Posts

Hunger in Lebanon
Three recent events in Lebanon have crucially impacted its ability to feed its people. Conversely, there are three organizations or political actors working to combat the devastating hunger and guide Lebanon toward food security. Here are three recent crises and three organizations that are working to provide aid and reduce hunger in Lebanon.

The Beirut Explosion

On August 4, 2020, an explosion devastated the port of Beirut, Lebanon. Without a functioning port, the country is missing 65% to 80% of its food imports. The explosion destroyed 15,000 metric tons of wheat and the main grain silos. The disaster at the port has exacerbated hunger in Lebanon by preventing and delaying access to food, while also increasing the cost of imported food.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

As of early August 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) agreed to distribute 5,000 food parcels to families currently suffering from hunger in Lebanon in light of the explosion. Each package includes necessities such as rice, sugar and oil and contains enough ingredients to feed five people for one month. Moreover, the World Food Programme has partnered with the government’s National Poverty Targeting Programme to provide over 100,000 Lebanese people with prepaid debit cards so they can purchase groceries. Lastly, the organization, in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered 8.5 metric tons of surgical and trauma equipment to Beirut two days after the explosion. Not only will this equipment help those the disaster affected, but it will also allow the country to focus on repairing the port, which is crucial to its survival.

The Challenges of COVID-19

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has made it significantly more difficult for families to put food on the table, and Lebanon is no exception. Relieving the devastating effects of the virus has become more important than addressing food insecurity. In a recent study that the World Food Programme conducted, due to the virus, one in three workers have found themselves unemployed and one in five workers have seen a pay cut. Moreover, there has been a country-wide halt in channeling resources toward hunger, as they have all gone toward the containment of COVID-19.

The United Nations

The United Nations has involved itself in providing aid to Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF, an organization that provides aid to children across the globe, has created an eight-point plan for countries in the Middle East and North Africa dealing with the combined effects of COVID-19 and food insecurity. There are three points in particular that are closely related to the inability to afford food due to COVID-19. These points include establishing job and income security for those who perform agricultural or casual labor and instigating social protection schemes and community programs for the benefit of vulnerable groups and those who are unemployed due to lockdowns. The aforementioned will ensure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods. Another point involves creating a food security and nutrition surveillance system that will collect and update necessary information to identify populations at risk and address factors that will negatively affect said populations.

Furthermore, the UNHCR, a refugee agency, has allocated $43 million as of late August 2020 in response to the coronavirus and its effects. This aid will allow Lebanon to purchase proper medical equipment and create isolation units, both of which will help treat those suffering from the virus and slow its spread. As a result, Lebanon can renew its feverous efforts on solving hunger.

Political and Economic Turmoil

Since October 2019, an extensive list including corruption and civil unrest has led Lebanon’s economy to the tip of a very steep iceberg. The Lebanese pound has since lost over 80% of its value, thousands of businesses have gone under and candlelight is the new normal. Due to these extreme changes in the political and economic climates, hunger in Lebanon has reached an unprecedented level, affecting citizens and refugees alike. To bridge their income gap, citizens have reported spending less money on food, an intuitively counteractive response. As for the 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon due to civil war in their home country, nearly 200,000 have reported going 24 hours without eating, and 360,000 have reported skipping meals.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity has been providing help to Lebanon. The branch of this organization based in Great Britain employs tradesmen and builders from the Lebanese and Syrian communities in order to complete its various infrastructure projects in Lebanon. For example, empty and distressed buildings that vulnerable families reside have undergone rehabilitation. Rehabilitation efforts included water and sanitation upgrades, heat and solar light installation and the addition of necessary furniture such as beds. During this process, the spaces were either free or had reduced rent. Not only does this benefit the community by providing jobs which in turn boosts the economy, but it also allows families to focus their resources on food as opposed to shelter, an issue specific to refugees.

Despite how daunting the aforementioned issues are, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Various global organizations are taking action to bring attention to and end hunger in Lebanon. As resources and support continue to pour into the country, the people of Lebanon will begin to see brighter days.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

Sub-Saharan African SlumsSub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a housing crisis. While around one billion people live in slums around the globe, 200 million of those live in sub-Saharan African slums. This number represents “61.7% of the region’s urban population,” making sub-Saharan Africa the highest in the world for urban poverty.

