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Indian Migrant Workers
As COVID-19 spreads throughout India, it is revealing the country’s systematic inequalities as Indian migrant workers bear the brunt of the pandemic.

The Lockdown

India’s national lockdown began on March 25, 2020. It went into effect a mere four hours after the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, made the announcement. However, Modi’s order did not consider the impact it would have on migrant workers. As a result, millions of migrant workers were jobless and stranded in cities all across the country. Shareen Joshi, a professor at Georgetown University, spoke to The Borgen Project. Joshi described how the lockdown “appears to have been imposed to benefit India’s middle and upper classes in urban areas. It literally ‘forgot’ about 350 million migrant workers.”

Consequently, thousands of migrants had to make the dangerous journey home. With public transportation shut down, some walked hundreds of miles, often without proper protective gear or the ability to practice social distancing.

“The virus is basically systematically exposing inequalities and fault-lines in every country it seems to enter,” Joshi said.

The Pandemic Highlights Underlying Inequalities

Indian migrant workers are already a vulnerable population. They rarely belong to trade unions or work under contracts. Additionally, many migrants lack the bank accounts necessary to secure government benefits. Although the Indian government offers welfare for those below the poverty line, migrant workers often do not know how to access this relief.

Indian migrant workers were among the first to feel the economic consequences of the virus. An April 2020 report by the nonprofit organization Jan Sahas, titled Voices of the Invisible Citizens, stated that “90% laborers (approx.) have already lost their source of income” within just three weeks. This complete financial depletion left, “42% of labourers” with “no ration left even for the day, let alone for the duration of the lockdown.”

The virus has also aggravated discrimination against Indian migrant workers. Joshi stated that migrant workers represent their own “scheduled castes” within India’s caste system. Many consider migrant workers as possible carriers of the virus. Fearing infection, their communities shun them upon their return home.

Rebuilding the Economy and Addressing Inequities

As India begins to rebuild its economy, Joshi recommends “a bottom-up strategy, people-centric rather than money-centric.” This strategy would have the government invest in individual villages to create a trickle-up effect.

Moreover, this strategy would aid the Indian migrant workers. In March 2020, the president of the Indian National Congress, Sonia Gandhi, proposed that district collectors help migrants who cannot afford shelter and that the government provide transportation for migrants to get home. Joshi described a proposal to make ration cards portable. This would allow migrants to “access food in both the location they are registered and the area where they work.”

While this pandemic has brought unthinkable suffering to Indian migrant workers, it may also inspire a new fight for equality. Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of the Human Rights Watch, believes the pandemic might provide “an opportunity to end communal bias and­­­ other discrimination in governance and restore the impartiality of state institutions.” This pandemic has shown, if nothing else, the need to address the inequalities that have plagued India.

Jessica Blatt
Photo: Flickr

Covid-19 crisis in prisons
There are currently an estimated 11 million people either incarcerated or in custody, around the world. In prisons and jails, overcrowding and inadequate sanitation during the Covid-19 crisis have exacerbated these preexisting problems. Professional health physicians and Human Rights Watch advocates explain that “prisoners share toilets, bathrooms, sinks and dining halls”. Also, sometimes prisoners lack access to running water. These inadequacies reflect the (at times) — dismal quality of life that incarcerated people experience, globally.

Overcrowding Effects

Overcrowding and unclean living conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic have exacerbated the immense violations of human rights in prisons and jails. Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Philippines’ prisons are currently at 450%, 432% and 537% capacity, respectively. Overcrowding allows Covid-19 to spread much more easily through prisons. Furthermore, it makes single rooms unavailable for both sick and healthy inmates. With the current state of affairs, physical distancing is simply not an option. The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners expects incarcerated people infected with Covid-19 to receive medical attention in line with the WHO guidelines. Overcrowding hinders the fair treatment of incarcerated people — especially considering that prisoners are not typically afforded sufficient care from doctors during pre-pandemic times (let alone amid a pandemic).

