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Updates on SDG Goal 10 in ArgentinaIn Argentina, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic unrest has stalled efforts to close the inequality gap. Before the pandemic hit, Argentina was making progress on a series of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a framework of global objectives created by the United Nations, designed as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” by 2030. The country was “well-positioned” compared to its Latin American counterparts, according to the Argentine Network for International Cooperation (RACI). The onset of COVID-19 has impacted updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina.

Achieving SDG 10: Reducing Inequality

Argentina had been struggling to achieve SDG 10, which focuses on reducing inequalities within a county’s population and among different countries around the world. To measure inequality, the SDGs use a scale of 0 to 100. The lower the score, the closer the country is to achieving economic equality. The goal is to achieve a ranking of 30 or lower by 2030. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Argentina had a ranking of 51. The pandemic has siphoned resources out of the government and stalled updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina and other progressive reforms. On top of that, millions of Argentinians have lost their jobs and inequality is expanding as a result.

President Alberto Fernández

In December 2019, President Alberto Fernández won the presidential election over conservative incumbent, Mauricio Macri. President Fernández’s political style is that of his mentor, former president, Néstor Kirchner. However, “the COVID-19 pandemic might very well shatter the center-left president’s dreams of following in his mentor’s footsteps and bringing social progress and economic growth to Argentina,” writes Hugo Goeury.

Despite Fernandez’s progressive goals for his administration, reforms have all been put on the back burner since the arrival of COVID-19 in Argentina.

Poverty, Unemployment and the Wealth Gap

In the first half of 2020 alone, the poverty rate among Argentinians increased to almost 41%, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas reported, nearly a 5% increase from the previous year. The Central Bank is also predicting the GDP to contract by nearly 11%.

With almost a third of Argentine workers facing unemployment, President Fernandez is scrambling to financially support his unemployed constituents, while also negotiating the country’s debt owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to the World Inequality Database, as of 2019, the top 10% wealthiest Argentinians controlled nearly 40% of the country’s income, while the bottom 50% only possessed 17.9% of the nation’s income.

Better Days Ahead for Argentina

Even though updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina seem especially challenging right now, Argentinians are still
pushing forward to make their country more equitable for everyone. The U.N. says, “In the post-pandemic world, Argentina must strengthen its productive apparatus and continue to eliminate inherited social inequities and those aggravated by COVID-19.”

– Laney Pope
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Madagascar’s PovertyMadagascar, an island country located in the Indian Ocean, is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, with 75% of its population living in poverty in 2019. Due to the country’s insufficient infrastructure, isolated communities and history of political instability, the economy of Madagascar has long been incapacitated and heavily dependent on foreign aid to meet the basic needs of its people, with food being the most urgent. In recent times, Madagascar’s poverty has been further impacted by more crises amid the country’s continued search for economic stability.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar’s economy has drastically worsened and so has Madagascar’s poverty as a result. With an already frail economic climate before COVID-19, the pandemic has negatively affected both the rural and urban areas of Madagascar, as precautionary measures enforced by the government are obstructing the flow of food and job opportunities, further stifling the already impoverished. Movement restrictions, one of many precautionary measures being enforced by the government, have cornered the most poverty-susceptible households to stay in place versus finding labor opportunities through seasonally migrating. Without the freedom to move about and access markets, these rural households are hard-pressed to find food and urban households are feeling the economic effects of this as well.

Drought in Madagascar

About 1.6 million people in southern Madagascar have suffered from food shortages since 2016. The reason for this food shortage: drought. Ejeda is one of many Madagascar villages that finds its villagers trekking miles away from their homes to dig holes into sand beds around rivers in search of water. If water is found, these villagers are then tasked with transporting it miles back home. Three years of recurrent drought in southern Madagascar has almost entirely eradicated farming and crop yields.

