Posts

About Poverty in Israel
A steadfast ally of the United States and one of the most influential countries in the Middle East, Israel has played a key role in global politics and technology. For millennia, Jewish people experienced persecution as a minority across Europe, with others often using them as convenient scapegoats in times of crisis. This culminated in the Holocaust, a genocidal campaign that Nazi Germany waged to exterminate the Jewish population. Millions died and the collective suffering forced upon the Jewish people led to calls for a Jewish state in the Middle East. Several facts about poverty in Israel illustrate the progress the nation has made over the years, despite its history of conflict and strife.

Dividing the Palestinian Territory

The British answered these calls when it divided the Palestinian territory in two: one half for the Jewish population and the other for Palestinians. Israel began as a majority Jewish and democratic state. Once again, however, the Jewish population faced a lack of acceptance by their neighbors. Arab countries attacked Israel on numerous occasions, seeking to expel them from the region. All the while, a growing conflict simmered between the Israelis and Palestinians that would come to be a defining issue in international relations for decades to come.

More recently, Israel has successfully emerged as a highly developed country, equipped with world-beating technology industry. Acceptance has risen among its Arab neighbors through the signing of the Abraham Accords, which featured the normalization of relations between Israel and several Gulf states.

Still, the conflict with the Palestinians is ongoing with no clear end in sight, and Israel has one of the highest rates of poverty for an OECD country. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has now added further uncertainty to an already tenuous situation. Uncertain times lie ahead.

5 Facts About Poverty in Israel

  1. Poverty is rising. OECD studies indicate that Israel has the highest poverty rate of all developed countries. In 2013, roughly 21% of the population lived below the poverty line. This was slightly higher than Mexico, which had a poverty rate of 20%. Preliminary estimates also show the situation getting worse, not better. In 1995, the same figure was only 14%. For the same period in the United States, poverty remained stagnant, again suggesting less encouraging trends for Israel than in other developed countries. Still, the overall rate of extreme poverty — $1.90 a day or less — remains low, just 0.2% in 2016. This is an increase from 0% in 1979, albeit small.
  2. Life expectancy is high in Israel. Despite its ongoing struggle to alleviate poverty, Israel has one of the highest standards of living on Earth. From a low of 71 years in 1969, Israel has made dramatic strides to improve life expectancies for both men and women. In 2019, the Israeli life expectancy of 83 years was much higher than the 79 years in the United States, even approaching the Japanese average of 84 years, the highest rate in the world.
  3. Israel is one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Measured in GDP (PPP) per capita, Israel in 2020 was almost four times better off than the typical emerging economy and more than two times as prosperous as China, the mainstay of the developing world.
  4. Israeli economic growth is unusually fast for a developed country. In the last two decades of the 20th century, Israeli economic growth was record-beating, peaking at 10% in 1995 — a rate only exceeded by large developing nations like China. In the 2000s, Israeli growth has slowed but still remains faster than many of its counterparts. Then, in 2019, shortly before COVID-19 sent the global economy spiraling into recession, the Israeli economy expanded by 3.4%, faster than the United States, Japan and Germany.
  5. The disposable income gap — the amount of money citizens retain after taxes — is widening. Along with growing poverty, the last cloud in the sky is income inequality. Since 1986, the Israeli Gini coefficient for disposable income has increased, leading to a higher rate of inequality than the United States, Germany, Britain and France.

Looking Ahead

The country’s weaknesses are twofold: growing poverty and income inequality. Both challenges exacerbate one another and show no signs of abating. However, unlike many nations, Israel has a strong foundation to build from. Israel possesses some of the highest standards of living and enjoys steady economic growth. Additionally, the country is receiving help from other avenues too. NGOs have cropped up across the country with dedicated missions of poverty reduction. One of the largest is Pitchon Lev, founded in 1998 and active in 50 individual municipalities within Israel. For more than two decades, the organization has worked directly with the poor, providing food and key necessities to 250,000 people a year. Going forward, the rise of these organizations can help turn the tide and usher in a brighter period for Israel.

