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Famine in North Korea

North Korea is known as one of the world’s most economically isolated countries. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, North Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was only $40 billion in 2015. North Korea also has an extremely negative track record of famine. The 1990s famine in North Korea is estimated to have killed between up to 1 million people from 1995 to 2000.

How Did North Korea Get to This Point?

After the conclusion of World War II, Korea was split between the Soviet Union and the United States along parallel 38. In 1950, the Korean War began after communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea. The war went on until 1953 and ended in a stalemate. Ever since the Korean War, North and South Korea have been divided at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and the two countries have still not signed an official peace agreement to date.

North Korea’s communist regime has committed numerous human rights violations and threatened the United States, Japan and South Korea with a war on a frequent basis. As a result, the United Nations and the United States have placed significant sanctions on North Korea that have seriously reduced economic growth in the country. In fact, North Korea’s economic situation is so poor that many experts believe that, without China as North Korea’s major ally and trading partner, the country would not be able to sustain itself.

There have been past attempts to negotiate with North Korea, particularly regarding their nuclear weapons program. In June 2018, President Trump became the first United States President to meet with North Korea’s tyrannical regime, headed by Kim Jong Un. While President Trump is attempting to negotiate with North Korea, there has not been any significant progress made so far regarding diplomacy. However, President Trump temporarily succeeded in stopping Kim Jung Un from testing ballistic missiles (as many as 12 tests were conducted in 2019) and was also able to negotiate bringing home the remains of 55 American soldiers who died during the Korean War.

Why Does North Korea Have Problems With Famine?

Since North Korea’s annual GDP is low, monetary resources are tight. Unfortunately, the Regime uses nearly 25 percent of its GDP towards military funding. It does not invest as much in basic services such as healthcare, clean water, roads and food. On top of that, North Korea is a rather small country with nearly 24 million people. Its land area is estimated to be the size of Mississippi. Most of the northern areas are mountainous, which makes agriculture very difficult.

The devastating 1990s famine in North Korea was caused by a variety of factors. Besides the major problems discussed above, an excess of floods brought on by El Nino in 1995 and 1996 caused devastation in North Korea. This devastated crops and destroyed already limited farmland. As grain resources decreased, the government reduced the supply to its people in order to preserve food resources for itself and the military.

Are Conditions in North Korea Improving?

Conditions in North Korea are very difficult to gauge because the country is extremely selective regarding who is allowed in and out of the country. Therefore, data is limited. However, most experts agree that famine in North Korea has not improved very much. While North Korea’s GDP is slowly growing at approximately 4 percent, there were still 1,137 defectors in 2018. Twenty percent of North Korea’s children are thought to be stunted, and 40 percent of North Korean residents are malnourished. All of these factors are signs that conditions are still poor throughout the country.

On a positive note, domestic agriculture has improved greatly. Grain production has almost doubled from the 1990s to about 5 million tons per year. Humanitarian aid to North Korea is now supplying nearly 30 percent of the country’s food supply. In 2016, the United Nations spent at least $8 million in foreign aid to help reduce malnutrition. In the meantime, North Korea’s upper class, which largely consists of government officials and military generals, has plentiful access to food. This is largely because they all live in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. Unfortunately, smuggled photos out of North Korea show small villages with residents starving, and in extreme cases, eating grass.

Nearly half of North Korea’s population still lives in poverty. Human rights violations are common, and the military is considered a priority over infrastructure and agricultural production. Until North Korea develops normalized relations with the rest of the world and commits more resources to its people, it is highly doubtful that any major breakthrough against famine or poverty will be possible.

Kyle Arendas
Photo: Pixabay

The International Commitment for Foreign Aid SpendingCurrently, there is an international commitment among developed countries to spend 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) on foreign aid. The goal for this aid is to assist the world’s poorest countries in developing sustainably. However, the majority of the richest countries in the world have not met this commitment. In fact, the United States ranked last in 2018 (27th) on the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) after only spending 0.18 percent on foreign aid. While the U.S. is reducing foreign aid spending, four countries are choosing to invest even more into developing countries than international commitment. They are doing so not only for humanitarian reasons but for strategic reasons as well.

Here are the four countries exceeding the international commitment for foreign aid spending.

