Posts

Fighting Global PovertyPeople helping people. Country helping country. Giving back to the world is not a strange concept and is a welcomed idea in most societies. A popular form of global help is foreign aid. The umbrella term commonly refers to monetary assistance provided by outlying or foreign governments. The funds are generally distributed through humanitarian organizations, non-profit groups or directly from a foreign government. As such, the aid is given to citizens in an abundance of forms, such as money, food or shelter. While some can afford to provide more than others on a purely numeric comparison, the amounts are measured or valued differently depending on the country’s economic standing. This list consists of five countries fighting global poverty who outshine the rest.

Top Five Countries Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Norway begins the list as it provides the largest amount of foreign aid in comparison to its GDP. The government put 1.11 percent of its GDP towards global humanitarian aid, spending NOK 455 million as of 2018. The country utilizes organizations such as the U.N.’s CERF (Central Emergency Response Fund), the Red Crescent Movement and the Red Cross. Recently, Norway channeled much of their funds into CERF in order to assist Venezuela in its growing refugee crisis. Norway’s contributions towards these programs effectively fight against global poverty and prove the nation should be in the top five, as its generosity in comparison to its national budget is the highest in the world.
  2. Luxembourg also contributes a significant portion of their GDP towards humanitarian and foreign affairs. Approximately 1 percent of their national budget, or about USD 413 million, is used for aid. Some of Luxembourg’s projects include poverty reduction through community development in Laos, education improvement in Burkina Faso and health care in Nicaragua. These countries receive specific help from various agencies and organizations like LuxDev and the Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs. These groups and projects, though just a few select examples, show how much effort Luxemborg puts in fighting poverty.
  3. Sweden comes forward as another example of a smaller country with a smaller budget who still makes a grand impact in the world. As about 1.04 percent of its GDP, or about USD 5.8 billion, is used for humanitarian and foreign aid, Sweden holds a top ranking. While the money touches on a broad range of topics, from civil rights to education, specific Swedish projects focus on poverty issues. For instance, Sweden recently provided aid to Somalia for drought relief through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Somalia Humanitarian Fund. Sweden makes a mark on the world by not only tackling larger, conceptual issues, but by also responding quickly to disasters and world events. Such assistance highlights the country’s proficiency in the fight against global poverty.
  4. The United States is a leader in fighting global poverty as it contributes the most money towards humanitarian and foreign aid. Within the past few years alone, the U.S. contributed USD 30 billion towards various forms of international aid. The nation utilizes several different federal agencies, non-profit groups and other organizations to distribute aid. The U.S. commonly works with popular organizations such as UNICEF or the Red Cross. A prime example of the U.S. effect on the world is with the sheer number of countries it provides for, as it touches nearly 40 different nations, including Pakistan and Mexico.
  5. Germany also provides a significant amount of aid with nearly USD 20 billion contributed towards humanitarian projects in recent years. This accounts for nearly 0.70 percent of the national budget. Popular organizations and agencies include the World Food Program, which Germany utilized to provide relief to Africa. In addition to such organizations, Germany is known to donate large amounts of money to other countries, a notable example being Syria in recent years due to their ongoing crisis. Germany’s monetary generosity also makes it the second-largest donor in the world to foreign aid, falling in just behind the U.S.

Whether it’s a natural disaster or political turmoil, when a country is in need, surrounding neighbors will often step up to help.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

Syrian Refugees in Germany

What began as a peaceful political uprising in 2011 has become one of the most devastating on-going civil wars of the 21st century. The war has contributed to the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, leaving Syrian refugees in Germany hopeful for improved living conditions. The Syrian Civil War has not only devastated the country and its people but also neighboring nations, creating a regional disruption.

Syria’s fall is a global failure, and the consequences the war has brought with it have been difficult for other countries to manage. The Syrian Civil War forced countries to establish new policies to address the influx of Syrian refugees. Syrians have been escaping the bombings and repression since the outbreak of the war in 2011. However, in 2015, Europe was under more pressure when over one million refugees arrived through dangerous sea travel. Some Member States have closed their borders, and others have implemented new welcoming policies.

Current Living Conditions

Angela Merkel’s Germany welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees with its open door policy. German crowds awaited the arrival of Syrian refugees in Munich from Austria in 2015. However, today this enthusiasm contends with the rise of populism and right wing parties, affecting the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany. Amidst refugee settlement, anti-immigration views have become more and more popular among Germans. This forces the government to desperately establish effective integration policies to reduce tensions.

The living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany are very difficult. They are hospitalized as needed after arriving from extremely life-threatening conditions. Later, the refugees receive camp assignments. Due to the large number of refugee arrivals, Germany had to build emergency camps. These camps lack quality infrastructure and necessary equipment. Some refugees are assigned to shelters such as Tempelhof, where they sleep in a small bed among hundreds of others in one hall.

Due to integration laws that assign family members to different cities, some refugees must endure family separation. Moreover, Germany suspended the family reunification policy between 2016 and 2018 for refugees awaiting their status approval. According to the German government, Germany embassies received 44,736 family reunification applications in 2018, but only granted 1,500 applications.

Paperwork Holds Up the Process

Unfortunately, the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany become even more difficult once paper work begins. It could take up to eighteen months to be recognized as an asylum seeker. In most cities, refugees cannot join integration programs if they are not asylum seekers. According to the German law, asylum is a given right to anyone fleeing political persecution. However, the process of being granted refugee status based on the Asylum Act and the Residence Act can be lengthy.

These acts entitle refugees to integration programs, language classes and employment. This is not the reality for refugees who wait years of the approval of their status. Systematic hurdles can stop refugees from learning German, continuing their education or pursuing a job. Therefore, many refugees lose hope and enter black market jobs or seek distressing pathways.

A Brighter Future

Nonetheless, German policies, under the guidance of Merkel, continue to strive for effective integration. Overall refugee unemployment dropped sharply from 50.5 percent to 40.5 percent in mid-2018, based on the Institute for Employment Research. The study also concludes half of the refugee population will be employed by 2020. This is an optimistic advance considering the language barrier in addition to the fact that 80 percent of refugees who arrived in 2015 did not acquire a university degree. This is achievable because the settlement of refugees is improving along with the overall living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany.

Eventually, refugees will be able to leave crowded shelters and move into apartments with their families. By improving  integration efforts and paperwork processes, Syrian refugees in Germany can gain asylum status and attain their legal rights.

Njoud Mashouka
Photo: Flickr

Cause of Poverty in Germany

On March 14, 2003, then-German chancellor Gerhard Schröder announced Agenda 2010, a series of reforms executed by the German government. More than 10 years later Agenda 2010 is seen as one of the leading causes of poverty in Germany.

Agenda 2010 was created to accelerate economic growth, create jobs and ultimately reduce unemployment. Current data on Germany may seem to support the claim that Agenda 2010 has worked well and that perhaps isn’t one of the causes of poverty in Germany. The bureau of labor statistics sites a continual drop in unemployment, reaching a low of 3.9 percent in April 2017, and World Bank figures show a gross domestic product of $3.467 trillion for Germany in 2016.

The way Agenda 2010 achieved those results was by creating a new, flexible, exclusively part-time employment structure. The motivation was that an employed citizen was better than an unemployed one. To create this new type of temporary work, Agenda 2010 deregulated to encourage employers to hire part-time workers.

Agenda 2010 focused on getting the unemployed back to work. It also created what is known in Germany as the mini-job, a part-time employment that pays 450 euros a month tax-free. As the data shows, employers hired, and the unemployment rate dropped, but this system has caused poverty in Germany to reach its highest since reunification.

German news site DW reported a German study that classified 12.5 million Germans as poor. The poor are classified in Germany by earning less than 60 percent of the median household income, which for a single household is around 900 euros a month. Although Germans are employed, those employed in mini-jobs earn 450 euros, half of the median household income of a single household.

The Federal Agency of Statistics for Labor in Germany cites 7.5 million Germans working mini-jobs and two million Germans working two jobs. The causes of poverty in Germany can be directly linked to Agenda 2010, which created more employment opportunity while also creating a new working poor. During an interview with Euronews, Dierk Hirschel, chief economist of Verdi, spoke on the issue, “The problem we face in Germany is that one in five workers are paid less than ten euros an hour, they are the “working poor.”

Yosef Flowers

Photo: Google

Refugee Rights in GermanyGermany is currently the most popular European destination for refugees from the Middle East and Africa. In 2016, Germany received 745,545 asylum applications, the most applications to any country in Europe that year. The reason that Germany still continues to receive a high number of asylum applications is a result of the generous refugee rights in Germany.

The overwhelming majority of refugees to Germany come from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, countries whose citizens are confronted by war and extreme poverty. As of 2016, the German government granted refugee status to 42.1 percent of applicants, subsidiary protection to 25.3 percent of applicants, and humanitarian protection (asylum) to 4 percent of applicants. Only 28.6 percent of applicants were rejected. Though this may seem large, Germany still accepted over half a million refugees in 2016.

The procedure for refugees begins at the nearest reception center, whether refugees are found already in the country are allowed in by border security. Next, their application for asylum is submitted to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). As their application is under review, refugees are granted a certificate of permission to reside temporarily in the Federal Republic of Germany. Throughout the application process, refugees are housed in reception facilities, where they are provided with essential items such as food, clothing, heat and healthcare. Following the application process, BAMF caseworkers interview asylum-seekers with the help of an interpreter, questioning their reason for persecution and their intended travel route. The interview is transcribed, translated into the asylum-seeker’s language and given as a copy to the asylum-seeker. Decisions for refugee status are based on these interviews and asylum-seekers are notified immediately.

Refugee rights in Germany exist for several groups of people. The three types of status asylum-seekers to Germany can receive are subsidiary protection, asylum or refugee status. Subsidiary protection is given to refugees who prove they are seriously threatened or in imminent danger in their country of origin. Those refugees receive a residence permit for one year that can be extended for two additional years. Refugees who are granted asylum status are deemed to face serious human rights violations and political persecution in their country of origin. They receive a residence permit for three years, unrestricted access to the labor market and an opportunity for a settlement permit.

Refugee status allows the most refugee rights in Germany. Persons granted refugee status receive a temporary residence permit and are granted the same rights as Germans: social welfare, child benefits, child-raising benefits, integration allowances, language courses and other forms of integration assistance.

Refugees rights in Germany are generous as asylum is a constitutional right in Germany, making it a high priority. As the number of asylum-seekers to developed countries continues to increase, it is important to look towards positive examples, such as Germany, that provide safety, protection and justice for refugees.

Christiana Lano
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in GermanyGermany is historically one of the most powerful nations on the planet, and its healthcare system that is universal for all legal residents. They are able to combat many of the common diseases in Germany and continue to break through barriers and make advancements in treatments.

With the universal coverage for all legal residents, 85 percent of the population is covered by social health insurance and 10 percent by substitutive private health insurance, and the rest is covered by special programs. Everyone in the country is covered in some form or fashion.Germany is one of the most affected in the world by heart disease; they are ranked eighth in the world for highest rate of death attributed to heart disease. More than 310 people per year of every 100,000 die from heart disease in Germany. This is higher than the rates of both the United States and the United Kingdom. It is the most common disease and the most common cause of death in Germany.

Germany is one of the most affected in the world by heart disease; it is ranked eighth in the world for highest rate of death attributed to heart disease. More than 310 people per year of every 100,000 die from heart disease in Germany. This is higher than the rates of both the United States and the United Kingdom. It is the most common disease and the most common cause of death in Germany.

Other common diseases in Germany aside from heart disease are Alzheimer’s disease and various cancers. The majority of the diseases are noncommunicable with only lower respiratory infections as the only major communicable disease in Germany.
Germany has one of the higher frequencies of different types of cancer in the world. Germany ranks eighteenth in the world for both sexes: eighteenth in males, and twentieth in females. There are many high-end cancer hospitals and clinics that offer high-end technology in an effort to combat the severity of cancer.

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia diseases are a major focus in Germany. People are able to receive a diagnosis of dementia diseases thanks to the German Alzheimer’s Association. With the lack of specialists in certain areas in Germany, it can take months to see specialists, and it may be easier for some to get a diagnosis on the spot. The good news is there is research conducted each year and all of the major Alzheimer’s drugs and treatments are available in Germany.

A major push that many in Germany are making is to eliminate the risk factors that plague the country and much of the world. It may reduce some of the problems that some in the country are facing. Risk factors in Germany include dietary risks, high blood pressure and tobacco smoke to round out the top three. Reducing these lifestyle risk factors that may contribute to these diseases can help maintain the downward trend of some diseases.

Germany has some of the best care in the world and there have been steps taken to ensure that the common diseases in Germany decrease as much as possible over the next few years. There is still work to be done, especially with heart disease, but the technology and policy priorities are looking in the right direction and helping the citizens of Germany.

Brendin Axtman

Photo: Google


Germany is one of the more well-known countries in Europe and attracts people from around the world to visit or to live. With 81.4 million people living in Germany in 2015, and the number ever increasing, it is one of the most populated countries in the world. Compared to other countries of its size, the cost of living in Germany is quite low.

According to Expatistan, a website dedicated to calculating the cost of living and ranking countries in order of cost of living, Germany ranks 24th in the world in terms of affordability. It is fairly affordable to live in Germany compared to many of the other larger countries around the world. As opposed to the United States, the average monthly salary in Germany is just below the U.S. by a few hundred dollars, at 2,172 euros a month.

As of July 2017, the euro is equal to $1.15. As far as living expenses go, in order to rent a one bedroom apartment in an outside city, rent is approximately 656 euros, or $748.07 per month. A three bedroom apartment in a more populated city bumps up the price to 1,261 euros per month, which is still cheaper than most major cities in the United States. It is the less expensive option to live outside of the city and live in the suburbs than the major cities.

Some of the common food options that are available in Germany are cheaper than around the world as well. Milk is 0.70 euro (80 cents) and a loaf of bread sits at 1.27 euro ($1.45). Both bottled water and a bottle of Coca-Cola or Pepsi are both more expensive in Germany though, sitting at 1.68 euro ($1.92) and 2.07 euro ($2.36) respectively.

For upper schooling in Germany, the average person spends around 850 euro for living expenses, possible schooling fees and health insurance. This is much less than what others in Germany pay on average per month.

On the whole, the cost of living in Germany is inexpensive compared to many other spots around the world, including the United States. Germany’s markets and living expenses are cheaper than many other places around Europe.

Brendin Axtman

Photo: Flickr


The Global Citizen Festival launched in 2012 as part of the Global Poverty Project, founded by Hugh Evans and Simon Moss. The movement is based on an online platform and mobile application that utilizes the power of education, communications, advocacy, campaigning and the media to take action against extreme poverty. The Global Poverty Project partners with other organizations such as UNICEF, OXFAM, ONE, Save the Children, The Global Fund and more.

The result of last year’s festival was 1.3 million online actions taken, leading to 44 commitments and announcements. Combined, these announcements are worth $1.9 billion and could impact 199 million people, just from the Global Citizen Festival of 2016 campaign. Commitments have not only been made by U.S. companies such as Walmart, UPS and Johnson & Johnson but also by nations such as the Netherlands and Canada.

With more than 60,000 participants attending the first festival on the Great Lawn in Central Park, the event quickly became popular. In 2016, the performance lineup included Rihanna, Demi Lovato, Kendrick Lamar and Metallica. There were also special guests like Coldplay’s Chris Martin. The band headlined the previous year and Martin is the current Global Citizen Festival curator.

The festival is free, but spectators cannot just attend. Instead, fans must engage with campaigns in order to win Global Citizen Festival spots. Activists can accumulate points that act as currency to bid on tickets to the Global Citizen Festival and other live events. The restriction is that only current campaign points can be used during each campaign.

For the upcoming July Global Citizen Festival in Hamburg, Germany, the organizers plan on handing out 9,000 free tickets to the show to people who sign up and pledge action.

“In bringing the Global Citizen Festival to Germany for the first time, we are calling on the G20 to take action and responsibility for moving forward on the Global Goals,” Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans said.

Stefanie Podosek

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Germany: The Gold Standard
Water quality in Germany has been regulated by an effective water management division. The country’s water technology and purification processes are highly regarded internationally. The German government implemented water protection procedures such as water waste charges, the preservation of natural habitats and laws to penalize water pollution.

Germany has an abundance of fresh water; 2.2 percent of the country’s surface area is covered by 11 predominant rivers, 291 dams, and other natural lakes. Approximately 11.7 percent of the fresh water is assigned to drinking water protection.

In 1998 the European Union (EU) adopted the ‘Drinking Water Directive’ (DWD), which set a foundation for high-quality standards for European drinking water. The DWD guidelines include parameters that must be fulfilled to assess drinking water quality.

Currently, the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), represents 80 percent of drinking water production and 60 percent of wastewater disposal in Germany. BDEW supports sustainable energy, the protection of water supply and proper wastewater disposal.

On October 4, 2016, BDEW convened with the Federal Ministry for Environment to state its opinions on major energy developments to be implemented over the next 15 years. The meeting focused on “the future of public services in the water sector.” Key results of the collaborative effort include extending fresh water and groundwater protections to unused resources, creating an “integrated cross-sectoral environmental legislation,” as well as implementing consequences for “enforcement deficiencies in the environmental law.”

As the water quality in Germany increases, the cost of tap water rises as well. A solution to water inflation is the re-use of wastewater, also known as water recycling. By reusing processed water, the required heating and cooling energy are lowered, saving energy and money. Recycling water also reduces the cost and effort needed to filter and purify unprocessed water. When the processed water is reused, it is already free from unwanted micro-organisms and harmful elements.

Germany’s strict environmental legislation and multiple industrial measures have enhanced its water quality and advanced long-term sustainability.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr

Worst Wars in History
War is a terrible phenomenon and one can uncover multiple layers of evil when evaluating just how bad a war is. One way to compare wars in history is to look at the loss of life during each war. Using that calculation, the worst wars in history become horrifically obvious.

Top 7 of the Worst Wars in History:

1. The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) – Between 3.5 and 6 million people were killed in the wars Napoleon Bonaparte waged in the early 19th century. The Napoleonic Wars were some of the worst wars in history partially because of the widespread use of mass conscription, which was applied at an unprecedented scale during this war.

2. The Russian Civil War (1917-1922) – Some five to nine million people died in the Russian Civil War, which took place in the years that followed the collapse of the Russian Empire and the death of the last Russian Czar.

3. World War I (1914-1918) – An estimated 20 million people were killed in the first World War, then also known as the Great War. Erupting in Europe after the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, World War I is one of the worst wars in history partially because it was among the first wars to have been fought using modern warfare tactics. Up until then, no one had ever seen a war of such scale, and the resulting trauma rippled through several generations.

4. A Lushan Rebellion (755-763 AD) – The An Lushan Rebellion happened in the Chinese Tang Dynasty when a Tang general established a rival dynasty in the North. Despite some disagreements about the reliability of the census system during the time, experts estimate between 13 and 36 million casualties.

5. Qing Dynasty Conquest of the Ming (1618-1683) – The Qing Dynasty is known for being the last of the old Chinese dynasties before the beginning of the Republic, but an estimated 25 million people died in the Conquest of the Ming before the Qing Dynasty began.

6. Taiping Rebellion (1850) – During the Taiping Rebellion, a convert to Christianity named Hong Xiquan led a rebellion against the Manchu Qing Dynasty, during which anywhere between 20 to 100 million people (mostly civilians) were killed.

7. World War II (1938-1945) – With a death toll between 40 and 85 million, the Second World War was the deadliest and worst war in history. Experts estimate with such a high death toll, about three percent of the world’s population at 1940 died.

While the wars listed above are some of the worst wars in history, one must be careful not to forget that deadly wars are being fought today all around the globe as well. These may be the worst wars in history, but who’s to say that the worst war of all isn’t one being fought right now?

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr

Village in Germany
As hostility and division in Germany have grown over the course of entering the nation, one village has remained untouched by the discourse.

Golzow is a small, yet famous, village on the German-Polish border. Film fans know it by a 42-hour documentary filmed over five decades, The Children of Golzow. In spite of the film’s success, the population of Golzow has decreased by 12 percent – down to 835 people. By March 2015, the school of Golzow couldn’t reach the number of students needed to hold class and had to be closed.

Nevertheless, mayor Frank Schütz had the solution: invite Syrian refugee families with primary school-age children to join the community of Golzow and donate to them the now-empty apartments. By helping those in need, Golzow’s need would be fulfilled as well.

The first family who accepted the invitation brought six school-age children with them. This allowed the school of Golzow to exceed the number of students necessary to keep it open. The mother recalled her family’s arrival, describing, “Everyone came to welcome us here with flowers. [Golzow] is very open, it’s a very small village and the people are very beautiful.” As the Syrians found a home,  the school and the town found new life.

Other Syrian refugee families have followed in their footsteps. In February 2016, Golzow welcomed its third Syrian refugee family. Halima, her husband, and her children were able to act as Golzow’s very own unofficial translators between Arabic and German.

Since 2015, more than one million refugees have sought asylum in Germany. Unfortunately, after experiencing violence and economic hardship, the climate of the culture towards Syrian refugees has begun to sour. Today, as the once-warmly welcoming Germany is paying asylum seekers to return to their countries, Golzow serves as a reminder that those who stay have a purpose.

Brenna Yowell

Photo: Flickr