Media Coverage of Global Poverty
Many U.S. citizens have misconceptions about the extent of global poverty and how the government is acting to remedy the issue. However, this may not be at the fault of the general public. Media coverage of global poverty largely contributes to the information gaps in the minds of many Americans.

A survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Americans assume more than 20% of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid. In reality, non-military assistance composes just about 0.2% of the federal budget. This assumption is especially pertinent, as it may give Americans the impression that global poverty is constantly decreasing. For the first time since 1998, that is no longer true. COVID-19 is pushing millions into extreme poverty, counteracting years of progress.

Limited Media Coverage

In 2014, another study found that three major network newscasts devoted just 0.2% of their programming to poverty in 14 months. Recently, with politics and public health consuming the majority of airtime, this number has fallen. Media coverage of global poverty is taking a back seat to other topics. Consequently, it is no surprise that many Americans have warped perceptions of poverty overseas.

General, mainstream media outlets tend to shy away from discussing global poverty in great depth. This is because the topic may not test well with viewers. As a result, when there are reports on these issues, they often take the form of stories or opinion pieces rather than formal news stories. While these pieces still spread awareness, they do not relay to Americans, the facts of what occurs overseas. In turn, this limits the opportunity for readers to develop sufficiently informed opinions of their own.

Mainstream Media Coverage?

Even The New York Times, a reputable news outlet, is not immune to this phenomenon. A Google search for “global poverty New York Times” yields an opinion piece before any formal article on the subject. These results may deter readers from trusting information in the opinion article (first search result) as opinion pieces outwardly inform readers of bias. The second article, titled “Millions Have Risen Out of Poverty. Coronavirus is Pulling them Back” begins with a narrative of a woman in Bangladesh escaping poverty, then falling back into its grasp due to the side effects of COVID-19. Using devices like storytelling to convey facts can be effective, but it does not always present the most detailed information. Just three articles on the Google search results page are from 2020. This represents  only 30% of the initial search results. Any other non-opinion pieces are from 2015 or earlier (at the time of this article’s publication).

However, it may not even be the news outlets that are at fault for the sporadic nature of their reports on poverty. Censorship proves to be its own problem. Many impoverished countries tend to withhold the information for which journalists may be looking. The extra steps or inability to access these kinds of facts may prove difficult for some news outlets.

Other Outlets

The irregular nature of the reports on poverty explains why the issue is not on the radar of many Americans. Yet, still, the information does exist. News outlets such as Borgen Magazine and Global Citizen consistently release articles in the interests of the world’s poor — simultaneously educating Americans on foreign affairs. However, this does not make up for mainstream news outlets’ lack of coverage.

There have been efforts to remedy the lack of media coverage of global poverty, including publications and initiatives dedicated to aiding the world’s poor. For instance, the Global Investigative Journalism Network released tips on covering poverty back in 2014. However, knowledge of poverty and how to combat it cannot spread unless two things occur. First, citizens must take the initiative to seek it out themselves. Alternatively (and arguably more beneficially), mainstream media outlets can find a way to integrate it into their news releases on a more regular basis.

Ava Roberts
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Increasing International PhilanthropyAs COVID-19 inspires increasing international philanthropy, trends in American and global giving create an opportunity for growth in the philanthropy sector. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that as of April 21, donor governments and multilateral organizations around the globe were responding to the coronavirus with $16.5 billion in completed international donations and aid, the biggest donors being governments, the World Bank and the Asian Development Fund.

The U.S. Philanthropic Efforts

The U.S. government had provided $2.39 billion in international aid as of April. As of August 12, Candid reported, an additional $13 billion in institutional and individual philanthropic donations had been given globally, with the biggest donations coming from Google, CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey and TikTok parent company ByteDance. The majority of funding, both philanthropic and from governments and multilateral organizations, have gone to disaster relief. COVID-19 is increasing international philanthropy efforts around the globe, and that trend has proven true of U.S.-based institutional and individual giving.

“To put this unprecedented commitment of institutional and individual philanthropy in perspective, the U.S. total alone of more than $6 billion is, according to Candid’s figures, more than double the entire campaigns for 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, Hurricane Harvey, the Ebola outbreak, the Haitian earthquake, and the recent Australian bushfires,” Andrew Grabois wrote in a blog for Candid.

COVID-19’s Impact on Donor Giving

A recent Fidelity Charitable study found that 79% of donors plan to either maintain or increase their existing levels of giving. 31% of donors will be giving money to international organizations as part of their COVID-19 philanthropy, following a significant decrease in donations to international charities in 2017. International affairs nonprofits, on the other hand, have consistently been steadily increasing. 69% of donors said they are “very” or “somewhat concerned” about how international aid organizations will suffer during the pandemic. 30% of donors say they are donating “to address the economic impacts” of COVID-19.

Betsy Morris of The Wall Street Journal reported that as coronavirus related philanthropy skyrockets, nonprofits unrelated to coronavirus relief have seen significant declines in donations and volunteer activity; 80% of nonprofits surveyed in June said that revenue had fallen since the pandemic started, and 70% had been forced to reduced their activity level. Donations to U.S. charities saw an 11% decline in March, and the outlook remains bleak as the pandemic continues; 72% of donors do not “expect their giving to return to prior levels.”

Shifting Philanthropic Sector

But the pandemic has also caused significant shifts in the philanthropy sector that could help pave the way to recovery; consulting company Mckinsey & Company explained that large-scale donations are also happening “at record speed, with fewer conditions, and in greater collaboration with others,” all of which can and should be long-term shifts in the philanthropy sector.

Donor institutions are addressing three main areas to address short- and long-term philanthropy challenges by adjusting grant practices to be easier and more accessible for grantees, increasing the “pace and volume” of philanthropic giving, scaling impact with partnerships and collaboration between individual and institutional donors, investment in grassroots and local leadership and providing support to the public sector. All these shifts will allow for this increasing international philanthropy and a more effective sector long after the pandemic has waned.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Flickr

Biggest Global Issues
Hundreds of millions of people around the world experience insufficient living conditions due to environmental factors, displacement, disease, poverty or some combination of the four. Here is a list of the biggest global issues that plague humankind.

The Biggest Global Issues Facing Mankind

1. Food and Malnutrition

  • Food and nutrition are essential for just about every life form on the planet, especially humankind. Although countries such as China, India, Brazil and the United States produce vast amounts of food for the world, about one in nine people will not eat enough food today. Malnourishment leads to the inability of about 795 million people to lead active and healthy lives around the globe.

  • Malnutrition leads to poor health and can stunt development in education and employment. According to The Food Aid Foundation, 66 million school-aged children will go to school hungry today. Consistent hunger in schools is linked to a lack of concentration.

  • World hunger has decreased by about 219 million people within the past two decades. It is through the innovative and ambitious work of organizations like the World Food Programme, in partnership with governments and communities, that the world can fill empty stomachs and provide communities with the resources to fill their own stomachs without aid, overtime.

  • The World Food Programme provides the Home Grown School Feeding Programme to counter the effects of consistent hunger in schools. One model of the  Home Grown School Feeding Programme in Kenya provides school meals to over 600 million schoolchildren. The organization purchases the meals from local farmers which helps boost Kenya’s agriculture-dependent economy. Constant meals in school serve as an incentive for poor families to send their children to school every day and enhance the quality of children’s education by reducing hunger.

2. Access to Clean Water

  • Water covers about 70 percent of planet Earth. Inadequate water supply, water supply access and lack of sanitation kill millions of people annually. Used for drinking and hygiene practices, lack of water sanitation is a leading cause of child mortality around the world.

  • Two days of the year educate the world about one of the biggest global issues facing humankind: the global water crisis. World Water Day and World Toilet Day are reminders that 700 million people around the globe could be facing displacement due to decreased access to fresh water by 2030. Severe droughts are a major reason for displacement. When there is no more water for drinking or for crops and livestock, people must leave their homes in search of a place where there is an adequate supply of water.

  • Within the past two decades, the percentage of countries without basic sanitation services decreased by 17 percent. Forty countries are on track to receive universal basic sanitation services by the year 2030. In the meantime, 88 countries are progressing too slowly in their sanitation advancements and 24 countries are decreasing in their advances toward universal sanitation coverage.

  • The Water Project is committed to providing safe water to Africa. It builds wells and dams to provide access to safe water. The project also delivers improved technology for more sanitary toilets that keep flies away. The Water Project provides and monitors 157 water projects in Sierra Leone including wells, dams and sanitary toilets. The Water Project builds these projects in schools and communities in the Port Loko region of Sierra Leone, serving some 7,000 Sierra Leoneans. The Water Project’s save water initiative impacts over 40,000 people on the continent of Africa.

3. Refugee Crisis

  • The refugee crisis is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind today. Refugees are seeking asylum from persecution, conflict and violence. A grand total of 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their home countries. Some 54 percent of those displaced are children.

  • Developing countries host a third of the world’s refugees. Many refugees reside in the neighboring countries of those they left behind. Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan and Lebanon lead the world in hosting refugees.

  • Asylum seekers from Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan continuously flee ongoing persecution, conflict and violence in their home countries. More recently, four million Venezuelans have fled their home country, 460 thousand of whom are seeking asylum in Spain, Central America and North America.

  • Venezuelans are fleeing dire political unrest and hyperinflation. Shortages in food, water, electricity and medicine also afflict the country. The Red Cross now provides at least $60 million worth of aid to Venezuela, reaching at least 650,000 Venezuelans. The World Vision Organization delivers aid to Venezuelan refugees in Venezuela’s neighboring countries. For example, in Colombia, World Vision provides economic empowerment, education, food and health essentials to some 40,000 refugees.

4. AIDS Epidemic

  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a longstanding global issue. With at least 36.9 million AIDS or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) infections around the world, the disease is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Since 2004, AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by over half. In 2004, almost two million people worldwide died of AIDS-related illnesses, compared to 940,000 in 2017.

  • Organizations like the International AIDS Society, UNAIDS, Kaiser Family Foundation and PEPFAR are dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. These organizations help to ensure that infected people have access to treatment and the opportunity to live healthy lives. Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) are 14 times more likely to contract HIV than boys. The DREAM initiative by PEPFAR and partners prioritizes the safety of AGYW against new HIV infections. PEPFAR is reaching at least 144,000 AGYW in Kenya, one country where HIV infections are most prevalent.

  • Although there is currently no cure, UNAIDS has a Sustainable Development Goal of bringing the number of new HIV infections down to zero by the year 2030. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducts research and analyzes data regarding U.S. AIDS policy and funding, both domestic and globally. It serves as a source of information about AIDS and other global health issues for U.S. policymakers and the media.

5. Eradicating Poverty

  • Poverty is the lack of income necessary to access basic everyday needs and/or living below a specific country’s standard of living. Living in poverty can result in malnutrition,  poor health, fewer opportunities for education and increased illness. With an estimated 783 million people living in poverty, eradicating poverty is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind.

  • Malnutrition, contaminated water, the refugee crisis and the AIDS epidemic all contain some aspects of poverty. Organizations like the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focus on sustainable development strategies to alleviate global poverty. The number of people living in poverty has decreased by half, thanks to the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals have lifted at least one billion people out of extreme poverty within the last two decades.

  • The Gates Foundation is proving that poverty can be ameliorated through Agricultural Transformation. Increasing a country’s food production can counter malnutrition and boost the country’s economy by increasing farmer’s crop productivity. Poverty in Ethiopia has decreased by at least 45 percent since the Gates Foundation first started investing in agricultural development there in 2006. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, is witnessing an overall increase in its economy.

With the help of innovative organizations partnered with governments, the world is implementing practical techniques to help eliminate hunger, water scarcity, AIDS/HIV and poverty from the list of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Eliminating these problems will improve the living conditions of millions of people around the world, including refugees and internally displaced people.

– Rebekah Askew
Photo: Flickr

financing for hiv/aids
On April 18, 2018, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) partnered with the Kaiser Family Foundation to host a discussion of the current state and future of financing for HIV/AIDS. The Borgen Project was invited to attend this critical summit and hear from the leading voices in this space.

About 36.7 million people worldwide were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS by the end of 2016; one million of those cases resulted in fatality. A disease that still affects so many requires adequate funding for care, treatment and prevention.

The fight against AIDS began in 1981 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report which detailed one of the first cases of the disease. From there, the CDC began to work on discovering risk factors.

Between 1996 and 2000, spending on HIV/AIDS from major donor countries increased from $248.45 million to $749.37 million. According to Christopher J.L. Murray, one of the panelists and a professor at the University of Washington, “If you cumulate total spend since 2000, the world has spent just around half a trillion dollars on HIV/AIDS.”

The amount of financing for HIV/AIDS continuously increased through the years up until 2011. Murray pointed out current spending trends using a graph. “From basically 2011, with the exception of 2012, we have been flat,” meaning that total spending from donor assistance channels, such as the WHO and World Bank, has not increased since 2011. Though some individual channels may have increased financing for treatment and prevention, others have decreased spending, making total spending fairly consistent in recent years.

Another concern for financing for HIV/AIDS is the limited spending coming from countries with the highest numbers of affected people. The majority of financing is coming from the upper and upper-middle income countries. J. Stephen Morrison, the Senior Vice President and Director of the Global Health Policy Center, pointed out some of the most striking realizations that have come from new data on HIV/AIDS.

“It also begins to show us a way in which there has been an erosion of the financial and political commitment dedicated to those low-income countries with the greatest burden and the greatest prevalence,” Morrison noted. “The most dramatic point was in saying that since 2012, 2013, a 23.7 percent decline in the levels of donor assistance into those countries from just over 12 billion to 9.1 billion dedicated to HIV.”

The stagnant spending is a severe problem considering the rate of population growth. Mark Dybul, one of the panelists and a professor at Georgetown University, pointed out the hypothetical: “You double the population, you’re going to double the size of the infection rate.” A Business Insider estimation claims that more than half of the population growth that will occur between now and 2050 is going to occur in Africa. As Africa is also the site of the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases, this means that the rate of those infected with HIV/AIDS will likely increase significantly.

The future of financing for HIV/AIDS is looking challenging to Dybul given the difficulties in raising funds. “The reality is, there is no argument that’s going to get an increase in donor funding for HIV. We are at the highwater mark, we are not going up.” Dybul suggested that, instead, change will come through smarter investing, including focusing on prevention first, and treatment second.

Additionally, Dybul suggested that some change is needed in how we talk about the epidemic. As he pointed out “Young people in Africa don’t think about HIV anymore, they think about other things.” In this way, raising awareness may be crucial in fighting HIV/AIDS.

Moving forward with financing for HIV/AIDS will be a challenge considering stagnant spending across the board, little spending from low-income countries, and the drastic population growth expected in Africa in the coming years. But with changes in how organizations and governments invest and heightened awareness of the epidemic, it is possible to win the war against HIV/AIDS.

– Olivia Booth

Photo: CSIS

As an advocacy group, The Borgen Project works to raise awareness about the importance of foreign assistance. Foreign aid not only improves the quality of life for millions of people, but it also brings jobs to the United States and strengthens national security. Yet, in spite of the benefits that foreign aid provides, many U.S. citizens are not in favor of it.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in 2013 reported that nearly half of the U.S. general public was in favor of major cuts to the foreign aid budget to help reduce deficits, and 65 percent believed that economic problems at home make such spending too costly. Cutting foreign assistance will not have a large impact on U.S. debt, as it consistently makes up 1 percent of the federal budget or less.

Why are so many people in favor of reducing foreign aid when doing so will not reduce deficits? One problem may be that they do not know the actual amount being spent on foreign aid. The Kaiser family poll found that U.S. citizens on average believe that 28 percent of the budget goes to international development, with 12 percent of respondents stating that half of U.S. spending is foreign aid. Similarly, 61 percent of those asked believed the current amount spent on foreign aid should be lower.

However, the public does not seem to support more foreign assistance spending even with accurate information. When the Kaiser Family poll informed respondents that about 1 percent of the budget went to fighting poverty abroad, only 28 percent believed this was too little, while 30 percent still believed this was too much and 31 percent said that the current budget was the right size.

A much larger problem may be that most U.S. citizens do not think that international development programs have strong impact. According to the Kaiser Family poll, only one quarter of respondents thought that U.S. programs to improve global health had a strong effect, while two-thirds believed the effect was “only fair” or “poor.”

Again, the idea that foreign aid has no effect is simply not true. In the 2014 Annual Letter, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation explain how much international development programs help the poor. Since 1960, over 1 billion people have escaped extreme poverty. Global health programs have done incredible work to stop disease; over 2.5 billion children have been immunized against polio since 1988, and in 2013 fewer than 400 cases were reported worldwide. Given current trends, extreme poverty (living on $1 per day) will end by 2035, and child mortality will drop to U.S. levels by that time as well.

Not only do people not know how much is spent on foreign aid, but they also do not know how great its benefits are. To gain support for a stronger international development budget, advocates must work to debunk both myths and educate others about the worthiness of foreign assistance.

– Ted Rappleye