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Vanuatu's Graduation Vanuatu is a southwestern Pacific Ocean country made up of about 80 islands with a small population of around 300,000. Vanuatu has recently graduated from the list of least developed countries (LDC) despite setbacks due to ongoing natural disasters and other factors. Vanuatu’s graduation from LDC status took place on December 4, 2020. It was first recognized as an LDC in 1985.

What is the Least Developed Country List?

Less developed countries are countries that struggle with maintaining sustainable development, causing them to be low-income countries. In 1971, The United Nations created a category list of the least developed countries in the world. The United Nations reviews and checks the list every three years based on the country’s economic vulnerability, income per capita and human assets. There are currently about 46 countries on the least developed country list. Angola is another country that will be scheduled for its graduation in 2021. Vanuatu has recently joined the five other countries that were able to graduate since the creation of the least developed country list.

Although less developed countries are economically vulnerable, they receive special international aid to help with creating sustainable development. These countries also have specific trade with other nations that are not accessible to more developed nations. This is why less-developed nations are sometimes referred to as “emerging markets.” The majority of the support that countries in the least developed countries list receive is either directly from or set up by the U.N. Committee for Development Policy.

The Success Behind Vanuatu’s Graduation

Vanuatu graduates form the least developed country list despite major setbacks due to climate change, natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to other countries that graduated, most of Vanuatu’s success is as a result of the international aid which enabled the country’s stable economic growth. In addition to the aid, Vanuatu has also had success in its strong agriculture sector. The increased diversification in agricultural crops and stocks has helped with the per capita income and human assets criteria for the least developed countries list.

When it comes to the economic vulnerability criteria, Vanuatu is still at risk despite graduating. The risk of economic vulnerability stems from the prevalent natural disasters. Even though the country has shown consistent economic growth, the external shocks from natural disasters are out of the country’s control as it faces about two to three disasters a year. However, there is still a great chance that Vanuatu will have continued success in maintaining sustainable development.

Maintaining Sustainable Development

The most well-known source of maintaining sustainable development for less developed countries is through international aid. Even though Vanuatu has graduated from the least developed country list, the country still is able to receive aid and continue its trading relationships with countries it was given priority to when classified as a less developed nation. For instance, Vanuatu had still received $10 million in emergency aid from the World Bank organization. The funding was for the impact that both COVID-19 and a tropical cyclone had on Vanuatu earlier in 2020.

Significant Success for Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s graduation from the least developed country list is a significant achievement that demonstrates the country’s ability to maintain consistency in its economic growth, while also overcoming challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters. Although the graduation signifies major growth, there is still more economic stability that is needed before the country can significantly reduce its economic vulnerability.

– Zahlea Martin
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid efforts in AfghanistanAfghanistan’s evolution after two gruesome decades of immense adversity has caught the attention of countries all over the world. The South Asian nation has made breakthroughs in infrastructure, getting millions of girls in school and improving community development. Nonetheless, foreign aid efforts in Afghanistan are still crucial for the further development of the country.

Foreign Aid Skepticism and COVID-19

The world wants to see Afghanistan succeed, but despite willing donors, definitive complications hinder the level of aid that Afghanistan is severely reliant on. The imminent withdrawal of U.S. troops has caused violence from the Taliban to spike while pressures of long-awaited peace talks between the two powers unfold, making donors wary of sending money that could be wasted due to corruption based on past events.

On top of that, COVID-19 is running rampant and bruising economies all over the world, cutting aid efforts in half compared to previous years.

Afghanistan’s rooted systematic issues will continue to undermine any reconstruction and development efforts unless a clear and mindful plan is made that addresses the topical concerns affecting the nation and motions toward this kind of growth are beginning to come to fruition. There are several important facts to note about foreign aid efforts in Afghanistan.

Cuts to US Forces Links to Cuts Toward Aid

To end the United States’ longest war, the Pentagon announced that a cut to U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 will be underway by mid-January 2021. This decision has already sparked vigilance and tensions between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban, as there is a great concern that the Taliban will feel invited to expand its influence and interfere with hopes of peace and progress. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, urges that Afghans are in “acute need” of humanitarian support, stating that nearly 300,000 Afghans have been displaced by conflict in 2020.

Deadly attacks on Afghan forces show the Taliban’s intentions during a time where peace talks are being strained after months of stagnance and it has made donors feel uneasy about whether the Taliban could abuse any funding meant for aid. Even amongst suspicions, foreign donors like Germany are still showing support, urging the international community “not to turn their backs on Afghanistan.”

Ensuring Prosperity is an International Effort

After 19 years of promised reforms and attempts to grow the economy after the U.S. ousted the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan will still be reliant on international support for the foreseeable future. Ministers from about 70 countries and officials from humanitarian organizations have pledged a total of $12 billion to the war-torn country over the next four years, at Afghanistan’s international donor conference held on Nov. 23 and 24 of 2020.

Germany has pledged $510 million in civilian assistance, the United Kingdom pledged $227 million in civilian and food aid, Norway pledged $72 million in development assistance and humanitarian aid and the United States pledged $600 million in civilian aid but made half of it conditional on the progress of Taliban peace talks. The U.S. was not alone in donating with specific conditions. All donors stressed that aid would only come as long as Afghanistan shows that it is committed to the peace process and that all parties to the Afghan conflict must respect human rights.

COVID-19 Causes Donation Restraints

Afghanistan is one of many countries taking an economic plunge due to COVID-19. The poverty level jumped from 54% last year to 70% during the pandemic, with more than half the population living on $1.14 a day, despite the billions of dollars devoted to the country over the last two decades.

A global pandemic combined with fragile circumstances emphasizes the need for foreign aid in Afghanistan, but with the heavy burden of COVID-19, most international donors have made significant restrictions on how much they can give. At the last donor conference in 2016, countries pledged a total of $15.2 billion for the years 2017-2020 compared to the $12 billion for 2021-2024.

Past Corruption is Obstructing Development

The U.S. government’s independent oversight authority on Afghan reconstruction, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), reported on October 20, 2021, that $19 billion of the total $63 billion that the U.S. has spent on Afghanistan’s reconstruction since 2002 was lost to waste, fraud and abuse.

With corruption forming such a stain on Afghanistan’s reputation and leaving remnants of distrust amongst potential donors, it is apparent why obtaining the necessary aid for growth and development has been such a hindrance for the war-torn country. That is why it is vital to ensure that future investments being made toward reconstruction are not lost and exploited.

Prospects for Peace

The Afghan government and the Taliban have endured a three-month impasse regarding peace talks that were finally brought to a close on November 2, 2020. The Afghan government and the Taliban are now expected to implement an agenda on how they can be partners in developmental changes and advancing realistic and sustainable peace plans.

As the world carefully watches the peace talks unfold, there is hope for a new start. Afghanistan is ready to transform into what it has envisioned for decades, and with realistic compromises set in place, there is an assurance that donors and the international community will feel less wary about foreign aid efforts in Afghanistan.

– Alyssa McGrail
Photo: Flickr

Health Concerns During COVID-19COVID-19 has understandably been the main focus around the world. In developed countries, many are new to health epidemics and the disruptions caused by them. But, in some parts of the world, widespread disease is not new at all and COVID-19 is not the only health concern. There are several other global health concerns during COVID-19. Some seem obvious, like malaria or HIV/AIDS. But, some have made less news, like a toxic goldmine in Ethiopia. These health crises also require assistance and aid from the international community.

HIV/AIDS in South Africa

In 2019, it was estimated that more than seven million people in South Africa were living with HIV. Roughly 200,000 of those people were newly diagnosed in 2019, and in that same year, 72,000 people died. Though 70% of people receive antiretroviral therapy (ART), the disease remains incurable. Its prevalence makes it one of the priority health concerns during COVID-19.

Though South Africa has the largest population of people living with HIV in the world, it has made a lot of progress. Data indicates that in 2018, 90% of infected individuals were aware of their status and 87% of people receiving treatment were virally suppressed, meaning they do not transfer the virus. Despite this success, rates continue to increase and it disproportionately affects women and young girls.

In 2016, South Africa made treatment for HIV free to all, where it used to be available only to those with advanced infections. This comes after South Africa made pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) available to all sex workers to prevent HIV contraction in the first place. Though it did take years for South Africa to acknowledge this epidemic, the country is making progress. However, more focus and attention needs to go toward addressing HIV/AIDs in South Africa as it is a significant health crisis.

Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa

COVID-19 severely affected sub-Saharan Africa’s access to insecticide-treated nets (ITN) and malaria treatments. The World Health Organization (WHO) urged nations to resume the distribution of these things, in fear that mortality rates in 2020 would reach 769,000, which is double the rates of 2018.

Preventative treatments, which deliver antimalarial medication to asymptomatic people, aimed at school-aged children, has shown to significantly reduce the risk of contracting malaria. Health officials in sub-Saharan Africa have been urged to take heed of this, but the poverty affecting the region limits progress.

A whole 90% of global malaria deaths happen in sub-Saharan Africa, and of that figure, 78% of victims are children. Malaria is a treatable condition, but those most susceptible to it usually live in a state of poverty, unable to afford treatment. Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most pressing global health concerns besides COVID-19.

Toxic Gold Mine in Ethiopia

Gold mining is an important industry in Ethiopia. The export of gold and similar minerals makes up 7-10% of Ethiopia’s export earnings. Hundreds of thousands of people are employed in the mines, both skilled and unskilled.

But, in Ethiopia’s most populous region, Oromia, a gold mine has released harmful contaminants that have severely affected people. Serious deficiencies in mine management have left the soil and water contaminated with dangerous levels of cyanide, arsenic and mercury. This contamination resulted in high rates of miscarriage, stillbirths and infant mortality, birth defects, the destruction of livestock and crops and locals are afflicted with debilitating illnesses. Residents say there was no warning about potential toxins,

The mine was considered so toxic that the situation was deemed a violation of human rights. After pushback from the citizens, it was temporarily shut down, but there was no accountability or treatment for those affected. There remains doubt whether the air and water are now safe and residents anticipate that the mine will be reopened. In August 2020, mineworkers were asked to attend a meeting, cementing this assumption. In collaboration, human rights organizations submitted a document to the Human Rights Committee entailing Ethiopia’s violations of rights in regard to the contaminated mine. It documents Ethiopia’s failures and necessary reparations that should be made to people.

To safeguard the well-being of the Ethiopian people and ensure that aid is provided to the affected people, it is essential for the international community to get involved.

COVID-19 and Other Global Health Concerns

The COVID-19 pandemic has upset the health of nations globally, no matter the resources a country has. But, it has also overshadowed some pressing issues. There are other major health concerns during COVID-19 that need international attention and aid as well.

– Maddey Bussmann
Photo: Flickr

International Aid to El SalvadorEl Salvador faces threats from multiple angles as heavy tropical flooding has been compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. While El Salvador has managed to curtail infection rates by imposing strict restrictions, in October 2020, more than 32,000 people had COVID-19, with around 1,000 deaths. Due to the stringent measures to protect against the pandemic, economic growth has been stifled and poverty reduction efforts have waned. Organizations are stepping in to provide international aid to El Salvador.

Dual Disasters in El Salvador

In May and June of 2020, the tropical storms Amanda and Cristobal wreaked havoc on the people of El Salvador. Nearly 150,000 people were affected by heavy rain, flooding and severe winds. Developing countries such as El Salvador have poor building infrastructure and during natural disasters homes are more likely to be destroyed by storms. The World Food Programme (WFP) has estimated that about 380,000 people in El Salvador do not have sufficient access to nutritious food due to the dual disasters that have weakened infrastructure and the economy. An estimated 22,000 farmers have suffered from the destruction of flooding, with over 12,000 hectares of agricultural crops being destroyed.

COVID-19 Pandemic Increases Poverty

El Salvador has been moderately successful with poverty reduction, marked by a consistent decline in poverty over the past 13 years, as poverty rates plummeted from 39% to 29% between 2007 and 2017. Extreme poverty was cut from 15% to 8.5% over this time period as well. Additionally, El Salvador has increased its level of equality and is now the second most equal country in Latin America.

Despite this positive trend in poverty reduction, El Salvador has suffered from forced economic restrictions due to the pandemic. Its GDP is projected to decrease by 8% this year due to economic restrictions, a weakened international market and diminished funds sent from El Salvadorians abroad in the United States. Additionally, low income and marginalized individuals are becoming more vulnerable to health issues and wage deficiencies and are falling victim to predatory loans. El Salvador’s economic shutdown and destruction from tropical storms have prompted calls for international aid to alleviate the crisis.

Swift Action to Mitigate COVID-19

El Salvador has seen relatively low COVID-19 cases as a result of its swift response to the pandemic. It adopted strict containment measures faster than any other Central American country and invested heavily in its health system. The government has provided cash distributions to the majority of households, food for low income households and payment deferrals for rent and mortgages in order to curb the effects of the pandemic on citizens.

International Aid to El Salvador

Requests for international aid to El Salvador have been granted in the form of assistance from USAID and the WFP. These organizations are providing disaster relief and bringing in resources to those affected by the storms and the COVID-19 pandemic. USAID has donated $3 million to be dispensed by cash in stipends for vulnerable citizens to buy food. This stipend will boost local economies and reinforce food security for impoverished citizens affected by the dual disasters.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Crisis in ZimbabweCurrently, many members of Zimbabwe are experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises of all time. Due to its devastating economy and food and water shortage, it has been rampant in many poverty areas in Zimbabwe. Especially with the COVID-19 crisis, this moment is critical for an international response in rehabilitating Zimbabwean communities susceptible to poverty.

The Causes of Zimbabwe’s Economy on the Humanitarian Crisis

A large factor in Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis is its problems that stem from its economy. As of now, extreme poverty has exceeded 34%, subject to at least 5.7 million people in poverty. As of this year, Zimbabwe’s inflation rate increases up to 500%. However, even with the inflation wages and salaries have remained relatively the same, escalating more financial deficits. As a result of the massive influx of inflation, food insecurity has surged and power-based utilities have drastically declined. Additionally, agriculture and electricity have been a large shortage in vulnerable communities of Zimbabwe.

Even with loans such as the World Bank, IMO and the African Development Bank, Zimbabwe still accumulates more than $8 billion. Additionally, the average middle class is only paid up to $1.80 per day and barely able to sustain themselves. Although with its devastating economy, Zimbabwe has tried several mechanisms in rehabilitating its structure. For example, in 2009 they tried eliminating the US currency entirely in its country to avoid confusion and inflation. Additionally, they tried investing in bonds and electronic money. Unfortunately, these methods have only exacerbated the problem of inflation in its current economy.

The Effects of Zimbabwe’s Economy on the Humanitarian Crisis

As a result of its astronomically high inflation rates, many members of Zimbabwe, especially children, have been subject to extremely inhumane conditions. For example, more than 76% of children in Zimbabwe are currently living below the poverty rate. At least 90% of infants experience malnutrition and stunted growth. Additionally, the World Food Program estimates that the country would need more than $200 million in reparations in order to bring its country out of poverty. To make matters worse, Zimbabwe has also been experiencing extreme food shortages from the several droughts it has endured this past year. As of now, the country only sustains on below 100,000 tons of grain. Zimbabwe consumes about 80,000 tons of maize per month itself. Due to the rampant droughts and the underperforming economy, the poverty rate may increase by more than 5%.

Government Censorship and Suppression of Protests

Along with its conflicts in the economy, the militia imposed by the government has also been suppressing peaceful protestors. This further invigorates the public about the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. These protestors are advocating for more government solvency over Zimbabwe’s frequent power outages and food shortages. For example, during August 2019 local militia placed several attacks on innocent protesters, killing at least six people. Then in mid-January 2020, nationwide protests struck a violent response from the security force and militia. They killed at least 17 people, raped 17 women and raided over 1,000 protestors.

In addition, journalists and other political officials are often silenced on violent and unstable matters in the country. An important state official, Viola Gonda, was harassed for filming local police officers attacking street vendors. This was due to the lack of reform with certain legislation, such as the Protection of Privacy Act. There were frequent loopholes of defamation that interfered with the protection of local journalists.

Initiatives to Rehabilitate Zimbabwe

Although Zimbabwe is suffering through a tremendous crisis, its large public exposure gained more efforts to replenish impoverished areas. For example, the International Monetary Fund has sent a task force to advise Zimbabwe on how to deal with its hyperinflation and decreasing revenue in the economy. Additionally, in February 2020, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his financial consultant plan on request a $2 billion loan package in order to provide its citizens with sustaining jobs and resources. As an immediate solution, UNICEF has provided $11 million in order to improve water and sanitation services. Zimbabwe also received over $240 million for its food shortages. UN Secretary Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon claims that the United Nations will show stronger support in aiding Zimbabweans, providing a positive outlook over its current problems. This will happened when Zimbabwe shows promise in the reparations of its political power and economic power.

NGOs that are Helping the Humanitarian Crisis in Zimbabwe

Along with international organizations, smaller projects are providing aid to local Zimbabweans who are suffering through these tough times. For example, Action Against Hunger, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to combat malnutrition, has made numerous strides in aiding local communities in Zimbabwe. They also launched an emergency project in 2018 to help Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, recuperate the damages after its devastating droughts. Following similar goals and accomplishments, the International Rescue Committee has been dedicated to aid and supply resources to impoverished areas in Zimbabwe since 2008. Its main objectives are providing a direct supply for food shortages, donating vouchers for farmers to increase harvests and plantations and drilling wells to make clean water more accessible.

Even with its downfalls, there are numerous relief efforts to help the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, especially during a global pandemic. With a large global response, there is a strong likelihood of lessening Zimbabwe’s economic and political adversities and raising people out of poverty.

Aishwarya Thiygarajan

Photo: Flickr

South Korea AidNorth and South Korea have been separated since the end of World War II when the Soviet Union took control of the northern half of the peninsula and the United States took over the South. The two halves of Korea have been at war with each other since.

North Korea has since become a nation of poverty. The greatest threats to North Korea are its water pollution, waterborne diseases, deforestation, soil erosion and degradation. In 2017, one in five North Koreans did not have access to clean water and 41 percent of people were undernourished. Since the country’s poverty level has been increasing, North Korea has been reliant on international aid. Recently, South Korea has announced it will be sending $8 million in food aid to North Korea.

The good news about South Korea’s $8 million aid is that it expected to begin reducing tension between the opposing governments while reducing poverty levels in the North. North Korea previously chose not to accept aid from the South. The Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, is now open to receiving the aid due to the current harvest being the worst in the past decade and the current drought problem, which is currently the worst it has been in over three decades.

Expected Benefits

  • Decrease in Poverty LevelsFood aid will help the 40 percent of North Koreans that are suffering from severe food shortages. It will also provide access to clean water and reduce the number of people affected by waterborne diseases.
  • Vaccines and Medicine Will Also Be Provided – South Korea’s $8 million aid will also include $3.5 million in vaccines and medicine. This secondary aid is supplying treatments for malnutrition in children and pregnant women. It will also include other medicines for the population.
  • Tensions Between the North and South Should Improve – Despite tensions between the North and South, South Korea is still willing to give aid to the North regardless of the political situation between the two halves. This aid is letting the North know that South Korea is not willing to let those in need suffer.

Taking a Stand

Tensions between North and South Korea have been high since the end of World War II. In a press release, the South Korea Unification Ministry made it clear to the public that its tension with North Korea was not a reason to deny the country humanitarian aid. South Korea’s aid will begin to lessen those tensions. It will also provide food and medical aid to the suffering population and begin to reduce the poverty levels.

Most countries have been hesitant to send international aid to North Korea due to their involvement in missile and nuclear weapons developments. South Korea is taking a stand and using compassion to state that political issues do not affect the fact that almost half of the North Korean population is starving and in need of help.

Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Pixabay

Drug Trafficking in TajikistanAlthough Tajikistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, it has experienced rapid rates of poverty reduction in recent years. In 2000, more than 83 percent of the population was in poverty, while in 2016, the poverty rate reduced to 31 percent. Though rewarding, the rapid reduction of monetary poverty has been unable to address non-monetary poverty issues, such as the quality or accessibility of public services and the persistent problem of drug trafficking in Tajikistan.

The Tajikistani population is faced with a lack of educational institutions, deteriorated healthcare, severely limited access to clean drinking water, high rates of childhood malnutrition, high maternal mortality, a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, high rates of tuberculosis and inadequate access to electricity, heat and roads. In addition to these daily struggles, the country continues to combat drug trafficking, an issue that is intertwined with Tajikistan’s economy, governance, culture and health.

Explaining Drug Trafficking in Tajikistan

Approximately 75 to 80 metric tons (MT) of heroin and 35 to 40 MT of opium are smuggled into Tajikistan annually, either for transfer north to Russia and Europe or for domestic consumption. Tajikistan’s geographic location, history of political unrest and high level of poverty contribute to the country’s major function as a “drug transit state.”

Tajikistan’s geographic location, with a porous border of 1,400 kilometers next to Afghanistan, has affected the country’s vulnerability for trafficking of illegal drugs to Russia, Kazakhstan and Europe. According to a 2012 estimate, 30 percent of the opiates produced in Afghanistan passed through Tajikistan. The high volume of drug trafficking in Tajikistan has now become equivalent to 30 percent of the country’s GDP.

Drug trafficking in Tajikistan is the product of a variety of interwoven problems. These problems include the continued large-scale production of opium in Tajikistan’s neighboring state of Afghanistan, a growing economic and social crisis in Tajikistan and governmental complicity contributing to the problem. Despite Tajik governmental policies to combat drug trafficking, U.S. counter-narcotics policies in Afghanistan and $200 million of U.S. military assistance since 2001, drug trafficking in Tajikistan not only continues to persist, but has increased.

Common discourse tends to overemphasize the link between the increase in drug trafficking in Tajikistan and the country’s neighbors, who are composed of Islamist groups such as the Taliban. This emphasis places responsibility for drug trafficking with terrorist organizations. However, this explanation undermines the severity of Tajikistan’s economic, social and political crisis.

In 2011, it was estimated that drug trafficking in Tajikistan generated $2.7 billion per year. For a country with an unstable population growth rate of 2.2 percent and a volatile GDP annual growth rate of 6.9 percent, the wealth generated from the drug trade is seen as profitable and legitimate among politicians and state officials.

Since the Tajikistan Civil War, which took place from May of 1992 to June of 1997, drug trafficking in Tajikistan has been a major source of income for the government. State officials, government personnel and military administrators continue to profit not only from the drug trade, but from the outside aid and efforts to combat drug trafficking.

Methods to Fight Drug Trafficking

Prior to 2004, Tajikistan’s government was limited in its methods to put an end to the drug flow. However, U.S. military assistance in the form of vehicles and specialized equipment, the creation of anti-drug squads and the construction of border outposts has served to undermine the flow of narcotics. More barriers positioned along the border has equated to more extraction opportunities for Tajik government officials, facilitated by the severe and persistent institutionalized corruption. The largest drug traffickers in Tajikistan are believed to be among the high-level officials of the Tajik government.

In addition to corrupt law enforcement, drug trafficking in Tajikistan has developed through the efforts of small traffickers, namely Tajik migrant workers who are willing to transport drugs to meet their basic needs. Government corruption and resistance to reform, as well as the country’s limited economic resources, has encouraged the development of illicit drug rings among local administrative officials.

What Can Be Done?

As long as governmental corruption is present in Tajikistan, international organizations and aid efforts have little hope of tackling drug trafficking in the country with any legitimate success. Institutionalized corruption among law enforcement officials, the presidential family and Tajik authorities is seen as a valid and necessary form of wealth production for the state.

International aid and military assistance has, thus far, failed to make any kind of a serious dent in the issue due to the governmental acceptance of drug trafficking and corruption. Drug trafficking in Tajikistan will not significantly decrease without greater emphasis placed on socio-economic development, poverty reduction efforts and the creation and maintenance of basic public services and infrastructure. These basic needs to be met include healthcare, education, transportation, heating, electricity and sanitation.

As a result, drug trafficking in Tajikistan must be fought indirectly. Organizations such as USAID are working with the Tajikistan Ministry of Health to improve basic healthcare services. By creating and building upon Tajikistan’s infrastructure and public services, international aid will be more effective in preventing the widespread corruption and drug trade prevalent within Tajikistan.

– Kara Roberts
Photo: Flickr

poverty reduction
Almost half of the world’s population lives in poverty, defined as having under $2.50 per day. Even more striking, more than 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty, which means having under $1.25 per day on disposal. Most concerning, there are over 1 billion children exposed to substandard living conditions.

Several international organizations, such as the IMF, World Bank, and UN, work with governments and other organizations in the world’s poorest countries on daily basis. Their common mission is poverty reduction in poor countries and, ultimately, to end all forms of poverty once and for all.

However, what are the actions currently being implemented? Where can further attention and action be allocated to effectively alleviate poverty?

International Organizations and Governments

The weakest links are evidently countries that lack abundant natural resources, such as sub-Saharan African countries. These countries, such as Cameroon, Benin, and Angola, are home to the poorest people and their governments are unable to raise tax revenues or foster financial resource mobilization. Development of these countries could be achieved through a set of resources such as private investments and development financing.

Coordination with governments to address issues directly linked to the poorest of their population is vital. The Bolsa Familia program in Brazil exemplifies this notion, as the program has established a direct cash transfer to the poorest families. Over 48 million families are enrolled and this has led to extreme poverty dropping from 20.4 million in 2003 to 11.9 million in 2009. That is a staggering 8.5 million people who have been lifted from the severe poverty.

Facets of Poverty – Basic Needs

Typically, poverty is associated with one’s financial situation. Nonetheless, there are several other facets to poverty that must be addressed if extreme poverty, and eventually poverty altogether, is to be eradicated. Of these basic needs, five stand out in poverty reduction in poor countries:

  1. Quality education
  2. Access to healthcare
  3. Water and sanitation
  4. Economic/financial security
  5. Child participation

Improving the well-being of the world’s poor enables them to break the cycle of poverty. Providing a greater home environment and adequate nutrition fosters the success of children in school and of adults in training, which boosts their economic position. One example is Colombia, where education can be the gate key to breaking the cycle of violence and poverty and promoting economic growth on all cylinders.

On Data

In an increasingly data-driven world, developing countries can greatly improve their data on poverty, and by doing so, clearly identify where the poorest citizens live and what their exact needs are. In this way, they can allocate their resources effectively. Crucial improvements include the monitoring of different facets of poverty other than income, while encompassing more dimensions to the problem (social, economic, etc.).

There is much work to be done to resolve the unfortunate effects of poverty. However, solving the persistent problem requires striking straight to the roots.

Collaboration between international organizations, governments and other groups, updating and improving data as well as providing basic needs are all must-do’s in the fight against poverty reduction in poor countries.

– Roberto Carlos Ventura

Photo: Google

How the US Benefits From Foreign Aid to Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan, once part of the Soviet bloc, transformed from a one-party communist state into a republican democracy in 1991. Despite its reforms, though, the country is beset by both extreme poverty and government incompetence. With a significant portion of the population destitute, a thriving illegal narcotics market and ethnic tensions between native Kyrgyz and migrant Uzbeks, American investment in its government and people would see substantive U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Kyrgyzstan in terms of security.

State of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan’s location in geographically-isolated Central Asia and its lack of natural energy resources, such as oil and gas, prevent it from emulating the industrial rise of neighboring economic goliaths, Russia and China.

The inherent difficulty of encouraging economic growth, coupled with institutional problems and social disorder, has resulted in high poverty rates in Kyrgyzstan. As of 2010, more than 40 percent of Kyrgyzstan residents live below the poverty line. High rates of homelessness and unemployment have turned many to narcotics.

Factors Leading to Revolution

Trafficking drugs across a long, unguarded border with other Central Asian countries linked to Afghanistan is a profitable enterprise, making it lucrative to those who do not have sustainable incomes. The second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan, Osh, is often referred to as the “drug capital” due to the volume of illegal narcotics that passes through the city near Kyrgyzstan’s southern border.

In 2012, authorities seized at least six tons of various substances ranging from cannabis to heroin. The rampant nature of the drug problem, and the government’s inability to resolve it, was one factor that led to revolution.

In June of 2010, more than 350 people were killed in southern Kyrgyzstan during the Second Kyrgyz Revolution over a variety of issues —  rape, wealth inequality between rural Kyrgyzstan migrants and urban Uzbeks and gang turf wars over the aforementioned drugs were a few. About 66 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s population is Kyrgyz, with some 14 percent identifying as Uzbeks. The violence between the two ethnic groups in the larger frame of regime change displaced hundreds of thousands of citizens and left the region in turmoil.

Ethnic Tension and Cultural Conflict

Poverty is a breeding ground for radicalism. Its perpetuation is often a vicious cycle, wherein poverty causes political instability, resulting in civil wars and terrorism at home and abroad. These conflicts then wipe out much-needed crops and necessary social institutions like hospitals and schools. In Kyrgyzstan’s case, ethnic tension resulted from lopsided poverty and unaffordable utility prices.

It would be a mistake to assume, however, that the conflict between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz is limited to only Kyrgyzstan or Central Asia. In April 2017, an Uzbek born in Kyrgyzstan killed 14 in St. Petersburg, Russia by rail attack. In October 2017, an Uzbek immigrant killed eight in New York by driving a truck through pedestrians. More than 1,500 Uzbeks have joined the Islamic State, ostracized by many of the countries — especially Kyrgyzstan — they once lived in.

This global violence, spawned in part by the ineptitude of a corrupt and autocratic government in preventing the continuance of radicalization, is not in the interest of either the Kyrgyzstan people or the United States. Just as Kyrgyzstan benefits from foreign aid to Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Kyrgyzstan.

In the decades since the Soviet Union’s dissolution, subsequent American administrations have supplied aid intended mostly for the Kyrgyz Republic’s agricultural economy and on-the-ground humanitarian efforts. But it can do more — more for its government and more for its people.

U.S. Benefits From Foreign aid to Kyrgyzstan

Earmarking additional funds could support anti-corruption initiatives to dampen the prevalence of drug transport and abuse among the population. Increased investment in Kyrgyzstan’s energy sector could also diminish dependence on foreign energy and stabilize utility prices. A reduction in poverty and boost in living standards would increase income equality and alleviate some of the tension between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz that currently plagues the country, and by extension of terrorist activity, the world.

As terrorism is such a buzzword in American politics today, preventing it would surely be high on most elected officials’ to-do lists. Helping the Kyrgyz Republic overcome its multidimensional poverty — which can prevent terrorist activity and save lives both in the United States and abroad — would increase national security at a fraction of the cost of not doing so.

To reiterate: the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Kyrgyzstan. The current administration’s plan to drastically cut its designated aid funds would render most, if not all, of these benefits void.

– Alex Qi
Photo: Flickr

How the U.S. Benefits From Foreign Aid to Dominica
Natural disasters occur globally, and many countries overcome these disasters with the help of foreign aid. Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm, hit Dominica on September 18, 2017. USAID has sent assistance to Dominica, which becomes beneficial to the U.S. by building good relations and maintaining a positive reputation by working with other countries in providing foreign assistance to Dominica.

The U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Dominica by Fostering Good Relations

All countries, especially impoverished ones, need help to recover from a natural disaster of Hurricane Maria’s magnitude. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Dominica by stepping in and using its power to help, which strengthens relations between the countries. After Hurricane Maria, Samaritan’s Purse, the Pan American Health Organization and the International Federation of the Red Cross, all under USAID, were able to contribute $3.25 million in foreign aid to Dominica.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Southern Command worked with USAID’s Caribbean Hurricanes Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to help repair roofs in Dominica that were damaged by the hurricane. USAID provided plastic sheeting and DART taught a group of local builders how to use the tools provided to fix the damaged roofs properly. Through donations and direct assistance to individuals, the U.S. is building good relations with other countries.

International Collaborations Build a Positive Reputation

The U.S. has worked with other countries to provide water, food and tools to rebuild Dominica immediately after Hurricane Maria hit the island. The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) contributed about 10 metric tons of food, which fed around 25,000 people in Dominica over three months. By assisting with the WFP’s food distribution, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Dominica by using its resources to help impoverished countries, which grows a positive international reputation.

Collaborations with other countries to help provide foreign aid to developing countries do make a difference and help the U.S. maintain a positive reputation. According to Diálogo Digital Military Magazine, the prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, commented positively on the progress the U.S. and other countries have made. He stated, “We have many allies. Thanks for helping my people, without you, our partner nations, it would not have been possible to get past the first phase of this emergency.”

Countries dealing with poverty and disasters benefit from other countries stepping in to help via foreign aid, and that help allows the affected country to get back on its feet. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Dominica through maintaining its positive reputation by doing good for poor countries.

While natural disasters can do great damage to countries dealing with poverty, those countries can also recover promptly with the foreign aid provided by other countries. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Dominica by connecting with its people to encourage good relations, as well as ensuring a positive reputation by reaching out to less developed countries in times of need. The U.S. can retain in its positive relationship with the government of Dominica by continuing to support the country, especially when natural disasters hit.

– Kelly Kipfer
Photo: Flickr