Prisoners and Human Rights

Prisoners deserve basic human rights, access to healthcare and safe public health. UNAIDS, the WHO and the UNHCR are all calling for a mass release of prisoners — from a public safety standpoint. The release of incarcerated people who qualify as high-risk for Covid-19 (e.g., the elderly, mothers with children or who are breastfeeding, pregnant women and non-violent offenders) reduces health risks. These risks would otherwise remain unaddressed within prisons and jails (given their resources). Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS calls it [the Covid-19 crisis] an “unprecedented global emergency” and recognizes the dire need to defend the human rights of incarcerated people, worldwide.

Solitary Confinement during Covid-19

Solitary confinement is typically a severe punishment for inmates. However, the U.S. has mandated the practice for infected inmates in response to the Covid-19 crisis in prisons. Before the Covid-19, 60,000 inmates were in solitary confinement in federal prisons — whereas now there are 300,000. This practice has proven to be a disincentive for inmates to come forward as sick, even if they are knowingly infected with Covid-19.

Practical Solutions to the Problem

More practical and effective solutions to the Covid-19 crisis in prisons and jails include thorough testing and screening for the virus, to stay ahead of the spread. Another solution — comprehensive safety practices of employees who travel in and out of the facilities, daily. Still, there is too much overcrowding and simultaneously, too many at-risk populations in prisons and jails. These facilities cannot properly preserve the human rights and well-being of inmates during the current pandemic. Non-violent offenders, pregnant and/or breastfeeding women, people who are detained because they cannot afford bail, elderly people and those with misdemeanors are all examples of groups that could be safely released.

An Expert Outlook

UNAIDS, the U.N., the Prison Policy Initiative, the WHO and numerous other organizations tracking the health and safety of incarcerated people insist that the true solution to the Covid-19 crisis in prisons is to eliminate overcrowding. Therefore, the solution to overcrowding in prisons may well be to release large amounts of qualifying incarcerated people. This may hold true in particular, amid a global pandemic.

Nye Day
Photo: Pixbay

landmines in yemenYemen is experiencing several crises within its borders. One such problem is the large number of landmines and improvised explosive devices scattered throughout the country. Houthi militias placed many of these landmines in Yemen, often in busy areas containing hospitals and schools. The Yemeni government believes that landmines are so widespread that it could take multiple decades to remove all of them. Currently, experts believe the death toll of landmines falls somewhere above 9,000. To make matters worse, some landmines are configured to be more deadly. For instance, an anti-tank mine that normally needs 220 pounds of weight on it to detonate may only need 22 pounds of pressure to detonate with modifications. Despite this dire situation, the country and international institutions have begun to remove landmines in Yemen.

The Negative Effects of Landmines in Yemen

The landmine problem within Yemen is preventing people from living normal lives and keeping impoverished people from receiving the aid that they need. Yemen was already impoverished before the presence of these landmines, and they have only exacerbated the problem. In 2019, the U.N. estimated that 80% of the population was in danger of suffering extreme hunger and disease.

Unfortunately, landmines can prevent relief aid from coming into parts of the country that need it. Landmines also prevent humanitarian organizations from traversing distances to reach people and areas in need. According to an article by Human Rights Watch, Yemeni people could not complete simple tasks needed for survival such as raising crops and obtaining clean water due to the presence of landmines. As such, landmines in Yemen have serious consequences for citizens’ daily lives, preventing them from overcoming the many negative effects of poverty.

Removing Landmines in Yemen

One international institution removing landmines in Yemen is the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The UNDP has been using its Mine Action Project to map out terrain where the landmines are located, clear the landmines, inform communities of the seriousness of the landmines and help those who have been injured. So far, the UNDP has cleared up to three million square meters where landmines previously sat. During the UNDP’s operations, it removed around 66,000 undetonated landmines.

The United States has also provided funding for landmine removal to Yemen in the Red Sea Mills area. U.S. funding has aided Yemeni de-mining teams working for the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center, directed by the UNDP. During two months of operations, 58 de-miners funded by the U.S. cleared 1,239 explosives including landmines and improvised explosive devices. Both the UNDP, the U.S. and Yemen itself are all working in conjunction with landmine removal. Importantly, the U.S. provided landmine removal funds to the Red Sea Mills to allow Yemeni people to have access to agriculture once again. This illustrates the positive effects of landmine removal in Yemen.

