Inflammation and stories on global poverty

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Human Trafficking in CuracaoEfforts against human trafficking have improved some with time, but the widespread epidemic continues. Curacao and other foreign governments are fighting to stop this crime — a consistent battle that requires consistent efforts to eradicate it. Human trafficking in Curacao is a complex issue with no set solution; some are making progress across the globe. Many organizations are directing their resources towards human trafficking task forces and prevention. Understanding human trafficking, its origin, prevention and progress are the first steps to becoming an advocate.

Human Trafficking: The Basics

More than 35% of the world’s population currently lives on less than $2.00 a day. There are “2.5 billion children, women and men are at risk for human trafficking.” Curacao identified only three victims of trafficking in 2019, compared to 44 in 2018. This is not a result of improvement. The government of Curacao is not doing enough to find and help victims. Prosecution for traffickers is in place; however, without investigations to find abusers, it’s useless.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that uses force, coercion or fraud to exploit sex or labor from victims. The three most common types of human trafficking are sex trade, forced labor and domestic servitude. Any person is at risk of trafficking, yet women and children are disproportionately involved with sex trafficking. “Women and girls make up 80% of the people trafficked.”

It Begins With Poverty

Curacao’s economy relies heavily on tourism, succumbing to frequent changes that explain its 25% poverty rate. This has gotten worse with COVID-19 and travel restrictions. This resulted in a 19.1% unemployment rate in 2020. Poverty is dangerous in itself and brings more threats to safety.

Women and girls are the main targets of sex trafficking in Curacao. According to the Trafficking in Persons Report, they come from countries such as Venezuela, Curaçao and the Dominican Republic. “Bar owners recruit women and girls to work as waitresses or ‘trago girls’, and subsequently, force them into commercial sex.” Individuals faced with poverty struggle to meet necessities, making them extremely vulnerable to human traffickers. Acknowledging poverty and its direct link to sex or labor trafficking vulnerability is the first step of dismantling it.

This Caribbean island, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is on the Tier 2 Watchlist for human trafficking. This ranking shows efforts being made while still not meeting minimum standards of elimination. The primary reason for the country’s underperformance is a lack of funding since the implementation of its written plan would meet minimum standards. Curacao’s government also lacks adequate protection, prosecution and prevention.

Trafficking affects locals and tourists in Curacao. In 2019, displaced Venezuelans who were working illegally and overstaying their visas held a high risk of trafficking in Curacao. The Kingdom of the Netherlands’ involvement is crucial for anti-trafficking efforts, which puts it in a position of leadership and funding. The Netherlands is responsible for foreign policy in Curacao, Aruba and St. Maarten.

It Is a Global Effort

Countries should work together as a team to fight human trafficking. Due to these crimes’ international occurrence, it is every country’s responsibility to do its part. Interpol, the global police organization, works exclusively to prevent international crime, making it a significant activist. Operation Libertad, coordinated by the Interpol Global Task Force on Human Trafficking, joined forces with 13 different countries, including Curacao. It rescued nearly 350 victims of sexual and labor exploitation in 2018. Interpol exemplified how creating a platform is powerful. It has more than 500 participating police officers arresting traffickers. Efforts and projects like Operation Libertad are in progress around the world.

Other methods of improvement are underway such as training and educational seminars. In 2021, the Dutch Caribbean Islands underwent training from the U.S. Department of Justice Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, solidifying the communal cooperation to fight human trafficking. The Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW) pushes for legislation to combat trafficking with “more than 80 non-government organizations,” including the Netherlands. Many more organizations exist and each plays an essential part in eliminating human trafficking in Curacao.

How to End Human Trafficking in Curacao?

The U.S. Department of State gives 20 different ways one can help fight human trafficking. Human trafficking in Curacao will improve with time and energy. Global efforts present a hopeful future for trafficking victims, yet significant measures are the only to ensure such. Understanding human trafficking, its origin, prevention and progress are the first step of becoming an advocate.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in VietnamWhile Vietnam’s growth and development have led to investments in infrastructure, but unfortunately not within the health sector, specifically in terms of mental health care. A 2011 study of “144 low and middle-income countries” ranked Vietnam last in terms of “the availability of mental health care,” with only “1.7 psychiatrists and 11.5 psychosocial care providers” for every 100,000 people. Recognizing the dire need for change, domestic and international organizations are working to improve mental health in Vietnam.

Beautiful Mind Vietnam

Beautiful Mind Vietnam is a nonprofit organization founded in 2015 with a goal of promoting mental health well-being across Vietnamese society. The organization offers cost-free “peer consultation” to people struggling with mental health issues. The organization specifically focuses on the mental health well-being of youth between the ages of 16 and 25 years old.

As Vietnamese society still stigmatizes mental health illnesses, Beautiful Mind Vietnam’s staff members consist of young people seeking to turn the tide of mental health stigma. From diverse backgrounds, the team “[specializes] in psychology, counseling, mental health, biomedicine and pharmacology.” Operating under the guidance of “professional psychologists and psychiatrists,” the organization aims to raise public awareness about mental health “and provide free support for people with mental health concerns.”

Beautiful Mind Vietnam raises awareness on mental health issues and provides educational information to the public “by translating and writing high quality and reliable articles about mental health, mental disorders and related issues that are relevant to Vietnamese context.” In addition to the peer counseling support the organization offers, Beautiful Mind Vietnam offers a safe space for people to express themselves and feel heard. The organizations also sets up mental health workshops and seminars within communities in order to increase mental health awareness and share practices to promote positive mental health.

BasicNeeds Vietnam

BasicNeeds Vietnam is a non-governmental organization that facilitates the elimination of stress and emotional pain and emphasizes “joy and positive energy” in the Vietnamese mental health landscape. Founded in 2010, the organization seeks “to establish a system that supports community development,” nurtures people’s mental health well-being and educates the public on mental health. Through these goals, BasicNeeds Vietnam ensures that Vietnamese people have a deeper understanding of mental health along with tools to manage their stress and mental issues.

BasicNeeds Vietnam intends to provide accurate scientific information on mental and psychological health, contribute to developing Vietnam’s mental health care and advance “basic mental health knowledge professionally.” The organization develops training workshops for the public, provides mental services to those in need and collaborates with other organizations to better facilitate the conversation surrounding mental health. Through these efforts, the organization envisions a Vietnam where everyone can access proper mental health services.

Medical Committee Netherlands­-Vietnam (MCNV)

MCNV is a non-governmental organization founded “in the Netherlands in 1968 to support health development in Vietnam.” The organization seeks to confront the mental health services gap that the Vietnamese government struggles to address while combating mental health stigma in communities. To improve the quality of life for people with mental illness and their families, MCNV partners with “the INGO Global Initiative for Psychiatry and the Provincial Health departments” to implement community-based mental health care in several districts. This community-based model involves training health workers in order to advance their mental health care skills, among other efforts.

These efforts have seen success. The mental health services of health workers who received training improved and “home-based care and counseling” ensured more people can access mental health services. The development of self-help groups in communities helped provide “social support” to people suffering from mental health conditions while reducing societal stigma associated with mental health conditions.

Together, these three NGOs are fighting to improve mental health in Vietnam. Through these combined efforts, Vietnamese people struggling with mental health issues will receive the help they need.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in BaliWhen the COVID-19 pandemic limited human connection and disrupted everyday life, human unity and kindness were more valuable than ever. Since the confirmation of its first case in February 2020, Indonesia has recorded more than 4 million coronavirus cases and over 140,000 deaths. The prevalence of COVID-19 in Bali, in particular, harmed the nation’s economy, resulting in a growth in hunger. Fortunately, a new community-based program seeks to help hunger in Bali by helping individuals experiencing food insecurity while also combatting plastic waste.

Effects of COVID-19 on Bali’s Economy

Tourism is an important facet of Bali’s economy. Before the pandemic, Bali welcomed over 6 million visitors per year. However, until the rates of COVID-19 in Bali had sufficiently lowered, tourists could not visit the island. While Bali’s travel ban intended to keep people safe, hunger in Bali grew due to this financial halt. Approximately 92,000 people who worked in the tourism industry were laid off during the pandemic, having little to no means of supporting their families. With this complete loss of income, many tourism employees turned to agricultural business to make ends meet, though workers would sometimes only get $4 a day, barely enough to purchase a single bucket of rice.

Development of Plastic Exchange

Vegan restaurant owner Made Janur Yasa saw the grueling circumstances of unemployed people in his home village of Ubud. He wanted to use and donate his services and resources as sustainably as possible to avoid creating more plastic waste in an already excessively polluted place. Yasa explained to CNN, “I got to thinking, inside the challenge, there is an opportunity.” Thus, the impetus and conception for Plastic Exchange or Plastic for Rice were born. Yasa’s initiative, Plastic Exchange, isn’t just a means of feeding families who couldn’t afford rice, though. It encourages participants to travel down to their local parks and beaches to collect plastic waste. Plastic Exchange upholds three core values: dignity, prosperity, and environment. The first value of dignity is a noteworthy cause, as it is important to sustain a sense of self-worth in individuals who suffered the economic effects of COVID-19 in Bali. Its second core value ties in nicely with the first since people cannot thrive in their environment unless their most fundamental needs are met. Lastly, the hands-on initiative towards alleviating Bali’s plastic waste problem teaches citizens the importance of caring for their planet, reiterating that sustainability is achievable in the direst of circumstances.

Plans for Plastic Exchange

According to a report from the Bali Tribune, in August of 2021, a Plastic Exchange initiative in a village called Saba collected two tons of plastic within a timeframe of two hours. The positive results from plastic exchange programs have inspired Indonesian villagers to embrace small-scale acts as catalysts for large-scale sustainable improvements. Not only is this exchange of plastic an excellent means of recycling — Yasa sends the plastic waste to the island of Java, with a tremendous amount of infrastructure — but it is also a means of stabilizing the island’s economy. Local rice farmers and planters receive a more consistent income again as islanders can afford larger rice supplies again, which also combats high hunger rates in Bali. With more than 500 tons of plastic collected, Yasa is eager to take his successful initiative and encourage its operation in other Indonesian villages and potentially other countries as well.

Conclusion

Plastic Exchange’s website opens with a sped-up count of how many Bali villages have participated in the program, how many kilograms of plastic were collected, and how many kilograms of rice were distributed. It is overwhelming in the best way possible. There is also a PayPal link to donate towards the cause. For example, a $50 donation can buy 50kg of rice that feeds 200 people per day. Ultimately, plastic exchanges are a promising solution to end hunger and plastic waste in Bali.

– Maia Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Cabo Delgado crisis
Mozambique, a southern nation located in East Africa, is one of the poorest nations in the world. Cabo Delgado is its northernmost province and is rich in natural gas and rubies.  A mix of political tensions, Islamist militancy and inequality have provided fertile ground for Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado crisis

Background of the Crisis

Violence erupted in Cabo Delgado in 2015 and continues today as clashes between the militant group al-Shabab and state security forces.  Members of al-Shabab feel that the state does not provide for those in Cabo Delgado who do not belong to the elite. To date, almost 3000 people have died and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. In particular, Mozambican children are suffering heavily from physical and mental challenges.

Physical Challenges to Children: Displacement

The Cabo Delgado crisis has displaced over 336,000 children from their homes. Children flee from their homes on short notice to escape violence. They often travel long distances, sustaining injuries as a result of their journeys. Within the span of one month from June to July 2021, the number of children fleeing alone from Cabo Delgado increased by 40%.

Physical Challenges to Children: Hunger and Violence

Children impacted by the Cabo Delgado crisis also suffer from starvation. A UNICEF SMART survey analysis indicates that 33,000 children in Cabo Delgado are severely malnourished. Still, this number does not even take into account the children who have fled the region.

Some children are even subject to kidnappings and extreme violence. In the span of 13 months, ending in August 2021, over 50 children, mostly girls, were kidnapped. Additionally, there have been reports that children as young as 11 were beheaded.

Mental Challenges to Children: Trauma and Education

In addition to physical challenges, children displaced by the Cabo Delgado crisis also suffer from severe mental distress and trauma. This is often a result of children witnessing horrifying scenes including the murder of their own parents.

The Cabo Delgado crisis also challenges children’s access to education. Cabo Delgado has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in Mozambique. Thus far, the conflict has destroyed 221 schools, jeopardizing children’s access to essential learning.

Helping the Children of Mozambique

The Mozambican government has taken steps to try and improve life in provinces impacted by the Cabo Delgado crisis. In March 2020, the government created the Northern Integrated Development Agency to provide humanitarian aid and support economic growth and youth employment in Cabo Delgado and other provinces impacted by the crisis.

The international community has tried to help diffuse the Cabo Delgado crisis by strengthening the government. In April 2021, the World Bank agreed to provide $100 million to the government of Mozambique to support displaced civilians with basic infrastructure and job creation.

Save the Children

Save the Children, the international humanitarian organization, is helping.  It recently worked to reunite 63 Cabo Delgado children with their parents and caregivers. The organization provides foster homes and other forms of temporary accommodation for displaced children.  It also provides mental health and psychosocial support service. In addition, Save the Children works with the Mozambican government and other partners to combat malnutrition and provide improved health programs for children. Thus far, the organization has provided support to more than 25,000 children in times of crisis and vital nourishment to almost 15,000 children.

The Mozambique government, global financial leaders including the World Bank, and international humanitarian organizations including Save the Children are making strides to improve life in Cabo Delgado. While much work still remains, these groups are alleviating the suffering of children who are caught up in the Cabo Delgado crisis.

– Savannah Algu
Photo: Flickr

Covid -19 in Malawi
Malawi, a landlocked southeastern nation in Africa, faces hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of October 2021, COVID-19 in Malawi say a rise in over 61,700 COVID-19 cases and over 2,200 deaths. The biggest spike that Malawi experienced began on January 25, 2021, with a seven-week average case count of 994. The cases diminished significantly by September 2021, with most 7-week average counts bordering 40 cases. Already deep in poverty, Malawians certainly did not benefit from imposed lockdowns and a rising unemployment rate.

Effects on Poverty

Malawi continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world. It ranks 222 of 225 countries in terms of the greatest GDP per capita, with 526.93 in December 2020. Additionally, Malawi’s poverty rates can be attributed to its economy, which employs about 80% of the population in the agricultural sector. The COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected most urban areas and forced services and businesses to terminate.

The last demographic statistics of Malawi dates back to 2016 and recorded a poverty rate of 69.2%, which increased from the previous statistic of 62.4% in 1997. This means that this population lives with an income averaging below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day. Though no definitive statistics of Malawi’s current poverty rate exist, experts estimate it to be near or greater than the last census of 69.2% due to the unemployment rates caused by COVID-19. The unemployment rate of Malawi increased from 5.6% in 2019 to 6% in 2020, accounting for the jobs terminated by COVID-19.

Economic Development

As mentioned previously, the agriculture business in Malawi accounts for 80% of jobs. However, agricultural production is not necessarily abundant. By September 2020, over 2.6 million Malawians suffered food shortages from a combination of COVID-19 and weather complications.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Malawi experienced economic development with 3.5% economic growth in 2018 and 4.4% in 2019. The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) was created in 2017 to aid Malawi in several different sectors, including industry, health and poverty. However, the pandemic abruptly paused the project, and some fear that the effects of COVID-19 in Malawi will reverse the progress made in previous years. The Malawi Economic Monitor (MEM) predicts long-term and widespread negative effects from the pandemic, even though measures such as the Emergency Liquidity Assistance should mitigate some of the damage. If the effects do not worsen by the end of COVID-19 in Malawi, the nation will likely be able to reconstruct its economy with the 5-year installment plans within the MGDS.

Social Conditions

One of the greatest worldwide challenges of the pandemic continues to be providing schooling for students at home. With Malawi’s poor standards for education, where only 8% of students finish secondary school, the pandemic posed a great challenge. In a survey of 100 parents of school-attending children, 86% reported that they had no contact with any teachers or the school throughout the lockdown. Additionally, there is a lack of school materials in Malawi, making learning at home even more difficult.

Another social issue due to COVID-19 in Malawi is the rise in suicide rates. The lack of professional services available for mental health in Malawi resulted in drastically increased suicide rates. In 2020, the Malawi police service reported an increase of up to 57% during the pandemic. Additionally, statistics found that 92% of suicides in Malawi during this period were men, with 8% being women. Certain psychologists associate this with the loss of jobs and rising poverty levels in Malawi. These struggles place intense pressure on the men of a household to provide for their family during drastic times.

All Is Not Lost

Though it may seem like the current conditions in Malawi are beyond hope, there is still a chance that Malawi can recover from the pandemic and return to its course of economic improvement. With COVID-19 cases lowering, Malawi may be seeing the end of the pandemic. Also, the implementation of The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy will help with Malawi’s economic reset and assist the country in its recovery.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Wikimedia

 

Poverty Reduction in FranceFrom 1996-2004, poverty reduction in France was successful as the numbers of those in poverty reduced from 8,292 to 7,495. However, in recent years, the poverty rate in France resembles the figures from 1970, with more than 8.8 million people living in poverty as of 2017. Taking a closer look at poverty reduction in France over the decades, one can gain insight into what has caused the rise in poverty and how France is implementing similar poverty reduction methods to reduce poverty once more. Here are six facts about poverty reduction in France.

6 Facts About Poverty Reduction in France

  1. The 1989/10 Resolution: In 1989, France took steps to reduce poverty by adopting the Human Rights Commission 1989/10 resolution.  The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs describes the 1989/10 resolution as a “starting point of work” for addressing “human rights and extreme poverty.” This law acknowledged the unfulfillment of France’s impoverished citizens in regard to their economic, cultural, social, political and civil rights needs. The 1989/10 Resolution also sought for French citizens to receive equality in their rights especially regarding the poor.
  2. Universal Basic Health Insurance: In 1999, France implemented “universal basic health insurance” to ensure that even the most impoverished French people can access healthcare. Every citizen of France received the right to this universal sickness coverage. French citizens, to this day, have 70-100% health coverage. Comparing France’s health insurance costs to the United States, the average cost of health insurance for one person is $45 per month in France. In the United States, “In 2020, the average national cost for health insurance is $456″ per person.
  3. The Landmark 2000 Law: In 2000, France implemented the Landmark 2000 Law or the Solidarity and Urban Renewal Law (SRU).  in an effort to make housing more affordable. The Landmark 2000 Law requires cities to make 20% of their housing, shared housing. This law allowed families suffering from poverty to have an affordable housing option. Following free health care and the Landmark 2000 Law, France reached its lowest poverty rate in 2004, compared to 2000. In 2000, the poverty rate was at 13.6%, whereas in 2004, the poverty rate reached 12.6% The 2000 poverty rate of 13.6%, did not rise above this number until 2010.
  4. Rising Poverty: After the 2008 economic collapse, France faced a rising poverty rate. According to Statistica, the poverty rate was 13% in 2008 whereas it rose to 14.8% by 2018.
  5. The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights: In 2012, France and 39 other countries incorporated the Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights into their government systems. The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights were a tool to ensure that policymakers would carry out policies that would be beneficial to those in poverty. Policymakers would take account and respect citizens with poverty obstacles, while also upholding their rights.
  6. Social Housing: In today’s world, France is focusing on more social housing. More than 40% of France rents their housing and 40% of the renters also live in public housing. People who live in the housing are citizens who have been homeless, disabled, evicted or have other disadvantages. France is aiming to increase their public housing residents in the next few years. France 24 wrote that “Hidalgo’s administration aims to house [25%] of Parisians in social housing by 2025, and up to [30%] by 2030.”

Looking Ahead

These facts about poverty reduction in France have shown its success from 1970 to 2000. Yet, after the economic crisis in 2008, poverty levels rose. However, France is in the process of rebuilding the economy once more, using similar strategies that have worked previously.

– Sydney Littlejohn
Photo: Flickr

Princess MariePrincess Marie of Denmark completes her tenth year working with DanChurchAid, an organization working to combat global poverty. She has also contributed to several other philanthropic organizations over the years. Her Royal Highness actively advocates for the critical cause of diminishing global poverty through her work and commitment.

DanChurchAid

DanChurchAid is an organization that works with economically developing nations to combat hunger, poverty, and oppression. It has been operating for over a hundred years, and with the help of donors, volunteers, and partners, it has aided people in more than 120 countries. The group uses popular and political forces to urge political decision-makers to improve living conditions for the underprivileged. Along with their long-term aid in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), the organization offers relief to disaster-stricken areas. They make sure that communities reemerge more robustly, and are more adequately prepared if disaster strikes again. The group’s mission emphasizes the importance of human rights as well as working with those in need on relevant, sustainable, and practical projects.

Humanitarian Trips

Through her years as a patron, Princess Marie’s philanthropy has shown through her multiple humanitarian trips with DanChurchAid. During a recent trip to Uganda, she visited the Raising Gabdho Foundation in Kampala. There, she learned more about the foundation’s work, and the techniques they developed to cook in a more sustainable way. She also saw a DanChurchAid project called Fresh Fruit Nexus. The Danish International Development Agency first developed this project in Northern Uganda in 2018. Here, Princess Marie visited Ugandan farmers in the Omugo Refugee Settlement. Together with their refugee families, the farmers formed a cooperative in which they collected crops together and had the opportunity to borrow money from each other.

Princess Marie’s philanthropy extends to other countries as well. She has also traveled to Myanmar in the past. In Myanmar, DanChurchAid has provided underdeveloped communities with practical tools to advance their economic status and quality of life. People have worked to financially organize themselves through savings and loan systems. The underprivileged community could use the money to purchase essential tools, such as sewing machines, for economic sustainability. Princess Marie made this humanitarian trip alongside Danish donors who are also passionate about combating global poverty.

Promoting Sustainability and Accessibility

Another project that Princess Marie was active in is a supermarket called Wefood, which is located in the capital of Copenhagen, Denmark. Her Royal Highness worked with DanChurchAid in unveiling the project. Wefood aims to promote sustainability and accessibility by collecting surplus produce daily and selling it. By using this method, they can cut costs by 30 to 50%. The supermarket has aimed to cut back on food waste and provide food to those affected by poverty. This is the first of its kind in the nation.

In addition to Wefood, Princess Marie has also worked with FoedevareBanken, a Danish food bank. This organization also aims to fight food waste and poverty. Similar to Wefood, they work to provide disadvantaged people with sustainable food, and this initiative ensures that all people can have access to nutritious and balanced meals.

Through her advocacy and patronage with DanChurchAid, Princess Marie has effectively influenced the fight against global poverty. After her ten years with the organization, people worldwide eagerly await to see where Princess Marie’s philanthropy will inspire change next.

– Carly Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Ending poverty with energy solutionsThere are 840 million people worldwide without access to electricity. According to The Rockefeller Foundation, 650 million people will still lack access to electricity in 2030. Without electricity, people have limited access to education and healthcare. Having access to power is critical for all aspects of life. Access to electricity means “small businesses of all kinds can expand and connect with outside markets.” It also helps farmers protect their crop value and boost the productivity of local agriculture. Making sure people have access to reliable electricity can help lift families out of poverty. The Rockefeller Foundation has made it its mission to end energy poverty globally.

Solutions

Distributing clean and renewable energy is a big way to end energy poverty. The goal of The Rockefeller Foundation is to “dramatically accelerate the pace of electrification by leveraging the full potential of decentralized renewable energy.” The way to do this is through climate-smart energy systems. By doing this, the populations that are more vulnerable will have access to reliable energy.

Powering the last mile

In 2015, The Rockefeller Foundation launched the Smart Power for Rural Development Initiative in India, Myanmar, and sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative addresses the gap in access to affordable, dependable energy in different communities. “SPRD promotes partnerships around decentralized renewable energy solutions, specifically mini-grid electricity, to ensure that high-quality, reliable energy is provided to all segments of the community.” By providing access to renewable energy, SPRD gives local economies a chance to thrive. Smart Power India has connected 15,000 households and over 8,000 enterprises with electricity. With this initiative, local “renewable energy mini-grid companies” get the support they need. Business revenue has also increased between 35% and 52% since the program started.

While using decentralized mini-grids is a great way to provide electricity access to rural areas, the cost of doing it is increasing. To combat this, Smart Power India uses unique technological solutions, such as standardizing grid technology by using a “grid-in-a-box”, along with using irrigation to help farming communities. Also, with smart meter technology, they can modernize the operations of energy companies. These solutions are cost- and energy-efficient ways of getting the job done.

Smart Power Myanmar intends to bring access to electricity to 10 million people during the next decade. By taking what they have learned through Smart Power India, along with partnering with USAID and The World Bank, their plan is to “accelerate rural electrification access through decentralized solutions.”

Through Smart Power Africa, The Rockefeller Foundation has a three-step plan to expand access to electricity: The production of mini-grids in Sierra Leone, extending the connections with last-mile communities and developing rural mini-grids in Africa.

Final thoughts

Electricity is a huge part of modern society, and without it, it is difficult to thrive. The Rockefeller Foundation is doing all it can to help end energy poverty by providing electricity globally.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Unsplash

Vaccines in SyriaDuring the Eid holidays, the number of border crossings in and out of Syria drastically increased. As a result of such rising travel, the subsequent transmission of COVID-19 and reported cases additionally increased. With the remnants of the aforementioned influx continuing into late August and September 2021, vaccines in Syria are desperately needed, due to Syria being home to one of the fastest increasing rates of infection in the world. Thus, the early September shipment of over 358,000 vaccinations from WHO Turkey came as a welcome respite.

A Broken Healthcare System

As Syria nears the peak of its second infection curve, outside reporters and internal government agents look back at the path that brought Syria to its position of viral precarity. Syria entered the pandemic in a state of civil war that suffered the healthcare system as the most severe casualty. Since the inception of the Syrian civil war, there have been nearly 600 documented attacks on medical facilities. Of these, Physicians for Human Rights attributes over 90% to the state government. As a result of such unabashed violence, nearly 70% of healthcare workers fled the country. The shortage of workers placed yet another strain on an already damaged healthcare infrastructure. Such was the initial state of Syrian healthcare at the genesis of COVID-19.

A Worsening Crisis

Syria, the home to the largest population of Internationally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the world, found itself massively unprepared for the ills of COVID-19. In the Northwest, nearly 4 million IDPs were equipped with a total of 212 ICU beds designated for pandemic patients. Such a dearth of medical supplies represented the norm across nearly all of Syria.

According to the WHO, COVID-19 transmission in IDP camps increased 200% since August 2021, with over 1,000 new daily cases. Dramatically ill-equipped to address the initial wave of COVID-19, this infrastructure proved similarly ill-equipped for the dissemination of vaccines.

Early estimates of the Syrian government’s capacity to vaccinate its population suggest that as of October 2021, only 2.6% have received both doses. At such a pace, the medical system would require a further 490 days simply to achieve a 10% vaccinated threshold. These predictions arrive in tandem with Syria’s highest infection rate to date, with a daily average of 347 reported on October 20.

New Vaccines, New Hope

Amidst all of this difficulty, NGOs and global organizations such as WHO and the U.N. have sought to aid nations struggling to vaccinate their citizens. One example is the shipment of over 358,000 vaccinations from WHO Turkey, a much-welcomed respite in Syria. In early September 2021, WHO reported the delivery of these vaccines to Northwest Syria by way of the Adana airport. These doses represent more than double the number of previously administered vaccines before their arrival. This arrival resulted from a collaboration between WHO Turkey, UNICEF and the Syrian Immunization Groups.  Their massively helpful collaboration presents just one example of the necessity of international aid in vaccinating the global population, and subsequently, beating this pandemic.

– Jonah Stern
Photo: Flickr

Costa Rica, Pura Vida, Central America, Jungle, Green

In 2021, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to provide Costa Rica with a $1.7 billion loan “to support Costa Rica’s recovery and stabilization from the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Although the Costa Rican government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was effective, economic improvements are stagnant. Costa Rica’s economy relies heavily on tourism and the COVID-19 pandemic created a significant halt in this sector. The IMF’s assistance in Costa Rica would help create jobs in high-demand areas and improve the resiliency of businesses.

Economic Challenges During COVID-19

The World Bank indicates that Costa Rica’s economy expanded over the last quarter of a century, with poverty rates lower than other Latin American countries. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the economy to decline by 4.6% in 2020. As a result, “one out of five workers” experienced unemployment by the last quarter of 2020 and the poverty rate in Costa Rica increased to 13%. As the situation improves, the economy expects to grow by 2.6% in 2021 and 3.3% in 2022.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that besides the pandemic, Costa Rica’s increased budget deficits and debt could have played a role in the recent economic destruction. Since the Costa Rican government had to provide additional funding for social and health programs, the budget deficits would grow further. Therefore, a strong recovery plan is necessary to lower deficits and improve Costa Rica’s economic situation.

Tourism: A Struggling Industry

According to Reuters, Costa Rica’s economy struggled since “hotel and trade shrank by 40% last year.” The pandemic and tourism produced 8.5% of its gross domestic product. At the beginning of 2021, fewer tourists visited than in previous years, indicating that economic recovery could take a while. However, officials in the tourism industry remain optimistic for more tourists in the future since many attractions are outdoors and there are fewer concerns about the virus spreading in open areas.

However, the amount of COVID-19 cases in Costa Rica was at its highest point from the end of April 2021 into early May 2021, leading to decreased levels of tourism. The U.S. even issued a travel advisory warning for citizens planning to visit Costa Rica. The Costa Rican government attempted to help the tourism sector by indicating that industries such as tourism did not need to impose new COVID-19 restrictions. Nevertheless, several groups of international tourists canceled their plans to visit.

Officials aim to improve economic conditions by expanding sustainable tourism. This would benefit the environment and help small businesses. The Minister of Tourism explained that expanding this industry would increase employees’ incomes and allow tourists to see different attractions. Officials introduced this plan to the national bank to see if it could consider using additional recovery strategies such as credits or implementing changes in rates.

Overcoming the Economic Challenges

So far, the Costa Rican government has made several efforts to assist those most impacted by the pandemic. It distributed grants to at least 700,000 citizens who suffered the most during the pandemic. It also had businesses impose strict health precautions, preventing a massive spread of the virus and further economic downturn.

Al Jazeera states that the Costa Rican government began working with the IMF to obtain a loan that would go toward tax reform and selling assets. The IMF’s assistance would also help Costa Rica pay off part of the significant debt accumulated within the past few decades.

The IMF’s assistance expects to cover a three-year time frame to improve economic conditions and reduce poverty rates. The Costa Rican government also plans to put the loan toward strategies that could boost employment. The IMF reports that the majority of those facing unemployment are women and youths. Various career fields in Costa Rica need employees and many companies are struggling to hire due to the pandemic.

The Costa Rican government thinks increased spending on social services would allow more women to enter the workforce since these programs will ease the burden of many familial caretaking responsibilities often resting on the shoulders of women. In addition, the government wants to pass legislation that aims to improve the education system to increase the possibility of employment opportunities in higher-paying jobs.

Moving Forward

The IMF’s assistance in Costa Rica would mitigate the current economic situation by addressing the root causes of high unemployment rates and income inequality. This effort would contribute to further development and potentially allow Costa Rica’s economy to reach pre-pandemic rates of growth.

Cristina Velaz

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