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efforts to mitigate food insecurityAccording to the Council on Foreign Relations, about 135 million people experienced severe food insecurity before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has worsened this crisis with less access to quality food and prices skyrocketing. COVID-19 has already destroyed decades-worth of work made toward reducing global hunger. There are already predictions that millions of children will suffer more from malnutrition, obesity and stunting. Global hunger is an impediment to international development, increasing tensions within developing countries.

How Food Insecurity Worsened During COVID-19

The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) states that millions of citizens across 43 developing countries face an “emergency phase of food insecurity in 2021.” The majority of those experiencing food insecurity in those countries are either refugees or anyone forced to migrate.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that 272 million people are food insecure one year into the pandemic. Many believe that higher food insecurity rates worldwide occurred due to the shortages from panic buying and stockpiling. However, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) determined that agricultural production reached its highest level. In 2020, the world produced 2.7 billion tons of the most commonly grown crops. The reality is that disruptions within the supply chain are the root cause of this worsening issue.

Actions of the World Bank

As part of its efforts to mitigate food insecurity during COVID-19, the World Bank increased funding for more effective agricultural systems in Guatemala to reduce disruptions in the supply chain. Its assistance also aimed to help alleviate the food insecurity caused by economic challenges and droughts. The World Bank helped Liberia by incorporating a Contingency Emergency Response Component that allows the government to respond to the needs of those at a higher risk of food insecurity. The component also helps increase crop production and helps normalize the supply chain there.

How to Overcome Economic Challenges

The pandemic also worsened the economic situation in developing countries. People received fewer remittances preventing them from accessing essential goods. Latin America has been most impacted by reduced remittances. However, food prices in other regions facing conflict became higher than many people’s daily salaries, making the situation difficult to overcome.

Haiti is a country with the highest food insecurity rates and faced severe impacts from the reduced remittances. The pandemic and reduced remittances hurt farmers the most. The World Bank assisted by providing programs with enough funding for farmers to produce enough crops for a two-year time frame. The programs will also help farmers incorporate safety precautions into their practices during the pandemic.

Other Efforts to Mitigate Food Insecurity

The World Bank’s other efforts to mitigate food insecurity included issuing a transfer of funds to families with food insecure infants and toddlers in Tajikistan to alleviate malnutrition. It sent food for 437,000 citizens in Chad facing food insecurity. The organization also provided additional funding that went toward addressing the concerns that the pandemic caused in Rwanda.

Accomplishments Occurring with the World Bank’s Help

The World Bank also provided more certified seeds to local communities in Afghanistan and helped farmers produce more yields than before. The U.S. sent $87.8 million to help provide more equipment for dairy and poultry farmers in Bangladesh. The World Bank’s programs in India resulted in further women’s empowerment with the establishment of women’s self-help groups that work with hygiene, food administration and storage. As of 2021, there are 62 million women that participate in these groups.

The World Bank also reports that farmers in developing countries face food insecurity and works to alleviate their distress. The organization helped Cambodia incorporate new agricultural practices that led to farmers receiving higher incomes with increased productivity. The World Bank also taught farmers in the Kyrgyz Republic the proper practices to grow more crops while conserving water. Eventually, more than 5,000 farmers gained an income that allowed them to buy essential goods.

The World Bank’s efforts to mitigate food insecurity in developing countries are effective so far. These international programs brought more farmers out of poverty and further combat global hunger. Many of these countries made commendable progress with this support, which is a significant step toward future development.

– Cristina Velaz
Photo: Flickr

Mongolia's Childbirth PracticesIn recent years, the nomadic population of Mongolia has seen negative impacts from environmental changes. Extreme winters have killed off much of their livestock, resulting in widespread food insecurity. As younger generations become less interested in agricultural jobs, fewer opportunities lie in the rural region of Mongolia. Due to these factors, healthcare accessibility has become limited. Healthcare has affected Mongolia’s childbirth practices significantly. However, improvements in healthcare are on the horizon for Mongolia’s people. In recent years, Rotary Club member Julie Dockrill has trained mothers and healthcare providers in Mongolia, improving education regarding childbirth. Dockrill’s work is critical for women living without access to hospitals. With progress such as Dockrill’s education initiative, maternal and infant mortality rates are beginning to decrease.

Poverty in Mongolia

Mongolia has made significant economic and social improvements over the past few decades. Since 1991, its GDP tripled and the maternal death rate decreased by 87%. Poverty reduction rates vary widely across the country, with rural areas seeing the greatest change. From 2016 to 2018, poverty declined by 5%, whereas urban areas remained unchanged. This is due to increased prices for livestock and no wage growth in urban areas. Cities have also faced heavy air pollution and tripled rates of respiratory illnesses over the last 10 years.

Additionally, COVID-19 has posed a major risk for Mongolian citizens. Overall, the pandemic caused the economy to shrink by 7%. Other factors that worsen poverty are extreme weather conditions, lack of sanitation and food insecurity. With a small population of 3 million, those living as nomads face great difficulty accessing healthcare and other services.

The History of Mongolian Nomads

Nomadic herders make up 25% of the Mongolian population. Nomads live in traditional Mongolian housing districts called gers — portable round tents. These gers exist all over the plains and mountains of Mongolia. However, environmental challenges have hit these gers harshly. The average temperature since 1940 has risen 2.2 degrees Celsius, which is significantly greater than the world average temperature change of 0.85 degrees Celsius. There is also less rain, making ponds and rivers dry up. Herds of livestock and horses have a difficult time finding water and cooling off in the warmer months, because of their thick fur that keeps them warm in -40 degree Celsius winters. Consequently, cities draw young adults away from nomadic life, with easier access to healthcare and education.

Mongolia’s Childbirth Practices

In rural areas, limited access to hospitals and doctors makes childbirth risky. In 1995, the U.S. State Department sponsored a medical team from Tripler Army Medical Center to a hospital in Mongolia for training. They observed dim lighting, physicians reusing gloves and aprons between patients, limited supplies of IV fluids and use of anesthesia without proper safety checks. There was also almost no equipment for natal care and mothers after giving birth.

As a result, many women in the 1990s gave birth at home, which had the potential to be traumatizing if they had a difficult labor. Since then, there have been significant improvements in Mongolia’s childbirth practices. The Mongolian government began reform movements that opened maternity waiting homes across the country. Expecting mothers from nomadic areas can visit these facilities if their pregnancy is high-risk. This way, women can be closer to hospitals in case of an emergency. It is now standard for healthcare providers to encourage women to visit one of the prenatal clinics two weeks before their due date. Online information and telehealth also provide access to reproductive health information. Success is evident. From 1990 to 2019, infant mortality rates have decreased from 77 per 1,000 births to 13.4 deaths.

The Rotary Club’s Work

Julie Dockrill is a midwife and childbirth educator from New Zealand. In 2013, the Rotary Club of Waimate asked if she could join them in a project training medical workers to improve childbirth practices in Mongolia. A major thing she noticed was that mothers only received basic care information. Thus, Dockrill held training classes for pregnant women using baby dolls and anatomical models, expanding on the knowledge displayed in traditional pamphlets.

In Mongolia, people often treat labor as a quick process, which can lead to complications. Dockrill explained to her training class that medical professionals should not rush labor and that they should treat the procedure with care. The class led to immense success, influencing the Rotary team and Dockrill to continue through 2015 and 2016. Additional phases of the project included a Mongolian midwife shadowing Dockrill in New Zealand, training over 300 healthcare workers in Mongolia and bringing medical supplies.

In 2018, the team returned to Mongolia to provide healthcare and education to rural communities. Dockrill also wrote an updated training manual that covered immunizations, pain relief, diet and doctoral instructions. As a result, the Mongolian Ministry of Health endorsed and adopted the manual. In 2019, Nepal adopted the text as well. Mothers must now take childbirth education classes and receive more advanced resources for childbirth services.

The Future for Mongolia

Mongolia’s reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates over the last 30 years has led to decreased poverty rates in the country. One of the major steps to reducing poverty currently in place is focusing on the rural communities of Mongolia. Access to healthcare is one of the main ways to improve Mongolia’s childbirth practices. With progress like Dockrill’s work and the Tripler Army Medical Center, further progress in eliminating poverty is clearly in motion.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19's Impact on Women and Poverty in CroatiaThe Republic of Croatia is a country located in Central and Southeast Europe, bordering Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Montenegro. Since proclaiming independence in 1991, the country introduced policies, programs and reforms to improve the quality of life of its citizens. But, COVID-19’s impact on women and poverty in Croatia has had serious consequences for the country.

COVID-19 and Unemployment

COVID-19 devastated many countries in a social, political and economic areas. However, Croatia was particularly hit hard. Starting in 2008, the country experienced a global financial crisis that had tremendous consequences. The European Commission Autumn Economic published a report estimating a recession of approximately 9.6% GDP in 2020, nearly 7% worse than the previous year. The main reasons behind the decrease are the fall in the tourism sector, domestic consumption and eradication of exports. In addition, registered unemployment skyrocketed by 21.3% during the first year of the pandemic.

Poverty in Croatia also increased after two earthquakes in 2020 negatively impacted Croatia’s pandemic and health crisis management. In response, the European Union deployed resources for the recovery of all the member countries, especially those who also suffered natural disasters during the pandemic.

Despite this bleak outlook, an analysis by The Ministry of Finance argues for an “optimistic growth of 5%” in 2021, provided Croatia sees an increase in domestic demand and continues receiving recovery funds from the European Union.

Women and Poverty in Croatia

According to a report by the World Bank, COVID-19 is not the only factor pushing women towards poverty. Undoubtedly, women are more likely to be employed in the informal, low-skilled and part-time jobs that were hardest hit by the pandemic. In many cases, these jobs disappeared and women suffered income loss. In addition, women who lost their jobs or work at home are less likely to be guaranteed social security and health coverage by the emergency packages created since the outbreak of COVID-19. For this reason, COVID-19’s impact on women and poverty in Croatia has been severe.

Both the European Union and the World Bank are aware of the many barriers women have to overcome. In response, they created several policies to find a solution. Some of the policies include providing equal access to the labor market for all women and removing any barriers to women’s employability.

The Government Response

Croatian authorities have become aware of the extreme need to reduce poverty in Croatia, especially for women. In 2019, authorities passed a National Action Plan for Women, Peace, and Security (NAP) to be carried out until 2023. This plan aims to prevent, protect and guarantee women’s rights in the country. The policy seeks to ensure that every woman has access to education, public health and active participation in the labor market.

The NAP prioritizes nine objectives to aid in prevention, participation, protection and implementation. Among these objectives are an increase in women’s role in decision-making processes and the promotion of women’s rights in conflict settings. The NAP works on the back of previous legislation that aimed to increase women’s participation in higher education. For example, women represented 59.9% of university graduates from 2015 to 2018. The same period saw a 4% increase in women in human resources and a 2% increase in female professors.

To support women’s employment, authorities introduced legislation to improve family life through maternity and parental benefits.  For example, the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy (MDFYSP) supports projects such as lengthening daycare operations, creating alternative education programs and providing children with meals. By supporting scholarships and child care, parents have more time to dedicate to their professional careers.

Hope for the Future

In conclusion, COVID-19 drastically affected Croatia in many ways. In particular, women suffered heavy damage from the health crisis. But, the international community and the Croatian authorities stepped in to design programs and resources for the eradication of poverty. Which, if the data is any indication, has promising results for the future of poverty in Croatia.

– Cristina Alverez
Photo: Flickr

remittances in the Dominican RepublicRemittances have become an integral part of the Dominican Republic’s economy. Furthermore, remittances in the Dominican Republic have helped alleviate some of the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing poverty throughout the country.

What Are Remittances?

Remittances are money or goods that immigrants send back to their families in their countries of origin. Their use has been growing significantly in the past few years, particularly for developing countries. Data on the total financial value of remittances is not completely accurate because many of the transfers involved are unofficial and are difficult to track. However, the official value of remittances makes up a portion of each country’s GDP. For middle-income countries, remittances make up about 1.5% of the GDP, rising to close to 4% for low-income countries.

Remittances in the Dominican Republic

Remittances make up a significant part of the Dominican Republic’s economy, with estimates placing the value of remittances at about 8% of the total GDP in 2019 — double the average of most low-income countries. While some remittances come from Europe and other Latin American countries, a staggering 75% come from the United States.

The use of remittances has grown rapidly in the past three decades. In 1990, the total value of remittances sent to the Dominican Republic was around $300 million, but by 2020, the amount rose to more than $8 billion. Remittances help support people’s livelihoods and the overall economy, which is why remittances are so important to the Dominican Republic.

Remittances During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic did affect the overall flow of remittances, but not as much as predicted. The total value of remittances worldwide dropped just 1.6% from 2019 to 2020, which is quite insignificant considering the more drastic impacts of the pandemic. However, for the Dominican Republic and a few other Latin American countries, the value of remittances received actually grew in 2020.

The start of the pandemic caused a sharp decline in remittances, then stabilizing throughout the rest of the year and eventually resulting in overall growth. In fact, by June 2020, the Dominican Republic received 25.7% more remittances compared to June 2019. Remittances were able to stabilize or grow because many remittance-reliant immigrants in the U.S. and Europe were able to retain their jobs or acquire new jobs quickly after the start of the pandemic.

Remittance Impacts on the Economy

In the years before the pandemic hit, the Dominican Republic experienced a growing economy with reduced poverty and a larger middle class. Therefore, the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic delivered a blow to the nation. The economy shrank by 6.7% in 2020 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the growth in remittances in 2020, after the initial pandemic-induced decrease, helped keep the Dominican Republic’s economy from plummeting in size. The consistent and growing prevalence of remittances in the country’s economy has been an indicator of future growth.

The Dominican Republic’s economy saw positive growth in the second half of 2020 that will likely continue into 2021. Because other important sectors of the economy, such as tourism, will recover more gradually, remittances will play an ever-larger part in the economy’s recovery and the decrease in poverty.

Ritika Manathara
Photo: Unsplash

South Africa’s Vaccination EffortAs COVID-19 cases soared in South Africa in June 2020, the country endured a severe lockdown. During this lockdown, 27-year-old Clementine gave birth to a baby boy, Lelo Matthew. With a mask covering her face in the delivery room, Clementine feared contracting COVID-19 while at the hospital. Fortunately, no one in Clementine’s family tested positive. Unfortunately, giving birth during a global pandemic gave Clementine more anxiety than the average new mother. Based on the experience, Clementine named her son for the word hope. It has been a year since Clementine gave birth to her son. South Africa’s vaccination effort coincides with rising COVID-19 infections and an economy threatened by COVID-19.

COVID-19’s Impact

Before the pandemic began, South Africa faced a recession. The closure of businesses and decreased consumer spending because of COVID-19 damaged the economy even further. In 2021’s first quarter, the unemployment rate in South Africa jumped to 32.6%. Specifically, the industries with the most prevalent job losses included construction, trade, private households, transport, and agriculture. Trade accounts for nearly 20% of employment in South Africa, so the job losses in this industry are especially worrisome. This rising unemployment rate will likely cause more South Africans to fall into poverty as 10.3 million South Africans already live below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day.

In June 2021, South Africa remained the most COVID-19-affected country in Africa. As this “third wave” caused devastation, the South African government enforced a minimum lockdown of 14 days starting on June 27, 2021. Measures included school and restaurant closures and prohibited gatherings will occur.

A Promising Future

Although COVID-19 cases continue to flood the country, South Africa’s vaccination effort does not look bleak. A South African consortium is creating the first COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in a historic decision. This technology will be possible with support from the World Health Organization (WHO). Through the establishment of this facility, manufacturers from developing countries will master vaccine production techniques. Additionally, the manufacturers will receive licenses to produce vaccines. Consequently, South Africa and other African countries will have greater access to COVID-19 vaccines. This access is a considerable feat, given South Africa’s current vaccination rate rests at less than 1%.

Afrigen Biologics, a biotech company, plays a critical role in the project as it will produce mRNA vaccines and educate Biovac, an additional manufacturer, in vaccine production. Soon, the WHO will be responsible for supervising the quality of COVID-19 vaccine production and implementation.

The True South Africa

While the leaders of this project foresee the vaccine hub taking critical leaps in South Africa’s vaccination effort, the hub also has implications for the future of South African medicine. WHO chief Tedros Adhamon anticipates that the hub will be essential in COVID-19 vaccine production and the production of future vaccines. The hub could create remedies that impoverished individuals struggle to access, an achievement that is especially opportune as the unemployment rate of South Africa and other African countries rises.

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, sees the hub as having large-scale benefits for Africa’s portrayal. Ramaphosa remarked that the world often stigmatizes Africa as the center of disease and poor development. The innovations of this hub will provide African countries with the opportunity to correct the globe’s inaccurate perception.

In Ramaphosa’s words, Africa is “on a path to self-determination.” This vaccine technology transfer hub only brings South Africa and other African countries closer to demonstrating that fact to the rest of the world.

– Madeline Murphy
Photo: Flickr

Generation Equality Forum, Working Toward Gender Equality Around The WorldFrom June 30 to July 2, the United Nations Women held a global meeting in Paris consisting of representatives from around the world. This meeting was called the Generation Equality Forum and aimed to assess the progress the world has made in terms of gender equality.

What is the Generation Equality Forum?

The global meeting brought together the U.N. Women, the governments of Mexico and France and a total of 50,000 people in order to create an action plan for the immediate progress for global gender equality. The forum had some target areas that the representatives wanted to focus on discussing. These areas included gender violence, economic justice, autonomy, reproductive health, climate justice action taken by feminists and feminist leadership.

The Beijing Women’s Conference 1995

According to U.N. Women, the World Conference on Women in Beijing 25 years ago marked a “turning point for the global agenda for women’s equality,” as it resulted in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This declaration set out goals for the advancement of women and gender equality and included a plan to meet again in 25 years to reassess. As a result, the main goal of the forum this year was to look at how far the world had come since 1995.

The 25-year review showed further global progress can be made to advance gender equality, especially amid COVID-19. In fact, studies found that countries will need to implement significant action to meet their gender equality goals by the target year of 2030. The main reason for this lack of progress: a corresponding lack of funding.

Why Decreasing the Gender Gap is Important

The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting women. This has affected their education, employment and health. As a result, decreasing the gender gap is more important than ever today. By making women a focal point of economic recovery plans, the world can rebuild the economy equitably.

Additionally, women become affected by poverty at much higher rates than men. For example, women do almost three times the amount of unpaid work than men do, which usually involves childcare and housework. Moreover, 62% of women worldwide are active in the workforce compared to 93% of men. As a result, women from the age range 25-34 are 25% more likely to live in extreme poverty. If the world were to close this gap, the global GDP could increase by 35% on average. Helping women around the world and improving gender equality works to help all people around the world.

Looking to the Future

The Generation Equality Forum created a five-year action plan to stimulate change going forward at a quicker rate than before. This involved $40 billion of investments and commitments from various governments and organizations. Some of these commitments include:

  • U.S. government’s commitment of $175 million to prevent and address gender violence
  • Malala Fund’s commitment of $20 million for girls education activists
  • Open Society Foundation’s commitment of $100 million over five years for feminist political mobilization
  • Government of Bangladesh’s commitment to increase women participation in technology to 25% by 2026
  • Implementation of free care for pregnant women in Burkina Faso

The Generation Equality Forum helped countries, agencies and organizational renew global commitments to gender equality goals. While there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality around the world, the forum has made progress in setting specific, concrete goals for countries to strive toward.

Closing the gender gap will help to raise women around the world above the poverty line and stimulate economies around the globe. It is pertinent that the world continues to fight for equality and make progress as they have with this forum.

Alessandra Heitmann
Photo: Flickr

Global Startup Awards Recognize Top Technology InnovatorsThe Global Startup Awards (GSA) Africa is an initiative spotlighting the top technology innovators across the continent. African citizens from all 55 states will participate in the world’s largest independent startup competition for the first time.

GSA Africa is rapidly growing its community by bringing local tech innovators together from all regions within the continent. This includes Southern, Northern, Eastern, Central and Western Africa. The expansion is possible due to the accelerating progress of Africa’s tech ecosystem. According to Partech’s Africa Tech Venture Capital Report, activity grew by approximately half in 2020 despite the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Contributing to the Tech Startup Ecosystem

Africa is experiencing monumental changes in the tech industry. More startup companies are being recognized for innovative methods. Startups have been finding solutions in food security, food production and farming methods that will strengthen industries throughout Africa. Caitlin Nash is the co-founder of the Global Innovation Initiation Group which hosts the GSA. She aims to showcase Africa’s innovative community on a global stage. Additionally, she shares the benefits of global exposure. Startups have an opportunity to gain access to a global network and collaborate across borders.

The GSA will reward participants in all aspects of the startup. This includes the startup itself, the people behind the startups and the organizations that support the creators. The GSA’s mission is to feed, industrialize and integrate Africa. This ties into the goal of improving the lives of people living in Africa. With rapid technological developments happening across the world, many countries are more capable of taking those opportunities to keep up. However, this leaves most developing countries behind in these innovations. Thus, these awards shed light on the importance of technological development in those nations.

According to the U.N.’s Technology and Innovation Report 2021, frontier technologies represent a $350 billion market that can potentially grow to $3.2 trillion in 2025. However, developing areas like sub-Saharan Africa are unprepared to adopt and adapt to these technological changes. The GSA will bring forward the innovations needed to help developing countries in Africa and around the world stabilize resources and improve the lives of citizens.

The Contest Categories

The Global Startup Awards will present 12 categories for the 2021 contest. Women in Tech represents tech startups owned and founded by women. AgriTech will award solutions in food security, production, farming methods and nutrition. In addition, HealthTech recognizes startups initiating medical innovations in BioTech, HealthTech, wellness and telemedicine (virtual care for patients) to improve the quality of life. CommerceTech will award the startup that works on using technology to enable commerce in Africa. This will range from mobile commerce to blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Another category is IndustrialTech. This category provides Africa’s industrialization with solutions for safety, mining, manufacturing, production, logistics, mobility and supply chain management. ESG Tech, or environment, social and governance tech, will award startups aiming to improve environmental, social impact and social government solutions. These solutions include areas like renewable energy, sustainability, recycling, water and sanitation. Startup of the Year will award the startup that is making the biggest impact on the economy and the world.

The Best Newcomer category will recognize a startup less than two years old that is already making a big impact within the tech industry. Moreover, Founder of the Year will award a startup founder or co-founder making progress with their leadership skills. It will highlight a role model for the next generation of founders. VC of the Year will recognize those achieving financial success while investing in innovative companies that can positively impact the economy and the world.

Finally, Best Accelerator and Incubator Program will recognize programs that help empower entrepreneurs to grow their craft by providing tools and resources to thrive. The Best Co-Working Space category will award a co-working space that provides services, support and resources to create an environment that fosters innovation.

Moving Forward

The Global Startup Awards will find, recognize and connect new innovators around the world. These startups have the potential to better the lives of people living in developing countries, and the GSA will help bring these companies to life.

– Nia Owens
Photo: Flickr

Economic Development in NicaraguaEconomic development in Nicaragua has encountered issues that have slowed the country’s development. Nicaragua declared itself an independent country in 1821. However, it has directly felt the crippling effect of economic issues from the onslaught of crimes. As recently as 2020, Nicaragua was recognized as a critical threat location for crime by the Overseas Security Advisory Council. Nicaragua has also encountered natural disasters. As of November 2020, Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes respectively, caused more than $740 million in damage.

However, even with mounting external and internal pressure, economic development in Nicaragua has shown potential for improvement. This change is based on securing educational opportunities that turn into growth in economic projects. Private organizations have created community centers and offered low- and middle-income citizens better access to education. Such organizations have also created jobs by amplifying the reach of renewable energy, agricultural irrigation expansion and fortification of infrastructure.

Nicaraguan Poverty

Nicaragua has faced an uphill battle in economic growth due to its criminal and poverty-stricken background. The conflict between rival gangs within the country exacerbates this issue. This instability has also caused a decline in economic fortitude. Moreover, inflation has reached undeniably high levels, and people have left Nicaragua in droves to pursue better economic opportunities. The people left behind continue to suffer from a lack of proper healthcare and education.

Education Improves Economic Development

The educational system within Nicaragua is adjacent to the poverty level. Children within the educational system find themselves facing the challenge of completing school due to a wide range of reasons. A recent study from the USAID reported that an estimated 72% of Nicaraguans do not finish secondary school, leaving them likely to be impoverished. In addition, more than 18% of teachers do not have more than primary school education. This creates a new generation of unprepared Nicaraguan citizens.

The correlation between educational attainment and job development is significant. It is the bridge that keeps many Nicaraguans in impoverished income brackets. With the constant issues that many lower-income Nicaraguan students face, there has been an increase in steering them toward an attainable educational path and improving educational success.

Formative Ways of Change

Outside help from the U.N. and the U.S. has created a shift in economic and educational development in Nicaragua in recent years. Organizations such as Save the Children and the World Bank have supported the upturn of educational prowess within Nicaragua. Save the Children has created an infrastructure for educational access by establishing toll roads and paving new ones. Additionally, the World Bank has established more community centers with creative and technical workshops to teach and fortify skills. The skills taught include knowledge of irrigation, infrastructure fortification and a new era of clean and renewable energy.

The organizations have also increased job development and commercial development projects from the private sector. These development projects have provided more job opportunities within the industries of agricultural irrigation, the fortification of infrastructure, renewable energy and the reinforcement of trade.

Projects of this magnitude were given more than just a prime objective with the World Bank portfolio. Such projects totaled more than $400 million for nine planned projects. These projects include the enhancement of telecommunications, roads, education, health and insurance for natural disasters. Two credits have already been passed together, worth more than $100 million, to combat COVID-19 and help those most affected by hurricanes.

The Nicaraguan educational system has had a rise in scholars coming through the ranks to create an ever-growing class of job-ready individuals. Problems of organized crime and violence have troubled Nicaragua in the past, but there is hope to establish a better economic system that can create many more jobs and lead Nicaragua to a better future. Organizations like the World Bank and Save the Children are instituting an educational and job pathway for young and experienced Nicaraguan citizens alike to create a more prosperous Nicaragua.

Mario Perales
Photo: Unsplash

4 Facts about Healthcare in Bulgaria
Bulgaria is culturally diverse and geographically unique. The Balkan nation borders the Black Sea and has Greek, Slavic, Ottoman and Persian influences. Still suffering from the effects of the 2008 financial crisis; however, Bulgaria is the most impoverished country in the European Union based on GDP per capita. The Eastern European country has seen both success and shortcomings in attempting to address healthcare outcomes. Here are four facts about healthcare in Bulgaria.

4 Facts About Healthcare in Bulgaria

  1. Spending on healthcare in Bulgaria is low. In 2018, the Bulgarian healthcare budget was approximately $2.2 billion, or 4.3% of the Bulgarian GDP. As one of the lowest spenders in Europe, the system in Bulgaria relies on out-of-pocket payments. This is problematic because it limits access to healthcare, particularly for those living in poverty. Moreover, external development is not helping solve the problem. Such sources provide only one percent of the total health funds in Bulgaria.
  2. There have been gradual improvements in healthcare outcomes. Despite low spending levels, healthcare outcomes in Bulgaria have been progressively improving. Life expectancy in Bulgaria has been increasing throughout the past four decades. Between 2000 and 2015, the Bulgarian life expectancy increased by 3.1 years. The death rate for circulatory system diseases has also declined since 2000, following its peak in the 1990s. While Bulgaria has been making progress in these areas, the most significant is related to infant mortality rates. In 2000, the infant mortality rate was 13.3 per 1,000 live births, but the rate decreased to 6.6 in 2015. The neonatal mortality rate also decreased, roughly halving between 1980 to 2015.
  3. Healthcare in Bulgaria is financed by both public and private sources. In order to generate funds, Bulgaria employs a mixed-finance system. While the government covers some portions of healthcare, private sources finance many procedures. There is a rough balance, with 57.8% of total health expenditures from public finances and 42.2% from private sources. The percent of private expenditures, however, is increasing at a faster rate than public expenditures. On the public side, the most significant health service purchase is the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). While citizens are free to purchase additional insurance packages, “less than 3% of the population purchased some form of voluntary health insurance in 2020.”
  4. Healthcare in Bulgaria is undermined by a dwindling healthcare workforce. The overwhelming impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated one of the most significant struggles of healthcare in Bulgaria: there simply aren’t enough healthcare workers. While Bulgaria has received substantial investment from international organizations like the European Union to upgrade medical infrastructure, these funds do little to ensure Bulgaria has a thriving healthcare workforce. At present, thousands of Bulgarian healthcare workers are finding better-paying jobs in Western Europe. Kristina Macneva, an emergency doctor that has stayed in Bulgaria, explains that “the main problem is the lack of medical staff” and that they are in “dire need.”

Looking Ahead

Though great strides have been made in healthcare in Bulgaria, more work still needs to be done to ensure all citizens are receiving quality care. Moving forward, it is essential that the government devotes more resources to healthcare in the nation.

– Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in South KoreaThe COVID-19 pandemic that began in late 2019 has impacted families, communities and society as a whole. The pandemic precautions have been a worldwide effort to keep everyone safe. In South Korea, there have been a total of 118,243 cases of COVID-19 as of April 2021. Of the 118,243 who tested positive, there have been 1,812 deaths but 107,781 individuals have recovered. The statistics show the persistent effort that is being demonstrated by the South Korean government to keep the country and its citizens safe.

COVID-19 in South Korea

South Korea has made it a priority to establish a system for the country and its citizens in order to keep everyone safe. In the early stages of COVID-19, South Korea made it a priority to mitigate the situation by distributing tests to as many people as possible. The results of the test, positive or negative, would gauge the severity of the outbreak. The goal was to have everyone quarantine so that the transmission of the virus, regardless of the positive or negative test result, would be slowed. The procedure that the South Korean officials followed was: test, trace and isolate. Within weeks of the first COVID-19 case, South Korea was the leading country in distributing tests. In perspective, by the end of April 2020, the United States had more than one million positive cases. South Korea had fewer than 11,000 cases. In the early stages of COVID-19, South Korea had 3,700 cases whereas the United States had 32. Managing the quick outbreak, and dealing with its repercussions was not easy for any country. However, South Korea was able to quickly formulate a system of test, trace and isolate. This helped lessen the number of lost lives.

Vaccine Efforts in South Korea

The creation and distribution of vaccines have been a large factor in the success that South Korea has seen in combatting COVID-19. South Korea has signed a contract with Pfizer to purchase another 40 million doses of its vaccine. Collectively, South Korea has 192 million doses of vaccines from Moderna, AstraZeneca PLC, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. The goal that South Korea had set was to have 70% of its citizens vaccinated with the first dose by November.

In order to obtain aid and assistance to receive these large quantities of vaccines, South Korea looks to the United States for help. South Korea provided assistance to the United States in the early stages of the pandemic with COVID-19 testing kits and face masks. Therefore, South Koreans hope for help from the United States in return. The U.S. State Department has made a statement regarding this vaccine alliance. The Department sees a possibility to help other countries increase their vaccine supplies but the citizens of the United States will be the priority.

Looking Ahead

South Korea was extremely successful in combating the virus at the beginning of the pandemic by acting quickly in response to testing and isolation. When no one knew how to handle the pandemic, South Korea stood as a strong example of how to minimize the effects of a global pandemic.

– Nicole Sung
Photo: Flickr