Healthcare in Indonesia
The COVID-19 pandemic drew attention to the spread of airborne diseases and the vulnerability of the human population, but in everyday lives, another form of disease continues to haunt humans. These are non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are typically long-lasting and do not have a specific cause. The most common NCDs are cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes. The cause of death for individuals around the globe remains NCDs in 71% of all cases, an alarming statistic that becomes more apparent considering most of these deaths are premature. Of those dying from NCDs, 85% are located in “low- and middle-income countries.” The prevalence of these types of diseases in Indonesia and other countries harms specifically those living in poverty. Among numerous other challenges in their daily lives, people do not have the resources for medical treatment or must utilize all of their remaining resources for treatments. The prevention of NCDs prevails as an important policy goal to implement in the fight against decreasing the number of deaths associated with NCDs and reducing poverty.

Non-Communicable Diseases in Indonesia

Located in Southeast Asia and consisting of numerous islands, Indonesia boasts a tropical climate. Indonesia is one of the most populous countries in the world, behind China, India and the United States. The demographics of the population are young with 42% under the age of 25. About 10% of the population lives in poverty.

With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing into focus some of the pre-existing health conditions that remain health risks when contracting the virus, it is important to address the concerns of high rates of NCDs and improve health care in Indonesia. According to the World Bank, NCDs caused 76% of deaths in Indonesia in 2019, a number that continues to rise over time. This is above the rate of 71% of deaths that NCDs have caused in the world, meaning that people must pay close attention to the risks of NCDs within this population.

Project Hope

In 1958, a Navy veteran, Dr. William B. Walsh founded an organization called Project Hope. His service in World War II inspired him to address health concerns that he encountered during wartime. The organization’s work started on a restored ship called SS Hope which delivered healthcare around the world, especially during the Cold War. Now, Project Hope operates by training the local medical community of volunteers in more than 20 countries. Over its 60 years of service, the organization trained more than 2 million individuals and delivered $2 billion in resources to communities in need.

To respond to the problem of NCDs in Indonesia, Project Hope assists with diagnosis and education about the issue, even utilizing remote training during the COVID-19 pandemic with a partnership with Brown University. The organization works especially hard on the ability to diagnose patients because it predicts many cases of NCDs remain undiagnosed. This realization is relevant because it assists in knowing how to respond and treat diseases within the population, the ability to prevent certain diseases and asserting control over diseases rather than simply reacting to emergencies involving one’s NCD. The organization educates doctors on diabetes and delves into issues related to asthma by training medical professionals and providing information on the detention of asthma. Project Hope helped more than 11,000 people seek treatment for their diseases, transforming the field of health care in Indonesia.

Project Hope’s Larger Impact

Apart from its work in NCDs, Project Hope also assists in other areas of health care in Indonesia. The organization works to address the deaths of mothers and infants, which largely occur in live births and due to malnutrition, respectively. Through health programs for mothers and children and “monthly wellness clinics,” local communities work together to address maternal and child health. Similarly, Project Hope responds to disasters within the region. For example, after the tsunami in Sulawesi in 2018, Project Hope assisted in providing insecticide to prevent malaria, providing water through new purification systems and checking for NCDs in the population.

The range of work that Project Hope completes in health care in Indonesia is broad but equally important. Through its main project of addressing NCDs in the region, improving maternal and child care and emergency response, the organization continues to make a large impact on the region after more than 60 years.

– Kaylee Messick
Photo: Flickr

Aid to Ukraine
Tensions mounted between the Russian and Ukrainian governments for years following the fall of the Soviet Union. But, in the latter half of 2021, Russia drew immediate international attention to the region when it built up a military presence along the Russia-Ukraine border. The aggressive action received immediate criticism from the international community, and on Feb. 24, 2022, the United Nations Security Council convened to discourage further conflict. Amid the meeting, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Countries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are providing aid to Ukraine in response to the invasion.

The Humanitarian Consequences

Since the invasion in February 2022, Ukraine has noted more than 1,500 casualties. As of March 11, 2022, more than 3 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries and experts predict that the conflict will have broader ramifications for international security. Russian military attacks crippled hospitals and residential areas, and against this backdrop of violence, Ukrainians both in and out of the country lack important resources. Vulnerable populations, including women, children and those below the poverty line, particularly need help as they lack basic medical services and necessities like food, water and shelter.

