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

Cyprus Before the Virus

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

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

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Cyprus

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

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

Taking Initiative: Caritas Cyprus

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

– Tiffany Grapsas
Photo: Flickr

education in Cyprus

It is difficult for the Cyprus government to recognize the necessity of basic education in Cyprus when their Gross National Income (GNI) has decreased significantly from $32,560 in 2009 to $23,680 in 2016.

Cyprus is divided into two communities with separated laws and ideals. The Republic of Cyprus provides free basic education to children over age 3 or 4, whereas the Turkish Republic only allows children between ages 6 and 15 to access free education. Considering both communities make basic education accessible to the poor is a positive step forward.

However, one thing both communities agree upon is that child labour should not be completely eradicated, only monitored, so that children are working in acceptable conditions with an agreeable salary. Their laws state that only children 15 years and older are permitted to work any job, rather than attend school. It is also stated that a child must be at least 11 older in order to work after-school hours.

Although children in Cyprus are not being treated unfairly, allowing them to work is only encouraging them to drop out of school and feel as if education in Cyprus is not necessary or of any value.

UNICEF enforces that child labor worsens, or at least continues, the endless cycle of poverty by preventing children from receiving opportunities with higher pay and status. Although their education may be affordable for families, it is socially conditioned that the children must aid their family financially. Despite the opportunities that may be extended to them upon completing their education, many disregard the importance of education.

The denial of education is a threat to children’s basic human rights and puts Cyprus’s economy at risk with long-term consequences. Therefore, organizations like UNICEF are devoted to ending societally conditioned attitudes that permit child labour. They make the effort to bring awareness to the effects of disregarding basic education to countries like Cyprus.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Cyprus

As a result of the 2008 financial crisis, the poverty rate in Cyprus swelled by more than 28 percent. The interrelated problems of a three-year recession, high unemployment and austerity measures combined to make Cyprus the country most affected—behind Greece—by the eurozone financial crisis.

The Cypriot crisis was just one domino in the global financial crisis that spread from the U.S. to the eurozone. After the Greek economy began collapsing under its own debt, millions of Greek euros were withdrawn from Cypriot coffers, causing a cyclical run on Cypriot banks.

To acquire the $10 billion necessary to “bail-in” its financial sector, the Cypriot government agreed to implement a number of austerity measures to balance the budget and ensure the repayment of loans to the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the World Bank.

These measures included capital controls, across-the-board cuts to social welfare and education spending, tax increases on individuals and companies and tax reductions on foreigners bringing capital to Cyprus. Altogether, these policies served to worsen the effects of unemployment and recession on the average Cypriot, leading to a spike in poverty.

Although the Cypriot financial sector quickly recovered with the help of loans and the overall economy began growing again in 2014, the scars on the average Cypriot are still being felt. Unemployment still rests at 10 percent and many families saw their savings vanish as a result of bank defaults and capital controls.

A number of organizations like the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), the “Hope for Children” United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Policy Center, and Cans for Kids have been working on how to help people in Cyprus.

While EAPN has lobbied the European Union to support employment and social inclusion in Cyprus, and “Hope for Children” supports educational and health initiatives in Cyprus, Cans for Kids raises money for hospitalized youth. By supporting these organizations, anyone can have a direct impact on how to help people in Cyprus.

Nathaniel Sher
Photo: Flickr

Cyprus Poverty Rate
The European Social Watch Report 2010 identified the elderly as the generation most at-risk to be affected by poverty. However, within the past few years, the over-65 poverty rate has decreased dramatically, dropping from 45 percent in 2008 to 17.3 percent in 2015. Two key factors played a major role in this improvement.


Causes of Poverty in Cyprus


Pension Maturation: Everyone who is gainfully employed in Cyprus (including self-employed individuals) is eligible to receive compulsory social insurance. This insurance also includes an old age pension, which is the primary source of income for Cypriots over age 65.

The current Cypriot social insurance scheme was last reformed in 1980, affecting pension levels in two important ways. First, the system changed from a flat-rate to an earnings-related structure. This means that the level of pension available is based on the level of insurable earnings. Second, pension levels are based on the length of the contribution period. As the current system has “matured,” or gotten older, retiring Cypriots have had more time to contribute to their pensions. This has allowed for an increase in income from old-age pension, directly correlating to the decrease in the over-65 poverty rate.

Overall Wage Decline: In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, unemployment rose and wages fell in Cyprus. The European Social Policy Network (ESPN) cited both a 7.6 percent drop in mean monthly earnings for full-time workers between 2010 and 2014 and a rise in non-standard employment as repercussions of the crisis. However, income for Cypriots over 65 remained relatively stable due to the old age pension.

It is important to note that the dramatic decline in the over-65 poverty rate in Cyprus is not necessarily secure. The ESPN predicts that pension growth will level off as the system fully matures, the poverty line will rise as the economy grows and pension levels will be lower in the future as workers in non-standard positions retire. Maintaining the current Cyprus poverty rate for Cypriots over age 65 will require focusing on income levels for retirees. In the current system, that means safeguarding the ability for workers to obtain an adequate pension.

