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The covid-19 vaccination in HungaryThe coronavirus infection rate is dropping rapidly throughout Hungary thanks to a steadily increasing rate of COVID-19 vaccination. From a peak of around 10,000 daily new cases in March 2021, as of June Hungary sees fewer than 200 daily new cases.

In May, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas announced that Hungary will not join the new vaccination deal. As part of the deal, Pfizer and BioNTech will provide an additional 2.6 billion doses throughout the European Union (EU). Hungary is the only EU country that has opted out of the deal.

According to Gulyas, the Hungarian government is confident in its current supply. Gulyas stated that in the event a booster becomes necessary, “there are plenty of vaccines from Eastern and Western sources as well.”  Orban used his strong ties with Russia and China to purchase and deploy vaccines from those countries even before the EU approved them.

Vaccination Campaign Successes

Since January, almost half of Hungarians have received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, infection rates have declined rapidly across the country. Compared to the rest of the EU, Hungary had a relatively low infection rate throughout the pandemic.  Hungary peaked at about 10,000 new cases per day. In the first week of July, there was an average of 41 new infections reported per day. That’s less than one percent of the daily average during the country’s peak on March 25. Furthermore, the country has seen fewer than one million COVID-19 cases overall.

Hungary has also expanded vaccine eligibility quickly. It is the first EU country to approve vaccination for citizens as young as 16, who are eligible to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech doses. Around 90,000 young people have already registered for the shot, accompanied by parental permission for those under 18. Euronews reported that “according to government plans, by mid-June, all Hungarians willing to get a Western-developed jab can be vaccinated.” Hungary is hoping to be able to vaccinate children as young as age six which would mean virtually all schoolchildren by early fall when school starts.

Low-Income Families and Vaccination

The percentage of Hungarians at risk of poverty has declined steadily in recent years, dropping around 3% from 2013 to 2020.  Hungary’s at-risk poverty rate was 12.3 % in 2020.  COVID-19 has been harsher on the at-risk population, especially the Roma population living in poor settlements.  The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), a human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) advocates for targeted measures to protect the Roma from COVID.  HCLU claims that the Hungarian government has overlooked the fact that the Roma have been more vulnerable to COVID’s economic consequences because they lack any financial reserves and rely on day-to-day odd jobs.

A Promising Start

With half of Hungarians vaccinated and many more eligible, working life is returning to normal, allowing the economy to thrive. As low-income citizens including the Roma get vaccinated, they will be able to return to work without fear of illness. Also, fewer people will lose their jobs due to business closures. This successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign is leading Hungary toward a safe return to life as it used to be. Furthermore, the government is confident that its current supply of vaccine doses can sustain the campaign’s success.

– Riley Prillwitz
Photo: Unsplash

Greek and Cypriot povertyAfter decades of economic struggle which the pandemic and COVID-related restrictions exacerbated, Greece and Cyprus are optimistic about their economic futures. In 2019, both countries’ economies were in grim states. In Cyprus, 15.3% of the population was at risk of poverty as of 2020, a marginal rise from the previous year. Meanwhile, 30% of Greece’s population was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2020. Amid all the pessimism, however, there are reasons to have a bright outlook for the future of Greek and Cypriot poverty reduction.

EU Funding

Massive pandemic relief packages stemming from the E.U. budget have already allowed a solid recovery for Greece and Cyprus.

In June 2021, the E.U. approved a recovery plan worth 30.5 billion euros for Greece. According to E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the plan “will help Greece build a better future.” The recovery plan could spur Greek economic growth by 7% within the next six years, giving people a reason to be optimistic about the future of Greece’s economy.

In Cyprus, the 1.2 billion euros that Greece secured from the E.U. Recovery and Resilience Program and 1.8 billion euros from the E.U.’s Structural and Investment Funds form part of the Cypriot president’s self-described “ambitious” recovery plan. The massive cash influx will help add at least 11,000 new jobs, a significant number for a country with a population of around 875,000. In addition, it will help Cyprus reverse course from the continuous austerity its government has implemented in recent years, which has proven counterproductive in the fight against poverty. These two gigantic pandemic relief packages from the E.U. will allow a bright future for Greek and Cypriot poverty reduction.