Declining Tourism Industry

Tourism in Madagascar is a significant source of annual revenue for the country. Home to lush national parks and scenic beaches, it is estimated that the fallout of COVID-19 has taken away about half a billion dollars of tourism revenue from the country since the pandemic began. Travel restrictions in Madagascar have gradually been eased but the damage has been done as people are simply not traveling unnecessarily during COVID-19. This loss of tourism revenue has been widely felt as it has added to the people’s ongoing struggle with poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty in Madagascar continues to worsen due to COVID-19, drought and the ensuing loss of tourism. With an already feeble economy before these crises, poverty has been intensified in both rural and urban areas as these crises continue to play out.

The Good News

Madagascar’s poverty has increased but there is good news to be found. A dietician and missionary from Poland named Daniel Kasprowicz recently raised 700,000 PLN through an online fundraiser to build a medical facility for malnourished children. Construction on the building has already started, and as poverty is expected to increase throughout Madagascar for the foreseeable future, it is believed that the facility will be opened and treating the malnourished by February 2021. In a time of crucial need, foreign aid means life or death in Madagascar and no act of assistance goes unnoticed.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

impact of conflict on poverty
Conflict can be a catalyst for an array of poverty-related events. It can impact poverty by depleting resources, interrupting supply chains, destroying infrastructure, taking lives and much more. Unfortunately, this trend has held in the country of Mali, which currently shows the significant impact of conflict on poverty.

Conflict Background and Economic Impact

The Mali War is an ongoing conflict that began in January of 2012. Since then, violence between the North and South of Mali has ebbed and flowed in severity but never subsided. Malian people, including the Tuareg, in the North of Mali, have expressed resentment and concern, as they feel that governmental groups and political factions have been neglecting their concerns and treating them unfairly. Ethnic divides, fundamentalist fighters and an unstable political system are a few issues that have caused this conflict.

There have been thousands of deaths and thousands of more people fleeing the conflict. As mentioned previously, many connect the weak economic sector in Mali to the outbreak of unrest and violence. Almost cyclically, this violence is now negatively impacting the economic sector. Before the conflict broke out, tourism accounted for more than 40% of Mali’s GDP. Researchers estimate that 8,000 people lost their job due to the drastic decrease in tourism after the conflict began. The economic connection highlights the ranging impact of conflict on poverty.

Many of those living in the North of Mali, mostly Tuareg and Arab groups, depend on the agricultural sector for their income. The government has invested very little in this sector and focuses primarily on tourism and the export of gold and cotton from the South. This has led many agricultural producers in the South to grow jaded towards the government due to their increased likelihood of experiencing extreme poverty.

The Impact on Public Health

Roughly 1 in 3 children in Mali are facing chronic malnutrition. An annual average of nearly four million people in Mali do not have access to an adequate amount of food. More than half of Mali’s children and young adults are illiterate and have been pushed out of school due to displacement. Many children in Mali are at great risk of being recruited into militant groups, further threatening their safety, educational resources, and ability to climb from poverty.

At its base level, the conflict in Mali threatens public health by the sheer loss of life it has caused. In 2018, hundreds of civilians were killed by armed groups. The byproducts of this violence caused even more people to experience extreme poverty, malnutrition and death. Additionally, more than 200,000 people have fled Mali altogether to avoid the violence. This stunts Mali’s economic growth, which reaffirms the dangerous impact of conflict on poverty.

Current Aid and Support Efforts

A military coup ousted the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, on August 19th, 2020. President Bah Ndaw became the interim leader of Mali and will hold the position until an election can be held. Some are hopeful that if a legitimate election can be held, much of the conflict in Mali will subside. In the meantime, many local and international nonprofit organizations have mobilized to aid in poverty-reduction efforts throughout Mali.

  1. For example, World Vision began providing aid in Mali in 1975, even before the conflict. In 2012 during the height of the conflict, World Vision provided aid in the form of food, clean water, and shelter to more than 150,000 people throughout Mali. Additionally, more than 60,000 children in Mali are currently benefiting from World Vision’s child sponsorship program. The program allows donors to provide monetary assistance to and communicate with an impoverished child. Many of these sponsored children in Mali reside within conflict-ridden areas.
  2. Peace Direct, another nonprofit organization, focuses on peacebuilding efforts in Mali. They support communities in their implementation of peacebuilding; in 2019 alone, they supported more than 20 projects throughout Mali. Peace Direct realizes the importance of community growth, both physically and emotionally, to peacebuilding. A lack of communal trust can be detrimental to poverty reduction, as teamwork makes progress more effective and efficient. Additionally, the building of trust and understanding among conflict groups is essential to support continued growth and stability throughout Mali. This trust will prevent future conflicts and allow Mali to focus on joint economic growth and poverty-reduction tactics throughout their country.

    3. “The Peacebuilding Stabilization and Reconciliation Project,” run through USAID, began in April of 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in March of 2023. This project focuses on rebuilding many of the conflict-ridden areas throughout Mali, providing rehabilitation resources to those impacted by the violence, increasing civic engagement and helping Mali’s government introduce barriers to prevent violent outbreaks in the future. USAID believes that providing community members with an active role in their governance will decrease dissent, enhance democratic values, reduce the likelihood of future conflict and decrease the joint poverty level throughout Mali. Success will also ideally increase GDP and overall well being while mitigating the impact of conflict on poverty in Mali.

The Future of the Region

The domino effect that violence can have on the prosperity of a nation is not a surprise. Violence decreases an individual’s ability to focus on economic growth or public health. It overtakes governmental initiatives and attention from the media, forcing poverty-related issues to take a backseat. The importance of the international community supporting peacebuilding efforts in Mali remains essential. The path toward peace will trickle-down benefits for many subsets of Mali’s society and will decrease the occurrence of extreme poverty throughout the nation.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: UN Multimedia

Afghanistan Is PoorDespite an influx of international aid, 39 percent of Afghans live in poverty, and this number is increasing. A shocking 1.3 million more people are poor in Afghanistan today than in 2012. Why is Afghanistan poor? The country has experienced conflict since the Soviet Union invaded in 1979. Political transitions within the country also cause insecurity. Most households in Afghanistan are not established enough to cope with economic shocks or natural disasters. About 20 percent of Afghans live just above the poverty line and slight economic shocks could drive them into poverty.

One answer to the question ‘why is Afghanistan poor?’ is that the economy is too small for the growing labor force. Many workers are illiterate and looking for low skilled jobs, but there are not enough of these types of jobs. In 2016, Afghanistan’s GDP growth was 1.2 percent. While this was an increase, it is not enough to bring workers out of unemployment. Economists estimate that GDP growth needs to be eight percent to successfully employ the Afghan work force. Unfortunately, continuing conflict and insecurity within the country makes this growth unlikely.

Rural Afghanistan is poor due to its dependence on agriculture and informal labor markets. Low investments and natural disasters have hurt the agriculture market that most Afghans depend on for employment. Natural resources necessary for successful agriculture are lacking in Afghanistan. Compared to its population, there is little farmable land. Precipitation is scarce and there is insufficient irrigation infrastructure. In addition, the country has faced multiple debilitating droughts since 1999.

In rural areas, small-scale farmers and herders, landless people and women who are heads of households bear the largest burden of poverty. Women in Afghanistan face increased inequalities because they have less access to education and health services. A lack of skills or a medical condition can keep women out of the workforce. Widows account for a large population of the poor in Afghanistan. Due to fighting within the country, there may be over one million widows in Afghanistan. Most of these women have children to support. Unfortunately, the patriarchal society excludes them from many social and employment opportunities, so most become beggars.

Many countries and organizations have poured aid into the country. However, it does not seem to be helping. The inequality between the rich and poor in the country is increasing. Much of the aid went to build schools and hospitals, increase public services and repair infrastructure. While these human services are important, the agriculture sector continues to struggle, and rural households don’t have protection from economic shocks. In addition, the government did not always distribute funds fairly throughout the country.

Why is Afghanistan poor? Afghanistan is poor due to continuing shocks to the country, and it is necessary to build programs to insulate households from economic instability.

– Sarah Denning
Photo: Flickr

Burundi_protests
Violent protests following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to pursue a third term have left at least 19 dead and pushed over 50,000 out of their homes. With the streets ablaze in Burundi, a landlocked southeastern African country, analysts fear for the region’s economic stability.

A shirtless man, sporting a pink whistle around his neck, screamed at army officials for bulldozing a barricade made of old tires, his French wavering. Mismatched protestors stood behind the man, while police officials slowly closed in on the group, billy-clubs raised.

Days later, tear gas and live ammunition would be used on hundreds of civilians gathered only a kilometer away from Nkurunziza in the country’s capital of Bujumbura.

This political discord follows a decade-long civil war that ended in 2005 with the Arusha Agreement, which set the terms for the presidency. The accord, implemented by the constitution, reads “no one may serve more than two presidential terms.”

Operating on this basis, many Burundians see a third term as an illegal and unjust power grab. For some, however, the issue with Nkurunziza extends beyond these technicalities. For the past five years, the president has muffled the voices of his people – restricting the press and the freedom to protest.

“This present electoral problem is the result of the last five years’ rule of President Nkurunziza,” said Thierry Vircoulon, the project director for Central Africa at the International Crisis Group.

Though economic growth has remained stable in years past, mostly because of coffee exportation and the mining of nickel, the mass exodus of Burundi citizens could have serious monetary implications. According to Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are currently more than 20,000 refugees in Rwanda, 10,000 in Tanzania and 5,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We are extremely worried,” he said, speaking in Nairobi.

Rwanda, already a haven for 74,000 refugees from the Congo, has been overwhelmed since mid-April. Though a new Mahama refugee camp is capable of holding 60,000, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees predicts this still won’t be enough.

Sitting slightly above Rwanda and bordering Lake Victoria, Uganda will likely feel the heat of the protests. Exporting large amounts of coffee and scrap metal, Burundi currently stands as Uganda’s biggest trade partner, according to a tax analysis report.

“We are expecting if the situation in Burundi gets worse there could some economic effect on Uganda,” said Nebert Rugadya, a business commentator in Kampala.

The instability in Burundi has had a domino effect – compromising trade, straining health care systems and drying up foreign aid in neighboring nations. According to François Conradie from the African Economic Consultants NKC, tension could also foment civil war in the region of Goma on the Congo-Rwanda border.

“A stable Burundi means a lot for stability in the region,” Rugadya said.

Concerns over an overall reduced quality of life are also surfacing. The country’s 67 percent poverty rate, which has been greatly increased by civil conflict in years past, continues to climb.

– Lauren Stepp

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, US News, VOX, Washington Post
Photo: Flickr

poverty in armenia
Landlocked between Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia and Pakistan, the country of Armenia has faced economic hardships since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Between 1989 and 1999, warfare with Azerbaijan and tensions with Turkey have led both countries to impose economic blockades against Armenia; an international settlement has yet to happen. The country’s main source of trade occurs across the border shared with Georgia and into Russia.

Despite some growth and improvements from bilateral humanitarian efforts, Armenia faces several economic and food security challenges. Though Armenia’s gross domestic product growth rates have reached double digits in recent years, this is largely attributed to the widening of the poor-rich gap and the uneven distribution of wealth. Areas of poverty in Armenia are concentrated in rural areas and the country’s borders. Harsh winters, infertile and highly elevated lands and a lack of agricultural diversity have hampered Armenia’s goal of achieving economic sustainability.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that levels of poverty in Armenia have halved from 56.1 percent in 1999 to 23.5 percent in 2008. Though promising, the hard fact is that about 48 percent of the country’s population was below the poverty line of $2 per day in 2008. In 2006, a severe lack of funding forced the World Food Programme to cease its food aid operations in Armenia. Already dire conditions for the country’s most vulnerable people worsened.

Several organizations have since taken up the task of aiding Armenia’s long-term development. USAID is the leading donor agency in Armenia, focusing operations on diversifying Armenia’s economy and agriculture, rebuilding infrastructures, fueling education and bolstering Armenia’s economic competitiveness.

In addition, USAID has partnered with several inter-World Bank and IFC Armenian initiatives to provide extensive technical assistance as well as monetary aid to the bolstering of water safety, road construction and the modernization of healthcare and the public sector.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has focused on increasing investments by $2.5 million to improving food safety measures of Armenian meat factories; improving food safety practices to international standards would bolster future international trade potentialities and competitiveness. The IFC has invested $271.5 million in the country over 44 projects spanning several diverse sectors.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is also supporting the Armenian Government in the improvement of food safety; methods involving training government assessment personal and educating rural farmers. The World Bank has invested $1.746 million to dozens of projects in Armenia, focusing on job creation and again economical competitiveness. The World Bank has since renewed its partnership with the Republic of Armenia for 2014 to 2017, paying particular attention to rapidly reducing both urban and rural poverty.

Armenia is one of the international success stories of multi-lateral humanitarianism. The country that crumbled economically two decades ago has seen vast improvements and is on its way to economical sustainability and independence, but only as a result of international collaboration and investments.

– Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: Action Against Hunger, World Food Programme, World Bank, The Armenian Weekly, World Bank, World Food Programme, World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, USAID, USAID
Photo: Ararat Magazine

Poverty in Kyrgyzstan
Poverty in Kyrgyzstan remains a major issue. Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet Republic located in Central Asia, having gained independence in 1991. The Kyrgyz Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita amassing $440 according to measures from 2005.

Since then, the economy of the nation has managed to stabilize slightly, but almost half of the civilian population continues to live in conditions far below the poverty threshold.

The majority of individuals in Kyrgyzstan dwell in rural locations with most of these rural workers engaging in livestock breeding in order to make a living. Furthermore, these rural populations constitute almost 3/4th of the country’s poor.

The livelihood of these farmers hinges on the quality of pastures, which are unfortunately a deteriorating resource in Kyrgyzstan. According to IFAD, winter pastures are overused while summer pastures are underused. A more even distribution of pastures would help curtail this issue of misuse and underuse.

One reason for the persistent rural poverty in Kyrgyzstan is the resounding effects of the economic transition during the 1990s where the Kyrgyz economy shifted from a command economy to a free market economy promoted by the collapse of the Soviet system. Recovery has been markedly slow with rural populations still lacking access to quality drinking water, infrastructure and education.

Many of these individuals have difficulty transcending poverty due to multiple factors. For example, farmers do not receive adequate training in land management and farming.

As a result, these farmers often unknowingly engage in defective farming practices contributing to the degradation of natural resources, such as pastures, which are essential for the Kyrgyz livestock and agricultural economy.

Furthermore, farmers do not have access to financial assistance that would ultimately allow them to invest in more efficient farming equipment and practices. Therefore, many farmers are stuck in the cycle of poverty.

In addition to agricultural troubles, many individuals in Kyrgyzstan also suffer to secure a sufficient amount of food. An unstable economy and widespread hunger almost always go hand in hand.

Often, the hunger crisis in Kyrgyzstan is exacerbated by natural disasters. For example, in 2008, a severe drought destroyed crops was followed by a brutal winter, contributing to national food insecurity.

However, the World Food Programme (WFP) is attempting to assuage the hunger crisis in Kyrgyzstan.

One program provides seasonal food assistance in the form of staple foods and general food assistance that provides immediate assistance to those in need. Rather than just providing emergency food funds to the nation, WFP has also offered an initiative that supports the improvement of infrastructure, disaster response, and environmental preservation.

Through these programs the WFP is attempting to help Kyrgyzstan sow the seeds of its own prosperity rather than providing temporary relief without any improvements in underlying conflicts.

– Phoebe Pradhan 

Photo: The Hindu
Sources:
WFP, Rural Poverty Portal