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Challenges Facing Refugees in SerbiaIn 2016, 65.6 million people were forced to leave their homes, and these people are known as refugees. Refugees are usually forced to leave their countries for one of three reasons: victimization, violence or war. Refugees everywhere face immense hardships, and the challenges facing refugees in Serbia are widespread.

Serbia is mainly viewed as a stop along the way for refugees hoping to reach countries in central Europe. In 2015 and the first part of 2016, over 920,000 refugees traveled to Serbia. According to the European Commission, the shutting down of the Western Balkans migration route left 4,146 refugees stranded in Serbia.

Kimmie Whicher, a student at George Mason University, traveled to Serbia on scholarship from Boren. There, she worked with a small non-governmental organization (NGO) to provide food and clothes for hundreds of refugees in a camp in Belgrade, Serbia. In the nine months that Whicher was there, her NGO grew from feeding about 300 to upwards of 800 men.

Approximately 2.6 million refugees live in camps; many of these refugees are living in extremely harsh conditions. In Whicher’s experience, here are some of the challenges facing refugees in Serbia.

1. Poor Living Conditions

One of the challenges facing refugees in Serbia is poor living conditions. According to Caritas, eight out of 10 refugees in Serbia stay in government shelters, the rest must sleep outside in public parks. Among the hardships that come with living outside is the extremely cold weather. Whicher recalled the winter weather in Serbia: “The cold is absolutely ruthless. Our organization that cooked for these men would take hot kettles of boiling water and when we tried to clean up after cooking we would pour it on the table and it would freeze the second it would hit the table.”

Winter temperatures in Serbia are often below freezing. Many refugees are left no choice but to sleep in public parks where they risk getting frostbite, among other conditions due to prolonged exposure to the cold weather. According to The Independent, many children don’t even have gloves or shoes to keep them protected from the snow.

2. No Protection by the Government

A common hardship for many refugees is the lack of safety and protection provided by the government. According to Whicher, “It was a very miserable place. A harsh reality for many of these boys was that this is the border of Europe, so when you’re living here and you’re trying to get through, if you go to a camp you’re probably going to get deported or the police are going to break your phone or take your clothes.”

3. Hunger

Another one of the challenges facing refugees in Serbia is hunger. Refugees have to scrape by on whatever they can get to eat in a day. Small NGOs such as Whicher’s can provide some meals for the refugees, but the majority of those escaping their home countries are still underfed. According to Whicher, “One hot meal a day was our motto.” In this way, organizations can begin to help refugees by providing food and clothes, but they do not have the means necessary to help every refugee.

4. Worsening Physical and Mental Conditions

Due to these hardships, refugees struggle with new or worsening sickness. Due to the freezing temperatures in the winter, refugees in Serbia suffer from frostbite. According to The Independent, in order to escape the freezing temperatures, refugees light fires in their makeshift shelters, which further leads to respiratory problems from the smoke. However, physical sickness is not the only sickness refugees endure. Whicher recalled her experience: “You would literally watch them lose their minds… We saw this one man deteriorate to the point where if he were to go back to school, he would have to be in a special education classroom.”

Despite the harsh reality for many refugees in Serbia, organizations are making great strides to improve refugee conditions. Just by supplying food and clothes to these refugees, these organizations such as the one for which Whicher volunteered, are saving the lives of many.

– Olivia Booth
Photo: Flickr

poverty in ZimbabweAfter 57 years of colonial rule, African guerilla forces wrested control of the territory that had been Southern Rhodesia since 1923. By 1980, Robert Mugabe was elected to the position of Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

Following Zimbabwe’s independence, the economy, which was mainly supported by the agricultural industry, fell on tough times. In 2000, the government chose to instigate a policy of land redistribution from whites to native Africans. This reorganization placed the fate of the country’s economy in the hands of comparatively inexperienced farmers.

Cash crop production, once a huge contributor to the Gross Net Product, was nearly lost as a result of unyielding droughts. Additionally, those farmers who produced the dietary staple maize faced further difficulty in production, due to the government’s lack of support in areas such as water management.