– Zachary Lee
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Mongolia
As more individuals receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, countries are beginning to loosen restrictions imposed due to the virus. Toward the end of July 2021, England relaxed its travel restrictions by allowing fully vaccinated travelers across the European Union and the United States to visit England without quarantining. Similarly, the U.S. currently plans to relax international travel regulations for fully vaccinated foreigners and citizens. However, not all nations are in a position to act as England and the U.S. have. Reporting an average of nearly 2,900 new infections every day, COVID-19 continues to make its presence known in Mongolia. Grappling with a declining economy and poor infrastructure, many Mongolian civilians have entered or remained in poverty since March 2020. Fortunately, organizations within the United States and abroad engaged in relief efforts to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Mongolia.

The Connection Between Poverty and COVID-19 in Mongolia

While Mongolia boasts fewer cases than Asian counterparts like India and Indonesia, trends indicate rising infection numbers and daily deaths. On March 28, 2021, the average number of new infections was 321. However, the number rose to about 3,700 new infections on September 25, 2021. To emphasize the rapid rates at which coronavirus is spreading in Mongolia, the U.S. Department of State assigned a level four advisory to Mongolia on July 6, urging civilians not to travel to the country.

One of the most devastating impacts of COVID-19 in Mongolia lies in its economic effects. The Mongolian economy suffered its worst hit since the 1990s with a 5.3% contraction in 2020, primarily due to reduced trade with China. This came from closed borders and low demand for fossil fuels, critical elements of the typically lucrative mining industry. Concerning the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Mongolia, between 195,000 and 260,000 more individuals fell into poverty due to the pandemic. The poverty rate also increased by more than 5%, from 28.4% in 2018 to 33.6% in 2020.  Additionally, approximately 35.2% of suffering Mongolian households reported income decline and financial issues in 2020, indicating the pandemic’s widespread influence.

Poverty, COVID-19 and Children in Mongolia

Poverty affects children, as initial school closures and reduced capacity for childcare impacted more than 900,000 children under 18, who make up almost a third of the country’s population. Alongside reduced access to education, a UNICEF report highlights how physical abuse of children rose by 32.9% in Mongolia. A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information describes how increased rates of abuse likely reflect how the pandemic forced thousands of parents into unemployment and children out of school, leading to a significant connection between job loss and child maltreatment. Food insecurity also provided a challenge to children and families within the nation as surveys indicate that 62.1% of children endured weight loss because of inadequate access to vitamins and nutrient-rich food. Additionally, 20.3% of children experienced decreased frequency of meals.

Humanitarian Relief Efforts

While increased economic decline, child abuse and food insecurity represent the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on poverty, relief efforts highlight the positive collaboration between countries that helps lift Mongolians out of poverty. For one, Japan “extend $883 million yen,” or roughly $8 million U.S. dollars, to Mongolia earlier this month. The Japan International Cooperation Agency aims to equip the nation with cold chain technology, like refrigerated vehicles to transport vaccines, to ensure vaccine distribution.

Additionally, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced the opening of capacity development centers in Mongolia in February 2021. Both virtual and physical, these centers will help eradicate poverty by bolstering economic development across Central Asia, the Caucasus and Mongolia. Certain organizations like the Asian Development Bank extended aid to specifically address food insecurity caused by COVID-19 in Mongolia. In October 2020, the bank administered a $410,000 “technical assistance” grant to combat supply distributions by establishing price monitoring systems and food emergency stock.

Despite challenges presented by the pandemic, Mongolia has proven to be resilient. Projections have determined that with the help of global aid, the economy should recover throughout 2021, and the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Mongolia could lessen.

– Riya Sharma
Photo: Unsplash

President Hichilema
In August 2021, Zambia elected a new president, Hakainde Hichilema, who will replace the incumbent President Edgar Lungu. Based on the results of the August 12 elections, Hichilema will serve as the Republic of Zambia’s seventh president. Previously, President Hilchilema ran five unsuccessful campaigns. However, the election saw a strong turnout among voters between the ages of 18 and 24 and Hichilema’s victory marks a new era for a nation that is in dire need of economic growth.

Zambia’s Dire State

Zambia is struggling economically as it became the first African nation to default on its debt in the coronavirus era in 2019. The country was experiencing a recession prior to the COVID-19 pandemic due to a steep decline in commodity prices. Since then, the country has struggled to pay off its international debts. With the onset of the pandemic, which further slowed the nation’s economy, the country accumulated roughly $12 billion in external debt. Additionally, $3 billion of this debt comes from international bonds and large loans from Chinese state-owned lenders. The country is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while currently awaiting word on a $13 billion bailout.

Zambia’s poverty rate currently sits around 58%, significantly higher than the 41% rate for all of Sub-Saharan Africa. As a nation that faces massive challenges in the form of international debt and domestic poverty, the world is curious to know what Hichilema’s election means for poverty in Zambia.

Hichilema’s Story

President Hichilema himself is a witness to the challenges that many rural Zambians experience. He refers to himself as a “cattle boy,” coming from a humble upbringing raising livestock. His personal story is one of success despite poverty. Having earned a scholarship to the University of Zambia, and later studying in England, Hichilema is now one of Zambia’s wealthiest people. He made a fortune as a businessman in various endeavors, from finance and property to tourism and healthcare.

Many young voters flocked to his voting camp with this story in mind. His agricultural roots appealed to many of the nation’s farmers. Likewise, his economic-minded platform addresses the country’s foremost needs that many citizens feel former President Lungu worsened.

What Can President Hichilema Accomplish?

One of Hichilema’s economic strategies under his administration is to take advantage of Zambia’s natural resources. The country is Africa’s second-leading producer of copper. Copper is becoming more advantageous economically as companies and industries move away from fossil fuel energy. Additionally, new technologies like electric vehicles rely on critical minerals like copper. The mining sector accounts for roughly three-quarters of Zambia’s export revenue.

Zambia’s political history in the mining industry has been testy. Under the Lungu regime, the government consolidated mines and created state-owned quarries, mostly as a ploy to maintain Lungu’s political power. Furthermore, foreign investors looking to capitalize on the unstable nation might be able to swoop in and cut safety requirements, leading to further crises.

By reexamining the mining codes and regulations, Hichilema has an opportunity to create long-term capital investments, jobs and economic growth. Other countries like Madagascar called on the World Bank to act as a third-party mediator between industry and government in the mining industry. Such a strategy could help Zambia take advantage of a booming copper market and assist in addressing the nation’s poverty needs.

With the new presidency of Hakainde Hichilema comes a new opportunity to reduce poverty in Zambia. Hichilema has shown a dedication to improving these conditions throughout his campaign and his ability to follow through on these promises and successfully manage Zambia’s mining industry could drive down poverty in the nation.

– Sam Dils
Photo: Flickr

National Payments System in SomaliaThe Somali government recently secured support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to create a central payments system that will aid in rebuilding Somalia’s economy. Millions of Somalis have suffered for the preceding two decades as a result of insufficient economic infrastructure. The combination of economic distress due to widespread counterfeiting, displacement as a result of climate-related pressures and the ensuing threat of al Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist organization, has left Somalia decimated. The national payments system in Somalia presents a glimmer of hope in the fight against widespread poverty in Somalia.

National Payments System

A national payments system simply refers to the infrastructure within a specified country or locality that allows for commercial and financial transactions to occur. This includes a network of banks and a messaging and routing system. The system protects the information and transactions of the public, secures their finances and acts as an avenue into the global economy. A national payments system is essential to the efficacy of national economies and their involvement on a global financial scale.

Until recently, Somalia existed without a national payments system. Domestic financial transactions largely used the U.S. dollar given the prevalence of counterfeit currency in the use of Somali shillings and that little to no domestic financial infrastructure was in place. This financial foundation hamstrung the Somali people and economy to the whim of exterior powers that provided such infrastructure in its most rudimentary form. During this period, Somalia has been in civil war, riddled with environmental decay and stifled by the threat of al Shabaab.

All of the aforementioned conditions created an economic situation in which 64% of the population lives in absolute poverty in Somalia. The national payments system presents a monumental step toward economic progress.

What the Future Holds

With the introduction of a national payments system in Somalia, the Central Bank of Somalia Governor Abdirahman M. Abdullahi stated that “the impact on the economy will be unprecedented. It will boost trade and business… and will enable more financial inclusion in a secure and safe manner.”

The Central Bank of Somalia has also issued its first Visa card and its first mobile phone-centered financial system. During this time, the government has additionally increased its regulation and production of the Somali shilling. All these financial advancements have boosted the IMF’s predictions of Somali economic growth to 2.9% in the next year.

Further Humanitarian Developments

In addition to the progress brought by the national payments system in Somalia, the Somali government has recently passed election and healthcare reform bills to increase equity in their political and social infrastructure.

The National Elections Security Committee, a newly founded governmental body, has begun work on a new initiative to guarantee that at least 30% of the electorate consists of Somali women. The committee has additionally begun numerous programs to protect election integrity and voter privacy.

Support from international bodies ranging from the World Bank to the IMF is essential to the efficacy of domestic progress in Somalia. On the other hand, it is important to note from where the motivation for such changes has arisen.

It was not international groups that began the charge for Somali advancement. Rather, the impetus for this progress came from domestic pressure, not foreign assistance. Through the example that Somalia set, one can easily grasp the potential for self-sufficient humanitarian growth. All the changes are recent and will hopefully be immediately impactful in the global and domestic effort to end poverty in Somalia.

– Jonah Issac Stern
Photo: Flickr


Tajikistan is a landlocked country within Central Asia and the poorest Central Asian country to emerge from the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2019, Tajikistan had a national poverty rate of more than 26% and an extreme poverty rate of 11%. To reduce poverty at home, young Tajik men in particular travel abroad to countries such as Russia to work and send their earnings home to their families. In 30%-40% of households in Tajikistan, at least one member works abroad and sends funds home. As a result, the country’s economy has become heavily dependent on the money its migrant workers bring in. Remittances to Tajikistan in 2017 were equivalent to nearly 35% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Now, with the spread of COVID-19, the economy is struggling to recover from restricted travel abroad.

Remittances in the Short Term

Remittances to Tajikistan are a major source of revenue for the country. Yet, they have both positive and negative economic implications. Remittances are often beneficial in the short term as a lifeline to the poor. They essentially provide the means by which the poor can purchase basic goods and services to lift themselves out of poverty. Moreover, more than 80% of remittances to Tajikistan go toward essentials like food, clothing and shelter. Still, the lack of economic opportunity at home leaves little room for the Tajik people, particularly those in rural areas, to thrive independently.

Remittances in the Long Term

Economic dependence on remittances to Tajikistan opens up the country to risk in the long term. Tajikistan’s economy so heavily intertwines with Russia’s that it leaves itself at the mercy and political goodwill of Russia. Additionally, the dependency also exposes Tajikistan’s economy to external shocks from Russia’s economy. While Russia may recover from these shocks, Tajikistan itself may not. Furthermore, Tajikistan’s dependence on remittances reduces the incentive for the Tajik government to create programs that help develop the country’s own domestic economy.

Remittances in the Pandemic

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian imposed lockdown caused the Tajik economy to suffer. Now, Tajikistan is slowly trying to recover from those economic damages. Russia’s lockdown meant that Tajik laborers in Russia suffered a decrease in work opportunities and thus, a fall in income. In addition, it also restricted Tajik migrants from traveling to Russia to work and earn the money they need to support their families. In the spring of 2020, President Emomali sought financial aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because remittances to Tajikistan from Russia declined by 50%.

The faltering economy hit the poor in Tajikistan especially hard. The World Bank has reported that around 40% of Tajikistan’s population reduced the consumption of food during the peak of the pandemic and that the fall in the value of remittances could push the poverty rate even higher. However, the international community and the Tajik government are working to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the state of migrant workers.

Solutions

USAID and the World Bank are a few organizations working to help get Tajikistan’s economy back on track. USAID began providing assistance to Tajikistan in 1992, and its work continues today. To help build Tajikistan’s domestic economy and decrease its dependence on remittances, USAID is supporting the expansion of the private sector in a variety of ways. For example, USAID supplied technical assistance to 7,906 individuals and generated 2,409 jobs in the dairy and horticulture practices.

In April 2020, the World Bank also approved a grant of $11.3 million for the Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 Project to provide aid. This will go toward providing emergency cash assistance to poor households and strengthening the country’s healthcare capacity.

The Tajik government is also working to ameliorate the economic fallout from COVID-19. For example, the government offered a number of targeted social assistance programs, deferred tax collections and relaxed monetary policy. Deferring tax payments provided households and firms with the additional support they needed to finance temporary disruptions in cash flow. Additionally, the government’s targeted social assistance programs increased public sector wages and pensions by 10%-15%. Still, the government is doing little to diversify the Tajik economy to avoid economic disaster in the future. It needs to implement domestic economic policies that encourage private sector development. Additionally, policies that help maintain a stable environment for that private sector activity are necessary. These solutions would help businesses thrive in Tajikistan and decrease their dependence on remittances.

Looking Forward

The COVID-19 pandemic changed Tajikistan’s economy and the lives of the Tajik poor. However, the country should still be able to rebound. The Asian Development Bank predicts that Tajikistan’s GDP growth rate may reach 5% by the end of 2021 from a pre-pandemic growth rate of 7.5%. Thus, Tajikistan may still reach the target it set in its National Development Strategy up to 2030. The strategy sets a target of increasing domestic incomes by up to 3.5 times by 2030 and reducing poverty in half. Should the Tajik government grant the private sector more opportunities to invest, create jobs, and thus, contribute to the economy, it may very well attain this goal.

– Savannah Algu
Photo: Unsplash

Distributing Foreign Aid
No unitary world body is responsible for coordinating and distributing foreign aid. Foreign aid efforts generally consist of bilateral or multilateral aid. One country directly grants bilateral aid to another, while several countries pool resources together before joint-delivering multilateral aid. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an example of a bilateral aid organization because only the United States is part of its decision-making process. A strong example of a multilateral aid donor would be the United Nations or the World Bank, where the organizations themselves exercise a strong degree of autonomy over distributing foreign aid.

International Cooperation in Foreign Aid

The World Bank, United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are some of the biggest agenda-setters in foreign aid. While they all operate independently, each contributes to a shared effort and common understanding in achieving their goals.

In 2012, the United Nations convened a large conference to set targets and an agenda for goals in sustainable development by 2030. Of its 17 development goals and 169 targets, poverty topped the list and contained seven targets. The conference determined the most significant and salient issues relating to sustainable development until 2030. In support of this common objective, OECD also incorporated a platform regarding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This exemplifies how one organization’s agenda can cross over and influence agendas that others set.

The Coordination Efforts of the OECD

The OECD advises the distribution and implementation of effective foreign aid flow among the aid members of its Development Assistant Committee (DAC). Within many different frameworks and groups, OECD utilizes a “gold standard” for foreign aid called Official Development Assistance (ODA). Since 1969, the largest countries convened within the DAC have adopted ODA as their primary source of distributing foreign aid. The definition of ODA is a complicated matter, because, for instance, the countries that are eligible for ODA change over time. Regardless, distributing foreign aid undergoes careful optimization to promote and target economic development and welfare in developing countries. These repercussions are wide-ranging. International bodies from the World Bank to the U.N. respect the standards that the OECD sets.

The OECD utilizes a top-down approach to achieving broader development and aid objectives. The organization regularly measures and assesses its progress in implementing its objectives. This includes providing advice to member countries. In its report on “Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets,” it provided member countries with an assistive overview of strengths and weaknesses when it comes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the U.N. set. Such feedback helps countries stay on track to best reach the goals. Overall, the study revealed uneven progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. Some targets, such as infrastructure experienced near achievement, but other targets rated medium to low progress.

The World Bank

The World Bank is something of a twin to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, instead of preventing and dealing with financial catastrophes like the IMF, “the [World] Bank is primarily a development institution.” One can see the international links when the World Bank discusses ODA while considering foreign aid flows.

In 2021, one of the World Bank’s primary objectives is to soften the economic blow of COVID-19. It plans to deploy up to $160 billion by June 2021 in support of countries’ responses to the virus. For example, the World Bank provided nearly 7,000 infection, prevention and control supplies and more than 31,000 personal protective equipment to Papua New Guinea. In Ghana, it supported the training of thousands of health professionals and technicians. Today, the World Bank is the largest external financier of education in developing countries. In its 2020 annual report, the World Bank estimated that the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, would contribute to the creation of at least 1.9 million jobs through the projects it financed in the fiscal year 2020.

Looking Forward

Thanks to organizations such as the World Bank, the U.N. and OECD, foreign aid benefits from higher levels of cooperation than ever. While no unitary body exists to overlook aid distribution, these organizations are filling the gap. Their efforts foster hope for even greater effectiveness in distributing foreign aid.

– Marshall Wu
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

3RF: Helping Lebanon Recover from the Beirut Explosion
The United Nations has announced a new plan to support Lebanon after Beirut’s deadly explosion in August 2020. Operating in conjunction with the World Bank and the European Union, the U.N. has named its program 3RF, short for “Reform, Recovery[ ] and Reconstruction Framework.” Lebanon has long struggled under the weight of political and economic crises, which the explosion in its capital city only exacerbated. Therefore, 3RF comes as an effort from the international community to improve conditions in Lebanon over the long term.

An Explosion in the Capital

Shortly after 6 p.m. local time on August 4, 2020, a colossal explosion at Beirut’s port sent shockwaves rippling through the city. The disaster killed 200 people, injured thousands more and rendered approximately 300,000 individuals—out of the city’s total population of 2 million—homeless and destitute.

Officials have since identified the cause of the explosion as 2,750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate, a chemical found in fertilizer. A welding project in one of the port’s warehouses sparked a fire that triggered the blast.

Shockwaves blew out windows at Beirut International Airport five miles away, and scientists from the United States Geological Survey reported that these equated to a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. Besides destroying commercial buildings and residential properties, the explosion also incapacitated three major hospitals and more than 24 clinics. Victims flooded the remaining healthcare centers, placing further strain on a system already contending with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economic Crisis

Unfortunately, Lebanon was beset by problems before the August 2020 explosion. Public discontent has simmered for years, stoked by political corruption, economic hardship and a government struggling to provide services like reliable power and clean drinking water.

In October 2019, following a foreign currency shortage and the eruption of major wildfires, the Lebanese government announced new taxes in a bid to raise desperately needed revenue. However, the Lebanese government scrapped the plans after large-scale protests gripped the country.

Then, after lockdown measures underwent implementation in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, Lebanon’s economic crisis worsened. As businesses had to fire employees or place them on furlough without pay, prices on basic goods rose to prohibitory levels. In May 2020, former Prime Minister Hassan Diab wrote in The Washington Post that much of the country’s population had ceased buying meat and fresh produce and that soon people would be unable to afford bread.

Poverty and Corruption

The blast in Beirut has significantly compounded the hardships that Lebanese people have faced. Many residents within the financial capital have experienced trauma, including older citizens for whom the explosion brought up memories of the violent Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Additionally, more than 55% of the country lives below the poverty line, almost doubling the percentage registered in 2019. Extreme poverty has also surged within the past year, rising from 8% to 23%.

Unfortunately, corruption among Lebanese political elites has meant the lack of a government-led recovery plan. Popular protests in the wake of revelations about mismanagement of the ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port led to the mass resignation of then Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government. Instead, volunteers and NGOs have spearheaded efforts to clean up the city. Funds raised abroad have gone straight to these NGOs on the ground, bypassing the Lebanese government due to the international community’s lack of trust in its leaders.

3RF and Lebanon’s future

The program 3RF aims to address the desperate situation in Lebanon. Announced at the recent International Conference in Support of the Lebanese People, the plan underscores urgent needs for political reform to solve the root causes of Lebanon’s economic crisis. Such reforms will facilitate recovery and reconstruction in the long run.

For his part, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called upon political leaders in Lebanon “to put aside partisan political interests and form a government that adequately protects and responds to the needs of the people.” The International Monetary Fund also promised to help but emphasized the importance of active participation from a legitimate Lebanese government during the reform process.

Conditions for Lebanon’s people have been difficult during 2020. Stemming from a spiraling economy and political corruption, the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port exacerbated these hardships. With thousands of people homeless and poverty rising, the U.N.’s 3RF will hopefully provide immediate relief while also laying the foundation for better governance in the future. Pressure from the international community can likewise encourage Lebanese leaders to form a new government and begin implementing necessary reforms.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Angola
Angola has struggled to recover from decades of civil war and economic turmoil, with over 40% of the population, mostly in rural areas, living in extreme poverty. However, recent innovations in poverty eradication in Angola have begun to help the once virulent nation gain stability. New technologies and funding from private companies, financial institutions and organizations have allowed Angola to modernize and combat extreme poverty. Here are three innovations in poverty eradication in Angola.

Open Data Platforms

Open data platforms are a way to gather large amounts of data, statistics and information from diverse and large groups to analyze potential problem areas. Governments and large organizations use this analysis to tackle identifiable issues head-on. For example, an investment group may notice a glaring need for communications upgrades in rural areas, which leads to the creation of jobs and infrastructure.

Open data is a recent innovation in poverty eradication in Angola and examines anything from economic growth to healthcare strategy. Through the International Monetary Fund’s Enhanced General Data Dissemination System, Angola set up its own National Summary Data Page at opendataforafrica.org in 2018. The African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offer the NSDP to Angola for free. Using key indicators through the NSDP, the IMF and other organizations utilize this information for transparency, economic investment opportunities and identifying necessary aid in Angola, which are ways the NSDP’s data collection can reduce poverty.

South Atlantic Cable System

Angola lacks a strong telecommunications network. Rural communities suffer the most due to decreased technological abilities in farming and irrigation and emergency medical services. But a revolutionary project may help. One of the most impressive innovations in poverty eradication in Angola is the South Atlantic Cable System. Developed by the telecommunications operator, Angola Cables, this submarine communications cable provides interconnectivity between Luanda, Angola and Angonap Fortaleza, Brazil. The SACS improves the telecommunications and information technology infrastructure in Angola while connecting fast communication services throughout Africa and South America.

Although Angola is still developing its ICT sector and job growth has remained stagnant, the SACS potential is exponential. Angola could use this project to establish the country as a leader in tech in sub-Saharan Africa. This would reduce Angola’s reliance on oil exports and drive IT education to encourage entrepreneurship and competition, leading to increased IT and communications jobs and eventual ICT expansion in rural Angola to reduce poverty and improve healthcare access.

Neighboring nations that lack IT infrastructure can reach out to Angola Cables and the Angolan government, launching international funds to Angola. The SACS also makes Angola a centralized location for data in the entire southern hemisphere. The premium digital connection is unrivaled, leading to even more considerable international interest in Angola as a tech hub.

Commercial Agriculture Development Project (PDAC)

Due to the Angolan Civil War, farming in Angola suffered from a lack of development and slow regrowth due to landmines. Agriculture also suffers due to persistent and unpredictable droughts in Angola. The Commercial Agriculture Development Project received funding from the World Bank in 2018 to improve the economic condition and technology in Angola’s rural areas, providing much-needed support to the most vulnerable people in Angola to improve domestic food security. Primarily directed at improving irrigation systems and infrastructure related to the electric grid, the PDAC receives funding through 2024 and supports developers’ creative solutions to these problems.

So far, the project has granted contracts and requests in 2020 for the following:

  • Creating innovative management systems for irrigated perimeters, which help water efficiency usage during periods of drought
  • Development of financial risk tools, like risk management software and microinsurance for at-risk communities to ensure oversight of food security
  • Geospatial electrification options to create renewable energy that people can use in rural areas
  • IT tools, such as tablets, drones and tech support for better agriculture analysis
  • Multiple feasibility studies

All of these contracts and requests have happened in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with the pace slowing to handle the pandemic, the PDAC has led to several innovations in poverty eradication in Angola. Developers have maintained a healthy advancement rate since the beginning of the project, and they will continue through 2024.

Angola’s Future

With all the new technology and projects, Angola will continue to reduce extreme poverty for large portions of its population. As the nation continues to establish a commercial agriculture program and the telecommunications sector, there is a reduced reliance on oil exports. Angola can continue to diversify its economic strategy allocating its vast resources for a bright future and eliminate extreme poverty.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Pixnio

Low-income pakistanis
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a major healthcare crisis in Pakistan and reversed years of efforts to eliminate poverty. The pandemic has also disproportionately affected low-income Pakistanis. The poverty rate in Pakistan declined from 64% to 24% in 2015 — after 20 years of progress. However, with the arrival of COVID-19, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the poverty rate will increase to 40%, reversing years of progress.

Who is Most Vulnerable?

The IMF also expects Pakistan’s GDP growth slow by 3% as a result of the pandemic. Agriculture accounts for 20% of Pakistan’s GDP and 43% of its labor force. The continuation of lockdowns with no end in sight is negatively affecting transportation, labor and the consumer market — which in turn, affects the millions of people working in the agriculture industry.

Children and youth amounting to 17 million are missing important vaccinations for diseases such as polio. Moreover, the pandemic has increased the number of people that suffer from food insecurity by several million, bringing up the total to 43 million. Those most at risk are the people that already exist below the poverty line including women, children, senior citizens, the disabled and minorities.

As more and more of these people fall below the poverty line, Pakistan is coming up with different digital solutions that can cater to the millions of people experiencing multidimensional poverty. Here are three digital solutions helping low-income Pakistanis.

3 Digital Tools Helping Low-income Pakistanis

  1.  The Ehsaas Program is a Pakistani government-launched scheme in 2019, to fight the nation’s prevailing poverty levels. With the coronavirus and lockdowns stifling the income of millions of daily wagers — the program quickly implemented a new project known as the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program. Under this program, low-income Pakistanis can gain access to financial assistance through text messaging. As of right now, the program is helping 12 million families throughout the country — providing stipends of 12,000 PKR each, which families are using to buy food rations.
  2. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is a federal scheme launched in 2008. Its purpose was to provide unconditional cash support to help alleviate struggling families living in poverty, in Pakistan. It remains the largest support program in Pakistan — distributing approximately 90 billion PKR to 5 million low-income Pakistanis. The program uses tools such as its BISP debit cards to make cash transfers convenient. The program notably helps women and low-income Pakistanis from minority groups gain access to financial assistance.
  3. The Kamyab Jawan Program is the first of its kind in Pakistan. Launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government, it is a program to provide assistance and resources to youth, on a national level. This platform provides opportunities to the country’s youth, ages 15–29. Some of the schemes that are under the Kamyab Jawan Program include youth empowerment programs, loans for youth entrepreneurs and startups, youth legislations as well as youth councils. Through this program, Pakistani youth are finally experiencing integration into civil institutions and capturing opportunities designed to lift them out of poverty.

A Need for Non-Digital Solutions

Collectively, these digital solutions, as well as other solutions implemented by NGOs and separate companies, help many low-income Pakistanis gain access to the necessary resources and assistance they require. This assistance enables low-income Pakistanis to help themselves, specifically during this time of need. However, Pakistan cannot solely rely on digital solutions to combat their poverty crisis. Many of its population do not have access to the necessary digital devices to access these solutions. People who lack internet access, as well as computers and smartphones, are at an obvious disadvantage when it comes to accessing these digital resources. Therefore, Pakistan must also look toward digital-alternative solutions for people who are not able to access these digital ones.

Abbas Raza
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Equatorial Guinea
Mariano Ebana Edu’s hit single, “Carta Al Presidente,” made big waves in 2013 for speaking up about poverty in Equatorial Guinea. In this passionate rap song, Edu, who performs under the name Negro Bey, criticizes President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s oppressive government for keeping its citizens in poverty. Although the oil-rich country has experienced rapid economic growth since the 1990s, rampant corruption and wealth inequality prevent large populations from reaping the benefits. Here is some information about poverty in Equatorial Guinea.

Wealth Inequality

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is a small country with a population of approximately 1.3 million located on the west coast of Central Africa. Although the country has become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s top five oil producers, poverty in Equatorial Guinea remains a major issue. Oil revenues have funded the luxurious lifestyle of President Obiang and his political elite while large populations still lack access to clean water and healthcare.

Human Development Report

Information about poverty in Equatorial Guinea can be difficult to find since Obiang’s government strictly controls the country’s media. In 2019, the United Nations Development Programme ranked Equatorial Guinea 144 out of 189 countries in its Human Development Report, combining life expectancy, education and per-capita income data. According to the U.N., more than half of Equatorial Guinea’s population still lacks access to clean water. UNICEF has found that 26% of the population uses unimproved drinking water sources, and only 66% have access to basic sanitation services.

Healthcare

Healthcare remains a major issue for people living in poverty in Equatorial Guinea, where diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS continue to be a threat. UNICEF estimates that in 2019, there were approximately 900 new cases of HIV in people ages 0-19 and 1,200 new cases in adolescents and young adults ages 15-24. Insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) are protective gear to help prevent the spread of malaria, but only 38% of households in Equatorial Guinea have at least one ITN. Meanwhile, 20% of children born in Equatorial Guinea die before the age of 5.

Aid and Progress

Enterprise for Development (EfD) is a U.K.-based organization working to eliminate poverty in Equatorial Guinea. EfD provides grants to poor farmers to help improve irrigation and ultimately create sustainable local enterprises with pro-poor benefits. 

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS is a leader in global coordination and advocacy to help end AIDS as a public health threat. Data from UNAIDS shows that in 2019, 23,000 people living with HIV in Equatorial Guinea had access to antiretroviral therapy (ART), and hundreds of expecting parents received prevention of mother-to-child transmission services (PMTCT).

In 2019, the International Monetary Fund approved a $280 million bailout to Equatorial Guinea. However, after credible accusations of high-level corruption President Obiang and his senior officials must reveal their private assets before the country can receive the full amount. Equatorial Guinea must also join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in an effort to fight corruption in its oil and gas industries. These reforms can help ensure that foreign aid goes directly to improving the lives of Equatorial Guinea’s poor.

– Stephanie Williams
Photo: Flickr