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Charities Operating in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is a country located in West Africa. Its name translates to “the land of the incorruptible people.”It has a population of 21.5 million people and is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 40% of its people living below the poverty line. Despite the vast amount of humanitarian work conducted throughout the country addressing changing weather patterns and sustainability, Burkina Faso is still vulnerable to frequent natural disasters, including droughts, floods and diseases. Charities including Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, CECI, Humanity & Inclusion and Caritas work tirelessly to help alleviate poverty throughout Burkina Faso through education, provision of clean water and sanitation along with human development and the survival of children. Here is some information about the above five charities operating in Burkina Faso.

Poverty Situation in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso, as mentioned before, remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with 40% of people living below the poverty line. According to the Human Development Index report that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) carried out in 2021-2022, Burkina Faso ranks 184th out of 191 countries. In the last few years, poverty in Burkina Faso has correlated with consistent political instability and violence the country continues to face with many people being displaced. With heavy reliance on agriculture as its primary source of economic development, Burkina Faso has suffered due to low agricultural output by 4.1%. With violence and political unrest, more than 900,000 people are internally displaced and remain in extreme poverty. This mostly affects children, with more than half of the 2.2 million people in Burkina Faso seeking humanitarian assistance being children. 

Save the Children

One of the five charities operating in Burkina Faso is Save the Children, which began working in Burkina Faso in 1982. With children at the forefront of the organization’s focus, Save the Children works tirelessly to ensure security in their lives. Save the Children has become one of the biggest charitable organizations in Burkina Faso through its programs dedicated to education, safety and child health. Some of the work the organization has carried out revolves around multiple aspects of quality of life. It includes greater access to universal health care, resources and tools for treating malnutrition in children, food programs to combat insecurity and malnutrition and financial discipline teachings to help families support themselves and maintain quality health care. 

SOS Children’s Villages

The organization came to Burkina Faso during the 1990s and established itself in 1997 north of the nation’s capital; since 2004, SOS Children’s Villages has taken the initiative of operating SOS Family Strengthening Programs that ensure that children can grow and live in an environment of familiarity in the case that the child loses its family. One of SOS Children’s Villages operates in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso with a population of 1.5 million people. SOS Children’s Villages’ work in Ouagadougou, specifically the SOS Social Center revolves around its mission to ensure that children have access to health care, education and social services through family strengthening programs. SOS Children’s Villages is among the five charities operating in Burkina Faso that help families and children find social security while providing access to the very necessities required to survive.

Humanity & Inclusion

Burkina Faso became the first country where the organization began its work in 1991, focusing on “defending the rights of people with disabilities and responding to the urgent needs of the people affected by conflict.” Humanity & Inclusion’s work in Burkina Faso spans multiple facets, including physical rehabilitation, maternal and child health, inclusive education, disaster risk reduction and mental health and psychosocial support, along with road safety and protection. Humanity & Inclusion is one of the five charities in Burkina Faso that works tirelessly to address poverty in Burkina Faso by focusing on development, health and rehabilitation. The organization’s 187 members undertook 12 projects within the country, with 50% working on humanitarian efforts and 25% on chronic crises and 25% on development needs in 2021. 

Caritas

The organization emerged in 1956 and began operations in Burkina Faso in 1998. Caritas’ presence covers the entire country of Burkina Faso through its “15 diocesan offices and more than 200 Caritas parish branches.” By utilizing the branches, Caritas “aims to promote mainly community and integral human development, social justice, peace and human rights.” Caritas Burkina offers programs that align with its goals of alleviating poverty by solely focusing its work on women and families along with younger individuals through humanitarian development that fosters solidarity and sharing of resources to help facilitate expansion.

The Barka Foundation

The Barka Foundation is an organization that began in 2006 and is based in the United States. It began its work in Burkina Faso in 2009. The Barka Foundation is a younger charity compared to other charities discussed. Still, regardless of longevity, the Barka Foundation is among the five charities that operate in Burkina Faso. The organization focuses its work from a perspective of longevity and community-driven programs involving accessibility to clean water, agriculture improvement, women’s empowerment and human rights and minimizing the effects of changing weather patterns. The Barka Foundation sets itself apart from other organizations working in Burkina Faso by ensuring that its mission to alleviate and combat poverty does not obstruct the lives of the indigenous people, thereby mitigating western influence and developing relationships with them to help provide them with basic survival needs.

Looking Ahead

All the charities mentioned above work tirelessly to address poverty in Burkina Faso. Each charity offers and provides unique programs and initiatives to help the people of Burkina Faso access necessities such as health care, rehabilitation and social and economic security, along with tools to combat the effects of changing weather patterns and, most notably education and security for children affected.