To further demonstrate the severity of the country’s situation, look no further than the 72.3 percent of the population living in poverty in Zimbabwe.

10 facts to clarify the state of poverty in Zimbabwe

  1. Since the early 1990s, roughly 20 percent of Zimbabweans have emigrated in search of greater economic prosperity elsewhere. This has left a large gap in the nation’s workforce and knowledge base.
  2. With the majority of males moving from rural agricultural towns to the cities, women are increasingly becoming single heads of household.  
  3. Poverty in Zimbabwe is mainly concentrated in the northern province of Matabeleland, and in the southeastern regions of Manicaland and Masvingo, where water is extremely scarce.
  4. As of 2015, 16 percent of Zimbabweans were food insecure, meaning they were unable to obtain nutritious and plentiful food for their families.
  5. Just 7.6 percent of farmers in Zimbabwe practice conservation agriculture, a method of soil management that ensures nutritious soil and increases crop production.
  6. Zimbabwe suffered from 12 years of sanctions imposed by the U.N. in opposition to President Mugabe’s continued rule after the disputed election of 2002. In 2015, the U.N. lifted those sanctions and offered the government $273 million in aid, which was intended for collaborative development projects.
  7. About 28 percent of children in Zimbabwe are stunted by a lack of adequate nutrition in their diets.
  8. Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product has been declining since the 2008 financial crisis. In the years immediately following the crisis, it fell by 17 percent.
  9. 86 percent of households in which the woman is widowed are impoverished.
  10. 57 percent of women living in rural areas use contraceptives. The maternal mortality rate is 960 out of 100,000 births, with a dramatic increase in rural areas.

The question now is whether or not Zimbabwe will be able to improve its situation in the coming years. Unfortunately, with the economic growth rate dropping to just 0.5 percent between 2015 and 2016, there may be a need for an increase in external development aid if there is any hope of reversing the effects of poverty in Zimbabwe.

-Katarina Schrag

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in UzbekistanHunger in Uzbekistan remains a serious issue, yet it is not recognized as a national one.

Close to 75 percent of the working-class population in Uzbekistan live in rural areas, and thus the income of this stratum of the population typically remains low, which exacerbates the lack of food security. This level of poverty has its roots in Uzbekistan’s independence.

Both the domestic and foreign policy of Uzbekistan are inimical to any significant changes that would address the hunger that plagues the country. Since the main priority of such policies is to keep the ruling regime in power, securing food and combating hunger is simply not a huge priority.

Another cause of the lack of food security is the slow growth of the gross domestic product (GDP), which in recent years was as low as seven percent, which is not sufficient for the steadily increasing population.

Furthermore, the economy of Uzbekistan, in regards to agriculture, is largely confined to producing cotton. This lack of diversification exposes Uzbekistan to increased economic risk. This problem is exacerbated by rising food prices as well.

Despite all of these indicators painting a bleak picture of Uzbekistan in the long run, recent reports have shown a decrease in hunger. From 2000 to 2014 the number of undernourished Uzbeks was reduced to less than half of what they previously were. Currently, this number is at around 1.7 million. While much work has to be done, this is a great improvement.

Additionally, unlike the GDP, the rate of agricultural production increased gradually at about 6 percent every year from 2000 to 2007. Furthermore, wheat production grew nine-fold from 1991 to 2006. These stark improvements are largely a result of the isolationist approach Uzbekistan has adopted in terms of its foreign policy, which has both its pros and cons.

One of the downsides that the Uzbeks have experienced as a result of this foreign policy has already been mentioned: the aversion of the rigid regime to take chances that may benefit its population but would otherwise risk its own stability, such as lifting restrictions on trade. The pros of this are increased self-sufficiency that has spurred the growth in certain aspects of the agricultural sector.

There is much work that needs to be done in order to reduce hunger in Uzbekistan. The country has improved in some ways but further work is needed in order to develop a sustainable model that adequately addresses the needs of the citizenry.

– Mohammad Hasan Javed

Photo: Flickr

 

Big Four Causes of Poverty in HondurasHonduras is the second poorest country in Central America, with more than 66 percent of the population living in poverty. In rural areas, it is even worse, with about one in five Hondurans living on less than $1.90 per day. Poverty in Honduras has been exacerbated by several issues.

Here are four main causes of poverty in Honduras:

Hunger and Malnutrition

Honduras has a population of over nine million people, yet hunger proves to be a severe issue, with over 1.5 million facing hunger at some point each year.  Chronic malnutrition also proves to be a tremendous problem; approximately 49 percent of people living in rural areas experience malnutrition, with a stunting rate of 34 percent. According to the World Health Organization, stunting refers to a child being too short compared to the Child Growth Standards median. The stunting rate is largely related to frequent hunger and chronic malnutrition.

Natural Disaster and Drought

Honduras is considered to be one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters. Hurricanes, heavy rain, flooding and frequent drought often destroy crops. Rural populations are severely dependent upon agriculture, as a source of livelihood and food security. The country’s GDP also relies heavily on agriculture, as its two main exports are bananas and coffee. In times of severe weather conditions or natural disasters, many vulnerable populations are at risk for hunger and food insecurity, which in turn continues to perpetuate poverty in Honduras.

High Unemployment

High unemployment rates have also contributed to the causes of poverty in Honduras. As of 2016, unemployment rates were at nearly 15 percent, which is more than triple the unemployment rate in the United States. Unemployment often increases the risk of poverty, as individuals are not able to adequately provide for themselves or their families.

Violence

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, with 59 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016. This high rate of violence costs an estimated 10 percent of the annual GDP. The prevalence of violence and homicide is largely related to drug trafficking and gang warfare. Crime and violence often negatively impact the economy, as resources that could be used elsewhere to provide additional food security or a better educational system are instead allocated to deal with the issue of crime. This, in turn, perpetuates poverty in Honduras.

While the causes of poverty in Honduras appear to be deeply rooted in a variety of issues, many organizations such as the World Food Programme have provided support and services to people in need by providing well balanced meals to school children, food to vulnerable populations following a natural disaster as well as creating a program called Purchase for Progress. This a poverty reduction effort that supports agricultural production for small-scale farmers, encouraging Hondurans to buy local products while also helping to lower unemployment rates and provide farmers an opportunity for greater financial security. These efforts, coupled with a greater sense of awareness, can help to reduce poverty in Honduras.

Sarah Jane Fraser

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in NigerNiger made American and world news recently for the ambush that killed four U.S. Army Green Berets operating alongside Nigerien troops in October. The World Bank puts the poverty rate in Niger at 48.9, and in 2015 it ranked dead last out of 188 countries in the United Nations Development Index. 76 percent of Nigeriens live on less than $2 a day.

The region of Africa that Niger occupies is home to several armed groups loyal to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State. A group affiliated with the latter is the primary suspect behind the October 4 attacks that killed the U.S. servicemen. Violence, both within and without, has always been a factor contributing to the poverty rate in Niger. In 2015, Niger approved the deployment of 750 troops to neighboring Nigeria to combat the Islamist group Boko Haram. In retaliation, Boko Haram has increased its operations in Niger.

The conflict has also created a refugee situation. About 115,000 people from neighboring Nigeria have relocated to Niger, primarily to the Niger’s Diffa region, which is already known for having a strained food supply.

Another tragic factor contributing to the poverty rate in Niger is teenage pregnancy and child brides. Half of the girls in Niger are married before age 15. Many of these unions are forced marriages. Polygamy is also common in Niger. The extremely young age at which many Nigerien girls give birth and the high numbers of children many mothers have are creating a population boom that could increase the poverty rate in Niger if not handled carefully.

These facts may present a grim picture of Niger, but there are efforts being made to reduce the poverty rate in Niger. Mobile fertility clinics have given Nigerien women education and access to birth control that they would otherwise not have. Many communities also have “husband schools” to educate men on birth spacing and population control, so that they are knowledgeable about these issues and can come to an agreement with their wives to have fewer children.

