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Poverty in Fiji
Despite significant progress, poverty in Fiji remains a serious problem. In 2013, almost 300,000 Fijians or 34 percent of its population lived below the national poverty line. Interestingly, of middle-income nations, Fiji’s national poverty rate trends high whereas its extreme poverty rate—which is 1.4 percent—is comparatively lower. Still, there is cautious optimism when considering the future of poverty in Fiji. After all, as a result of wide-scale efforts by both the government and various organizations, the poverty rate dropped from 40 percent in the early 2000s. In 2020, these groups continue to work towards a poverty-free future in Fiji.

5 Organizations Fighting Poverty in Fiji

  1. Caritas Australia: An originally Catholic organization that works across the Pacific, Caritas runs a variety of programs targeting the effects of poverty in Fiji. An example of one of its projects is the Tutu Rural Training Centre, where farmers learn a multitude of skills through a four-year course relating to agriculture technology. When Cyclone Evan hit in 2012—which caused $312 million of damage and killed 14 people—the center also provided plants for people to start regrowing their farms. Another program is the People’s Community Network, which works to improve the lives of squatters throughout Fiji and promote self-sufficiency. Thus far, the project has helped 500 families secure land.

  2. The World Bank: The World Bank has perhaps acted as the primary player in alleviating poverty in Fiji. The organization has provided loans to the Fijian government since the 1970s for more than 13 large-scale projects on issues such as improving transportation infrastructure and natural disaster relief. In 2019, the World Bank announced it would start loaning over $21 million annually for such projects with 0 percent interest. This money has ultimately been invaluable in helping Fiji become a more technologically advanced country and providing critical economic opportunities to Fijian people.

  3. Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS): The umbrella body of almost 500 grassroots organizations across Fiji, FCOSS has worked throughout the country connecting different groups and their projects together while coordinating with the government to ensure maximum productivity. Some of the programs that the organization embarked on to fight poverty include the Rural Women Initiative for Development & Education, which helps women obtain economic freedom, and HelpAge, which provides services to elderly individuals who the state often ignores.

  4. Peace Corps: The Peace Corps, an American volunteer organization run through the U.S. government, has worked in impoverished communities in Fiji since 1968, sending over 2,529 volunteers. These volunteers have worked on a variety of projects throughout this tenure, working primarily on conservation and resource management, teaching sanitation and safe water practices, and helping communities with economic development. These projects have proved invaluable in these poor communities. For example, in 2010, the Peace Corps conducted a large scale study and found that 87 percent of host communities saw improvement in their sanitation practices and 90 percent reported better environmental and livelihood security. Furthermore, when teaching business practices, 80 percent learned habits that helped them in their everyday lives. Clearly, the Peace Corps is providing crucial assistance in poor communities in Fiji.

  5. Habitat for Humanity Fiji: Another international organization fighting poverty in Fiji is Habitat for Humanity. The organization builds homes in Fiji where almost 140,000 people lived in poor housing conditions. Habitat for Humanity has served a large number of homes. The organization is evidently mitigating the effects of poverty in Fiji, although Fiji requires more work.

Clearly, while poverty in Fiji remains a serious problem, there are a variety of organizations leading the fight against it. With these organizations’ continued aid, poverty in Fiji will hopefully become a part of the past.

– Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to Kiribati

Although Kiribati’s land mass covers 811 square kilometers, its 33 coral atolls are spread over an area the size of the United States and the vast majority rise no higher than three meters above sea level. Kiribati’s small land mass and high fertility rate mean its main centers are severely overcrowded.

Unemployment rates remain high in the island nation and only 15 percent of children attend secondary school. Only two-thirds of the population has access to an improved drinking water source, and less than 40 percent have access to adequate sanitation facilities. Tuberculosis, dengue fever, leprosy and typhoid are major health concerns for Kiribati.

The United Nations lists Kiribati as an “endangered country” because of the dangers it faces from rising sea levels, contaminated fresh water supplies and poor waste management. There is a need for humanitarian aid to Kiribati because of significant development challenges, such as:

  • Limited revenue
  • High cost of delivering basic services, such as education and healthcare, to remote islands
  • Few employment opportunities
  • Climate change

Kiribati’s economy relies on overseas aid, income from fishing licenses and remittances from merchant seamen. Most of Kiribati’s inhabitants are employed in fishing and subsistence farming, but poor soil fertility limits production. Fortunately, new programs are focusing on humanitarian aid to Kiribati.

