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OssetiaDiscussing poverty in Georgia is difficult to do without also acknowledging the sensitive subjects of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is extensive debate over how best to describe these regions, but they are described as anything from disputed territories to de facto Russian client states propped up and recognized by few other than Russia itself. As such, poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia comes with its own special set of circumstances.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a major turning point in the history of this part of the world and it has left lingering trauma in the region. Abkhazia and South Ossetia were relatively well-off parts of the Soviet Union, but following its collapse, they both saw their populations and their standards of living decline. The effect of this collapse is lingering poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia such that a majority of residents view the dissolution of the USSR in a negative light.

The current political situation in both of these territories is far from stable, even after nearly two decades of violence, suspected ethnic cleansing and political turmoil. This presents a unique set of obstacles for addressing poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, particularly in Abkhazia.

Most residents of Abkhazia, regardless of ethnic group, seem to favor total independence with the exception of ethnic Armenians, who support integration into the Russian Federation. If anything, however, Russian influence is strongly cemented into the Abkhaz political sphere, which means that any changes in the status of Abkhazia will lean heavily toward deeper integration with Russia.

South Ossetia is also finding itself pulled more and more into Moscow’s orbit. However, this is less of a problem than in Abkhazia as an overwhelming majority of its ethnically homogenous population is in favor of joining the Russian Federation.

The international community continues to debate whether and how to handle this political situation, but few are confident that a solution will be reached anytime soon. Meanwhile, however, poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains a problem and residents are finding that few in the midst of this great power struggle are attentive to their real and pressing needs.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia face particular challenges when dealing with poverty because of their disputed political status. It is difficult for them to access international markets, but Abkhaz and Ossetian products do not necessarily fare well in Russian markets. It is also worth noting that Georgia also suffers as a result; it has lost access to Russian markets as a result of this political dispute, where prior to the conflict 70 percent of its trade volume was with Russia. The complicated political situation makes it difficult for aid to reach these regions and hinders efforts to collect accurate data.

The 2014 Winter Olympics were a beacon of hope to relieve poverty in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The goal was for tourism to nearby Sochi to help shine a light on these locales and promote tourism there as well. However, this ended when Russia, prioritizing security above all else, closed the Abkhazian and South Ossetian borders.

That being said, there are a number of actors trying to improve the situation and promote economic development in this troubled region. The UNDP in Georgia has made combating poverty, and specifically youth unemployment, a key feature of its work. Promoting youth employment is key because it not only promotes economic growth, but can also discourage young people from becoming involved in political violence.

While Abkhazia and South Ossetia face many challenges that will not abate any time soon, efforts are being made to work around the political situation to bring real change to the lives of the people in these regions. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are just two reminders that even in seemingly intractable conflicts, poverty reduction is still critically important and can make a huge difference.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

global health security agendaThe Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) is a partnership of nations, international organizations and NGOs that are seeking to keep the world safe from infectious diseases and maintain health security as a main global priority. The program launched in 2014 as a five-year initiative to increase country-level health security to stop disease outbreaks at their source.

In October 2017, GHSA was extended until 2024. This extension will allow the global health community to enhance data sharing, preparedness planning, epidemiological and laboratory surveillance, risk assessment and response to infectious diseases and other health issues and threats.

The Global Health Security Agenda has created a set of eleven targets and an assessment tool, which is currently being carried out in five countries: Georgia, Peru, Portugal, Uganda and the United Kingdom. In the organization’s assessment of Georgia, it noted that zoonotic diseases are a problem, as 60 percent of human pathogens are zoonotic. Much of the diseases seen in humans within the country are of animal origin, spreading, for example, through contact with veterinarians. These assessment reports contain information about immunization, biosafety and biosecurity and real-time surveillance among other things.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that global health security strengthens United States security. The CDC works in association with GHSA to combat disease worldwide. The organization currently has partnerships with 31 countries, including the Caribbean, that are working to meet the goals of GHSA. The CDC has established Global Disease Detection Centers around the world, providing assistance to over 2,000 requests for disease outbreaks and creating more than 380 diagnostic tests in laboratories of 59 countries.

GHSA has had success stories in many countries, including Tanzania. The nation’s government is determined to play a role in ensuring GHSA’s success, both nationally and internationally. Tanzania joined the program back in August 2015, and in February 2016, it became the first country to use the Joint External Evaluation to assess its 19 capacities to prevent, detect and respond to public health issues.

In a formal event, Tanzania also launched the National Action Plan for Health Security. Held on September 8, 2017, the event was well attended, including guests such as USAID, the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

The fight to keep the world safe from disease may still be a long road, but with programs like the Global Health Security Agenda, the future seems promising.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in GeorgiaThe Republic of Georgia was one of the most prosperous nations in the Soviet Union. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union also collapsed Georgia’s prosperity. Conflicts and economic deficits ensued and hunger in Georgia became an issue.

A report by Food Security and Nutrition in the South Caucasus stated that Georgia “…cannot ensure the population of the country with stable and high-quality or adequate food, even in non-crisis situations.” Market supply-and-demand largely dictates food provision, relying on the physical presence of food in shops and markets. With 70 percent of food being imported into the country, food insecurity and the quality of goods are ongoing issues for citizens.

Though there is economic growth in the country, it is largely unrelated to food-related industries, like agriculture. Agricultural stagnation contributes to the issue of food insecurity, as there is no dependable market. Over 50 percent of the population derives income and sustains themselves from the agriculture industry that only accounts for ten percent of the nation’s aggregate GDP.

There are a few organizations that aim to minimize and eliminate the extent of hunger in Georgia.

The first is Action Against Hunger. They have been involved with hunger in Georgia since 1994, helping 2,754 people gain economic self-sufficiency in 2016 alone. This economic self-sufficiency can help individuals and families avoid hunger in the current food economy and beyond it. The organization does this through a focus on the development of long-term food security programs. In at-risk communities, Action Against Hunger identifies income-generating activities, provides training in conflict resolution as well as encourages community participation in water, sanitation and hygiene programs.

Another organization is the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Their work in Georgia started in 1995 and is concentrated on six priority areas: post-conflict livelihoods and food security, animal health, plant protection, food safety and consumer protection and forestry and fisheries. Overall, FAO puts an emphasis on utilizing natural resources and developing legislation for food safety and trade standards to help the impoverished of Georgia.

Heifer International is another organization that has been supporting Georgians since 1999. They have implemented specific projects in Georgia and within the Caucasus region. In 2007, they launched the Chiauri Dairy Farm Rehabilitation Project and Khashmi Dairy Farm Rehabilitation Projectin the Kakheti region.

These organizations, as well as others, raise awareness for Georgians and encourage reform in the country so that widespread hunger does not remain a concern in the country.

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr


Located in the sub-Caucasus region, Georgia is home to about four million people. Just like many countries in its region, certain diseases are prominent in Georgia. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works close with the Georgian government in order to tackle the top diseases in Georgia. Alongside Georgia’s National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC), the CDC focuses on detecting and responding to major disease outbreaks in Georgia, such as measles and rubella. However, the fatal diseases are the ones that are less likely to be detected in day-to-day life. Here is a list of top diseases in Georgia.

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease
    Making for 36 percent of deaths, ischemic heart disease is by far the most dangerous of the top diseases in Georgia. It refers to restricted blood flow due to narrowed heart arteries. This results in less blood and oxygen going to the heart muscle. Symptoms include heart attacks, which are often fatal.Roughly 10,000 people per year die from ischemic heart disease in Georgia. For the highest annual mortality rates, Georgia is placed in the top 15 for ischemic heart disease. Experts say that ischaemic heart disease is caused by risk factors such as smoking, poor cholesterol levels and diabetes. There are also genetic and stress factors to the disease. In order to improve mortality rates, Georgians need to watch their eating and smoking habits.
  2. HIV/AIDS
    Some top diseases in Georgia are exacerbated by the lack of medical treatment and diagnoses. In 2015, there were roughly 10,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), AIDS is prominent in Georgia due to the lack of diagnoses. If a person goes undiagnosed, they put others in danger of the disease. It is estimated that 48 percent of people living with HIV in Georgia are undiagnosed. The WHO is working closely with the government of Georgia in order to stabilize this epidemic. This includes getting HIV/AIDS patients proper medical treatments and educating Georgian citizens on the disease.
  3. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
    Also known as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the top diseases in Georgia, taking the lives of thousands every year. It is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens over time. Symptoms include coughing and breathing problems, which can eventually become fatal if untreated.Smoking is one of the major factors of COPD, with up to 75 percent of people who have the disease either being a smoker or ex-smoker. In Georgia, almost half of the male population regularly smokes, which likely contributes to the high mortality rate of COPD.

Many of these top diseases in Georgia can often be treated through preventable care or healthier lifestyles.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr


Georgia is a nation well-known for its conflict with Russia over provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008. Georgia is a former member of the Soviet Union, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia shortly after it left the Soviet Union. However, neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia is fully recognized as independent from Georgia internationally. Their declarations of independence resulted in conflict with Georgia.

Here are nine facts about refugees in Georgia.

1. As of mid-2015, there were more than 250,000 “refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR” in Georgia. This includes refugees, people in refugee-like situations (who have not been formally recognized as refugees), internally displaced persons, asylum seekers and other stateless persons.

3. The 2008 conflict created 150,000 Georgian asylum seekers. Fewer than 1,000 Georgian asylum seekers had been accepted each year globally since the early 2000s.

4. More than 1,400 refugees from other countries were accepted into Georgia in 2015. The majority of them were from Iraq and Syria.

5. Since Russia’s second invasion of Chechnya in 1999, about 12,000 Chechnya refugees came to Georgia. Russia has made claims that Georgia hid Chechnya rebels, but Georgia has deemed those claims as false.

6. The International Criminal Court started investigating the war crimes of South Ossetia, Russia and Georgia in and around South Ossetia in order to bring justice to over 6,000 victims. Still, it is doubtful the victims will receive reparations.

7. There are almost 300,000 internally displaced persons in Georgia due to the conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia over the last 20 years. Five percent of the population is internally displaced.

8. During Georgia’s conflict with Abkhazia in 1992-1993, both sides terrorized civilians based on which group they were from and this led to many displaced persons.

9. The EU voted in February to allow Georgians to travel visa-free into the EU for up to 90 days. The EU was concerned this could cause an upsurge in Georgian migrants overstaying illegally, therefore it reserved the right to reinstate visa requirements if needed.

These are just nine facts about refugees in Georgia. Refugees in Georgia are affected by the conflict in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Russia.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr


Despite the harsh ramifications from the global economic crisis and major political challenges, Georgia has remained a leader in the Caucasus sub-region for education, specifically in positive student learning. Georgia’s education programs and reforms are recognized worldwide. As of 2014, Georgia has had a secondary school net enrollment of 92 percent, just above the U.S., which sits at around 90.5 percent.

In 2007, Georgia partnered with the World Bank and UNICEF to create the Consolidated Education Strategy and Action Plan. This program ensures early childhood development, preschool education, general education, higher education and non-formal education in Georgia, while simultaneously including education for children with special needs.

Things began looking grim when in 2008, Georgia was politically challenged by the Russian Federation and suffered internal government issues. Additionally, the Georgian economy was at a low, with almost 60 percent of the population living below the national poverty line and a quarter of the population making less than $2 per day, affecting the education in Georgia.

Nevertheless, Georgia’s government continues to focus on its educational reform. In 2008, the program department of Georgia was established in the Ministry of Education and Science. This agenda prioritizes programs such as the Safe School Initiative and Education Resource Centers. According to the World Bank, enrollment rates have only been improving.

As of 2016, advancement is seen in poverty. Twenty-one percent of the population is below the national poverty line, a staggering difference compared to prior numbers.

UNICEF notes that Georgia likely prioritizes education partly due to the country’s lack of natural resources, which leaves the future of the country dependent on its human capital.

Even still, there are festering problems in Georgia’s system, despite the government working hard to ensure quality education. Severe inequities of the enrollment and attainment rates between the rich and poor persist, likely due to entry fees. Ethnic groups and children with disabilities are lagging behind.

Improvements have been made to make up for this, such as the Education Strategy and Action Plan for Children with Special Needs, but there is still room for progress.

Henry Kerali, the World Bank regional director for the South Caucasus, notes, “Georgia’s prospects to compete in the global economy will largely depend on its ability to produce a highly-skilled workforce via improved teaching and learning.”

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

Millennium Challenge Corporation Impacts STEM Education in Georgia
A $140 million compact signed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the government of Georgia in July 2013 improves STEM education in Georgia. The compact, including a partnership with San Diego University (SDSU), is increasing the number of professionals in the STEM fields as well as empowering women and reducing poverty.

Georgia suffers from a lack of professionals in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. Few women delve into these fields, and gender inequality can hinder economic growth and poverty eradication.

The MCC compact will improve STEM education and raise the earning potential for Georgians. The SDSU partnership with Georgian universities gives Georgians access to earning accredited STEM degrees. Twenty percent of the first class of students in the program are women. The more that percentage rises, the more poverty rates can drop and gender gaps can close.

STEM programs are important for developing countries like Georgia because they give individuals the skills that they need to make critical decisions about problems in our world, such as lowering environmental impact while improving standards of living.

As the former Director General of the European Organization for Nuclear Research stated, STEM education will help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and to help people make decisions that affect global development.

The MMC compact to improve STEM education in Georgia is only one of many compacts that are giving nations worldwide more access to development opportunities. If Congress passes the Millennium Compacts for Regional Economic Integration Act (M-CORE Act), nations would be permitted to enter into a second Millennium Challenge Compact and reap the benefits of the additional development efforts.

In order for nations to get a second compact, one or more of the compacts must meet specific economic qualifications, and the nation must show progress with its current compact. Supporting the M-CORE Act is supporting poverty reduction and increased economic opportunity for developing nations.

If Congress passes the M-CORE Act, the MCC can implement more opportunities like STEM education in Georgia and increase development efforts worldwide.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr

Taking Steps to Eliminate River Blindness
The Carter Center in Atlanta is working to make the eradication of river blindness a worldwide goal for the World Health Organization (WHO), as the WHO determines which diseases will appear on the world health agendas.

River blindness is caused by a parasite that is spread through the bites of black flies. The flies breed in and near fast flowing rivers, which is where the disease gets its name. The larvae of the parasite causes skin irritation, itching and a range of eye diseases, including blindness in the worst cases.

People in 36 countries are at risk for contracting river blindness. About 99% of the 17.7 million cases of larvae infection are from Africa. Nigeria is the most endemic country in Africa, with reportedly half of the world’s cases.

That is why Nigerian businessman Sir Emeka Offor gave the Carter Center $10 million to aid to eliminate river blindness in his home country. This is on top of the quarter million he donated several years back. This is a huge turning point in dealing with the disease.

The Carter Center has been working with the Nigerian Health Ministry for twenty years. The program uses community-based health education and administers the only drug that can treat river blindness, Mectizan. In fact, the company that makes Mectizan made a commitment to donate the drug until every case of river blindness is solved. The donation from Sir Offor means that the Carter Center can reach more people, especially those in difficult areas to reach. Coverage will increase, meaning that the Carter Center will be closer to reaching their goal of eliminating river blindness by 2020. In 2014, 7 million Nigerians were treated.

The Carter Center has already been successful in Latin America. Colombia was the first country to be declared free of river blindness in 2013, with Ecuador following  in 2014. Both Guatemala and Mexico are currently going through the verification process to be declared river blindness-free by the WHO. The only areas left to treat are hard-to-reach areas of the Amazon in Venezuela and Brazil.

If the Carter Center can prove with this latest donation that their program is successful in the most plagued country, Nigeria, on top of their success in Latin America, then the WHO will be more likely to join the movement and target river blindness as a disease to fight.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: AP News, Carter Center 1, Carter Center 2, Inside Philanthropy
Photo: GHIF

Savannah_Volunteer_Opportunities
Looking for opportunities to help out with The Borgen Project in Savannah, Georgia? The Borgen Project is currently hiring, and every little bit helps in the quest to end global poverty. The following positions can be done at home, and are a crucial part of The Borgen Project’s mission to fight poverty through lobbying powerful U.S. politicians to make a greater impact in their policy. Please review the descriptions below for more information on how to get involved in Savannah volunteer opportunities for The Borgen Project.

Regional Director
Location: Nationwide (Telecommute Volunteer Role)
Salary: Unpaid
Duration: 6-months
Hours: 4-6 hours per week
Regional Directors operate independently from home and maintain contact with The Borgen Project’s Seattle office. Regional Directors sign a 6-month contract. The position is volunteer and is roughly 4-6 hours per week. Regional Directors attend a conference call every Monday evening. Regional Directors come from many diverse backgrounds, some of which include a news anchor, veteran, banker, teacher, relief worker, political staffer, sales manager, programmer and college students.

Key Responsibilities:
– Attend one (30-60 minute) conference call every week with the President of The Borgen Project and Regional Directors from across the United States (5PM PDT, 6PM MDT, 7PM CDT, 8PM EDT).
– Meet with local congressional leaders and lobby for legislation that improves living conditions for those living on less than $1 per day.
– Mobilize people in your community to contact their congressional leaders to support poverty reduction legislation.
– Manage and implement fundraising campaigns.
– Build a network of people engaged in the cause.
– Serve as The Borgen Project’s ambassador in your city.
Qualifications:
– Basic understanding of U.S. Politics and international development.
– Highly organized with the ability to prioritize multiple functions and tasks while managing their work time efficiently.
– Strong team player that loves to bring new ideas to the table.
– Ability to demonstrate frequent independent judgment with decisiveness.
– Excellent overall communication skills: oral, written, presentation
How to Apply: To apply, send your resume to [email protected]
Learn more about the Regional Director Program

Writer
Location: Nationwide (telecommute volunteer role)
Salary: Unpaid
Duration: 3-months
Hours: 10-15 hours per week
This is a 12-week, part-time volunteer role. The selected candidate will be able to work from home and pick their own schedule, but must meet weekly deadlines.

– Write 3 articles per week for The Borgen Project’s blog and Magazine. Writing will focus on quality, but also improving search ranking.
– Assist with advocacy and fundraising.

Qualifications: Strong research and writing skills. Must be able to work independently and meet deadlines with very little supervision. Experience writing SEO friendly content is helpful, but not required.
How to Apply: To apply, send your resume and two writing samples to [email protected]

Youth Ambassador (High School Students)
Location: Nationwide
Salary: Unpaid
Duration: 3-months
Hours: 4-hours per week
This is a great volunteer position for high school students looking to get involved in politics, global development, and the good fight against global poverty. Youth Ambassadors can operate independently or in groups from anywhere in the United States.

– Serve as an ambassador to your school and community for the world’s poor. Build awareness of the issues around global poverty and ways people can help.
– Attend and hold events and engage people in the cause.
– Contact congressional leaders in support of key poverty-reduction programs.
– Create a club at school or in the community to bring more people together in the battle for the underdog (suggested).
– Create a network of close friends and relatives to engage in The Borgen Project’s cause through information and issue messaging.

Qualifications:
– Good overall communication skills: oral, written, presentation.
– Ability to self-manage and prioritize assignments.
– Commitment to advocating for global poverty reduction.
– Willingness to learn and a drive to succeed!
How to Apply: To apply, send your resume to [email protected]

– Katie Pickle

Sources: The Borgen Project 1, The Borgen Project 2,
Photo: Come 2 Savannah

 

View Telecommute and Seattle Internships.

georgia
The government of Georgia has partnered with USAID to improve primary education. The program focuses on training teachers, assessing students and utilizing new technology in the classroom. In countries like Georgia, education is expected to sustain and advance development. Children are more likely to go on to higher education when they attend primary school.

According to USAID, the Georgia Primary Education Project, or G-PriEd, “has been implementing ambitious reforms to transform its education system from a teacher-centered model to a student-centered one that enables Georgian children to develop their full potential.”

The project also tracks student progress via standardized testing to ensure students are making considerable gains.

“Years of crisis and civil war caused the impoverishment of a large section of the Georgian population,” according to the World Bank. Yet poverty levels have been declining in the past few years due to Georgia’s economic growth. G-PriEd will take the country a step further in fostering the economic development currently underway.

The project was first implemented in October of 2011 and will continue until 2016. The program’s potency rests in its ability to positively push primary school children toward higher education. Additionally, this initiative successfully encourages parents to be more involved in their child’s education. Setting the foundation for valuing education at a young age ensures the population will continue to place importance on education in later years as well. More educated children in Georgia will greatly contribute to the country’s future economic development and will help sustain the great gains already made.

“Twelve percent of people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in poor countries had basic reading skills,” according to the U.N. For this reason, education has been a great focus in the push to end world poverty. The U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals makes education the second priority among the eight goals. The $8.7 million G-PriEd project is one of many currently making a difference by improving the lives of those living in poverty.

– Kimberly Quitzon

Sources
Sources: Worldbank, USAID, UN
Photo: Flickr