Posts

Top 10 Countries Contributing to Foreign AidIn February, the U.N. declared that 109 million people were in critical circumstances. In other words, international assistance is more important than ever. Countries around the world are fighting to alleviate global poverty, but some are doing a better job than others. Read further to find out which nations make the list for the top 10 countries contributing to foreign aid.

Top 10 Countries Contributing to Foreign Aid

  1. Luxembourg – Even though it is one of the smallest countries in the world, Luxembourg is a world leader in foreign aid. In 1970, the U.N. urged wealthy nations to contribute 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) to foreign aid. Luxembourg was the second country to achieve this goal. Today, the government invests 1.07 percent of its GNI to foreign aid.
  2. Sweden – Contributing 1.04 percent of its GNI to international development, Sweden landed itself at the top of this list in 1974. In 2018, it was still considered the largest donor when taking into account the size of its economy. The Swedish government expects to spend nearly $6 billion on foreign aid by the end of 2019. Primary concerns regarding foreign aid include agriculture, education, global health and nutrition.
  3. United Kingdom – In 2017, the U.K. spent more than 14 billion pounds on international assistance. The largest recipient of this aid was Pakistan followed by Ethiopia and Nigeria. The majority of funding is donated to humanitarian projects. Approximately 64 percent of aid is sent directly via bilateral organizations. The remaining percentage is distributed indirectly via organizations like the U.N.
  4. Norway – In 2018, Norway revised its foreign aid policies. In the new outline, the government mandates that at least 1 percent of its GNI is spent on international assistance. The proposal also focuses on health and education as its chief concerns.
  5. Ireland – In July 2018, Ireland relaunched a new foreign aid policy aptly named A Better World. One of the primary goals of this policy is to ensure that 0.7 percent of the GNI is spent on international development. It is estimated that this target will be met by 2030. Furthermore, the policy emphasizes climate action, gender equality and strengthened governance. For female education alone, the country has committed to spending 250 euros within the next five years.
  6. Japan – Japan is the largest contributor to foreign aid in Asia. In 2018, the country donated $14.2 billion. Japan has publicly committed to using the official development assistance (ODA) for guidance in future development.
  7. Canada – Unlike other countries, Canada has taken a unique feminist approach. Its foreign aid policy uses feminism as its core value. By promoting the success of women around the world, Canada hopes to create a more equal balance in power. The country believes that an increase in women’s rights would lead to other areas of progression, such as a more inclusive government and representation for minorities.
  8. France – Within the past year, France has committed to enhancing its foreign aid policy. Currently, the country donates 0.43 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. However, by the year 2022, the French government aims to increase this level to 0.55 percent. The primary objective of this increase is to aid in international stability.
  9. Finland – In just the first part of 2019, Finland has already administered 68.35 million euros in foreign assistance. The government distributes its finances through a process that includes evaluating the extent of a crisis, assessing how many deaths and illnesses have occurred and recording the percentage of the population affected by the issue. Finland also prioritizes its aid to countries that have formally submitted a request to the U.N.
  10. United States of America – Last but not least on the list for the top 10 countries contributing to foreign aid is the U.S. The current American aid system was created in 1961. However, disputes surrounding U.S. investment have increased in recent years. President Trump has repeatedly fought for cuts in the budget while others advocate for the amount to be raised. In 2016, the U.S. contributed approximately $49 billion in foreign assistance.

Ultimately, there is still a lot of work to be done. With millions of people in crisis, it is important that the wealthiest nations help combat the issues that plague the poorest. If not for humanitarian reasons, foreign aid can help elite nations by increasing the global economy and infrastructure. When looking at success stories like China (which once was a U.S. aid recipient but now a financial leader), one can understand the impact of international assistance.

Photo: Flickr

Recovery from Cyclone FaniCyclone Fani made landfall in India on May 3, 2019. Puri City, located in the Odisha state, was hit the hardest and experienced heavy rain and wind speeds in excess of 130 mph. This was equivalent to a Category Four hurricane. It was the worst cyclone to hit India since the 1999 super-cyclone that impacted the coast of Odisha for nearly 30 hours, killing 10,000 people. Over one million residents were evacuated ahead of the storm in Odisha. Finally, nearly 10 million people were impacted by severe weather conditions across India’s most northern states. This incredible amount of damage has resulted in a long road to recovery from Cyclone Fani.

More Damage from Cyclone Fani

Cyclone Fani caused widespread power outages and significant infrastructure damage in Puri. Many homes and businesses were completely destroyed. So far, 77 people died due to the cyclone.

The severe damage to infrastructure, homes and agricultural land has displaced millions of people from their homes. They sought refuge in shelter locations. There are also problems with accessing basic utilities such as clean water and food in the hardest fit areas. Over 4.8 million children have also been displaced in the Odisha state alone.

Government Relief Efforts

India’s government has pledged its full support toward recovery. Besides the thousands of shelters that have been set-up across the country, relief ministers have been touring the hardest-hit areas. More than 100,000 government officials, 45,000 volunteers and 9,000 shelters have been mobilized. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been working with international aid groups and countries around the world that are wanting to provide aid. Odisha’s Chief Minister has also created the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund where people can donate to relief efforts.

Organizations Offering Relief

The United Nations has stepped in to ensure that at-risk refugees in India and Bangladesh are protected from the after-effects of Cyclone Fani. Fani impacted many Bangladesh towns, such as Cox’s Bazar. These towns are home to nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees. They are a high-risk group because of an ongoing genocide crisis in Myanmar.

International aid groups and NGOs such as Christian Aid, World Vision and ActionAid have created relief funds that focus on providing essential supplies such as food and water. These groups have also sent recovery teams to India to help with relief efforts. Churches and local communities have also organized relief groups.

Issues Impacting Recovery

While efforts are being made to speed up recovery, there have been protestors in Odisha’s state capital, Bhubaneswar. They are demanding reducing costs of high food and water prices, along with ensuring a fast recovery.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, an international aid group, has identified the most important recovery efforts. Some of these efforts are:

  1. Emergency shelter
  2. Nutritional supplies
  3. Rebuilding schools
  4. Restoring electricity

How to Help the Recovery from Cyclone Fani

International residents are encouraged to take the following steps in order to help India recover:

  1. Join ActionAid’s on-ground relief – ActionAid is recruiting people for its on-ground recovery operations. Volunteers are working in the highly-impacted areas, including Puri City.
  2. Contact local representatives – Contact local government officials in court area and voice concerns about helping India recover from Cyclone Fani. The more times local representatives are contacted, the greater the chance that action will be taken.
  3. Organize members in local communities – Organize members in local communities and help spread awareness. Bake-sales, car washes and social media are great ways to spread awareness and raise money. The more people who are involved in relief efforts, the faster India will recover from Cyclone Fani’s devastating after-effects.

Recovery from Cyclone Fani will not be an overnight process, but with collaboration through India’s government, international organizations, NGOs and citizens from all over the world, the hardest-hit areas will be able to make a full recovery.

– Kyle Arendas
Photo: Flickr

Drones Can Address Poverty

Technology is not inherently good or bad; it’s how it’s used. From music videos to saving lives, drone operations span the spectrum of ethics and morality. Drones are able to travel in minutes to places that would normally take hours or days by traditional methods. As a result, social entrepreneurs and humanitarian organizations are utilizing drones to deliver medical supplies, survey the aftermath of natural disasters and even plant trees to combat deforestation. In developing countries, drones can be used to save countless lives. Here are five ways drones can address poverty across the world:

5 Ways Drones Can Address Poverty

  1. Delivering Medical Supplies
    Over one billion people in low-income countries do not have access to reliable roads, jeopardizing their access to proper medical care. Enter drones. Companies like Matternet are creating UAV supply highways that can quickly reach people in remote areas. By partnering with organizations like Doctors Without Borders, Matternet is running trials in Papua New Guinea and Haiti. These are trials to reinvent healthcare access and battle tuberculosis epidemics.
    Drones are also being used by the United Nations Population Fund to deliver contraceptives to remote regions of Ghana. This is a place where was almost no access to birth control. Approximately 225 million women in developing countries are in need of birth control but do not have access to it. Drones can cut contraceptive delivery times down from two days to 30 minutes.
  2. Reforesting (and Protecting) the Planet
    Approximately 1.6 billion people rely on forest resources for food, fuel, shelter, clothing and medicine. Yet, 15 billion trees are cut down every year.
    To reverse deforestation, drones are being used by companies like BioCarbon Engineering. They do this by planting tree seedlings, along with other microorganisms and fungi, to increase soil health. For instance, in just one day, BioCarbon planted 5,000 trees in Dungog, Australia, a region ravaged by coal mining. BioCarbon has planted 25,000 trees since the company’s inception. Additionally, it is working towards a goal of planting one billion trees every year.
    Not only can drones restore forest ecosystems, but they can also catch illegal loggers from destroying them in the first place. Indigenous communities in the Amazon and southern Guyana have employed drones to document illegal loggers and miners, using the proof to demand public officials to take action. In this way, drones can address poverty and also improve the planet.
  3. Assisting in Search and Rescue
    Search and rescue missions are one of the five ways drones can address poverty. In 2015, during the European migrant crisis, an estimated 5,000 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean. Certainly, many organizations found this completely unacceptable.
    The start-up NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) began employing drones in 2015 to find boats carrying refugees lost at sea. Christopher Catrambone, the founder of MOAS, has stated that drones are responsible for locating five of the eight boats that MOAS rescued in 2015. “Prior to using the drones, we felt like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” explained Catrambone.
  4. Providing Disaster Relief
    Another way that drones can address poverty is in how they are incredible tools for disaster relief. They allow organizations to map out the aftermath and locate target areas for immediate aid. After Super Typhoon Haiyan killed over 6,000 Filipinos and destroyed approximately one million homes, drones were deployed by aid organizations to assess the damage and bring relief.
    When every minute could be a life saved, drones can begin assessing disaster aftermath in three minutes. Helicopters, on the other hand, take up to an hour. From locating mines displaced after the Balkan floods in 2014 to functioning as mini-ambulances, equipped with defibrillators and EMS supplies, drones have the capability of saving countless lives.
  5. Helping Farmers and Local Businesses
    Drones are helping farmers around the world monitor the health of their crops by taking multi-spectral aerial images. Combine this information with weather data, and farmers can better understand how water, fertilizer and types of soil positively or negatively affect their crops.

Drones Testing in Malawi

USAID has been funding a project in Malawi. The project is employing drones to help farmers increase crop production and fight hunger. Malawi has also recently opened a Humanitarian Drone Testing Corridor. This attracts industries, universities and individuals who want to test their drones for humanitarian and development work.

Fighting Poverty in China with Drones

In China, rural communities are being uplifted by being drones are being used to uplift rural communities by connecting them with the larger economy. Many villages are located in rough terrain, making it difficult and time-consuming to transport products to outside markets. JD, one of China’s biggest online retailers, has been using drones to help people deliver their products within a 150-mile radius. In fact, this method has a top speed of 62 miles per hour. JD is committed to fighting poverty. Additionally, it is operating in over 30 villages.

Positive Impact of Drones

These five ways drones can address poverty highlight what is possible when technology, social entrepreneurship and humanitarian issues collide. But at the end of the day, drones are one tool in the fight against poverty. However, they do have inevitable drawbacks and limitations.

Drone strikes have traumatized many communities. They may even invariably associate UAVs with the military. It is also important to be aware of the structure of privilege and deep-seated inequalities that continue to determine access to technology around the world. Overall, drones are little without people. Yet in the fight against poverty and inequality, it’s people who must embody change.

– Kate McIntosh
Photo: Pixabay

worst tsunami ever

On the morning of December 26, 2004, an underwater earthquake with a magnitude of at least 9.1 occurred in the Indian Ocean near the coast of Indonesia. This was no ordinary earthquake, but was one that, due to its location in the ocean, would create a series of the most devastating tsunamis in modern history, destroying massive portions of the Indian Ocean coastline and leaving 14 countries devastated in its wake.

While not the largest tsunami ever recorded (that title goes to the 1958 Lituya Bay tsunami, which reached over 1,700 feet high), the sheer devastation caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami make it the worst tsunami ever. In its wake, the daunting waves left only disrepair and ruin, along with lessons for how to recover from such a hopeless situation and prevent it from happening again.

Because the Indian Ocean lacked an international system to warn the public about tsunamis, most victims were unaware of the approaching danger until it crashed into the shore. The devastating waves first hit India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The four countries received the brunt of the tsunami, being positioned close to the earthquake. Indonesia was hit the hardest, with more than half of the estimated 230,000 deaths occurring on its shores.

