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Election in BurundiAmid a global pandemic, Burundi is on the brink of its first democratic transfer of power in its 58 years of independence. The country’s Constitutional Court will announce the official winner of the May 20 election on June 4, but the Burundi election commission has already declared Evariste Ndayishimiye, the candidate of the governing party, the winner. The commission has declared that Ndayishimiye won 68.72% of the votes cast, while his main opponent, Agathon Rwasa, gathered 24.19%.

The historic May 20 vote for president engaged 87.7% of registered voters, who cast their ballots after the campaigns of seven presidential hopefuls. This high turnout is momentous considering the low road density in the landlocked country. Inaccessible roads make traveling to polling places difficult, with the poor state of infrastructure in the country making travel even more costly. Such costs may be difficult for Burundians to grapple with, given the country’s near total dependence on coffee subsistence farming, the production of which has declined in recent years.

Campaign Controversy

Leading up to the election in Burundi, the 2020 presidential campaigns were not without controversy. According to Human Rights Watch, the preceding year included more than 60 political killings and 200 arrests of perceived political opponents. Rwasa, a longtime leader of a Burundian rebel group and a candidate in the 2015 presidential race against the incumbent, called for profound change throughout the election. The spokesman for Rwasa’s party publicized the National Freedom Council’s boycott of the Burundi election commission’s announcement on the grounds of fraud and violence as the basis of Ndayishimiye’s win.

In addition to political controversy, the election in Burundi faced criticism for its call for in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Days after the election, Burundi only had 42 cases of COVID-19, reporting just one death and 20 recoveries among these. However, the number of cases in the country doubled between May 17 and May 21, indicating that the election could have played a role in this increase.

Throughout the pandemic, Burundi has avoided imposing stringent restrictions in favor of advising its citizens to practice handwashing and to avoid mass gatherings, with the exception of campaign rallies. These rallies were one of the main platforms for information dissemination about candidates, as less than 2% of the country’s population has electricity in their homes, causing many Burundians to attend. The government’s one heavy-handed rule was imposed on foreign election observers, who were to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in the country, a possible tactic to dissuade observers from attending the election in Burundi at all.

Violence Before the Vote

The election in 2020 comes on the heels of the tumultuous 2015 election in Burundi. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third-term bid violated the Constitution of Burundi’s two-term limit, provoking riots that culminated in a thwarted coup attempt. This insurgency prompted a violent suppression of the Burundian people and Nkurunziza’s political opponents. In the five years since the election, increasing violence in Burundi has led to the deaths of at least 1,200 people and the emigration of tens of thousands. This turmoil forced financial supporters of the country to cut political and financial ties, further entrenching it as one of the poorest countries in the world.

Economic isolation has put extreme financial stress on the government of Burundi, a burden that the government has imposed on its citizenry in recent years. Beginning in 2017, the government began demanding “contributions,” which it employed in part to fund the 2020 election. This contribution system was officially ended in 2019, but independent groups like the Imbonerakure youth militia have since demanded tributes in its place, exploiting even the seven out of 10 Burundians who live below the poverty line.

These human rights and economic abuses ratcheted up the pressure and significance of the 2020 presidential election, yielding a huge voter turnout in support of reform.

A New Face

While the declared winner Ndayishimiye is the candidate of the ruling party that backed Nkurunziza in his violent and lengthy reign, many Burundians showed up to the polls in support of political change. The people are participating politically to end the violence that has gripped Burundi throughout its occupation by Belgium, which ended in 1962, and the ensuing battles between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. After the first democratic election in Burundi in 1993, the Hutu president was assassinated by a Tutsi-led group of political opponents and traitorous cabinet members.

Burundi has yet to maintain peace after a transfer of power. The country is looking to the results of this election to usher in a peaceful and democratic transition between presidents. Whether Ndayishimiye rules independently or under the influence of Nkurunziza, who has been declared the “supreme guide for patriotism” by the Parliament of Burundi, the Burundian people will be turning to their new government for leadership. In practical terms, this leadership could implement an electrification plan to bring electricity to more Burundian homes and a plan to diversify the economy away from subsistence coffee farming. Voters in the 2020 election in Burundi are seeking an end to forced contributions, insight into governmental spending, a window for economic growth and peace as Burundi moves through the pandemic and into the future.

Annie Iezzi
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Belarus
With a population of nearly 10 million, Belarus is one of the largest countries in Eastern Europe, and its problems with COVID-19 are just as great. Since its first cases were reported, the country has struggled with treating the virus and limiting its spread. Outbreaks of COVID-19 in Belarus have already revealed flaws in the country’s health infrastructure that could cause problems even after the pandemic ends.

