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,humanitarian crisesOur world today consists of 195 countries. The sheer volume of people on this planet and the scale of the problems they face can be overwhelming, especially when thinking of humanitarian aid. For this reason, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) began making a yearly emergency watchlist in 2019, highlighting which countries are facing humanitarian crises and require significant urgent aid.

The International Rescue Committee

The IRC has been around since the early 1900s and works globally to improve the lives of those impacted by global health issues, conflict, and natural disasters. They focus on empowering individuals to take back control of their lives. In their U.S. offices, the IRC provides aid to displaced individuals seeking asylum in the U.S.

Generating the List

The IRC analyzes a variety of factors to decide a nation’s human risk, natural risk, vulnerability, and ability to cope during a crisis. These factors are then used to decide which countries are most in danger of humanitarian crises and require the most aid.

10 Countries Facing Humanitarian Crises in 2020

  1. Yemen: Roughly 80% of Yemenis need humanitarian assistance this year, including more than 12 million children. Yemen has been in a civil war for 5 years that has destroyed infrastructure, sanitation systems, medical centers, food distribution capabilities, and has killed roughly 250,000 citizens. Global organizations such as UNICEF agree that the crisis in Yemen is the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”
  2. Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): More than 15.9 million people in the DRC need humanitarian assistance this year. The Eastern DRC has been plagued with conflict and instability for nearly 30 years. This persistent instability has made it difficult for the country to develop infrastructure and food security. The current humanitarian risks in the DRC revolve around food security, Ebola, and Measles. To date, more than 2,000 people have died from Ebola in the DRC, making this the second-largest outbreak in the world.
  3. Syria: 11 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance this year. Since conflict broke out in 2011, more than half of the Syrian population has been displaced. Civilians have been caught in the crossfire of the war between President Assad and opposition groups. These years of conflict have caused extreme damage to Syrian infrastructure, including medical and educational resources.
  4. Nigeria: Close to 8 million Nigerians in the conflict-ridden states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe currently need humanitarian assistance, especially regarding sexual violence. Since 2009, roughly 13,000 civilians have died, and thousands of women and children have been assaulted. This year, 826 allegations of sexual abuse were presented in a report to the UN, but many believe that the number of cases is much higher. The northeast of Nigeria is seeing large levels of food insecurity, displacement, violence, and an outbreak of cholera.
  5. Venezuela: 7 million Venezuelans need humanitarian assistance this year. Due to political conflict, Venezuela is facing an economic crisis that has left 94% of households in poverty. Severe inflation has made the cost of basic goods so high that most Venezuelans cannot afford them. Because of this, an estimated 5,000 Venezuelans flee the country every day.
  6. Afghanistan: More than 9.4 million Afghans need humanitarian assistance this year. Since the 2001 NATO invasion that ousted the Taliban, Afghanistan has been experiencing political instability and conflict. The Taliban now controls more of the country than ever before, and after a failed peace deal in 2019, the country faces another contested election. An additional side effect of the conflict in Afghanistan has been a surge in mental illness. Although Afghanistan does not provide mental health reports, the World Health Administration estimates that more than a million Afghans suffer from depression and more than 1.2 million suffer from anxiety.
  7. South Sudan: More than 7.5 million people in South Sudan need humanitarian assistance this year. Since the civil conflict began in 2013, nearly 400,000 people have died, and millions have been displaced. South Sudan is also facing a massive food insecurity crisis that has been exacerbated by the conflict.
  8. Burkina Faso: In Burkina Faso, roughly 2.2 million people need humanitarian assistance, but the situation is drastically worsening. Armed groups are carrying out attacks throughout the nation. This caused the displacement of more than 500,000 people by the end of 2019. According to the UN 2019 report, the number of internally displaced people (IDFs) increased by 712% from January to December.
  9. Somalia: Roughly 5.2 million Somalis are currently in need of humanitarian assistance. Since the fall of President Muhammed Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has been facing persistent instability and conflict. This conflict has led more than 740,000 people to flee the country. In addition, Somalia is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters due to its underdevelopment.
  10. Central African Republic (CAR): More than 2.6 million Central Africans need humanitarian assistance this year. In 2013, an armed alliance called the Seleka overran the capital of the CAR. Political instability has been rampant ever since. More than a quarter of all Central Africans were displaced, causing food insecurity and underdevelopment.