Arijit Joshi
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Spain
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused mayhem across the globe over the past few years and the virus, alongside its health, social and economic implications, has effectively left no corner of the world untouched. Even wealthier nations within Europe, like Spain, have had their fair share of setbacks thanks to the pandemic. Thankfully, however, this nation has been blessed with an equipped and responsive government as well as various charitable corporations and NGOs, who have made it their mission to see the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Spain be negligible.

Early Action

Much like other affluent countries, Spain implemented a Royal Decree-Law 11/2020 at the beginning of the pandemic to counteract the widespread loss of both jobs and income. This was most certainly a vital measure when considering the following.

In 2020, the unemployment rate shot up to 16.5% as a consequence of government lockdowns. Contrast this rate with the 14% seen at the beginning of the year. It quickly became evident that over a million Spaniards were at risk of no longer being able to afford essentials like housing, food and other things of the sort. In other words, the potential impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Spain was a huge concern.

The nation was reporting more than 8,000 new COVID-19 cases a day at the beginning of the pandemic and thus the Spanish congress understood that they could not carry on business as usual and that they needed to restrict societal mobility via the closing of non-essential stores and businesses, halting commerce and slashing over 600,000 jobs.

Regarding the Royal Decree, officials took it one step further, going as far as to pause rent payments for the financially vulnerable so that there would be no immense backlog of fees at the conclusion of the eviction suspension.

This bold step caused evictions to decrease by 90% in the second quarter of 2020. Another noteworthy form of aid was the introduction of Universal Basic Income (UBI) for the nation’s most impoverished, an unprecedented move not attempted in any other region of the world. Nearly a million qualified for payments that equated to about €1,015.

Supplementary income had benefited roughly 22% of the Spanish population during the virus’ initial wave, helping keep families fed and stable in a time full of such great instability.

The Private Sector

The public response was not the only combatant to the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Spain that deserves praise. Private industry also stepped up in the wake of Spain’s Coronavirus crisis, with numerous companies and organizations making it their priority to keep communities both secure and safe during a moment of impending doom.

CAF, for instance, a popular development bank in Latin America, decided to donate $600,000 to Spain and its neighbor Portugal to assist them in their fight against COVID-19 and its ramifications. Consequently, about 25,000 Spanish families gained access to medical supplies that were otherwise out of reach.

Closer to home, big corporate names like Siegwerk donated to established and dependable charities like Banco de Alimentos and Caritas, which have a long track record of helping ease the hunger of countless Spaniards. Thanks to donations like these, Caritas was able to assist many vulnerable people and families in obtaining their basic necessities like shelter and food.

What Does This Mean for the Rest of the World?

The innovative and generous government response to the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Spain as well as the sympathetic actions of large corporations leaves the world with a lot to be hopeful for. Despite the complete shuttering of the economy, the amount of Spaniards at risk of poverty only increased from 20.7% in January 2020 to 21% in December 2020, making it appear as though the COVID-19 catastrophe never actually happened. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Spain was fairly minimal because officials were able to put their constituents first and profit-driven companies were able to overlook their finances for the general welfare. Given such dynamics, it seems the ideals of humanity are no longer too far out of reach.

No one in Spain would be willing to proclaim COVID-19 a blessing with its toll on the economy and human life, but as the old saying goes: “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade” and that is precisely what this European nation has accomplished.

– Jacob Lawhern
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 in CyprusSituated south of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus is a small island with a population of 1.2 million, increasing modestly. Approximately 15.3% of the population is vulnerable to poverty or social exclusion — and given the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cyprus, this percentage is only rising.

Cyprus Before the Virus

Poverty existed in Cyprus before the COVID-19 pandemic. This is due in part to the country’s political divisions, which include the Northern Republic of Cyprus, a Turkish de facto state that has controlled one-third of the island since 1974, and the Southern Republic of Cyprus. With such a stark division, the Cypriot government has found it difficult to track its impoverished population and provide assistance where it is needed.

A recent survey found that in 2019, just one year before the advent of the pandemic, “194,400 Cyprus residents were living in households with disposable income below the at-risk-of-poverty line.” Cyprus’s ethnic division also accounts for this, in that dense Greek-Cypriot populations in the South have tight-knit familial relationships. If one person in these families falls into financial difficulty, they are likely to not have another stable family member to fall back on. This leaves unsupported people like immigrants, single mothers and the elderly most vulnerable to poverty.

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Cyprus

As one of the most popular destinations in Europe, tourism is a vital component of Cyprus’s economy. Prior to COVID-19, Cyprus had three consecutive record years of tourist arrivals, topping 4 million annual tourists. International travel bans that were implemented in March 2020 stagnated the country’s economy and exacerbated the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cyprus. In that vein, domestic quarantine restrictions also halted the progression of potential reunification talks between Turkish-Cypriot President Ersin Tatar and Greek-Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

Cyprus also saw a surge in unemployment rates at the height of the pandemic. According to the most recent data on Cyprus’s unemployment rate, unemployment rates were at a low of 6.3% in July 2019, but jumped to 10.2% a year later, just a year after the pandemic hit.