What You Should Know About COVID-19 in Belarus

  1. The true scale of the outbreak remains unknown. Although Belarus began testing for COVID-19 in January, the country reported its first case on February 28. As of May 18, there were 30,572 confirmed cases and 171 deaths resulting from the pandemic. The majority of confirmed cases have occurred in the country’s urban areas on account of their high population density, with the Belarusian capital of Minsk reporting over 4,000 cases on April 24. The Ministry of Health has not provided a cumulative total of recovered patients, making it difficult to know the total number of infections.
  2. Belarus’ government has not enacted strict social distancing policies. While many countries adopted shelter-in-place policies in March and April, Belarus’s government has yet to implement a country-wide shutdown of non-essential businesses. So far, individual cities have decided how to protect their citizens, with some canceling social gatherings and extending school vacations. Unfortunately, this approach has led to an inconsistent response that has failed to slow the spread of the virus.
  3. Medical supplies are limited. Despite having 11 hospital beds per 1,000 people – one of the highest ratios in the world – the lack of quarantine protocols quickly overwhelmed Belarus’ healthcare system. Patients treated for COVID-19-related pneumonia observed that nurses and other healthcare officials were uninformed and inadequately equipped to handle the growing number of cases. Due to supply shortages and limited social distancing, epidemiologists predict that between 15,000 and 32,000 people could die of COVID-19.
  4. The pandemic could force the country into a recession. One reason Belarus lacks a comprehensive social distancing policy is that the country may not be able to afford it. Even before the crisis, Belarus’ economy had started to slow down, with GDP growth dropping from 3% to 1.2% between 2018 and 2019. Economists predict that reduced trade with Western Europe and Russia due to the pandemic could push the country into a recession. While the economic impact of COVID-19 is still unclear, it could cause Belarus’ economy to contract by up to 4%. This may require Belarus to cut spending on programs for vulnerable populations such as low-income households.
  5. The international community is stepping up. Due to the shortage of personal protective equipment and medical supplies in Belarus, other countries have begun shipping supplies over. On April 17, 32 tons of medical equipment such as thermometers, goggles, and gloves arrived in Belarus from China. At the same time, the European Union announced a 3 billion euro relief fund for 10 Eastern European countries, including Belarus. Belarus may require more aid in the future, but these contributions will help ease the country’s financial strain.

Although the full implications of the pandemic are still unknown, foreign aid will reduce the impact of COVID-19 in Belarus. Such aid is vitally important for the country’s ability to protect its sick and vulnerable populations.

Sarah Licht
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Tuberculosis in Russia With COVID-19 emerging as a global pandemic, attention has centered on alleviating its effects. However, this has posed challenges to combating other respiratory illnesses, like tuberculosis, due to the lack of control efforts. Russia has been particularly hit by this, where it has a higher sensitivity to respiratory issues. To better understand this and the solutions that might be used to fight both COVID-19 and tuberculosis, here are eight facts about tuberculosis in Russia.

8 Facts About Tuberculosis in Russia

  1. Tuberculosis (TB) is endemic, or regularly found, in Russia. In fact, Russia has the world’s 11th highest burden of TB. Compounding its status as a major public health problem is a rising incidence of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). This means that TB does not respond to many of the antibiotics that are most commonly used to treat the disease. Russia has the third highest number of MDR-TB in the world.
  2. The severity of Russia’s TB epidemic stems from historical, social and economic factors. When the Soviet Union collapsed, health infrastructure and the economy declined dramatically. Poverty and crime rates increased, leading to higher incarceration rates. As TB is airborne, it spreads best in cramped and crowded conditions, just like those in prisons. These factors contributed to the rapid spread of both TB and MDR-TB. The Fall of the Iron Curtain also led to unstable living conditions, increased mass migration and exacerbated the TB epidemic with a 7.5 percent annual increase in new cases from 1991 to 1999.
  3. There is a close synergy between the TB and HIV/AIDS epidemics in Russia. The TB notification rate of individuals living with HIV infection is approximately 1,700 per 100,000 HIV-infected. Because HIV attacks the immune system, HIV infection leaves patients more vulnerable to infection with all sorts of pathogens, including TB.
  4. In the early to mid-2000s, the Russian government increased its budget allocation for tuberculosis control. Russia also received a $150 million World Bank loan, two thirds of which was designated for tuberculosis. Additionally, it received a $91 million grant from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  5. In recent years, there have been some improvements in TB infection rates in Russia. Cases of TB in Russia decreased by 9.4 percent to a rate of 48.3 per 100,000 people in 2017. In the same vein, Russia has recently experienced a steady decline in TB morbidity and mortality. Since 2012, morbidity or disability due to TB has decreased by more than 30 percent, and mortality has decreased by more than 48 percent.
  6. The COVID-19 pandemic is interfering with TB diagnosis, prevention, treatment and control efforts worldwide. It is grimly clear that Russia will not be exempt. A recent report based on analyses of several countries, including neighboring Ukraine, predicts an additional 6.3 million cases of tuberculosis by 2025 as a result of COVID-19’s disruption of TB control efforts. Progress in the fight against TB could be set back by five to eight years. Russia is facing its TB epidemic in a world where TB kills 1.5 million people a year, more than any other infectious disease. Five years ago, world leaders pledged to end the TB epidemic by 2030. In addition, in 2018, they pledged to double TB funding by 2022. However, the COVID-19 pandemic’s diversion of attention, funding, and resources makes the realization of these TB goals unlikely.
  7. Partners in Health, a nongovernmental organization, treats TB and uses a comprehensive model of ambulatory care. They treat every patient free of charge and provide care as it is most convenient to patients, bringing medication to each patient individually twice a day. Their close relationship with patients in this community based model gives their patients up to a 90 percent cure rate. Particularly, Partners in Health established The Sputnik Initiative, where it provided social and clinical support for poor MDR-TB patients in Tomsk, Russia. This initiative allowed Partners in Health to treat 70 percent of its total 129 participants who would otherwise not receive adequate medical care.
  8. Partners in Health has success in curbing TB by integrating TB treatment with the provision of other medical care. They have established TB clinics within HIV treatment centers, which is strategic as the HIV and TB co-infection rate among the patients they treat is five percent. Additionally, they have incorporated mental health and drug addiction services into their TB treatment program in Russia. A similar integrative model could conceivably be deployed for COVID-19 once a treatment becomes available.

Tuberculosis and COVID-19 pandemics present unique challenges both individually and as they co-occur. However, existing community based treatment models for tuberculosis in Russia may contain useful lessons as we learn to treat COVID-19.

– Isabelle Breier

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Indonesia
Since the devastating impact of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis (AFC), Indonesia has shown profound economic growth. Since 1998, it has boasted a greater than 5% compound annual GDP growth rate, ahead of the global average of below 3%. Indonesia now ranks as the 16th largest economy in the world, up from 36th in 1998. Concomitant with this economic improvement has been a noticeable reduction in poverty in the country. Most recently, poverty in the country is below 5% of the population versus 67% 30 years ago. By comparison, approximately 10% of the global population lives below the international poverty line. Yet despite this promising data, poverty in Indonesia remains a major issue. Here are six facts about poverty in Indonesia.

6 Facts About Poverty in Indonesia

  1. The rate of poverty reduction is slowing, but poverty is low. Indonesia’s efforts to grow its economy showed great results in the years immediately following the AFC. Rapid industrialization, increased global integration and a focus on domestic infrastructure all helped in this regard. This resulted in relatively dramatic improvements in poverty. After an eight-year period of decline, however, the rate of reduction has slowed to 9% in recent years. Despite a slowing in the rate of reduction, the percentage of the Indonesian population living in poverty is at the lowest level since 1984 (4.6%).
  2. CARE, an international humanitarian agency, has been working to assist Indonesia’s poor particularly during emergencies. Indonesia is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, so CARE has worked to provide Indonesians with food, shelter, water and medical supplies. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, CARE aided 350,000 Indonesians and helped them rebuild their communities. Non-governmental organizations like CARE are key to assisting the government in protecting Indonesia’s poor after frequent disasters and emergencies.
  3. Income disparity is growing. Indonesia’s economic growth has flowed disproportionately to the wealthy. The country’s Gini coefficient, a measure of a country’s income disparity, has increased from 28.5 in 2000 to 38.1 in 2017 (lower is better). Oxfam reported that in 2014, the richest 1% of Indonesians owned 50% of the nation’s wealth. Not surprisingly, Indonesia’s rural inhabitants are worse off than their urban counterparts, with about 1.5 times more incidences of poverty on an absolute basis. One can also see this in the geographic distribution of poverty. Eastern Indonesia, the more rural part of the country, fares worse. President Joko Widodo has noted that improving income inequality is one of his top priorities. He has taken some steps to decrease income disparity, including providing direct cash transfers through its Program Keluarga Harapan, creating more social assistance programs, investing in infrastructure and creating health and education protections.
  4. The near-poor are a significant group in Indonesia. While Indonesia’s reduction in poverty is impressive when including those who are near-poor, the results are not as positive. Many in Indonesia live precariously close to the poverty line and are at risk of falling back into poverty. The Asian Development Bank highlights that over half of the poor in Indonesia were not poor the year before. Furthermore, a quarter of Indonesians will suffer from poverty at least once every three years. Even though only 5% of Indonesians live below the poverty line today, as many as 25% live just above it.
  5. Indonesia must watch inflation. Since 2016, inflation in Indonesia has been below 4%. The government and the Bank of Indonesia established the range of 3% to 4%. However, with so many living at or close to poverty, changes in prices can have deleterious impacts, disproportionately so on the poor. Statistics Indonesia notes that food represents a 43% weight in Indonesia’s CPI basket, putting a degree of focus on food prices, especially given their historical volatility. The Indonesian government has focused in this area, recognizing that stable rice prices are essential for steady economic prosperity. Nevertheless, food prices remain exposed to exogenous shocks.
  6. COVID-19 is having a huge impact. The Indonesian government did not impose restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic until April 10, 2020, almost six weeks after the identification of the first case in West Java. Unfortunately, the economic fallout from COVID-19 will have material effects on Indonesia’s poor and near-poor, underlining the fragility of the last 30 years of Indonesia’s efforts. In mid-April, 2020, Indonesia’s finance minister predicted that Q2 GDP growth could fall to about 1%, after the weakest rate of growth in nearly 20 years in Q1. COVID-19 cases surged rapidly after President Widodo hesitated to implement a nationwide lockdown. In response, he declared a national health emergency and worked to increase the number of test kits, personal protective equipment and ventilators available in the country. Additionally, he passed a stimulus package worth $8 billion to stimulate the economy, with $324 million going towards helping low-income households.