3 Organizations Providing Aid to Ukraine

Amid the protests and violence, several countries and organizations expressed their support for the Ukrainian people by providing aid to Ukraine.

  1. CARE. As an international humanitarian organization founded in 1945 to fight global poverty, CARE provides aid to Ukraine and other conflict-ridden countries. Following the crisis in Ukraine, the organization began initiatives to assist the people most in need, especially women, children and the elderly. The organization “aims to reach 4 million people” through its Ukraine Crisis Fund and partnership with fellow organization People in Need to “distribute urgently needed emergency supplies such as food, water, hygiene kits and cash to cover daily needs.” On March 3, 2022, these necessities arrived in Lviv, Ukraine, through trucks filled with “food, diapers and sleeping bags.” In the meantime, People in Need is handing out food in heated tents to civilians along the Slovak-Ukrainian border.
  2. Project HOPE. This NGO tackles the need for medical supplies and mental health resources. Response teams on the ground coordinate with local groups to assist refugees and provide assistance to hospitals in Ukraine. On March 14, 2022, Project HOPE  shipped “22 pallets of antibiotics and surgical supplies to Lviv.” The organization is also helping hospitals maintain some normal functions while assisting displaced people with otherwise limited access to health care services. Additionally, Project HOPE provided mental health resources to refugees in Romania by supporting local NGOs, noting that “mental health needs are the most urgent health concerns for refugees at this time” as Ukrainians enter countries where they have no social network or support system.
  3. Ukraine Humanitarian Fund. The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator developed the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund to direct money toward relevant, effective organizations, including the Red Cross, vetted international and national NGOs and United Nations agencies. The fund lets individuals indirectly allocate aid to Ukraine. Though the pooled fund underwent establishment in 2019, the effort is more important than before as ReliefWeb notes that, since Feb. 24, 2022, “Ukraine’s security and humanitarian situation is deteriorating rapidly.” The fund provides the necessary money for “health care, food aid, clean water, shelter and other humanitarian assistance” throughout Ukraine. As the crisis worsens, the United Nations can ensure funding “reaches the people most in need when they need it.” Like CARE and Project HOPE, this fund accepts donations straight from ordinary citizens to achieve humanitarian objectives.

Looking Ahead

Though it may seem difficult to imagine an end to the years-long conflict, individuals, organizations and countries across the world are directing their attention to hurt and displaced Ukrainian populations and there are ways for ordinary citizens to help. As the crisis unfolds, it is more important than ever for ongoing relief efforts to both receive and provide aid to Ukraine to protect vulnerable populations.

– Lauren Sung
Photo: Flickr

NGOs in UkraineUkraine has a long history of political turmoil and foreign interference since it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. From the annexation of Crimea in 2014 to Russia’s covert war in the Donbas, Russia has consistently engaged in undermining the territorial and political integrity of Ukraine. Remaining in line with these actions, on February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladamir Putin authorized a military invasion, or what he dubs a “special military operation,” against neighboring Ukraine. During the first week of the invasion, 1 million refugees fled the destruction and warfare taking place in Ukraine. In light of the destruction that the Russian invasion caused, NGOs in Ukraine are trying to funnel much-needed aid from international donors to Ukrainians.

Medical Assistance

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to an abysmal shortage of necessary medical supplies. Ukraine is “facing shortages of zeolite,” a necessary material for the manufacturing of medical oxygen, and by March 1, 2022, UNAIDS announced that Ukraine has “less than a month’s” supply of HIV/AIDS medication. In addition, Ukraine has had to abruptly pause efforts to contain Polio “as health authorities shift to emergency care.”

With the lack of medical supplies, NGOs in Ukraine, including Doctors Without Borders and Project HOPE, have been funneling medical aid to alleviate the critical medical shortages in Ukraine. Doctors Without Borders is organizing kits of both medicine and medical equipment to alleviate Ukraine’s medical shortages from Doctors Without Borders’ logistical bases in Bordeaux and Brussels. To increase the supply capacity for medical assistance, Doctors Without Borders is also establishing warehouses in Western Ukraine.

