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the Clooney's donationThe COVID-19 pandemic has impacted millions of lives all around the world, causing more than three million deaths globally as of April 2021. The pandemic has caused rapidly rising poverty levels due to economic shutdowns and widespread job losses. In 2020, the pandemic-induced, newly impoverished population is expected to stand between 119 and 124 million people. In 2021, this number is expected to rise to between 143 and 163 million people. Many celebrities are using their platforms to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts, including George and Amal Clooney, who have prioritized philanthropy throughout the majority of their careers. The Clooney’s donation to COVID-19 relief efforts aims to cushion the impact of COVID-19, especially for vulnerable populations.

The Clooneys COVID-19 Relief Efforts

The Clooneys donated more than $1 million to COVID-19 relief efforts in 2020. Hollywood’s power couple has directed the donation to six different organizations, both domestic and international, aiming to relieve the strain COVID-19 has put on the world. The Clooneys graciously donated $300,000 to three particular international beneficiaries: the Lebanese Food Bank, the Lombardy region of Italy and the National Health Service COVID-19 appeal.

The Lebanese Food Bank

Like the rest of the world, the pandemic has harshly impacted Lebanon. Lebanon has reported more than 540,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 7,700 deaths as of May 30, 2021. On top of that, nearly 50% of Lebanon’s population lives below the poverty line. Lebanon was enduring an economic crisis even before the COVID-19 pandemic came about. In terms of food security, according to an ESCWA report, almost 50% of Lebanese people express concerns about their ability to obtain adequate food, with 31% reporting that they had not eaten “healthy and nutritious food” for a year.

The Lebanese Food Bank plays a vital role in ensuring impoverished people in Lebanon are able to access food. The organization accomplished this “by collecting wasted food of good quality and impartially distributing it to charities and people in need.” However, with the increasing food insecurity due to COVID-19, the Lebanese Food Bank is in need of donations to help expand its reach. The donation from the Clooneys is a personal ode from the couple as Amal Clooney is of Lebanese-British descent.

Lombardo Italy Region

The donation to the Lombardo Italy Region is also particularly significant to the Clooneys who have lived there for many years. The money will go to local hospitals in the region. Since the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected Italy. The country has recorded more than four million total cases and more than 121,000 deaths as of May 1, 2021. Lombardy has the most recorded cases in the country.

The Lombardy Italy Region was overwhelmed by the first wave of the global pandemic. Doctors were pushed to ration ventilators and hospital beds, unable to cope with the influx of patients and limited resources. About three-quarters of hospital beds in Lombardy were filled with COVID-19 patients at the peak of the pandemic, almost double the level considered dangerous by the National Health Ministry. This was mostly due to a lack of coordination between private and public healthcare systems and facilities. The Clooney’s donation will certainly ease the strain on healthcare in Lombardy during COVID-19.

National Health Service COVID-19 Appeal

The U.K. has also suffered greatly during the pandemic, with more than four million cases and 127,000 deaths recorded as of May 30, 2021. Between March and December 2020, more than 850 frontline medical workers reportedly died from COVID-19. Frontline medical workers have struggled with the mental health consequences that come with being an essential working during a pandemic. More than 21% of surveyed National Health Service (NHS) workers reported “high levels of depression compared with 5% before the pandemic.”

Considering these circumstances, the Clooney’s donation will provide vital relief to NHS frontline workers treating infected patients. The NHS has provided support services to health and care workers throughout the pandemic. In addition, the NHS also provides staff with mental health services as well as “specialist bereavement support.”

The Clooneys have chosen to use their celebrity platforms for a humanitarian cause, publicly supporting COVID-19 relief efforts, and hopefully, inspiring others to follow their lead.

– Simran Pasricha
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in LatviaLatvia is a small country in the Baltic region with a population of fewer than 2 million people. The republic was under Soviet control from 1940 until it gained its independence in 1991. Latvia has made noticeable progress increasing its life expectancy rate at birth over the last few decades from 70.2 years in 2000 to 74.8 years in 2015. However, the country is currently undergoing major demographic shifts. While its birth rate is decreasing, its death rate is high, ranked fourth in the world. In addition to various public health threats, the healthcare system in Latvia is grappling with significant challenges that affect its efficiency and quality. Here are five things to know about Healthcare in Latvia

5 Things to Know About Healthcare in Latvia

  1. Several indicators show that the public health profile in Latvia is relatively weak in relation to comparable countries. For instance, the country’s life expectancy in 2015 was the third-lowest among EU countries. In the same year, Latvia had the highest notification rate of Hepatitis C in the EU. In 2014, adult obesity levels were at 21%, placing Latvia third among EU countries.
  2. Latvia spends less than similar countries on healthcare. In 2015, the country spent only 5.8% of its GDP, equal to €1,071 per capita. This falls considerably below the EU average of 9.9%. These statistics showcase the lingering challenges of the country’s underfunded healthcare system. Physician and hospital bed density rates also provide clarity in this respect. In 2017, Latvia had 3.19 physicians and 5.6 beds per 1,000 people.
  3. Obesity, smoking and heavy drinking are major poor health trends in Latvia. In 2015, the average Latvian adult consumed 10.8 liters of alcohol. Furthermore, 20% of adults in the country heavily consume alcohol regularly, with men being the greater consumers than women. In addition, one in four adults in the country smoked daily in 2014. This is a higher percentage than the EU average of 21%.
  4. Healthcare in Lativa has undergone many reforms since the country gained independence in 1991. In 2011, the country created a National Health Service (NHS)-type system. The NHS controls the implementation of healthcare policies, while the Ministry of Health develops policies and oversees the system. Though all citizens receive coverage through the system, patients still have to pay for user charges and other significant out-of-pocket costs. In 2014, Latvia ranked second among EU nations in its household out-of-pocket expenses to health expenditures ratio, which was 39%.
  5. A Latvian individual’s likelihood of exposure to poor health outcomes depends on his social and economic status. For instance, according to the European Health Interview Survey, more than 3% of Latvians have asthma. People from lower-education and lower-income backgrounds are the most susceptible group. Inequalities also emerge with regard to perceptions of health among Latvians. Approximately one-third of Latvians from low-income backgrounds claim to be in good health, in contrast to two-thirds from high-income backgrounds. Similarly, access to healthcare varies depending on location. Those living in rural areas may face greater difficulty accessing health services owing to shortages of medical professionals in these areas.

Based on these facts, it is clear that healthcare in Latvia needs critical adjustments in order to improve the country’s health profile. Not only is Latvia’s spending on this sector very low compared to other EU nations, but problems like obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption signal an urgent need for improvement. Ensuring equal access is also an important goal for the country to strive toward.

Oumaima Jaayfer
Photo: Pxfuel