The agriculture sector also has shown improvements in recent years and has driven Niger’s economy. Less than a third of Niger’s usable land is currently being farmed. Combined with better farming techniques, this could lead to much higher food production. These steps may seem small on their own, but with combined efforts, they can make a major difference in the lives of Nigeriens.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in UruguayUruguay is a medium-sized country on the south-east coast of South America with a population of just under 3.5 million people. According to the World Bank, “Uruguay stands out in Latin America for being an egalitarian society and for its high per capita income, low level of inequality and poverty and almost complete absence of extreme poverty.”

Uruguay has high levels of equality providing access to services such as healthcare, education and sanitation to the majority of its citizens. Approximately 60 percent of its population is middle class, and its governance structures have low levels of corruption and institutional instability. In 2016, the rate of remote poverty was 9.4 percent, and the rate of extreme poverty was 0.2 percent but although they have low poverty rates, hunger is still prevalent in the country.

In discussions of poverty and equality, food security and access to nutritional food is an important piece of the puzzle. Below are five facts about hunger in Uruguay.

  1. In 2017, Uruguay’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was less than five, down from 9.7 in 1992. The GHI score is calculated based on four indicators. The first is undernourishment, which is the share of the population who have an insufficient daily caloric intake. The second is child wasting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are underweight relative to their height. The third is child stunting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are short relative to their age. Lastly, child mortality, which is the mortality rate of children under five.
  2. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) has a presence fighting hunger in Uruguay. Their approach tackles hunger from several angles in order to address every facet and source of the problem. They have implemented policies to improve competitiveness in value chains, to improve land planning and natural resource management, to develop the fisheries sector, to increase health and food safety, to develop food security and family farming in rural areas and to increase cooperation among countries in the “South.”
  3. The depth of hunger is a measure of hunger in a country, it is the intensity of food deprivation based on the number of average kilocalories (per person, per day) consumed by citizens being below the desired level. In 2008, the depth of hunger in Uruguay was 140 kilocalories per day. While this is not ideal, it is relatively low, as it is below 200 kilocalories per day.
  4. Overall, the number of people who are undernourished in Uruguay is 200,000, which is approximately five percent of the total population. The prevalence of malnutrition is at 4.5 percent.
  5. There are other important indicators of hunger in Uruguay besides statistics that report solely about hunger and undernourishment/malnourishment. For example, the prevalence of anemia indicates overall nutrition. The prevalence of anemia among women between the ages of 15 and 49 is 17.4 percent and 23.6 percent among children. The percentage of children that are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life is also important. Just over 65 percent of infants in Uruguay are exclusively breastfed during that time period.

While organizations like the FAO maintain the belief that no person should lack access to food and adequate nutrition and so remain in Uruguay to fight hunger, Uruguay is still one of the leaders, in its region, for hunger and poverty rates.

Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Africa Facts Statistics Suffering Poverty Line
How bad is poverty in Africa? The situation is improving, but Africa remains the poorest continent on Earth. But what many people may not know are the effects of poverty in Africa—including hunger, disease and a lack of basic necessities.

 

Leading Facts About Poverty in Africa

 