Project HOPE, with more emphasis on supporting Ukrainian refugees, is operating in Eastern Europe to deliver crucial medical supplies to fleeing Ukrainians in coordination with government agencies. In Moldova, Project HOPE has been coordinating with Moldova’s Ministry of Health to deliver medical supplies for Ukrainian refugees, which includes an Interagency Emergency Health Kit designed to assist 10,000 individuals for a span of three months. The Interagency Emergency Health Kit consists of one ton of medical resources, such as medical supplies, topical treatments, oral therapeutics and medical devices.

Refugee Assistance

Aside from NGOs in Ukraine delivering medical assistance, NGOs are also operating outside of Ukraine in Eastern Europe to support refugees. In particular, “CARE’s partner organization” is operating with aid workers on the Slovak-Ukrainian borders to establish heated tents for people to rest as well as sanitation facilities and portable toilets. For refugees, emergency relief teams are also providing “crisis intervention and psychosocial assistance” services.

The organization People in Need is also providing heated tents, designed to provide a space for Ukrainian refugees to rest, capable of holding up to 200 individuals. The organization is also providing water, hygiene items, food and SIM cards for communication on the Slovak-Ukrainian border. Furthermore, People in Need has also established facilities for Ukrainians waiting for border control near Velky Berezny to vet them.

The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is critical: the U.N. estimates that an additional 4 million individuals “may flee Ukraine.” While the Russian invasion of Ukraine is dim, there is hope as NGOs in Ukraine are providing aid and local organizations are working to alleviate the refugee flow from Ukraine into Eastern Europe.

– Alexander Richter
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19's Impact on Chile
COVID-19’s impact on Chile has been particularly negative. The pandemic triggered a recession that caused significant increases in unemployment and poverty. Unemployment reached 14%, the highest rate since the 2008 global financial crisis. Additionally, poverty levels have risen from 9.8% to 15.5% since the start of the pandemic, according to the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

As a result, the pandemic has hit lower and middle-class Chileans the hardest. The World Bank estimates that the country’s middle class decreased by 2 million people in the opening months of the pandemic alone. Despite these grim numbers, though, there are governments, NGOs and individuals doing meaningful work that gives cause for optimism. Here are five sources of assistance that have reduced COVID-19’s impact on Chile.

5 Sources of COVID-19 Aid to Chile

  1. Grassroots Aid. The first type of aid begins at the individual level. Many local communities have taken it upon themselves to create volunteer soup kitchens, which have proliferated in at-risk areas across the country. Chileans call these kitchens “ollas comunes,” or “collective pots” that help to combat food insecurity in light of the recent economic downturn. Most of the kitchens started out small, but many now serve hundreds of meals every day of the week. For many Chileans with little or no income during the COVID-19 lockdowns, the kitchens stood as a stable source of food that likely saved many lives and slowed the spread of malnutrition in rural communities.
  2. Chile Solidario. Translating to “Solidarity Chile,” Chile Solidario is a federal program established in 2002 that focuses on cash transfers and social assistance for low-income households. This program helped create Chile’s welfare infrastructure, which the federal government used to provide direct assistance throughout the pandemic. The transfers offer truly impactful aid by concentrating funds on Chile’s most vulnerable households.
  3. U.S. Aid. By September 2021, the U.S. had provided approximately $1.8 million in COVID-19 assistance for Chile. This assistance went toward the purchase of two field hospitals, eight ventilators and miscellaneous personal protection equipment (PPE). The U.S. dedicated further funds to local organizations, most of which provide basic health and hygiene products, including hand sanitizer, plastic gowns and personal hygiene kits. Additionally, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research provided $500,000 to a team of Chilean scientists to research the spread of COVID-19 and study the evolution of new variants, which can help improve local responses to future outbreaks.
  4. Private Aid. Many U.S. companies have created their own private initiatives to provide assistance to Chileans. Most notably, the UnitedHealth Group donated $1 million to Desafío Levantemos Chile, a public foundation that has raised emergency funds for Chilean communities in need since 2010. The foundation has helped around 1.9 million people through more than 2,200 service projects across the country and has used this donation to purchase medical equipment for public hospitals and retirement homes. The Pfizer Foundation also donated $100,000 to the Chilean Red Cross to help those who the virus affects. Over the course of the pandemic, the Chilean Red Cross has donated 6,000 liters of disinfectant while leading multiple vaccination campaigns and delivering 37,500 PPE items to affected communities. Many U.S. brands stepped in to offer direct assistance to vulnerable populations. Walmart donated food directly to hungry Chileans, and other brands, including McDonald’s, Starbucks and Domino’s Pizza, have delivered free food to frontline health care workers.
  5. Nonprofit Aid. Two notable U.S. nonprofit organizations are doing meaningful work in the region. By September 2021, Project HOPE had sent more than $140,000 worth of medical supplies to Chile, which included blood pressure monitors, face shields, disposable gloves and KN95 masks. Another U.S. nonprofit called World Hope International made a similar donation of medical supplies, which they delivered directly to first responders in Chile. The U.S. Air Force helped transport both donations and has cooperated with the Chilean Air Force throughout the pandemic to facilitate the transfer of aid into the country.

Looking Ahead

COVID-19’s impact on Chile is certainly difficult for many Chileans, however, community service, foreign aid and nonprofit donations stand as major sources of hope throughout the pandemic. Due to these efforts, Chile is on its way to recovery. The OECD Economic Survey concluded that the national economy will resume gradual growth over the next two years with output reaching pre-pandemic levels by late 2022.

– Jack Leist
Photo: Flickr

Of the several nations and the many diverse peoples of Central America and the Caribbean, The Bahamas is one of the most beautiful and iconic. Well known for its thriving tourist industry, many U.S. citizens visit this collection of islands on vacation. The Bahamas has continued to rise in GDP and other metrics of quality of life for its citizens due to its successful tourism industry and offshore financing industry. Despite the growth that The Bahamas continues to present, there have been some concerning trends that have threatened this. Specifically, there have been problems and uncontrollable circumstances that the children have had to face. These problems affect the country and its future. Amongst these struggles, external catastrophes hit many of the most vulnerable children hardest, exacerbating child poverty in The Bahamas. This includes Hurricane Dorian in 2018 and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Child Poverty Rates

The Bahamas’ poverty rate is comparable to some of its Caribbean neighbors. Studies found that 12.5% of the population is living under the poverty line with under $5,000 a year. Many of these households support children. Additionally, children under the age of 14 represent the group with the highest poverty rate in the country.

Without access to resources and basic needs, these children are likely to have trouble maturing. The lack of food, sleep and time for a developing child who poverty affects will directly affect their performance in academics, recreation, social interactions and other aspects of their life.

Blocks in Education

As The Bahamas has grown its economy and infrastructure its education systems have also grown to match. However, there has been an alarming disparity in the quality and access to education. The literacy rate in people over the age of 15 decreased from 98% in 1995 to 93% in 2020. Many have largely attributed this trend to the difference in the quality of education between private and public schools.

Public state-run schools have a graduation rate of 44% for boys and 51% for girls while the graduation rate is 87.6% for those in private institutions. The reason for this variance is the lack of funding and resources for teaching materials, school supplies, and internet access for those in public schools.

Home Situations

The Bahamas has a very low dual household dynamic. More than 50% of all children in The Bahamas are born out of wedlock and a single parent often raises them. This is a holdover from times when large families lived together, so children did not feel the absence of a parent so harshly. However, the commonality of this has faded.

Children that single parents raise, especially those suffering from poverty, have more developmental and material disadvantages in life. The education challenges and dropout rates among the youth of The Bahamas reflect this issue.

Children are the Future of The Bahamas

Help from NGOs and other countries has been stagnant because of the  COVID-19 pandemic and lack of awareness. Project Hope is an organization that has a consistent presence in The Bahamas, although there are no large organizations. However, Project Hope’s work should receive commendation and undergo replication because they have been instrumental in shedding light on the challenges that people in The Bahamas face.

Project Hope is an NGO that focuses primarily on health care needs and services. They have been bringing aid, resources and expertise to The Bahamas. Beginning after Hurricane Dorian, Project Hope has focused on providing health care services for children, including those who experience child poverty in The Bahamas. This helps the children to further their education.