Although the countries on this watchlist represent 6% of the world’s population, they comprise 55% of those identified to be in need by the 2020 Global Humanitarian Overview. The IRC’s watchlist is an extremely helpful resource that should be utilized for the assessment of which countries are facing humanitarian crises and require foreign aid.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Pixabay

Orphanages in MyanmarMyanmar, previously known as Burma, is located in Southeast Asia, neighboring countries such as Thailand and Laos. Unfortunately, poverty in Myanmar has risen in recent years. As of 2017, roughly 25% of adults live in poverty. Additionally, The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that more than 50% of children are impoverished. Due to the rising poverty rate, many adults are unable to support children. They must give them up for adoption or abandon them, creating a large influx of orphans needing shelter. The Myanmar Times reports that in 2018, there were 280 orphanages in Myanmar, many of which had to be newly established, and an estimated 36,000 orphans. That number continues to grow.

Inspiration for Standing With Orphans

Thomas Whitley of Mooresville, Indiana created The Standing With Orphans Foundation in 2012. Whitley explains that his inspiration for starting the project began when he adopted his daughter from China in 2007. He told The Borgen Project that this was his “first insight into orphanages.” Later, a friend of Whitley’s took him to his village in Myanmar to see the orphanages’ conditions there as well. Afterward, his commitment to founding Standing With Orphans was further solidified, and several years later, it came to fruition.

How Standing With Orphans Operates

Food in Myanmar is scarce and often expensive due to natural disasters and trouble with the current economy. Therefore, Standing With Orphans’ main goal is to bring bags of rice and livestock, such as chickens and pigs, to the orphanages. Whitely explained to The Borgen Project that he acquires funds through The Morgan County Community Foundation via the Standing With Orphans website. He withdraws from their allocated funds three times a year and sends it to the orphanages.

The money the organization supplies will typically buy 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of rice. The rice provided through Standing With Orphans allows orphanages in Myanmar to keep the children and workers well-fed. Along with supplying rice, in the past 2 years, Whitely has sent extra funds for buying chickens and pigs. Not only does this livestock give the orphanages a wider variety of food, but Whitley also pointed out that some orphanages have been breeding their pigs and selling them and their piglets as a source of income.

Whitley has also helped to fund solar power equipment installation, pay for school fees, and build two orphanages. While he is more than happy to contribute to various other projects such as these, he reiterated that “feeding the kids will always be the goal.” With around 50% of children living in rural, poor areas of Myanmar dying due to malnutrition in 2017, supplying food is rightly the top-priority for the foundation.

Progress and Plans for the Future

When Whitley first started working in Myanmar, he worked with only 1 orphanage. Today, he helps bring food and livestock to 14 orphanages. Whitely continues to donate and is hopeful to take another trip back to Myanmar this fall to personally deliver rice and livestock to the orphanages. While he is there, he also wants to do what he can to help with any projects they might have. Through his dedication and the donations from Standing With Orphans, Thomas Whitley and his family have greatly helped children in need. The orphanages in Myanmar that he supports were in poor condition, but now they can properly care for hundreds of children.

– Olivia Eaker
Photo: Pixabay

healthcare in kiribati
The Republic of Kiribati, better known as just Kiribati, is an Oceanic country formed by 33 unique islands, of which 20 are inhabited. The majority of Kiribati’s population is located on the Eastern Gilbert islands, while many islands located in the center function without a permanent population. Healthcare in Kiribati has been a committed work-in-progress, especially after the notification in the late 20th century that its population was at one of the lowest standards of living in Oceania. The disjointedness of the islands and a lack of cohesive national health policy has significantly impacted Kiribati’s ability to effectively provide national healthcare services to all that need it.

In fact, as recently as 2012, there was not an official agency for national health policy, regulation of health standards, assessment of health technology, or management of health technology. However, despite this glaring lack of infrastructure, Kiribati has instituted projects at the national level to improve its primary level of healthcare. The government, along with partnerships from international health organizations, is working to invest in Kiribati’s health infrastructure.

The following five facts about healthcare in Kiribati are integral to understanding the country’s changing health structures and transition out of poverty.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Kiribati

  1. Around 22% of the Kiribati population is living under the “basic needs” threshold, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. However, the traditional definition of poverty is not used in Kiribati, as much of the population believes that as long as one can maintain subsistence living, they are not poor. Instead, poverty is related to meet their basic expenses on a daily or weekly basis. This culture has made it so that many residents in Kiribati live in housing without access to clean water, sanitation or other basic hygiene utilities.
  2. Kiribati is at an elevated risk for infant mortality, consistently ranking as the highest country in Oceania by the estimated absolute number of incident cases, with approximately five times the number of cases as Australia. In 2012, the rate of infant mortality stood at 60 deaths per 1,000 individuals. While this statistic was significantly reduced from years past, there is no reason for such a high percentage of the population to suffer from infant mortality. The most common causes of infant mortality in Kiribati are perinatal diseases, diarrhoeal diseases and pneumonia. As a result of inadequate water supply and poor sanitation, water and food-borne illnesses can also contribute to the incidence of infant mortality.
  3. Kiribati also suffers from its lack of developed healthcare infrastructure. Hospital facilities, doctors to assist the population, and trained nurses are all hard to come by in Kiribati. Though they meet standards for routine care, the scarce availability of such facilities makes them hard to access for the general population. With only three district-level hospitals and one referral level hospital, patients often must be sent overseas if serious conditions arise. This remote level of treatment can often make timely access to medicines an issue as well.
  4. In Kiribati, there is a low number of doctors and nurses relative to the population overall. This low number contributes to the relatively high infant and maternal mortality rates of Kiribati. Recently, the government has worked with smaller groups around Kiribati to train more healthcare professionals. By holding orientation courses for all health staff and developing long-term courses for primary care staff, communities on many of Kiribati’s islands could tackle the lack of healthcare personnel issues. As a result of these programs and increased training, the number of individuals that are able to assist with healthcare is rising, and the rates of morbidity from common diseases have been reduced.
  5. Water supply is an issue in Kiribati that most don’t directly associate with healthcare and disease, but can have a significant impact on the health of the population. Outdoor defecation is said to be prevalent in Kiribati, which can lead to contamination of the water supply. Groundwater contamination is often related to a higher incidence of diarrheal diseases. However, outdoor defecation is not entirely the result of a lack of other options, but education is necessary to help the population of Kiribati understand the risks associated with it.

In the fight against poverty and for a healthcare system that can serve its entire population, Kiribati has much work to do. Progress has been made in developing training for healthcare professionals and educational programs for communities, but many services such as sanitation and clean water supply still aren’t up to standards. Still, with a government committed to increasing the healthcare provisions for its people, Kiribati is sure to develop into a country that can provide for its growing population.

Pratik Samir Koppikar
Photo: Pixabay

Inventions Saving Infant LivesEven with the rapidly developing technology around today, giving birth and nursing are still some of the toughest experiences a mother can go through. Those experiences are, unfortunately, even tougher for mothers giving birth in developing countries. With fewer resources and more exposure to disease right out of the womb, developing countries have some of the highest mortality rates. Here is a list of five inventions saving infant lives worldwide.

5 Inventions Saving Infant Lives

  1. Neopenda: Neopenda is one of the inventions saving infant lives. It is a hat made for babies which helps monitor their vitals such as heart rate and breathing capacity. The company was founded in 2015 and was marketed for newborns in Uganda. The design was tested in Uganda since 2017 and was finally funded in 2019. Neopenda has since won multiple awards for its revolutionary concept and application.
  2. Khushi Baby: Khushi Baby is a digital necklace for newborns that can store all of their medical information at an inexpensive cost. Khushi Baby was designed as part of UNICEF’s Wearables for Good contest and won. The necklace, along with the mobile app, allows nurses to keep track of patient data that can get easily lost in their busy and often underfunded healthcare systems. The necklace has been lauded as an ingenious idea that helps to digitalize immunization records for babies. This helps ensure more accurate and faster readings. Khushi Baby is working with NGO Seva Mandir to run vaccination clinics in rural villages in India. The company has expressed interest in expanding to Africa and the Middle East as well.
  3. Solar Suitcase: Another one of the inventions saving infant lives is the Solar Suitcase. It is an invention designed by Dr. Laura Stachel. The suitcase is a miniature kit powered by solar energy from two panels which produces a light strong enough for child delivery for nearly 20 hours. The kit was inspired by a visit Dr. Satchel made to Nigeria in 2009. She witnessed multiple times power outages that could harm babies and mothers during birth. The kit was tested in Nigeria by Dr. Stachel herself and proven to be a huge success. Since then, her charity We Care Solar has been helping to decrease mortality rates in Africa, Central America and Asia.
  4. The Odon Device: The Odon Device is a plastic bag that inflates to help pull a newborn’s head during delivery. The Odon Device was developed by Jorge Odon, a car mechanic from Argentina and made into a prototype in 2013. Funded by the World Health Organization, the Odon Device is meant to save newborns and their mother’s lives by limiting complications during birth. The product was tested in Argentina and South Africa and achieved a success rate of over 70%.
  5. TermoTell: TermoTell is a bracelet designed to recognize malaria early on in newborn babies. Another design created for UNICEF’S Wearables for Good contest, TermoTell reads babies’ temperatures to safely detect malaria and alert the doctor. If a newborn has malaria, the bracelet will glow and send an alert to a doctor’s phone. The invention was targeted towards sub-Saharan Africa where malaria can cause the deaths of nearly a million children. TermoTell is still just a prototype. The invention is still in the process of improving the design for more accurate readings in the future.

These five designs are just a few of the inventions saving infant lives all around the world. Most inventions are aimed at larger developing countries to help decrease mortality rates. Sub-Saharan Africa still has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world with more than 50 deaths per 1,000 births while India has close to 30 deaths per 1,000 births. Inventions such as the five listed above have the potential to save thousands of lives and improve the mortality rate for many less developed countries whose mothers and infants have suffered for far too long.

Hena Pejdah
Photo: Pixabay

National Coffee Action PlanPeru is the ninth largest global producer of coffee and the world’s third-largest producer of organic coffee. However, inefficient farming techniques and unsustainable agricultural practices have posed serious threats to the coffee sector. In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, the National Coffee Council and the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs, the Green Commodities Programme of the U.N. launched the National Coffee Action Plan in 2018 in order to increase coffee exports, improve crop quality and enhance sustainability.

Poverty in Peru

From 2002 to 2013, Peru was one of the most rapidly developing countries in Latin America with an average annual GDP growth of 6.1%. The number of individuals living below their national poverty line also decreased during this time, with a report of only 2.6% of the population living on less than $1.90 per day in 2018.

Though significant strides have been made, human development indicators remain low in rural regions. In 2001, 50% of the rural population lived in extreme poverty, but that number plummeted to 10% in 2015. Child malnutrition and mortality rates are 100% higher in rural regions and educational performance is lower than in urban areas. Lastly, the median income in urban regions was 40% greater than that of rural regions in 2015.

Peruvian Coffee Sector

The Peruvian coffee sector creates 885,000 jobs in isolated areas that might otherwise be vulnerable to extreme poverty. According to the Green Commodities Programme, it is estimated that there are 2 million Peruvians involved in the coffee production chain. In addition, 40% of agricultural land is utilized for coffee crops. Additionally, coffee profits account for 25% of Peru’s agricultural income and created $711 million of the export revenue in 2018.

However, this sector poses certain challenges, particularly for small-scale farmers who manage one to five hectares, (two to ten football fields) and comprise 85% of total farmers. Financially, farmers often face difficulties establishing credit and responding to market price fluctuations. They also struggle to afford the requisite fungicides, pesticides and fertilizers that prevent crop destruction. Replacing diseased or aged plants, a strategy to maintain efficiency, costs approximately USD $3,000 per hectare and results in most farmers prolonging the process 10 to 20 years. Environmentally, coffee crops are subject to insects, plant diseases, changing weather conditions and effects of climate change.

Additionally, lack of technical assistance concerning knowledge for best practices results in lower productivity per hectare. This decreased production rate, along with financial and environmental uncertainties, leads to expansion into new regions. It drives deforestation and environmental degradation.

The National Coffee Action Plan 2018-2030

The National Coffee Action Plan incorporates a variety of stakeholders from the public and private sectors in order to combat inefficient practices, deforestation and small-scale farmer poverty. Beginning with the analysis of stakeholder operations and a production baseline in 2016, the dialogue was then established with the National Coffee Platform between 50 organizations. This spans the production chain in order to establish a cohesive vision. Workshops were held throughout the nation and technical groups then assessed the sector’s pressing problems. Lastly, a plan was proposed and legalized in the fall of 2018.

The plan aims to increase crop productivity from 15 quintals to 25 quintals per hectare. It will also categorize 70% of coffee exports as certified quality coffee. Both of these points are marks of sustainability and consistency. Furthermore, marketing development will occur across national and international markets to increase profitability. The plan also aspires to increase producer access to necessary financial services.

By 2030, the National Coffee Action Plan strives to increase competitiveness and sustainability in the following ways:

  1. Grow coffee exports 120%
  2. Grow parchment coffee totals to 15.9 million quintals
  3. Decrease GHG emissions by 1.73 million tonnes CO2 eq.
  4. Improve living conditions in coffee sectors

Peru’s National Coffee Action Plan recognizes the environmental, economic and social importance of developing the coffee sector and reducing poverty among smallholder farmers. Other initiatives across the global coffee sector that include brands such as Starbucks and illycaffé have promoted similar practices to advance the lives of the 25 million coffee producers worldwide. Though the nation struggles with rural poverty and deforestation, the National Coffee Action Plan displays bold steps towards envisioning a more sustainable coffee sector for both the producers and the environment.

– Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

hunger in lithuaniaLithuania is a fairly young country, having established independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. Its successes and issues are new to the independent country but have existed for generations for local people. According to the World Bank, Lithuania’s hunger rate is about 2.5%, between that of Hungary and New Zealand. Though this may seem like a low number, 2.5% of Lithuania’s population is about 70,000 people: a large group of malnourished people.

The prevalence of severe food insecurity in Lithuania is less than 1%, affecting about 14,000 people. Lithuanian citizens receive a minimum salary of €607 monthly, or around $675, which is lower than most countries in the European Union. Lithuania is a largely developed country, meaning that a good portion of its economy relies on the service industry.

Income Inequality

Lithuania’s vulnerability to poverty ranks high in the European Union, close to Romania and Latvia. About 23% of Lithuanians are at risk of poverty, by the standard that their disposable (after-tax) income is 60% lower than the national average. Some have noted that as Lithuania is a fairly prosperous country, those with incomes 60% below the national average are not necessarily living in abject poverty. However, it does indicate income inequality in Lithuania, which has increased greatly in recent years. In fact, Lithuania has one of the largest wealth gaps in the European Union — in 2016, the income of Lithuania’s wealthiest 20% was seven times that of Lithuania’s poorest 20%, an indicator of a large and widening wealth gap.

Lithuanian Economy and Employment

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Lithuania faces unique challenges that could contribute to hunger in Lithuania. Lithuania produces large amounts of agricultural exports, but as a result of quarantine measures, surrounding countries have limited the amount of food they are importing. Exports to other countries in the European Union have nearly stopped altogether, and this could cause severe financial difficulties and a shortage of agricultural products. This is particularly important because one in four working Lithuanians are employed in the agricultural sector.

Another factor in food insecurity in Lithuania is the employment rate. Prior to COVID-19, in 2019, the employment rate was 73.2%. However, at present, that number has decreased to 73%. The unemployment rate has climbed to 12.1% as of April 2020, from 8% in October 2019. The increase in unemployment as a result of COVID-19 could likely result in an increase in food insecurity.

Food Waste and Food Banks

In Lithuania, food waste is a significant problem that, if rectified, could provide a solution to hunger in Lithuania. The average Lithuanian household wastes an estimated 19% of food. Food waste is also prevalent at the wholesale level. To combat this problem, food banks in Lithuania and other European Union countries work hard to prevent food from being wasted on the wholesale level and to distribute food to the hungry. The European Federation of Food Banks encapsulates 253 food banks in 21 countries aiming to fight hunger. Iki, a popular retail chain in Lithuania, distributes eight to 10 tons of nearly expired food products to charity each day. The practice of donating nearly expired food rather than wasting it could be encouraged through tax cuts for companies that choose to donate.

Though Lithuania is a fairly prosperous country, hunger in Lithuania still affects thousands of people every day. In the time of the COVID-19 crisis, this number will likely increase. Hunger in Lithuania could be reduced by eliminating preventable waste in grocery stores and by increasing the number of people with access to employment, so progress may ensue after policy changes.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Flickr

gender gap in Latin AmericaRanked the third-highest after Western Europe and North America, Latin America has an average gender gap of 29%. Many Latin American countries are seeing improvements in education, healthcare and shortening the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum in their Gender Gap Report for 2020, Nicaragua was ranked 5th globally, with 80% of its gender gap closed. On the lower-ranking end of the gender gap in Latin America, Guatemala and Belize have closed 66% and 67% of their gap, respectively. While these percentages are promising, the current COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to gender equality.

Looming COVID-19 Crisis

Decades worth of progress toward eliminating the gender gap in Latin American could potentially reach a halt or decline with the impending COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, stay at home orders have caused an increase in domestic violence. A few examples from Latin America expose the enormity of the issue. In Colombia, the domestic violence helpline has risen by 9%, and by 36% in Mexico. Also, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a city in Bolivia, has reported the highest number of cases of both domestic violence and COVID-19. The issue is exacerbated as women avoid reaching out to health services in fear of getting the virus.