Hours later, countries along the eastern coast of Africa, such as South Africa, Madagascar, Somalia, and Kenya, were hit by smaller tsunamis resulting from the same quake. Though casualties were lower, the less developed countries were hit the hardest, because they had little infrastructure in place to protect them from storms and few response systems available.

In areas like Somalia, recovery was slow due to a crippled government and high rates of poverty. Many citizens were left to fend for themselves in the aftermath of the disaster. The greatest problem in East Africa was the damage to infrastructure, which was underdeveloped in places like Somalia, leading to a large displacement of citizens. However, the important question here is not just, “What is the worst tsunami ever?”, but also, “How did the world recover?”

As with many catastrophes, the desolation caused by the 2004 tsunami was met immediately by the best humanity has to offer. The response to the disaster was unprecedented, with more than $6 billion in humanitarian relief sent to the 15 affected countries from around the world. Much of this went towards funding immediate shelter and food for those displaced, improving health systems to decrease the likelihood of disease spreading, revitalizing the affected economies and improving infrastructure. Though a major tragedy, the 2004 tsunami proved to be an example of how well-utilized humanitarian aid can change the world, with many affected areas showing few traces of the disaster by 2009.

In the aftermath of the disaster, experts wondered why the Indian Ocean tsunami had been uniquely devastating. It was largely due to a lack of an international warning system that monitored the Indian Ocean, leaving most victims with little time to evacuate. It was this lack of preparedness that led to the development of an international warning system in early 2005, created by Smith Dharmasaroja, the ridiculed scientist who accurately predicted the tsunami a decade in advance and cautioned that the lack of a warning mechanism could increase casualties.

The area that best encapsulates both the despair and triumph of the Indian Ocean tsunami is Banda Aceh, capital of the province of Aceh located on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. In the aftermath of the tsunami, Aceh was devastated. Very few homes remained, most having been swept away by the massive wave. The river that ran through the city was almost unrecognizable due to the immense flooding that had occurred.

And yet, despite this devastation, Banda Aceh was once again built into a flourishing city, one that is almost incomparable to its state in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. The city is not only a monument to the devastation caused by the worst tsunami ever, but also to the hard work and humanitarianism that assisted those in need and allowed the world to recover.

– Shane Summers

Photo: Flickr

The Fight For Aid to Puerto RicoThe island of Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria’s landfall in September 2017. Power outages, food shortages and a lack of coordination from disaster relief organizations have jeopardized an entire island inhabited by U.S. citizens. Timely aid to Puerto Rico has become detrimental to the island and as the U.S. government’s funding shrinks, so do many of the people’s chances of prosperity.

Insufficient Funding

Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello requested approximately $94.4 billion from the U.S. federal government: $31 billion for housing and $17 billion to reestablish power. The federal government initially offered only around $4.7 billion in loans, but the offer has since shrunk. The aid to Puerto Rico from the U.S. has been cut in half, now at around $2.2 billion.

Congress’ plan allocated a total of $90 billion in disaster relief for Texas, Florida and California, combined with Puerto Rico’s aid. In comparison, Hurricane Sandy garnered around $37 billion in aid to New Jersey alone. Needless to say, $90 billion is an insufficient amount to counter the enormous wreckage these four U.S. territories endured in the past year. Aid to Puerto Rico is the most crucial concerning total loss, yet it is the least prioritized based on governmental decisions for funding placement.

One reason aid to Puerto Rico is scarce is due to the U.S. Treasury Department’s unwillingness to help, suspecting the small island of having a central cash balance that isn’t low enough, despite the island’s debt of $74 billion.

FEMA explains the $2.2 billion is divvied up between housing repairs, at around only $620 million, and other needs at $510 million. This funding, along with other FEMA programs, has helped 130,000 Puerto Ricans and housed fewer than 10,000. These numbers fall short of what’s needed to supply appropriate aid to Puerto Rico.

Misplaced Trust

The federal government and FEMA have also given enormous funds to small, often understaffed or simply untrustworthy organizations to supply help.

One example is Bronze Star, LLC, a Florida company that was granted 30 million to supply tarps and plastic sheets for temporary roof repairs for those without proper shelter. By November of the same year, the contract was nulled and funding was withdrawn as the company did nothing to deliver. The entire process of approval and cancellation took four crucial weeks.

Another example is Tribute Contracting, LLC, whose sole employee was awarded a lofty $156 million as part of a plan to disperse nearly 30 million meals. The contract and funding were withdrawn after the company served only 50,000 people, failing over 18 million others who requested the nutritional aid in Puerto Rico. Since the cancellation, the owner has publicly accused the U.S. government of making her a scapegoat for FEMA’s decision-making.

Looking Ahead

Aid to Puerto Rico is improving, but there’s still much to do. With FEMA’s teetering funding, much of the island is being repaired by its inhabitants and some private investors looking to help. Still, 16 percent of the island is without electricity, leaving 200,000 U.S. citizens without it for 6 months.

Locals and visitors to the island have already made tremendous improvements and repairs since the hurricane hit, but much more work still needs to be done. Most Puerto Ricans don’t have the luxury of waiting for help to come and are forced to do what they can.

– Toni Paz

Photo: Flickr

Are Natural Disasters Getting Worse?According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, the amount of flood and storm catastrophes has risen by 7.4 percent annually in recent decades. With reports of excessive weather damage constantly in the news, it is important to ask: Are natural disasters getting worse? 

By definition, natural disasters are any form of catastrophic events induced by nature or natural activities of the Earth. Some examples include earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, droughts, tsunamis and tornadoes. The severity of such disasters is typically measured by the number of deaths, economic loss and the nation’s capacity to rebuild.

Many natural disasters are beyond human control. The constant motion of Earth’s tectonic plates initiates earthquakes and tsunamis. Fluctuation in solar radiation infiltrating the atmosphere and oceans give rise to storms in the summer and blizzards in the winter.

However, sometimes natural disasters aren’t so natural and are caused by humanity’s interference with the Earth’s system.

For example, as environmental pollution increases, humans are contributing more energy to the system; which strengthens the likelihood of repeated hazards such as flash floods, bushfires, heatwaves and tropical cyclones. 

So are natural disasters getting worse? The answer is yes. The number of geophysical disasters on Earth’s surface, like earthquakes, landslides and volcano eruptions, have remained steady since the 1970s. But the number of climate-related catastrophes has vastly increased. The amount of damage done to the economy due to these catastrophes has seen a steady upsurge.

There were triple the number of natural disasters between 2000 to 2009 as the number that occurred between 1980 to 1989. A large majority, 80 percent, of this growth is caused by climate-related happenings.

It may no longer be important to ask: Are natural disasters getting worse? But instead: Why are natural catastrophes getting worse?

The scale of disasters has swelled due to higher rates of urbanization, deforestation, environmental degradation and escalating climatic elements like high temperatures, extreme rain and snow and more brutal wind and water storms.

Dangerous events do not need to result in a tragedy. Limiting vulnerability and increasing the ability to respond to these disasters can save lives. Additionally, the continuous evolution of science and technology is making it more possible to anticipate disasters, provide aid quicker and allow for the rebuilding of cities in safer areas.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr

blood donation rates multiplied in haitiAfter the devastation of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, health challenges greatly increased. Thousands of men, women and children were seriously injured or their livelihoods were threatened following the disaster. The National Blood Transfusion Center (NBTC) located in Port-au-Prince was destroyed, which reduced monthly national blood collections by over 46 percent.

The NBTC was responsible for the majority of blood collections as well as screening all of Haiti’s blood donations for transfusion-transmissible pathogens. Many of the men, women and children in critical conditions that were waiting for blood transfusions were thus unable to get the treatment necessary to survive. Organizations such as the Haitian Red Cross relied on foreign aid in order to collect a blood supply to help as many patients as possible.

Rapid efforts were put into place to actively repair damages and increase the scale of blood donations following the earthquake. By 2014, blood donation rates had multiplied in Haiti. Before the earthquake, blood collections were 52 percent in Port-au-Prince, which is the largest city in Haiti. As part of the recovery plan, Haiti’s Ministry of Health (MSPP) created the National Blood Safety Program (NBSP) in order to increase blood collections in outer regions of Haiti, hoping to decrease focus on the Port-au-Prince area, as this was where most of the damage was received.

Expanding the blood transfusion posts, where blood donations were completed and blood stored, was also a goal of the NBSP, as this would also encourage more active participation in blood donations throughout the entirety of Haiti. Prior to the 2010 disaster, Haiti was one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. This was only exacerbated following the destruction. Building blood transfusion posts, recruiting donors and obtaining healthy blood were intense challenges faced by health and humanitarian efforts.

However, with the collaborative efforts of MSPP and the Haitian Red Cross, as well as generous donations from international relief agencies, the NBSP saw their efforts paying off within years. By building a greater geographic area for all participants to access transfusion centers, blood donation rates multiplied in Haiti. By 2012, annual blood collections exceeded pre-earthquake levels and continued to increase. By 2014, collections were 36 percent higher than in 2009. Both the international community and local community within Haiti understood the necessity for blood transfusions in the country, and volunteers rose to the occasion.

Blood donation rates multiplied in Haiti due to other efforts as well, outside of building new facilities. In 2012, Haiti initiated a new plan to continue attracting volunteers for blood donations. The country aimed to increase the percentage of voluntary blood donors to 85 percent and regular donors to 40 percent. It also sent mobile blood drivers around Haiti to network with the community and discuss the importance of blood donations. Incentives were given out, like t-shirts, books and stickers, to attract locals to the idea.

Using technology to network also became an important driver. The Haitian Red Cross Society hosts a biweekly radio show to educate listeners on the subject and encourage life-saving behaviors. Particularly on important dates such as Blood Donor Day, the National Blood Transfusion Center produces messages on the radio and through text for people to donate blood, which can help compensate for limited stocks at different moments in time.

These combined efforts have clearly exemplified the dedication that Haiti has to reaching its goal of 100 percent donation rates in upcoming years. Its work has set an example for nations worldwide that have suffered from similar problems in obtaining efficient blood collections to treat those in need.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to grenada

In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan tore through Grenada, leaving 90 percent of homes ruined, causing over three dozen fatalities and freeing an unidentified number of convicts when a prison was destroyed. With constant looting and marauders on the loose, people left on the island felt extremely unsafe. Grateful for outside assistance, countries’, such as Trinidad, troops were sent in to reinforce order and support police officials.

Outside Assistance

In the aftermath of Ivan, humanitarian aid to Grenada not only came from many contributors but also remains as one of the most covered topics in the country’s history. Mexico sent over 34.5 tons of humanitarian aid, including food and construction material while the Red Cross sent 22 tons containing generators and hygiene parcels.

Damages estimated about $1 billion throughout the entire island. The European Commision provided 1.2 million euros in recovery support in September 2005, a few months after category 2 Hurricane Emily passed. The funds assisted in rehabilitating or strengthening homes and offered training on how to cope with future disasters. Venezuela provided $1 million, first aid and rescue teams to assist with humanitarian aid to Grenada.

Focusing on children, UNICEF placed their efforts into improving and ensuring children’s education as well as health systems. Salvaging damaged schools and getting children back to a normal routine served as crucial components of the organization’s aid goals. “It is imperative that children return to school as soon as possible, not just to continue their education, but to give them a sense of normalcy to their topsy-turvy lives,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative for Barbados and Eastern Caribbean.

Return to Happiness

Thanks to UNICEF’s efforts, the psychological program “Return to Happiness” was created and provided to children living in shelters. Through puppet play, child-to-child methodology and songs as a means of psychological recovery, children of Grenada were taught coping methods to deal with calamitous events.

From various countries’ and organizations’ efforts, humanitarian aid to Grenada after Hurricane Ivan was received and immediately implemented. Although the initial aid provided did not cover the estimated damage at the time, Grenada as a whole was uplifted by kindness and continues to be ever since.

– Tara Jackson

Photo: Flickr

full recovery in puerto ricoTwo months after category four Hurricane Maria made landfall on the U.S. territory island of Puerto Rico, bringing with it massive damages and a heavy reconstruction cost, recovery efforts are still underway. So, how is Puerto Rico doing now?

Director of research and analysis for the global medical nonprofit Direct Relief, Andrew Schroeder, indicates that a full recovery in Puerto Rico will take time. He states that the situation on the island, “remains quite serious and will require significant support for some time to come.”

In addition, PBS NewsHour reports that 44 percent of the island remains without power, and despite FEMA presence and efforts to up government funding for relief, the island remains in critical condition. As the efforts continue, some individuals and celebrities have taken up the cause to help bring about a full recovery in Puerto Rico.

Among those most notable for their advocacy and relief efforts for Puerto Rico is Tony, Emmy, Pulitzer and Grammy award-winning composer and lyricist Lin Manuel Miranda. The Hamilton playwright and actor of Puerto Rican descent has been vocal in his support for aid to the island and joined thousands in a Unity March for the Puerto Rico in Washington D.C. Miranda has also taken to Twitter to urge the administration to keep up the recovery efforts, saying, “We still need your help” to President Trump.

Miranda took it a step further when he released a single, “Almost Like Praying,borrowing its title from Leonard Bernstein’s musical West Side Story, which features Puerto Rican immigrants. This single brings together top musical names such as Marc Anthony, Luis Fonsi, Gloria Estefan and Jennifer Lopez, among others, who have banded together to perform this song written for and benefiting Hurricane Maria victims. The charity single debuted as a Top 40 song on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart at number 20 in sales, and brought in 5.2 million streams in its first week alone.

A month later, Miranda announced that he will be reprising his role as Alexander Hamilton in his award-winning musical for a two-week performance at the University of Puerto Rico’s campus in San Juan. He has since stated that he had dreamed of bringing Hamilton to the U.S. island territory since it’s move off Broadway two years ago, but now hopes bringing Hamilton will help stimulate a full recovery in Puerto Rico’s economy after Hurricane Maria.

Lin Manuel Miranda joins many celebrities and artists not willing to give up their shot at helping rebuild Puerto Rico.

– Belén Loza

Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in nepalNepal’s landscape is shaped by the Himalayas, which run along the country. The snow mountains and blue skies are recurrent pictures in the land. These geographic conditions divide the country into three different regions: the plains, the elevated flatland and hills and the mountain region.

Infrastructure in Nepal is also shaped by these features, with gaps in infrastructure between the plains and the mountains. In some areas, it is difficult to build roads and provide citizens with basic services such as electricity and water.

These gaps are visible in water infrastructure. For instance, only 83 percent of the population in Nepal has access to basic water services. Even though most Nepalese have water access, the quality of water varies by region.

Terai, located in the plains, has good water access but in the Western hills region sanitation is the principal concern. Only 16 percent of Nepalese have access to higher/medium quality water service, a percentage which shows the main problem with water infrastructure in the country.

Regarding electricity, only 76 percent of the population has access to energy. The electrical power infrastructure has not improved since 2002. In addition, Nepal faces 18 hours’ load shedding a day, which means that energy generators have to be shut down in order to prevent malfunctions of the power system.

Communications infrastructure also has gaps between the plains and mountain regions. More than 60 percent of the road network in Nepal is concentrated in the lowland areas of the country, specifically in Terai. There are 29,031 km of roads, 53 percent of which are paved roads, and 1,952 bridges in the South Asian country.

This situation affects the Nepali industry and economy. In this way, Nepal’s infrastructure depicts a dual problem. Whereas just 20 percent of Nepal’s population lives in urban areas, Nepal also has the fastest urbanizing indicators with a growth rate of five percent on average since the 1970’s. With these parameters, Nepal has to start to improve its infrastructure in order to improve urbanization in most of the country’s regions.

The infrastructure of Nepal was impacted by an earthquake that occurred in 2015. Around eight million people were affected and 250,000 houses damaged. Despite that, Nepal’s government and the private sector are working to relieve infrastructure in Nepal.

Government capital expenditures in infrastructure have exceeded four percent of Nepali GDP since 2015. This money has gone towards water, communication, transportation and electricity infrastructure.

In addition, the private sector is contributing to upgrading the country’s infrastructure. Transportation and communication infrastructure received an investment of 365 billion Nepalese rupees this year. Whereas water and energy infrastructure got 48 billion Nepalese rupees.

International organizations are providing assistance to Nepal as well. Since the 1970’s the World Bank has founded 12 road projects and recently it has developed the Road Maintenance Groups (RMG) program that employs local Nepalese labor in road infrastructure tasks.

With these advances, Nepal looks to the future. With growing urban areas in the country, infrastructure in Nepal has to reduce the gaps it has in the mountains regions, where access is difficult. However, the government, the private sector and international organizations are all contributing money to the country in order to boost infrastructure in Nepal’s three regions.

– Dario Ledesma

Photo: Pixabay