The Bahamas has been in a vicious cycle of struggling children becoming struggling adults. Rather than beautiful beaches or offshore tax evasion, children are at once the most vulnerable and most valuable resource that The Bahamas has.

John J. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Celebrities Fight Against the COVID-19 Crisis in IndiaDuring April 2021, COVID-19 cases and deaths started to rise exponentially in India. There were more than 500,000 cases and 300,000 deaths. Because of the rapid increase of cases, Anuradha Palakurthi, an actress and founder of the Vax India Now organization, decided to host a virtual event to raise money to fight against the COVID-19 crisis in India.

The COVID-19 Crisis in India

In September 2020, India braced itself for the pandemic. Cases peaked at 93,000 per day, less than one-third of the daily tallies India reported in April. However, it is believed that India succeeded in achieving herd immunity due to the young population. The median age in India is 27, and only 6.4% of the population is over the age of 65. Due to this, India achieved peace for a while until the second wave hit.

After the first wave, many citizens in India stopped taking safety precautions. Children returned to school, adults returned to their jobs and large weddings and political campaigns became normal again. Because of this lack of precautions, the second wave greatly affected India. Hospitals were overwhelmed with a lack of supplies, space and staff. Moreover, due to the lack of vaccines that the government ordered, only about 4.3% of India was vaccinated. The second wave brought a new variant.

This new variant is called B.1.617, also known as “the double mutant.” The variant targets everyone, including the younger population. This has caused more traffic in hospitals and a larger gap between the number of patients and staff members. Facing panic in the country, Indian American actor Anuradha Palakurthi decided to bring people together to fight against the COVID-19 crisis in India through the power of music and donations.

Singers Supporting India through Vax India Now

Vax India Now hosted a virtual event on July 7, 2021. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination shortage in India. The live streaming event featured singers from both the U.S. and India. Celebrities like Gloria Estefan, Alan Walker, Josh Groban, Anil Kapoor, Hasan Minhaj and more signed on to attend Vax India Now and made an appearance at the event. The event shed a spotlight on the COVID-19 crisis in India and informed viewers on how they can help save lives.

The Actress Who Started it All

Anuradha Palakurthi, who started a foundation based in New England that supports the promotion of Indian culture, is the organizer of this virtual event. Palakurthi and her husband, Prasanth Palakurthi, proposed doing something truly significant on a worldwide scale to help India. Ultimately, this resulted in the creation of Vax India Now.

From there, the Palakurthis contacted the Giving Back Fund, a national nonprofit organization that encourages and funds nonprofit organizations, corporations and others who want to help the world. Marc Pollick, the founder of the Giving Back Fund, jumped at the opportunity to help fund the event. Vax India Now and the Giving Back Fund are working together to make the event possible and to tell the world about the COVID-19 crisis in India.

The website for Vax India Now offers a place to donate to support the cause. For those interested in alleviating the COVID-19 crisis in India, the websites of organizations like Care India, Project HOPE and UNICEF USA offer multiple ways to get involved in the cause. Hopefully, with the efforts of India’s government, international humanitarian organizations, and Vax India Now, more of India’s population will be vaccinated soon.

– Aahana Goswami
Photo: Flickr 

Human Trafficking in Bhutan Forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation of children are forms of human trafficking occurring around the world, including Bhutan. Limited research means precise statistics on human trafficking in Bhutan are hard to find. The Royal Government of Bhutan has not accepted the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, a treaty that 147 states signed and enforced in 2003. This often leads to Bhutanese courts dismissing charges that meet the international definition of human trafficking.

The Definition of Human Trafficking

The international definition of human trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud or coercion) for an improper purpose.” Bhutan’s definition is an individual who “recruits, transports, sells or buys, harbors or receives a person through the use or threat of force or deception within, into or outside of Bhutan for any illegal purpose.”

Human Trafficking in Bhutan

According to the U.S. Department of State, “Bhutan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.” The U.S. Department of State upgraded Bhutan to its Tier 2 Watch List because of several positive signs of progress. For instance, Bhutan convicted one person under the human trafficking statute and appealed dismissed trafficking charges in another case. Furthermore, Bhutan investigated “reports of labor exploitation” and worked to implement “anti-trafficking training and public awareness events.”

Bhutan is on the Tier 2 Watch List, which means that the country does not completely comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. However, it is making an effort to meet the standards set. Bhutan has this designation because there is not enough evidence supporting the successes of the government’s actions to combat trafficking and estimates determine that the number of victims is significant or increasing.

Tier 1 refers to countries that fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and Tier 3 includes countries that do not comply and are not making an effort to improve. Bhutan was designated as a Tier 3 country in 2019 and ranked as a Tier 2 country from 2013 to 2017. Bhutan has been on the Watch List as of 2018. While it appears the Royal Government of Bhutan is making strides, evidence is scarce regarding the success of its anti-trafficking measures.

Protecting and Assisting Victims

Project hope was founded in 2004 by Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck. In 2019, Project Hope changed to Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW). Project Hope formerly protected children from labor exploitation by providing shelters. However, the program expanded to RENEW, which not only gives shelter to both women and children but also provides counseling and rehabilitation to victims. Women and children are often the victims of human trafficking, necessitating a program with a special focus on them. From January 2020 to December 2020, the program provided counseling services to 39 people affected by human trafficking.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Office funded a $750,000 program to help the Bhutanese police investigate human trafficking in Bhutan. The UNODC is responsible for implementing the program. The program helps enforce the Standard Operating Procedure for Multi-Sectoral Response to Address Trafficking in Persons in Bhutan. So far, the program has provided training for 16 journalists, 82 police officers and 95 prosecutors. The program also includes training so that people know how to protect themselves from human trafficking when working overseas.

Communication Through Task Forces

Organization is essential for efficiency and the Child Labor Task Force focuses on organizing efforts from multiple agencies and ministries. Government officials, international organizations, civil society organizations and the private sector make up the Task Force. However, a lack of research on its activities means its efficiency is unclear.

Monitoring trends of human trafficking in Bhutan, advising policies to implement and organizing anti-trafficking efforts are some of the main responsibilities of the Trafficking in Persons Special Task Force. The Department of Law and Order leads it but other government agencies and civil society organizations help the task force.

Eliminating Human Trafficking in Bhutan

Continued improvements and diligence are essential to eliminating human trafficking in Bhutan. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of State recommends several possible and plausible solutions. These include:

  • Use the international definition of human trafficking
  • Train and educate people to improve proactive victim identification
  • Create and publish an assessment of any and all forms of human trafficking in Bhutan
  • Increase funding to projects helping victims
  • Educate labor inspectors to identify cases of forced labor
  • Increase investigations and prosecutions of traffickers and increase sentencing
  • Eliminate recruitment fees for workers and investigate contract switching or cases of not paying wages

Human trafficking in Bhutan can decrease even further with solutions created by organizations and programs already in place. Cooperation, organization, enforcement and education can and are undergoing improvement, especially in the last few years. However, more clear evidence is necessary to fully understand the full picture.

Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr

Hurricanes in HondurasIn November 2020, Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota made landfall just two weeks apart in northeastern Nicaragua. The hurricanes spread across Central America. Honduras was one of the countries hit with severe destruction. In the wake of these storms, homelessness in Honduras reached all-time highs and an active humanitarian crisis unfolded as humanitarian organizations and policymakers struggled to contend with flooding, displacement and the spread of COVID-19. The aftermath of hurricanes in Honduras requires urgent humanitarian aid.

Poverty in Honduras

Nearly half of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. The poverty rate is higher in rural parts of the country than it is in urban centers. Whereas half of all Hondurans who live in the countryside subsist in varying states of poverty, less than half of all Hondurans who live in urban areas lead lives plagued by poverty,

The disparity between rich Hondurans and poor Hondurans is overwhelmingly large. A robust middle-class has yet to take shape in Honduras so Hondurans filter into one of two polarized class groups. A high rate of violence makes life treacherous for the poor.

Seasonal flooding has a detrimental effect on economic growth. Flooding from Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota combined with seasonal flooding make 2020 one of the worst years in Honduras’ history. Livestock and farmlands were swept away and Hondurans have had to search desperately for other means to feed themselves.

