Diseases in Latvia
Currently, 23.4% of the Latvian population is in poverty. This number has risen from the 2019 rate of 21.6%, partly due to the low health care budget and lack of care accessibility. Low socioeconomic status often leads to poor access to health resources. BioMed Research International article states, “Less education, low income or unemployment and lower position in the hierarchal society have a strong positive association with lower levels of perceived health.” Diseases in Latvia affect those in poverty at higher rates and push others into poverty in the aftermath of their destruction.

COVID-19 in Latvia

COVID-19 had significant negative impacts on the steady growth of Latvian life expectancy. Latvia has one of the lowest life expectancies in the European Union (EU). The country was largely unprepared for the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the national health system still struggles with underfunding and supplying equipment and staff. Latvia’s health expenditure per capita is among the fourth lowest in the EU and the country has one of the highest out-of-pocket health care spendings in the EU. Often those in poverty cannot afford health care because of the high out-of-pocket cost. Those fortunate to afford health care often experience severe impacts from the high spending it necessitates and 15% of households have reported spending “catastrophic amounts” on health care.

General Heath and Cancer

In 2019, less than half of the Latvian population stated they were healthy. Only 25% of those in the lowest income quintile reported feeling healthy. In comparison, 69% of those in the highest income quintile reported being in good health, according to the State of Health in the EU report.

Many of the diseases in Latvia causing destruction are preventable and treatable. However, timely health care is necessary to prevent diseases in Latvia from killing more impoverished people. Cancer is one of the most prominent diseases plaguing Latvia. Cancer screening rates, though growing, remain under the average for the EU, contributing to the country’s below-average five-year survival rates, according to the same report. Latvia has attempted to increase screening for cancer through informational campaigns in 2017 and 2019, as well as educational seminars in the workplaces and financial incentive tests to increase screening rates.

How Disease Affects the Poor

In Latvia, 4.3% of the population reported not getting necessary medical care because of out-of-pocket expenses, according to the State of Health in the EU report. In Article 111, the Latvian Constitution declares that “The State shall protect human health and guarantee a basic level of medical assistance for everyone.” Unfortunately, those in poverty in Latvia often do not receive these rights. Often health care providers are also concentrated in urban areas, constricting the availability of needed services to those living rurally.

The Good News

The European Commission hopes to combat the low access to health care and high costs in Latvia and other countries through its newly adopted pharmaceutical strategy. According to the State of the Health in the EU report, Latvia implemented this strategy in November 2020 and focused on making needed medicines affordable by improving the sustainability and capacity of the EU’s pharmaceutical industry. Through this initiative, the EU hopes to ensure access to affordable medicine, address unmet medical needs, and develop safer and more effective medication. Ensuring the availability of medication is one of the essential factors in preventing and treating diseases in Latvia.

– Brooklynn Rich
Photo: Unsplash

The European Union (EU) has implemented a plan to tackle its most prominent social issues by the year 2030. In 2021, the EU created the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, a plan that targets social inequality on the continent. The plan includes various principles and goals that the EU hopes to achieve by the year 2030. For the plan to succeed, leaders all across will need to take responsibility and cooperate to improve social conditions on the continent.

20 Key Principles

The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan targets 20 key principles that it highlights in three chapters. The first chapter focuses on making jobs more accessible to more people in Europe. It includes principles like gender equality and equal opportunities. Meanwhile, chapter two is about working conditions to ensure that conditions are fair for Europe’s employees to create a healthy, secure and productive work environment. This chapter identifies principles such as wages and work-life balance.

The final chapter is the longest of the three as it contains 10 of the 20 principles. It prioritizes inclusion for all citizens regardless of age, gender, economic status and more. A few of the principles that comprise chapter 3 are health care, social protection and minimum income.

Ambitious Goals

In addition to the 20 key principles, the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan also includes three “ambitious targets” for the EU to reach by 2030. The first of these goals is to have at least 78% of the population between the ages of 20 to 64 employed. In 2020, Europe had an employment rate of 72.4%. To reach that 78% mark, Europe would have to raise its employment rate by 0.56% each year of the decade.

The second target is to have at least 60% of adults participating in training. This includes educational learning and job training. According to the European Commission, 37% of adults were in training in 2016. If the EU intends to achieve its goal, this number will have to nearly double by 2030.

The third and final goal is to have a reduction of at least 15 million people that are at risk of poverty or exclusion. In 2019, there were 91 million people that were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. If the EU can achieve this goal, it would make for a 16.5% decrease in this area.

The Timeline

 As mentioned before, the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan sets goals for the year 2030; and, it also sets out smaller objectives to reach each year before then. Currently, the plan lists specified goals up until the year 2025. More goals for the following years will likely be added as the decade progresses.

For 2021 and 2022, there are many objectives that the EU hopes to reach. For example, 2021’s list of goals includes a plan of action for the “social economy,” an “employment report” and a “skills and talent package.” In 2022, the EU is looking to propose various work-related initiatives as well as achieve other goals.

The next three years only contain one or two goals each. The first report on “essential services” and the European Social Security Pass (ESSPASS) will be complete in 2023. The year 2024 will evaluate the European Labor Authority and 2025 will review the Action Plan as a whole.

Steps That the EU Has Already Taken

So far, the EU has already made significant progress toward reaching its goals. Some goals reached completion before the EU created its Action Plan. For example, in 2020, the EU had already implemented multiple social equality strategies and a “skills agenda.”

In addition to these, other initiatives have emerged to help the EU with the action plan. In 2021, the European Commission started the first stage of its consultation of social partners to improve working conditions across the continent.

The year 2021 also saw Europe make strides toward improving equality. The Commission created a strategy regarding the rights of people with disabilities. This strategy works toward the goal of making sure that none of Europe’s population experiences exclusion from society. As Europe goes further into the decade, it can expect to see many progressive movements and changes that will surely improve the continent’s state of social equality.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Among the Roma Population

Out of the many ethnic minorities that live in Eastern Europe, the Roma population often faces discrimination. While progress has been made to limit this discrimination and better integrate the people, there has still been little success. Here are eight facts about poverty among the Roma population in Romania and what is being done to solve the problem.

8 Facts About Poverty Among the Roma Population in Romania

  1. Romania‘s Roma population consists of 2.5 million people out of a total population of 19 million. The Roma are the biggest ethnic minority in Romania and at least 90 percent live on or below the poverty line.
  2. Roma people often have trouble finding housing. The housing problem stems from cities like Bucharest not having enough housing for low income families. With the fall of the Soviet Union, many of the social housing programs that provided housing for the Roma went down with the communist regime, leaving many Roma homeless, especially in Bucharest. Many other Roma families that have lived in large cities have also found themselves being evicted due to unsanitary or unsafe conditions.
  3. Only one in five Roma children attend school. Poor financial situations and a lack of support leave Roma children malnourished, wearing dirty clothing and lacking school supplies, making them unfit to go to school, which contributes to the discrimination.
  4. Most Roma families live in homes without any drinking water or heating. In addition, half of Roma families live off of 3.3 euros per day. However, the Romanian government is taking steps to amend this issue by pushing forward a 100 million euro plan to better integrate the Roma community within the rest of the population and thus reduce poverty as a whole by 2020.
  5. The European Commission is making it their goal to better integrate the Roma community with the rest of the population by continuing a long term project that started in 2010. The program targets all Romanians in Europe works to solve issues with housing segregation, education levels, health improvement and general discrimination.
  6. The E.U. reportedly allocated 10 billion euros on regional development to be spent between 2014 and 2020 with a portion dedicated to assist the the Roma community. Despite this, the situation for the Roma community has yet to have any sufficient changes partially due to insufficient checks by the E.U. on how the Romanian government is using this money.
  7. Of the 10,000 or more street children that live in the Romanian capital Bucharest, about 80 percent of these children are Roma, which further contributes to discrimination. A lot of this is due to the overhaul of the social work and family advocacy systems with the fall of the Soviet Union and communist regime led to a poor or lacking systems that help homeless children and broken families in need of aid.
  8. There are programs at work that seem to be more efficient in leveling the playing field for the Roma community on a level playing field. The Fundația Secretariatul Romilor (FSR), after forming in 2009, has taken steps to help Romania’s Roma community by pushing an awareness campaign to bring outsider attention to the Roma situation, as well as improving the community’s public image through social inclusion programs. Despite doing their best to make headway, the government of Romania has shown resistance to some of their solutions, even with the FSR going as far as to work with NGOs.

These eight facts about poverty among the Roma population in Romania show how poverty seriously affects not just Roma in Romania, but in all of Eastern Europe. While it’s clear that outside influencers are seeking to improve the Roma situation, the main government within Romania seems resistant in solving the problem. With awareness, time and successful government programs, Romania can really help the Roma community.

– Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Hunger in Venezuela

Food shortages across Venezuela started to rise in 2013, around the time of President Hugo Chávez’s death. Less than a year later, the nation’s oil-dependent economy began to tank and inflation began to soar. Venezuela could no longer afford the cost of its imported basic goods, resulting in nationwide shortages in food and medicine. While the nation’s instability worsens, people are going hungry in Venezuela. Here are the top seven facts about hunger in Venezuela.

7 Facts About Hunger in Venezuela

  1. In 2017, 89.4 percent of Venezuelan households could not afford basic food supplies due to inflation and six out of 10 Venezuelans reported going to bed hungry. In February 2019, peak inflation in food prices hit a staggering 371,545.6 percent and high rates are continuing throughout 2019.
  2. Due to hunger in Venezuela, malnourishment is quite common. The United Nations reported that nearly 3.7 million Venezuelans suffered from malnourishment in 2018.
  3. Mass weight loss is also common across Venezuela as 64.3 percent of Venezuelans lost weight due to food shortages in 2017. Venezuelans who lost weight dropped an average of 11.4 kg each since the shortages began. 
  4. Available food supplies all too often end up on the black market and are sold by bachaqueros. Bachaqueros buy subsidized goods at government-set prices, then sell those goods at double, even triple, the original price, taking advantage of struggling communities. This illegal practice is exacerbated by Venezuela’s compounded crises.
  5. Without easy access to affordable food supplies, some Venezuelans resort to using alternative resources. For example, the yuca root can replace potatoes, which is a similar, yet far cheaper vegetable. In more desperate cases, scavenging for scraps has also become popular.
  6. Although President Nicolás Maduro has rejected many types of humanitarian aid, including extensive efforts to send food supplies, the government has accepted aid from nonpartisan groups. In 2018 alone, Cuatro Por Venezuela, one of the largest relief suppliers, sent 41,804 pounds of food to Venezuela, amounting to 120,000 standard meals for people in need. These supplies are distributed directly to schools, orphanages, nursing homes and homeless shelters all over Venezuela.
  7. In addition to nonpartisan NGOs, international government groups, such as the European Commission (EC), allocated another €50 million to the crisis in Venezuela, along with additional food supplies and nutritional services in March 2019. 

As food shortages continue and people remain hungry, these seven facts about hunger in Venezuela show that the country is in a clear humanitarian crisis. While there are aid efforts out there, supplies must be sent in as nonpartisan support. So long as aid efforts adhere to this restriction, there is hope for hunger relief in Venezuela.

—Suzette Shultz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Foreign aid is a broad term that defines the assistance of one country to another, usually a developed country helping another nation. This assistance can be monetary or otherwise and can be intended for many different purposes or reasons.

The origins of foreign aid in the United States stem from the Marshall Plan and the U.S. assisting Europe in its post-World War II recovery. More recently, the United States Agency for International Development’s stated mission is to help fledgling democracies and end extreme poverty.

Most people in the U.S. believe that foreign aid is substantially higher than its actual value, which is equivalent to or lower than one percent of the federal budget. The money sent to other countries as aid is fairly small for the U.S., yet it is capable of producing a host of benefits for the recipient countries.

Humanitarian assistance is the most common reason for giving foreign aid. The recent earthquake in Nepal triggered a response by USAID whose contribution of over $47 million have been used to help with disaster relief in the region. Other reasons for humanitarian-related aid include extreme poverty, hunger and the effort to improve global health by fighting preventable, communicable diseases that are common in the developing world.

Infrastructural development is a commonly cited purpose for aid dollars. China, for example, has been investing heavily on infrastructure in Africa, including a $15 million aid deal with Sierra Leone for fiber optics installations. This investment is only one example of how aid is used to build communications, transportation, medical and other critical infrastructure in order to help facilitate economic growth and development.

Aid earmarked for education assists countries while preparing them to be more independent. Aid programs often focus primarily on improving access to education, which can be a limiting factor for education’s effectiveness. These programs also target teachers’ training in order to improve the quality and impact of the education being provided. Building human capital by establishing skills such as basic literacy cannot be underestimated.

In the past eight years, the European Union Commission has invested well over four billion euros in improving education and literacy in multiple developing countries. They were able to put at least nine million children into schools and train hundreds of thousands of teachers in order to improve standards of education. Rudimentary reading and writing skills that are taken for granted in developed countries can change the lives of those in developing countries where literacy rates are low. Literacy can be thought of as a gateway toward further human capital and economic development.

Foreign aid can also be motivated by strategic and geopolitical forces. Helping other countries can leverage support for the gifting nation or help build strong relationships in a certain region.

Israel received the most foreign aid from the U.S. in its 2012 fiscal year. Though Israel does not face the same low literacy rates or high levels of poverty as countries in Africa, there are strong geopolitical motivations that have led to this phenomenon. In addition, five of the top ten recipients of aid in the same year were from the Middle East. Some states in the region are rife with war and turmoil. As a result, the U.S. provides foreign aid to help these states recover from the damages of war or to aid in creating and sustaining stability across the region as a whole.

Developed countries are in a position to help those in foreign countries who are in need of assistance. Foreign aid is an essential and fairly pain-free way for developed countries to fight against global poverty and support global health, education and peace.

– Martin Yim

Sources: USAID 1, RAND, Washington Post, Aid Data, USAID 2, European Commission, ABC News USAID
Photo: Georgetown Public Policy Review

The European Union has proposed a new law to address Europe’s growing migration crisis after months of criticism and accusations of inaction. For several years, migrants have been making the dangerous journey from Africa, Asia and the Middle East across the Mediterranean into Europe. Thousands drown along the way.

The situation has become particularly bad this year as conflicts in Africa and the Middle East have sent more migrants seeking asylum. A record 1,800 people have died trying to make the crossing since the beginning of the year. Italy, Malta and Greece, the primary landing points, are struggling to cope with the influx of refugees.

The European Commission has proposed a new quota system to house the refugees across Europe. It requires EU members to accept a certain number of refugees based on their population, GDP, unemployment rate and current number of asylum applications. The Commission is also exploring ways to crack down on traffickers and assist migrants in making the crossing safely.

Under EU law, asylum seekers are legally entitled to remain in Europe. Economic migrants are not, but this rule has been loosely enforced and many are allowed to stay anyway. The European Commission is also working to improve cooperation with countries of origin to improve deportation procedures for those who do not qualify for asylum to avoid taking in too many people.

The new proposals have proven controversial, particularly the quota system. Critics say the EU is attempting to force countries already struggling with a large influx of immigrants to take in even more. There are fears the law could lead to an anti-immigrant backlash and boost public support for parties on the far-right.

Several EU governments have publicly voiced opposition to the law. The United Kingdom has been the most vocal opponent of the plan, but since it has an opt out clause as part of its agreement with the EU, the quota system will most likely not apply to it. Several eastern and central European countries have also voiced their opposition, including Estonia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

The U.K. Tory government also opposes the measures aimed at tackling human trafficking and helping immigrants across the Mediterranean, saying it will just encourage more to make the journey.

But many other European governments are in favor, including Germany, Italy, Greece and Austria. France has sent mixed messages, with some high ranking officials expressing support and others expressing opposition, but most expect it to vote in favor of the law. Since most of the large EU members back it, the law is expected to pass. It remains to be seen how it will be implemented and whether it will adequately address the problem.

– Matt Lesso

Sources: BBC, France24, New York Times, BBC
Photo: Flickr