Caritas Australia implemented The Disaster Response and Preparedness program, funded by AusAID,  in four Pacific Island countries. The three-year initiative expands Kiribati’s capacity to prepare for and respond to disasters. Caritas Australia partnered with the Diocese of Tarawa and Nauru to train local young people to work with communities and raise awareness about the impacts of climate change.

Saltwater contaminates drinking wells and high tides destroy land crops, threatening the food security of communities dependent on subsistence agriculture in Kiribati. The Disaster Response and Preparedness program pairs young people with elders to identify strategies to mitigate these effects.

This initiative has given young people the opportunity to become strong advocates for their small island at international climate change forums around the world. Humanitarian aid to Kiribati has been handed off to the next generation.

– Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

As neighboring countries, Australia and Indonesia have forged a close working relationship, especially in recent years. In fact, Australia has become a vital source of humanitarian aid to Indonesia. The main goal of Australia’s aid to Indonesia is to provide “policy and technical advice that will improve the quality of Indonesia’s investments in infrastructure, economic governance, human development and social policy, including areas in law and justice.

In 1989, the Australia-Indonesia Institute (AII) was established. Australia works with Indonesia to help improve its economy and sustainability as well as increase the stability and security of the Southeast Asian region. As part of Australia’s Aid Investment Plan, which was initiated in 2015, Australia has been able to provide 673.4 million dollars in official development assistance (ODA) to Indonesia in the past two years. It is estimated that a total of 356.9 million dollars ODA will be provided to Indonesia in the coming 2017 to 2018 years.

In 2017 alone, Australia has aided the improvement of Indonesia’s economy by targeting household electricity issues, expanding financial services for residents not covered by major banks, and improving Indonesia’s governmental budgeting and spending. They have also assisted in increasing incomes for 44,000 small farming households and providing better migrant worker services. Human development is a large factor in the Aid Investment Plan. Through education in several fields, Indonesian residents can learn how to solve any problem they may face, whether it be economic or disease-related.

Overall, the plan hones in on economic growth. With education given to both the government and residents, it is projected that Indonesia’s poverty numbers will substantially decrease. Currently, 25 million Indonesians live below the poverty line, 13.8 percent of which are people living in rural areas where farming is their major source of income. One way poverty is being addressed is through the education of farmers in operating more sustainable farms.

Caritas Australia, a non-profit organization, works in Indonesia with aims to end poverty, promote justice, and uphold dignity. So far, Caritas has been able to assist Indonesian residents with disaster preparedness, environmental protection, sustainable development, and health and community empowerment. Their work in Indonesia has been incredibly helpful to the country’s success in recovering from natural disasters, overpopulation and its lagging economy.

Caritas has six working programs to bring humanitarian aid to Indonesia, each one with a specific goal at hand. One program Caritas has been implementing is teaching farming communities how to grow crops that are more sustainable. Food security is a major issue in Indonesia, especially as natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, or extreme wet or dry seasons continuously threaten plant growth.

Established in 2010 and in partnership with Yayasan Mitra Tani Mandiri (YMTM), the farming program focuses its attention on rural communities where natural disasters have the most destructive effect. The program includes educating farmers on the importance of soil fertility in terms of reducing erosion after the harvesting of crops. This way, farmers are able to reuse the same land that was previously harvested instead of moving on to new patches of land.

Caritas farming humanitarian aid to Indonesia has allowed residents to learn how to farm effectively in order to receive a more reliable and stable food supply and income. In addition, Caritas has provided health training, and connections among Indonesian communities to share what they have learned and have guided communities to the development of strategic plans for their future farming.

A farmer from West Timor spoke with Caritas after participating in their farming program, in which he said, “before the program, I was very anxious. But now I do not worry. There is always cassava, banana, and taro in the garden. We will not be hungry.”

The work of both the Australia-Indonesia Institute and Caritas Australia humanitarian aid to Indonesia has proven to be very beneficial for its communities. There is a more solid foundation for farmers to maintain their crops as well as solutions for how to improve the country’s economy. Each program put in place is a step closer to Indonesia’s liberation from poverty.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr

 

Help People in the Solomon IslandsThe Solomon Islands, located in the south Pacific Ocean, make up a country that lies to the east of Australia. The Solomon Islands is one of the least developed countries in the Pacific for a few reasons.

Why the Solomon Islands Are Vulnerable
Between 1998 and 2003, the Solomon Islands suffered ethnic tensions and civil unrest. As result, the domestic infrastructure of the country was severely damaged. The geographic location of the islands makes the country particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, especially those that are water-related.

