Syria Aid DistributionPolicy experts and aid initiatives are revealing that programs providing aid for Syria are not necessarily the best solution, given that four out of five individuals are still living in extreme poverty.

“Given the brutality that has come to characterize Syria’s four-year war, it is understandable that the discussion of the conflict has focused on violent deaths,” says an article in the newspaper, The Guardian.

According to news source IRIN, there is another scourge destroying lives in the country: “economic ruin and crippling poverty, what a U.N. backed report called an equally horrendous, but silent disaster.”

Traditional humanitarian aid is simply not enough. On the contrary, policy makers need to implement long-term, sustainable solutions that foster prosperity and social development in order to lift Syria out of crisis.

Even some Syrians have recognized that a new kind of approach regarding humanitarian aid is necessary to begin to progress. One aid worker based in northeast Syria told IRIN, “Syrians were requesting support with farming…something more productive than just being given food parcels.”

The northern part of the country used to be known as the breadbasket because agricultural development was popular in this area. Nonetheless, due to the social, economic and political conditions, this once productive territory is now almost dormant.

According to IRIN, displacement caused by shifting frontlines has resulted in missed harvest and planting seasons, and 6.6 million Syrians in total have been internally displaced by the violence inside their country.

“People who returned to areas vacated by the so-called Islamic State, for example, have come home to neglected soil and could not afford seeds,” says the IRIN article.

Moreover, the demand for agricultural products has diminished since humanitarian aid for Syria was introduced in the last year.

Government-issued agricultural subsidies have reduced and in some areas disappeared, according to the Guardian. “Prior to the conflict, the regime of President Bashar al Assad was the primary purchaser of wheat and maize; it still buys these products in some places, but on a far smaller scale,” the Guardian states.

A different kind of aid for Syria will promote sustainability, and social and economic development. Livelihood projects are essential for the population to progress.

Rim Turkami, a researcher from the London School of Economics, suggested that livelihood support is even essential to abate the war economy. Her investigation showed that individuals are joining the armed forces because it is the only opportunity to earn a salary.

As IRIN suggested, “Even in Syria, people are trying to cope.”

Isabella Rölz

Sources: IRIN, TheGuardian
Photo: DCHRS

Bolsa_FamiliaMore than a decade ago, in Brazil, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva spearheaded a national social welfare program as a part of his network of federal assistance. Bolsa Familia was born in 2003 as a poverty reduction initiative that relied on conditional cash transfers in a country where income inequality has persisted for decades.

Since that time, Bolsa Familia has blossomed into one of the largest programs of its kind, with close to 14 million Brazilian families receiving funds.

In 2001, Brazil’s Gini coefficient, a tool used to measure inequality, hovered at around 0.6, which is particularly high for global standards. On the Gini coefficient scale, the closer the number is to 0 the better, “0” denotes perfect equality whereas “1” represents perfect inequality where one individual owns all the wealth.

However, between 2001 and 2013 the measure declined, thanks in part to Bolsa Familia and other poverty reduction programs.

Bolsa Familia targets families below the poverty line and creates stipulations for receiving funds meant to increase human capital. For instance, children under the age of 17 must regularly attend school and mothers need to ensure their children are vaccinated.

According to a 2010 analysis of polling data and media coverage by the World Bank, the strict conditions for government assistance legitimized Bolsa Família with Brazilian voters and generated widespread support on both ends of the political spectrum.

The program has also been lauded for being highly affordable. “The amount spent on Bolsa Família is nothing,” Yoshiaki Nakano, the director of the São Paulo School of Economics, said in an interview with Foreign Affairs. As one of the world’s largest poverty reduction programs, Bolsa Familia costs Brazilian taxpayers less than 0.5 percent of the country’s $2.3 trillion GDP.

Bolsa Familia was structured to benefit not only those living in extreme poverty, but all Brazilians.

President Lula explained the benefits to Foreign Affairs when he first introduced Bolsa Familia, “When millions can go to the supermarket to buy milk, to buy bread, the economy will work better,” he said. “The miserable will become consumers.”

Daniel Liddicoet

Sources: World Bank 1, Estadao, World Bank 2, Foreign Affairs
Picture: Google Images

In October 2015, the World Bank raised the international poverty line from $1.25 to $1.90 per day.

The international poverty line was originally introduced in 1990 and is determined by combining national poverty lines from the world’s poorest nations. From there, the World Bank uses Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) rates to convert the poverty line into U.S. dollars and currencies of other developing countries.

The international poverty line has become the benchmark for policy goals regarding poverty, including the U.N.’s Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Every few years, the Independent Comparison Program (ICP) publishes new sets of PPPs, reflecting both changes in relative price around the world and methodological changes.

Beginning in 1991, PPPs from 1985 created the very first international poverty line at $1 per day. Since then, new sets of PPPs have been published in both 1993 and 2005, increasing the international poverty lines $1.08 per day and $1.25 per day, respectively.

Using PPPs from data collected in 2011, the international poverty line increased is now set at $1.90, based on an increase in the cost of living globally

Today’s poverty line reflects accurate costs of food, clothing and shelter needs around the world. Based on data from the World Bank, more than 700 million people still live below the poverty line compared to 900 million in 2012.

While extreme poverty has decreased over the past 10 years, organizations similar to The Borgen Project are essential in raising awareness for the continued struggle to end poverty.

New data regarding global poverty will be collected in April 2016 and will determine how well efforts to eradicate poverty have paid off.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: Jagran Josh, The World Bank
Photo: The Guardian

Five Unique Facts about Extreme Poverty around the World
1. More than 1 billion people around the world live on the price of a vending machine candy bar.

Many people have only a $1.25 per day for food, medicine and shelter. Although there are 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty, the number of people living on this amount has drastically decreased over the last three decades.

2. Poverty in India is different than poverty in China–and still different from poverty in other countries, too.

India has 179.6 million people living in poverty. India has a greater share of the world’s poor than it did 30 years ago. In the 1970s and 80s, India had about one-fifth of its people living in poverty. Now, that number has increased to one-third.

When living in poverty in India, families have to deal with many harsh conditions. Due to poor weather conditions, lack of water and misuse of insecticides, many families can’t grow the crops needed to live a sustainable lifestyle. Families suffering from these poor conditions may move to the slums of Mumbai to get away, where they face other harsh conditions like overcrowded communal bathroom facilities and the lack of proper sewage systems, meaning much of the water they consume is contaminated.

Many residents in India living in poorer conditions have put off things like health and education to keep on basic survival necessities. According to the World Bank, more than 70 percent of the 22 million people living in Mumbai live in the slums.

China, however, has 137.6 million people living in impoverished conditions. Poverty in China differs from poverty in India in that, as of August 2015, it had wiped out the majority of its poverty, but there are still people living in poverty in China’s rural regions. Between 50 and 55 percent of its people live in rural areas.

Over the last decade, the number of females has drastically increased as much of the male population has left to urban areas to find work. This has caused a decrease in farming knowledge among the general population. Farmers are also victims of devastating natural disasters that result in unpaved roads, decreased farm sizes and depleted resources.

3. There are people in the United States living in extreme poverty.

In 2012, a legislator in North Carolina stated there was no such thing as extreme poverty in the state. However, North Carolina is home to three of the top 10 poorest areas in the United States. Other areas include Nacogdoches, Texas; Dalton, Georgia and Gallup, New Mexico.

Over the last few years, the number of women living in extreme poverty in the United States increased from 5.9 percent to 6.3 percent from 2009 to 2010, meaning there are 42 million — about one in three — women living in or on the brink of poverty. One of every six of these women is elderly. In 2010 alone, more than 7.2 million women fell into extreme poverty.

4. More than enough food is produced in the world to keep everyone healthy.

Enough food in the world is produced to keep everyone on an adequate diet, but nearly 854 million people, or one in seven people, go hungry. About 2.8 million people still rely on wood, crop waste and other biomass to heat and cook their food, which can also lead to malnutrition. Luckily, there are many organizations, like Stop Hunger Now and World Hunger Organization, fighting hunger.

5. Poverty in Africa is caused by different effects than poverty in Latin America.
One of the major causes of poverty in Africa is unsustainable agriculture. Poverty in Africa takes place primarily in Africa’s rural regions, where citizens rely heavily on agriculture for sustenance and income. When the weather is harsh on crops, poor agricultural techniques are practiced or soil erosion prevents hearty crops, and many families suffer because of it.

In Latin America, one of the major causes is the inequality of wealth distribution. While poverty in Africa is mostly in rural areas, poverty in Latin America plagues both rural and urban regions. Other causes of poverty in Latin and South America are internal conflicts and issues with structural adjustments.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Mic, Gabriel Project Mumbai, The Guardian, Yahoo
Photo: Flickr

3.9 billion people around the world do not have access to the Internet, a necessity most take for granted. Since the Internet has become a crucial part of daily life and a constant source of communication, what if the entire world were connected?

Usually, most people do not realize how essential technology and the Internet have impacted society until they really think about it.

What would people do without their iPhones at their beck and call? The world of technology has completely changed how society stays connected with one another.

Since global connectivity is essential, the United Nations have agreed to connect underdeveloped countries to the world of the Internet by 2020.

Supporters of the UN’s decision include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bono and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

During the UN’s September summit, Zuckerberg discussed how Internet access is the key to ending extreme poverty. “When communities are connected, we can lift them out of poverty,” he said. “We can and must do more,” said Zuckerberg.

Currently, the lowest levels of Internet access are found in sub-Saharan Africa, where Internet access is available to less than 2 percent of the populations in Guinea, Somalia, Burundi and Eritrea.

To do more, Zuckerberg and Facebook have created a free mobile application called Free Basics, launched in May 2015.

“This is a set of basic websites and services to introduce people to the value of the internet, and that we hope to add value to their lives. These websites are very simple and data-efficient, so operators can offer these for free in an economically sustainable way. Web sites do not pay to be included, and operators don’t charge developers for the data people use their services,” said Facebook in a statement.

With access to the Internet, there are vast possibilities when it comes to ending extreme poverty and improving the lives of those living in unfavorable conditions:

  • Farmers in rural areas can plan for unpredictable weather and watch the prices of goods in the stock market.
  • Families can receive money from relatives overseas.
  • Parents could teach their children basic education.

Truly, the possibilities are endless.

With Internet accessibility, developing countries can finally be on the same playing field and understand the benefits of Internet access.

“We have a simple message,” Zuckerberg wrote. “By giving people access to the tools, knowledge and opportunities of the Internet, we can give a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless.”

Alexandra Korman

Sources: Arc, CNN, One, UN News Centre
Photo: Flickr

China Pledges to Fight Extreme Poverty
China is pledging support to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit September 25-27.

For the first time, China is launching an assisting fund for developing countries with an initial investment of $2 billion. China’s goal is to give a total of $12 billion by 2030.

“This is [a] major break with the past,” said Steve Tsang, an expert on Chinese politics at the University of Nottingham. “It’s the first time China is putting a large amount money toward international development.”

Over the years, world leaders including the United States, have criticized China for not taking responsibility as a nation with the world’s second largest economy. The country also overcame poverty in the last few decades, with the poverty rate declining from 61 percent in 1990 to just 4 percent today – the sharpest reduction in poverty by any nation.

On a global scale, 14 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty today compared to 47 percent in 1990. This statistic represents the only target to be achieved under the Millennial Development Goals launched in 2000.

Some goals that will not be met by the end of 2015 include reducing child mortality and reducing childbirth deaths by two-thirds.

Countries that are still far behind in stopping poverty include India and sub-Saharan Africa, a divided nation that has the largest share of people living in extreme poverty worldwide.

In the past, China has contributed to helping extreme poverty in Africa, but the nation put their own strategic twist on their “humanitarian” efforts, wanting to expand their access to oil and gas.

Now, China is turning over a new leaf, letting the world know that the Chinese Government and China’s President Xi Jinping are jumping on the important bandwagon and showing their support.

With China’s renewed support, the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals seem more attainable.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report
Photo: Wikimedia

The Poorest City in the World

A poor city in a wealthy country: Monrovia, Liberia.

In examination of the ten poorest cities in the world, all ten of them are in Africa. In a Western African country on the coast lies a city full of slums. Theorists suggest the poorest city in the world is in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia. The population of Liberia is currently 4,294,000 and is one of the least populated countries in Africa. It is considered the fifth poorest country, despite being the oldest independent country.

The population suffers from poverty and hunger despite numerous political administrations and new policies being introduced. According to the United Nations’ The Food and Agriculture Organization, Liberia is a low-income and food-deficit country. Over half of the country’s population is food-insecure or highly vulnerable to food insecurity.

Twenty-nine percent of the population of the country live in Monrovia, for a total of 1,010,970 residents. At the turn of the century, 80 percent of the people living in the city were living in poverty. The gross national income is estimated at $790 USD annually. However, eighty-five percent of the population lives on less than one USD per day.

Conflict with q neighboring country, Sierra Leone, has had a major impact on the city. Despite the civil war that ended twelve years ago, the city still endures the effects. The constant turmoil between the two countries has caused the educational system to be broken down, abject poverty and inadequate educational access in these slums. The children of Monrovia continue to be subjected to the cycle of both poverty and illiteracy.

On the outskirts of the city, the agricultural sectors have major challenges that compound its poverty. There are low yields as a result of technological disadvantages. Inadequate roads and little to no access to markets limit the possible value chains. A majority of the people who live in these rural areas suffer from poverty.

In Monrovia, basic necessities are rarely available. Electricity and water resources are scarce and at best unreliable. Both the health care and social services are lacking. The GDP, the health expenditures is ten percent and the amount of health expenditures per capita is eight dollars USD annually. Slums are rampant with disease due to the flooding that has occurred. The streets of Monrovia are filthy, dangerous and unfinished, making it very unsafe to drive on them. The city lacks infrastructure and public transportation despite being the capital city. In Monrovia, the crime index is 82.81 and has a safety index of 17.19. Over the last three years, the crime rate has increased in the city.

Liberia is a country that is the home of many precious gem and diamond mines. Violent acts and war crimes are ongoing for power struggles over their control. This has left the city war-torn and vulnerable as a result of the exploitation of no true supply chain. The resource-rich country suffers from the pandemic of poverty and hunger. Monrovia is a city that depicts global poverty’s existence even in a naturally wealthy country.

Erika Wright

Sources: AllAfrica, Nations Encyclopedia, NUMBEO, Rural Poverty Portal, The Richest, WHO
Photo: Flickr

How the UN Fights Global Poverty2015 represents an important year for the United Nations to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

Among the goals that the United Nations has to eradicate poverty and hunger are: to reduce by half the amount of people that make less than $1 per day, accomplish employment and work for everyone including minorities such as women and to reduce by half the amount of people who are suffering from hunger.

The United Nations partners with different organizations and foundations in order to achieve these goals to eradicate poverty.

The Zero Hunger Challenge, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and the UNDP-IKEA Foundation are three movements that the United Nations are partnering with.

1. Zero Hunger Challenge

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gives the invitation to every country to work for the future, a future in which every person has adequate nutrition and doesn’t lack food.

The Zero Hunger Challenge involves having no stunted children, 100 percent access to adequate food, sustainable food systems, 100 percent increase in smallholder productivity and zero food waste.

According to this challenge, the investment in agriculture, rural development and equality of opportunity helps to eradicate hunger.

This challenge promotes different strategies and cooperation in order to strive for results that combat hunger.

2. Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement

The principle of this movement is that everyone has the right to good nutrition and food. This movement is supported by donors, people from the government, the United Nations and various others.

This movement seeks to address malnutrition by activities such as implementing programs and collaborations.

The principles of engagement are to be transparent and honest about the impact that collective action has, bring solutions that can be proven and interventions to scale, have a commitment to support the rights and equity of all human beings, resolve conflicts if they arise, be responsible so stakeholders can feel collectively accountable to the commitments, establish priorities and be communicative toward what works and what doesn’t.

3. UNDP-IKEA Foundation

This is a foundation that is benefiting 50,000 women from India.

This foundation has helped 9,000 dairy producers to form a company through provided financial literacy training. Profits also double within a year through the participation of the members.

The United Nations also contributes with other organizations, such as the UNDP and Brazil’s Natura Cosméticos, which brings training to beauty advisors in areas that vary from direct sales to customer training.

It is clear that the United Nations uses different methods to obtain results in the different humanity issues that it focuses on.

While they address different issues such as climate change, terrorism, food production, human rights, health emergencies and many others, global poverty and the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is under the Millennium Development Goals that the United Nations has, and partnering with different associations, movements, organizations and foundations has resulted in a way to reach for success in addressing these issues in the year of 2015.

– Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: United Nations 1, United Nations 2, Scaling Up Nutrition
Photo: Flickr

The Islamic Development Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have teamed up to launch a new $2.5 billion sharia-compliant fund targeting extreme poverty in the Middle East. By partnering with the world’s richest charitable institution, the IDB hopes to successfully combat poverty in the Islamic world.

Although the Middle East is home to some of the richest countries worldwide, it also includes some of the world’s poorest, such as Burkina Faso and Chad. Additionally, some countries show a combination of extreme wealth and poverty, such as Egypt and Indonesia. Others are known simply for their extreme violence, like Yemen and Syria.

Without the assistance of a strong partner, regions like these would normally have a much harder time bringing in grants and skills into their territories. Key players hope that the various connections established through the partnership will prove to be even more effective than the partnership itself.

Hassan Al Damluji, head of Middle East Relations at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recently discussed the Lives and Livelihoods Fund in an interview, stating, “We are engaging Gulf donors who will be around and are sustainable, unlike the Foundation, which is a family fortune and is thus finite.”

Al Damluji went on to explain that one of the key features of the fund is its encouragement of investment from the poor countries themselves. Another essential working part of the fund is that it gives aid linked to the loans taken by recipient countries, so these countries are held accountable for their own development.

The plan is for the fund to finance projects in four different areas: agriculture and food security, primary health care, infectious disease control and eradication, and basic infrastructure. Al Damluji explained that all of these areas represent major drivers of inequality across the globe.

The overarching goal is to maximize the beneficiaries of this partnership, regardless of race, country or religion. With the additional long-term goal of sustainability in mind, the fund will be strategically housed in and administered by the IDB.

So far, the IDB has provided $2 billion, and a remaining $500 million will come from donors over the next five years in the form of grants. Both partners will work together to determine which projects deserve priority. The partners will meet twice annually in order to ensure cooperation and coordination.

The reasoning behind the choice of the four main project areas is that over time, effects like improved health and increased farmer productivity will work to boost economies. The key to understanding the way the new fund will work is to operate from a big picture perspective and to take into account its long-term consequences.

This will be the first major fund of its kind to actually be based in the Middle East. Al Damluji boasted that the fund will also have a bank of shareholders that are not OECD countries and not traditional donors.

Both the IDB and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation understand the necessity of a well-functioning partnership in order to accomplish real change in the Middle East. The new partnership is more important than the fund itself and cooperation is absolutely necessary.

Additionally, both partners understand that two minds are better than one—especially when dealing with such a deeply rooted, complex problem. Together, the IDB and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have raised the bar in the global anti-poverty fight.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Nonprofit Quarterly, Gulf News
Photo: Time USA Newsweek


In 2000, the United Nations set the Millennial Development Goals. Ambitious proposals that sought to improve the lives for the billions of impoverished around the world. Fifteen years later, many of those goals have been accomplished.

Globally, 700 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty. Millions were saved due to vaccinations for malaria, tuberculosis and other non-communicable diseases. The number of people who didn’t have access to freshwater dropped significantly and the disparity of boys to girls enrolled in school dropped in every region on earth.

This was all accomplished before 2015.

Some goals are still in progress. For example, efforts to lift people out of poverty can result in environmental degradation. The rate of hunger, while dropping, is not falling quickly enough to meet the goal set in 2000.

Despite this, the United Nations is now going even bolder. Set to be adopted by world leaders in September, the new Sustainable Development Goals seek to finish what the Millennial Development Goals started, while adding their own components.

The seventeen goals are comprehensive, and apply to individuals as well as countries. Despite their broadness in scope, these goals demonstrate that poverty, climate change, health and economic wellbeing are all interconnected issues.

These are the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals:

1. End Poverty in all its forms everywhere

2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

5. Achieve gender quality and empower all women and girls

6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

14. Conserve and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Indeed, ambitious.

The United Nation website has a more comprehensive explanation of how each of these goals are to be accomplished by 2030.

It is estimated that these goals will cost roughly one trillion dollars a year. However with international tax reform, developing countries will generate more domestic tax revenue and be able to meet their own development agendas with less foreign aid. Members of the United Nations believe this will allow international aid to become a thing of the past.

In an interview with the BBC, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the Sustainable Development Goals are different from other United Nation initiatives because it harnesses the private sector investment, in addition to developing country’s domestic resources.

She believes this will “turbo charge” development.

The ambitiousness of the Sustainable Development Goals is daunting. However the past fifteen years saw so much progress that the world can be cautiously optimistic.

– Kevin Meyers

Sources: BBC,, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Photo: Fiinovation