The other obstacle COVID-19 leads to is losses in jobs, more specifically, the availability of jobs for women. According to the World Bank’s Gender Dimensions of the COVID-19 Pandemic brief, women engaged in informal work such as self-employment and domestic works are unable to receive unemployment insurance. Since COVID-19 has restricted travel, Latin American countries that depend on retail, hospitality and tourism will see half of their working population lose jobs. Additionally, the effects of COVID-19 will force women to stay at home to care for children and the elderly, thus reducing working time and possibly excluding them from the labor market.

Lastly, the COVID-19 crisis will cause setbacks to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. The shift in resources can interfere with health services for women and girls, including reproductive and sexual health services and family planning. In similar crises, lack of critical resources led to a surge in teen pregnancy and maternal mortality. Although COVID-19 causes a lot of complications surrounding the future of gender equality, there are actions regarding the gender gap in Latin American that governments and institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations can take to continue progressive efforts.

Thus, The World Bank has outlined the following four methods to approach gender equality.

  1. Improving Quality of Life: Latin American countries need to reduce teen pregnancy and maternal mortality, improve water and sanitation services, secure women’s access to healthcare and close educational gaps. The World Bank Group (WBG) supports removing negative gender stereotypes in curriculums and is helping train teachers to create classroom environments that encourage inclusivity. The WBG is also backing programs aimed at supporting girls to enter STEM fields.
  2. Increasing Female Employment: Latin American countries should change gender norms about career choices, provide adequate child care services, create connections for women entrepreneurs and allocate time-saving resources. In Mexico, the WBG partnered with the National Institute of the Entrepreneur to devise and evaluate the institute’s first national program to promote female entrepreneurs, Women Moving Mexico. The pilot was launched in five states and “provided close to 2,000 women with a mix of hard skills (better management and business literacy), and soft skills (behaviors for a proactive entrepreneurial mindset)”.
  3. Removing Barriers to Women’s Financial Independence: The WBG supports efforts to provide land and property titles to women and to increase access to capital and financial services. In partnership with indigenous women’s organizations in Panama, the WBG designed a pilot intervention in six indigenous communities. The pilot supports training designed for indigenous women, technical assistance for women’s producer organizations and financial inclusion through the founding of community banks and financial management training.
  4. Enhancing Women’s Voice & Agency and Engaging Men and Boys: Latin American countries can support gender equality by acknowledging a woman’s right to control her own life. For example, giving women control over income and the capacity to move freely and have a voice in society, including the ability to “influence policy and family formation, and have freedom from violence.”

Bettering COVID-19 Response

The United Nations has also developed a response to the pending COVID-19 and its effect on gender equality. The U.N. seeks to recognize the “impact of COVID-19 on women and girls and ensure a response that addresses their needs and ensures that their rights are central to strengthening prevention, response and recovery efforts.” Institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations make it possible for girls and women in Latin America to aspire for more for themselves in education and career, despite the current setbacks prompted by COVID-19. Within the next couple of years, the gender gap in Latin America could be significantly reduced by promoting women’s rights and giving them access to education and career opportunities.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Indie Songs About World Poverty
Indie music is one of the most influential, yet under-recognized modern genres. It provides a space for artists to talk about global issues they have personal connections with, such as global poverty. This article highlights three indie songs about world poverty.

What is Indie Music?

The general public too often thinks of indie in the scope of the way it started in the 1980s. Indie is perceived as fairly underground and too out-of-the-box to reach the mainstream. Today, indie music consistently tops the charts and has for around a decade.

The genre tends to contain more substance than most of the other songs on Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits Playlist. Indie music generally contains niche melodic elements and subject matters. These features often drive its artists toward writing lyrics about the causes they believe in. In addition, a hallmark of the genre is that its lyrics often combine large-scale issues with the artist’s personal problems. This tends to make the universal messages within the music especially effective. Artists make connections to political and social messages, making their work relevant to their audience. There is a slew of Indie songs that discuss poverty in great depth; here are three indie songs about world poverty:

“Royals” by Lorde

Lorde’s “Royals” transformed the pop music scene of 2013. The song was on every major radio station and top hits chart. Most surprisingly, a 16-year-old wrote it. Though the song does address the New Zealand-native singer’s qualms through a teenage perspective, her subject matter is quite mature. Her message subverts what teenagers in 2013 most often sang about. For example, on the top charts alongside “Royals” were songs in the vein of Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie,” as well as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Wanz’s “Thrift Shop,” both of which flaunt wealth and expensive items (though “Thrift Shop” does use those items to make a statement about wealth as well, however it is not outright like Lorde’s is).

“Royals” combats the stigma that those in poverty are victims of oppression and seek to have the lives of the rich. Lorde paints herself and her friends as having “cracked the code” about how to live life in this manner. The lyricist accepts the fact that “they’ll never be royals,” thereby acknowledging her role in society and where she stands. Yet, the chorus ends with the lines, “let me be your ruler // you can call me queen bee // and baby I’ll rule // let me live that fantasy.”

Lorde describes her understanding of her current standing in society. However, she still longs to have what those who are more fortunate may. She believes that she can be a “ruler” or “queen bee,” but that it’s only a fantasy without others around her willing to “let” her. Lorde’s proclamation of this somewhat pessimistic attitude toward her situation draws attention to poverty in a new way. Rather than people deserving pity, those in need of aid get a story through Lorde’s music and become relatable, resourceful and headstrong.

“Stunner” by Milky Chance

“Stunner” is a song from the band Milky Chance, a group originating in Kassel, Germany. Milky Chance’s music spans multiple genres, namely alternative rock, folk and indie. This song from the band’s debut album Sadnecessary recounts the story of a girl the singer is romantically interested in, through describing her social “rank” versus his. The opening lines of the song read, “She was a stunner // riding high and I got low // rank and others // couldn’t see what she was worth.” The group uses metaphors that make use of monetary language to sheds light on the divide between social classes. This song explores how stigmas stop those with minimal resources from interacting with those around them that could help.

The hook of the song expounds on this idea: “We end up in the richest poverty.” By pairing the word “poverty” with “richest,” Milky Chance subverts the idea that those in poverty lack the ability to experience the supposed richer parts of life. The group explains that even without resources, there is still a way to make the most of what’s available. If given the same opportunities as the more fortunate, people in poverty could become even more successful.

“We Have Everything” by Young Galaxy

Just like Milky Chance does with “Stunner,” Young Galaxy makes its statement about poverty through the lens of the love song “We Have Everything.” The hook sings “in poverty, my love, we have everything,” explaining that although the couple may not have optimal resources, they can still make the best out of their situation with one another.

However, Young Galaxy goes the extra mile to bring awareness to the experience of being in poverty in the verses of “We Have Everything,” by describing what the experience is like: “We’re swimming and I keep going under // Had enough of the fog, sheets, and thunder // Can’t we begin being bored and breezy? // See our way back into a clearing day.” Though these lyrics can be thought of as metaphors for the course of a relationship, they connect to the idea of “poverty” in the chorus by describing what it is like to be homeless and without shelter. This song makes this theme accessible to the listener by relating it to love, a universally experienced emotion.

These three indie songs about world poverty are excellent examples of how musicians can highlight global issues. Hopefully, these three songs can bring awareness to a subject that so many struggle with around the world.

Ava Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in AlgeriaAlgeria is a country rich with resources, particularly oil, which makes it one of the richest countries in Africa. It is also the largest country in Africa, boasting a population of nearly 43 million people. However, one of the richest and largest African nations battles a decades-long fight: homelessness. Homelessness in Algeria is not a new phenomenon but is a critical one.

Low-Income Citizens Need Affordability

Homelessness in Algeria comes in various forms. It is typical for individuals without permanent and adequate housing to sleep on the street. It is not uncommon for individuals to sleep in their cars. Groups of strangers sometimes live in garages, often thought of as slums.

Low-income Algerians suffer the most from the housing crisis and homelessness. Although the government closely regulates property ownership, the same cannot be said of the rental market. According to a report published by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing in Algeria, speculation and prohibitive rents keep low-income Algerians from accessing permanent housing.

The independent think tank Center for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa reports there is a housing deficit of one million while the number of vacant dwellings is estimated at two million. The latter is a result of private property owners manipulating the rental supply. They eliminate vacant units for rent in an effort to drive up demand and pricing.

Reports published by LKeria, an Algerian real estate agency, indicate that another reason housing is unavailable is that attempts by the government to build housing are often poorly planned and assessed. These low-quality housing developments offer some relief for Algerians facing homelessness. However, many developments do not survive due to building hazards, and residents once again face housing insecurity.

Homeless Women in Algeria

Until 2005, there was no Algerian law that protected divorced women from the housing crisis or the possibility to become homeless. The traditional Family Law code denies Algerian women full citizenship rights. A recent amendment to the code guarantees housing to divorced women.

Per the terms of the family law amendment, settlements of the divorce offer one of two options to the former wives. The first option entitles the woman and children to live in the conjugal residence. The second enlists the man to provide housing for the woman and children if she retains custody and if the man will not forfeit the conjugal residence.

The amendment was a significant step to dismantle parts of the densely patriarchal culture present in Algeria. Still, women’s rights activists say the modification was purely lip service.

According to the women-focused nonprofit SOS Women in Distress based in Algiers, 540 women were homeless as a result of divorce just two years after the new law’s passing, and the trend continues. Authorities largely dismiss the law, and therefore it goes unenforced. As a result, large groups of women often gather with their children on the streets at night.

Solving the Housing Crisis

The central government recognized the housing and homelessness crisis in Algeria for the last two decades and implemented a program to resolve the widespread issue. The program requires Algerian citizens to apply for public housing, also known as diara commissions. The government then creates lists that determine which families will be placed in subsidized living units.

The locals view these lists as both a solution and a recurring problem. Because housing is still scarce, not every family that applies for a living space will make the list. The publication of the lists often spurs protests and riots, reflecting a lack of trust between the country’s decision-makers and the civilians.

However, forecasts indicate that the government is encouraging more buildings. They aim to build 10.9 million more housing units in 2019, with 3.6 million already built in 2018. Additionally, government officials are shifting focus to allow more private developers whose expansion includes development for middle and low-income segments so that homeownership is affordable for majority low-income citizens.

– Victoria Colbert
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in MadagascarMadagascar is an island located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa. Established as an independent country in 1960, Madagascar is known for its diverse culture of French, Indian, Chinese and Arabic influences, along with many others. The island is home to about 27 million people. The majority of these people are currently living in extreme poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty Rates in Madagascar

According to the World Bank, 75% of people in Madagascar are estimated to be living on less than $1.90 per day as of 2019. This number has decreased since the last official statistic in 2012 (when 77.6% were living in poverty in Madagascar). Still, this remains one of the highest poverty rates in the world. For comparison, in the U.S., 1.2% of people lived on $1.90 or less per day in 2016. According to data from 2015, 10% of the world’s population lives on $1.90 or less per day.

Additionally, in Madagascar, approximately 85% of homes do not have access to electricity. Almost one-half of children in Madagascar are likely to experience stunting as a result of undernutrition. One in 16 children dies before the age of five. As an island, Madagascar is at a high risk of natural disasters and climate change effects, experiencing an average of three natural disasters per year. These are responsible for approximately $400 million in damages.

Georgette Raharimalala is a Malagasy mother to three in Betafo, Madagascar. On average, women in Madagascar have five children. Raharimalala, known as Zety, primarily makes her money by working in the fields in her village with her children, buying and reselling peanuts and occasionally gardening where she can find space on her small property. “Life is very hard,” she said. “As soon as we make a bit of money, we buy food.”

However, poverty in Madagascar continues to improve. There are many programs in place to provide economic assistance to low-income countries like Madagascar.

World Bank’s IDA Program Helps the Economy

Zety is eligible for financial assistance from the International Development Association (IDA) on a bi-monthly basis. The IDA is part of the World Bank, which distributes loans and grants to 74 of the world’s poorest countries. The bank aims to improve local economies, reduce inequalities and improve living situations. This IDA program requires Zety to take her children to the wellness center in her village for a checkup once a month to ensure they are properly nourished. She also learns how to cook and provide proper diets for her children. Children in families receiving financial assistance must also be enrolled in (and remain in) school. As a result of the IDA program:

  • 1.3 million children have had access to free healthcare
  • 347 healthcare centers have been refurbished
  • Over 700,000 mothers and children have improved nutrition

The Support of the US

In addition to programs like the IDA, the United States supports Madagascar on its own. In fact, the U.S. is the largest donor country to Madagascar. It has provided foreign aid in the following areas to help reduce poverty in Madagascar:

  • Food: The U.S. was the largest donor of food following the severe drought on the island.
  • Development: The U.S. provides aid in areas that USAID refers to as “WASH,” or water, sanitation and health.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Madagascar is known for its incredible diversity and has more unique species than the entirety of Africa, which U.S. aid supports.

The U.S. has dedicated $109.91 million to Madagascar for the year 2020, a small percentage of its total foreign aid budget.

While the struggle for basic healthcare, education and income is still prominent for many Malagasy citizens, conditions are continuing to improve for people like Zety and her children due to a combination of national and international policy and aid efforts. Though there is always room for improvement, poverty in Madagascar is being reduced and fewer are living with less than $1.90 per day.

Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Unsplash