impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana
Ghana’s poverty rate has halved over the past 20 years, but COVID-19 stunted the country’s progress. Amid an economic crisis, many Ghanaian people have lost their jobs, healthcare and education due to the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana is severe, especially for women and children.

Child Labor is on the Rise

Global child labor decreased by nearly 40% between 2000 and 2020, but COVID-19 forced many children into the workforce. Before the pandemic started, 160 million children participated in child labor. If countries cannot mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19, around 168.9 million children could be in child labor by the end of 2022. Children in low-income countries like Ghana are particularly at risk of experiencing child labor. Between expansive school closures, increased unemployment and lost family members due to COVID-19, Ghanaian children have become more susceptible to child labor since the pandemic started.

Children and families often turn to child labor because it is the only option available to meet their basic needs. Ghanaian children as young as 8 years old work jobs in industries such as mining, carpentry, fishing and transporting goods to support themselves and their families. Most countries have developed economic relief packages to assist families who are struggling, but it can be challenging for low-income countries to afford adequate social protection programs. The World Bank found that low-income countries, on average, spend only about $6 per capita in response to the pandemic. Adequate social protection programs may be necessary to fully combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Educational Opportunities are Sparse

Many Ghanaian children have lost their educations since the pandemic started because of school closures or the need to drop out and support their families. At a shortage of proper funding, schools in Ghana struggle to afford food, technology for remote learning and resources for students with disabilities. Food insecurity has increased for students who formerly relied on their schools to provide meals every day. According to a recent study by Innovations for Poverty Action, 72% of Ghanaian children in public schools did not receive their usual daily lunches and 30% said they experienced hunger as a result of their schools closing. Without access to education, Ghanaian children are at risk of hunger and exploitation due to the vast impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

To combat malnutrition, UNICEF is providing children with micronutrient supplements, such as iron folate, to improve children’s health. The Girls Iron Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) Programme, which UNICEF helped the Ghana Health Service implement and develop, has reduced anemia in girls from the Northern and Volta Regions of Ghana by 26%. UNICEF is also helping Ghana attain educational resources and create school programs that are inclusive to students with disabilities.

Ghana’s Limited Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased access to healthcare in Ghana, particularly for pregnant women seeking antenatal care. According to UNICEF, many pregnant women did not receive any antenatal care during the pandemic, either because it was unavailable or because they feared contracting COVID-19 at a health facility. Additionally, many children who were supposed to get standard vaccinations when the pandemic broke out did not receive them due to a vaccine shortage and fears of catching COVID-19 at health facilities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with Ghana to make healthcare more accessible, ensuring health facilities are safe and have the resources they need. As the first country to receive the COVAX vaccine in February 2021, Ghana has been on the road to recovery from COVID-19 for several months. The country also received 350,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in May 2021. The Ghanaian government, UNICEF, Gavi and WHO are collaborating to endorse and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, which will help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Unemployment and Wage Reductions Skyrocket

According to the World Bank, more than 770,000 Ghanaian workers experienced wage reductions between March and June 2020 because of the pandemic and 42,000 workers experienced layoffs. While some businesses received support from the government, others did not or were unaware that such resources were available. Many businesses had to close at the beginning of the pandemic, which led to long-term financial struggles. The World Bank is working with the Ghanaian government to help businesses overcome damage from the pandemic and gain resilience in preparation for other economic changes. The organization is focused on raising awareness about government support programs like the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme, which protects jobs and benefits small businesses. The World Bank is also working on creating long-term, educational solutions that prepare young people in Ghana to enter the workforce with adaptability, certifications and a wide range of skill sets.

Solutions in the Works

Many organizations are working alongside the Ghanaian government to combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana. Organizations like UNICEF and Human Rights Watch are actively working to provide Ghana’s impoverished people with the resources needed to survive, including food, water, healthcare and education. The COVID-19 vaccine offers hope that Ghana will recover from the pandemic, opening the door for improvements in healthcare, education and jobs.

Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 Research in South America
Innovations for Poverty Action is a nonprofit research and policy organization that is working to establish research projects that address inequalities and discover global poverty solutions across 22 countries. The nonprofit organization continues to work with 830 research projects in eight areas: education, financial inclusion, health, peace and recovery, social protection, agriculture, governance and other enterprises. Today, the IPA continues to perform important research projects to present high-quality evidence to policymakers by analyzing results from studies focusing on the impact of financial education in various countries. This extends to COVID-19 research in South America.

IPA Colombia

IPA Colombia has conducted research addressing topics ranging from early childhood development and education to financial inclusion and gender-based violence. From June to August 2020, four researchers partnered with the IPA, Fundación Capital and The Family Compensation Fund of Antioquia to measure the impact of a COVID-19 WhatsApp intervention program on financial health, women’s empowerment and intimate partner violence of low-income individuals in Antioquia. The program originated from a Fundación Capital, IPA and Colombian government partnership that implemented a LISTA financial education program and survey for cash transfer beneficiaries from 2015 to 2016. Following COVID-19, a WhatsApp intervention program emerged and the IPA evaluated 1,549 women and 784 men in a treatment or control study. The interactive WhatsApp treatment program provided communication services, psychosocial support and a financial education program for participants from June to July 2020.

IPA Colombia and Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) Partnerships

The IADB partnered with IPA Colombia to start a Special Permit of Permanence for the Administrative Registry of Venezuelan migrants (PEP-RAMV) research study in September 2020. The PEP-RAMV permit program became open to census registered Venezuelan migrants for two-year temporary work and residence permits starting in July 2018. Researchers compared 4,000 registered or undocumented migrant homes through research, telephone surveys and 42 interviews to help policymakers understand how the permit impacts migrant healthcare and employment as information to base new Colombia migration policies.

The IPA partnered with two IADB researchers in a COVID-19 mitigation strategy compliance evaluation with 1,300 university students in Bogota as a strategy to support Colombia. The researchers partnered with the IPA and Rosario University to inform students about the participant and public benefits of following COVID-19 mitigation policies or controlled classical music treatment. Moreover, the researchers requested to send a participant opinion survey on COVID-19 mitigation strategy compliance to help determine whether COVID-19 mitigation policies should reduce.

IPA Paraguay

For several years, the IPA has worked on research-based projects in Paraguay addressing education and pension programs. From May to July 2020, IPA researchers conducted telephone surveys with 2,035 women entrepreneurs in rural Paraguay to determine whether microfinance loans for the self-employed can help businesses and households build resilience to overcome the impact of COVID-19.  The IPA telephone surveys asked the entrepreneurs interested in microloans about the impact of COVID-19 on their farms or businesses.

UCONN Agricultural and Resource Economics Professor and IPA Researcher, Nathan Fiala, has worked with a Paraguay microfinance organization since 2018. Fiala told The Borgen Project that a 2019 baseline survey addressed women “who have expressed interest in receiving a microloan” before they accessed loans from the Paraguay microfinance organization in 2019. According to Fiala, the IPA joined the project because the microfinance “research that exists out there is not of good quality and we’re trying to improve on the quality of that research” by 2022. Recently, Fiala found that the Paraguay microfinance organization is “expanding certain programming and doing more close work” with the women entrepreneurs based on participant needs.

IPA COVID-19 Response

In 2020, the IPA started the Research for Effective COVID-19 Responses (RECOVR) program with multiple partner agencies. The initial inter-agency funded RECOVR survey occurred between May and July 2020 in 10 countries while subsequent surveys were conducted between July and December 2020. The initial survey asked participants about the impact of COVID-19, while subsequent surveys focused on child welfare and domestic violence in August and November 2020 as a strategy to support Colombia.

A Look Ahead: COVID-19 Research in South America

The IPA partnered with the National Planning Department (DNP) of Colombia to observe the impact of the VAT Compensation in a telephone survey for 1,730 beneficiaries and 1,732 non-beneficiary households from June to November 2020. The DNP managed the 75,000 Colombian peso cash transfers before the Department of Social Prosperity took over management to reach 1 million social welfare beneficiary households every five to eight weeks starting on March 31, 2020. The survey found that VAT Compensation beneficiaries were more likely to support COVID-19 precautions than non-beneficiaries.

The IPA has developed 80 COVID-19 response evaluations and an International Growth Centre support partnership for COVID-19 Economic Impact surveys. The surveys helped increase COVID-19 research in South America and inform policymakers about how to regulate COVID-19 policies. Fiala continues to analyze the importance of microfinance loans in rural Paraguay. As the IPA continues to analyze results on the PEP-RAMV study, Colombia began to initiate a 10-year Temporary Statute of Protection for Venezuelan Migrants (TSPV) for approximately 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants in February 2021 as a strategy to support Colombia.

Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

Elevate in UgandaPresent and pressing obstacles concerning education in Uganda do not center around access anymore. As Uganda improves on how many children will acquire schooling, the significant gaps are now noticeable through the quality of education that the children receive. Elevate in Uganda partners for education endeavors to tackle this precise issue. As stated by the organization, “the poor quality of education delivered in the classroom stops children from thriving and from reaching their true potential.” Without a strong start and foundation to build upon, Ugandan children will continue to face challenging and unjust school and life outcomes.

How Elevate is Improving Education

Elevate’s interventions are increasing the accountability of schools. The community influences the attendance of students as well as facilitates the conduction of teachers. Schools have more responsibility through parental involvement, leading to higher standards in Ugandan education. By engaging the entire community, Elevate makes everyone a part of the solution.

Getting to the Roots

Additionally, Elevate monitors and works with schools that are already established in Uganda. It has become apparent that the problem does not only lie within the confines of the school. Parents who are unaware of the gains that come from education and are unequipped to make the necessary improvements needed in the school often end up unengaged with their child’s education. Many parents of children attending Ugandan government-run schools don’t even know the teacher’s name.

SMC and Scorecard Systems

Furthermore, Elevate initiates community engagement by gathering over 60 members of the community for a meeting. It also provides training in the development of a School Management Committee to recognize significant issues concerning the school. A scorecard keeps track of school quality in areas that need improvement. This scorecard is accessible to the District Education Officer (DEO). It is also an incentive to improve upon. Elevate may introduce the community to these revolutionary actions. To achieve a lasting solution, a trained community representative keeps these programs up every year.

Elevate and COVID-19

From a recent study that included participants that were headteachers of Ugandan schools, Elevate continues to impact education in Uganda during COVID-19 positively. Eighty-eight headteachers were contacted to contribute to a study that revealed the impressive impact of Elevate. This happened after all the school shutdowns of the pandemic. The differences in schools and communities that received intervention from Elevate compared to those who did not receive intervention provide a look into the organization’s sustainable solutions.

Three of the 88 teachers managed to maintain communication with students after the schools closed. All of them were teachers who took part in the intervention program initiated by Elevate. They had fewer dropout rates after the schools closed compared to those who were not associated with Elevate. Within the communities that Elevate affected, members reported much more trust in the headteachers over those who did not receive interventions from Elevate. Headteachers associated with Elevate’s program felt that their role in the community was meaningful during the pandemic.

Overall, Elevate inspires members of each community that it contributes to by helping them realize their voice, their role and their ability to take part in their children’s success. The organization sheds light on the power in unity that lies within communities even as they face poverty.

– Amy Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

cash grants in Kenya
If you have ever wondered what good remittances do for poverty reduction, a study done by the researching nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) could help put things in perspective. Researchers at IPA evaluated the economic progress of Kenyan villages from 2014 to 2017 after families were given unconditional cash transfers or UCTs. The cash grants in Kenya were provided by a charity organization called GiveDirectly.

The results of the study highlight the potential UCTs have to financially elevate communities around the world. However, when dispersed without careful consideration, some aspects of cash transfers can be detrimental. Let’s discuss GiveDirectly’s trial and why it was successful in initiating great economic stimulation in Kenya.

The Logistics of the Study

The study took place in villages surrounding Lake Victoria in Siaya County, Kenya. To avoid a concentration of funds, researchers categorized villages by two groups: villages with high saturation and low saturation status. Random assignment appointed two-thirds of high saturation villages and one-third of low saturation villages to the trial. As an extra measure to confirm financial need, GiveDirectly only chose families residing in homes with a thatched roof; about one-third of households qualified.

GiveDirectly provided money transfers in intervals to a family member, totaling 87,000 KES, or 1,000 USD. Data was recorded through baseline and closing surveys taken by the participating families and local business owners. The surveys covered topics such as “household financial, physical, and mental well-being, business performance, changes in market prices, and the provision of local public goods.”

Cash Grants in Kenya: The Results

The increase of income stimulated a surge in spending from recipient families. For the most part, these expenditures occurred in the region. Business disclosed that 86% of their clientele were from local or neighboring villages.

The increased consumption had a spillover effect, as non-participant households also saw an influx of income. According to their report, GiveDirectly claims that having higher local enterprise revenues, “in turn, appears to increase the income of local untreated households, leading to higher spending on their part.” The grants created a pattern of earning and consuming that resulted in overall higher cash flow in the area.

Furthermore, participant households across the board showed “higher levels of psychological well-being, food security, education, and security.” Increasing their financial security had an overall positive impact on many other aspects of their lives.

Why it Worked

Before the 2014 study, UCTs previously given by GiveDirectly were also proven to generate economic stimulation in Kenya due to rising consumption and investments. To fully understand the results of this study, it is important to note a few specific factors.

First, GiveDirectly provided UCTs rather than conditional cash transfers, or CTTs. The World Bank defines CCTs as being “contingent on behaviors like school attendance and visits to health clinics.” These requirements do not come as easily to some families as others, especially those living remotely. In contrast, UCTs provide financial support to families without burdening them with specific requirements that they may be unable to meet.

The location also played a big role in the success of this trial. GiveDirectly chose families from an area containing a major national road that IPA determines may be one of the reasons for economic overspill. The IPA report also depicts Kenya’s traditional “harambees,” gatherings meant for community fundraising, as another cause for the balanced wealth distribution.

Moving Forward

The economic stimulation in Kenya proves the efficiency of tactful cash grants. GiveDirectly’s accomplishments in poverty alleviation are just a fraction of what is possible. Moving forward, if more funds are devoted to foreign poverty aid, it is possible for such results to be seen on a global scale.

Lizt Garcia
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in India
Poverty has been at the forefront of India’s issues for an incredible amount of time. Based on the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) from Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, about 55% of Indians were poor in 2005-06. However, despite this grim reality, there have been various innovations in poverty eradication in India. The Indian government, with help from nonprofits, has come a long way in improving the welfare of the people. The number of people in poverty decreased from 630 million poor people to 360 million.

Nonprofits Making a Difference

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a not-for-profit NGO that works with the Indian government to provide poor children meals during school. Its goal is to keep children both nourished and wanting to go to school. Since 2000, it has grown into the largest nonprofit lunch serving organization in the world. Akshaya Patra provides food every day to over 1.8 million children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has provided poor and at-risk people with almost 60 million meals and 760,000 grocery kits.

Another great organization helping in the fight against poverty is SOS Children’s Villages, with over 500 SOS Children’s Villages and 400 SOS Youth Facilities in more than 133 countries around the world. SOS Children’s Villages is a nonprofit that has dedicated itself to providing children with safe, loving environments with better access to food, education and health. In India, SOS Children’s Villages cares for over 25,000 children across 22 states, ensuring stability and better situations for those in need.

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is an international organization dedicated to researching effective ways to reduce poverty around the world and help create programs and policies that better alleviate these issues. IPA conducts randomized evaluations to find accurate insights into the causes of poverty. It then utilizes its findings to help governments and other institutions create more effective programs. Through its extensive network of world-class university researchers, IPA has “…designed and evaluated more than 550 potential solutions to poverty problems…” with over 280 more evaluations in progress.

The Work of the Indian Government

Additionally, the Indian government has initiated multiple programs and policies to help reduce poverty. India is the first country to make corporate social responsibility mandatory in the world. This ensures that big companies like Mahindra use their resources to help the poor. The government also has an important green initiative, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or “Clean India,” that ensures the health of the environment and people improves. This initiative focuses on increasing sanitation accessibility and standards in India, with the building of over 100 million toilets since October 2014.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian government has proved its dedication to upholding these standards. It issued a three-month-long campaign, Samudayik Shauchalaya Abhiyan (SSA), from June 15, 2020, to September 15, 2020, to emphasize the construction of Community Sanitary Complexes (CSCs) in villages. This campaign supports the influx of migrant workers/merchants traveling back to their home villages due to the pandemic.

Levels of poverty in India have improved over the years, but the country and nonprofits need to do more work. Fortunately, there are many institutions and programs in place continuing innovations in poverty eradication in India.

Saayom Ghosh
Photo: Flickr

Innovations for Poverty Action Conducts Research That Changes LivesWhen people donate money to nonprofits, they want to know that their money is being used well. The same goes for governments allocating funds for international aid. While money intended for alleviating poverty is rarely wasted, there are many different ways the funds could be used to help those in need. Sometimes, it is not clear what program the money should be put towards. Thankfully, there are organizations such as Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) that are dedicated to researching how to best help the poor.

IPA finds evidence of what works to help the poor and helps turn that evidence into better programs and policies. Working with top researchers in the field, IPA conducts randomized controlled trials. This method allows researches to isolate the effects of a program from other factors. Researchers will assign participants to separate groups, at random. One or more groups, known as “treatment” groups, receive a program and another group functions as the “control” group.

IPA develops strong connections in the countries in which they conduct research. These partnerships, along with a knowledge of local contexts, help make their research projects successful. Their teams work in 20 countries, with various NGOs and government institutions. IPA has more than 1,000 research staff who conduct research on the ground. Studies can last from a few months to years or even decades.

Jeffrey Mosenkis, a policy communications manager at IPA, told the Borgen Project that one IPA study in particular strikes him as particularly influential: a study on school-based deworming conducted from 1998 to 2001. The study took place within 75 primary schools in Busia, Kenya. The school-based deworming reduced serious worm infections by 61 percent and reduced school absenteeism by 25 percent. The study only cost $0.60 per child per year. A long-term follow-up study found that the deworming increased the rate at which girls passed their secondary school entrance exam by 9.6 percent and increased the likelihood that men would work in higher-wage jobs than their peers or engage in entrepreneurial activities. School-based deworming campaigns have expanded into Ethiopia, India and Kenya, reaching over 200 million children. Since then, researchers have also discovered that treating kids for parasites also helps their siblings do better in school.

“I think it was also an eye opener for the field of development, says Mosenkis, “because it showed that one of the most cost-effective education interventions was actually a health intervention, and helped sparked interest in using data and evidence to find the most effective programs, which might not be the ones we’d normally think of.”

Other important studies conducted by IPA include improving financial behavior with a tablet app, improving math skills in Paraguay, reducing child mortality with health promoters in Uganda and using mobile technology to fight malaria. These and other studies are conducted in places all over the globe. Sometimes the exact location of the study can present unique challenges. “It’s not just the country but the local area,” says Mosenkis, “how good the infrastructure, like the roads are, or electricity and phone access, that makes more of a difference in our day-to-day work collecting data than the national picture.”

IPA was started by Dean Karlan, after traveling throughout Latin American before grad school. What began originally as an idea pitched by Karlan to his graduate advisers at MIT became a nonprofit organization bridging the gap between academia and development policy in practice.

IPA plans to continue building on what it has already achieved. The plan is to continue creating useful evidence to answer the questions of decision-makers at the front lines of development. The work of IPA has been and will continue to be instrumental in improving the lives of the global poor.

Brock Hall
Photo: Flickr

Global Poverty
For the first time in human history, the goal of eliminating poverty is within our grasp. Recently, the World Bank announced global poverty has fallen below 10 percent for the first time, a measure the organization defines as a person living on less than $1.90 a day.

However, the numbers surrounding poverty are still daunting. About 702 million people or 9.6 percent of the world’s population still live in extreme poverty. More than 3 billion people, nearly half the world’s population, live on less than $2.50 a day.

Where does this level of poverty come from? Are resources limited?

According to the CIA’s World Fact Book, the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of the world at purchasing power parity is $21,470. That means the value of goods and services produced for every person in the world each day is about $58.78.

World poverty isn’t a problem of limited resources, it is a problem of inequality. This inequality is upheld by the idea that aid creates dependence. The old proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” embodies this idea.

Aid can take the form of instruction. New efforts related to relief have revealed poverty can be reduced by offering productive assets, training and cash to people living in destitute countries. The non-profit Innovations for Poverty Action tested what they call the “Graduation Program” in a nine-year, six-country study following 21,000 adults in 10,495 households in India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Peru and Honduras.

The program successfully reduced poverty through providing goods such as livestock, business advisement and a small amount of cash to live off of while receiving training. Testers found a boost of 133 to 433 percent on investment. In other words, for every dollar spent on the program in India, participants received an increased income of $4.33.

The creators of the Graduation Program understood poverty is a vicious cycle that can be hard to break free from. People living in extreme poverty often have to choose between immediate gratification like eating every day and long term investment like procuring an education. By providing immediate aid to people in need, we can help them out of poverty by allowing them to focus on learning the skills they need for self-sufficiency.

The world without poverty is possible and desirable. The six countries that field the most expensive militaries spent almost a trillion dollars on defense expenditures in 2015 alone. Despite this astronomical military spending, our world remains locked in conflict. Removing poverty would make our world more stable. Access to economic opportunity helps insulate populations from extremist ideologies. By shifting a fraction of what we spend on defense to international aid, we can eliminate global poverty in a generational period.

In turn, a poverty-free world would create expanded overseas markets and additional job opportunities in developed nations. A future without poverty is a more productive one. By coming together to tackle the plague of destitution around the world, we have the opportunity to advance the human condition and eliminate global poverty in a way no one has done before.

Will Sweger

Photo: Flickr


The World Health Organization estimates that 1.5 billion people, 24% of the world’s population, have a worm infection. Infected people usually have soil-transmitted helminth infections caused by the most prevalent worm species: roundworms, whipworms and hookworms.

These worms are spread through direct contact with contaminated soil caused by open defecation in impoverished, usually tropical, regions. The contact with human feces is a result of poor sanitation, feces contaminating crops and children walking barefoot.

The worm’s eggs can be ingested on food that has not been properly washed or cooked as well as through the consumption of food when people eat with dirty hands. Some worm larvae are also able to work their way through a person’s skin to enter into the body, especially through the soles of children’s bare feet.

When a child has a worm infection, his or her health is compromised. Symptoms are not always pronounced, but rather show up slowly and can sometimes be hard to detect. The worms leech essential nutrients away from a child’s body causing malnutrition, anemia, lethargy and cognitive repression due to lack of nutrients. These issues can cause children to be so physically weakened that school is missed and absenteeism rises.

Thankfully, even though worms are one of the most prevalent infections in poverty stricken areas, it is also has one of the easiest and most cost-effective forms of treatment. Several organizations are working toward deworming children. Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and Deworm the World Initiative are two that have teamed up in this effort. Together they were able to deworm over 35 million children in 2012!

Deworming school-age children was possible through school initiatives. They have found that deworming children at school with a pill is highly effective for two reasons.

1. It is so easy that teachers can be trained to administer the medicine, which relieves the costs of needing medical specialists on site.

2. The medicine is safe even if a child is not currently infected. If 20% of the children in a region are known to have worms, then every child can be dewormed safely without the possibility of side effects. This will reduce any possible infections.

The medicine cost is very low as well. The actual medicine only costs a few pennies per child; factoring in all the costs associated with administering the medicine, the cost is still less than 50 cents per child. To be the most effective, the medicine needs to be administered twice a year. Since costs are so low, that goal is financially feasible.

A trial conducted in the early 2000s in Kenya found that by administering the medicine, school absenteeism fell by 25% and younger children were found to have cognitive gains. A separate study found that through deworming children’s bodies were better able to fight off other diseases, such as malaria, because essential nutrients were not being depleted by the worms.

Currently, Deworm the World is working quite intensely in India’s Bihar State, Delhi State and Rajasthan State, as well as in Kenya. The organization is able to work through the schools in those areas, treating millions of children. Those children are now given a much greater chance to excel in school since worms are not stealing their body’s resources.

Deworming children cannot be the sole answer, since the source of the worms needs to be addressed in the regions as well. Proper sanitation, clean water, uncontaminated food and children wearing shoes are still needed to ensure new worm infections do not occur.

But while those issues are being worked on, deworming children is giving infected children a chance to thrive in their education, since they are more energetic and focused during their studies and missing much less school than before.

Megan Ivy

Sources: CDC, Evidence Action, Innovations for Poverty Action, WHO
Photo: What Gives

People living in extreme poverty see an improvement in their living conditions when they earn just a little extra money from farming or raising livestock.

This is according to Dean Karlan, founder of Innovations for Poverty Action, or IPA. The nonprofit researches and evaluates different programs fighting world poverty so as to inform its own poverty-combating program initiatives.

Karlan studied economics in graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is now a professor at Yale. He began researching poverty and started IPA in order to answer the question, “Does global aid work?”

Prior to starting IPA, Karlan was displeased with how little research existed on global aid programs and their effects. It was impossible to know precisely how much people’s lives were improving due to aid.

This is an ongoing debate, and today, two polarizing views on global aid prevail. Some believe that the U.S. and other nations need to invest more, while others think that enough money has already been wasted on a fruitless cause. Through IPA, Karlan is working to produce tangible evidence about global aid to dispel the second view and, in turn, combat poverty.

Karlan and his colleagues ran a five-year-long experiment with the poorest families they could find in six developing countries. The team divided the families into two groups. The control group received nothing, while the other group was given a hefty aid package for up to two years. The package included livestock (for raising), livestock training, food or cash, a savings account and physical and mental health aid.

After observing both groups for the duration of the study, Karlan and his colleagues concluded that families who were given aid, made a little more money and had more food to eat than the control group. Moreover, families continued to generate more income a year after they stopped receiving aid.

Karlan reports, “We see mental health go up. Happiness go up. We even saw things like female power increase.”

The measured effect of aid was quite slim. Incomes and food consumption rates in the study increased only by about five percent in comparison to the control group. It is hard to forecast the long-term impact since the families were only observed for a year following the experiment.

Nonetheless, the aid package still has an impact in the short term for the participating families and appears to have promising long-term effects. Giving families an extra boost is exactly what may enable them to begin climbing out of extreme poverty, albeit slowly.

“Moving poverty is hard,” explains Sarah Baird, an economist at George Washington University. “[But] the fact that [Karlan and his colleagues] were able to move it, and it was sustainable after a year, I think is important.” The study supports the conclusion that aid from charities and governmental programs do have a positive impact.

A little bit of money can go a long way for those in extreme poverty. At the very least, it offers hope, and makes a difference for the families who receive it.

– Lillian Sickler

Sources: NPR, American Program Bureau, Innovations for Poverty Action
Photo: Flickr

security in malawi
Banks and similar “formal financial services” are common means of protecting and investing money in the developed world, but they are scarce in developing nations. Financial security in Malawi, however, is becoming a more prevalent phenomenon.

Having access to formal financial services is important, especially in impoverished communities; it gives people a reliable means of saving that protects them from economic fluctuation. The ability to amass funds over time is crucial to establishing a stable financial future, and gives farmers and entrepreneurs alike a source of funding for new ventures.

Interventions orchestrated by the American nonprofit, Innovations for Poverty Action, show that when farmers in Malawi were given access to savings services, not only did their yields increase in the fields, but also their families had the capital to spend on necessary healthcare and adequate food provisions. Savings accounts accessible to even just one person managed to positively affect entire families.

Farmers are especially in need of formal financial services, as they often earn large sums of money in semiannual increments based on the harvest season, and have no place to store money during the lean periods between harvests. Formally storing money allows farmers to prioritize long-term investments rather than short-term spending and family borrowing, which are common in poor communities.

Banking is highly correlated with education in countries worldwide, suggesting that, like education, it could be a means to escaping poverty. It makes sense, considering that banks provide an easy way to manage income. Humanitarian organizations in the poverty-elimination business would be wise to turn to banking as a means of sustainable development. Savings accounts have already been successful in Malawi, and are sure to be as successful elsewhere in the developing world.

– Elise L. Riley

Sources: Innovations for Poverty Action, The Gates Foundation, The Economist
Photo: World Agroforestry