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Help the People of Estonia

Estonia is a crucial ally for the United States in the modern age. On March 29, 2004, Estonia joined NATO as a means to strengthen their position in the world and form stronger international relations with the West. Since then, the United States, as well as many other key NATO members, have maintained a strong presence in Estonia to guarantee the nation’s security.

To help the people of Estonia, it is important to consider how to improve the state of their home lives. There are a lot of charitable groups that donate to help displaced children and young mothers.

Caritas Estonia is a valuable organization in Estonia which dedicates itself to improving the lives of vulnerable Estonian women. Their approach to helping the people of Estonia is to provide the support necessary to empower underage mothers and pregnant teenagers to participate and advance in the Estonian workforce.

Another organization working to strengthen Estonian families is SOS Children’s Villages (SOS CV). The organization started in 1992, shortly after Estonia gained its independence from Russia. SOS CV offers a valuable service to the most vulnerable 20 percent of Estonia’s population: it’s children. SOS CV provides homes for children whose parents can no longer afford to house them.

How can you help the people of Estonia? Browse the websites of these organizations to learn more about the work they do. You can donate your time and money to a worthy cause helping to strengthen the Estonian workforce and care for children in Estonia.

You can also email Congress via The Borgen Project’s website. The Borgen Project is an American organization whose purpose is to lobby U.S. Congress to implement policy changes to help reduce poverty around the globe.

These are just a few ways how you can help the people of Estonia.

Tim Sherwood

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Estonia

Estonia, the northern European country on the Baltic Sea, has endured much as a former Soviet republic. While it was a part of the USSR, Estonia had an economy that was for the most part equally beneficial to everyone, and had the status of the most prosperous member of the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Estonian government put reforms in place that caused an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor. The country has seen improvements in human rights and healthcare as a result of its distance from Russia, but there is still a need to fight the causes of poverty in Estonia.

One in five people live under the poverty line in Estonia. Statistics Estonia reported in 2014 that 21.6 percent of people were considered impoverished and 6.3 percent lived in deep poverty. 8 percent of the poor are employed, and more of these individuals are female than male. In 2015, 21.3 percent lived in poverty and 3.9 percent in deep poverty, suggesting improvements in the distribution of wealth.

A lack of education is one of the causes of poverty in Estonia, and those who have received low levels of education have a 33 percent chance of living in poverty. The elderly are also at risk for an impoverished life. As of 2015, over 40 percent of individuals over 65 lived below the poverty line. These citizens are often dependent on pensions from the government.

The income inequality in Estonia has led to the segregation of cities, including its capital, Tallinn. The rich are moving to certain districts and the poor are living in others. This in itself is not inherently negative, aside from the fact that people are living in poverty, but can lead to conflict when the segregation extends to minority ethnic and racial groups.

While these figures on the causes of poverty in Estonia sound disheartening, the percentage of people living in relative and total poverty have actually decreased from previous years. As of 2014, the total income increased from the year before, and the gap between the rich and poor decreased. With increased foreign aid and governmental efforts to improve education and support for the poor elderly, the former USSR republic will be well on its way to eliminating the causes of poverty in Estonia.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Google

10 Things You Should Know About Estonian Refugees
Tucked away in the far-eastern corner of Europe, bordering Russia, lies the small Baltic State of Estonia. It may not be the most well-known member of the European Union, but nonetheless, Estonia is proving a valuable asset in the EU’s response to the growing refugee crisis.

Here are 10 things you should know about refugees in Estonia:

  1. Refugees in Estonia primarily come from Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia.
  2. Estonia has not received as many applications for asylum as other EU member states, but the number of applicants is steadily growing. As of March 2016, Estonia had accepted 107 quota refugees–87 from Greece and 20 from Turkey. Estonia has also agreed to take in about 500 people over the next two years.
  3. Estonia has one of the best welfare support systems in Europe. Estonia currently offers every refugee free housing and income support for two years. Refugees also receive benefits including language courses, translators and assistance in finding employment. They receive the same unemployment and welfare benefits available to Estonian citizens, as long as they remain in Estonia.
  4. Refugees in Estonia have one of the best advocates in the EU, Riina Kionka, the chief foreign policy advisor to the president of the European Council. She is passionate about the refugee crisis, as her mother was an Estonian refugee that came to the U.S., where Kionka was born. She stated that she believes Estonians should be at the forefront of helping refugees, “given Estonia’s history, with so many of its compatriots having been welcomed by other countries as refugees after the second World War and during the Soviet occupation.”
  5. Refugees come to Estonia mainly through relocation programs, not resettlement. Estonia and Italy are currently negotiating a relocation agreement, in which Estonia will take on some of the influx of refugees surging into Italy. This agreement has been discussed for several months, but predicted to close soon. Estonia is already relocating refugees from Greece and Turkey through a similar agreement.
  6. Estonia’s retention rate of refugees is one of the lowest in all of Europe. As of May 2017, more than 25 percent of the 150 refugees taken in by Estonia had left the country. Most refugees coming in do not choose Estonia; the EU assigned them to the country in an effort to spread the number of refugees across Europe. Many are disappointed with the cold climate and discouraged by the low-paying jobs they secure, which often contrast deeply with what they had in their home countries.
  7. The greatest challenge refugees in Estonia face is their own expectations. Many refugees, especially the ones relocated from other EU countries, find themselves discontent with life in Estonia. Analysts from Estonia’s relocation program trace this dissatisfaction to social media, as most of the refugees “spent the past year stuck in Greece…seeing the successes of refugees who landed in Germany or Sweden through the filters of Facebook and Instagram.”
  8. Refugees living in Estonia are among the most welcomed in all of Europe. Anti-migrant attitudes are growing dangerously fast across the rest of Europe, but there has been little backlash in Estonia. Seeing as how the country was deeply divided over the refugee crisis only a few years ago, this signals a great shift in the country’s mindset. Communities and families alike are coming together to try and make refugees feel welcome, helping the newcomers furnish their apartments and even giving out winter clothes to shield refugees from Estonia’s colder climate.
  9. Refugees living in Estonia have some of the best chances at integrating into the society of their host country. The government has spread its refugees all across the country, especially to sparsely populated rural areas, in order to give refugees a better chance at immersion. Children are immediately enrolled in schools, and adults receive help learning Estonian and English and coaching on finding jobs. The goal of the resettlement process is to empower refugees to support themselves and no longer need government benefits.
  10. If the refugees can’t come to Estonia, Estonians are going to them. The Estonian Refugee Council has substantially increased its efforts to reach refugees, especially in the Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts of Ukraine. In April alone, they delivered hundreds of humanitarian aid packages consisting of food, hygiene products and blankets. Estonians also increased support for these efforts, as the ERC gathered 34,876 euros by the end of April 2017 in donations alone.

Though there is still work to do, Estonia is setting a strong example for the world by warmly welcoming refugees. Estonia’s approach to the refugee crisis will contribute significantly to resolving the refugee crisis and will hopefully inspire its EU counterparts to implement similar tactics.

Sydney Cooney

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Estonia
Poverty in Estonia? Since the country regained its independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Estonia has been relatively economically successful. In fact, it emerged as an economic pioneer among former Soviet states in the late 1990s.

The country takes good care of their 1.3 million citizens. Life expectancy for men is 70 years of age, while life expectancy for women hovers around 80 years. This puts Estonia in a fairly good position in relation to the rest of the modern world. In the wake of the Financial Crisis of 2008, Estonia has been able to almost fully restore its economy.

 

Poverty in Estonia: Recovering from the 2008 Crisis

 

During the period following the Financial Crisis, income inequality reached record highs. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2016 report shows that while the wealthy bounced back quickly from the crisis, the wages of those below the relative poverty line have yet to return to what they were pre-crisis. Despite decreases in unemployment, every fifth person in Estonia lives in relative poverty. More than one-quarter of Estonia’s wealth is hoarded by the richest members of the country.

The absolute poverty rate is highest in children, young people and pre-retirement age people. Education level significantly affects the chance of becoming impoverished in Estonia. Among those who had access to only lower education, every third existed in the poorest demographic and only one-twelfth existed in the largest income quintile. Thus, better education is a prerequisite for the eradication of poverty in Estonia.