These six facts about poverty in Indonesia have shown that Indonesia’s government has put much effort into improving the conditions for its poor. Against a backdrop of economic growth, President Widodo increased spending on social assistance, health, education and infrastructure. Additionally, CARE’s continual aid has substantially reduced poverty in Indonesia since the AFC.  However, with so many near the poverty line, those results are fragile. With the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, much of that work could become obsolete.

– Harry Yeung
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in EgyptNearly one-third of Egyptians fall below the poverty line, with the unemployment rate trending higher than extremely impoverished countries such as Ghana, Lebanon and Zimbabwe. In 2011, lasting poverty rates and poor living conditions caused Egyptian retaliation against the government. Political instability has complicated Egypt’s foreign partnerships since that time, subsequently affecting all areas of the economy; as a result, foreign investment in the country’s resources has had notable fluctuations. The inconsistency in Egypt’s economy leaves few employment opportunities, especially among younger generations, inevitably affecting rates of poverty in Egypt.

Travel in Egypt

Typically, travelers visiting Egypt receive encouragement to exercise increased caution, per the U.S. Global Health Advisory. The country ranks two out of four on the U.S. Department of State’s safety scale; this rating indicates that the U.S. Department of State has approved travel there although tourists should recognize the possible risks. This system is not solely unique to the United States – many countries have similar regulations. However, due to the global impact of COVID-19, regular travel ratings are momentarily on hold.

Factors responsible for Egypt’s pre-pandemic, level-two status include levels of terrorism and lingering tensions with the U.S. Embassy. This score is an improvement from a travel rating of four in 2011. Egypt received this high rating during a violent national rebellion that broke out against police brutality, the poor economy and religious divides. When a country has a level-four rating, the U.S. Department of State tells Americans not to travel there.

Tourism’s Impact on Egypt’s Economy

In February 2019, research expert Amna Puri-Mirza provided a statistical analysis that demonstrated that a decline in tourism impacted the Egyptian economy. From 2010 to 2011, national profits from the tourist industry dropped 32 percent in reaction to the Egyptian rebellion. In 2015, news of a Russian airline crash that was traveling to Cairo decreased tourism from 14.7 million to 5.4 million people in 2016.

The connection between tourism and poverty in Egypt correlates with the market value of different services and goods that the country produces; profits from tourism hold a large percentage of the country’s overall income. In 2018, tourism supported 2.5 million jobs, indicating heavy reliance on the industry. When situations adversely impact tourism around the globe, this substantially impacts the economy, and in turn, poverty in Egypt.

Efforts to Reduce Poverty in Egypt

Working to ease economic stress, the Egyptian government succeeded in obtaining a loan from the International Monetary Fund in 2016. While there might be uncertainties for the future of the loan, it is certainly aiding the nation in the return of tourists. Research on Egypt’s travel and tourism show promising signs of continued recovery, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. In 2019, Egypt’s tourism level improved by 16.5 percent from the previous year, which is higher than the global average. Such an incredible growth rate is a promising sign for the rates of poverty in Egypt.