In short, landmine removal is not just necessary to prevent death and injury. Landmine removal is necessary so that Yemeni people can provide for themselves. It also allows Yemeni citizens to receive the help they need from international citizens, at a time when the country is facing so many overlapping crises.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Sector in Kenya
Agriculture is one of the most critical production sectors in society. Proper agricultural techniques and efficient transportation of goods are crucial in reducing food insecurity. They are also vital in ensuring that everyone is provided with adequate nutrition. Based on a 2020 food insecurity projection by the European Commission, between 6% and 9% of Kenyans have faced food insecurity this year. This is a result of many factors in the agricultural sector in Kenya.

In Kenya, the agricultural sector makes up 24% of its GDP via direct agricultural production. It makes up an additional 3% via agricultural manufacturing and distribution. More than 80% have jobs in the farming sector in Kenya. Unfortunately, many barriers over the past decade have inhibited agrarian success in Kenya.

Political Climate and Environmental Barriers

Following a controversial presidential election in December 2017, conflict broke out in Kenya. Throughout the months of conflict, more than 1,000 Kenyans were killed. More than 500,000 fled their homes to avoid violent areas. This displacement negatively impacted the agricultural sector in Kenya. It separated farmers from their property and destroyed crops.

Additionally, the climate of Kenya makes it susceptible to drought, flooding and landslides. Roughly 83% of Kenya is on “arid” or “semi-arid” land. These areas are much more likely to suffer from droughts, which drastically diminish crop yields. These droughts also impact livestock in Kenya by depleting water availability and grazing locations. Many areas in Kenya also experience periods of continued rainfall that can cause flooding. Flooding can overwater crops and cause an increase in livestock-related diseases.

Increasing Cost of Agricultural Inputs

The rising price of necessary agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer, has been making it difficult for farmers to compete with importers. Importers can sell their products at lower costs and push local producers out of the market. In the first half of 2018, food imports rose by more than 50%. For a country whose economy is mainly dependent on agriculture, this can be very detrimental.

Policy

In recent years, the Kenyan government has begun implementing subsidies on farm inputs such as fertilizer. These subsidies have made local farmers equip to compete in the agricultural market. In tandem with this, the government has been improving rural infrastructure so that these farmers have access to a broader customer pool.

In addition to these policies, the Kenyan government has been working on implementing educational programs. These programs provide farmers with a comprehensive understanding of agricultural diversification techniques and irrigation strategies. The climate of Kenya can make it exceedingly difficult to sustain agricultural growth. Therefore, educational resources could improve the crop yields of farmers.

Nonprofit Work

It is estimated that each day, 83 tons of produce grown on Kenyan farms are rejected after being deemed aesthetically imperfect for export. In many cases, these products end up in landfills. In January 2017, the World Food Programme began an initiative to reduce the amount of wasted food in Kenya.

This program diverted these “ugly” fruits and vegetables from landfills to schools. These products help make school lunches for those in disadvantaged communities. This program both combats childhood hunger and reduces food waste. Within the first four months of this program being enacted, it provided more than 11,000 pounds of produce to schoolchildren.

To combat food insecurity and help raise the GDP in Kenya, innovations in its agricultural sector need to be made. These changes will require investment in crop-related technologies and resources, either by the government or by international donors.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Correlation Between Disability And Poverty
In many countries, disabled individuals are marginalized and given access to fewer resources when compared to their abled counterparts. When it comes to global poverty, it is crucial to understand the inequity placed upon disabled communities as they are one of the most discriminated against groups, especially in impoverished areas. Disabled communities are also more susceptible to the risks and dangers of the coronavirus and have limited access to safe care.

A Need for Accessibility

In countries such as China and Brazil, there is an 80% positive correlation between disability and global poverty. Currently, more than 85 million people are disabled in China yet are lacking medical resources, especially in rural areas. Poor infrastructure such as narrow sidewalks or overcrowded buildings hamper easy movement for people with disabilities. In China, over 300 disabled persons have co-signed a letter in allowing online maps to locate certain ramps or “barrier-free facilities” to create better mobility for these communities.

With such efforts, however, a few improvements have been made to provide equitable opportunities for the disabled. As of now, over 1,500 local governments in China have added barrier-free facilities—such as ramps, wider sidewalks, and lifts. This allowed more than 147,000 families, primarily from low-income households, to access certain facilities once inconvenient for disabled people. Consequently, more strides have been made on a digital platform, such as providing consultations for disabled communities that are limited in resources.

Human Rights Violation in Institutions

Similar to China, Brazil has previously overlooked the quality of life for its disabled population, especially in care homes with very poor conditions. In 2018, the Human Rights Watch made it a priority for Brazil to provide better care options for people with disabilities who are otherwise confined to poorly run institutions. Many of these institutions were barely even providing basic necessities to residents, such as food and hygiene care. There were no opportunities for social enrichment or personal advancement.

“Conditions are often inhumane, with dozens of people crammed into rooms filled with beds packed tightly together,” the Human Rights Watch report concluded. After interviewing over 171 disabled people living in these institutions, it was clear that improving conditions in these facilities was imperative to better quality of life for disabled residents.

However, the Brazilian government is taking multiple actions to protect their disabled population from inadequate care in these institutions. In 2015, Brazil passed a bill that has been in the works since 2003: the Inclusion of People With Disabilities Act. This bill provides clearer definitions for classifying people with disabilities, as well as allocating more resources for the disabled population. For example, at least three percent of public housing, 10 percent of taxi grants, and two percent of parking lots will be reserved for people with disabilities.

Raising Awareness and Providing Aid

Aside from China and Brazil’s strong correlations between disability and poverty, disabled communities are universally more disadvantaged and vulnerable to a lower-income status. However, many countries are dedicated to raising awareness about the intersectionality between disability and socioeconomic status. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been ratified in at least 177 countries and has subsequently led these countries in allocating aid for people with disabilities. Along with the convention, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development made a universal framework that provides guidelines for protecting disabled persons from discrimination in areas such as education, employment, and the workplace.

Smaller organizations have also taken on roles to improve the socioeconomic status of the disabled community. For example, the Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) International is an NGO organization that provides job opportunities, healthcare, and education for people with a range of disabilities. Since 1908, this organization has supported at least 672 projects across 68 countries and eventually provided resources to over 10.1 million people. Another example is the Emergency Ong Onlus, an Italian foundation that has reached over 16 million people across 16 countries with free medical care. Primarily specializing in humanitarian relief, the foundation focuses on four intervention areas: surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and social reintegration.

Issues regarding disabled victims of poverty are often neglected and met with discrimination in many countries, including the United States. However, numbers of organizations and local projects are strenuously putting effort into resolving this ongoing humanitarian problem. With the current mass mobilization, there is definite hope in the future of providing equitable opportunities to one of the most vulnerable communities.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Philippines Incarceration System
In 2018, the Philippines held the sixth-highest prison population out of 21 Asian countries. As of 2019, the Philippines’ population rested at 108.31 million people, and 215,000 of those people were incarcerated. Therefore, the Philippines has an incarceration rate of about 200 per 100,000 citizens. There are 933 prisons running in the Philippines. Unfortunately, they are mismanaged and overcrowded. Below are five important facts about the incarceration system in the Philippines.

5 Facts About the Philippines’ Incarceration System

  1. Severe overcrowding – Rodrigo Duterte won the presidential election in 2016. He promised to end crime within six months. This promise also included the killing of 10s of thousands of criminals. Duterte’s election led to the infamous war on drugs and eventually, overcrowded prisons. Manila City Jail, the largest jail in the Philippines, is split into dorms that safely house 170 inmates. Currently, these dorms house around 500 people. Similarly, a room designated for 30 people holds about 130 in the Quezon City Jail. This severe overcrowding in prisons leads to illness and death tolls in the thousands.
  2. Pre-trial detainees – According to The World Prison Brief, 75.1% of incarcerations within the Philippines’ incarceration system are pre-trial. In 2018, 141,422 of 188,278 prisoners were pre-trial detainees. Unfortunately, many people are serving sentences without conviction. Pre-trial detention is found in judicial systems all over the world. In countries like the Philippines, people may serve time that outweighs their crimes. On average, prisoners in the Philippines are detained for nine months without being sentenced.
  3. High death tolls – About 5,200 inmates die annually at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). According to Ernesto Tamayo, the hospital medical chief, these deaths are due to overcrowding, dirty living conditions and inmate violence. At a 2019 Philippines Senate hearing, Tamayo said that there were “uncontrollable outbreaks of pulmonary tuberculosis.” In addition to overcrowding, poor living conditions and inmate violence, NBP lacks nutritional food and basic healthcare. On account of these living conditions, Tamayo reports that at least one prisoner dies at NBP each day. Thankfully, politicians and prison employees are working to reduce overcrowding in the Philippines’ prisons. Human rights advocates have also called for the release of vulnerable inmates, hoping to protect them from poor living conditions.
  4. Vigilante justice – Duterte’s war on drugs escalated during his presidency. Jobless citizens were recruited to kill anyone suspected of dealing, buying or using drugs. This was one of few ways for some people to make money; many homeless and impoverished people joined the vigilante teams. In 2016, Duterte told the public, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself.” Together, the Philippines’ police force and unidentified gunmen have killed 7,000 known drug dealers and users since Duterte’s presidency in 2016. The Philippines’ war on drugs has created the belief that extrajudicial violence and murder are necessary to fight crime. But, the Human Rights Watch has turned the narrative around on Duterte; they are publicizing information about the vigilante justice in the Philippines.
  5. Corruption – In August 2018, the public learned a former mayor may have been released from prison for good behavior. He was originally charged for rape and homicide in 1993. Similar stories of corruption in the Philippines’ prisons continued to emerge. In September 2018, the public learned that a woman was told her husband’s sentence would be shortened if she paid 50,000 pesos ($970). Later that year, senators stated that inmates could “live like kings” for a fee. This information led to further allegations: prison workers and officials were taking bribes to bring and distribute contraband to inmates. The contraband in question included cigarettes, cellphones and televisions. Supposedly, inmates can also pay for personal cooks and nurses. Inmates who cannot afford a better life within the prison are stuck in overcrowded and dirty rooms; these inmates have a higher rate of becoming ill and of death. Now that the corruption has been unearthed, officials are taking steps to weed it out, one prison at a time.

Possible Fix

With increased awareness of the Philippines’ prison system, there is hope that conditions will be improved and vigilante justice will end. It will take time to fix the Philippines’ judicial and incarceration systems. However, with the help of advocacy groups like the Human Rights Watch, a change could come sooner than expected.

Marlee Ingram
Photo: Flickr

Homeless Children in UgandaThe population of children in Uganda is one of the largest in the world. Out of 37 million people, 56% of Ugandans are under 18 and more than 52% are under 15. Unfortunately, a recent report by the Human Rights Watch revealed that the majority of the children in Uganda lack human rights. Advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Watch, find Ugandan children are facing homelessness and violence.

As of 2019, there were an estimated 15,000 orphaned and homeless children aged between 7 and 17 in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Homelessness in Uganda is largely caused by the conflict in northern Uganda from 1987 to 2006. Other factors, such as domestic abuse and neglect are also responsible for the high numbers of homeless children in Uganda.

Mistreatment

Some Ugandans help the street children; they provide places to sleep and take care of the sick. Unfortunately, others harm homeless children because of the widespread belief that all street children are thieves. Homeless children are commonly verbally abused, kicked, slapped and spat on; however, the violence does not end there.

Interviews with street children reveal that the police are highly abusive. The police beat the children who resist arrest and extortion attempts. Tear gassing, threatening, beating with batons are just a few examples of the violent behaviors of the police.

Interviews

In December of 2013, Human Rights Watch conducted interviews of homeless and previously homeless children in Uganda.

“[The policemen] take money from us. If you do not have money they beat you so much…. Last week on Saturday, the police came in the night and beat me when I was sleeping with three other children. The policeman beat me on the thighs with a rubber whip. He then hit my knees with a baton. He beat me until I gave him 1,000 shillings ($0.40) and left me.”

—Roger P., 13-year-old, living two years on the streets in Lira

“Government should look for a better solution for street children instead of beating and arresting us. The more you beat us the more we get hardened with life and it does not solve the problem. They want us to go back home but some of us do not even have homes. Others do not know where our parents are. So when they beat us to go home, where do you want us to go?”

— Sam L., 15-year-old, lived four years on the streets in Masaka

Progress

Fortunately, there have been many efforts to decrease homelessness in Uganda. This includes a national program that targets orphans and vulnerable children. Motivated individuals and non-governmental groups are also working to end homelessness in Uganda. For example, Child Restoration Outreach (C.R.O.) focuses on bringing street children into families and helping them become self-reliant citizens. C.R.O. provides children food, medical care, clothes, education and counseling. Additionally, C.R.O. works to reconnect homeless children with their family members. In 2019, C.R.O. sponsored 28 students’ schooling and bought ten children laptops.

Street Resource is another organization dedicated to helping homeless Ugandans. Street Resource has been providing shelter for homeless Ugandans since 2017. Merry Ntungyire, the founder of Street Resource, used her own savings to recruit members to the organization. Today, Street Resource provides shelter for 17 people. 17 isn’t a big number, and the shelter only provides a small room with basic amenities; however, the work of Ntungyire and others like her is highly valued by many. Hopefully, more groups like Street Resource and the Child Restoration Outreach will join the fight against homelessness in Uganda.

Alison Choi
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty Rates in MexicoA few weeks ago, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) boarded a commercial flight with constituents on his way to meet President Donald Trump. Many viewed it as a rare presidential moment, considering the poverty rates in Mexico of 52.4 million people living in poverty. However, AMLO has justified his unique transportation method as a small gesture to those in poverty by saving government money.

Cause of Rising Poverty Rates

Unfortunately, COVID-19 continues to ravage Mexico’s globally-dependent economy and unequipped health system. Simultaneously, this massive group of people living in poverty is only going to expand. Addressing this growing crisis is not only our humanitarian duty as one of its major allies. Rising poverty rates in Mexico will also inevitably threaten the American people in two key ways.

A Persisting Opioid Epidemic

In 2017, President Trump declared the Opioid Epidemic as a national emergency, citing the rising cases of fentanyl overdose deaths. Despite the domestic focus on the problem, it has become more evident that a solution to save the tens of thousands of Americans dying in this crisis requires us to look to the source of the epidemic– Mexico. According to the acting Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) director, Mexican cartels have been responsible for the vast majority of synthetic drugs entering the U.S., including fentanyl.

Problematically, these cartels have been fueled by rising poverty rates in Mexico. In many places, economic hardship has allowed cartels to thrive. They have used protection and basic necessities as a powerful incentive to recruit historically poor populations. Also, vulnerability within many communities has allowed cartels to grow their influence through hollow gestures of aid. This turns cities towards helping their cause; because of this, despite growing civilian casualties in cartel wars, Mexican cartels have seen massive growth in influence and prowess, allowing for them to grow their opioid trade on the US-Mexican border. In order to minimize the cartel’s fueling of the Opioid Epidemic, the American government needs to do more to fight poverty within Mexico. It also needs to find a long term solution to curb the rooted influence most of these cartels have found.

Growing Human Trafficking Concern

Additionally, rising poverty rates in Mexico have pushed many Mexicans towards other illicit industries. According to the London School of Economics, sex trafficking and exploitation is incredibly profitable. As a result, rising economic inequality has pushed many Mexicans towards this industry.

Many people within Mexico have had no choice but to turn to these alternate industries to survive. This is due to a lack of opportunity. As a result, human trafficking has grown within Mexico, with 21,000 minors falling victim to this horrid industry. This problem is not an isolated one. According to the Human Rights Watch, as a result of this industry, Mexico has become one of the largest sources of human trafficking in cases in the U.S. Simply put, rising poverty rates are only fueling a major threat to the U.S. They hurt women and children alike in one of the world’s most horrid illicit industries. Action needs to be taken in order to curb the rising poverty rates in Mexico that have been paramount in causing this crisis.

Mexico has always been a critical economic and geopolitical ally to the U.S. However, as it falls into a growing poverty crisis, the U.S. cannot turn a blind eye. Luckily, positive progress is being seen. Countless organizations such as Freedom from Hunger, Un Techo para mi País (TECHO) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) have all been working to mitigate the crisis. In 2018, the U.S. also pledged $4.6 billion to bolster development in Southern Mexico. By continuing on this path and pushing for even more developmental assistance in the future, we cannot only effectively curb the growing poverty crisis. Instead, we can also provide a more secure America for generations to come.

 

Andy Shufer

Photo: Flickr

indigenous groups in chile
Indigenous groups throughout Latin America have a long history of fighting to preserve their land, their culture and their lives. Here are eight facts about indigenous groups in Chile and some of the struggles they face.

8 Facts About Indigenous Groups in Chile

  1. Different groups: Chile is home to nine indigenous groups. These groups include the Mapuche, the largest and most politically active indigenous group in Chile, as well as the Aymara, the Diaguita, the Lickanantay and the Quechua. Together, these nine indigenous groups account for more than 1,565,000 people or approximately 9% of the total Chile population.
  2. History: The Mapuche have continuously fought for their independence since the 1500s, first against the Spanish and continuing after Chile gained its independence in 1818. They were successful in maintaining their sovereignty until the 1860s, when the Mapuche lost nearly 23 million acres of land to the Chilean government. From 1860 to 1885, 100,000 Mapuche were killed in a joint military effort by the Chilean and Argentine governments.
  3. Poverty: Approximately one-third of the indigenous peoples in Chile live in poverty. For the non-indigenous, the rate is closer to one-fifth.
  4. Recognition and rights: Chile remains the only Latin American country to not recognize its indigenous peoples in its Constitution. However, the Chilean government did adopt the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and a year later they ratified the International Labor Organization Convention 169. Convention 169 recognizes the human rights violations many indigenous peoples have faced at the hands of their own government. It also calls for policies to protect the language, culture and freedoms of indigenous peoples and tribes.
  5. Land ownership: Dispute over land ownership is one of the primary issues for indigenous peoples in Chile. The indigenous fight with corporations, such as the logging firm Forestal Arauco S.A.. After taking control of much of the Curanilahue region, the company stripped it of its trees. This ruined the land lived on by many indigenous peoples.
  6. Resistance: Some indigenous peoples and tribes have broken out in rebellion against the taking of their land by setting fire to trees, forestry vehicles and crops. In response, the government created anti-terrorism legislation that labels arson as a terrorist act. Resistance has continued, however. In 2017 alone, 43 acts of resistance, many of them in the form of arson against logging firms, were taken by the Mapuche in Temuco, the capital of the Araucanía region.
  7. Positive changes: There has been continuous communication between the Chilean government and various indigenous groups about the creation of a new constitution. Additionally, the Piñera administration announced plans in 2018 to invest a total of $24 billion in development projects in the region of La Araucanía, an area heavily populated by indigenous peoples. These development projects will include housing subsidies, infrastructure improvements and a dozen new hospitals. Piñera’s plans also include the creation of a Ministry and Council of Native Peoples to give them greater federal representation. His plans have not yet included any land redistribution, however.
  8. Legal victories: The Human Rights Watch reported that the murder of Mapuche activist Camilo Catrillanca in 2018 led to the persecution of four police officers directly involved. This was a small but key victory for the Mapuche. For decades, police have abused their authority to torture and kill indigenous peoples and manufacture evidence to unlawfully imprison them. In 2017, charges against several Mapuche were eventually dropped when it was brought to light that police officers had created fake WhatsApp messages to build a case of arson against them.

These 8 facts about indigenous groups in Chile illustrate some of the struggles they face. Moving forward, more work needs to be done to ensure the voices of the indigenous are heard and their rights are recognized.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Colombia
Officials have reported 16,295 cases of COVID-19 in Colombia and 592 deaths as of May 19, 2020. In an effort to contain the virus, the government has closed all international travel. It has also recently extended its nationwide stay-at-home order through May 25. Testing is available at the Colombian National Institute of Health facilities.

Most public locations remain closed. Individuals over the age of 70 will need to self-isolate until at least the end of May 2020. Municipal authorities allow one hour per day of exercise, at prescribed times, for individuals ages 18 to 60. Though the virus poses a nationwide public health threat, here are three particularly at-risk groups in Colombia.

COVID-19 in Colombia: 3 At-Risk Groups

  1. Indigenous Peoples: With historically limited access to food, shelter and health care, indigenous communities on the outskirts of cities and towns remain unprepared for the pandemic. A scarcity of clean water and hygiene products has left many without the means to maintain personal cleanliness and prevent infection. In addition, some of these semi-nomadic groups are now at risk of starvation. Due to quarantine restrictions, indigenous communities cannot move around to access their means of subsistence. They may be unable to grow their own food or survive by working temporary jobs. Organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) are working to raise awareness about this urgent issue and garner support from Colombian authorities. Along with the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Colombian Ministry of the Interior, AI petitioned the government to deliver food and supplies to at-risk indigenous groups. In response to these efforts, Colombian officials initiated a campaign to provide indigenous communities with food and supplies. The first round of deliveries went out in April 2020 but still left many without aid. AI and partner organizations will continue working with leaders of the campaign to reach more people in future deliveries.
  2. Refugees: Venezuelan refugees are another group at high risk due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Colombia. The virus has compounded instability from low wages and rampant homelessness. Many have lost temporary jobs as economic concerns heighten nationwide. With fear and social unrest on the rise, refugees also face increased stigmatization. Some states, for example, are forcibly returning refugees in response to the virus. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Migrant Organization (IOM) have instigated a call to action. Eduardo Stein, joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for refugees and migrants from Venezuela, explained in an April 2020 statement that “COVID-19 has brought many aspects of life to a standstill – but the humanitarian implications of this crisis have not ceased and our concerted action remains more necessary than ever.” U.N. representatives are seeking out innovative ways to protect Colombia’s migrant population and provide refugees with information, clean water and sanitation. Some organizations have also set up isolation and observation spaces for those who have tested positive. Others, including the World Health Organization (WHO), are distributing food and supplies to refugees and their host communities.
  3. Coffee Farmers: As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout South America and the world, Colombian coffee farmers are grappling with new economic uncertainties. Since extreme terrain limits the use of mechanized equipment, these farmers tend to rely on manual labor. In a typical year, some farms hire between 40% and 50% of their workforce from migrant populations. Now, however, travel restrictions have left many with a shortage of manpower. Large-scale farms are seeking out unemployed retail and hospitality workers from local areas, offering pay rates at a 10% to 20% increase. On smaller farms, family members can manage the crops. However, medium-sized operations, in desperate need of labor and unable to match the wages of larger competitors, are feeling a significant strain. Even the largest farms could struggle to meet their expected harvest in 2020. Public health officials have ordered strict distancing measures in the fields, which reduces picking capacity. Though disruptive in the short term, these efforts should help contain the spread of the virus and allow farmers to resume full operation as soon as possible.

COVID-19 in Colombia has undergone rapid growth, bringing economic and social challenges in its train. Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon world leaders to support vulnerable populations in Colombia and help the nation emerge from this world crisis.

– Katie Painter
Photo: Flickr