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Covid -19 in Malawi
Malawi, a landlocked southeastern nation in Africa, faces hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of October 2021, COVID-19 in Malawi say a rise in over 61,700 COVID-19 cases and over 2,200 deaths. The biggest spike that Malawi experienced began on January 25, 2021, with a seven-week average case count of 994. The cases diminished significantly by September 2021, with most 7-week average counts bordering 40 cases. Already deep in poverty, Malawians certainly did not benefit from imposed lockdowns and a rising unemployment rate.

Effects on Poverty

Malawi continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world. It ranks 222 of 225 countries in terms of the greatest GDP per capita, with 526.93 in December 2020. Additionally, Malawi’s poverty rates can be attributed to its economy, which employs about 80% of the population in the agricultural sector. The COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected most urban areas and forced services and businesses to terminate.

The last demographic statistics of Malawi dates back to 2016 and recorded a poverty rate of 69.2%, which increased from the previous statistic of 62.4% in 1997. This means that this population lives with an income averaging below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day. Though no definitive statistics of Malawi’s current poverty rate exist, experts estimate it to be near or greater than the last census of 69.2% due to the unemployment rates caused by COVID-19. The unemployment rate of Malawi increased from 5.6% in 2019 to 6% in 2020, accounting for the jobs terminated by COVID-19.

Economic Development

As mentioned previously, the agriculture business in Malawi accounts for 80% of jobs. However, agricultural production is not necessarily abundant. By September 2020, over 2.6 million Malawians suffered food shortages from a combination of COVID-19 and weather complications.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Malawi experienced economic development with 3.5% economic growth in 2018 and 4.4% in 2019. The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) was created in 2017 to aid Malawi in several different sectors, including industry, health and poverty. However, the pandemic abruptly paused the project, and some fear that the effects of COVID-19 in Malawi will reverse the progress made in previous years. The Malawi Economic Monitor (MEM) predicts long-term and widespread negative effects from the pandemic, even though measures such as the Emergency Liquidity Assistance should mitigate some of the damage. If the effects do not worsen by the end of COVID-19 in Malawi, the nation will likely be able to reconstruct its economy with the 5-year installment plans within the MGDS.

Social Conditions

One of the greatest worldwide challenges of the pandemic continues to be providing schooling for students at home. With Malawi’s poor standards for education, where only 8% of students finish secondary school, the pandemic posed a great challenge. In a survey of 100 parents of school-attending children, 86% reported that they had no contact with any teachers or the school throughout the lockdown. Additionally, there is a lack of school materials in Malawi, making learning at home even more difficult.

Another social issue due to COVID-19 in Malawi is the rise in suicide rates. The lack of professional services available for mental health in Malawi resulted in drastically increased suicide rates. In 2020, the Malawi police service reported an increase of up to 57% during the pandemic. Additionally, statistics found that 92% of suicides in Malawi during this period were men, with 8% being women. Certain psychologists associate this with the loss of jobs and rising poverty levels in Malawi. These struggles place intense pressure on the men of a household to provide for their family during drastic times.

All Is Not Lost

Though it may seem like the current conditions in Malawi are beyond hope, there is still a chance that Malawi can recover from the pandemic and return to its course of economic improvement. With COVID-19 cases lowering, Malawi may be seeing the end of the pandemic. Also, the implementation of The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy will help with Malawi’s economic reset and assist the country in its recovery.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Wikimedia

 

End Global Poverty by 2030In 2015, the United Nations (UN) created the Sustainable Development Goals, a group of 17 goals that aimed to create an equal and prosperous society. Many of the goals are centered around ending discrimination, providing quality education to all, and other measures to improve equality. However, the most important goal out of the 17 developed is to end global poverty by 2030, which would significantly impact the lives of billions around the world. With America having the strongest economy in the world, even during the pandemic, the U.S. has many ways to reach this goal and finally end global poverty.

Provide Natural Resources

Currently, the U.S. holds the greatest amount of natural resources in the world, especially oil and natural gas. These resources are extremely important to help those in other countries. For instance, in countries without access to electricity, life expectancies are 20 years shorter. Electricity is necessary to provide better education, improve food supplies, upgrade healthcare and so much more. Thus, by improving electricity, America can provide the resources necessary for families to survive and potentially end global poverty by 2030.

Similarly, while electricity is essential to uplift people in developing countries, it also provides profits to America itself. The most important of these benefits is that when the U.S. exports more energy, allied countries have to rely less on authoritarian countries such as Russia and China. This helps reduce prices for these countries to purchase energy and improves confidence in the energy supply. For America, it means that trade will boost the economy and will invest in American citizens.

Improve COVID Aid

In countries across the globe, COVID has been surging due to a lack of vaccines. In fact, in Africa, the number of cases rose by 39% in June 2021. Similarly, at least 20 countries in Africa have experienced a third wave of infections. Nevertheless, wealthier nations have only promised to deliver vaccines to Africa by 2023, prolonging the spread of COVID throughout the continent.

While the U.S. has tried to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, they failed in 2020 to meet the requirements for a sustainable recovery. For example, out of the $9.5 billion that the U.S. was required to contribute as part of a 2020 COVID global response, they only contributed $3.8 billion. In fact, in countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines, the U.S. only contributed 27.2% of the necessary funds.

However, in 2021, America has made many improvements to its foreign policy to aid countries in fighting COVID. The most significant of these is the $11 billion of foreign aid issued as part of the American Rescue Plan in March 2021. Furthermore, the U.S. has provided over $2 billion to COVAX, an organization that provides COVID vaccines to 92 low-income countries. With the vaccines helping potentially millions of people, the U.S. is aiding these countries to exit the current pandemic-induced recession. Although this effort likely won’t be able to end global poverty, America is providing a strong foundation for families in low-income countries.

Help Children in Poverty

Even though billions of adults live in poverty, children are twice as likely to live in poverty. Over 1 billion children worldwide are multidimensionally poor, meaning that they have no access to education, nutrition, housing, water, and more. Children who experience multidimensional poverty die at twice the rate of their peers from wealthier families.

To address this, the United States needs to recognize the flaws currently in place with regards to aiding children. For instance, only 2.6% of humanitarian funds go to education, stifling 128 million children from going to school and having the necessary abilities to succeed in the future. Financial contributions by the U.S. could help millions achieve a quality education. With better education, these students will have the resources to economically support themselves and ultimately lift themselves out of poverty.

While economic problems continue to persist, especially during the pandemic, the U.S. can help millions of families. If the U.S. uses its economic might, it could finally remove burdens for families and end global poverty.

– Calvin Franke
Photo: Pixabay

Child Marriage in ZimbabweChild Marriage in Zimbabwe has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without schools functioning in person, children have less protection and experience more human rights violations such as child marriage and pregnancy.

Child marriage in Zimbabwe greatly predates the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that efforts to eliminate the practice will require a wide range of economic and cultural mitigation tactics rather than focusing solely on the eradication of the coronavirus.

Current Events

The topic of child marriage in Zimbabwe caught international attention recently when 14-year-old Memory Machaya died during childbirth. The practice is common in Zimbabwe’s Apostolic Church and has led to an online petition entitled “justice for Memory Machaya” garnering nearly 60,000 signatures.

“Female persons are not seen as fully human, with individual rights, choice, right to control our own bodies,” said Zimbabwean feminist activist Everjoice Win in a tweet on August 6, 2021 “The enemy is patriarchy, and the attendant systems within the state and religious institutions and wider society, which do not see us as humans.”

Introduction to Child Marriage in Zimbabwe

Almost one in three Zimbabwean women are married by the time they turn 18. The practice most often occurs in the poorer regions of Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West regions, where 50% and 42% of girls, respectively, marry as children, according to a 2014 UNICEF report. Despite the fact that the Zimbabwean Constitutional Court deemed the practice of child marriage as unconstitutional in January 2016, setting the minimum age for marriage at 18, child marriage in Zimbabwe persists.

What Drives Child Marriage?

The risks for child marriage in Zimbabwe have the potential to exist domestically but require unequivocal participation from healthcare providers. In a 2016-2020 healthcare plan, The Zimbabwe National Family Planning Strategy allowed 16-year-olds to receive contraception without parental consent. However, providers remain reluctant and child services are scarce.

Lack of education also drives child marriage in Zimbabwe. The same 2014 survey found that “the average age at marriage is 17.2 years for girls with no education and 23.6 for girls with more than a secondary education.” Nearly half of 15- to 19-year-olds without a secondary education began having children compared to only one in five girls the same age who completed their secondary education.

Potential Solutions

UNICEF published a list of strategies that it plans to implement throughout Western and Central Africa to reduce child marriage. The organization cites the growing child population in Africa behind the urgency in their efforts.

The following practices will help UNICEF reduce child marriage in the year 2021:

  1. Enable At-Risk Girls to Stay in School Through Secondary Education: UNICEF sees education as an opportunity for at-risk girls to develop vital life skills to make their own life choices and stand up for their rights. As this article previously mentioned, the rate at which girls marry depends on the presence or lack of secondary education.
  2. Fuel Positive Opinions Regarding the Investment in Girls: Through community discussion, the opinions of whether to invest and value the lives of girls could help in promoting and implementing practices that limit or eliminate child marriage.
  3. Provide Adequate and Affordable Health and Education of High Quality: Not only is the presence of education and health care important, but the quality is as well. Without providing affordable and effective health care and education systems, girls are at a greater risk of falling into the cycle of child marriage.
  4. Promote Laws to Match “International Standards” and Ensure the Implementation of the Measures: An effective strategy could be to identify countries or regions with an anti-child-marriage framework and incorporate the successes of those systems in the context of Western and Central Africa.
  5. Partner with Governments to Monitor Progress and Data: By utilizing the services of surveillance and relevant technologies of other countries, Western and Central African nations can adequately track progress to ensure that they are meeting set goals.

While the practice of child marriage in Zimbabwe has deep roots, the international community has taken notice and has a plan to reduce its prevalence. With increased empowerment and investment in young Zimbabwean girls, child marriage will soon enough become much less commonplace and eventually, experience eradication.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr

The Spreeha Foundation of Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, millions of children are living in poverty without any assistance. That is where the nonprofit organization, Spreeha Bangladesh Foundation, comes in and fulfills its mission. Spreeha greatly supports Bangladeshi children; the organization uses creative solutions to empower people to reach their full potential.

One Spreeha-run program that guarantees support for Bangladeshi girls is called Progga. The program is meant to empower young girls with important life skills, especially leadership values. Approximately 13.7 million Bangladeshi girls feel disorganized and vulnerable during their adolescent years and are lacking the correct guidance. Those who go without counsel are more likely to perform poorly or drop out of school. Additionally, they have a higher risk of mental and physical abuse. This inevitably leads to lower possibilities of female representation in leadership positions.

Spreeha’s solution is to motivate young Bangladeshi girls to become leaders through an interactive method. Progga groups educate young girls on how to make proper judgments that enhance their socio-economic situations and overall security. They achieve this goal by encouraging awareness of developmental changes in Bangladesh. They mentor young girls using group collaboration with speech and debate which develop their leadership skills and improve their self-confidence.

COVID Complications

The Covid-19 pandemic has made life hard to bear, especially for children in Bangladesh. Thankfully, Spreeha has developed solutions to combat the crisis. Doctors and healthcare workers make up the primary components of the organization. They engage in door-to-door visits, providing counsel and consciousness to the community. It also informs the community on how to prevent infections during the pandemic. In an attempt to support Bangladeshi children, Spreeha has helped prevent infection by temporarily shutting down the before and after-school programs, as well as adolescent girls’ clubs. Urban populated areas of Bangladesh are very dense, therefore they are more susceptible to coronavirus. The young children are unaware of how dangerous the virus is, which is why Spreeha is working tirelessly to make sure they are safe. With the economy in disarray, the daily wage-earning Bengali workers have been affected. Spreeha urges the communities to stay together during these uncertain times.

How It Began

Tazin Shahid is the founder of the Spreeha Bangladesh Foundation. He desires to help more Bangladeshi people and ensure that Spreeha can support the children. Along with education and job training services, Spreeha has developed a business incubator called Spreeha Studios. The company promotes startup companies. These services have helped over 125,000 people, including business owners with families. Prior to the founding of Spreeha, Shahid worked for Microsoft. This profession pushed him to contact one million people by the start of the new decade. He accomplished this by “hitting refresh”, meaning to start anew in a world with less poverty. According to Shahid, the first stage of Spreeha involved ending the succession of poverty. The second was to shatter social obstacles. Finally, the third involves encouraging people to follow whatever dreams and desires they possess.

The organization began in 2011 when Shahid still worked for Microsoft. He yearned to build a world where those living in poverty can be inspired to improve their lives. At first, Spreeha was a small transportable health clinic with only one doctor and very little medicine. Early on, the funding came from Shahid’s Microsoft companions. The medical center was generous enough to aid 10,000 – 20,000 people in two provinces.

Eventually, Spreeha was reworked to include many other ways to help Bangladeshi families. The Bangladeshi children received affordable health care from the Sneho Diagnostic Center as well as medical diagnoses from the mobile Amar Lab. New ventures included the aforementioned leadership program, Progga, and the early childhood development and daycare center for children and education center for mothers, the Udoy Center. Shahid has reached his objective of helping one million people by providing education to 3,669 children, in addition to 65,119 receiving health care and 68,033 gaining counseling.

The Overall Mission

The CEO of Spreeha, Ferdouse Oneza, spoke with The Borgen Project. He says, “Our mission is to break the cycle of poverty. We look at the root causes of poverty. Right now we have a clinic in Bangladesh as well as pre and after-school programs. We educate them for fun and teach them social skills”. With the pandemic, issues have worsened. Spreeha continues to create safe spaces for the less fortunate. It is a pivotal reason why the communities of Bangladesh are still intact. One issue of safety Bangladeshi children face is the legalization of child marriage. Girls in Bangladesh are in danger of being forced into arranged marriages with a significantly older man. Millions of these girls are under the age of 15. This is currently legal, as there is a loophole in the Child Marriage Restraint Act.

Ferdouse Oneza stated that the way Spreeha addresses child marriage is, “Raising awareness of the issue. Educating the children. Counseling with parents, go door to door. One of our girls was working for Spreeha but was engaged to someone way older than her. She dropped out of her university but after some campaigning, she was allowed to finish her education first and then get married. During the pandemic, a lot of families are moving to the villages. This puts the girls at risk because they don’t have the Spreeha service so their parents marry them off”. The nonprofit is unable to engage in policymaking, such as the Borgen Project. The Bengali government doesn’t abide by changes. Regardless, Spreeha supports Bangladeshi children through active community involvement and inspiring individuals to be better.

Shalman Ahmed
Photo: Flickr

street vendors As the first country affected by COVID-19, China is now recovering from the pandemic. Businesses are reopening gradually and people are slowly returning to their normal day-to-day life. However, the pandemic triggered an increase in unemployment, rising from 5.7% to 6.2% in February. Since then, the government has been working to address this rapid rise. In addition to the expansion of civil servants and enterprises, the government is encouraging street vendors to help solve the problem of employment.

Economic Disparity

China has a large population of low-income citizens whose vulnerability is increased during times of crisis. This problem is not only an economic problem but also an issue of stability of sovereignty. During last month’s parliament session, Prime Minister Li Keqiang discussed civilian livelihood, reporting that 600 million citizens were still only making a monthly income of around 1,000 yuan ($140). This shows that there is still a large number of people in China who are unable to fill their basic needs without an increase in their income. As a result, China has begun to recognize the importance of developing the street vendor economy, which can help decrease unemployment and drive up higher consumption.

Street Vending in Public Policy

With the target of eliminating poverty by 2020, the approval of street vendors has become a necessary choice. Street stalls were previously thought to clash with the modern urban landscape of cities. However, the Chinese government had a change in attitude following the successful street stall experiment in Chengdu, China. The government found that reintroducing street stalls in Chengdu created 100,000 new jobs and largely increased people’s interest in entrepreneurship. Thus, the policy was implemented across the country.

Additionally, many large companies from a variety of sectors are stepping in and showing their support for street vending. Alibaba is one of the largest online shopping platforms in China. It pledged to sell merchandise to stall owners at a reduced price. Additionally, Dongfeng Motor Group and Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC) said its “vans can be modified to suit vegetable sellers or BBQ street food vendors.”

Effect on Unemployment

In June, unemployment was at  5.7%, which was a decrease of two points from the previous month. At that time, China had also created 5.64 million jobs. The increased use of street vendors is contributing to the stimulation of China’s economy and encouraging cash fl0w. Street vendors are aiding in the absorption of the labor force. They are helping those who have been unable to find work and who have not yet received aid due to the pandemic.

There is still some debate in areas like Bejing as to whether street vendors will help the economy. However, Chengdu created 100,00 jobs in May by opening “tens of thousands of street stalls.” Other local governments are following suit. Lanzhou announced its plans to open 11,000 more vendors with the possibility of providing an additional 300,000 jobs. By July, the unemployment rate had not lowered, but it also did not go up.

In a time when many countries are facing a spike in unemployment, China’s use of innovative solutions sets an encouraging example. By using street vendors as a way to stimulate the economy, China is supporting small businesses and improving consumer confidence. 

Dihan Chen
Photo: Flickr