Homelessness and Hurricanes in Honduras

In 1998, three million Hondurans were made homeless by Hurricane Mitch and tens of thousands were forced to flee to the United States. The devastation that was unleashed by Hurricane Mitch is the closest analog to the combined effects of Eta and Iota. Reports on the rate of homelessness in Honduras after Eta and Iota remain incomplete, but it is undoubtedly high, similar in scope to the rate of homelessness in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch.

7 Responses to Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota

  1. Public Investment in Infrastructure and Social Programs. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez plans to engage “four times the nation’s annual budget in infrastructure and social programs to help Hondurans recover from devastating storms.” His plan will put thousands of Hondurans to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, so it works on two important levels. First, his plan creates jobs for Hondurans whose livelihoods were lost as a result of the hurricanes. Second, it will lead to necessary rebuilding projects.

  2. USAID Funding. By the beginning of December 2020, USAID had committed close to $50 million for humanitarian aid to meet the needs of Honduras’ relief efforts. Funding goes to securing “emergency food, shelter, urgent medical care, clean water, sanitation and hygiene.”

  3. USAID’s Honduras Emergency WASH and Shelter (HEWS) Program. In mid-December 2020, USAID announced that it will send packs of materials to “select families” through its HEWS program, which families can use to rebuild damaged or destroyed homes. Experts will also be sent to teach families how to use the material that has been sent and to work alongside families during the initial stages of the rebuilding process.

  4. Project HOPE Emergency Medical Teams. In remote villages, where poverty rates tend to be highest, villagers have scarce access to medical services. Project HOPE medical teams focus on these locations because unsanitary water supplies have been identified there. Also, cases of COVID-19 have been reported.

  5. Project HOPE WASH Program. Potable water is provided to 3,000 families through Project HOPE’s WASH program. Additionally, resources for sanitizing water, including chlorine and training materials, are provided to families so that water purification practices can be carried out indefinitely.

  6. AMDA Emergency Relief. Relief supplies, including food, coverings and hygienic supplies, were distributed to several dozen families through a partnership between AMDA and AMDA-Honduras. The rate of homelessness in Honduras is so high that many people have taken shelter in nursing homes. Hondurans who lost their homes as a result of Eta and Iota live side by side with Honduras’ elderly. Similar AMDA relief packs were distributed throughout such facilities.

  7. Distribution of KN95 and Surgical Masks. Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have accompanied the disastrous effects of Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Project HOPE distributed hundreds of thousands of KN95 and surgical masks to activists, doctors and frontline workers throughout Honduras to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Hope on the Horizon for Honduras

Hurricanes in Honduras coupled with COVID-19 created severe consequences for people living there. Long-term concerns include the effect that lack of adequate health services will have on mothers, pregnant women, newborns and young children. Many humanitarian organizations are prioritizing aid to remote parts of the country to mitigate the effects of isolation. The spread of disease is an additional concern. A comprehensive solution to the crisis at hand will involve combined efforts.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Fight Disease in NicaraguaIn Nicaragua, 30% of people live below the poverty line, making it the poorest nation in Central America. Not surprisingly, the risk of major infectious diseases in the nation was labeled as high in 2020. Therefore, a major step towards fighting poverty is to fight disease in Nicaragua.

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC), Project Hope, and AMOS Health and Hope all fight disease in Nicaragua with different approaches. All of these organizations have similar health-related missions and make a considerable impact on the lives of those in need. Both FIMRC and AMOS focus their efforts on the youth impacted by diseases rather than the entirety of communities. Project Hope can assist a wider range of ages as it focuses its efforts on a smaller region than the other organizations.

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children is a nonprofit working to create sustainable health services for those in need. For almost two decades, the organization has been helping vulnerable health communities through three areas of pediatric clinical services, health education and special initiatives.

The organization’s Nicaragua program Project Limón illustrates its success. Limón is popular for tourists; however, the surrounding areas are considered vulnerable as many locals are left without health services. For instance, 17% of children 5 years and younger in Nicaragua are impacted by chronic malnutrition. FIMRC is working to lower this percentage and disease in Nicaragua in general by catering its program around community needs. After assessing their needs, the organization began to build clinics and provide medical care.

Project Hope

Project Hope focuses its health services on those suffering from diabetes. It also stands out as it concentrates on supporting health professionals. For instance, the organization trains and assists health care workers to maximize the number of people they can help. It places a large emphasis on education rather than aid.

Project Hope began fighting disease in Nicaragua through its partnership with the University of León. Through the partnership, the organization began to establish itself in the nation and support the health infrastructure. For instance, with the help of one of its partners, it administered over a million vaccines of Pneumovax to the population. Also, one of its successful programs benefitted nearly 9,000 women and children through “health education as well as micro-lending training.”

AMOS Health and Hope

AMOS Health and Hope has a broader plan of action compared to the other two groups. The group’s mission statement is to ensure children are not dying from preventable diseases. Similar to FIMRC, it works directly with the community it aims to help to develop long-term health solutions. Its solutions to fight disease in Nicaragua are based around three main pillars: treat, prevent and strengthen.

Although its mission statement is broad, AMOS only works within Nicaragua, catering towards those in vulnerable communities. Within the nation, its efforts help 24 different communities in need. Thus far, it has trained 670 health services workers in those communities and has helped 74,600 individuals.

Overall, although groups have different approaches to fighting disease in Nicaragua, their efforts all work to assist those in need of health services. Supporting the health workers and those in need ensures that both sides of the issue are met.

Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr

Psychiatric hospital Skopje, Macedonia
Healthcare in Macedonia utilizes a mixture of a public and private healthcare system. All residents are eligible to receive free state-funded healthcare and have the option of receiving private healthcare for treatments that the public system does not cover. Public healthcare in Macedonia often comes with long wait times and although public hospitals have basic medical supplies, they do not have specialized treatments. For these specialized treatments, residents typically seek private treatment where they must pay out of pocket or buy private insurance on top of their free healthcare.

Improvements in Overall Health

North Macedonia did not become a part of NATO until 2019, and still has not received admission into the E.U. As a result, its healthcare system has developed slower than member countries. Despite this, North Macedonia has shown growth in overall health. The introduction of private healthcare allowed residents to seek a wider range of treatments and cut down wait times. Life expectancy has grown from 71.7 years in 1991 to 75.1 years in 2010. However, this is still lower than the E.U.’s average life expectancy which is 80.2.  Although life expectancy has grown, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate is still above average.

North Macedonia reached a European record of 14.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. To compare, the average mortality rate in Europe for 2015 was 5.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. The high infant mortality rate is likely the result of outdated equipment at public health facilities and a shortage of qualified health workers. Only 6.5% of North Macedonia’s GDP goes towards healthcare, and therefore healthcare in Macedonia is often reliant on outside donations. These conditions have caused health workers to leave the Macedonian healthcare system in search of better working conditions. The health ministry has worked to purchase new equipment as well as increase the amount of qualified staff in public hospitals by hiring more workers. Today, the infant mortality rate in North Macedonia is 10.102 deaths per 1,000 births. This is an improvement, and hopefully, with continued programs, the numbers will continue to decrease. Organizations such as Project HOPE and WHO have already made a direct impact on Macedonia’s healthcare system.

Organizations Combating Infant Mortality

Project HOPE has donated over $80 million worth of medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment to hospitals throughout North Macedonia since 2007. Starting in 2017, most of these donations went to hospitals specializing in infant care. Project HOPE also provides training for healthcare workers so they can adapt to the updated equipment. The current drop in the infant mortality rate is due to these donations that allow hospitals to buy updated equipment and retain healthcare workers through training. There is only one hospital in North Macedonia that accepts low birth-rate and premature babies, University Clinical Center at Mother Theresa. Therefore, Project HOPE’s donation has greatly lessened the burden on this hospital to care for infants. Since Project HOPE implemented this program, the number of deliveries at Mother Theresa has increased by 40%.

WHO has also assisted North Macedonia in developing a new 2020 healthcare plan for infants and mothers. This plan would link healthcare facilities in the country and classify them by level of service to ensure everyone is receiving the appropriate care. It should also improve transportation between hospitals to increase the continuity of care between locations. This shared communication and learning between healthcare facilities is imperative since there are only nine hospitals in Macedonia for 2.08 million people and seven of those hospitals are in the country’s capital, Skopje. Increasing transportation and communication will ensure that those living outside of the capital are receiving quality healthcare. Slowly but surely with these new policies in place, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate will continue to drop.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr