade practices), gang violence (related to lack of educational and rehabilitation programs) and family matters (attributed to desired remittance and reunification with distant family).

The NTCA’s past, current and potential (up-for-office) political officials consistently squander the countries’ limited funds for personal advancement at the cost of its people. These authoritarian countries recently switched to democratic rule, but its leaders lack the experience and morale necessary to implement a well-running democracy. Low tax rates and lack of direction prevent subsidization of social, civil, health-related and educational programs and protection agencies vital to the NTCA’s transition to a safe, thriving region.

Since 2014, the U.S.A.’s Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has collaborated with the NTCA to fund over $315 million of specialized programs improving tax administration, youth workforce and public-private markets across Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Efforts from the MCC help the 25 percent of youth who do not work or attend school in these countries. As of 2017, nearly 60 percent of youth who do work do so informally or unregulated by the government.

Crime Management, Informal Work and Gangs

Beyond educational and vocational pitfalls, these countries possess poor crime management. NTCA homicide rates have decreased since 2014, but they remain higher than the global average. The Atlantic Council reports 75 percent of NTCA citizens as doubting their judicial systems’ ability to protect them. This primarily stems from the nearly active gang violence and 95 percent of homicides that go unsolved in these countries. According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, six children flee to the U.S. per every 10 homicides in the Northern Triangle. This leads to the separation of families and greater difficulty in establishing long-lasting labor practices in these countries.

Informal work is another causal factor of emigration as people search for better financial opportunities. The U.S. is such a major destination for these emigrants, it is no wonder many U.S. Americans might ask “Where is the Northern Triangle?” In fact, in the first five months of FY2019, authorities apprehended about 26,937 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) and 136,150 families at the U.S.-Mexican border, with nearly 47 percent of UACs and 49 percent of families, 25 percent of UACs and 38 percent of families and 11.5 percent of UACs and 9 percent of families coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, respectively. These emigrants inadvertently create financial burdens, safety threats and attention deficits in the U.S.

UACs pose a huge threat to U.S. borders because of their use by gang members. U.S. immigration legislation, like Obama’s catch-and-release policy and the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), allow gangs to get around policies involving UACs. Gangs make about $1,500 per smuggled child in border regions that they control and oftentimes convert UACs into gang members once they settle in U.S. territory. In return, alien-driven crime and the U.S. opioid epidemic continue to implode. Furthermore, transnational government corruption with cartel commerce continues.

According to U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA), the State Department gave Congress an incomplete watch-list of criminal Northern Triangle government officials as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 required. Thus, skepticism surrounds U.S. and NTCA political ties in criminal activity. Overall, government corruption and U.S. immigration policy loopholes remain pressing obstacles to boosting the workforce and prosperity of the Northern Triangle.

US Humanitarian Efforts

Fortunately, many U.S. humanitarian efforts positively impact life in the Northern Triangle. Notably, in the Plan Columbia (PC) of 1999, the U.S. gave Columbia $10 billion for economic and anti-narcoterrorist efforts. In return, Columbia acts as a key trader with the U.S. and a facilitator of progression tactics in NTCA. Similarly, the U.S. derived the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) of 2006 that supports Northern Triangle involvement in commerce and exposure to retail chains.

The U.S. also works with the Inter-American Development Bank to fund a billion-dollar improvement strategy written by the NTCA presidents. Within this strategy, called the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, the three presidents provide strategic pillars and action plans to put outside funds to effective use. Additionally, the U.S. works with Mexican and Northern Triangle governments through the U.S.-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act to improve security at the NTCA-Mexico border.

Outside of government action, several international organizations aid in Central American projects that chip away at NTCA poverty and political issues. Action Aid largely focuses on anti-poverty efforts in the NTCA. Care International, CHF International and Center for International Private Enterprise assist the NTCA with crime reduction and community support, youth education and empowerment and educated civilian political involvement, respectively.

Assistance from humanitarian groups and relationships with American countries help NTCA leaders impose more effective government policies and citizen-focused programs. With expertise and financial aid from more developed countries, the new democratic leaders can grow with the young workforce to build a long-lasting, more-trusting culture in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

In return, a reduction in emigration, the ongoing gang turmoil and behind-the-scenes narco relations can help lead to a more sustainable Northern Triangle. Increased focus on the source of NTCA emigration and continued assistance might alleviate the inquisitive question, “Where is the Northern Triangle?”

– Caroline Bell
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Global Poverty with Affordable HousingA home serves as protection from the weather. It is the place from which individuals, families and communities grow. Sometimes it is the only four walls where people can let down their guards and be themselves. It is where they can afford to dream. Yet, 1.6 billion people across the globe cannot afford a safe place to live. They may have some semblance of a house, but they do not have a home. Without adequate, affordable housing, global poverty projects can only go so far. Here are five incredible organizations fighting global poverty with affordable housing, from the ground up.

5 Organizations Providing Affordable Housing in Vulnerable Areas

  1. New Story: A Home in 24 Hours
    New Story is a San Francisco-based nonprofit determined to end global homelessness. Since 2015, the organization has helped build 2,200 homes across Latin America. But for New Story, this wasn’t fast enough. The nonprofit partnered with ICON, a construction technology company. This partnership created a 3-D home printer that can build a house in 24 hours for roughly $4,000. For 80 percent of Salvadorans who lack adequate housing and are extremely vulnerable to earthquakes and flooding, this technology could transform their lives. New Story and ICON plan to build the first printed community in El Salvador, bringing safe housing to over 400 individuals.
  2. CARE International: Rebuilding After Disaster
    In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan killed approximately 6,430 Filipinos and destroyed one million homes. Depending on the year, millions of people worldwide become homeless due to natural disasters. Despite such destruction, the only choice is to rebuild. CARE, a humanitarian organization operating in 93 countries, stepped in after Typhoon Haiyan to help Filipinos reconstruct their lives. Over the course of three years, CARE helped over 15,500 homeless families rebuild their communities.
  3. EarthEnable: Safe Housing From the Ground Up
    Fighting global poverty with affordable housing requires a different approach in each country. Though people may have access to affordable housing (defined as less than 30 percent of one’s income), that housing may not even be safe. The nonprofit EarthEnable focuses on the adequate side of affordable housing, making sub-standard homes more standard. Three out of four Rwandans and one billion people worldwide live in homes with dirt floors that house parasites and disease. These are conditions which cause diarrhea, respiratory illness and other serious health conditions. EarthEnable employs Rwandans and teaches them how to replace dirt floors with earthen floors, which are waterproof, sanitary and cost 75 percent less than concrete flooring. So far, earthen floors have been installed in 2,300 homes in Rwanda. This is yet another way that people are coming together and fighting global poverty with affordable housing.
  4. World Habitat: Advocating for Change
    World Habitat is an advocacy organization based in the U.K. charity that together global institutions, national governments, grassroots organizations and local communities to figure out solutions to affordable housing. Every year, the nonprofit hosts the World Habitat Awards, which highlight and celebrate innovative housing solutions. Additionally, the event gifts two winners with $10,000. It is imperative to be on the ground, building affordable houses and rebuilding after a disaster, but it is also necessary to raise awareness and foster housing collaboration across the globe. “There is no shortage of housing problems,” explains World Habitat founder Peter Elderfield. “What is needed are solutions.”
  5. TECHO: Cities that Benefit Everyone
    In 1997, TECHO was a group of students committed to eradicating poverty in Chilean slums. Over 20 years later, TECHO has mobilized over one million volunteers. In fact, TECHO has built 115,000 houses across Latin America. According to U.N.-Habitat estimates, 80 percent of Latin Americans live in cities Of that population, 104 million live in informal settlements or slums. TECHO’s youth-led, community-based approach has been extremely effective. The nonprofit works with individual communities to address their specific needs, whether it be better access to basic services, safe and adequate housing, land ownership support or all of the above.

Making Access to Affordable Housing a Human Right

Fighting global poverty with affordable housing requires solutions at all levels, from local communities to humanitarian organizations and national governments. These five organizations illustrate that adequate, affordable housing is at the crux of global poverty issues. Not only must affordable housing become a priority, but it must also be a basic human right.

– Kate McIntosh
Photo: Flickr

CARE International

From Europe to Everywhere

CARE International is one of the foremost aid organizations in the world. It has a long and distinguished history, having been established in 1945 to help survivors of World War II in Europe. Today, CARE operates in more than 90 countries, runs 1,033 projects that serve more than 80 million people, and holds more than $584,161 in financial resources.

The beginnings of CARE were very different than the organization that exists today. Many people today may not realize that the term care package, now part of the everyday English lexicon, began as a registered trademark of CARE—an acronym that originally stood for “Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe.”

But CARE—which now stands for “Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere”—has changed dramatically over its more than 70 years of operation. Not only has it grown in size, but it has also changed focus. While CARE started by sending commodities to hungry people in Europe, it has evolved into an organization that is both more global and more local, both broader and more focused.

International and Local

One of the biggest changes CARE has undergone since its inception is a change in scale. In 1979, CARE changed its name to Care International and transitioned from a U.S. organization to an international organization with 14 branches around the world. While the largest branch is CARE USA in Atlanta, CARE International’s central headquarters is in Geneva.

At the same time, CARE International has moved away from one-size-fits-all aid, like the CARE package, and toward locally focused aid. It makes an effort to hire employees from the localities that receive the benefits of aid projects, so the people tasked with implementing programs have a deep understanding of local needs and obstacles.

In the words of CARE USA’s previous CEO, Helene Gayle, “Now instead of just focusing on the consequences of poverty and lack of access to basic needs, we also focus on the underlying causes… We look at how you have a longer-term impact on the lives of the communities in which we work… and we work not only on relief and emergency situations but continuing from relief to recovery to development, and building resiliency so communities that are affected from time to time by emergencies are able to respond and bounce back better.”

Helping Women and Girls

Gayle, as CEO of CARE USA, ushered in another major change, this one a change of focus. Under her leadership, CARE starting focusing its efforts on women and girls.

This is because, in Gayle’s view, “Girls and women bear the brunt of poverty around the world.” She explains elsewhere, “if women and girls have an opportunity, there’s this catalytic effect. A girl who is educated is more likely to marry later, have fewer children, have a greater economic future for her children, get them into school, etc.”

CARE’s focus on the wellbeing of women and girls has generated impressive results. For instance, in one CARE program in Bangladesh designed to reduce malnutrition in children, aid workers realized that the program was most effective “when households also participated in activities that contributed to women’s empowerment.” CARE began by creating programs to increase educational access to women and fight domestic violence, and the nutrition benefits followed.

CARE International is a storied organization that could have continued along the path it started in 1945. In order to have an impact on a changing world, though, the organization decided to change. In the process, it has provided a lesson in flexible, dynamic global aid work in the 21st century.

-Eric Rosenbaum
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in NigerWomen living in Niger face great adversity due to a lack of education, a prevalence in child marriages, and challenges stemming from conflict. Fortunately, many women are taking steps to ensure a better future for their daughters.

Women and girls in Niger are some of the least educated in the world. Less than a quarter are literate and less than a tenth ever attend secondary school. This is a big deal considering that attending secondary school for a year can mean as much as a 25 percent increase in a woman’s earnings later in life.

Niger has the highest rate of child marriages in the world. Three in four girls under the age of 18 are married. The legal age for marriage in Niger is 15, but various women’s organizations and groups are hoping for the passage of a proposed law that would change the legal age to 18 years.

Aminata Gba Kamara, aged 19, said “Girls in our country need so many things. They need psychological support, they need counseling. Their esteem is very low.” Many women think husbands are needed for protection, and life outside the home is not given much thought, said Kamara.

Protection is a real concern for many, as conflict is a daily fact of life. In the past three years, over 100,000 women and girls have been forced to leave their homes in order to flee from violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram. There are shelters and places of refuge, but women forced into seeking these often fall victim to a cycle of poverty. Most women fleeing from Boko Haram have been traumatized by physical and sexual violence. There is a normalization of discrimination and violence against women and girls on a daily basis.

Even with all these challenges, there are feasible solutions and women’s empowerment in Niger is a large part of it. Change is being implemented from the ground up, and youth are driving it forward. Campaigns have been formed to raise awareness about the issue and boost the self-esteem of women and girls. Tackling the problem of child marriage is important for Niger, as it will increase the number of citizens attending school rather than staying at home.

There are rays of hope for women’s financial empowerment in Niger as well. For instance, a recent push by CARE to help Nigerien women become financially independent via combined insurance policies and female financial groups has been fruitful. The savings groups, called Village Savings and Loan Associations have been a major factor behind women’s financial empowerment, and serves as a base for improving inclusion, health, nutrition, and agricultural productivity.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Vanuatu

Vanuatu is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, home to just under 300,000 people. From the outside, Vanuatu’s beaches resemble a real-life paradise. However, certain problems plague the nation. The economy is based primarily on small-scale agriculture, as the industry is how roughly two-thirds of Vanuatu’s people earn their living. Finances are a common problem for these people: Vanuatu is one of the least wealthy countries in the world. The problems in Vanuatu are plentiful, but organizations such as CARE are providing a method of how to help people in Vanuatu.

Before one can learn how to help people in Vanuatu, one must have an understanding of the issues. Some of the most important issues that need to be addressed in Vanuatu are poor access to necessities, prevalent discrimination and issues of climate change.

Clean, safe water is one of the necessities that the people of Vanuatu are all too often forced to live without. Two main causes of this problem are that the majority of the population lives in rural areas and that the most recent El Niño in 2016 caused prodigious water shortages. Fortunately, CARE is working to improve the situation. According to their website, “Our water, sanitation and hygiene program rehabilitates community water systems and helps communities with drinking and water planning.” This work is of the utmost importance. Clean water does not simply give people something to drink, it unlocks opportunities in the workplace and education as well.

To help the people of Vanuatu, an effort must be made to end the widespread discrimination that currently exists in the nation. Women are widely discriminated against, like the statistic that over 60 percent of women in Vanuatu have experienced physical or sexual violence shows. CARE is once again working to improve the situation in Vanuatu. To combat this gender discrimination, CARE has started a program to help women obtain the information and resources necessary to increase their self-confidence and be a more active part of Vanuatu’s society. One of the ultimate goals of this program is to help women learn to earn their income and be able to support their families independently without having to rely on men.

CARE is doing a lot of important work in Vanuatu, but there is still a lot left to be accomplished. One way to help the people of Vanuatu is to get involved with CARE. The organization accepts donations, and volunteering at one of the organization’s events, participating in the Walk in Her Shoe challenge or organizing a fundraising event are all highly valuable ways to help the people in Vanuatu.

As people utilize CARE as a means for how to help the people in Vanuatu, the situation should only improve.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in KosovoThe Republic of Kosovo is a disputed Southeastern European territory nestled in the Balkan Peninsula. Over the last two decades, the country has battled intense civil wars, horrific ethnic cleansings and a fight for freedom that finally culminated in its independence from Serbia (previously Yugoslavia) in 2008. In the early years of its autonomy, Kosovo’s poor economic conditions led the international community to brainstorm ways of how to help people in Kosovo.

As a result, Kosovo was under supervised independence by the International Steering Group until 2012. After 2012, the new country’s economy finally established some semblance of equilibrium. Kosovo held its own elections in 2013 and 2014 for the first time. Since then, their GDP has steadily been on the incline.

Although things are starting to look up for Kosovo, the country is still grappling to stabilize its workforce and job creation. In fact, 30 percent of the population still lives in poverty, 10 percent of which live off less than $1 per day. These discouraging numbers make sense considering the current growth model relies heavily on the remittance of citizens that fled during the war.

However, this strategy cannot be sustained over the long term, especially when the number of migrants leaving Kosovo for neighboring countries is still quite high. Thankfully, there are many charitable organizations and governmental efforts strategizing how to help people in Kosovo. Below are but a few that are doing spectacular things to bolster the Kosovo economy.

The Stabilization Association Agreement

The Stabilization Association Agreement (SAA) could perhaps be the single most influential document in Kosovo’s membership in the European Union. Negotiated in 2013 and 2014, the SAA was signed in 2015 and finally implemented the following year.

The agreement represents a new phase of Kosovo’s relationship with the E.U. and will pave the way for a more stable and prosperous Kosovo by implementing democratic principles and a variety of reforms set in accordance with E.U. standards. These restructurings will not only increase Kosovo’s wealth, but they will also bring the country closer to its goal of joining the European Union.

CARE International

Care International is a nonprofit organization that fights poverty around the world. They also have a specific focus on empowering women and girls. The organization has been working in the Balkans since 1993, providing humanitarian assistance during the worst of the conflict between the Serbs and Albanians. More recently, CARE has been initiating programs to build sustainable peace and development. These programs help to integrate minorities and youth into the job market, two of the largest unemployed groups in the county.

Anyone interested in learning how to help people in Kosovo through CARE need only visit their website, where the organization has a variety of strategies that the average person can act on today to join the fight against global poverty. These strategies include: signing petitions to help protect U.S. foreign aid; information on how to volunteer; and ways to raise money for the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Established more than 90 years ago by businessman and philanthropist Charles Mott, the foundation’s original purpose was to address the growing economic problems facing Flint, Michigan. As the organization built traction, however, it expanded its efforts to include international initiatives, as well.

For the last several decades, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has been providing assistance to the western Balkans, including Kosovo, through its Civil Society program. In 2008, Mott provided Kosovo with a two-year $50,000 grant to the Kosovo Women’s Network in support of its efforts to ensure that women play an active role in Kosovo’s key political policies.

Although Kosovo is still struggling with high rates of unemployment and fluctuating markets, the nation has demonstrated economic expansion every year since establishing its statehood in 2008. It has been able to accomplish this in part through its constitutional rule of keeping public debt below unsustainable levels and maintaining competitively low corporate tax rates.

The admirable efforts of the governmental reforms and non-profit organizations listed above, and many others like them, also reveal powerful ways of how to help people in Kosovo. Hopefully in the coming years, the combination of these factors will thrust Kosovo into a time of much-deserved economic growth, leaving its painful recent history to fade.

Micaela Fischer

Photo: Flickr