International Assistance
After the ethnic tensions and civil unrest had dramatically affected the Solomon Islands, the country’s prime minister requested Australian assistance. In response, Australia and New Zealand worked with the Solomon Islands to draft the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). The Pacific Islands Forum wholeheartedly endorsed RAMSI, and was supported in its undertaking by then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

RAMSI set up a comprehensive assistance plan focusing on the economy to better help people in the Solomon Islands. On June 30, 2017, RAMSI concluded, having improved the Solomon Islands’ economic capacity. RAMSI will likely be replaced by a new bilateral policy development program to ensure that the Solomon Islands’ growth continues in leaps and bounds.

The United States is helping the Solomon Islands work towards such a bilateral policy. In particular, the State Department has done detailed research into the ongoing policies of the Solomon Islands. There are opportunities to work to help people in the Solomon Islands through the U.S. State Department’s internship program or its career options.

Help from Organizations
There are several organizations helping to eliminate the causes of poverty in the Solomon Islands. Caritas Australia is one such organization. Caritas Australia focuses on helping people through community-driven efforts: improved access to water, sanitation, hygiene and heavy investments into education. Along the way, Caritas Australia promotes social justice for those living on the islands, and also prepares permanent residents of the islands to face natural disasters. For example, in 2012 and 2013, Caritas Australia trained more than 80 teachers to use nursery rhymes and games to prepare children for natural disasters.

The organization has vacancies, so those interested can work to help people in the Solomon Islands. While serving with organizations that directly help people in the Solomon Islands would be a powerful way to make an impact on people’s lives, other forms of advocacy from home are also important. Political advocacy for legislation that impacts international policies is an influential way to ensure that poverty across the world is reduced, bit by bit.

Smriti B Krishnan

Photo: Google

Educating Children with Disabilities in Laos
Currently, there are 1 billion people worldwide who live with a disability, and 80 percent of those live in a developing country. To put things into perspective, 1 in every 7 people on this earth have a disability. It has been shown that poverty and disability are intrinsically linked. Those living in poverty are at higher risk of having a physical or intellectual impairment. This is due to factors such as unsafe living conditions and insufficient access to health services.

Unfortunately, the majority of people with disabilities have difficulty participating as equals in their communities and are oftentimes excluded or shunned. The cycle of poverty and disability can only be broken if the rights and needs of people with disabilities are addressed.

Laos, in particular, is a country that has started taking matters into its own hands. It has traditionally been difficult for international non-government organizations to work in Laos. However, Caritas Australia has been able to partner with the Lao Disabled Persons Association (LDPA), which helps both parents and teachers in developing the skills of children with disabilities in Laos.

LDPA is the most prominent and recognized disabled people’s organizations in Laos. These organizations work directly with and serve as a representative for persons with disabilities. In addition, they aim to educate the public about disability rights.

Due to the negative connotations associated with disability, Lao “society is more likely to abandon, ostracize or even hide children with disabilities.” Families receive little or no benefits from registering children with disabilities in Laos. Families who choose to hide a disabled member from authorities affect the government’s ability to improve legislation and living conditions.

That’s where Caritas Australia comes in. The organization believes that disabilities can be both a cause and a consequence of poverty. They aim to make sure all community development programs are accessible to people with disabilities. The organization also funds initiatives specific to people with disabilities to empower them to actively participate in community development and decision-making activities.

Specifically, the LDPA aims to support around 50 children with an intellectual disability attend a volunteer-run school. In addition to that, the association runs a series of workshops for parents and teachers of children with disabilities, led by specially-trained experts.

The Lao Disabled Persons Association’s main goal is to build the capacity of families and teachers to more effectively care for, educate and influence others on behalf of children with disabilities. Along with that, Caritas and LDPA work with parents and teachers towards providing consistency in areas such as behavioral management, teaching methods and social inclusion. Because very little is know about intellectual disability in Laos, the association is working to develop opportunities for schools and families to build a network for mutual support.

In 2010 the government began implementing the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. This program is well positioned in order to build a growing awareness of disability issues in the country. Though the program is in its early stages, children, parents and teachers involved have already shown great interest and commitment.

LDPA is the first program of its kind in Laos and is currently limited to the Vientiane Province of Laos. However, the program has the potential to expand to other provinces through its wide network of disabled people’s organizations and its connections with the government.

Keaton McCalla

Photo: Flickr