Sub-Saharan African Slums and Urban Poverty

Singumbe Muyeba, assistant professor of African Studies at the University of Denver, spoke with The Borgen Project about development intervention and sub-Saharan African slums. Muyeba’s expertise in these areas stems from his academic work but also from his work for the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees and Development Program.

According to Muyeba, sub-Saharan African slums began when African countries gained independence from colonialist rule from the 1960s through the ‘80s. Since colonialists always reserved major cities for themselves, Africans everywhere migrated from rural to urban areas after independence. However, that meant infant governments had to keep up with increasing urban populations. They were unable to do so due to the skyrocketing rates of urbanization.

With housing rapidly diminishing as Africans moved into cities, they began settling onto common land, eventually creating the sprawling slums that still exist today. Even now, the sub-Saharan African urban population is annually growing at 4%. A projection from the U.N. reveals that “the world’s 10 fastest growing cities, between 2018 and 2035, will all be in Africa.” In addition, there is a backlog of 51 million housing units in Africa. The region’s supply of housing is “about nine years behind current demand,” according to Muyeba.

Slum Upgrading Programs

The World Bank has funded slum upgrading programs to combat rising urban poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. These programs assigned property rights and provided access to services in hopes to empower slum residents with their own land. However, as Muyeba explained, these programs were largely “self-help” models. The World Bank simply gave impoverished individuals property rights and no means to build their own housing.

Since “about 97% to 99% of people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to formal financing” that allows them to build or buy a home, people haphazardly build their own informal housing or remain in slums. Formal and sustainable housing only accounts for 10% of all urban African housing. While handing out free titles and property rights looks good on paper, this “slum upgrading” has not improved slums.

Ongoing Problems in Slums

While sub-Saharan Africa housing conditions improved by 11% from 2000-2015,  this improvement was “twice as likely in the wealthiest households” and “80% more likely among more educated households.” The reality is that 80-90% of Africans work in the informal sector, and the majority of people living in sub-Saharan African cities live in slums. Therefore, this housing improvement did not occur in the slums, which many people cannot escape.

George Compound, a slum in Lusaka, Zambia, serves as a perfect example of a poorly executed upgrade program. It is a major slum with 400,000 inhabitants, but it does not have adequate running water. The water it does have from makeshift wells is contaminated with nearby ground toilets.

In Muyeba’s opinion, government involvement is necessary to fix the African housing crisis. While he is not against privatization, he believes the neoliberal model is not working to improve sub-Saharan African slums.

Can Governments Fix the Housing Crisis?

However, even if African governments want to get involved in building housing, they cannot. This is because of the World Bank’s international economic rulings on aid and upgrade programs. “The system is set up in such a way that the World Bank advocates for less involvement of the government following the Structural Adjustment Programs implemented in the 80s and 90s,” stated Muyeba.

In order to receive aid through the World Bank’s structural adjustment programs, governments often have to delegate building to the private sector. However, the private sector cannot make a real profit from low-income housing because so many Africans and slum-dwellers are part of the informal sector. People in poverty cannot get mortgages because they lack access to credit or insurance. This prevents the private sector from serving poor Africans.

Muyeba firmly believes “there are wins everywhere” if governments (with the help of communities and the private sector) build housing. The construction sector can benefit from large-scale projects, while infrastructure creates jobs. Individuals in slums can focus their attention on making income rather than worrying about basic housing needs.

Muyeba offered Kenya as an example of combined state, private and community partnerships to combat urban poverty. Currently, the country has implemented its own kind of slum upgrading program in which the government builds housing and guarantees mortgages.

Organizations Helping People in Sub-Saharan African Slums

Outside organizations and NGOs are actively working to help housing poverty in sub-Saharan African slums. Habitat for Humanity completed a six-year program in 2018 called “Building Assets, Unlocking Access.” This program worked in Uganda and Kenya to offer technical help and “develop housing microfinance products and services.” Habitat for Humanity’s approach allowed Africans to progressively build their own housing, access small-scale loans and set up small payments.

More than 42,000 individuals accessed microfinance loans through the program, which impacted more than 210,000 people in total. In addition, 32.9% of loan recipients built entire houses for themselves and their families.

A report from the project found that recipients also upgraded their housing with improved roofing, walls, sanitation and electricity. Additionally, the program caused trickle-down effects in health. Fewer people reported common ailments like “sore throats, shortness of breath, itchy eyes, blocked noses, vomiting and rashes” due to healthier housing. The most improved group was children under six.

Hopefully, all African cities struggling with urban poverty can create domestic housing projects or find new, inventive ways to help the housing crisis. All in all, the solution to sub-Saharan African slums is housing. According to Muyeba, “It’s a no brainer.”

Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Myanmar
The term “living conditions” encompasses all the major necessities in life, shelter, food, safety, water and electricity. In recent years, living conditions in Myanmar have vastly improved, as shown through formal statistics and public opinion. For instance, public electricity in the nation has increased by 8% between 2015 and 2017 while connectivity also increased, with 82% of households owning phones. Public opinion polls of citizens reflect these positive statistics. Specifically, 91% of Myanmar residents believe when today’s children grow up, they will have a better standard of living than themselves. Many major organizations, including those discussed below, have helped to create such great strides.

3 Organizations Improving Living Conditions in Myanmar

  1. CARE: CARE is a worldwide organization working towards ending poverty while focusing on social justice. The organization emphasizes gender equality, with over 55% of its efforts focused on assisting women and girls. As of 2019, CARE and CARE’s partners have helped 130 million people in 100 nations through its programs. CARE has been assisting those in need in Myanmar since 1995. Currently, it is focusing on improving living conditions for Myanmar’s women and girls. Many long-term plans have been developed for the nation, such as the Rural Long-Term Program 2013-2028 and the Urban Long-Term Program 2013-2028. Both of these plans focus on protecting women from humanitarian emergencies and increasing their economic opportunities.
  2. Action Against Hunger: Action Against Hunger takes a different approach to improve living conditions around the world. It is an organization concentrated on ensuring food security and access to water. Internationally, Action Against Hunger has aided 21 million people in 2018 alone. Another focus of the organization is fighting child malnutrition by assisting in emergency food and water aid. Action Against Hunger has been bettering living conditions in Myanmar since 1994 through its numerous programs. One of its major programs works to expand safe access to water by fixing water infrastructure and making wells. Additionally, after providing access to water, the organization guarantees long-term access through training and creating groups of community members to manage their water. These Action Against Hunger programs have an expansive reach throughout Myanmar and have made a lasting change in many lives. In 2018 alone, its water, sanitation and hygiene programs reached 19,460 people and food security programs reached 23,790 people in Myanmar.
  3. Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity improves lives worldwide by creating adequate and affordable shelters for impoverished people and disaster victims. In 2019, the organization improved the lives and houses of 7 million people while also training another 2.3 million people. Since its establishment in 1976, it has helped over 29 million people worldwide. The organization has been working to better living conditions in Myanmar since 2008. It began its work in the nation after a  cyclone destroyed many homes. The organization partnered with World Concern to restore 1,700 homes in the most heavily impacted region of Myanmar. On top of rebuilding houses, Habitat for Humanity successfully assisted over 950 Myanmarese families in gaining access to clean water and health centers. Currently, the organization continues to assist families across Myanmar.

As shown through these three organizations, there are many different strategies for humanitarian aid. Increasing women’s opportunities, creating safe water accessibility, providing food security and creating shelter are all essential to the development of improved living conditions both in Myanmar and across the world.

Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr

Macedonia's Housing Crisis
Macedonia’s housing crisis requires swift attention. In 2018, about 21.9% of the country’s population was living below the poverty line. With a population of 2,082,957 in 2018, more than 456,000 people living in Macedonia were experiencing poverty that year. Furthermore, Macedonia saw an unemployment rate of 17.76% in 2019, a rate which is more than double the national average of 7.04%. The collapse of state-run housing development organizations in Macedonia since its independence has led to about 15% of Macedonians living in “illegally constructed buildings.” This means that roughly 320,000 people living in Macedonia lack access to adequate housing.

Invisible Homeless

The unauthorized housing that many people in Macedonia must live in bars thousands from access to important social systems and tools. Since Macedonians require an official home address to obtain a legal ID, the state effectively renders many of them nonexistent. This prevents these people from utilizing such essential services as insurance, social safety nets and immunization services.