Optimistic Economic Growth Projections

Another major reason for optimism about Greek and Cypriot poverty rates is the countries’ economic growth projections. Despite the pandemic significantly shrinking both nations’ economies, economic growth projections for upcoming quarters and years are notably better than expected.

In Greece, for example, after a fantastic 4.4% rise in GDP in the first quarter of 2021 despite the COVID-related restrictions that were in place for almost the entire quarter, the E.U. Commission has released a favorable economic forecast for Greece for the remainder of 2021 as well as for 2022. It expects Greece’s GDP to grow by 4.3% in 2021 and 6% in 2022. Cyprus’s economy also appears poised to bounce back phenomenally from its shrinkage. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has said that the E.U.’s relief plan will enable a 7% increase in GDP over the next five years.

Gabriel Sylvan
Photo: Flickr

Bosnia and Herzegovina Vaccine Rollout
The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been quite profound. The country has been experiencing a severe recession, the worst in 25 years. Due to government borrowing in an effort to ease the strains stemming from the crisis, the national debt has soared. As a result, the Bosnia and Herzegovina vaccine rollout has been slow because its government has been unable to afford vaccines.

However, due to Russia, China and Europe providing donations, the country has received a large number of vaccines. On top of this, overseas organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have been continuing to advocate for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most vulnerable citizens.

The Lack of Purchase

In stark contrast to neighboring Serbia’s successful vaccine rollout, Bosnia and Herzegovina has not bought a single vaccine. Due to a disorganized government and the impact of a steep recession, the country has been relying on donations. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina has prevented the nation from organizing a rollout of its own, thus endangering its citizens.

Pilgrimage to Serbia

Because of the slow vaccine rollout in Bosnia and Herzegovina, many Bosnians have migrated to neighboring Serbia, which has had an exponentially more successful vaccine rollout, to receive their vaccine. This is particularly striking because of the tensions between the two countries. The Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is well-known for downplaying the Srebrenica genocide, which took place in 1995. This was during the Yugoslavian wars of independence and took the lives of many Bosnian Muslims.

Donations are Keeping the Country Afloat

Because of the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the country has been relying on large donations from countries that are further into their vaccine rollout than Bosnia and Herzegovina. After initial donations from Russia and China, the E.U. provided vaccines to Bosnia and Herzegovina. This also included Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, with 651,000 doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine in April 2021. In June 2021, Austria committed to donating 1 million doses of mainly AstraZeneca vaccine to the Western Bulkan bloc.

The UNHCR Advocate for the Vaccination of Asylum Seekers

While the Bosnian government is reluctant to vaccinate its population of refugees and asylum seekers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) continues to advocate for the vaccination of those within the country without international protection. Previous successes have been seen in Serbia where the UNHCR has managed to vaccinate a large number of refugees, with 53 having their vaccine on the first day of operations.

The Future

Despite the crushing impact that the recession has had on the vaccine rollout, with international collaboration the future is looking brighter for the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina. With organizations such as UNHCR advocating for the nation’s most vulnerable, few will slip through the cracks in the vaccine initiative.

Augustus Bambridge-Sutton
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in TurkmenistanTurkmenistan is a Central Asian country with a population of 6.1 million. Healthcare in Turkmenistan has a complicated history, beginning when the country’s first post-Soviet president, Saparmurat Niyazov, fired 15,000 healthcare workers and shut down regional hospitals around 2005. However, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, Niyazov’s successor, flipped the script and invested tens of millions of dollars into the country’s healthcare sector starting in 2006. While the investments were substantial, including a $56 million ophthalmology complex, the overall quality of healthcare in Turkmenistan lagged behind. Maral Nedirova, a Turkmen doctor, explains that medical services in the Turkmen provinces have not progressed since the 1970s.