Erik Beck

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in CyprusCyprus is an island country in Europe that divided in 1974 when Turkey took over the north section of the country. The island then broke into numerous sections and was placed under the control of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. To this day, the U.N. patrols the island to maintain peace.

The Cyprus economy depends heavily on its agricultural sector. In fact, Cyprus’s government found that the agrarian sector absorbs 69 percent of the country’s total water usage. However, due to the numerous years of light rainfall in the region, this segment of the country’s economy has suffered.


Is Water Quality The Real Issue?

In 2008, Cyprus had its fourth year of drought with little rainfall, which only got worse during the summer months of each year. In recent years, the situation has continued to worsen. Although the water quality in Cyprus is high, the volume of available water is low compared to what the country needs.

On top of the ongoing drought in the region, the Cypriot government has struggled to find alternative water sources for its citizens. Cyprus has a history of over-stressing groundwater resources. As a result, the country has met the ecological limit for how much water they can pull from the ground. This limit has reduced the water quality in Cyprus considerably.


Possible Solutions

The Cypriot government has been forced to implement measures to reduce water usage in the country. The government made a 25 to 30 percent cut to the domestic water supplies all throughout the country. With little amounts of rainfall and water cuts by the government continuing to be present, many farmers in the country struggle to make ends meet.

Another method the Cypriot government used was raising taxes for water consumption. The largest water users often receive bills of thousands of euros. This policy has resulted in many cutting back on water usage.

There is also a controversial plan to build a pipeline that will travel under the ocean from Turkey to Cyprus. This expensive project could provide large quantities of fresh water to the island.

It is clear that the overuse of water and prolonged drought has affected the water quality in Cyprus immensely. Although the Cypriot government has made efforts to reduce the amount of water consumed while it faces an ongoing drought, this policy is still not sustainable. New technologies must be created to solve the issue of limited water resources in Cyprus.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Cyprus
The Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus is a complex modern-day geopolitical concern with factional strife ongoing since the second half of the last century. Recently, human rights in Cyprus has become a more significant issue. Here are 10 facts that explain how the country evolved to its present situation and what is being done to combat its human rights issues today.

  1. Cyprus is one country with two de facto autonomous regions. The southern half of Cyprus is governed by the internationally recognized Cypriot government, and the northern half is governed by the Turkish-Cypriot community.
  2. A violent separation occurred in 1974. The United Nations currently has a peacekeeping force maintaining a buffer zone between the two regions.
  3. Peace talks between the two sides occurred as recently as July 2017 but failed to make any substantial progress. A main issue of contention is the presence of Turkish troops on the northern side of the island.
  4. While the presence of a foreign military is certainly a worry to the international human rights community, human rights issues are present in other areas of Cyprus. A State Department report found that Cypriot police were using physical abuse, particularly toward foreigners and migrants. There were also reports of the police blackmailing illegal migrants.
  5. The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern in a report about the recent rise of right-wing extremist groups in Cyprus. CERD also criticized the Cypriot government for ineffectively handling hate speech in the media.
  6. As migrant rights become more prevalent in discussions of human rights in Cyprus, CERD is urging Cyprus to ratify the Convention for the protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
  7. CERD further encouraged the Cypriot government to ensure human rights for domestic workers. Currently, migrant domestic workers cannot hold long-term residence status in Cyprus.
  8. Due to the increasing diversity in Cyprus, the nongovernmental organization Kisa was created in 1998. Kisa works to promote multiculturalism and end racism, xenophobia and discrimination in Cyprus.
  9. Kisa has had great success in promoting its vision through litigation and campaigns. However, a 2010 Kisa peace festival was disrupted by right-wing protestors who injured festival participants. The police arrested festival attendees.
  10. Current problems of human rights in Cyprus may be exacerbated by the recent finding that 244,000 Cypriots are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. That amounts to almost one-third of Cyprus’ population.

Human rights in Cyprus is a complicated issue. Nevertheless, the international community and groups in Cyprus remain committed to finding a peaceful solution to the issues that are present on the island.

Sean Newhouse

Photo: Flickr

Cyprus is one of the largest islands in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, situated 283 miles off the Turkish Coast. It has a vibrant history, troves of archaeological treasures, wild landscapes and abundant mineral wealth. Since 1974, the country has been partitioned between Turkish and Greek-Cypriots. As a result of this artificial division, evaluating government services like education in Cyprus is problematic.

Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) while the EU recognizes the Republic of Cyprus. A U.N. peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) patrols the demilitarized zone between the populations to provide security in a buffer known as the Green Line. On May 19, Cyprus reunification peace talks stalled over Turkish-Cypriot demands for oil and gas exploration rights and Greek-Cypriot requests for territory concessions.

Because of the reunification problem, education in Cyprus is difficult to quantify, but here are five facts.

  1. Primary education is compulsory for six years. Students then attend secondary school for six years, comprised of lower and upper levels lasting three years each.
  2. According to the 2015 PISA, the international student assessment of math, science and reading skills among 15-year-olds, Cyprus falls below average in all three areas. The nation’s results in the newest category — collaborative problem solving — has not been released.
  3. Technical and vocational education in Cyprus lasts for two years after secondary school. These pathways are not well-supported compared to university programs.
  4. Cyprus is known for the percentage of students graduating from colleges and universities. The government recently created an Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation. At present, there are three public and five private universities.
  5. PISA, as administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), measures student well-being as well as academic skills. The results of the 2015 PISA indicate that Cypriot secondary school student life satisfaction is lower than average.

Gathering statistics on education in Cyprus is difficult given the reunification problem. This rift has made it difficult to remove the deadlock which impedes socio-economic growth. Moreover, the efficiency of public spending has remained an issue for the nation’s development — particularly in education. At present, there is no single statistical office which represents all of the Cypriot people.

Hopefully, organization and unification will soon be established and improve the quality and seriousness of education in Cypress.

JG Federman

Photo: Flickr

Why the Health Care in Cyprus Needs Improvement
Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean, is considered a high-income country. Despite the country’s positive economic reputation and the population’s high average life expectancy of 80 years (as of 2012), the country’s Minister of Health, Androulla Agrotou, states that the health care in Cyprus needs reformation to be more economically beneficial and sustainable.

One major issue that affects this economic inefficiency is the inability of the Ministry of Health to offer universal healthcare. In fact, Cyprus is the only EU country that has not implemented a universal health care system. Currently, the healthcare in Cyprus provides two main options: public and private.

Public healthcare is funded by the government and provided by hospitals and primary healthcare centers directly under the Ministry of Health. It is provided in many forms ranging from emergency services to pharmaceutical services, dental care and rehabilitation. Furthermore, public healthcare is offered to everyone in medical emergencies and accidents.

Conversely, private healthcare in Cyprus mostly depends on financing by outside individual pocket payments and voluntary health insurance, such as independent health practitioners and private partnerships between doctors.

Director of the Health Insurance Organization (HIO), Andreas Demetriades, asserts that, since the public and private work in isolation, this arrangement leads to duplication and waste of resources. Demetriades explains that this funding split results in little continuity of care between the private and public sectors, along with poor communication between doctors.

Furthermore, Demetriades cites other issues that affect the quality of medical care in Cyprus, such as that public sector hospitals are poorly organized and inconvenient for users. Since there is no organized system of primary care, and there is an inadequate regulation of private sector providers, this means that poor-quality clinical services are common.

The most common diseases and leading causes of death in Cyprus are prostate cancer among men and breast cancer among women. In a recent article published in the Cyprus Mail, Health Minister, Yiorgos Pamborides, states that the most common form of cancer in Cyprus is breast cancer “with some 550 new cases and 100 deaths per year.”

Fortunately, after the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, recently opened Cyprus’ first specialized breast center, defining it as “a prerequisite for a modern state [that comes] at a significant point in [the Cypriot] health sector.”

As a result, Anastasiades is optimistic about the center acting as a catalyst for health reform. He informs that the Council of Ministers submitted two bills for the autonomy of public hospitals and the introduction of the national health system to the House of Representatives.

The absence of a universal health care in Cyprus has been debated for decades. However, now that there are bills granting autonomy to public hospitals and taking steps to alter the way the health system is organized, a new health system in Cyprus that is modern and efficient will be within closer reach.

Andrea Philippou

Photo: Flickr

After scrapping a potential bailout deal which would have seen money taken directly from citizens’ deposit accounts, Cyprus is struggling to reach a new agreement that can set it on a path to economic prosperity. The European Central Bank (ECB) set Monday as the deadline for Cypriot action if the government wants to receive the proposed €10 billion ($13 million) in funds to keep banks afloat.

If a deal cannot be reached, there is a large danger of a bank run in Cyprus, a phenomenon which occurs when too many depositors try to withdraw their funds from a bank at one time. With fractional-reserve banking, a financial institution does not actually keep everyone’s money, using some of it to lend to customers seeking a loan. In return, depositors are paid interest on the sums in their accounts. When banks are known to be on the verge of collapse, fearful depositors will naturally want to take all their money out to put it somewhere safer. If everyone does this at once, the banks will not have enough money to fulfill all the demand for cash, creating even further complications for their finances. A bank run would devastate the entire Cypriot economy, ruin the confidence of international credit markets, and potentially set the stage for Cyprus to leave the Eurozone.

The group of lenders known as the “troika,” comprised of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the ECB, is demanding that €5.8 billion for the Cyprus bailout be funded by the country’s government. The proposed deposit tax that was scrapped is expected by some to return in the final version of the deal, because the alternative would be to dip into pension funds, a much more controversial tactic. Cyprus is allegedly considering implementing capital controls in order to prevent too much money from leaving the country when banks reopen on Tuesday.

Jake Simon

Source: New York Times
Photo: The Guardian