However, the most notable aspect of poverty in Estonia is not how it effects, but who it effects. Those who are most at risk for poverty are pensioners. Pensioners are often older citizens who need pensions. Thus, the highest cases of poverty exist within the elderly community. In 2013, nearly 32 percent of Estonian citizens above the age of 65 lived in relative poverty.

These are all problems that may be remedied with internal drive and external aid. Some solutions that have been posed include The Strategy of Children and Families and increasing benefits for elderly citizens. Meanwhile, those who are not citizens can aid the poor in Estonia by supporting such acts as the “Education for All Act” which ensures funding is allotted in areas where education deficit remains a problem globally.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr

Public Health Challenge: Combating the Top Diseases in Estonia
A member of the European Union since 2004, Estonia is among the wealthiest nations in the Baltic region. Likewise, the country has a modern health system that can reasonably support its population of 1.3 million.

Almost all Estonians are covered by health insurance, and the greatest menaces to public health, like heart disease and cancer, are characteristic of a developed country.

Nonetheless, more than one in five Estonians lives below the poverty line and are especially at risk for certain health problems that are prevalent in the country. Here are some of the top diseases in Estonia and what is being done to combat them.

HIV/AIDS

While the death toll from AIDS is dwarfed by that of heart disease and cancer in Estonia, the country has the highest prevalence of HIV in all of Europe. Around 1.3 percent of the population carries HIV, comparable to rates in Sierra Leone or Mali.

The first case of HIV was diagnosed in 1988, and the rate of incidence remained minuscule until the turn of the century. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease exploded in 2000, mostly among drug users.

Since then, the incidence rate has declined, but still more cases are reported each year. Epidemiologists have found that heterosexual transmission has increased in recent years, adding to the more than 9 thousand Estonians who have been infected.

Estonia has seriously grappled with HIV/AIDS for decades. All treatment for HIV-positive patients is free, and education about the disease is standard in Estonian classrooms. Some trends have epidemiologists in the country hopeful: according to UN AIDS, both safe sex practices and HIV testing are on the rise among Estonians.

Tuberculosis

Like AIDS, tuberculosis is not one of the major killers in Estonia, but the disease poses complex challenges for the country’s health system. Estonia has one of the highest multi-drug resistant tuberculosis burdens in the world. In many ways, tuberculosis in the country is tied to the issue of HIV: the prevalence of TB/HIV co-infection in Estonia is one of the highest in Europe at 15 percent.

Beyond people who suffer from AIDS, tuberculosis also particularly threatens Estonians who use intravenous drugs or drink heavily — a population that reports from WHO suggest could be large.

The rate of tuberculosis incidence is decreasing, indicating that Estonia is winning its battle against the disease. But according to WHO, as the incidence decreases, new challenges will arise. As the issue shrinks in magnitude, political and financial commitment may also dwindle — something that Estonia’s government must avoid if the disease is to be defeated in the country.

Obesity

There is still controversy over whether obesity is actually a “disease,” but reports and data on public health in Estonia have outlined it as a clear issue. Sources disagree, but 2014 research from the University of Tartu found that as many as one in three Estonians are clinically obese (a body mass index of over 30).

Obesity can greatly increase the risk of a myriad of health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Heart disease and stroke accounted for nearly half of all deaths in Estonia in 2012 (48 percent), so many physicians believe the issue should be taken seriously as one of the top diseases in Estonia.

The issue may be correlated to modernization. WHO estimates that nearly half of Estonian adults are insufficiently active, while salt intake is growing.

Obesity is not an easy issue to tackle, but growing scholarship and research on obesity has helped Estonia assess its magnitude and effects. In recent years the government has implemented some policies to promote consumer awareness and healthy eating habits in schools.

Estonia faces unique but surmountable public health challenges. The government likely has the means to solve such issues, and the nation, therefore, serves as a good example of how funding is not the only weapon fights like these; there must be political attention, commitment and patience. Coming years will tell the extent Estonia’s diligence in the realm of health, and likely provide valuable lessons for nations facing similar issues.

Charlie Tomb

Photo: Flickr