4 Countries Exceeding the Commitment for Foreign Aid Spending

  1. Denmark – In 2018, Denmark allocated 0.72 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. The majority of this amount took the form of bilateral aid, which means Denmark provided aid directly to foreign governments rather than international organizations. With its commitment to foreign aid spending, the country seeks to enhance its soft power and to reduce immigration to Denmark. Development Minister of Denmark Ulla Tørnæs stated, “Through our development work, we create better living conditions, growth and jobs in some of the world’s poorest countries and thereby help prevent migration.”
  2. Norway – Norway spent 1 percent of its GNI on foreign aid in 2018. Although the country directed a higher percentage of its GNI to foreign aid than Denmark, Norway’s quality of foreign aid is not as strong. According to the Center for Global Development, the country’s aid score has declined due to struggles in the transparency and learning categories. According to Børge Brende, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, foreign aid spending enhances Norway’s soft power and national security interests. Additionally, the promotion of business development in foreign countries “is a good example of how aid can be used as a catalyst to mobilize other, larger flows of capital.”
  3. Luxemburg – Luxemburg spent 1 percent of its GNI on foreign aid in 2018. Luxemburg’s aid score is quite high, ranking fifth out of 27 among CDI countries. As explained by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), efficient bilateral foreign aid spending “enables Luxembourg to maximize its visibility, impact and international influence.” Currently, Luxemburg focuses its foreign aid spending in sub-Saharan Africa due to its particularly high rates of poverty.
  4. Sweden – At 1.01 percent, Sweden ranks first amongst developed nations for the highest percent of GNI directed towards foreign aid. Foreign aid has become a primary focus for Sweden due to the high influx of immigrants Sweden has taken in within the past few years. Like Denmark, Sweden sees foreign aid as an opportunity to reduce the inflow of immigrants by improving the economic conditions and overall wellbeing of developing countries. This high level of foreign aid spending is one of the main reasons why Sweden ranked eighth in the world in terms of soft power in 2018. In that sense, foreign aid spending is a long-term investment for Sweden because it helps Sweden manage immigration flow, build up the global economy and increase its influence on foreign countries. Since Sweden views foreign aid as an investment, the country heavily focuses on learning about the effectiveness of its foreign aid spending in order to maximize results.

Denmark, Norway, Luxemburg and Sweden all demonstrate that foreign aid spending is in the national interest of developed nations. Since these countries do not perceive foreign aid spending as a mere charity, they have become more incentivized than most other developed countries to provide high-quality aid.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

What is USAID
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is often brought up when people talk about spending bills for foreign aid and in policy reports analyzing the government foreign assistance programs. They do not explain what USAID actually is, what its purpose is, who is in charge of it, or what are its responsibilities as an organization.

The text below will go through the history of USAID, its importance to the United States government, and the organization’s responsibilities in the fiscal year 2019.

History of USAID

In the fall of 1961, U.S. Congress passed the Foreign Assitance Act. This act formally separated military and non-military aid since before this point political and military spending was not differentiated from development spending. The bill also mandated for the creation of an agency that will be responsible for managing the new category of economic and development aid. President John F. Kennedy, shortly after the passing of the bill, created USAID by executive order.

The creation of USAID unified several existing programs and operations, including the Food for Peace Program, loans from the Development Loan Fund and the economic assistance from International Cooperation Agency. By unifying these operations, USAID provided a new focus on aiding other countries.  

Who is in charge of USAID and what is USAID responsible for?

USAID largely follows the policy directions of the President, State Department and the National Security Council. It can be stated with the certainty that it is not a completely interdependent agency. USAID is not responsible for military aid whose responsibility falls primarily to the Department of Defense. Instead, USAID is concerned with humanitarian and development aid.

Since its formation, USAID’s scope of humanitarian aid expanded. USAID’s assistance now includes global health, gender equality, water and sanitation, education and many other categories. It also works in several regions all over the world including Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

A good example of what USAID does as an organization is the program called Promoting Gender Equality in National Priority Programs Project (PROMOTE) in Afghanistan. This program aims to increase female participation in the total workforce by offering women internships to build up their resume and network.

It will also help the economic development of Afghanistan by creating a larger workforce. According to an evaluation made by USAID in 2017, 237 women got a job in the first year of the program’s implementation. Also, 98 percent of the women who were helped into internships by USAID reported that they were working in a women-friendly workplace.

What is USAID planning on doing in 2019?

USAID and the State Department will receive $39 billion from the president’s budget. USAID is responsible for managing $16 billion of this amount that is just below half of all the money allocated to foreign aid. USAID hopes to accomplish several objectives in the fiscal year 2019 including providing leadership in response to national disasters and human crises, improving global health by stopping the spreading of diseases and improving transparency of the organization’s activities and its spendings.

To summarize, what is USAID? USAID is an organization that is the primary executor of foreign aid spending of the United States. It oversees billions of dollars every year with the goal of helping developing nations economically, socially and politically. USAID does this through the creation of government programs to help those who need it most.

– Drew Garbe
Photo: Flickr

Living in Extreme Poverty: A Global Decline
Less than 40 years ago, close to 42 percent of the world’s population was living in extreme poverty. People living under these conditions often cannot buy basic necessities like food and do not have access to clean water. They face starvation and disease on a daily basis.

However, in 2018, the world has become a better place, slowly but surely. By today’s reckoning, fewer people than ever before are living in extreme poverty, and it is something to celebrate. Though there is still a lot of work to be accomplished, the fact of the matter is that extreme poverty is declining everywhere.

Decades of Extreme Poverty Decline

The current standard of determining extreme poverty is whether someone is living on less than $1.90 per day. There is often debate over whether extreme poverty is truly ending or if contemporary standards for determining poverty rates are too low. Current research has determined that extreme poverty rates are declining no matter what amount per day is being used. 

Despite the negative effects of the 2008-2009 financial crisis on the global economy, the world community has made significant strides towards ending extreme poverty. A report published by The World Bank in 2016 found that from 1981 to 1990, the percentage of those living in extreme poverty had declined from 42 percent to 35 percent.

The later study published that from 1990 to 2013, the number of people living in extreme poverty had reduced to 10.7 percent, meaning that, in those two decades, about 1.1 billion people around the world clambered out of extreme poverty.  

Between 2008 and 2013, The World Bank found that earnings increased by 40 percent for those living in extreme poverty. And just between 2012 and 2013, the number of those living in extreme poverty dropped by 100 million people. After 2016, that number lowered to 9.1 percent.

Crucial Steps to Reducing Extreme Poverty

Using data identified as beneficial in lowering a country’s poverty rate, The World Bank boiled their findings down to six crucial steps that a country could make to lower their poverty rates.

  • Universal health coverage
  • Universal access to quality education
  • Making cash transfers to poor families
  • Rural infrastructure — especially roads and electrification
  • Progressive taxation
  • Early childhood development and nutrition

The World Bank study noted that the most significant declines in extreme poverty came from the Pacific Islands and East Asia. Approximately 50 percent of those still living in extreme poverty today will be found in Sub-Saharan Africa. This region of the world will require the highest amount of foreign aid and relief efforts looking into the future.

How To Help

Those individuals who are fortunate enough to live in areas of the world predominantly above the poverty line can do their part by contacting their representatives at both the local and national level. Furthermore, continued support through foreign aid is crucial to the ongoing development of regions that need help the most. Today, it’s estimated that 775 million people still live below the poverty line, often on less than $1.90 a day. The global effort is getting closer to eliminating that number every day.

– Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr

Multilateral Aid Review ActThe Multilateral Aid Review Act calls for a complete review of The United States system for foreign assistance. It would also serve as the foundation for a Global Development Strategy for foreign aid and would assist in any potential reconstruction of U.S. developmental programs and efforts. Ultimately, the importance of The Multilateral Aid Review Act is that the bill provides a positive move towards evidence-based reforms as well as offers a potential substitution to the proposed budget cuts for international aid programs.  

A Bipartisan Group of Supporters

The importance of The Multilateral Aid Review Act can be seen by the bipartisan group of Senators who introduced the bill. Two Senators from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), introduced the legislation that will review and potentially enhance the effectiveness of The United States participation in foreign organizations as well as improve accountability. The Multilateral Aid Review Act is also cosponsored by a number of Senators including Todd Young (R-Ind.), Tim Kaine (D-Va), Marco Rubio (R-Fla), Michael Bennet (D-Colo), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga) and Bob Casey (D-Pa).  

According to Senator Bob Corker, “American taxpayers deserve to know how our involvement in these organizations benefits this country (…) Establishing an interagency review process will give us a more thorough and objective way to evaluate the performance of these institutions.” Senator Chris Coons stated, “At a time when some question the value of foreign assistance, I am proud to lead this bill which will provide data to analyze the effectiveness of our investments with these agencies and others.”  

Oversite of How the Money is Allocated

The importance of The Multilateral Aid Review Act is that it will establish an “interagency task force” that will review the organizations that receive federal foreign aid assistance. The proposed task force will be led by The Department of State, but it would have to consult with Congress and various outside experts. It would assess each organization’s financial management practices. There are three specific areas that would be evaluated:

  1. The degree to which the organization meets their declared goals
  2. Ensuring those goals align with U.S. policies
  3. The effectiveness of pursuing U.S. objectives multilaterally

In March 2018, President Trump announced, as a part of his proposed budget, that an estimated 28 percent of current spending on foreign aid would be cut. Obviously, this would have an astronomical impact on countries facing extreme poverty and the organizations hoping to put an end to this issue.

To put this in perspective, there would be a 25 percent cut in global health programs, the impact of which would be seen across all sectors. A 68 percent cut would slash The Bureau for Food Security, which works to eliminate world hunger.  

Helping Countries in Need As Well As US Interests

The importance of the Multilateral Aid Review Act is that it allows for the possibility of protecting countries receiving foreign aid as well as organizations and programs working towards solving world issues. The truth of the matter is that The United States investing in foreign aid not only helps countries in need but it also can help America in several ways.

  • Foreign aid is an investment that can be returned by creating strong trading partnerships that will eventually bring both employment and income back into The United States.
  • The United States is safer because foreign aid helps resolve the conditions that led to instability, therefore, reducing the threat of violence and even terrorism.
  • Investing in foreign aid helps prevent epidemics, which ultimately save thousands of lives, not to mention thousands of dollars in aid in the event of an epidemic.
  • The United States participating generously in foreign aid boosts the country’s reputation, which opens up several opportunities, including allowing U.S. goals to be pursued.  

The Multilateral Aid Review Act is an extremely important piece of bipartisan legislation that will allow a more detailed review of where The United States foreign aid budget goes, therefore, ensuring it is spent in the right way. If passed, this bill will not only help The United States but also countries around the globe facing extreme poverty.

– Olivia Hodges
Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits From Foreign Aid to Lesotho
Situated wholly within the country of South Africa, the small country of Lesotho is a member of a very rare group of countries which exist completely within the borders of a separate state. Lesotho’s population is roughly 2 million, and its geography is mainly highland. At its $1,160 GDP per capita, it is classified as a lower- and middle-income country by the World Bank. While it may seem as though this African monarchy should not demand the foreign aid of large developed countries, due to its relatively small size (about the size of Maryland) and population, quite the opposite is true. Here is a look into how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho.

Economic

The U.S. is Lesotho’s largest trading partner with Lesotho sending 43.9 percent of its total exports to U.S. shores. Lesotho’s exports are mainly constituted of clothing (40 percent) and diamonds (22 percent).  Provided that these commodities are valued in the U.S., the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho because it will continue receiving exports at the current rate, which will likely grow given increasing development. Furthermore, Lesotho also gets 93 percent of its imports from South Africa. As Lesotho benefits from foreign aid, the market for South African goods increases. So investing in this small country could potentially benefit a much broader population in South Africa. With the U.S. being South Africa’s third largest import source, this could potentially increase as the prosperity of Lesotho grows.

Regional Security

Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has made global political stability a priority in its foreign policy. Like many decolonized nations, Lesotho has had much violence in its short existence. In 1966, Britain released its colonial rule on Lesotho, and the country was founded as a monarchy. However, in 1970, the country’s first Prime Minister Chief Leabua Jonathan suspended the constitution, exiled the king and ushered in a 23-year-period of authoritarian rule, complete with multiple coups and political repression. In the last five years, there have been armed clashes between the police force and the military. Unrest in Lesotho has involved South Africa in the past, and if Lesotho were to receive foreign aid, the benefits in political stability would also permeate South Africa.

Health

In Lesotho, 24.6 percent of the adult population (15-49 years old) is infected with HIV/AIDS, compared to an estimated 18 percent of adults in South Africa. This staggering percentage, nearly a quarter of the population, is the second highest prevalence of the disease in the world. Young people make up a sizeable portion of this population, along with 13 percent of young women and 6 percent of young men in the country being HIV positive.  The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Lesotho by achieving its goals for HIV/AIDS reduction and the improvement of global health. Lesotho is a key benefactor of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is a U.S. governmental global initiative for the reduction of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. PEPFAR would surely benefit by an increase in foreign aid funding.

Despite Lesotho’s small and landlocked status, it represents an area in which U.S. foreign aid can be utilized to help Lesotho’s people and benefit the economic, political and medical goals and interests of the United States.

– William Menchaca
Photo: Flickr

More Bang for Your Buck: Making Foreign Aid More Effective
A highly contentious issue, the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid has long been the subject of debate among congressmen and concerned citizens alike. From how much money is allocated to recipient nations to the impact that aid actually has on issues such as poverty and civil war, advocates and critics of foreign aid point to various criteria to evaluate the merits, or lack thereof, of continued U.S. aid.

The Case for Aid

Proponents of foreign aid insist programs are instrumental in fostering socioeconomic growth, reducing poverty and improving the overall quality of life. There are certainly examples that support this notion. USAID-funded programs have significantly reduced maternal and child mortality, helping at least 4.6 million children and 200,000 mothers, according to agency officials. As of 2015, more than 7.6 million people had received improved access to drinking water and more than 4.3 million people had improved sanitation. Furthermore, 41.6 million children saw improved reading instruction and safer learning environments between 2011 and 2015.

Foreign Aid Skepticism

Yet critics of aid remain steadfast in their opposition, pointing to fraud and corruption, lack of transparency, foreign aid dependency and general ineffectiveness as indicators. Around $1.17 billion in aid that was given to Malawi in 2012 was exploited by corrupt politicians and businessmen. At least $30 million was taken from the treasury and robbed from the 17 million poor and AIDS-ravaged inhabitants. In fact, these sentiments are so strong that, according to ABC News-Washington Post polls, “the only possible federal spending cut a majority favored was for foreign aid.”

Clearly, there are two sides to the story when it comes to foreign aid. When allocated and distributed properly, it can work wonders for the world’s poor and developing countries. However, corruption and misuse still stand in the way of much of its potential. These issues can be addressed by exploring various ways of making foreign aid more effective.

Making Foreign Aid More Effective

There are three important ways that countries around the globe can make foreign aid more effective.

  1. Improving Aid Quality: By dividing foreign aid into smaller projects, donor countries can control the volatility and lack of predictability of aid, thus significantly decreasing the deadweight loss of development assistance. In 2008 alone, deadweight losses from official aid amounted to $7 billion. Smaller projects, according to Brookings, can lead to further innovation and scaling up, thus offsetting deadweight losses.
  2. Linkage: In order for foreign aid to maximize its impacts in a developing country, it must be linked to other important development policies, namely trade, investment and migration. For example, in Haiti and Pakistan, countries in which the U.S. has a significant economic stake, trade restrictions on textile and garment imports prevent further growth.
  3. Mobilizing the Private Sector: It is generally accepted that in order to foster economic growth and development, countries must turn to the private sector. Unfortunately, foreign aid has yet to reflect that sentiment. In fact, much of it is still directed toward the public sector. Cities harbor the most economic growth yet receive only $1 to $2 billion in aid a year. Approximately one billion slum dwellers reside in the city centers of developing countries and represent the key to mobilizing economic growth.

At the end of the day, foreign aid aims to foster social and economic growth in developing countries by enfranchising governments, health care systems, education institutions and infrastructure. Consequently, growth in these developing nations helps developed nations by opening up new markets and increasing stability. When confronted with corruption or misuse or any of the other criticisms of foreign aid, governments should not slash foreign aid budgets, but rather should apply these three crucial ways of making foreign aid more effective.

– McAfee Sheehan
Photo: Flickr

USAID's support for children
Among the groups that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) aims to support, children across the world are a top priority. From health-related aid to education opportunities and protection from violence, USAID’s support for children employs a variety of means to help kids survive and grow despite poverty and other adversities.

USAID Addresses Preventable Child Mortality

An important aspect of USAID’s support for children is access to medical assistance. An overwhelming 75 percent of child deaths under the age of five results from newborn deaths and treatable diseases: pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. These illnesses could be effectively countered by timely low-technology treatments, which USAID attempts to provide on the local level by bolstering public-private engagement and promoting Integrated Community Case Management (iCCM).

USAID strengthens iCCM programs that train and assist with local community members treating children. Such programs provide vital medical care on the ground in communities that are often hard to reach. USAID helps construct sustainable networks of monitoring and evaluation, clinical referral, supportive supervision and more, which in turn ensure the functioning of iCCM programs.

A USAID-supported iCCM program in Zambia led to a 68 percent early treatment rate of childhood pneumonia. USAID’s efforts to treat malaria have reached millions of children in Tanzania alone, where 70,000 people die from the disease annually. Within a decade, simple preventative action and treatment by community health workers have contributed to a 28 percent decrease of child mortality rate.

USAID’s Support for Children: A Comprehensive Action Plan

USAID’s efforts to help children around the world are not limited to medical care. USAID, together with other U.S. government departments and agencies, launched the ambitious and comprehensive five-year U.S. Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity in 2012. Backing the plan is Public Law (PL) 109-95, signed in 2005 to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which asks the U.S. government to effectively respond to vulnerable youths in low and middle-income nations.

USAID’s support for children is wide-ranged and well-coordinated under the Action Plan, focusing on the value of investing in boys and girls in order to achieve long-term economic and social progress. Among those receiving aid are children affected by HIV/AIDS, those living outside of family care, those who have been trafficked, those under sexual violence or exploitation and more.

Interventions employed by the Action Plan are evidence-based, meaning they are both effective and instructive for further action in the future. Such actions include improving the families’ socioeconomic status, rescuing youths suffering from the worst forms of child labor, promoting protective family care and protecting the education of both children and their surrounding communities.

According to the most recent annual report for Congress, the plan has reached millions of young lives since 2012. Understanding the significance of nutrition, especially in the first thousand days of life, USAID and Food for Peace sent food assistance to approximately 20 million children in 61 countries with funds from Fiscal Year 2015. Children separated from their families in 11 countries received help from USAID to return to family care.

Effective Utilization of the Private Sector

Many of USAID’s support for children take place in the private sector, via public-private engagement as well as recent “development impact bonds.” Public-private engagement is manifest in USAID’s Strengthening Health Outcomes through the Private Sector (SHOPS), which increases the ready supply of diagnostic and treatment-related products. The program works with local manufacturers and importers and also informs health workers regarding the appropriate use of medical knowledge and tools.

In December of 2017, USAID launched a new development impact bond for India, the Utkrisht Bond, that mobilizes private capital to make improved healthcare accessible to 600,000 women, aiming to save up to 10,000 mothers and their newborns. With private capital enabling an initial investment, USAID and Merck for Mothers will only follow up with its $4.5 million commitment after the development goals are realized, ensuring the effectiveness of aid.

Innovative, sustainable and replicable efforts such as these are consistent with USAID’s mission to help developing countries so that they eventually grow out of the need for aid. Continued assistance from the U.S. agency will ensure that millions of children around the world are given the help they need for a better future.

– Feng Ye
Photo: Flickr

Facts about the Lake Chad Basin Crisis
The Lake Chad Basin crisis is a humanitarian emergency that is among the most severe in the world. This crisis began in 2009 with the violence caused in Nigeria by Boko Haram, an Islamic jihadist group that was formed in 2002. Since then, the conflict has also spread to Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

This humanitarian disaster has caused hunger, malnutrition and displacement in the region. Additionally, violence continues and Boko Haram even aims to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid. Because the crisis is often overlooked, it is important to address the facts about the Lake Chad Basin crisis.

10 Facts About the Lake Chad Basin Crisis

  1. Although its mission now is to overthrow the Nigerian government, the Boko Haram group was originally created to resist western education and influence. The group is also against things like voting in elections, an education system without religion and dressing with shirts and pants because this reflects western influence.
  2. As of May 2016, around 20,000 people had been killed by the extremists. Additionally, as a result of the crisis, many children have been separated from their families and are often killed or recruited to join armed groups. Females are also subject to physical abuse, forced labor, rape, forced marriage and sexual assault.
  3. There are more than 17 million people living in the affected areas across the four Lake Chad Basin countries. Many who are living in these affected areas are solely dependent on humanitarian aid for survival.
  4. The conflict has resulted in around 2.4 million people being displaced. More than half of those who were displaced were children. Of these children, 50 percent were under the age of five when displaced from their homes.
  5. There is an increased risk of disease in the area since malnutrition rates have reached critical levels. Those who are suffering from the conflict often depend on international aid for medical assistance. This can be extremely problematic due to Boko Haram’s efforts to stop foreign aid from reaching the area.
  6. There are 5.2 million people in need of food assistance as a result of the conflict. Approximately 745,000 suffer from acute malnourishment. Of these people, 490,000 are children.
  7. Currently, around four million people are food insecure in the affected regions. Unfortunately, it is predicted that this will increase to almost five million in the lean season between June and August.
  8. The severity of the conflict and its consequences continues to increase. Civilians are frequently still under attack by the Boko Haram group. The number of internally displaced people continues to substantially rise in the region, even though millions of people have already been displaced.
  9. The U.N. estimates that nearly 11 million people in the region require and depend on humanitarian assistance for survival. Approximately 7.7 million people requiring aid are located in the northeastern region of Nigeria in the three most affected states: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
  10. Currently, it is estimated that around $1.58 billion will be required in aid to the region for 2018. Unfortunately, only $477 million, or approximately 30 percent of the goal, has been funded. It is important to encourage international assistance for this particular cause in order to ensure the survival of millions.

Many NGOs and foreign governments are working together to improve the living situation of those suffering from the Lake Chad Basin crisis. However, it is still important to urge senators and representatives to pass legislation that can assist in this humanitarian emergency that has left millions in need due to hunger, violence and displacement.

– Luz Solano-Flórez

Photo: Flickr

Overpopulation and Poverty
There has been a longstanding notion that overpopulation and poverty are related. The belief is that overpopulation causes poverty. While it is true that many of the poor nations around the world are overpopulated, research has shown that overpopulation is not the prime reason for poverty.

Experts believe that blaming overpopulation for the financial struggle of a nation could be an oversimplification of the problem. Here are the three main myths when it comes to overpopulation and poverty.

Three Myths About OverPopulation and Poverty

  1. Improving healthcare in poor nations contributes to overpopulation: Couples in poor nations on an average have four children, double the average of their counterparts in a developed nation. It is not a coincidence that the same nations also have the highest infant mortality rate and the worst healthcare facilities in the world. The reason for this is that parents are hoping to make sure that at least two of their children live long enough to take care of them when they are old.When medical facilities are improved, the infant mortality rate drops. As a result, children are less affected by fatal diseases and live longer healthier lives. Gradually, parents start to have smaller families due to a confidence that their existing offspring shall live and thrive and the overall population growth rate starts to drop.Therefore, poor health care conditions are actually what contribute to overpopulation and poverty. Conversely, improving healthcare facilities helps reduce the population.
  2. Foreign aid to poor countries leads to overpopulation: The U.S. contributes less than one percent of its GDP toward foreign aid. The funding reaches the poorest of nations around the world, helping them fulfill the basic needs of their populations like providing grains at subsidized rates, providing clean drinking water and building toilets, among others. This, in turn, reduces the risk of fatal diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea.Foreign aid also supports education, specifically girls’ education. Educating a female child is still considered an unnecessary financial burden or even taboo in many societies. Girls’ education is often discontinued to fund their brothers’ education.Girls’ education is a key factor to resolve overpopulation and poverty. Research and data in the past decades have shown that improving girls’ education has a direct and profound impact on population control. Therefore, foreign aid does not cause overpopulation; rather, it helps uplift nations out of poverty, giving them basic amenities and education.
  3. Overpopulation cannot be solved in this lifetime: Controlling the constantly rising population is a daunting task. Based on the current population growth rate, the world population is projected to swell to 11 billion people in the year 2100. Nevertheless, by reaping the benefits of persistent efforts toward improving global medical facilities, equality in education and birth control awareness overpopulation and poverty can be resolved. More importantly, it is possible in this lifetime.By bringing down the average number of children per couple to 1.5, total world population would decline to about six billion by 2100–less than half the projected rise! Fewer people means more resources, subsequently leading to a greater number of self-sufficient and prosperous nations.

These myths about overpopulation and poverty have persisted for years and still continue to stand in the way of poverty eradication. If the world is to move toward a brighter, healthier, more equal future for all, these myths must be eradicated as well.

– Himja Sethi
Photo: Flickr