  1. Seventy-five percent of the world’s poorest countries are located in Africa, including Zimbabwe, Liberia and Ethiopia. The Central African Republic ranked the poorest in the world with a GDP per capita of $656 in 2016.
  1. According to Gallup World, in 2013, the 10 countries with the highest proportion of residents living in extreme poverty were all in sub-Saharan Africa. Extreme poverty is defined as living on $1.25 or less a day. In 2010, 414 million people were living in extreme poverty across sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Bank, those living on $1.25 a day accounted for 48.5 percent of the population in that region in 2010.
  1. Approximately one in three people living in sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimated that 239 million people (around 30 percent of the population) in sub-Saharan Africa were hungry in 2010. This is the highest percentage of any region in the world. In addition, the U.N. Millennium Project reported that over 40 percent of all Africans are unable to regularly obtain sufficient food.
  1. In sub-Saharan Africa, 589 million people live without electricity. As a result, a staggering 80 percent of the population relies on biomass products such as wood, charcoal and dung in order to cook.
  1. Of the 738 million people globally who lack access to clean water, 37 percent are living in sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty in Africa results in more than 500 million people suffering from waterborne diseases. According to the U.N. Millennium Project, more than 50 percent of Africans have a water-related illness like cholera.
  1. Every year, sub-Saharan Africa misses out on about $30 billion as productivity is compromised by water and sanitation problems. This amount accounts for approximately five percent of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP), exceeding the total amount of foreign aid sent to sub-Saharan Africa in 2003.
  1. Due to continuing violence, conflict and widespread human rights abuses, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that 18 million people are of concern to the agency, including stateless people and returnees.
  1. Fewer than 20 percent of African women have access to education. Uneducated African women are twice as likely to contract AIDS and 50 percent less likely to immunize their children. Meanwhile, the children of African women with at least five years of schooling have a 40 percent higher chance of survival.
  1. Women in sub-Saharan Africa are more than 230 times more likely to die during childbirth or pregnancy than women in North America. Approximately one in 16 women living in sub-Saharan African will die during childbirth or pregnancy; only one in 4,000 women in North America will.
  1. More than one million people, mostly children under the age of five, die every year from malaria. Malaria deaths in Africa alone account for 90 percent of all malaria deaths worldwide. Eighty percent of these victims are African children. The U.N. Millennium Project has calculated that a child in Africa dies from malaria every 30 seconds, or about 3,000 each day.

– Jordanna Packtor

Sources: Global Issues, World Hunger, World Bank, World Population Review, The Richest, Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, UNHCR, The Water Project, Gallup, Global Finance

 

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Hunger in MongoliaHunger in Mongolia is one of the major challenges faced by the country, as it has led to poverty. The poverty rate has declined over the last decade but still remains at over 22 percent. Approximately 20 percent of children under five years old are anemic (most due to iron deficiency), while about 13 percent of them are undernourished or suffering from other nutrition-based conditions such as skin diseases and rickets.

Hunger in Mongolia stems from the dzud, a weather phenomenon where a summer drought is followed by a harsh winter. Dzuds negatively affect the economy, especially among the herder population, which accounts for over a third of all employment in the country. Their livestock, which herding families rely on for food, transportation and income, often do not survive the dzud, resulting in food insecurity and malnutrition.

According to the secretary-general of the Mongolian Red Cross, Nordov Bolormaa, over 150,000 Mongolians across 17 of 21 provinces were affected by this February’s dzud. The Mongolian government discovered that over 40,000 animals had died by early February. Over a million livestock died in the winter of 2015-2016, and the dzud of 2009-2010, one of the worst recorded, saw over nine million animal deaths.

Several organizations are working to address both the short-term and long-term effects of hunger in Mongolia. The Red Cross placed an emergency appeal for over $835,000 to help over 25,000 people in Mongolia who are vulnerable to the effects of the dzud. The Asian Development Bank approved a grant to address child malnutrition, planning to work directly with families in Mongolia to educate them about the causes of malnutrition and ways to prevent it. These programs are vital to helping Mongolians better endure the dzud and establish a solid foundation to reduce hunger and malnutrition.

 

Jalil Perry

Photo: Flickr

Hunger_in_Vatican_CityOn July 4, 2017, Pope Francis made a vibrant statement regarding the world’s suffering and hungry. He declared world hunger to be a direct result of nothing less than indifference and selfishness. Further, he saw the effects of these same problems in his immediate surroundings—there is hunger in Vatican City. Since the beginning of his service, Pope Francis has made addressing poverty, hunger and homelessness some of the most important goals for the Catholic Church in hopes to lead by example.

Due largely to the Catholic Church’s presence in the world’s smallest country, many of the poor and needy draw near to the Vatican. As the impoverished seek refuge, hunger is becoming a bigger problem for the Church to address. With Pope Francis at the helm of the Vatican’s efforts, the needy are being tended to with a vigorous priority.

Pope Francis has personally addressed hunger by appealing to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and pointing out the “uneven distribution of resources and the lack of agricultural development.” The Vatican has sponsored several refugees and their families facing the challenges of displacement, especially hunger. Further, the rest of Europe’s Catholic community has been encouraged to follow suit in accepting, housing and aiding those seeking refuge.

Contrary to tradition, Pope Francis insists on mobilizing the church by sending out the Vatican’s almoner. In the past, the almoner waits for letters from the poor for guidance on how to meet needs. However, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski has taken to the streets of Vatican City in attempts to help the poor and hungry. Krajewski’s method aligns with the rumors of Pope Francis instructing him to “sell his desk” since he would not be needing it.

One of the more controversial techniques to fight hunger in Vatican City came with a corporate lease of a Vatican building to McDonald’s in 2016. While some members of the Church and the Catholic community responded with alternative uses of the building, like housing the homeless, that attitude has since shifted as McDonald’s promised to hand out over 1,000 meals to the poor in their first six months of operations.

The 2030 Development Agenda of the U.N. reflects this same commitment of the Catholic Church. The fight for universal food security cannot be put off and Pope Francis recognizes that it is a demanding task. However, intentions to provide for everyone are not enough. Rather, people need to make a commitment to their country to increase the level of nutrition, to improve agricultural operations, to improve living conditions of rural communities and promote effective distribution of resources like food supplies. When a country is unable to provide for its people, then intergovernmental institutions need to step in. As Pope Francis said in his July 4 address, every person has a right to be free from poverty and hunger. Further, it is the duty of the entire human family to intervene and actually do something about it.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr;

Hunger in Finland

In America, Finland (along with its fellow Scandinavian nations) is often portrayed as a utopia bereft of human suffering and a model for the rest of the world. The simple truth, however, is that economic troubles in Finland are real, and the nation has had its own set of struggles in the wake of the Great Recession.

The Finnish labor market has experienced three recessions since the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Business Insider reports that Finland suffered the worst economic contraction of any Eurozone nation during that same crisis. The country’s public debt doubled to more than 60 percent of its GDP by 2015.

According to Eurostat, as of August 2017, Finland’s unemployment rate stood at 8.7 percent. That number is not bad, but could be better. Today, 35 percent of Finland’s unemployed are long-term unemployed, representing a significant challenge for the nation as a whole.

However, the potential for these issues to cause poverty and hunger in Finland has been mitigated by the nation’s public welfare system. No one in Finland lives below the international poverty line due to a wide net of benefits covering both the young and the old. According to OECD data, the poverty rate ratio is only 0.04. Social spending at 30.8 percent of GDP and a well-funded, efficient public schooling system undoubtedly contribute to these successes. And there are other innovative ideas as well.

Those who pay close attention to American politics will know that 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently revealed that she considered running on a platform of universal basic income, a plan she scrapped because she could not make the numbers work. Earlier this year, the Finnish government started a test run for that very same idea.

Finland’s idea was to give 2,000 Finns ages 25 to 28 who had been unemployed for a year or more, or had less than six months of work experience, a monthly subsidy of €560 for two years, regardless of whether they found work.

However, after a government pushing austerity came to power, the trial size was cut to one-fifth of the original plan, making it too small to be scientifically useful, and regular social programs were scaled back, making it even more difficult to measure the program’s effects. The program may or may not help alleviate poverty and encourage economic growth, but it will be hard to know given the small sample size and lack of controls. Still, the presence of ideas like this show a healthy willingness to experiment by trial and error.

Earlier this year, the Finnish central bank affirmed that Finland finally seems to be emerging from the Great Recession. The bank forecasts that this year will see exports recover and GDP growth reach 1.3 percent, in part due to the Competitiveness Pact signed last year. Strong social programs, powered by economic activity inherent in free and open markets, will hopefully keep poverty and hunger in Finland at a historic low.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr