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SDG 1 in the United Republic of TanzaniaAs of July 1, 2020, the World Bank reclassified the United Republic of Tanzania from a “low-income” nation to a “lower-middle-income” nation. This new status results from a variety of indicators that inform the nation’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, such as economic growth, exchange rates and more. While GNI per capita is not a direct measurement of poverty reduction, it does indicate that Tanzania’s economy is progressing in the right direction to meet the U.N.’s first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to eradicate poverty globally by 2030. Updates on SDG Goal 1 in the United Republic of Tanzania make it clear that while the country has not met the goal yet, it has overseen a significant reduction in extreme poverty in the last few decades. Here are some updates on SDG Goal 1 in the United Republic of Tanzania.

Updates on SDG Goal 1 in the United Republic of Tanzania

The World Bank’s 2019 Mainland Poverty Assessment found that extreme poverty in the United Republic of Tanzania fell from 11.7% in 2007 to 8.0% in 2018. This significant improvement comes with the finding that the severity of poverty has also declined during this period, meaning that Tanzanians living under the poverty line have become less poor on average.

However, while a smaller proportion of the Tanzanian population lives in extreme poverty today, many remain vulnerable. For every four people who can move out of poverty in Tanzania, three individuals fall into poverty. This demonstrates the constant financial instability that many non-poor Tanzanians face. It also illustrates the importance of effective social welfare programs in reducing vulnerability.

The Importance of Investing in the Rural Economy

One of the initiatives that has contributed to these updates on SDG Goal 1 in the United Republic of Tanzania is a project funded by the African Development Bank. The program, which rolled out in stages between 2012 and 2017, developed market infrastructure and improved the financial security of rural Tanzanians. Its $56.8 million budget allowed it to reach 6.1 million Tanzanians spanning 32 districts. The multifaceted program had a significant impact on the livelihoods of its recipients. Approximately 78% reported an increase in their income after participating in the program. Indeed, the program raised beneficiaries’ average income from $41 in 2012 to $133 in 2017.

In the last few decades, most poverty reduction in Tanzania occurred in rural areas. This is significant because of the persistent disparity in living standards and wealth between rural and urban areas. Although rural households still lag behind urban ones on most indicators of wealth, poverty reduction programs in rural Tanzania helped to narrow this gap. The African Development Bank’s program, for example, refurbished roads and created warehouses in rural areas. This reduced transportation costs for Tanzanian farmers and led to a drop in “post-harvest losses.”

Reforming the Private Sector for Poverty Reduction

The majority of Tanzanians work in the informal sector. Unfortunately, this lack of access to formal finance limits small business owners’ ability rise out of poverty. In order to continue making progress on eliminating extreme poverty in Tanzania, the government and external actors must remain focused on this issue.

Recently, the African Development Bank announced that it will focus its efforts on economic growth in Tanzania’s private sector. In December 2019, the Bank approved a $55 million facility support to the government in implementing regulatory reforms in the private sector. The Bank believes this is a necessary step toward creating an inclusive business landscape in the nation. Additionally, this effort should help Tanzania progress toward SDG Goal 1 by creating more equal and plentiful employment opportunities for Tanzanians.

COVID-19 and Updates on SDG Goal 1 in the United Republic of Tanzania

Due to its focus on economic growth, the Tanzanian government has enacted a relatively lax response to COVID-19 compared to neighboring countries. However, tourism made up 11.7% of Tanzania’s GDP in 2019. Because the pandemic has hit the tourism industry hard, Tanzania’s economy has suffered. In addition, a reduction in agricultural exports has greatly affected the Tanzanian economy. The combination of these factors will inevitably impact the nation’s poor. A study by the International Growth Centre shows that the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent social distancing and lockdown measures have put approximately 9.1% of sub-Saharan Africa back into extreme poverty. As such, the pandemic has certainly hindered Tanzania’s progress on SDG Goal 1.

Looking forward, Tanzania will need a collaborative effort to lift Tanzanians out of extreme poverty once the pandemic is over. The Tanzanian government as well as international actors must work together to recoup Tanzania’s progress toward achieving SDG Goal 1. Though the pandemic has caused some setbacks, Tanzania must continue to focus on poverty eradication in order to meet this goal.

Leina Gabra
Photo: Flickr

Myanmar's Most Vulnerable PopulationsThe country of Myanmar is facing many difficulties regarding the spread and effects of COVID-19. With a tattered healthcare system, warring states, a fragile economy and thousands of people displaced, Myanmar’s most vulnerable populations are experiencing several risks. Displaced people living in detention camps, Rohingya Muslims and the poor disproportionately face the negative effects of COVID-19 in culmination with a declining economy.

Myanmar

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified Myanmar’s health system as one of the worst in the world. According to official data, about 40% of Myanmar’s population live below or close to the poverty line.

There is a limited number of doctors, with 6.1 doctors per 10,000 people. Additionally, there are as few as one doctor per 83,000 people in conflict-affected areas according to Human Rights Watch.

Furthermore, there is little healthcare or medical facilities in rural areas, where most of Myanmar’s population lives. That makes it extremely difficult for people to seek medical assistance and testing for COVID-19, and estimate the number of coronavirus cases.

Ethnic Conflict

In addition to a poor healthcare system, Myanmar is also riddled with the conflict between the government and Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs). Fighting in areas such as the Rakhine state and Chin state prevents any possible COVID-19 relief and government aid.

Additionally, the government has put mobile internet restrictions in place in response to the armed conflicts. Lack of accessible internet limits information about the virus along with access to medical services, preventing people from knowing the government’s response to COVID-19 and how they can protect themselves.

The Vulnerable

It is at a time like this that minorities and threatened groups are the most vulnerable. Many aid workers fear that on top of inadequate resources and poor living conditions, the virus could exacerbate hostile emotions towards minorities and targeted groups in Myanmar.

Groups such as displaced persons and the Rohingya Muslims face difficult obstacles in receiving medical treatment or preventative measures against the COVID-19 virus.

Displaced People

According to Human Rights Watch, there are about 350,000 displaced people in Myanmar, and 130,000 people living in detention camps in the Rakhine state. Military conflict between the government and ethnic armed groups mainly caused these people’s displacement. Living conditions are dismal in these camps, with little to no resources for treating or preventing COVID-19. There is limited access to clean water, toilets and medical services. Diseases are common and according to a Human Rights Report, “in such camps, one toilet is shared by as many as 40 people, [and] one water access point by as many as 600.”

The Rohingya Muslims

The Rohingya Muslims, a religious minority group, is one of Myanmar’s most vulnerable populations. They have been living in detention camps after experiencing persecution in Myanmar. The Myanmar government has restricted their freedom of movement, and the Rohingya Muslims live in squalid camp conditions. There are only two health centers available, both unequipped to test and treat COVID-19.

Living conditions are extremely cramped. According to a Forbes article, one of the refugee camps, Kutupalong, houses “almost 860,000 refugees. They are more densely populated than New York, with more than 100,000 people living in each square mile.” With people living in such close proximity to one another, the spread of COVID-19 through the Rohingya Muslims is inevitable.

Economic Effects on the Poor

COVID-19 also negatively impacts Myanmar’s economy. As a consequence, it has exacerbated poverty and lowered living conditions. According to the International Growth Centre and World Bank Open Data, Myanmar had the lowest per capita GDP in Southeast Asia in 2018.

Furthermore, because Myanmar’s economy largely relies on international investment and exported goods such as garment products, COVID-19’s disruption on the world economy has caused Myanmar to further suffer.

Especially affected by the economic decline are poor workers and households. Groups such as “street and mobile vendors and various day-rate workers in urban areas, and the landless and day-rate workers in rural areas” experience adverse effects as income, food security and employment decline, according to the International Growth Centre.

In the face of the COVID-19 virus, Myanmar suffers many challenges that make preventing and treating the virus extremely difficult. In all of this, Myanmar’s most vulnerable populations – the displaced, the Rohingya Muslims and Myanmar’s poor – are at the greatest disadvantage. Although there have been efforts by the government to provide financial aid for preventative measures and help from humanitarian organizations, it is not enough. These vulnerable groups are still hugely at risk from COVID-19.

Silvia Huang
Photo: Flickr