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Child Poverty in Germany
Germany is located in west-central Europe and has a population of more than 83 million people and rising. Despite being a wealthy country, child poverty in Germany persists and impacts millions of children all across the nation. Here are some facts about the issue and examples of how the German government and nonprofit organizations are trying to fix it.

Single-Parent Households and Immigrants Suffer the Most

A total of 2.8 million children in Germany live in poverty. This means that approximately 21.3% of those under 18 grow up without the resources and living standards their peers enjoy. The families that poverty most impacts are those that only have one parent to provide for the children. In fact, 44% of single-parent households are struggling with poverty. This percentage is even higher for immigrant families and large families.

Poverty in Germany Equals Severe Life Restrictions

While child poverty in Germany does not necessarily mean that all children affected are starving, it often presents noticeable consequences for their lives. Growing up poor often results in children lacking access to basic things such as cars or electronics that are increasingly necessary for education. It further impacts the children’s social lives, since they often cannot afford to participate in clubs and activities or do not live in places big enough to have friends over. Child poverty also links to an increased risk of health problems due to families not being able to afford nutritious foods and having less balanced lifestyles.

The Strong Families Act

The German government introduced and passed the Strong Families Act in 2019. The act intends to help families with financial struggles by reforming the child benefit supplement system. A total of one billion euros ($1.2 billion) that the German government spent between 2019 and 2021 is supporting the reform. The reform includes making it easier for families to access aid that the government provides and to have the maximum supplement increased to 185 euros ($224) a month. The Strong Families Act further encourages parents of low-income families to make more money, as the child benefit supplement no longer instantly reduces due to the extra amount they earn.

Child poverty in Germany has a significant impact on education and future perspectives for those it affects. A study from 2019 showed that 36% of 25-year-olds who had experienced poverty as children were still living in poverty due to a lack of resources. For reference, only 20% of 25-year-olds who did not grow up poor were having the same financial struggles. The German government is attempting to change that by investing 220 million euros ($265 million) yearly through the Strong Families Act. The money will pay for school meals and transport for families in need and further raises the aid for school materials from 100 euros ($121) to 150 euros ($182) each year.

SOS Children’s Villages Help Children in Poverty

Outside of the government, there are several nonprofit organizations that are trying to help children who grow up in poverty. A very well-known organization is SOS Children’s Villages, an Austrian organization with more than 40 locations in Germany. It provides a wide variety of services to families in need, including daycare, counseling and aid to help prepare poor children for their future. SOS Children’s Villages was especially supportive of unattended youth in need who came into the country as a result of the refugee crisis in 2015. The organization offered language courses, integration support and cared for the children’s emotional needs.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in costa ricaDespite being one of the most progressive countries in Latin America in terms of free education, no military and access to healthcare, there are still many people living in poverty in Costa Rica and the youngest people are oftentimes hit the hardest. More than 65% of poor Costa Ricans are under 35 years old and children under the age of 18 make up the largest group of the poor. Additionally, many of the children who are impacted by child poverty in Costa Rica are indigenous. When it comes to children, issues include child labor, child mortality and disparities in education.

Things to Know About Child Poverty in Costa Rica

  1. Primary school in Costa Rica is free and mandatory and many children have access to the education system. However, many children who come from poor families or rural areas miss out on education because they work to provide for their families. About 8% of children in Costa Rica are not educated and 9% of children from the ages of 5 to 14 are economically active as their families depend on the money their children generate. As a country that is a major producer of coffee, work and harvesting is a priority in Costa Rica. In fact, during the coffee bean harvest, the teachers and students in poor regions in Costa Rica go to the farms to work in order to afford school supplies.

  2. Costa Rica has a large number of child trafficking victims. About 36,000 children in Costa Rica are orphans and due to the lack of or dysfunction in their family structures, many of these children are at risk of exploitation, drug abuse and gang violence.

  3. Although Costa Rica has the longest life expectancy in Latin America and an effective health care system, there are still issues regarding child mortality. Roughly, 10% of children in Costa Rica die before reaching the age of 5. These are often the children who are born into families living below the poverty line, indigenous families or rural families.

  4. Violence against children in Costa Rica is a concern. In fact, there were over 700 sexual violence cases in 2009, though it is estimated that much more went unreported. The physical and psychological abuse and violence that children endure has serious consequences for their development and health.

SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages initially started with a commitment to caring for orphaned or abandoned children throughout the world. There are SOS Children’s Villages in three cities in Costa Rica: San José, Limón and Cartago. SOS Children’s Villages aim to address child poverty in Costa Rica. The organization provides Costa Rican children with day-care, education, medical services and vocational training, sports facilities and playgrounds. Children whose parents cannot take care of them are often taken in. The organization has a comprehensive approach: preventing child abandonment, offering long-term care for children in need and empowering young people with the resources to reach their full potential.

The organization’s YouthCan! program trains adolescents to enhance their skills and competencies in order to achieve employment. In Costa Rica, where almost 100,000 young people were unemployed in 2016, the youth development program lasts for three to 12 months. The program consists of life skills training, employability training and helping the youth find jobs and further training opportunities.

Through organizations like the SOS Children’s Villages, child poverty in Costa Rica can be successfully alleviated.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

poverty eradication in Spain
While Spain is officially classified as a high-income country, it is not exempt from unceasingly high rates of poverty. Philip Alston, a U.N. expert, recently commented that poverty rates in Spain are “appallingly high” and among the highest in all of Europe. However, efforts to achieve eventual poverty eradication in Spain are underway.

Context

In 2018, over 26% of people in Spain were at high risk of poverty or social exclusion. Moreover, poverty particularly affected children (minors under the age of 18) — with nearly 33% of them either currently living in poverty, or at-risk. A contributing factor in the lingering poverty within these communities is the perpetuation of social immobility among citizens. According to Forbes, Spanish citizens born into families of wealth earn 40% more than people who are born into low-income households. The opportunities these people have to rise out of poverty on their own are nearly non-existent.

The Spanish government and nonprofit organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the issue of high poverty rates within the country. The government, along with other organizations are employing strategic innovations and other strategies every day to address poverty eradication in Spain. 

Government Innovations & Strategies

In March 2019, the National Strategy to Prevent and Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion passed as a new poverty-reduction movement. With its effective timeline lasting through 2023, the strategy includes four key components: (1) the reduction of current poverty, (2) raising social investment in education and employment, (3) increased social protections for at-risk citizens and (4) improving the effectiveness of public policies surrounding poverty eradication in Spain. This movement serves as an important step for the country’s government because it creates a space to address poverty eradication in Spain on a federal level — catering to the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Spain has recently made vast improvements to its minimum income scheme. With the goal of bringing 1.6 million people out of poverty, the new plan will ensure that families have an income between $514 and $1,130 per month, depending on their eligibility. The social program will take into account the number of children per household, single-parent households, annual income and finally, assets. In the words of Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, this poverty reduction strategy has birthed “a new social right in Spain” and looks to dissolve deeply ingrained social inequalities among its people.

Nonprofit Initiatives

The Spanish government is not the only body taking action to alleviate poverty. Organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages are actively working on lifting communities out of poverty. While the organization recognizes that Spain is actively working to address national poverty at large, it believes there is more to do in supporting individual families. Spain has the third highest childhood poverty rate in all of Europe and SOS Children’s Villages primarily targets these vulnerable and at-risk children through their many day centers and homeless villages. In hopes of creating more safe and secure Spanish households, it also focuses on psychological counseling for families and works to aid unemployed citizens in finding work. With ongoing humanitarian work in eight locations within mainland Spain and the Canary Islands, SOS Children’s Villages is an example of an organization that is actively working towards poverty eradication in Spain.

Implications

On both the public (federal) and private levels, Spain is developing new innovations and strategies to address its crippling poverty rates. The government’s plans to improve social programs and safety nets while ensuring income guarantees will potentially affect millions of people in struggling Spanish communities. Supplemented with the aid of nonprofit organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages, the goals of these programs hold promises of a better, more secure future for millions of people.

Karli Stone
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in India
Poverty has been at the forefront of India’s issues for an incredible amount of time. Based on the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) from Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, about 55% of Indians were poor in 2005-06. However, despite this grim reality, there have been various innovations in poverty eradication in India. The Indian government, with help from nonprofits, has come a long way in improving the welfare of the people. The number of people in poverty decreased from 630 million poor people to 360 million.

Nonprofits Making a Difference

The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a not-for-profit NGO that works with the Indian government to provide poor children meals during school. Its goal is to keep children both nourished and wanting to go to school. Since 2000, it has grown into the largest nonprofit lunch serving organization in the world. Akshaya Patra provides food every day to over 1.8 million children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has provided poor and at-risk people with almost 60 million meals and 760,000 grocery kits.

Another great organization helping in the fight against poverty is SOS Children’s Villages, with over 500 SOS Children’s Villages and 400 SOS Youth Facilities in more than 133 countries around the world. SOS Children’s Villages is a nonprofit that has dedicated itself to providing children with safe, loving environments with better access to food, education and health. In India, SOS Children’s Villages cares for over 25,000 children across 22 states, ensuring stability and better situations for those in need.

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is an international organization dedicated to researching effective ways to reduce poverty around the world and help create programs and policies that better alleviate these issues. IPA conducts randomized evaluations to find accurate insights into the causes of poverty. It then utilizes its findings to help governments and other institutions create more effective programs. Through its extensive network of world-class university researchers, IPA has “…designed and evaluated more than 550 potential solutions to poverty problems…” with over 280 more evaluations in progress.

The Work of the Indian Government

Additionally, the Indian government has initiated multiple programs and policies to help reduce poverty. India is the first country to make corporate social responsibility mandatory in the world. This ensures that big companies like Mahindra use their resources to help the poor. The government also has an important green initiative, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or “Clean India,” that ensures the health of the environment and people improves. This initiative focuses on increasing sanitation accessibility and standards in India, with the building of over 100 million toilets since October 2014.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian government has proved its dedication to upholding these standards. It issued a three-month-long campaign, Samudayik Shauchalaya Abhiyan (SSA), from June 15, 2020, to September 15, 2020, to emphasize the construction of Community Sanitary Complexes (CSCs) in villages. This campaign supports the influx of migrant workers/merchants traveling back to their home villages due to the pandemic.

Levels of poverty in India have improved over the years, but the country and nonprofits need to do more work. Fortunately, there are many institutions and programs in place continuing innovations in poverty eradication in India.

Saayom Ghosh
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in ZambiaZambia is quickly becoming one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most urbanized countries, but homelessness in Zambia is becoming increasingly prevalent. Zambia’s housing stock has a national deficit of 1.3 million units, which is projected to double by 2025. More than 60% of the Zambian population is under the poverty line, living on $2 a day; 40% are considered to be facing extreme poverty, with $1.25 a day. Roughly 70% of people living in urban areas do not have access to proper housing. They live in informal settlements that often have inadequate access to clean water or sanitation.

Urbanization Spurs Zambia’s Housing Crisis

High-income jobs are typically found in urban areas, making the urbanization rate nearly double the population growth rate. Increased urbanization increases the demand for jobs, stagnates wage growth and raises the price of housing. According to a 2010 estimate, when you compare purchasing power, the cost of living in Lusaka is higher than in Washington, D.C. In 1996, Zambia’s National Housing Policy was put into place. This policy recommended that 15% of the country’s budget every year be designated for housing developments. This policy was awarded the 1996 “HABITAT Scroll of Honor” by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, commending the policy’s focus on involving community participation.

Zambia’s Homeless and Poor People’s Federation was founded to raise awareness and offer possible solutions to Zambia’s housing crisis. It opened a house model during Lusaka’s 83rd Agricultural and Commercial Show. The Federation aimed to demonstrate the power and intelligence that the homeless community can leverage in finding solutions to the problems they face. It wanted to raise awareness around the concept of building incrementally and using low-cost building materials.

Child Homelessness & Solutions

Roughly 1.5 million Zambian children live on the streets, either due to being orphaned or due to extreme poverty. There are roughly 1.4 million orphans under the age of 15 in Zambia, and roughly 750,000 of these children were orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. This has led to a crisis in Zambia, as many street children are being exploited for child prostitution.

What’s being done to address child homelessness? First, approximately 75% of all Zambian households care for at least one orphan. The Zambian Ministry of Sport, Youth, and Child Development partnered with the Ministry of Defense to create youth rehabilitation and reintegration programs. Since the start of these programs in 2006, roughly 1,200 children have completed the rehabilitation program, with mixed results.

Other organizations are working to protect the rights of vulnerable children in Zambia. SOS Children’s Villages, established in 1996, helps provide safe housing for disadvantaged youth in Zambia. It also provides accessible education and medical treatment. To date, over 4,700 Zambian children have received education from SOS Children’s Villages, and over 7,000 have been enrolled in the Family Strengthening Program. Additionally, over 688 Zambian children have been provided with alternative care. Meanwhile, UNICEF works with the Zambian government to improve policies surrounding social services and the protection of Zambia’s orphans.

Land Policies Aim to Address Homelessness in Zambia

Several groups are working to improve housing conditions for Zambia’s homeless population. Habitat for Humanity raises awareness around land rights and focuses on empowering Zambian community members to advocate for the issues important to them. In 2018, 1,965 people volunteered with Habitat to help improve the housing available for people living in Zambia. The Internally Displaced Peoples’ Voice (Zambia) likewise promotes housing rights for vulnerable populations.

The Zambia Land Alliance promotes pro-poor land policy, criticizing past Zambian land rights policies for being too narrow and allowing abuse by public officials. For example, the Zambian Land Acts of 1995 state that “conversion of rights from customary tenure to leasehold tenure shall have effect only after the approval of the chief and the local authorities,” which can become problematic when local officials are not acting in the best interest of the affected communities. The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources has revealed that some public officials have been selling land to foreign investors, specifically commercial farmers, who then push out small, local farmers. There are currently land policies being drafted that emphasize the importance of improving land delivery mechanisms in Zambia.

Conclusion

When thinking about Zambian homelessness, it is important to look at the nation’s history. Many members of the United Nations have emphasized the impact of colonialism in spurring global homelessness, calling for greater support from developed nations. Dennis Chiwele of Zambia suggested that homelessness is often incited by urbanization and a lack of governmental safety nets. Countries like the United States should help nations like Zambia cope with these more complex side effects of urbanization.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in AfricaSub-Saharan Africa is the region in the world that hunger affects the most. In fact, 319 million people experienced undernourishment in 2018. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in four suffers from hunger, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 28 countries in Africa are dependent on food aid. Sub-Saharan Africa is a hotbed of chronic hunger largely due to its extreme poverty. However, poverty not only causes widespread hunger in Africa, but it also creates poverty. Malnutrition depletes nations of strength and productivity, effectively keeping the entire nation trapped in poverty. Africa will not escape poverty until it escapes hunger.

Chronic Hunger

Chronic hunger in Africa occurs when the daily energy intake is below what is necessary for a healthy and active life. The word “chronic” implies that it occurs for an extended period of time. While the current state of hunger in Africa may seem bleak, Africa has made progress. Malnutrition has declined by 4% between 2000 and 2014 due to economic growth and smart policies. However, malnutrition still remains a large issue in certain populations.

Hunger in Children

Children are most at risk for hunger in Africa and the hunger crisis particularly impacts them due to the fact that the first 1,000 days of a person’s life are critical in regards to nutrition. When a child does not receive proper food in the first 1,000 days, they can suffer physical and mental developmental delays, disorders, inability to fight disease and high infant mortality rates. Bill Gates noted his experience in African nations where people asked him to guess a child’s age based on their height. Children who Gates thought were 7 or 8 years old were in reality 12 or 13. This is due to the stunting that 28 million children in Africa experience. Malnutrition leads to stunting that not only impacts children’s height but also brain development. Stunted children are more likely to fall behind in school, miss critical reading and math milestones and go on to live a life in poverty.

Multiple Factors

Hunger in Africa is a complex crisis with many root causes. SOS Children’s Villages outlines some key causes of widespread hunger in Africa.

  1. The population continues to increase in sub-Saharan Africa and food production cannot keep up.
  2. Unfair trading structures lead to the European Union (E.U.) and the U.S. subsidizing domestic agriculture, resulting in farmers being unable to compete with cheap food imports.
  3. The high level of debt that characterizes many African nations, combined with poor governance and corruption, impede economic development. This consequently perpetuates mass poverty and hunger.
  4. The disease profile of Africa including AIDS and malaria creates an obstacle to individuals digesting their food properly. It also inhibits the productivity of the labor force leading to food scarcity.
  5. Conflict in Africa breeds economic instability, unproductivity and a growing refugee crisis.

However, the hunger crisis in Africa is not only complex due to its causes, but also because other issues largely interconnect with it and amplify it. For example, climate change creates weather patterns such as droughts that cause food insecurity. Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are all examples of nations facing successive crop failures and poor harvest due to drought, with Southern Africa experiencing its lowest rainfall since 1981.

A lack of access to clean water and sanitation leads to increased rates of disease that create another obstacle to nutrition. Poor health care infrastructure in Africa amplifies the obstacle of disease to malnutrition. A lack of health care stops children from getting vaccines such as the rotavirus vaccine that would lead to children having fewer bouts of diarrhea. Furthermore, health care can provide individuals with supplements and vitamins to make up for key gaps in their diets, as the nutrition strategy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows.

Organizations Working to Aid Africa

The complexity of the hunger crisis makes it incredibly difficult to combat. Fundamentally, Africa needs more research and funding. Bill and Melinda Gates are two people who have done tremendous work in Africa, donating over $600,000 to their Alliance to End Hunger Program. Through his work, Gates recognizes the complexity of hunger and notes that if he had one wish, it would be for the world to better understand malnutrition and how to solve it.

However, the continent is making progress to reduce widespread hunger in Africa. For example, organizations such as the SOS Children’s Villages provide family strengthening programs that give short and long term aid including food, access to medical care, school supplies and support with financial and household management. SOS Children’s Villages also provides emergency relief for the hunger crisis and famine to countries including Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Malawi. SOS Children’s Villages is currently active in 46 African countries, providing aid to 147 villages that would otherwise be in acute danger of malnutrition or starvation. Programs such as these need to not only continue but also to experience amplification via increased funding and research.

– Lily Jones
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in the Czech Republic
In the European Union, the Czech Republic ranks second in terms of the risk of its population falling below the poverty line. A record low of 3.4% of the Czech Republic’s population is at risk of poverty according to Eurostat data. This is in comparison to the average of 10% of the European Union’s population that poverty threatens. With that in mind, here are five facts about poverty in the Czech Republic.

5 Facts About Poverty in the Czech Republic

  1. The Czech economy has been on an upward trend, which has helped young people. The improvement of the Czech economy has helped reduce the poverty rate in the country. The GDP growth rate and unemployment levels are among the best in Europe. The unemployment rate for the country was 2.9% in 2017, which ranks among the top tier in the world. The GDP growth rate of 4.4% in the Czech Republic is among Europe’s best and the GDP rose to $245.2 billion in 2018 in comparison to $186.8 billion in 2015. This has benefited young employed Czechs between the ages of 18 and 24, of whom only 1.5% were at risk of poverty in 2017. With a high labor shortage, this in turn has increased the wages young Czechs can attain.
  2. Women are at a higher risk of poverty. The Czech Republic has one of the highest wage gaps between men and women. On average, a Czech woman’s salary is 22% lower than her male counterparts. Women on a pension and single mothers are the two groups that poverty in the Czech Republic most affects. Mothers who come back from maternity leave often see a reduction in pay after returning to work, up until age 50. Women, who on average live six years longer than their spouses, often see a rise in their expenses after the death of their spouses.
  3. Education plays an important role. Education plays a large role in determining poverty status in the Czech Republic, especially among youth. Children whose parents are relatively low-skilled and low-educated are one of the highest at-risk groups for poverty in the E.U. However, children of the well-educated in the Czech Republic are among the lowest risk for poverty in the E.U. Because of the risk of poverty from their parents, some children struggle with living in adequate housing while trying to maintain their education. For those children who struggle to finish their education, SOS Children’s Villages will assist them with job training and living facilities.
  4. Measures that the new government introduced have helped. The new administration, which took power in 2014, has undertaken reforms to increase social welfare and attract financial investment. These reforms have improved the living conditions in the country which have played a role in reducing poverty. The Czech Republic also introduced an online tax reporting system that should increase revenues and decrease tax evasion. The economic reforms have resulted in a budget surplus (1.6% of GDP in 2017) and a decrease in unemployment from 6.1% in 2014 to 2.9% in 2017, as well as increased GDP per capita by over $2,000 from 2015 to 2017.
  5. Housing costs are expensive. For two straight years in 2017 and 2018, the Czech Republic had the least affordable housing in Europe according to a study by Deloitte Property Index. The average Czech worker will have to work 11.8 years in order to have enough money to be able to afford a home. This was the highest figure in the study and 59% higher than the average. Factors relating to the housing market include lack of new apartments on the market, regulatory measures by the Czech National Bank and public sentiment. However, some cities like Ostrava do have affordable housing and housing is becoming more affordable in other cities as well.

These five facts about poverty in the Czech Republic highlight a few key points. New government measures have helped in the fight against poverty as well as the growth of the Czech economy. Young people have been doing extremely well in the country which has helped bring the overall poverty rate down. However, the nation can still do more work in the fight against poverty, especially in terms of helping female workers in the country and making housing more affordable. Overall, one can be optimistic about how the Czech Republic is taking further steps to reduce poverty in the country.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Greece: What Happened and How to Help
The economy and poverty in Greece are two subjects that connect to one another. Starting in 2010, Greece has been climbing its way out of an economic crisis. The country is slowly paying back billions of dollars in debt due to chronic fiscal mismanagement. In the last decade, poverty in Greece has grown rampant. Incomes have crumbled over 30 percent and more than one-fifth of Greeks are unable to pay rent, electricity and bank loans. Additionally, one-third of families have at least one member who does not have employment. Due to its financial downfall, over a third of Greece’s 10-million-person population is in poverty. Many citizens doubt that this nation will be able to turn things around fast enough and help those most in need.

5 Facts About the Growth of Poverty in Greece

  1. In 1999, the euro launched in 11 European countries. However, Greece did not meet the fiscal criteria due to its budget deficit and debt-to-GDP ratio.
  2. Greece adopted the euro currency in 2001 but did so by distorting its finances. During that time, Greece’s budget deficit was well over 3 percent. Additionally, it had a debt level above 100 percent of its GDP.
  3. In 2004, Greece held the summer Olympics in Athens. This cost the country approximately $12 billion, which it did not have.
  4. The United States suffered through a crisis of its own which triggered a global banking and credit crunch in 2007-2008. As a result, borrowing costs rose around the world, subsequently affecting Greece.
  5. The E.U. and International Monetary Fund granted $146 billion in loans to Greece over the course of three years in 2010. In exchange, Prime Minister Papandreou promised to cut spending and increase taxes.

According to economist and former finance minister of Greece, James Galbraith, the last decade will go down in Greek history as a period of asset-stripping, poorly funded health care and education, unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures, homelessness and even suicide.

The Good News

While financial devastation has affected Greece and its people, there is some good news. Greece now has more control than ever before when it comes to its economy. For the first time since 2010, Greece can borrow money at standard rates. The hope is that Greece will be able to pay back loans faster and with less burdensome contingencies.

How the United States is Helping Greece

The United States government and its people are attempting to help solve the issues regarding the economy and poverty in Greece. One way that people can help is simply by donating. Foundations such as SOS Children’s Villages works with children, families and communities to prevent family breakdown and ensure that children’s rights are met. Meanwhile, The Hellenic Initiative is an organization that is answering Greeks’ call by providing a critical safety net to families that the crisis hit the hardest along with their relief partners. By donating to one or both of these organizations, children who have experienced abandonment or became orphans will receive a second chance, vulnerable families will be able to obtain psychological support and Greek hospitals will be better equipped.

Greek Americans who have dual citizenship can also help solve the problem of the economy and poverty in Greece because many can still vote in Greek elections and use their voices to make a difference. As for appointed leaders, Americans can urge their senators and congressmen to continue supporting Greece by exporting defense articles, medical, construction, food processing, specialty agriculture and packaging materials. Another way to show leaders that helping Greece matters is by simply emailing or calling them.

Though it has been a tough decade for Greece and its people, everyone and everything is capable of resilience. It may take a while for the nation to fully recover, but it can get there faster with a little hope from its people and a little help from the United States.

Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Russia
Although coverage on Russia often dominates the American news cycle, people give little attention to the prevalence of poverty in the country. Many Russians live in unacceptably impoverished conditions and face food insecurity. Hunger in Russia is on a downward trend and both NGOs and the government are undergoing concerted efforts to address both poverty and food insecurity in the country.

10 Facts About Hunger in Russia

  1. Poverty Rate: Although the rate of extreme poverty in Russia—those living under the international poverty line of $1.90 a day—is at zero percent, 13.2 percent or 19 million Russians live in poverty under the national definition of $12.80 a day. This is a contested figure, however, as some claim that the poverty rate is as high as 14.3 percent.

  2. Poverty and Hunger: Poverty is the primary factor behind hunger in Russia. Other than those living in dire poverty, most of the population consumes over 2,100 calories daily—well above the 1,900 calories a day guideline that the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) set. Those with higher incomes in Russia ingest over 3,000 calories a day, similar to those living in developed nations.

  3. Food Insecurity: People with disabilities, older people with little sources of income and families with children are some of the populations who face the most food insecurity in Russia. Another population that often faces food insecurity is people with HIV and those who inject drugs (PWIJ) and these make up an estimated 2.3 percent of the population. The irregular schedule and often low socioeconomic status of PWIJ means they often face hunger and malnutrition.

  4. Rising Food Costs: In 2016, the average Russian consumer spent 50.1 percent of their income on food—the highest percentage in almost a decade. This was due to the Russian government introducing embargos on many food exports from Western countries as retaliation for sanctions in 2014. Consequently, food costs spiked for consumers. Since 2014, the price of frozen fish has increased by 68 percent and the prices of butter and white cabbage have respectively risen by 79 percent and 62 percent.

  5. Global Hunger Index Rate: Despite these increases, in 2019, the Global Hunger Index gave Russia a score of 5.8, which qualifies as a low level of hunger. This number is representative of statistics which reveal that less than 2.5 percent of the overall population suffers from undernourishment. This is a dramatic decrease from 2000 when the nation had a GHI score of 10.3 or a moderate level of hunger: 5.1 percent of the population lacked nourishment. This level of undernourishment was the result of a struggling economy still reeling from the demise of the Soviet Union. In fact, from 1999-2000, more global food aid went to Russia than Africa. Since then, however, the macroeconomic conditions in Russia have largely improved resulting in higher incomes that allow consumers to afford food. This trend is also evident in the statistics for wasting and stunting in children under 5: in 2000, those percentages were 4.6 and 16.1 percent respectively, whereas in 2019 they are 3.9 and 10.7 percent.

  6. Growing Food: While the skyrocketing high food costs do pose a risk to Russia’s future GHI index score, both urban and rural Russian families are turning to their own backyards to produce their food. In 2016, approximately 25 percent of Russians relied on fruits and vegetables harvested in their own backyards. This is a continuation of a tradition dating back to the mid-20th century where Russians would combat food shortages under a communist regime by quietly supplying their own food.

  7. Obesity: While the rates of hunger in Russia decreased over the past two decades, the percentage of obese people increased. In 2015, almost 60 percent of the adult population was overweight and 26.5 percent obese. These numbers strongly correlate with socioeconomic status and education levels. Studies suggest that this is the result of a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in dairy, meat, sugar and alcohol. Experts suggest that just decreasing food prices for healthier foods—such as fruits and vegetables—will not be enough to combat obesity. Instead, there must also be a robust public health program.

  8. Declaration to Halve Poverty: However, there is also good news. As previously mentioned, poverty is the primary cause of hunger in Russia and, on May 7, 2018, a Decree of the President declared an initiative to halve poverty by 2024. Russia plans on achieving this goal through a stimulus plan worth $400 billion that builds new infrastructure and invests in research. While some are pessimistic about Russia’s ability to meet this target, economists at the Brookings Institute believe that even with an annual GDP growth rate of 1.5 percent—a conservative target—through increasing the efficiency of existing social assistance programs and dedicating slightly more funds towards poverty reduction, this ambitious goal is possible.

  9. Investing in Agriculture: Furthermore, over the past decade, the Russian government has also heavily invested in promoting nationwide agricultural self-sufficiency. The Russian government is committing itself to eventually self-supplying 80 to 90 percent of most foods. In order to achieve this target, the country is now subsidizing large farms. The agricultural sector grew by 5 percent in 2016 and 2.4 percent in 2017. People will eventually see the long term impact of these policies on hunger in Russia and whether this investment can lower the costs of food for everyday people and lower the rates of hunger in Russia.

  10. SOS Children’s Village: There are also a variety of organizations working towards preventing hunger in Russia. One such organization is the SOS Children’s Village which specifically helps children whose families can no longer support them. The organization, which started working in Russia in the late 1980s,  also engages in advocacy work with the government to ensure the utmost protection of these children and their nutritional needs.

In conclusion, while hunger in Russia remains a serious problem, there is a reason for cautious optimism. As displayed by the remarkable decrease in rates of undernourishment in the population over the past 20 years, the government, the global community and NGOs are working to end hunger in Russia.

– Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in India
India is the second most populated country in the world with around 1.3 billion inhabitants and the seventh-largest country in terms of size. It is also a prominent figure in the United Nations and other international deliberative assemblies. The country’s top exports include petroleum, medicaments, jewelry, rice and diamonds with major imports consisting of gold, petroleum, coal and diamonds. India’s main trade partners are the United States, Saudi Arabia, China, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While the country wields power as a major partner in worldwide trade and holds the title of the 17th largest export economy, many Indians still struggle to make ends meet. Indian children, in particular, must carry the heavy burden of supplying for their families far more often than any child should. The following are 10 facts on the reality of child labor in India and what the country is doing to improve these children’s quality of life.

10 Facts About Child Labor in India

  1. Poverty is the main driving cause of child labor in India. There is often an increased reliance on child labor in India due to the need to provide a necessary income contribution to one’s household or out of an obligation to fund a family debt, especially considering the susceptibility of Indian families to enter poverty. In some cases, a child’s income amounts to 25 to 40 percent of a total household income.
  2. A lack of quality education also causes children—particularly girls—to turn to work. Girls are two times more likely to take on domestic jobs like cleaning, cooking and general housekeeping if out of school. Also, even though India’s 2009 Right to Education Act made education for 6 to 14 year-olds compulsory, it did little to improve the educational infrastructure across all of India. A 2006 survey found that 81,617 school buildings lacked blackboards to display class content on and that around 42,000 state-supported schools conducted classes and academic activities without an actual building.
  3. Child labor affects 5 to 14 year-olds disproportionately and is present in some of India’s most unsafe industries. Almost 60 percent of all working five to 14-year-olds are located in five of India’s 29 states. The latest available census found that of the 10.1 million children in India between the ages mentioned above, 2.1 million live in Uttar Pradesh, 0.1 million in Bihar, 0.84 million in Rajshahi, 0.7 million in Madhya Perish and 0.72 million in Maharashtra. Around 20.3 percent of Indian children work in hazardous industries such as mining gemstones and construction — even in spite of the existence of laws that are supposed to prohibit this activity in India.
  4. Indian legal rulings on child labor have brought about unorganized trade, called the informal sector–an area of trade that has little to no regulation on the production of goods. Though it is not the greatest source of GDP growth in India, the informal sector still constitutes 90 percent of the workforce in the country. Because of the nature of child labor and the need to often choose work over education, the majority of child laborers work in this unskilled sector. Government-mandated inspections are infrequent, and employers rarely uphold legal rights for workers and do not enforce minimum wage standards.
  5. Production work in India can range from seemingly harmless to very harmful. Many children at work in India take part in “bangle-making, stainless-steel production, bidi-making, hotels, and small automobile garages and workshops.” However, some of these workers experience serious health issues as a result of their involvement. One such sector is incense production, which causes respiratory tract problems. The ILO finds that girls are more likely to work in this sector, and as such, are often more susceptible to these health issues.
  6. A decades-old child labor law in India requires amendments to solve the issue of loopholes. The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 defines a child as a person of 13 years of age or younger. This ruling prohibits children from working or from employers putting them to work. Adolescents are of age 14 or older, and may work in unhazardous occupations. The law, however, does not outline all types of work that can become unsafe after an extended period. The penalties for violating this rule are also not enough to encourage employers to move away from adolescent work.
  7. Maintaining child labor in India is detrimental to the country’s economy. Investing time and funding in children’s education upfront might feel like an economically unwise choice, but in the words of Frans Roeselaers, ILO International Programme director on the Elimination of Child Labour, “ [childhood education investment] gives enormous, almost astronomical returns in terms of both productivity and increased wages once the child grows up and becomes a worker.” Not only do companies benefit from more educated workers, but individual households will also experience an improved quality of life thanks to the higher salaries of the jobs more educated people can obtain. As a result, the government would also benefit from those higher salaries in the form of greater tax returns.
  8. India has made or is in the process of making various efforts to establish institutional unity and solve the child labor crisis. The state of Andhra Pradesh, India is working on an economic model that would eliminate the need for child labor and urge other Indian states to follow suit or use as its example as inspiration for similar approaches. The Universal Alliance of Diamond Workers (UADW) is working to establish the involvement of children in the gemstone industry as unsuitable in many respects. Also, the M. Venkatarangaiah Foundation in India has strategized different and adaptable approaches to “prevent early drop-out and involvement in child labor, by motivating parents, easing enrolment problems and bridging the gap between home and school.” The initiative utilizes groups of government teachers, officials elected to represent their community at a higher governmental level and other community members who have counsel to provide based on experience and observation. As this effort grew in acceptance and implementation, 85 villages rid their industries and establishments of any opportunity to utilize child labor.
  9. Recent updates to rules on child labor in India have resulted in improvement. As of 2017, the Indian government moved to ratify both ILO Convention 182 and Convention 138–two improved standards of labor laws that the country hopes to introduce as status quo in years to come. India’s leaders also devised a new National Plan of Action for Children that establishes the National Policy for Children. This policy focuses on helping improve the conditions and tolerance for continued child labor and child trafficking.
  10. There are several organizations already working to address India’s child labor crisis specifically. Groups like CHILDLINE India Foundation, Save The Children India and SOS Childen’s Villages India are all working to combat child labor in India.

Although India has a long way to go to eradicate child labor, it is making serious steps towards its goal. The help of various NGOs and the improvement of existing laws should help reduce child labor in India.

– Fatemeh-Zahra Yarali
Photo: Flickr