The Effects of Dictatorship

Dictatorship in the 2000s had a lasting, negative impact on healthcare in Turkmenistan. As previously noted, Turkmenistan was under the dictatorial rule of president Niyazov until his death in 2006. The dictatorship resulted in direct harm to healthcare. Imprisonment and torture of those who opposed the administration combined with over-incarceration in overcrowded facilities hurt healthcare in Turkmenistan. The rule of president Niyazov, however, also indirectly contributed to the country’s healthcare struggle. This occurred primarily due to the government’s focus on secrecy rather than prevention, meaning that the dictatorship was more concerned with limiting the exposure of the healthcare crisis in Turkmenistan than actually addressing it. These failures have had lasting, adverse effects on healthcare in Turkmenistan.

Corruption Undermines Healthcare

While Niyazov’s rule came to an end in 2006, the corruption of the healthcare system in Turkmenistan is yet to cease. Bribery is commonplace in the healthcare system, with doctors being forced to pay an unofficial penalty “for every incident of an undocumented health problem that surfaces among the population of the district that they are responsible for.” Local administrations then use this money to bribe health inspectors “to ensure positive reports about their work.”

Additionally, the legacy of secrecy and coverup remains today. Despite being bordered by a country with 500,000 COVID-19 cases in April 2020, and having taken no formal quarantine measures, the Turkmenistan officials repeatedly reported no official cases around this period. Even within the country’s health departments, few people knew the real risk that COVID-19 posed due to the government’s secrecy. False reports and large-scale coverups likely make it most challenging to address the reality of healthcare in Turkmenistan as the truth is often unclear.

Poor Air Quality

The air pollution in Turkmenistan is “considered moderately unsafe” under guidelines put forward by the World Health Organization. While 10 µg/m3 of PM2.5, the fine particulate matter that pollutes the air and can cause health issues, is the maximum recommended level for air pollutants, Turkmenistan has a mean of 22 µg/m3. In the short term, this air pollution can cause typical symptoms like shortness of breath and lung and nose irritation while also worsening the effects of asthma and emphysema. In the long term, however, the risks become more severe, inducing lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory illness and more.

The Future of Healthcare in Turkmenistan

Partnerships with other countries and international organizations provide hope for the future of healthcare in Turkmenistan. A new project started by Japan and the U.N. Office for Project Services (UNOPS) aims to deliver medical equipment and supplies to aid the country’s healthcare system. The project Enhancing the Healthcare System through the Provision of Medical Equipment in Turkmenistan will invest $2.8 million into the Turkmenistan healthcare system.

Moreover, a WHO-EU joining project titled Crisis Response for Central Asian Countries is a €3 million project involving Turkmenistan and neighboring countries that aims to assist in the response to COVID-19 as well as strengthen emergency response preparedness and detection efforts. Thus far, the project held a virtual training seminar led by international experts to train healthcare workers and provide them with hands-on skills. While Turkmenistan’s past was defined by its secrecy and closed-off posture regarding its healthcare system, the trend appears to be reversing as international aid in cooperation has been invited to help revitalize healthcare in Turkmenistan.

Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Gender Pay Gap in IrelandThe gender pay gap in Ireland has been a problem for decades. This issue has continued to persist despite legislative efforts in the past. However, in 2019, Ireland passed the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill to amend previous legislation on the matter. The bill requires employers to make known any pay differences between female and male employees and to take action to address unjustified differences. Supporters of the bill hope that it will force employers to acknowledge and close the pay gap. It is important to recognize how far Ireland has come toward rectifying inequality, acknowledging the poverty it can induce.

History of the Gender Pay Gap in Ireland

Gender equality policies in Ireland were implemented when Ireland joined the European Economic Committee (EEC) in the 1970s. In 1973, women made up only 27% of Ireland’s workforce. As a result of joining the EEC, Ireland dropped the marriage bar for women working in civil service occupations. The marriage bar forced employed women to resign from their jobs once married. The bar was clearly discriminatory and to the disadvantage of women. Joining the EU also helped Ireland integrate more women into the workforce through gender mainstreaming on all government projects supported by the EU. Gender mainstreaming requires equal opportunities for men and women. Eventually, Ireland extended gender mainstreaming to state projects as well. By 2018, 77.2% of women in Ireland were working.

Unfortunately, despite increased representation in the workforce, the pay gap between men and women did not diminish. Before the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill, the government passed extensive legislation to try to minimize the gap. This includes the Anti-Discrimination Pay Act of 1974 and the Employment Equality Act of 1998. Yet, the pay gap remained substantial.

The Equal Pay Act of 1970 was supposed to regulate the pay gap between men and women. However, employers were able to get around this by changing women’s job titles, reinforcing the gender pay gap decades later. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 legislated equal pay and equal conditions for men and women. The loophole allowed employers to continue discriminatory practices, and decades later, a gender wage gap still exists.

Rectifying the Gender Wage Gap

In previous bills, the wording was often too vague and unspecific so employers could find loopholes to get away with underpaying their female employees. The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill works to narrow these possibilities by using more specific wording to apply to all public bodies. It also grants a minister the ability to get involved with these matters and enforce these rules. The bill also requires companies to report on the payment disparities between employees. Where companies could once get away with payment disparities through bonus packages, the bill eliminates this by holding companies accountable in their reports. Businesses refusing to take a course of action to rectify pay gaps can be held responsible to do so by the government.

The most recent statistic available on the pay gap in Ireland as of 2017 is 14.4%. The EU gender pay gap average was almost 15%, indicating that Ireland is doing better in this regard than other EU states. Further work is necessitated for Ireland to completely eliminate the disparity, but identifying where the problem originates is the first step toward this goal. The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill aims to help close the gap and achieve gender equality.

– Samantha Fazio
Photo: Flickr

Sahrawi Refugees living in AlgeriaFor more than 45 years, Sahrawi refugees have left Western Sahara into neighboring countries fleeing conflict and instability. Many Sahrawi refugees have found themselves living in camps in Algeria. In these camps, refugees struggle with food and water insecurity, lack of medicine and healthcare access. This overview of the forgotten crisis of Sahrawi Refugees living in Algeria will provide insight into the ongoing humanitarian struggle.

The Refugee Camps in Algeria

A conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front over Western Sahara’s sovereignty has gone on since Spain withdrew from the area in 1975. In the wake of this conflict, hundreds of thousands of Saharawi people have been displaced and have sought refuge in countries like Algeria. For more than 45 years, the Saharawi people have been living in camps in Algeria’s Tindouf region, which borders Western Sahara. There are five camps housing more than 150,000 Sahrawi refugees near the Algerian town of Tindouf. These refugees live almost entirely on humanitarian aid and assistance. The Algerian government has worked to improve the living conditions of these refugees by providing secondary education, healthcare services, land and infrastructure improvements. The government also works with international organizations like the UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF to continue supporting Sahrawi refugees.

Challenges for the Sahrawi Refugees

The situation of the Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria is referred to as the ‘forgotten crisis’ because there is little media coverage of their situation. According to the World Food Programme, over 88% of the Sahrawi Refugees are either at risk or suffering from food insecurity. Acute malnutrition affects roughly 8% of Sahrawi children aged five or younger and over 50% of Sahrawi women between the ages of 15 and 49 suffer from anemia. The COVID-19 pandemic has added further difficulties to the situation of the Sahrawi refugees. Since March 2020, the Sahrawi are under quarantine, with humanitarian aid continuing to arrive.

The Sahrawi refugee’s dependence on humanitarian aid has left the people lacking ways to be self-sufficient. Sahrawi refugees are at risk of radicalization or social unrest. There are few employment opportunities and frustration develops with the ongoing conflict in Western Sahara and vulnerability to flash floods and sandstorms. The lockdown has also caused many Sahrawi refugees to loose jobs, causing them to rely more heavily on aid.

Bilateral Aid

Despite being known as the “forgotten crisis,” there is still work being done to improve the Sahrawi refugees’ situation. In 2020, the EU provided more than $9 million in humanitarian aid for the Sahrawi refugees, primarily food, water and medicine. World Food Programme rations provide Sahrawi refugees with 2,100 calories a day and $5.4 million has gone toward combating malnutrition of women and children, which has been a persistent problem for refugees. There are plans to extend the water network in the camps to improve the efficiency of delivering water to the refugees. More than $500,000 have been used to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by improving hospitals and their capacities to deal with sickness. Efforts have been made to support disabled refugees to ensure they are part of the community.

Swiss contributions to the WFP’s efforts in Algeria have totaled more than $30 million over several decades. The programs have encouraged more than 40,000 children to attend school through a meal program which paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic but will continue afterward. While the Sahrawi camps are under lockdown during the pandemic, humanitarian aid provides necessary food, water and medicine to refugees. The Algerian government has included the Sahrawi refugees in its national response plan to support them throughout the lockdown in the form of sanitary services, medical supplies and a referral system to track the virus.

NGOs Helping the Sahrawi Refugees

Several nonprofits are working to help the Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria. The Danish Refugee Council has been working in Sahrawi refugee camps since 2016, providing over 200,000 people with training in business skills, self-sufficiency, business grants and technical support. Oxfam International has been providing fresh produce, clean water, farming skills and community support for refugees since the start of the crisis in 1975.

The conflict in Western Sahara continues to displace thousands of Sahrawi refugees and leaves them with few options and relying on humanitarian aid to survive. The forgotten crisis of the Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria has gone on since 1975. The Sahrawi refugees face many challenges in their daily lives, but humanitarian aid has allowed the community of refugees to survive. Until the conflict in Western Sahara resolves, there needs to be a greater awareness of the current refugee situation and continued humanitarian support for the thousands of Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria.

– Gerardo Valladares
Photo: Flickr

Istanbul ConventionIn 2010, the Council of Europe drafted the “Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence” treaty, commonly known as the Istanbul Convention. The Convention aims to address violence against women and femicide. In total, 45 European countries signed the convention and support for the treaty was nearly universal. However, the withdrawal of Turkey marks a turning point in the perceived political meaning of the convention. Concerns are that if other countries follow suit, this would potentially leave millions of women without essential legislative protections.

The Development of the Convention

According to the EU, violence against women is a universal phenomenon, pervasive among all classes, nationalities and cultures. Data collection on gender-based violence has long been an issue due to underreporting and societal pressures for women to remain silent. Prior to the legal implementation of the Istanbul Convention in 2014, violence against women in Europe was a significant worry, even with incomplete data. In 2012, a survey of women between 18 and 74 who experienced violence at least once in their lifetime revealed that Denmark, the United Kingdom and Finland ranked the highest in this regard in the European region. Nearly 50% of the Danish women surveyed endured physical violence at least once in their lifetime, with that percentage being closer to 40% for both the United Kingdom and Finland.

After rising political pressure from multiple EU Ministers of Justice, especially with regards to partner and relationship violence against women, the Council of Europe decided in favor of forming a committee of experts. The committee called CAHVIO would go on to draft and finalize the Istanbul Convention in late 2010. In May 2011, the treaty was adopted. The convention was signed by 45 European countries. The signing of the convention took place in Istanbul, with the city becoming the namesake of the convention. After the 10th ratification of the convention by Andorra in 2014, the Istanbul Convention went on to become legally binding that same year.

The Protections of the Istanbul Convention

More than 60 pages long, the Istanbul Convention states a wide range of protections for women, particularly women who are victims of domestic abuse. The Convention mandates governmental aid for women in need, ranging from financial aid, shelter and professional guidelines for workplaces. Additionally, the Convention mentions supportive action for children living in abusive environments and encourages further holistic research into the issue of violence against women.

Chapter five of the Convention is where firm policies and legislation come into play. The Convention specifically states legislative action that member nations must take. Psychological violence, sexual harassment, stalking, physical violence, female genital mutilation, honor killings and more, are all considered forms of violence against women. Countries that ratify the convention are then responsible for developing hotlines, women’s shelters, medical resources, counseling and other essential services to protect women. The Group of Experts on Action Against Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence investigates whether or not ratifying countries are upholding the Convention.

Since entering into force in 2014, the Istanbul Convention has prompted many policy changes in Europe. With particular regards to Turkey, the parliament adopted serious policy changes in 2012 largely based on the wording of the Istanbul Convention the country signed in 2011.

Turkey’s Withdrawal and its Subsequent Impact

In March 2021, Turkey suddenly withdrew from the Istanbul Convention. Turkey’s president claims that the treaty threatens traditional family values. Responding to the sudden decision, many international organizations expressed dismay. In a statement from the United Nations,  senior experts on violence against women and domestic violence labeled the decision a “misinterpretation” of the text of the convention, insisting that Turkey reconsiders the stance.

Additionally, the statement emphasizes that women are even more at risk of domestic violence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing to Turkey’s rising femicide rates in recent years. With news of Poland also reconsidering its position regarding the Istanbul Convention, women in both nations are now faced with the reality of weakening legislative protections.

Critics from around the world have pointed out that it is a significant step back from the standardization of basic women’s rights. The Deputy chairperson for Turkey’s main opposition party, Gokce Gokcen, tweeted that the decision means women will in essence continue to be classified as second-class citizens.

Organizational Efforts in the Fight Against Violence

With the withdrawal has come a wave of movement from international and domestic women’s groups, NGOs and governmental organizations alike. Turkish organizations like the We Will Stop Femicide Platform contribute to public awareness in Turkey through social media campaigns and exhibitions. The platform takes legal action on behalf of victims, in addition to organizing community events and protests in local branches across Turkey. With continued support, platforms and organizations will persist in calling for the legal protection of women in the hope that Turkey will reconsider its decision.

Maddie Youngblood
Photo: Flickr

rice exportsPakistan and India are battling a rice war, as India is attempting to gain exclusive branding rights to export basmati rice to the EU. India’s trademark “geographic indication” for basmati rice has received approval from the EU and Pakistan has three months to respond to this claim or it will not be able to export basmati rice to the EU. Further implications of expanding geographic indication could compromise other markets for Pakistan, yet its response so far has been slow and inconsistent. The EU’s decision on basmati rice exports will influence each country’s economy, and with hundreds of millions of impoverished people between the two, there is much at stake.

The Value of Rice in Pakistan and India

The basmati rice industry is one that Pakistan heavily contributes to and relies on. Pakistan contributes to 35% of global basmati rice exports and its trade to the EU has grown from 120,000 tons in 2017 to 300,000 tons in 2019. A whole 40% of Pakistan’s workers work in agriculture, with rice accounting for 20% of agricultural land.

India exported 4.4 million tons of basmati rice between 2019 and 2020, which made up 65% of global basmati rice exports.

Rice Yield Challenges

Despite rice production increasing due to new practices, rice yields in both Pakistan and India are lower than the global average. Growing challenges such as drastic climate change can negatively influence annual rice production. Experts conclude that improving irrigation facilities and increasing the use of new technology will allow the countries to effectively expand their rice yields.

Population Growth & Economic Contraction

Already the fifth most populous nation in the world, projections have determined that Pakistan will grow from 220 million to 345 million by 2045. As its population continues to grow, its economy must grow at least 7% to prevent unemployment. However, in 2019, the economy contracted from 5.5% to 1.9% and the COVID-19 crisis further exacerbated this shrinkage. Unemployment has increased each year since 2014 and currently sits between 4% and 5%. It is imperative that Pakistan jumpstarts its economy or unemployment and poverty will spread.

Poverty in South Asia

Pakistan made great strides in reducing poverty in the early 2000s but has since stalled under more recent governments. By 2015, roughly one in four people, or 50 million Pakistanis, lived under the poverty line. Furthermore, there remains little opportunity for economic improvement.

India also has few opportunities for the poor to improve their lives as it placed 76 out of 82 countries in terms of social mobility. The lack of social mobility means that most people who are born poor will die poor, with minimal chances to jump to a higher social class. India also suffers from severe social inequality and a lack of growth in rural areas. A whole 364 million out of 1.3 billion, or 28% of the world’s poor live in India. However, globalization has allowed India to bring 270 million people out of poverty between 2005 and 2015. Consequently, since 1990, the life expectancy has increased by 11 years, schooling years have increased by three years and India has increased its human development index to above the medium average.

Malnutrition Causes Infant Mortality

Pakistan has an alarmingly high infant mortality rate of 55 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is twice that of India’s. A multitude of factors causes this, most notably, the malnutrition of mothers and their infants. Although wheat and rice are produced in abundant quantities, 44% of children under 5 suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. The problem is not whether food is available but it is that food is not accessible for the poor.

Rice as a Key Export

In Pakistan, rice provides value both nutritionally and economically. Rice accounts for 1.4% of the GDP and the traditional basmati rice makes up 0.6% of the GDP. However, most rice is sold as an export and is not used to feed hungry mouths domestically. In 2019, Pakistan exported $2.17 billion worth of rice, of which $790 million was basmati, a 25% increase from 2018.

A whole 90% of the rice grown in India is consumed domestically. Boasting the second-largest population in the world of 1.3 billion people, India accounts for 22% of global rice production but has many more people to feed than Pakistan. India is projected to produce 120 million tons of rice between 2020 and 2021.

Basmati rice exports generate massive profit for each country, If one country were to gain an advantage over the market, it would create enormous value for the winner and dire consequences for the loser. The winner would stand to gain economically and competitively as a result of increased production and profits. Additionally, increased demand for agricultural workers and production in rural areas would create revenue in historically impoverished areas.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

PFAS Contamination
Per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) are a class of human-made chemicals that manufacturers have used in consumer products since 1950. There are more than 4,500 PFAS, which go into making fluoropolymer coatings and other heat-resistant products. PFAS can be in products such as clothing, furniture, food packaging, cooking materials, electrical insulation and firefighting foam. PFAS contamination has become a significant concern for environmentalists around the world, as many of these chemicals are not biodegradable. As a result, PFAS has contaminated soils and water sources across the globe.

How Do PFAS Impact Health?

The effect of PFAS on humans is uncertain; however, studies on animals indicate that PFAS can have serious health effects. Studies have repeatedly shown that exposure to PFAS can stunt growth and development, alter reproductive and thyroid function and damage the immune system and the liver. PFAS can also reduce vaccine effectiveness and increase the risk of kidney and testicular cancer.

Exposure to this potentially dangerous group of chemicals is widespread. People are most likely exposed to PFAS by consuming contaminated water or food or by breathing in PFAS-contaminated air particles. Those who work in the production of PFAS or PFAS-containing products are most at risk of PFAS exposure. In these jobs, workers can inhale PFAS or absorb the chemicals through their skin.

How Do PFAS Harm Developing Countries?

In the developed world, PFAS contamination has received significant scientific and political attention. However, in less wealthy countries, people have done very little to address the issue or even gather data on PFAS. In 2019, a study occurred in 12 Middle Eastern and Asian countries to understand better how PFAS impact the developing world. Unsurprisingly, the study found that PFAS water pollution in these countries is abundant. In Malaysia, for example, the greatest source of drinking water, which supplies water to 6 million people, tested significantly over the PFAS regulatory limits in the United States. Moreover, in Indonesia, PFAS levels in the Jakarta Bay were 10 times as high as the highest-level record in San Francisco Bay.

Widespread PFAS water contamination has led to the contamination of food products in these countries. Studies have shown that PFAS has contaminated seafood and some terrestrial animals in Bangladesh, India, Japan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Other consumer products, such as textiles, also contain alarming amounts of PFAS. For example, a Greenpeace investigation found that waterproof coats made in Bangladesh contain 557 µg/m² ionic PFAS. The E.U. limits PFAS to 1 µg/m² in textiles.

In developing countries, the abundance of PFAS has resulted in high PFAS levels in both children and adults. In Jordan, the average level of PFAS in breastmilk is seven times higher than standard drinking water advisory levels in the United States. Similar levels exist in India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam. Experiencing exposure to high levels of PFAS from birth, it is no surprise that people in these countries also experience high levels of PFAS in their blood.

Solutions for PFAS Contamination

While the impacts of PFAS on human health are not certain, studies on animals suggest that people should implement measures to reduce PFAS contamination on a global level. To protect people in developing countries, PFAS must receive more scientific and political attention in these regions. Members of the international community, such as the United States and E.U. countries, should assist developing nations to gather data on PFAS in their countries. The data could help developing regions implement regulations regarding PFAS production and use. With cooperation from the international community, it is possible that global PFAS contamination could experience better management in the future.

– Mary Kate Langan
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in spain
Since the end of Spain’s economic recession in 2014, the country is the largest grower in the EU, with a GDP almost twice that of the average European country. Despite a six-year recession that impacted both the entire population and other countries in the Eurozone, the economy seems to have recovered. However, despite Spain’s economic recovery, the rate and likelihood of children in poverty have increased exponentially. Curiosity arises as to how an issue like poverty could arise in a country as developed as Spain.

The Problem

The rise of child poverty in Spain despite the recovery of the economy seems counterintuitive. However, studies show that one in three children are likely to be impoverished or socially excluded, according to the EU’s latest figures. As the results of their studies show, Spanish children are not only encumbered by a lack of income, but also lack of socialization, meaning that child poverty in Spain is multidimensional; this means a lack of proper education, nutrition, future employment, and social time on top of the financial crisis that has remained in many middle and low-class families despite the national economic recovery. Impoverished families are unable to prevent their children from reaching the same fate because the turn of the recession has resulted in a job market that provides no opportunity for even the most qualified candidates.

This issue is most dominant in middle and low-class families, and the middle class is already dangerously small. The trademark economic concept of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer is true in the Spanish socioeconomic classes and results in the stretching and thinning of the middle class. These larger socioeconomic effects are only symptoms of child poverty in Spain. The reason why the focus of the recession is on children is that they are the most at-risk demographic; when parents are impacted, it extends to their children.

The Larger Issue

Child poverty in Spain has adverse effects on the rest of society, including senior citizens, young adults, and parents. The growing number of impoverished children puts pressure on the social pension systems that account for one of the fastest aging populations in Europe. Children trapped in poverty will grow to be adults who remain reliant on social and governmental assistance. Many young adults avoided higher education due to attractive employment opportunities before the recession, leaving a large population of eager, unaccredited workers in a job market that no longer needs it. Because of the lack of opportunity in the job market, parents are reliant on unemployment benefits or the pension of their parents.

Effects of The Problem

Because child poverty in Spain is a multidimensional issue, the effects correspond to their complexity. In terms of education, Spain has experienced a drop out rate 23 percent higher than the EU average since the beginning of the recession in 2008. In general, Spain’s dropout and unemployment rates are high, specifically among those of disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.

Studies show that even very brief bursts of intense poverty can impact child development for the rest of their lives. Economists and child development specialists predict that if this poverty persists, the adults of the future will have been stunted in their development due to their reliance on pensions.

What Is Being Done?

Even Sevilla, the fifth most populated city in Spain and a huge tourist destination, falls victim to increasing child poverty rates. There are many gaps in the welfare system that are unaccounted for, which are essential to the development of children. For example, because of limited monthly income but the need to continue to feed their children, families are buying enough food for everyone, but without the necessary nutrients for developing bodies. As such, children in Spain aren’t necessarily hungry, they are impoverished. So, NGOs like Save the Children fill in the gaps in children’s diets by providing nutrient-rich meals.

Save the Children works in several domains that benefit the needs of at-risk or impoverished Spanish children, including nutrition, health and education. By filling in the dietary and academic gaps in these children’s lives, their families will have some security. In 2014, Save the Children reached 14,889 children and 5,635 adults through programs that combat educational poverty, social exclusion, and workshops that prevent the issue from furthering. The hope is that as the recovery continues, economic reform will result in a balancing of socioeconomic classes and the disparity will vanish. Until then, NGOs like Save the Children will continue to try and cover up the remaining holes in the system left by the recession in the hopes that the children they serve will grow up to lead a generation where poverty is the exception, not the expectation.

Hope for The Future

Child poverty is a major issue because these children will grow up to be the leaders of their nation. The increased rate of child poverty in Spain is an alarming problem that is fueled by an economic crisis and a weak social infrastructure. Child poverty in Spain is different than in other countries. Spanish children are not poor in the traditional sense. They are fed and have access to education. The nature of poverty is more nuanced than a lack of resources. Children in Spain are fed, yet malnourished, have access to school, but often drop out. The other key issue is the lack of socialization among peers. However, with NGOs like Save the Children who provide programs to areas in need, this issue can perhaps be alleviated. With directed efforts towards these specific problems and programs that are tailored towards the specific nature of these issues, child poverty can be eradicated, securing Spain’s future prosperity.

Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr