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

The COVID-19 Pandemic

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

Drought in Madagascar

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

Declining Tourism Industry

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

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

The Good News

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

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

Demining Zimbabwe's National ParkLocated in southeast Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park is home to 11,000 African elephants, which is how it earned its name as the “Place of Elephants.” Unfortunately, it is also the site of thousands of buried landmines. These landmines were placed by the Rhodesian army during Zimbabwe’s Liberation War and have remained there for more than 40 years. Although there have been efforts to remove these mines, they continue to be a constant threat to the people of Zimbabwe and local wildlife. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park will have several benefits for the country.

APOPO: Demining Efforts

The United States has provided a grant of $750,000 to the nonprofit APOPO to demine the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, where a large portion of the undetonated landmines reside. The Sengwe Wildlife Corridor covers a stretch of land that connects the park to South Africa and is used regularly by migrating elephants.

The area that APOPO has been designated to work is one of the largest in the world: 37 kilometers lengthwise and 75 kilometers in width. With almost 6,000 landmines per kilometer, communities in the surrounding area are unable to access potential land for farming and endangered species are at constant risk.

The presence of the minefield prevents the elephant population of the park from migrating and potentially mixing with other elephant populations. This presents a long-term risk of limiting the already shrinking African elephant gene pool.

APOPO has established a five-year plan for demining Zimbabwe’s national park, expecting to remove all undetonated landmines from the area by 2025. It estimates that it will remove more than 15,000 landmines before the end of its operation in the corridor.

The nonprofit will be working in tandem with the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust to maintain that the process will not impede conservation goals for the park.

The project also complements USAID programs to support community-based natural resource management, provide climate-smart agricultural technologies and improve the value chain for communities to sell their products for a fair market price.

Poverty in Zimbabwe and COVID-19

Zimbabwe is currently facing severe economic hardships that have only worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 50% of Zimbabweans experienced food insecurity and 40% faced extreme poverty. This number is projected to increase as conditions worsen with the onset of the pandemic and severe droughts. Inflation in the country has been rampant, with prices of food increasing by 725%, resulting in a severe loss of purchasing power for the poor. The pandemic has impacted the already economically challenged country by decreasing trade and tourism.

Aiding Economic Recovery in Zimbabwe

The United States and APOPO hope that by clearing out the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, ecotourism in Zimbabwe will begin to thrive. As it stands currently, only 8,000 tourists on average visit Gonarezhou National Park compared to the 1.8 million tourists that visit the neighboring Kruger National Park of South Africa. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park means providing an extended opportunity for increased tourism in the struggling country. The efforts of APOPO, with the support of the United States, may be able to help economic recovery, reduce the impact of the pandemic and uplift communities that are battling poverty.

-Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

5 Ways Haiti Uses Its Foreign AidAccording to The World Bank, Haiti currently ranks as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Of its 11 million residents, more than half live in poverty and an estimated 2.5 million of that demographic live in extreme poverty, or on less than $1.12 USD a day. The Human Development Index metric assesses the development of a country based on the upward mobility of its residents. On this scale, Haiti ranks 169 of the 189 countries which have been analyzed.

In addition, Haiti has a history that demonstrates its vulnerability to natural disasters. In 2010, the country was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that claimed the lives of nearly 250,000 and displaced 1.5 million Haitians. Matthew, a category 4 hurricane, struck the island in 2015. The disaster claimed the lives of hundreds, displaced thousands and created a humanitarian crisis for over a million residents. The provision of foreign aid in Haiti has tremendously restored much of the damage incurred from these disasters. It has also been crucial in creating momentum in the nation’s development. The following are the five primary sectors in which Haiti has invested the $172.5M it has received in foreign aid from the United States.

Political Infrastructure and Democracy

Given its history of political instability, one of Haiti’s primary focuses is developing its democratic system and providing the means to facilitate the exchange of ideas between its government and constituents. To this end, programs have been instituted to improve the rule of law and the preservation of human rights, as well as investments in infrastructure, which provide mediums for constituents to interact with their political ecosystem. This comes in the form of developing media platforms and the formation of advocacy and interest groups. The country is currently in the midst of political gridlock, so the investments being made toward its democratic development are essential for Haiti’s development.

Economic Development

Like many developing countries, Haiti depends heavily on agriculture for economic output. To this end, the agriculture sector receives much of the aid allocated to economic development. Even with half of the Haitian workforce being employed in the agricultural sector, there is still a shortage of output. As nearly 60% of the country’s food supply has to be imported, there is still much room for development in this sector. Moreover, much of the remaining budgetary allocation that goes toward economic development is invested in infrastructure. This is absolutely essential in facilitating economic activity. This comes in the form of electric power lines and networks, gas stations, airports, railways, and more.

Administrative Costs

Every program instituted to carry out the functions necessary to assist in these developments requires manpower and infrastructure. Thus, it is paramount that a sizable percentage of Haiti’s foreign aid goes to this sector. This is the price of business in a developing country. Any given program or project requires personnel who need to be trained, housed and compensated. Furthermore, the housing programs require funding to compensate the contractors who build them and the cost of executing varying tasks. This expenditure can often be overlooked, but it is vital to development. Aside from the funding necessary to establish these programs, those who oversee these expenditures and evaluate the performance of the instituted programs receive aid compensation.

Humanitarian Efforts

The two natural disasters of the last decade have caused major developmental setbacks and internally displaced persons. Therefore, much of the foreign aid in Haiti goes into natural disaster readiness and the expenses involved in supporting those who have lost everything. It is through foreign aid that Haiti was able to house the 1.5M displaced individuals temporarily in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and again with the 188,000 displaced after hurricane Matthew in 2015. In 2020, this aid has helped Haiti battle not only with the health imperatives implicated by COVID-19, but in managing the increasing costs of its food imports. As a result of the pandemic, the global market put a premium on international trade, further straining Haiti’s budget.

Health Issues

Haiti puts the majority of its foreign aid towards health issues. These can include reproductive health, safe water supply, maternal and child health and now mitigating the spread of COVID-19. This investment of foreign aid has led to notable improvements in the state of these issues. An increase from 5% to 20% occurred in women being discharged with a long term contraceptive in place.

Additionally, access to potable water has increased from 43% to 59% in 2016 and there is an ongoing installation of proper sanitation facilities throughout the country. There has also been an increased effort to educate residents on the dangers of poor sanitation. The most pressing health issue that Haiti currently faces is the battle against HIV/AIDS; thus it demands the greatest allocation of aid invested in this sector. Roughly 160,000 Haitian residents live with this disease, and its spread is on the rise. However, through investments made in testing and treatment throughout the country, the progression of the rise in deaths and infections is slowing. Since 2010, deaths have decreased by 45% and the number of new cases per annum has changed from 8,800 to 7,300.

Haiti is a country where political turmoil, a struggling economy, food insecurity and considerable setbacks on all these fronts. Moreover, the results of natural disasters cause achieving a developed status to be difficult. However, foreign aid has played an essential role in Haiti’s recovery and in assisting in creating development momentum.

Christian Montemayor
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Sudan A fractured economy, political protests and the transition to a democratic country are factors that have put Sudan in the global spotlight. Due to shortages within the country and the added weight of COVID-19, Sudan is on track to receive much-needed financial aid from several global sources. Foreign aid to Sudan will provide direct relief to the impoverished people in the country.

Improved Foreign Relations

In February 2020, Sudan’s ex-president, Omar al-Bashir was prosecuted and convicted for the mass murders of people in the region of Darfur. The declaration was made that the country would cooperate with the ICC (International Criminal Court) for the prosecution. This act could serve as a window of opportunity for improved foreign relations and a new international image. There have also been talks of peace agreements between Sudan and Israel. These issues have attracted a global audience as the world watches to see where things could potentially lead to.

Democracy and Debt

One of the country’s most monumental feats was transitioning to democracy after many years of social discord and oppressive power. Unfortunately, this massive change also came with a damaged political system and an outstanding debt of nearly $60 billion. Necessities such as food and fuel have undergone an extreme rise in price at an 80% estimate and the introduction of COVID-19 could be the potential last straw for Sudan’s already overburdened economy. While Sudan’s army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Abdal Fatteh al-Burhan, is a member of the Sovereign Council, the relationship between the country’s government and the military is rocky. The prime minister, Abdalla Hamdock, is desperately trying to avoid a potential military takeover and is calling for any available financial support from allies abroad.

Sudan’s Call for Help

Sudan’s call for help had reached many different listening ears. In a joint effort, the World Bank, the European Union and several other countries signed a deal of almost $190 million that would go directly to families in need through the Sudan Family Support Programme (SFSP). The amount of foreign aid to Sudan would equal out to 500 Sudanese pounds (roughly $9) per person, per month for one year and aims to cover the needs of nearly 80% of Sudan citizens. Prime minister Hamdock noted that while willing donors have given $1.8 billion to help, the country is really in need of $8 billion for a real balance to its economy. The distribution of the aid was set to begin in October 2020 and will eventually total $1.9 billion after two years.

The Road Ahead

With the degree of social and political change in Sudan, the country is certainly moving in a positive direction. Reinventing the country’s image and political structure is no easy feat. Sudan has proven that change is certainly possible, even in the most dire circumstances, especially with sufficient international backing and support. Foreign aid to Sudan gives the people of the country hope for a better future.

– Brandon Baham
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in MozambiqueThe provision of foreign aid from the United States serves as a multifaceted solution and preventative measure to many issues that ultimately impact the United States. In assisting with the development of under-resourced countries and those afflicted by natural disasters and conflict, the country’s interest in strengthening U.S. eminence in the global political ecosystem is served, as is the initiative to foster and stabilize democracies that are essential in maintaining global peace. Mozambique is one such country that receives aid from the United States. Nearly half of the population lives in poverty and while having managed to combat that statistic with an annual decrease of 1%, the country continues to see rising levels of inequality. USAID’s 2019 assistance investment in Mozambique totaled $288 million. Foreign aid in Mozambique is being used in several key developmental areas.

Developing Education

A significant portion of U.S. foreign aid has been invested in providing basic education. This foreign aid in Mozambique has been applied in conjunction with the country’s national budgetary allocation of 15% for basic education. This initiative has led to improved access to education with the abolishment of enrollment fees, an investment in free textbooks, direct funding to schools and the construction of classrooms. With access to education improving, Mozambique now moves to focus on developing the quality of education it provides and extending the initiative of improving access to those who are in the early learning stage. Only 5% of children between the ages of 3 and 5 have access to such services. Moving forward, educational initiatives aim to focus on the improvement of teacher training, the retention of students (as only 8% continue onto secondary level) and optimizing the management and monitoring of education nationally.

Addressing Humanitarian Needs

A large part of foreign aid in Mozambique has been committed to battling humanitarian crises. Cabo Delgado is the northernmost province of the country and is experiencing an insurgency that is decimating its infrastructure and food security. As a result, there is an ongoing displacement of the population. In November 2020 alone, more than 14,300 displaced people arrived in the provincial capital Pemba. The World Food Programme estimates the cost of feeding internally displaced people in northern Mozambique to be at approximately $4.7 million per month, aside from the housing costs and the complexity of managing the crisis amid a global pandemic. This allocation of the country’s foreign aid will be vital in maintaining the wellbeing of people during the conflict and restoring the country’s infrastructure once the insurgency has subdued.

Improving the Health Sector

The bulk of foreign aid in Mozambique goes toward the many challenges the country faces with regard to health issues such as funding family planning, battling tuberculosis, maternal and child health as well as water and sanitation. More than $120 million goes toward this initiative but the most pressing of the issues is mitigating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2014, Mozambique ranked eighth globally for HIV cases. With the support, antiretroviral therapy and testing has expanded, which is evidenced by more than a 40% drop in new cases since 2004. Additionally, with a sharp increase in the treatment of pregnant women who carry the virus, one study recorded a 73% drop in cases among newborns between 2011 and 2014. The executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, has claimed that the epidemic could be completely eradicated by 2030 if such a rate of progress continues.

The developmental progress in Mozambique is reflective of the substantial impact that foreign aid has on developing countries. As U.S. foreign aid to developing countries continues, the hope is for other well-positioned countries to follow suit.

– Christian Montemayor
Photo: Flickr

Australia's Foreign Aid Initiatives Amid the COVID-19 PandemicAmid the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia continues its foreign aid efforts, especially with investments in sustainability and infrastructure. This demonstrates Australia’s deep commitment to altruistic sustainable solutions. The total Australian development assistance was still four billion AUD (Australian dollar) in the 2019-2020 year, even though the nation is in the depths of its first recession in 29 years and is affected by the global pandemic. This four billion AUD makes up 0.21% of Australia’s total budget as seen in recent years, highlighting foreign aid as a prerogative for Australia despite economic shortcomings, including budget cuts and a global pandemic.

The Pacific

Australia’s foreign aid used $1.4 billion to finance developmental assistance in the Pacific. There are significant infrastructure needs in the region, so developmental assistance includes infrastructure. The Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility in the Pacific became operational on July 1, 2020. This funding supports efforts such as roads, buildings and power. Australia’s foreign aid works with governments and institutions on education and health programs in the region. This was done in recognition of the notable infrastructure needs in the region and the important role infrastructure plays in sanctioning growth. This demonstrates the depth of Australia’s commitment to the growth and development of the Pacific region.

The Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific aims to transform Australia’s international assistance and be a pillar of sustainable, principles-backed foundational investments in the Pacific and the nation of Timor-Leste. It permits Australia to work directly with partner governments, and also the private sector, to manage essential infrastructure gaps while unsustainable debt is avoided. This highlights Australia’s commitment to sustainability.

Australia’s foreign aid budget poured $500 million into financing infrastructure in the Pacific since 2017. The amount of $450 million went to humanitarian and protracted crises, which saves lives, alleviates suffering and strengthens human dignity.

The Coral Sea Cable System

From 2017-2020, the foreign aid budget spent up to $200 million on improving access to the internet, dubbed the “Coral Sea Cable System”, in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. This has many beneficial aspects, such as improved access to resources for rural populations.

In 2019-2020, Australia’s foreign aid budget also spent $145 million contributing to strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in Indonesia. Australia’s aid to Indonesia is important because about 26.42 million Indonesians live in poverty, and roughly 5.5 to 8 million Indonesians are estimated to have fallen into poverty due to COVID-19. According to the World Bank’s Human Capital Index, the next generation of Indonesian citizens would be 54% as productive as they could have been if they had a complete education or full health. Therefore, Australia’s foreign aid is very important at this time.

Labor mobility describes how easy it is to move from one occupation to another. Countries like Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu face challenges such as a large percentage of their population living in remote regions. Thus, these populations have low labor mobility. Expanding labor mobility is necessary for the future of these regions.

Conclusion

Despite being in the middle of a recession and amid a global pandemic, Australia was able to give four billion AUD, or 0.21% of its total budget, in developmental assistance toward the Pacific region, especially investing in sustainability and infrastructure. The Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility in the Pacific aims to be sustainable, functional investments by allowing Australia to work directly with partner governments to manage infrastructure gaps while avoiding unsustainable debt. Since 2017, Australia has invested $500 million into infrastructure in the Pacific.

– Madi Drayna
Photo: Flickr

Wheat to SudanSudan’s position on the list of states that sponsor terrorism restricted their trades, imports and economy. However, with the recent removal, Sudan has already reaped the benefits of foreign aid from the United States. USAID approved a $20 million payment to the World Food Programme to provide a massive 65,000 metric ton shipment of wheat to Sudan.

Diplomacy Opens Doors

The $20 million shipment of wheat to Sudan is part of an $81 million commitment from the U.S. to help Sudan fight poverty and hunger. This contribution will bring its total aid for the fiscal year to over $400 million, making the U.S. the largest aid sponsor to Sudan.

Sudan’s removal from the list of states sponsoring terrorism was contingent on Sudan’s recognition of Israel as a nation.  After such recognition, Israel also sent a $5 million wheat shipment to Sudan.

Economic Lockdown Compounds Hunger Crisis

While Sudan has found recent diplomatic success, its plight as a nation remains dire. Nearly half of Sudanese people are in poverty, with 46% living under the poverty line as of 2018.

Roughly nine million people will need food assistance in 2020, up by 9% from 2019, as widespread poverty has been worsened by the effect of COVID-19 on the economy.

Further stress on already limited food resources comes from droughts, floods and conflict that has displaced nearly two million people, compounded with hosting one million refugees who need food assistance.

The rampant poverty in Sudan has led to extreme numbers of children suffering from hunger and malnutrition across the nation. The number of children facing emergency food insecurity levels doubled over the last year to 1.1 million. According to Save the Children’s country director in Sudan, Arshad Malik, “120 children are dying every day due to malnutrition.”  Overall, 9.6 million individuals in Sudan are food insecure as a result of lockdown restrictions, a weak economy, natural disasters and conflict.

USAID Contributes to Disaster Relief

Although the weak economy has waned further from job losses and food prices soaring from economic restrictions, food aid remains the first priority for Sudan and USAID. Additionally, Sudan has suffered from its worst floods in 100 years, which has caused massive destruction due to vast underdevelopment. USAID granted another $60 million in aid for Sudan to recover from flooding and fight waterborne diseases that can spread during floods.

Foreign Aid Essential to Development

Sudan’s new democracy undoubtedly faces short and long-term obstacles with regard to the country’s development and stability. Natural disasters, economic woes, poverty and hunger, cripple an already struggling nation. The shipment of wheat to Sudan from USAID is crucial for helping the people of Sudan meet their daily needs and alleviating hunger and poverty. Extending the olive branch of foreign aid creates interdependence between nations and encourages peace and prosperity. Bringing nations such as Sudan out of poverty creates a more secure, just and prosperous world.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

African AgribusinessesOn November 30, 2020, USAID announced a joint operation with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the IKEA Foundation to contribute $30 million to Aceli Africa to help bridge the financing gap experienced by many African agribusinesses. The grant is estimated to have a tremendous impact and will unlock $700 million in financing for up to 750 African agribusinesses in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Agri-SMEs Lack Financing

Much of Aceli Africa’s work focuses on a data-driven approach to incentivizing financial institutions to provide loans for small and medium-sized African agribusinesses or “agri-SMEs”, as Aceli Africa calls them.

According to Aceli Africa’s research, agri-SMEs represent a golden opportunity to solve hunger and poverty throughout Africa and help fulfill key U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as gender equality and climate action.

This is because smallholder farmers consist of both men and women and provide direct access to food sources that are responsibly raised in accordance with the needs of the local environment. Furthermore, the expansion of the agricultural sector in Africa is two to three times more effective in eliminating poverty than growth in any other sector.

Despite the great potential of African smallholder farms, banks are largely unwilling to loan them much-needed financing to power additional growth. Banks do not have the risk appetite for small farms in Africa due to price volatility, the seasonality of farming, pest invasions and a weak regulatory environment.

The result of this is an investment shortfall of $65 billion per year for agri-SMEs in Africa. Initiatives focused on microfinancing do not provide enough financial injection for agri-SMEs, which are larger than the microenterprises that are the usual recipients of microloans. Agri-SMEs are thus left out of financing. However, the work of Aceli Africa aims to change these circumstances.

Aceli Africa Incentivizes Banks to Loan to Agri-SMEs

To bridge this gap in financing, Aceli Africa partners with numerous organizations such as USAID, the IKEA Foundation, Feed the Future and the International Growth Center to incentivize banks to loan and provide technical assistance to agri-SMEs.

This is where the aforementioned $30 million contribution has the potential to positively impact agriculture and African agribusinesses. One of the incentive programs that Aceli Africa employs is to cover the losses of the first loan that a financial institution gives to an African agri-SME.

This works by depositing 2-8% of the loan’s value in a reserve account that the lender can access when losses are experienced. This boosts risk appetite among lenders and makes banks and other institutions more willing to invest in agri-SMEs in Africa.

Aceli Africa also provides technical assistance for financial management for African agri-SMEs through online tools and other in-person approaches to help smallholder farmers optimize growth using the loans they receive. These approaches have the potential to put U.S. taxpayer dollars to effective use by addressing poverty and hunger abroad.

United States Outreach is Key in Combatting Poverty

USAID’s decision to partner with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the IKEA Foundation to contribute to the work of Aceli Africa symbolizes the value and power of international partnership in the fight against global poverty. When the United States decides to lead on an issue, the rest of the world follows. Key international partnerships are essential for the United States to take the lead and garner international support to address key global issues.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Aid to AfghanistanThe period of 2018 to 2020 brought with it a series of difficulties for the people of Afghanistan, including droughts, floods and pandemics. A severe drought in 2018 impacted 95% of the country’s farmland and dried up crucial water sources. More than 250,000 people were displaced and at least 1.4 million civilians required emergency aid. Following the drought, 2019 had the opposite occurrence: heavy rainfall activated widespread flooding in nine provinces, impacting more than 112,000 people. These crises continue to be felt in 2020 as both old and new challenges exacerbate conditions for the poorest Afghans. Countries all over the world are pledging to provide aid to Afghanistan.

Conditions Affecting Afghanistan

  • COVID-19: In November 2020, Afghanistan documented 44,133 coronavirus cases and 1,650 fatalities. The socio-economic impacts have been extensive. Average household debt rose by 36,486 AFS (US$474) and the poverty level increased from 54% to 70%. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s economy is predicted to contract by at least 5.5% due to the 2020 impact of COVID-19.
  • Displacement: Nearly 286,000 Afghans at home and 678,000 abroad suffered displacement in 2020, bringing the total displaced to approximately four million. Internal displacement camps are rife with insanitation, poor healthcare, unemployment, limited potable water and food insecurity. According to estimations by the 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview, one million displaced people will require aid by the end of 2020.
  • Political Uncertainty: Political instability has been a mainstay in Afghanistan for decades and continues to trouble both citizens and the international community. Despite ongoing 2020 peace negotiations with the Taliban, fighting continues in the region. As a result, desperately needed health clinics have suffered closures and 35,000 Afghans were displaced from the Helmand Province in October 2020 alone.
  • Women’s Rights: Conditions for Afghan women and children have improved in recent years, allowing 3.3 million girls to receive an education. Additionally, women have experienced expanding opportunities for political, economic and social engagement. However, government participation is still strictly limited and women are still at high risk of violence.
  • Food insecurity: Afghan farmers still had not fully recovered from the 2018 drought and 2019 flood before the impact of COVID-19 on the country raised food prices, and with it, further food insecurity. Estimates warn that one-third of the population have already exhausted their savings and are in crisis levels of food security, with 5.5 million of them in emergency levels. However, farmers are hopeful that improved climate conditions will alleviate some of the damage done in previous years of difficulties.

2020 Afghanistan Conference

International donations fund at least half of Afghanistan’s annual budget. This is unlikely to change anytime soon, especially as COVID-19’s toll on the country’s economy also decreases government revenues. There was concern that the 2020 Conference would see a diminished aid pledge from Afghanistan’s largest donors, but the meetings that took place on November 24 secured a minimum of US$3.3 billion annually for four years contingent upon a review of Afghanistan’s progress in areas of peace, political development, human rights and poverty reduction. The United States is one such donor, pledging $300 million for 2021 and promising another $300 million worth of aid to Afghanistan if the ongoing peace talks prove successful. To this end, the “Afghanistan Partnership Framework” details the principles and goals of Afghanistan’s growth in peace-building, state-building and market-building.

Rebuilding Afghanistan

While some have expressed concern that the donations for aid to Afghanistan are not enough to cover costs and that the contingency requirements will be very difficult for Afghanistan to implement without compromises, there nevertheless is hope that tighter restrictions will prevent fewer funds from being lost to corruption. Despite the future challenges ahead of Afghanistan, Afghan leaders reiterated their commitment to “finding a political settlement that can not only bring an end to the suffering of the Afghan people but strengthen, safeguard and preserve the gains of the past 19 years.”

– Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

Sweden’s Long-standing CommitmentOn September 22, 2020, Peter Eriksson, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, took to Twitter to announce that Sweden will continue to commit 1% of the country’s GNI to official developmental assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, urging the international community to follow in the country’s footsteps. This act is indicative of Sweden’s long-standing commitment to eliminate poverty, which is a promise the country is dedicated to keeping.

A Leader in Foreign Aid

According to the OECD, Sweden dedicates around 1% of its national income to developmental aid, making it the highest developmental assistance donor. The country’s commitment to policy development issues is the strongest in three categories: peace and conflict prevention, gender equality and women’s rights as well as environmental sustainability. Since 2006, the country has committed to regularly donate a portion of its GNI as official developmental assistance (ODA) and has since kept its word, donating at least 1% or more every year.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

Sida is a government agency of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Sida is responsible for Sweden’s official development assistance to developing countries.

Sida is a prominent international actor with an overall mission to make sure people living under poverty and oppression are able to enhance their living conditions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sida allocated $149 million to mitigate the pandemic’s effects on vulnerable communities and populations abroad. Sida has collaborated with many different multilateral organizations to uphold Sweden’s promise of helping the international community during the pandemic..

Sida has bilateral development cooperation with 35 different partner countries from four different continents and consistently supports multilateral organizations in their pursuit of increasing human rights and democracy globally.

A Leader for Women’s Empowerment

The country has shown relentless support for gender equality and women’s rights, highlighting Sweden’s long-standing commitment to ending gender discrepancies around the world. Sweden is a pioneer for many new policies regarding women’s rights. For instance, in 2014, Sweden created the world’s very first feminist foreign policy. Sweden has garnered the support of many foreign bodies and their allies by raising awareness through forums. The most notable being the 2018 Stockholm Forum of Gender Equality. The gathering brought 700 members from 100 different countries to discuss the implementation of new policies to protect women in vulnerable communities from oppressive regimes, further elevating their rights and enabling an inclusive society.

A Leader for Environmental Sustainability

Furthermore, Sweden’s clean carbon footprint is impressive, with a large quantity of the country’s waste recycled. The country has committed to net-zero emissions by the year of 2045 and it has dedicated many resources to encourage countries across the globe to implement sustainable environmental practices. The country has shown continued leadership. In 2017, Sweden had co-chaired the U.N. Ocean Conference with Fiji. In 2018, Sweden also hosted GEF-7 Replenishment, a meeting between contributing and potential participants from all around the world with efforts to eliminate non-renewable energy sources in the near future.

Sweden: A Developmental Assistance Model

Sweden’s long-standing commitment to developmental assistance highlights the country’s leadership skills as an exemplary model for other developed nations. Sweden’s relentless efforts in supporting foreign aid, even during a pandemic, is a model that needs to be mimicked by other developed nations that have the same capacity to help, now more than ever.

– Mina Kim
Photo: Flickr