Many foreign aid organizations and donors provide temporary aid in the form of food, supplies, or direct cash donations. Heifer International is a different kind of organization; Heifer works to provide livestock for impoverished and hungry families so that they will be able to sustain themselves rather than depending on temporary aid. In order to help these people to help themselves, cows, goats, chickens, bees, llamas, and plenty of other options are given in terms of livestock to be donated. These animals help to provide both sustenance and stability to families in need. Agricultural products that the family does not put to use, such as milk, eggs, or honey can also be sold at market for extra income.

Heifer’s goal in this is to ultimately create sustainability for families to allow them to then further their opportunities in life such as provide for education and comfortable living. One of their hopes is also that as one family or group advances in the community that they will share their gift with others around them, allowing the community as a whole to become self-sufficient. With gifts of livestock comes training from Heifer employees, ensuring that the families will make the most of their new additions.

The organization’s projects span the globe, from Cambodia to China to India and Honduras. Their goals with specific projects vary, but include empowering and education of women, environmental conservation, and natural disaster response. A major success story involves a Filipino farmer, Rogelio Abes Jr., who took advantage of Heifer’s gifts and knowledge. Not only did he expand his own farm and income, he shared his livestock and farming techniques with others in the community, and inspired others to rise above poverty through hard work and generosity.

In terms of financials and accountability, Charity Navigator gives Heifer three out of four stars. The organization is entirely transparent with their records and policies, and more than 70% of their income goes to program expenses, while 20% goes to fundraising expenses. Only 6.4% goes toward administrative expenses while the CEO earns .03% of expenses. The only financial issue that arises is the disparity between revenue and program expenses in the past few years, where revenue is significantly higher than program expenses.

On the whole, however, Heifer is working hard against hunger and poverty in many different ways, from school education programs to their Read to Feed initiative that encourages children to read in order to fundraise money for the organization.  Their goals for sustainability seem to be the right direction for food aid to be headed in – while temporary aid can be helpful, it can also breed dependency, and the most important thing is to get people out of situations of poverty and hunger and allow them to be self-sufficient.

– Sarah Rybak

Sources: Heifer International, Charity Navigator
Photo: Heifer International

Poverty in Iraq
Poverty in Iraq? Many countries in the Middle East are dominated by oil production and exporting, and Iraq is no different. 95% of its exports are from oil. Like other resource-rich countries, however, this abundance of profit potential has not translated to a higher standard of living for the average Iraqi citizen. Furthermore, economic progress and social development has been hindered by ethnosectarian violence, severe setbacks in infrastructure, and poor educational quality. A number of complex challenges face Iraq today.


3 Main Causes of Poverty in Iraq


  1. Social and political instability by civil war. The occupation of Iraqi territory beginning in 2003 removed some of the barriers to outright sectarian violence by the institution of democracy. Iraq has traditionally been separated into three regions associated with people groups who took residency within: Kurds (15% of the population) in the north, Shia Arabs (45-55%) in the south, and Sunni Arabs (30%) in the region in between and to the west. Tens of thousands of Iraqis died in the five years following the invasion of Iraq, but sectarian violence — usually in the form of terrorist attacks — persists today. Not only has this endangered Iraqi civilians to the extent of displacing up to 2.2 million people since 2003, but it also makes trade and business incredibly dangerous. The simple act of moving goods about the country is disrupted by armed violence.
  2. Degradation and destruction of infrastructure. Both the ongoing civil war and the invasion of 2003 significantly damaged communication and transportation means. While the International Reconstruction Fund for Iraq asserts that Iraq’s infrastructure was among the best in the Middle East before the 1990s, today for most Iraqis there is limited access to electricity, sanitation, and clean water supply. An Oxfam briefing from 2007 reported that most homes in Baghdad and major cities receive only two hours of electricity per day. Furthermore, where there may be working roads and aid to be given, armed groups and Iraqi security forces may abruptly surround an area during military operations: “Sudden changes in access to towns and cities … pose major constraints on NGOs’ ability to deliver a humanitarian response.”
  3. Destabilized education system. Like infrastructure, the education system in Iraq was an example to other countries in the region before 1990s. However, with the displacement that followed the invasion, the state of education administration suffered. According to Oxfam, 92% of children surveyed had learning impediments “largely attributable to the current climate of fear.” Save the Children UK reported that over 800,000 children were not in school, an increase of 200,000 students in 2004. Displacement not only removed much-needed teachers from schools, but also brought large amounts of internally displaced refugees to seek shelter in school facilities in some communities. While the regime change has sparked an overhaul in curriculum and gender equality, the accompanying instability has undermined those improvements.

The situation in Iraq has been discussed by a number of NGOs, focusing on reform of programs already in place. For example, the Public Distribution System (PDS) is a universal ration program, but its main obstacle lies in targeting and distribution. It does not effectively target those who are at greatest risk for slipping into absolute poverty. A number of reports assert that if the Iraqi government used funds available to it from oil exports, these difficulties could be addressed. However, until ethnosectarian violence can be resolved and security restored, steps forward will be accompanied by backward steps as well.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Source: CIA World Factbook, Library of Congress, Oxfam/NCCI, World Bank,
Photo: AlTahreer News

What Is the House Foreign Affairs Committee?

Generally, a congressional committee is a sub-organization of Congress that addresses issues related to a specified area of legislation or duty. In other words, a congressional committee is a legislative delegate to Congress. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is a sub-organization of the House of Representatives that considers legislation impacting the diplomatic community, which includes national and international governmental organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations. The Department of State, the Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, and the United Nations, for example, are all members of the diplomatic community.

What Does the House Foreign Affairs Committee Do?

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is responsible for oversight and legislation relating to, among other areas, foreign assistance, military activity, enforcement of international sanctions, promotion of democracy abroad, and all other matters not specifically assigned to a subcommittee. As stated on the Committee’s website, “The Committee may conduct oversight with respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the Committee as defined in the Rules of the House of Representatives.” Rule X, section (i) of the Rules specifically covers the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

How can the House Foreign Affairs Committee help alleviate Global Poverty?

As mentioned, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is responsible for oversight and legislation related to foreign assistance. Specifically, the Committee is charged with oversight and legislation regarding relations of the United States with foreign nations, foreign loans, diplomatic service, and measures to foster commercial intercourse with foreign nations and to safeguard American business interests abroad. As part of this unique mandate, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has not only the power to sponsor direct foreign aid programs to help fight global poverty in foreign countries, but also the responsibility to ensure such measures are taken because American investment in the relief of global poverty is an investment in the American economy.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Gov. Tom Ridge was quoted as saying, “By building new markets overseas for American products, the International Affairs budget creates jobs and boosts the economy here at home.” USAID is a clear example of how our assistance develops future markets, as “long-time aid recipients have become strong partners and are the fastest growing markets for American goods.” For exactly this reason and in line with it’s unique mandate, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has both the capacity and an obvious responsibility to help alleviate global poverty.

Contacting your congressperson to voice your opinion on investment in the relief of global poverty goes a long way in creating support for effective policy. To find out if your congressperson is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, visit their website. You can follow the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Twitter: @HFACrepublicans.

– Herman Watson

Photo: Zimbio
Source: GovTrack, Ed Royce, The Hill, USDA Local & Regional Food Procurement, House Foreign Affairs Committee

Following Seattle's Lead in International Development

The city of Seattle has teamed up with the Seattle International Foundation (SIF) to launch the Seattle Ambassador program, a campaign intended to educate residents about how their community is making some pretty amazing strides in the global fight against poverty, and inspire even more locals to pitch in.

Seattle is a leader in international development efforts; over 300 local organizations are working in 144 developing countries. The Borgen Project has been headquartered in Seattle since 2003, and we are honored to be part of a community that cares so much about the rest of the world.

We have more than a few neighbors who are doing incredible things; Literacy Bridge develops and distributes Talking Books so that illiteracy doesn’t prevent education. Ayni Education International began building schools for girls in rural Afghanistan after 9/11, in an effort to counteract growing prejudice on both sides. One By One fights to end Fistula, which is directly related to maternal mortality during childbirth.

Residents who sign up for the Seattle Ambassador program will receive updates on the efforts of these organizations and others, and also learn ways that they can help. As a bonus, registering for the program automatically enters you for a chance to win an all-expense-paid trip to Africa, Asia, or Latin America, too see up close how your home is improving the world.

The first winner will be announced in June, so visit Seattle Ambassador or text SEATTLE to 80088 to register. If you don’t live in Seattle, contact your government representatives about following Seattle’s lead. Just imagine what ten, twenty, fifty cities like Seattle could accomplish.

– Dana Johnson

Sources: Seattle Ambassador, Seattle Globalist
Photo: Global Journal

Motorbikes Role in Reaching the UN's Millennium Development Goals
UNICEF donated 73 motorbikes to nonprofit organizations to help them better and more effectively monitor and implement their water and sanitation projects in Sierra Leone. These projects are to build or revamp wells and sanitation spaces in communities, schools, and health centers.

By giving these nonprofit organizations access to motorbikes, UNICEF is hoping to help reach the UN’s Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The motorbikes are thought to help by accelerating the efforts being made to improve access to water and, thus, contribute to the push for anti-poverty that the Millennium Development Goals are in place for.

As of now, only 57 percent of people in Sierra Leone have access to clean drinkable water with access to such water in rural areas being much rarer than in more urban areas. Accordingly, only 48 percent of people have access to clean water sources in rural areas, whereas 76 percent of those living in urban households have access. A significant amount of water consumed in rural areas is sourced to surface water, which is vulnerable to a multitude of waterborne diseases. This makes it imperative to improve water conditions and provisions and rural areas. The motorbikes will help make this possible by enabling NGOs to bring life-saving facilities to areas that are very remote and hard to access. They will also cut down on the amount of time necessary to get from local to local, allowing for NGO members to monitor their projects faster and easier.

Earnest Sesay, Director of Family Homes Movement, one of the NGOs that received motorbikes from UNICEF,  said “On behalf of the implementing partners of UNICEF WASH, I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for this donation. With these motorbikes, the hurdles of reaching out to remote communities will be a problem of the past.”

– Angela Hooks

Source: AllAfrica

A group of 14 UK-based NGOs, The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), has made an “emergency appeal” to provide aid to Syria, which is struggling under the duress of a civil war. With recent news of chemical warfare being used against civilians and a death toll that has reached nearly 70,000, aid groups are struggling to keep up with the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Recent estimates place at least 8,000 refugees fleeing the country per day, compared to 1,000 per day a few months ago.  Because of mass displacement and intense fighting, NGOs and other aid groups are finding it extremely difficult to reach civilians who are in need. Members of the DEC have been able to extend aid to refugees who have fled to other surrounding countries, and a number of other groups have had success reaching people throughout Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, and other areas throughout northern Syria.

The UN asserted that although they have requested $1.5 billion in emergency aid, only a small portion of that need has been met. The DEC’s Chief Executive, Saleh Saeed, said that even though a number of agencies are attempting to work together in the region, there remain a high number of civilians in urgent need, and that “the greatest challenge to meeting those needs remains the barriers to delivering aid which are faced by impartial humanitarian agencies such as our members,” as well as financial pressures.

The total number of people who are in need of aid directly stemming from the situation in Syria has reached 5 million, as the DEC plans to appeal to public and government officials for additional help.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Guardian


A Brookings Institution article by Lex Rieffel and James Fox (Former Chief, Economic Growth Evaluation at USAID/Policy & Program) analyses aid effectiveness in Myanmar. “The transition in Myanmar that began two years ago — from a military to a quasi-civilian government — is the largest and most encouraging turnaround in the developing world in years.”

They give significant credit to President Thein Sein and social activist Aung San Suu Kyi for collaborating to lift the country out of turmoil. Their three main obstacles or agendas were: ending the civil war, providing an institutional framework to increase the general standard of living, and sharing the wealth of the country’s natural resources with the whole population.

When other countries saw the progress being made, then the World Bank, USAID, and more than 100 other aid agencies and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) started to offer rapid assistance to Myanmar. This time, the aid agencies and government officials are intent on making sure aid is delivered effectively. All donors have committed to adhere to the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, and all subsequent additions to it. And the Myanmar government held an all-donor meeting in January 2013, to get an agreement on ground rules for spending aid effectively.

However, here are five common ways aid can be ineffective:

• Senior government officials of Myanmar end up spending hours every day meeting with delegations from international NGO’s and donor countries – not just their aid agencies but also their government representatives, corporations, media, and more. The endless meetings divert the attention of the local officials, not allowing them to formulate and implement actual progress.

• Each aid organization has its own pressure to “make a difference,” to show results.  For instance, USAID has allocated millions of dollars for their own agriculture sector projects, but only committed $600,000 to the multi-donor LIFT Fund – which is a more effective way of delivering aid.

• Local staff from financial institutions are overwhelmed by the donor organizations’ need to “move the money.” Pressure to distribute project funds is ever-present.

• Donors are often non-transparent as each competes to gain the most favorable position within a region.

• Host countries engage in “donor shopping” to get the most money for the least change.

So, for Myanmar, here are the three ways to make aid more effective:

• Slow down and do more collaborative operations. This act does not overwhelm local officials. Donors should help control the pace, and commit at least 30 percent of their funding to joint operations.

• Provide “scholarships for foreign study.” It will take years for Myanmar to raise its standard of education to the level required for meeting its development objectives. The solution is education abroad, so the students can return home with knowledge to invest in the country. This form of aid also has the least potential for mis-use.

• “Be more innovative” – for instance “cash on delivery aid.” This reinforces good management within the local government, minimizes the administrative burden of the rapid aid influx, and ensures that every dollar of aid goes to support successful projects.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Brookings
Photo: USA Myanmar



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