Foreign Relations with the U.S.

Despite past tensions, the partnership between the U.S. and Egypt has greatly improved. The established relationship could substantially impact the state of poverty in Egypt. The Trump Administration announced a priority of aid for Egypt; specifically, it intends to provide economic reforms and military funds to combat radical terrorism in Egypt. “Our relationship has never been stronger. And we’re working with Egypt on many different fronts,” said President Trump. Upon continuing a solid relationship with the U.S., the Egyptian government could utilize the support in developing a sustainable economy post-loan.

Other Initiatives

Egyptian President El-Sisiis and his officials are also working on economic reform needed to reduce poverty in Egypt. Like many nations, the sudden 2020 Coronavirus outbreak presents additional obstacles in accomplishing this goal. Experts expect that Egypt’s tourism industry will lose more than 40,000 workers to unemployment as a result.

Now, more families will be at risk of falling into poverty, causing a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19. On March 20, 2020, The World Bank Group donated $7.9 million to fund Egypt’s emergency response. The nonprofit is working with Egypt to create financial, technological and health strategies to protect citizens. Ideally, the country should be able to avoid the anticipated increase in poverty in Egypt through this aid. Assisting the Egyptian economy has become an international effort. Not only is does The World Bank intend for the aid to provide the government with resources, but it also intends to disperse it among Egypt’s citizens, especially those experiencing poverty in Egypt.

Tourism is a key source of income for the country but has recently halted. Additionally, tense international relations and a poor global image have further damaged the already struggling economy. Fortunately, new global partnerships with Egypt have aided in encouraging tourism in Egypt. While the 2020 pandemic puts this travel on hold, the response of increasing aid will support the economy and prevent further poverty in Egypt. If aid continues, Egypt will receive a great opportunity to sustain its economy and people.

GraceElise Van Valkenburg
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in Thailand
Many nations in the Global South face famine and hunger, prohibiting much of the population from meeting appropriate nutritional needs. In addition to the ongoing crisis of COVID-19, many food security reports are seeing increased malnourishment. Major inequalities have compromised proper access to food—of the 815 million people around the world who suffer from poverty, 6.5 million of those are from Thailand. Despite being a major food exporter that meets both global and domestic demands, hunger in Thailand is prevalent and there is still a worrying amount of households facing abject poverty.

Thailand’s Malnourished Population

Compared to other poorer nations such as Myanmar and Malaysia, Thailand’s malnourished population is considerably high. With ample food production in the country, much of the country’s problems reside in the food being readily available to its people. An estimated 17 percent of Thailand’s population suffers from malnourishment. This could be a direct result of a number of social inequalities, ultimately increasing the people who experience hunger in Thailand. While experts often cite frequent natural disasters and wars as reasons for high food insecurity, there are many other underlying factors, including economic instability and disproportionate ratios of distribution.

Rice in Thailand

Rice, which is the staple export in Thailand, has increased in demand and production over the years, especially during the COVID-19 spread. Thailand had maintained a level of self-sufficiency through its hefty supply of various meats (i.e. beef and pork) and the large scale production of grains. The domestic demand for rice production has increased at a rapid rate that has fueled much of the country’s economy. The number of rice exports increased from 1.3 million tons in 1971-1975 to just about 8.14 million tons in 2006 and 2007. With this in mind, however, a majority of people experience hunger in Thailand, making the nation unable to meet its own nutritional needs.

Battling Hunger in Thailand

In 2017, the government instituted preventative measures to combat food insecurity and hunger in Thailand. The nation announced a social assistance program that would serve as a safety net for poor families. This move aims to improve Thailand’s food insecurity to land amongst the ranks of middle-income countries. The program provides cash allowances and other subsidies for an estimated 12 million low-income families.

To be eligible, families must meet five criteria: being at least 18 years of age; a Thai citizen; unemployed or having an annual income below $3,055; no financial assets worth more than 100,000 Bahts; and no real estate. Once families meet these qualifications, they receive welfare cards that they can use to purchase goods at registered shops and transportation systems, costing approximately $1.4 million. There have been many faults since the program’s implementation; for example, the program does not count some people eligible despite meeting the five criteria.

The social systems in the nation are shifting consistently, meaning that the struggle of hunger in Thailand is evolving rapidly. The economic state that COVID-19 has caused is likely to impact Thailand’s ongoing battle with hunger. There is no certain answer to the issues that will arise among the ongoing crisis. Hunger in Thailand, as well as many other nations, is a lengthy battle.

Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Turkey
With an increased Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.806 from 0.655 in the last decade, Turkey’s overall development has significantly increased, namely with a hike in life expectancy and education. While the execution of specific long-term policies (Development Programme for Women and Conditional Education Assistance) constantly address issues such as gender inequality and education, the refugee crisis and the disruption that COVID-19 has caused remain more pressing matters. Nevertheless, as all of these existing and new issues pile up, the initiative to alleviate poverty in Turkey has currently slowed down.

The Long-term Causes of Poverty in Turkey

  • Education: The proportion of poor people with limited or no education at all is significant. In fact, a study from 2007 indicated that 26.9 percent were illiterate, 22.6 percent had basic reading and writing skills and 42.4 percent were primary school graduates. These facts might suggest that a lack of education contributes to poverty due to the inability to work at higher-paying jobs. In order to encourage education, Turkey circulated free textbooks and transportation. Additionally, the FAITH project, which the Turkish government implemented, made education compulsory for all citizens for the initial 12 years. Along with the increase in the number of universities from 93 to 107 by 2013, the total gross enrollment increased to 81.6 percent. While the Turkish education system is still not able to compete with the European Union’s standards, it is definitely becoming more efficient.
  • Household Make-up: The mean household size tends to increase in poorer households, as nearly six out of 10 households have more than four members. Meanwhile, 45.6 percent of the poorest women in Turkey are housewives. As the number of people in households increases, the burden often falls to men to fulfill the basic needs of the entire family.
  • External Immigration and Refugees: Around 4.1 million immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Bosnia and Syria have strained Turkey’s resources. Legal immigrants receive access to education, health care and social security under Turkish legislation, namely the Law on Foreigners and International Protection and Temporary Protection Regulation. Furthermore, the demand for housing has driven up its price, pushing more and more people into poverty. Turkey has pledged nearly $35 billion to manage the flow of immigrants, which is inadequate because of the number of illegal immigrants also occupying Turkish territory. The rise in population, due to how drastic it is, has left more people confined to the poverty trap prevalent in the nation.

Turkey’s Measures to Reduce Poverty

The severity of poverty in Turkey has instigated the introduction and implementation of various policies such as the following:

  • The Country Partnership Framework (CPF): CPF is an agreement between Turkey and the World Bank with hopes of achieving growth, inclusion and sustainability under the 11th National Development Program. The General Assembly of Parliament of Turkey has implemented this as part of the 10th Development Plan.
  • The World Bank Group (WBG): The World Bank is partnering with the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRiT) to help reduce economic disruption due to the influx of refugees in Turkey by implementing programs with regards to education, employment and social support. For example, FriT, along with UNHCR, has pledged € 23.929.195 to allow access to protection and services for refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey.

Trust Funds in Addition to FRiT

  • The Clean Technology Fund (CTF): CTF  has granted $390 million to support wind power and encourage the private sector to invest in renewable and efficient energy.
  • E.U. Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA): IPA funds are providing € 3533 million to Turkey. The most important goal of IPA is to improve public administration and financial governance.
  • Global Environmental Facility (GEF): GEF funds are financing $387,138,238 to focus on climate change and the maintaintence of biodiversity.

How COVID-19 Could Affect Turkey’s Ability to Address Poverty

The unexpected spread of COVID-19 has recently strained the world economy, including Turkey’s ability to implement and administer the necessary schemes to alleviate poverty. In fact, the bilateral trade between China and Turkey is as low as 1.1  percent. Coupled with the loss of tax collection from affected industries (including textiles and garments) and restricted travel abroad, this has led to an increase in national debt and left the private sector enduring heavy losses. Therefore, the government’s ability to address poverty has diminished.

Mridula Divakar
Photo: Flickr

lessons from past pandemics
There are several lessons from past pandemics that apply to COVID-19 prevention today. With the rise of COVID-19, it is particularly important to look back at history to prevent similar detrimental results.

Spanish Flu and Social Distancing

One of the main lessons from past pandemics such as the Spanish Flu is that social distancing works. With cities around the world such as San Fransisco ordering social distancing, this lesson is as pertinent as ever. In 1918, Philadelphia threw a parade to support soldiers fighting in WWI that drew a crowd of 200,000 people. Just three days later, every bed in Philidalphia’s 31 hospitals comprised of people infected with the flu. Unfortunately, despite Philadelphia’s enforcement of social distancing after the infection rate rapidly increased, this response was too late.

St. Louis, on the other hand, was more proactive with enforcing city-wide social distancing regulations. Within just two days of detecting the first cases of the flu in St. Louis residents, the city enforced social distancing measures. This resulted in less than half of the flu’s death toll than in Philadelphia.

Social distancing is not just about staying away from others when ill but also about reducing the chances of becoming a carrier of the disease. Several people might have coronavirus and not even know it as only 19 percent of confirmed cases of COVID-19 become critical. Because of this, it is important to stick to social distancing regulations as much as possible.

HIV/AIDS and the Deadliness of Social Stigma

The ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic faces a great amount of social stigma that has lead to insufficient government prevention methods. This stigma is due to discriminatory views that the virus infects those who are gay or drug addicts who use intravenous drugs.

Though governments are more responsive today, when the HIV/AIDS pandemic first arose, many including the U.S. were late to respond due to this stigma. This resulted in many protests and, eventually, the government became more responsive.

One of the main lessons from the HIV/AIDS pandemic that one can apply to the COVID-19 outbreak is the fatal impact of social stigma. There are several discriminatory sentiments toward the Asian community right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. This stigma has led to a rise in hate crimes. People of Asian descent are not the only community capable of suffering an infection from this virus, and discrimination towards them can be deadly just as the case with those that the HIV/AIDS pandemic affected.

Small Pox and Global Cooperation

The World Health Organization (WHO) ran a vaccination campaign to eradicate smallpox from 1966-1977. It jumped through many government hoops in order to run the campaign, which was eventually successful. The current coronavirus outbreak will require similar action. Following government orders and keeping up with guidelines and news from the CDC and WHO will greatly help with global cooperation to slow the spread of COVID-19.

A critical issue that requires immediate and rapid cooperation is the stocking up of medical masks and other medical supplies such as hand sanitizer in a frenzy. While buying these supplies might seem helpful at the moment, it is actually having consequential effects. Doctors have reported shortages of masks that could lead to a dire situation if buying habits like this continue. Additionally, reports state that masks for healthy people are ineffective as a means of prevention.

Another form of cooperation that will help prevent those that the virus affects is joining local activist coalitions in helping those vulnerable to COVID-19, such as unemployed or food insecure individuals. In Seattle, COVID-19 Mutual Aid is a coalition that is helping out in solidarity with those most vulnerable. One can obtain further information about its work by visiting its Instagram page.

Hope for the Future

Social distancing, destigmatization and global cooperation are key lessons from past pandemics that easily apply to COVID-19. Not only learning but applying these lessons to the current pandemic is key to beating this virus.

Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Pixabay

2019 Coronavirus
The 2019 coronavirus outbreak in China has infected thousands and killed hundreds of people in Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Germany, France, the United States and other countries. As a result, there are strict preventative measures, as currently, only supportive care exists – meaning there is no definitive cure. Understanding all relevant information about the virus itself and the reaction of the global health community is highly relevant, important and necessary.

The 2019 Coronavirus (2019-nCoV or COVID-19)

Originating in Wuhan, China, the 2019 coronavirus is a viral infection that causes breathing problems. The 2019 coronavirus is within the same family of viruses – but a different strand – that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. It transmits from human to human through coughing, sneezing and other moist bodily particles. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, fever and cough, similar to typical viral infections.

Treatment

People can use supportive care for symptom relief, such as fever relief with Tylenol. No one has developed an antiviral for the 2019 coronavirus yet, which would consist of suppression of further viral infection of host cells, rather than viral eradication.

Prevention

The CDC recommends avoiding crowds to reduce the chance of interacting with infected persons. People should also practice hand-washing and good hand-hygiene practices. These measures include avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, and covering the mouth and nose when sneezing. Moreover, people should disinfect surfaces frequently.

Monitoring

Those individual(s) who might have traveled on a plane or are concerned about becoming infected should monitor for symptoms. Symptoms are likely to occur between two to 14 days after traveling to China or interacting with individuals(s) who have traveled to China. Contact with the 2019 coronavirus can occur within six feet of a person and/or can occur directly when touching moist bodily particles. If symptoms occur, one should notify and visit a doctor’s office immediately.

Global Health Response

The WHO International Health Regulations Committee first met to advise the Director-General on disease control and prevention strategies. WHO then visited Wuhan, China in January 2020 to establish a plan with China’s President, Xi Jinping, in treating existing patients and containing the virus. Globally, WHO is currently conducting research to find a viable treatment for COVID-19; the U.S. is simultaneously conducting a vaccine trial to prevent further spread. WHO and various international health ministries are gathering up funding, projected to be about $675 million, to support the Strategies Preparedness and Response Plan. The plan outlines preparedness protocol for countries, in particular, those with limited health systems, to stop virus transmission, treat patients and collaborate between countries to carry out all necessary operations.

Global Response

Many countries and organizations, such as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Egypt, Iran, Japan and Pakistan among many others, are sending medical supplies and equipment to help China in addressing COVID-19 treatment needs. Doctors in China are administering care to patients in temporary treatment centers while other health officials are managing supplies and equipment to ensure appropriate use. Furthermore, various Chinese companies are investing in research; other organizations are fundraising to support disease control efforts. Chinese city locals and groups are also coming together to lend a hand in stopping the outbreak.

Globally, support is even coming in from philanthropists, international businesses and foreign aids. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $100 million. These efforts are all contributing to research, treatment and prevention funds. Foreign aid from the U.S. comes in the form of a medical advisory board going to China to work with its health officials while the European Union is providing $11 million USD for research on the virus.

Information regarding the 2019 coronavirus is emerging daily. Health organizations, governments, non-government organizations and businesses are pulling resources to contain the illness and its outbreak.

– Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

poverty in oman

Oman is a country in the Arabian Peninsula bordering Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, which places it in the southeastern coast of the region. The coastal regions of the country benefit from fertile soil and a beautiful landscape with impressive mountains. Despite the country’s strong agriculture and its oil, it has recently faced an economic downturn following its big investments in social welfare, causing oil prices to drop and the budget to decrease.

Economic Crisis

The aforementioned economic downturn of the country was due to a protest during the Arab Spring in 2011. The citizens demanded more employment opportunities, economic benefits, and a crackdown on the government’s corruption, which is an absolute monarchy led by the Sultan of Oman. While the government did respond to the protest by providing social welfare benefits, the result was an unmanageable budget that contributed to the poverty in Oman. The biggest concern on the economy of Oman is related to the shifting prices of oil, as the country is highly dependent on oil to generate revenue. In fact, oil can account for somewhere between 68% and 85% of the country’s entire revenue generated in a year. This is why Oman suffered a budget deficit of $13.8 billion in the year 2016, the same year global oil prices dropped.

Wages and Migrant Inequity

While the statistics don’t indicate a high rate of the country’s nationals being under the poverty line, poverty in Oman primarily affects migrant workers. Omani nationals benefit from a minimum wage at $592 a month in addition to a $263 allowance. Migrant workers in Oman do not have access to these benefits and are compensated with low wages.

Many countries in the Middle East, including Oman, employ female migrants to work in households. They are tasked with taking care of the children, cooking, and doing daily chores. Oman has at least 130,000 of these female migrant workers, and they face poor working conditions. This includes lower wages than initially promised, excessively long working hours and, according to interviews with about 59 of the workers, there are even cases of physical and sexual abuse from employers.

A Plan Forward

The state is at risk of major deficits in its budget in a case where oil prices drop, as was the case in the year 2016. To solve this, the sultan has been seeking alternative ways for generating revenue in order to reduce the risk of another economic downturn. The country has already made progress by making a development plan in 2016 to decrease its oil dependency. The plan seeks to open doors in industrialization and privatization, diversifying its sources of revenue.

According to the CIA, “The key components of the government’s diversification strategy are tourism, shipping and logistics, mining, manufacturing, and aquaculture.” Despite Omani nationals struggling to find employment opportunities due to migrant workers’ lower wages in earlier years, the country has seen an increasing number of citizens entering the job market recently. To highlight some of the progress Oman has made in previous years, its tourism industry has been opening up and contributing to the country’s GDP. 32 new hotels opened in 2018 to add over 3000 rooms to accommodate tourists, which put the country at an expected tourism growth rate of about 13% between 2018 and 2019.

COVID-19 Influence

Reports in recent months have shown a spike in Covid-19 cases among migrant workers in the Arabian Gulf countries, including Oman. Living conditions for these workers tend to be cramped and they lack access to necessary equipment and care for protection against the virus. Back in April, 16 NGOs sent letters to the gulf countries with recommendations to protect migrant workers amidst the pandemic. These recommendations include providing equal testing, medical access and continued wages for workers no longer able to work in these conditions.

While Oman has yet to respond to the letters, there has been a decline in Covid-19 daily cases over the past week. It peaked at an estimated 2164 new cases on July 13th but has been declining. In comparison, on July 15th, there were an estimated 1157 new cases.

Despite facing an economic downturn in 2016, the country has made strategic progress by diversifying its sources of revenue and decreasing its dependency on oil. These changes can greatly alleviate poverty in Oman.

Fahad Saad
Photo: Flickr