Taking Initiative: Caritas Cyprus

Despite these drawbacks, fellowships have been able to make a dent in combating the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cyprus. Organizations like Caritas Cyprus were among the first to do so.

Since its inception in 1986, Caritas Cyprus, a member of the Caritas Internationalis confederation, has worked at the grassroots level. It aims to end poverty, promote justice and restore dignity by “responding to humanitarian needs on the island with the aim of providing compassionate care and support to the poor, dispossessed and marginalized.”

Caritas Cyprus primarily works through local parish initiatives as well as cross-island programs that focus on migrants, local needs (diaconia) and youth engagement. The Migrant Sector typically affords support to hundreds of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants through the operation of two centers. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine restrictions, these two centers weren’t able to operate at full capacity. Nonetheless, the organization still provided sufficient aid through its two other sectors.

The Diaconia Sector provided extensive relief for Cyprus’s unemployed population amid the pandemic. Job Search Program connected jobseekers with potential employers using networks within the community.

Following the relaxation of quarantine restrictions, the Youth Sector encouraged the country’s youth to participate in volunteering, fundraising, social events and other humanitarian efforts to raise awareness for groups that bore the brunt of the pandemic’s poverty.

Looking Ahead

As of October 2021, Cyprus has administered more than 1.1 million doses of COVID vaccines; assuming that every person requires two doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated nearly half of the country’s population. Though the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cyprus has posed an acute setback on the country’s economic progress, hope still exists that the country can recover. The rapid distribution of vaccines, assistance from organizations and potential reunification talks between Northern and Southern Cyprus can not only suppress the spread of COVID-19, but ultimately make headway in eradicating poverty.

– Tiffany Grapsas
Photo: Flickr

Hurricanes Eta and Iota
Honduras is a Central American country bordering the Caribbean Sea. Because of its location, Honduras is able to produce valuable goods like textiles, sugar cane and coffee. However, 2020 proved to be a challenging year for the country and its economic output. COVID-19’s impact on Honduras was undoubtedly destructive but the added impact of Hurricanes Eta and Iota further affected Honduras’ economy and overall conditions in the nation.

COVID-19 in Honduras

Honduras confirmed its first official case of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in early March 2020. Schools closed shortly after March 13, 2021, and businesses were limited to 50% capacity per a nationwide mandate. These commissions stunted the economy and placed Honduras in a financial crisis. While the country’s GDP contracted, Honduras experienced a period of inflation. Prices of everyday items, like coffee, skyrocketed. In addition, a decrease in worldwide tourism led to growing economic instability. The World Bank reports about 45% of Honduran households facing income losses in the wake of the pandemic. Suspended operations and businesses put approximately half of Honduras’ citizens out of work. The emotional toll of the virus itself is equally notable. The significant number of deaths reflects COVID-19’s impact on Honduras. More than 9,000 citizens have died since the start of the pandemic.

Hurricanes Eta and Iota and Honduras

On November 3, 2020, Hurricane Eta made landfall in Honduras as a Category 4 storm, affecting more than 1.8 million people. Not even two weeks later, Hurricane Iota made landfall on November 17, 2020. An astounding number of vulnerable families experienced displacement, forcing many to relocate to crowded collective shelters. Helpful and necessary resources in shelters dwindled fast and the lack of proper social distancing mandates contributed to Honduras’ increase in COVID-19 infections. The devastating effects of Eta and Iota’s flooding had major impacts in the flooded San Pedro Sula airport, restricting people’s abilities to seek refuge elsewhere via flights.

Vaccine Rollout in Honduras

COVID-19’s presence was difficult for most countries to endure, but with the destructive addition of Hurricanes Eta and Iota, the year was undeniably life-threatening for Honduras. Honduras has vaccinated about 24% of its total population. Compared to other countries, it also has a decreasing number of peak cases. However, as of April 2021, COVID-19 vaccine rollouts have slowed in Honduras because of the United States’ own complicated vaccine rollout.

As newly mutated strains of the virus can easily prolong Honduras’ medical and economic ruin, COVID-19’s impact on Honduras is apparent. With the introduction of the COVAX initiative in August 2020, co-led by WHO, CEPI and Gavi, more developing countries will be able to access vaccines. However, with the United States’ slowed distribution and environmental challenges like Hurricanes Eta and Iota, it is difficult to ascertain how long it will take Honduras to rebuild itself. Addressing the country’s needs with sufficient funding and resources will, most likely, be an incredibly instrumental means of aiding Honduras.

The Road Ahead

Caritas Internationalis created a two-month-long emergency relief program to assist Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala in recovery. Each nation received €250,000 worth of aid for “food, hygiene kits, access to safe drinking water and ensuring people can protect themselves from COVID-19.” Caritas committed to aiding in the recovery and well-being of about 2,500 families in this period, which equates to 12,500 citizens. Additionally, increased congressional support of the COVAX initiative could help Honduras access more vaccines, stabilizing the nation and protecting it from further impacts of the virus.

– Maia Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in PortugalCOVID-19 has heavily impacted the way people live, even more so for those living in poverty. According to a report published by Agencia EFE Portugal, 21.6% of Portugal’s citizens were already at risk of poverty before the outbreak of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 have pushed thousands of people to poverty.

The Effect of a Pandemic on Poverty

The social, economic and health consequences the pandemic provoked worldwide are undeniable. While eradicating poverty has always been at the core focus of many nonprofit organizations, since the beginning of COVID-19, many nonprofit organizations have prioritized sanitation and clear water programs to eradicate COVID-19 and diminish poverty levels.

Poverty in Portugal is partly due to the enormous social and economic inequalities governing the country. Furthermore, COVID-19 has only exacerbated existing poverty rates. As reported by the World Bank, poverty in Portugal had been decreasing since 2017. During 2018, approximately 17% of the population lived in poverty. However, the situation has dramatically changed. The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to 400,000 additional impoverished citizens in Portugal and “a 9% increase in inequality,” according to a study by PROSPER published in June 2021. Unquestionably, COVID-19 is directly linked to a social and economic crisis that is bringing instability to many countries. As this health crisis evolves, economic hardship increases too.

How Portugal is Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic

The United Nations has published a country report analyzing how the Portuguese government is dealing with the economic situation amid COVID-19. As reported, poverty in Portugal is becoming a core issue for the country. As such, the government has designed several programs covering education, health and social security to combat inequalities. For example, there is a compelling need to adjust pensions as many pensions equal €180 a month. If pensions increase, pensioners will be able to access and afford higher quality products and services and poverty will be alleviated.

Poverty in Portugal is also being addressed by several NGOs. The Portuguese Non-Governmental Development Organizations Platform (NGDOs) is a nonprofit society composed of 62 NGDOs. Cuerama and Caritas are two of the major organizations helping the most vulnerable communities in the country.

Caritas has steadily diminished poverty rates in Portugal. As Caritas published in 2018, the level of citizens demanding social services decreased by 12.7%, which is a historical record. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, disparities have increased again. The Social Observation Centre has been concisely preparing a platform to gather and track as much data as possible to improve the performance of Caritas.

Additionally, in Portugal, the coalition Global Action Against Poverty concisely combats poverty and inequalities. Since 1990, poverty in Portugal has been diminishing. However, as stated above, since the outbreak of COVID-19, the situation has worsened and Portugal is still one of the most unequal countries in Europe. As published by The Portugal News, Portugal “comes ninth in the ranking of most unequal countries out of the 34 the OECD measured.” Tax benefits are one of the most efficient policies introduced by the authorities trying to alleviate inequalities and poverty.

Tackling Poverty in Portugal Amid COVID-19

Poverty in Portugal has always been present. Yet, the outbreak of COVID-19 has tremendously aggravated the situation. As displayed above, figures have been dramatically increasing as social and economic inequalities have risen from the crisis. However, poverty in Portugal has become one of the main focuses for authorities and organizations. Policies like increasing pensions and tax benefits are already in place to combat poverty. Besides creating policies, there is a need to strengthen communication and education to ensure all these programs are successfully implemented.

With the efforts made by the government and NGOs alike, Portugal will hopefully be able to tackle poverty and COVID-19 simultaneously.

– Cristina Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

female labor in PakistanThe Karachi branch of Caritas Pakistan works to provide technical assistance and job training to the women of small Pakistani farms in several villages as part of its Acre for Women campaign. The campaign’s goal is to leverage the untapped potential of female labor in Pakistan. Providing training and opportunities to women will expand food security among the country’s vast population of subsistence farmers by encouraging self-sufficient practices with the resources on hand, ranging from basic water efficiency to crop rotation.

A Nascent Workforce

Amir Robin, an Acre for Women regional coordinator, explained both the long- and short-term benefits of training the women of several independent farms that range as small as a single acre. In an interview with UCA News, he states that aside from increasing food security, such training helps household farms minimize the cost of adapting to changing environmental conditions.

Female participation in the Pakistani labor force runs as low as 25%, according to World Bank estimates. The government aims to increase the amount to 45% by 2025. Accelerating Pakistan’s economic growth by boosting female labor involves eliminating the reasons for female labor’s systemic underuse.

Educational Disparities

First, women face limited access to formal education or vocational training. Girls make up about 53% of children that do not attend school in Pakistan, therefore, girls benefit the most from development programs. Such programs include those sponsored by the Engro Foundation, the “social investment arm” of Engro Corporation, a conglomerate company headquartered in Karachi, Pakistan. By sponsoring new government schools and refurbishing old ones with computer labs, Engro aims to increase the literacy rate among girls.

In light of COVID-19’s effect on unemployment rates, expanding educational opportunities remains the primary short-term focus of increasing female participation in the labor force. Engro’s programs are demonstrating fast results. More than 19,000 self-employed women are improving their livelihoods through vocational training in “animal husbandry practices, entrepreneurship in milk collection and livestock extension services in the dairy value chain.” Additionally, a surge of technologically literate women helps overcome difficulties in the job market due to greater access to advanced occupations.

Farm Income Depends on Women

Pakistan’s largest source of potential growth lies in its agricultural sector. Around 64% of Pakistanis live in rural areas and mostly work in agriculture. A large portion of the national economy depends on the output of family farms. There are two significant reasons why discounting women as a source of skilled labor in farm management is becoming an increasingly untenable prospect.

  1. Subsisting on relatively small parcels of land leaves farmers vulnerable to fluctuations in output. Because population growth and regular divisions of hereditary ownership make land parcels ever smaller, families that make do with smaller farms do not have the luxury of maintaining inefficient practices when handling their crops or their labor pool. A report by Victoria University says Pakistan’s high concentration of household farms means greater efficiency can be achieved, in this case, by including female labor. This translates into direct income boosts for families along with greater business activity thanks to new surpluses.
  2. Running a successful farm with little land is already dependent on women. Despite lacking gainful employment, women are informal participants in the Pakistani economy through unpaid domestic work. Victoria University’s study correlates a lack of job training and reduced output from inefficient practices, meaning that a lack of trained women is a bottleneck stifling household income growth.

Individual Growth for Women

Households stand to benefit from elevating women in the agricultural labor pool. Furthermore, developing female labor in Pakistan by addressing women’s exclusion in skilled practice will reverse the economic misfortune that prior restrictions have inflicted on women.

Because most women tie their fortunes as self-employed laborers to those of their families, increasing farm income is an effective way to enrich farming women’s income. Growth for Rural Enhancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP) is yet another initiative operating in Pakistan working to achieve this goal. Its primary objective, according to coverage by Intracen (International Trade Centre), is training women to care for livestock and teaching them how to trade their produce. Rather than simply teaching women how to produce more, job training affords them additional autonomy by empowering them to take on a managerial role in the distribution process.

Economic Empowerment for Women

Sharmeela Rassool, a Pakistani country representative to the United Nations, emphasizes the importance of individual autonomy when it comes to increasing the participation rate of female labor in Pakistan. “For many women, entrepreneurship offers a path to economic empowerment,” she wrote in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. More and more women are using their educational attainment to run businesses outside the agricultural sector.

While COVID-19 has slowed economic growth across Pakistan, it has also exposed systemic inequality, raising an opportunity to put women in a starring role for economic recovery. The gradually decreasing gender wage gap indicates that the current trend of a diversifying workforce has yet to reach its ceiling. Overall, women’s inclusivity in Pakistan has the potential to create widespread benefits for Pakistan, helping the nation to rise out of poverty.

Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Austria
According to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is a human right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution. The number of refugees around the world has doubled since 2010, from 40 million to 79 million in 2019. During the Syrian War, where nearly 1.3 million migrants sought asylum in the E.U. in 2015, Austria became a crossing point. At the peak of the crisis, 89,000 people applied for asylum in the country, though it only accepted 15,000. The relationship with refugees in Austria is paradoxical in nature. Even though the country has accepted more refugees in the past few years, animosity toward these refugees is rising. These refugees face difficulties integrating into the Austrian society, forcing them into the outskirts of society and into poverty. At the same time, several initiatives continue to help support these refugees in creative ways.

The History of Relocation

In the past century, Austria experienced three main waves of refugees. The first came after 1945, where 1.6 million Jews, Hungarians, Romanians, Yugoslavians and German Poles escaped persecution from Germany. Only about 19% of these refugees stayed permanently in Austria. Another wave of 180,000 Hungarians, Czechoslovakians, Poles and Jews from the Soviet Union sought refuge in Austria in the 1960s. Only 10% of the Hungarian refugees stayed. The last major wave occurred in 1981 after the Polish Solidarity movements caused the country to become unstable. About 66,000 of the estimated 160,000 stayed in Austria. The last major wave came to Austria in 2015. That year, 89,000 mainly Syrians, Afghani and Iraqi applied for asylum.

Though Austria received international aid to handle the influx of refugees, the public still called refugees ‘ungrateful.’ Critics accused refugees of taking away jobs and housing from native-born Austrians. Since 1956, Austria has considered itself a place of first arrival and transit, but not as a place of resettlement. When the first 2015 refugees came, Austrians were welcoming toward the newcomers, waiting at the borders with supplies and support. Three years after the Syrian refugee crisis, public opinion shifted dramatically. It polarized, negatively affecting the relationship with refugees in Austria. The legislative election of 2017 brought a right-wing majority to the Austrian federal government, cementing the feelings of animosity toward refugees. By 2018, three years later, most 2015 refugees were still waiting on the results of their applications. Refugees coming to Austria face several problems, from the moment of their arrival to their integration at the economic and social levels.

Arrival

For Austrian authorities to consider a person a refugee, that individual must prove they are fleeing from persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The Austrian police determine this during an interview with the potential refugees. There are, however, several ways to redirect these asylum-seekers in Austria. Under the Dublin Regulation, if a migrant does not receive asylum, they must go back to their country within six months. Austria also has a ‘fast track’ procedure that speeds up the asylum process when a migrant comes from a country that the government considers to be ‘safe.’ The historical mindset of sending people back immediately puts potential victims of human trafficking at risk. Moreover, gay people who come from countries that Austria considers ‘safe’ are at higher risk when they have to return to countries they fled. This is because these countries may prosecute queer people and women (who authorities do not question separately from male relatives).

According to the UN, host countries have a duty of care to identify the vulnerable situations of each migrant. In Austria, however, the identification methods are ‘random and unsystematic,’ where intervention occurs only when the vulnerabilities are visible or the asylum seekers state them themselves. This diminishes the rights of migrants to individual assessment, limiting their access to counseling, rehab and health services.

Economic Problems

Just over 1.2 million people in Austria were in danger of falling into poverty. While poverty threatened 39% of people with migration backgrounds in 2018, this percentage was 50% for people from non-European lands. Without these jobs, refugees are often at risk of falling into poverty. In 2019, 11% of people in poverty were from foreign lands, compared to 6.4% of Austrians. In total, 64% of people with migration backgrounds had employment. Syrians had the highest unemployment rate at 61.8%.

Access to the Austrian labor market as a refugee has limitations, especially before their claims for asylum have received acceptance. Even with diplomas from their home countries, Austria does not always recognize these diplomas. In 2016, about 22% of people with migration backgrounds were overqualified for their jobs.

Other major barriers to entry include discrimination, lack of social capital (both between members of the same ethnicity and with Austrians) and unfamiliarity with cultural nuances of how the host country’s labor market works. According to Amy Dudgeon, who has worked for more than 27 years with refugees and immigrants in New Orleans, Louisiana through Catholic Charities, a religious organization that provides immigration and refugee services, “The number one thing is the language barrier.”

Social Problems

The relationship with refugees in Austria is especially troubling in social integration. There is a rising intolerance for refugees in Austria. Though 41% of the population in 2020 agreed that Austria should help refugees, this is down from 51% in 2018. About 61% of the population also saw the coexistence of refugees and Austrians as ‘bad.’ Refugees themselves felt the discrimination. In fact, around 73% of people felt that their skin color, accent or where they come from caused them to face discrimination.

Finding Creative Solutions

These problems are not separate. In fact, there exists a causal link from social integration to labor market integration. When refugees create relationships within their ethnic communities, they can overcome their initial isolation and heighten their chances of getting their first job. Even better job opportunities open when refugees form relationships with people from Austria, as Austrians have insider and cultural knowledge about navigating the local labor market and job-searching process.

As Dudgeon pointed out, “I’ve met so many different people in so many different vocations in their home country, and then they come here and they can’t speak English so they have to do menial jobs. Just keeping an open mind, that just because they can’t speak English … it’s not an indicator of their intelligence or experience or anything like that.”

After two years, the employment rates of refugees start to converge with Austrian-born and other migrants. After seven years, they are as likely to receive employment as non-European migrants. The following organizations have found ways to aid refugees in Austria.

Organizations Helping Refugees in Austria

  1. Caritas: Caritas is one of Austria’s largest emergency help organizations of the Catholic Church. It has more than 16,000 employees, 50,000 volunteers and thousands of projects a year. Projects range from combatting homelessness to caring for young mothers. To support refugees, the organization offers “Lerncafes,” where children from 6 to 15 can receive free help for completing homework or learning German. Through interactions with both local volunteers and other refugees, these refugee youth learn how to integrate more fully into society. Additionally, these interactions prepare them to enter the job market.
  2. The Austrian Integrations Fonds (ÖIF): The ÖIF is an organization that the Republic of Austria and UNHCR created in the 1960s to help manage the influx of Hungarian refugees. Today, the organization helps all migrants integrate into Austrian society. One of its main targets is language learning with a focus on integrating refugees into the job market. To reach this goal, the organization offers free German-language lessons. The lessons range from beginner to advanced, with special courses involving business-specific knowledge. In 2017, the Austrian government spent 25 million Euros to support this organization, which allowed it to offer 20,000 spots to new language learners.
  3. CoRE Project: Beginning in 2016, this project brought together five partners, from NGOs to local governments. Together, they worked on a holistic approach to integrating refugees in Vienna, Austria, home to the largest number of refugees in the country. The project focused on empowering refugees by offering volunteer activities for them to take part in. By finding them places to volunteer, the project fought social exclusion, racism and intolerance. All the while, the refugees built personal and professional skills and competencies. Volunteering ensured that integration was a two-way street: refugees were able to give back to the country that took them in, making them equal citizens. Some volunteer organizations include Deutsch ohne Grenzen (German without Borders), which offers German language courses, free time activities and workshops around the topic of immigration.
  4. Refugees for Refugees (R4R): Refugees have been running this organization for refugees since 2015. The 150 members of R4R form events and activities that members can take part in, bringing refugees together through sport and culture. The organization, for example, regularly visits museums to help refugees integrate themselves into Austrian society.
  5. OLIVE: To help refugees and people of asylum status connect their previous professional and academic experience to their new lives in Europe, the University of Vienna offers free academic, bilingual non-degree programs. Some branches of the program include OLIVE Women and OLIVE Youth. These branches feature relevant seminars for each group to help them achieve both academic and professional goals.

Though the relationship with refugees in Austria is paradoxical, these five initiatives prove that Austria is beginning to decrease the discrimination that refugees in Austria face today.

Charlotte Ehlers
Photo: Flickr

Fight Against Homelessness in Italy
Italy is located along the Mediterranean coastline. The European country has a population of more than 60 million people with an average of 95 million tourists visiting every year. What many are not aware of is that immigrants, women and children are especially vulnerable to experiencing homelessness in Italy. The fight against homelessness in Italy has become a more prominent issue. Police began fining homeless people in the street for not following the lockdown measures that the country implemented. Thus, the Italian Federation of Organizations for Homeless People has appealed for greater leniency from the state.

The organization wrote, “They cannot stay at home because they do not have a home. There is an economic sanction which they cannot pay, and they have to go to the magistrate. They are not on the street for fun.”

Historical Context of Homelessness in Italy

Though worsened by the pandemic, homelessness in Italy has long been an issue. Italy is a developed nation with a GDP that expectations have determined will be around $1920 billion in 2021. However, homelessness has worsened due to the economic crisis. In 2016, homelessness impacted 50,724 people in Italy. Since 2013, this number has increased by roughly 3,000. Furthermore, 5.1 million people were living in extreme poverty in 2017. Due to its geographical location, Italy receives an influx of immigrants. As a result, 58% of Italy’s impoverished population are immigrants. In 2017, 117,153 people arrived in Italy by ship. About 67% of these migrants use Caritas, a counseling service offering advice regarding homelessness. Homelessness impacts the region of Lombardia in northern Italy the most. According to Italian Caritas, there is an increase in youth homelessness as well.

The Good News

There are various organizations that are striving to fight homelessness in Italy. For example, the Baobab Experience is an organization that previously aimed to find shelter for 120 people who slept in Piazzale Spadolini (Tiburtina Station) and has continued to provide hospitality for the homeless population in Rome. Additionally, it has advocated that the homeless receive health checks, beginning with migrants who do not have residency permits. Many of these migrants avoid hospitals in fear of detainment, so this would allow them to check their health without those consequences.

The Baobab Experience emerged in 2015 as a result of a migratory emergency when 35,000 migrants passed through Baobab, located in Via Cupa, Rome. More than 70,000 people have passed through the camps that the organization has since established. Thanks to private donations, the Baobab Experience also supports individuals with medical and legal assistance. Furthermore, the organization provides water, food, clothing and an opportunity for leisure. Many of the migrants travel through Italy to reach other countries, however, others are asylum seekers, often must wait in the streets for months before any legal practice can begin.

Further Efforts

Other NGOs such as Asgi, Naga, Magistratura Democratica and Fondazione Migrantes have called on the government to protect vulnerable migrants and homeless people. The organizations argue that these people lack sufficient protection from COVID-19 and protecting them will improve public health. Additionally, the NGOs have requested authorities shut down large migrant reception centers, enable access to the international protection system, accept homeless people into appropriate facilities and create alternatives to detention centers.

Although the fight against homelessness in Italy remains a serious problem, especially for marginalized groups such as migrants, women and children, NGOs and similar organizations keep the government accountable and provide hope for all of those impacted. By supporting such organizations that positively impact the lives of thousands, we can all contribute to eliminating homelessness in Italy.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

human trafficking in Syria
In March 2011, protests against the Bashar al-Assad regime began in Syria. Since then, more than 500,000 people have lost their lives. About 5.6 million people are refugees in Syria and 6.2 million people have experienced displacement from the war within the country. These factors make human trafficking in Syria for the purpose of both labor and sex more prevalent due to the Syrian people’s vulnerability.

The Situation

The Syrian government has not held anyone accountable for these crimes. In fact, the government is often complicit in trafficking. Traffickers often force children displaced within Syria’s borders into combat as child soldiers. On the battlefield, regime soldiers use children as human shields or suicide bombers. The regime soldiers also trap women and young girls into marriage or force them into prostitution.

Due to the size of refugee populations, surrounding countries have reduced the number of visas they grant, leaving refugees with no choice but to cross borders illegally. Doing so means their fate is in the hands of smugglers. But, staying in Syria would mean having to survive unconscionable levels of violence and struggling to attain even the most basic resources.

How to Prevent Human Trafficking in Syria

The U.S. Department of State laid out the groundwork for breaking the cycle of abuse in its 2019 report on human trafficking in Syria. The first step is to identify the victims as quickly as possible followed by holding the government of Syria accountable for its own part in the problem. In addition, the report determined that victims should not receive prosecution for any crimes they committed. The final stretch to ensuring human trafficking becomes part of the past is for all those guilty of trafficking to experience prosection. So far, Syrian officials have not enacted any of these policies.

A large part of the issue is that there are no official laws banning human trafficking in Syria. This makes it difficult to identify victims, let alone perpetrators. When prosecuting criminals (such as prostitutes or beggars), the Syrian government does not make efforts to differentiate between trafficking victims and true criminals.  Too often, it punishes people for crimes they would not have willingly committed. The government has not spoken out against human trafficking, making it easy for victims of human trafficking in Syria to fall through the cracks, especially given the state of the civil war.

The Implementation of Sanctions

The lack of attention that Syria has paid to human trafficking has put it at risk of facing American sanctions. This means that the country could potentially face steep tariffs or limits on trading with the U.S. Currently, Syria already faces sanctions due to its association with and sponsorship of terrorist organizations.

Sanctions only worsen the state of poverty in Syria, causing the prices of necessities and goods to skyrocket. Organizations such as Caritas aim to provide food and shelter to anyone who war has affected, but it is an uphill climb. Human trafficking victims receive assistance from organizations like Caritas, but only when victims come forward themselves. Syrian officials make no effort to refer victims to organizations that may help them.

Despite the efforts of the U.S. government and charitable organizations, human trafficking in Syria remains an alarming situation. The government of Syria prevents meaningful change by not taking efforts to aid victims or prosecute traffickers. In order for the situation to improve, the government must stand up to protect its own people. Until then, the state of affairs will continue.

– Maddey Bussmann
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Lesotho
Lesotho is a small, mountainous nation surrounded entirely by South Africa. Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, political instability and slow economic development have plagued Lesotho. A high prevalence of HIV further complicates efforts to end poverty in Lesotho. Despite an attempted military coup in 2014, conditions have been improving in the country in recent years. Here are seven factors that affect poverty in Lesotho.

7 Factors Affecting Poverty in Lesotho

  1. Agriculture: About 66% of Lesotho’s population lives in rural areas where the economy is largely based on small-scale agriculture. Many of these people engage in subsistence farming, meaning they rely on a good harvest to be able to feed their families. The success of each harvest makes a huge impact on the lives of millions in Lesotho. A drought from 2015 to 2016 crippled poverty reduction efforts for the next few years, proving the delicacy of this system.
  2. Gender: Households that women run have a poverty rate of 55.2%, compared to 46.3% for households that men run. This is because women are typically denied the same opportunities as men in Lesotho’s highly patriarchal society.
  3. Urbanization: Poverty in Lesotho is more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas. Urban areas have a 28.5% poverty rate while rural areas face a 60.7% poverty rate. Despite Lesotho’s economic development in recent years, most improvements have occurred in urban areas while rural areas have been left behind.
  4. Education: Achieving a college education is extremely rare in Lesotho – only 4.4% of people live in households with someone who has gone to a college or university. Those that do receive higher education have a low poverty rate of 8.7%.
  5. Government programs: Over the past 20 years, the government in Lesotho has been working with international organizations to expand protections for the poor and increase economic opportunity. As a result, the national poverty rate decreased from 56.6% to 49.7% from 2002 to 2017.
  6. HIV: Poverty and HIV have a clear connection in Lesotho. Almost 24% of adults are living with HIV and treatment is essential to stopping the spread and helping these people live normal lives. Lack of resources and awareness means that on average only 57% of people with HIV are currently getting help. This directly impacts their quality of life and makes it harder to land above the poverty line.
  7. NGOs: Though poverty in Lesotho is an important issue for the country’s government, NGOs are stepping in to fill gaps. Many international nonprofit groups such as Caritas Lesotho operate in the country. Caritas Lesotho is a group that seeks to help individuals escape poverty by teaching them technical skills. They focus on vulnerable children and teach them a trade such as farming or woodworking. Groups like Caritas Lesotho are slowly helping to improve the economic situation in the country.

Examining the causes of poverty in a country is essential in deciding how best to address the issue. It is clear that poverty in Lesotho will continue to be an issue for many years. However, the country is on the right track and will improve as education and economic opportunity increase.

– Jack McMahon
Photo: Flickr