Macedonia’s housing crisis is also a health crisis. Without adequate housing, hundreds of thousands of Macedonians are at risk of injury and disease due to hazardous living conditions. In 2018, fewer than a third of Macedonians had thermal insulation systems in their places of residence. Inadequate heating and insulation in buildings have forced thousands of people living in Macedonia to use homemade fires to keep warm since they cannot afford the expensive heating bills otherwise necessary to heat their homes. In the capital city of Skopje, roughly “two-thirds of households use firewood as their primary source of heating,” according to the Financial Times. Without proper air circulation, this can lead to severe chronic health conditions such as heart and lung disease due to inhalation of the hazardous particles which such fires produce.

Habitat for Humanity and Roma SOS

While Macedonia’s housing crisis is a daunting problem, some are doing significant work to improve housing in impoverished Macedonian communities. Despite being an attractive country for foreign investment due to its low tax rates and free economic zones, Macedonia still has one of the lowest foreign investment rates among European countries. This can make it harder for the government to provide solutions.

A Macedonian-based organization called Roma SOS is working to improve the living conditions of those experiencing the most need in Macedonia. The organization is currently working with Habitat for Humanity to provide impoverished Macedonians with zero-interest loans for legalizing and renovating their homes. While Habitat for Humanity provides the funding for these loans, Roma SOS helps residents in navigating the legal process of receiving approval for their loans.

Since 2004, Habitat for Humanity has worked to improve affordable housing for the people of Macedonia, and in 2019 it served 4,245 individuals “through market development.” Habitat for Humanity has further worked to provide individuals in Macedonia with housing that is not only affordable but also energy efficient. Since beginning this project in 2010, it has worked to restructure more than 60 buildings to improve energy efficiency, which has saved Macedonia more than 7,910 MWh of energy usage annually. The loans that Habitat for Humanity provides are essential for giving impoverished people in Macedonia access to better housing. With these loans, Habitat for Humanity has made heating safer and more affordable for more than 1,000 families living in Macedonia.

On the Path to EU Membership

Macedonia’s government also appears to be taking steps towards increased funding for improved housing. Macedonia has recently signed a deal with Greece and is currently on its way to becoming a member of the E.U. By joining the E.U., Macedonia would see an increase in foreign investment and would be able to apply for crisis aid packages to help improve housing in its impoverished communities.

The country’s housing situation may look bleak, but there is significant work occurring to address Macedonia’s housing crisis by improving the country’s economic situation. Several organizations, both outside of Macedonia and within it, are providing poor Macedonian populations access to safe, legal housing. With Macedonia moving towards E.U. membership and its accompanying economic support, there is hope for thousands of people in Macedonia whose living conditions formerly seemed hopeless.

Marshall Kirk
Photo: Pixabay

Living Conditions in Africa
Although the percentage of African citizens living in extreme poverty has decreased over the last 30 years,  poor living conditions and growing populations help to perpetuate a continuous cycle of poverty. 90% of people in Africa live in informal housing, and often lack basic needs such as sanitation, clean water and food security. Poor living conditions affect entire communities, as crowded living spaces, dirty water, lack of hygiene and food insecurity contribute to disease transmission. As living conditions improve, more people are able to stay healthy and participate in education and the economy, thus reducing inequality. Here are 3 organizations working to improve living conditions in Africa.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity improves living conditions for people across 10 African countries by building and renovating homes. The organization also improves access to sanitation and promotes hygienic practices. In Uganda, where rapid population growth will require 3 million more homes by 2022, Habitat for Humanity is providing housing for those in rural areas. These homes include a ventilated pit latrine, shower stall and water tank. Simultaneously, the organization educates families about HIV/AIDS, malaria, reproductive health, proper hygiene and sanitation. Habitat for Humanity also promotes economic security by encouraging youth to learn vocational skills that are desired by local markets. The organization served more than 60,000 Ugandans in 2019.

In Ethiopia, where 70% of homes are in need of replacement, Habitat for Humanity improves sanitation by renovating houses and building water facilities and shared toilets. Families are trained in adequate hygiene practices, resulting in community-wide improvement and an overall decrease in health risks. The organization served almost 20,000 Ethiopians in 2019. Habitat for Humanity’s multifaceted approach to improving living conditions in countries across Africa serves thousands in need.

Okodwela

Okodwela constructs housing and increases employment rates in rural Zambia through the Okodwela Home Project. The organization assesses individual families and hires locals to build homes using regional materials. Additionally, to encourage sanitation, Okodwela ensures that each house has a toilet, bedding and filtered water bottles. Every home has two rooms, giving families the option to rent out a room as an additional source of income.

Since its founding in 2018, Okodwela has provided housing for 32 people and employed 26 construction workers. An Okodwela-built home for a family of four in Meloni Village provided income that was sorely lacking after their young daughter was diagnosed with a health condition. For a family of five in Mulala Village, Okodwela’s new home provided shelter, as their previous residence had nearly collapsed. By evaluating families and providing solutions for their specific needs, Okodwela drastically improves living conditions for the rural communities.

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger improves living conditions in more than 20 African countries by enhancing access to clean water and sanitation services and promoting food security. In Somalia, the organization built 29 shared water sources and 324 emergency latrines to improve hygiene and sanitation. Food shortages and droughts coupled with extreme poverty make food security a challenge in Somalia. In response, Action Against Hunger worked to reach over 97,000 people in the area with food security programs.

The organization also directly provides money to families to purchase food and implements improved health systems for herd animals. Additionally, its work includes enhancing agricultural practices and educating communities about acquiring savings. By improving sanitation and food security across Africa, Action Against Hunger reduces malnutrition rates and the spread of disease. As a result, the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of people have improved.

Next Steps

In light of Africa’s rapid population growth, significant interventions are necessary to improve living conditions in both urban and rural areas. Habitat for Humanity, Okodwela and Action Against Hunger positively impact an array of people across the continent. However, governments in African countries need to focus on mitigating the effects that urbanization and population growth have on living conditions. Inequalities that contribute to and are perpetuated by poor living conditions should be placed at the forefront of governmental concern. These organizations are paving the way for much-needed change in the living conditions in Africa.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in ColombiaColombia, a country in the north-central region of South America, sits in an ideal position to expand both its economy and the wellbeing of its citizens. As one of South America’s premier exporters of a wide array of goods, including energy and cut flowers, the country has a relatively favorable economic outlook. However, this country, of just under 50 million people, faces serious economic hurdles as well. Rampant poverty hampers the lower classes, limiting Colombia’s ability to develop and industrialize.

Poverty in Colombia

About 34% of Colombians live in “poor conditions.” This number is especially stark because Colombia is home to massive wealth inequality. Many of the richest members of Colombian society own disproportionate amounts of wealth.

Internal conflict has worsened conditions for people in Colombia. For more than 50 years, Colombia has experienced relatively severe internal conflicts, most of which originated from drug trafficking that swept the nation in the 1970s and 80s. This led to many people migrating into urban slums, where homelessness was rampant. More than 5.7 million people have been displaced due to the ongoing violence present in the country. As a result of this conflict and the frequent migration of communities, living conditions in settled areas have been notoriously bad. Homelessness in Colombia has affected 662,146 families, and more than 3.8 million families do not have “adequate” housing.

Organizations Are Working to Help

Organizations like Habitat for Humanity have tried to make a dent in these high rates of homelessness in Colombia, pledging support to hundreds of thousands of families in need. While helping to build up neighborhoods, Habitat for Humanity has also worked with Colombians to instill technical skills for construction and to build better community infrastructure. In addition, the organization is helping to provide financial education and making targeted investments in communities.

Another organization, called the Homeless World Cup Foundation, is combating homelessness in Colombia through athletics. The foundation’s mission is to provide access to soccer in some of the poorest communities in the country — not only bringing social cohesion and opportunity to disadvantaged communities but also creating new avenues for players to pursue careers in sports and other fields. The organization has touched the lives of more than 20,000 children and their families.

Tackling Homelessness in an Emerging Economy

Colombia is recognized as one of the world’s “emerging economies.” While homelessness in Colombia is a dire problem, the economic outlook for Colombia is relatively positive — with a consistent 3% expected economic growth for the first half of the 20th century. Through proper planning and prudent public policy, Colombian leaders can use this economic growth to tackle homelessness in Colombia and improve the lives of citizens in need.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Pixabay

Homelessness in Guatemala
Guatemala has a population of 17 million people. Although Guatemala contains vast industries like tourism and agriculture, the nation still has a large problem with homelessness. Guatemala’s homelessness correlates with the poverty occurring in the country. In 2014, 8.7% of the population fell under extreme poverty. People that made $5 a day make up 48.5% of the population. Because of this dire poverty situation, most families in poverty in Guatemala reside in makeshift homes that do not protect against weather conditions. Here are five facts about homelessness in Guatemala.

5 Facts About Homelessness in Guatemala

  1. The young population deals the most with homelessness. Children as young as 12 migrate to other cities in Guatemala to look for economic opportunities. Despite this, most of the children do not find employment: 50% of youth live in poverty in Guatemala and 52% cannot find employment (despite 20% of children needing to work to support their families). Most of the immigrants come from Nicaragua and Honduras because of civil unrest within the government in these countries. Homelessness in youth populations continues to occur because of limited opportunities for youth in the country.
  2. Young girls are targets of homelessness. Guatemala has a large problem with human trafficking, particularly of the female population. The Guatemalan government has identified 371 victims of trafficking in 2018. The number decreased from 673 victims in 2016, but it still has not been eliminated. Charities like La Alianza Homeless Shelter attempt to provide housing for women in Guatemala City. The Public Ministry of Guatemala is attempting to provide more help to potential victims by expanding its Immediate Response Team to help and find victims. With efforts from non-governmental and governmental programs, trafficking due to homelessness is decreasing, but it has not been extinguished yet.
  3. Altering weather conditions cause homelessness in Guatemala. The altering climate in Guatemala causes some farmers to lose their crop produce. Guatemala is one of the ten countries most at risk of the negative effects of drastic climate changes. As climate problems change the landscape, families of farmers are moving to urban centers to find working opportunities. Most of these people end up homeless because they do not find any jobs. Guatemala can not solve factors like temperature changes on their own. In 2017, the United States stopped funding the Climate, Nature, and Communities program that helped the people in rural towns in Guatemala to have better food security. The changing weather patterns in Guatemala will continue to leave farmers without food unless other countries attempt to help. Without food in small towns, farmers are forced to abandon homes and become nomads in their own country.
  4. The inequality in Guatemala aids to homelessness. Guatemala’s unemployment rate is 2.7%. Despite Guatemala having the lowest unemployment rate in Central America, it does not have sufficient job opportunities. In a Union Bank of Switzerland study, statistics revealed that 260 people in Guatemala control 56% of the economy. The second group of people in the high-income bracket receive 63% of available income. The people of Guatemala receive a minimum wage of about $270 per month. With residential properties costing an average of $150,000, the minimum wage leaves people without the means to pay for housing. Since 59% of people live below the poverty line, they are unable to afford the high prices of residential living. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity are working to build housing for people in Guatemala that live in overcrowded spaces. According to Habitat for Humanity, 1.6 million people suffer from having inadequate housing. Through organizations helping with homelessness, people can prosper.
  5. Indigenous populations are vulnerable to homelessness in Guatemala because they are not represented in the government and experience discrimination. Statistics confirm that 21.8% of poverty comes from the indigenous population. People in indigenous communities suffer inadequate water supplies and health care. The situation leads to indigenous people attempting to escape the country because of extortion or violence. Only 5% of people under 18 that migrate to other countries are not indigenous. With 40% of the population accounting for indigenous people, indigenous people should have more representation in their government. Indigenous people are usually homeless because they are recurring migrants that attempt to escape Guatemala, only to return again to the same situation they were in. The Government of Guatemala has issued a UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People, but they have not dedicated specific legislation towards the problem.

Many factors cause homelessness in Guatemala, but it takes an approach from the Guatemalan government, non-government organizations and developed countries to improve the situation in these countries. Despite Guatemala having large pockets of inequality, the situation is improving, as the economy’s GDP grew from 68% in 2016 to 85% in 2020. Along with this, multiple non-government organizations help to house people that live in unstable houses. Organization Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados is another NGO helping to shelter people in poverty. Through these measures, people are able to have stable homes, but it will take reductions in violence, pollution and poverty to end homelessness in Guatemala.

– Sarah Litchney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Look to Join These College Organizations Fighting Global PovertyThe start of college is indeed a daunting one. With hundreds of student organizations to choose from, freshman and transfer students often feel lost and confused during the orientation process. However, student organizations are a good way not only to make a positive social impact, but also to meet people with similar interests. College organizations fighting global poverty are popular among students, and the opportunities they offer can enrich the college experience.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is a well-known nonprofit which focuses on the idea that everyone deserves proper shelter. Campus chapters are student-led college organizations that primarily engage with local poverty-stricken areas. The four functions of direct service, fundraising, advocating and educating guide nearly 500 campus chapters. Each chapter must partner with a local Habitat organization and be charted by Habitat for Humanity International to be officially recognized. The chapters also offer a Collegiate Challenge. In this volunteer program, a group of five or more selects a location and builds a home over the course of a week.

UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund works in over 190 countries to continuously improve the lives of children in impoverished areas. Specifically, UNICEF Clubs is a grassroots movement that believes the U.S. must play a vital role in children’s rights advocacy. These clubs aim to train students to think and act as global citizens, crafting the skills necessary to support the most vulnerable groups.

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross has a number of opportunities for students. One example is the Red Cross Clubs, which hold regular service projects and leadership training to benefit members and their communities. Internationally, Red Cross and Red Crescent teams respond to natural disasters such as earthquakes, droughts and health epidemics. On top of this, they also preemptively prepare communities for future disasters and perform health-related services in remote areas. Other opportunities include 10-week internship programs for undergraduate and graduate students.

ONE Campus

ONE Campus is an action-focused college organization designed specifically for college students. It mobilizes students around the nation to fight extreme global poverty. Additionally, it strives to combine the crucial elements of advocacy campaigns with the energy and activism unique to the college experience. Unlike other college organizations, it exclusively targets advocacy and campaigning strategies to help polish skills for those interested in government relations and funding. Working closely with African activists, ONE Campus brings a community of young activists together to fight corruption and prioritize global poverty relief funding.

Human Rights Brigades

For those interested in law, the Human Rights Brigades is an international legal empowerment team with campus chapters. It helps families in rural areas that may not have access to the resources available in more populated areas. Specifically, it provides financial resources and legal education for remote and vulnerable communities in Panama and Honduras.

Internship Opportunities

Students often find that doing meaningful work at a nonprofit educates them about advocacy and sharpens their awareness. The Borgen Project offers part-time, three-month internships year-round for students in a number of categories, from Political Affairs to Journalism Internships. More information can be found here.

 

Joining any of these college organizations fighting global poverty can bring students closer together and implement positive global change at the same time.

Elizabeth Qiao
Photo: Unsplash

Homelessness in NicaraguaNicaragua, a Central American nation between the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea, has a population of more than 6 million. Unfortunately, homelessness is a current struggle in the country. The homeless are known as some of the most marginalized groups in Nicaragua, and the population of homelessness is only increasing. Currently, around “30% of the population lives on about$2 per day.” As Nicaragua lacks the key characteristics of a well-developed country, a correlative relationship between development and homelessness. Here are four facts about homelessness in Nicaragua.

4 Facts about Homelessness in Nicaragua

  1. A strong factor in homelessness is mental illness. Compared to the general population, the homeless population has a more difficult time seeking help and beneficial resources because of the prevalence of mental illness. Recent studies state that reports of mental illnesses are increasing. The main cause is a combination of economic problems and the difficulty of social interactions, especially with family members.
  2. With such a high percentage of people living in poverty, there are very limited opportunities for education and development. Families often operate farms for healthy crops, but they struggle to make a comfortable living. For some who don’t make a successful living growing crops, it may lead to homelessness. The Opportunity International Program has helped improve Nicaragua’s agriculture with “loans and technical assistance” with higher-quality crops. Crop growth has increased by 30%. The organization also fights homelessness in Nicaragua by giving the children of struggling families opportunities to receive an education. Opportunity International has partnered with more than 20 leaders to help downsize the number of homeless Nicaraguans struggling to make good livelihoods.
  3. Natural disasters in Nicaragua are major contributors to homelessness. Since the 2007 Hurricane Felix, as well as the prior and subsequent weeks of heavy rain, rural parts of Nicaragua are still struggling to recover. This has left a total of 436,000 homeless. The storm also destroyed large amounts of agricultural land and forests, further devastating the livelihoods of those with farms. International responses have been actively sending aid to the least developed areas of the country as well as where homelessness is most prevalent.
  4. Social organizations and students have volunteered for years to aid poor, homeless communities in Nicaragua. Habitat For Humanity has been working in poor rural areas since 1984. It continues to mobilize volunteers to take action in Nicaragua’s homeless communities by building small homes. It has helped supply 91,900 people in need throughout the country. To ameliorate the homeless problem, the organization estimates that Nicaragua still needs an additional 957,000 in housing improvements and new home construction projects. Habitat For Humanity continues to mobilize students to take action in Nicaragua’s homelessness starting by helping build small homes.

These points mark four facts about homelessness in Nicaragua. There is a strong need for economic improvements in order to reduce the homeless population. The first step is creating more homes for families to stay in and improving the current homes with more available resources. Furthermore, improvements in crop production can help families in agriculture earn a sustainable living.

Rachel Hernandez
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Homelessness in Cote D'Ivoire
Known as one of the world’s largest exporters of coffee and palm oil, Côte D’Ivoire was at one point one of the strongest economies in Western Africa. Now, ravaged by civil war and extreme poverty, homelessness is one of the largest issues in the country.

Political Unrest

Homelessness in Côte D’Ivoire is a complicated topic with underlying issues that date back to its 2010 election. The result of this election was political unrest. Some 220,000 people were forced to flee the Western Côte D’Ivoire due to village raiding and the execution of those opposing the new president. The UN Refugee Agency has brought back around 33,700 Côte D’Ivoire refugees from Liberia since 2011; about 400, additionally have returned from Guinea. Others have come back on their own. Returning refugees face housing and land insecurity, compounded by the existing tension between ethnic and political enemies within the country.

Additionally, the government has evicted many people due to flooding in areas such as Abidjan, the country’s urban center, leaving thousands homeless. Returning refugees, in addition to those forced out from their homes, struggle to stay with anyone who can accommodate them while they try to rebuild their lives. Since land ownership agreements in Côte D’Ivoire are predominantly verbal and not controlled by the government, it is uncertain what land belongs to which factions. This often causes land disputes and makes it difficult to find land to rebuild on. A lack of land is one of the driving forces behind the returning refugee housing crisis, as well as other homelessness in Côte D’Ivoire.

Temporary Housing

There are two main types of homelessness in Côte D’Ivoire. The first occurs when people are homeless because they are landless. The second problem arises among those who live in improper temporary housing. These temporary houses are often made of mud with wooden frames or are poorly constructed from bricks. Made with thatching, the roofs may have disease-carrying insects, such as malaria mosquitoes and tsetse flies. Since these houses are overcrowded by the homeless, poor ventilation and the spread of disease are common issues. In rural areas, about 90% of people live in these improper and temporary housing structures. Only 18.1% of the households possess a pit latrine, and 92.5% of households use unsafe drinking water.

Humanitarian Efforts

While the government’s Post-Crisis Assistance Program has rebuilt/restored 687 houses in 2012 through World Bank funding, the cumulative housing deficit in Côte d’Ivoire was estimated at 600,000 units in 2015. In Abidjan alone, the housing deficit is around 40,000 units per year.

Habitat for Humanity in Côte d’Ivoire helps build homes and latrines using local resources. The Overseas Aid & Development Commission, which distributes money from the States of Guernsey to charities undertaking development and humanitarian work, has funded Habitat for Humanity to aid homelessness in Côte d’Ivoire. They are using the funds to improve the health and living conditions of the extremely poor and homeless. The objective of this project is to improve access to sustainable sanitation and hygiene services by rehabilitating water pumps and latrines and distributing hygiene kits. This is all done in accordance with the local authorities and governments. Habitat also works to mobilize local communities to collect resources, spread information and foster cooperation among leaders of diverse communities; this empowers them to maintain the rebuilt infrastructure.

Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr