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homelessness in the Philippines
The Philippines is one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, yet it is facing a homeless crisis. There are approximately 4.5 million homeless people, including children, in the Philippines, which has a population of 106 million people. Homelessness in the Philippines is caused by a variety of reasons, including lost jobs, insufficient income or lack of a stable job, domestic violence and loss of home due to a natural disaster. The government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working to address this issue.

Causes of Homelessness

In the Philippines, families end up homeless for many reasons, including:

  • Poverty: Although the unemployment rate in the Philippines is low (5.3% in March of 2020), 16.6% of Filipinos’ wages remained below the country’s poverty line in 2018. Low income can make it difficult for many families in the Philippines, especially those living in Manila, to pay rent.
  • Domestic violence: Women and children in the Philippines are in danger of domestic abuse, exploitation and trafficking. Approximately one in five women between the ages 15-49 in the Philippines experience domestic violence in their life. Women who escape their abusive partners could lose their source of income and have difficulty finding a place to stay. Shelters for women tend to have long waiting list.
  • Human trafficking: In the Philippines, there are approximately 100,000 people trafficked each year. Many trafficked victims are promised jobs in the cities. However, after moving to a city, they are exploited and forced into prostitution.
  • Natural disasters: In addition, some families have lost their homes due to natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes and volcano eruptions. In 2019, more than 20 typhoons battered the Philippines. One of the typhoons that hit the country damaged over 500,000 houses. A volcano eruption that happened in January impacted half a million people and forced the relocation of 6,000 families.

Types of Homeless Families

According to the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Homeless Street Families (MCCT-HSF) program, homeless families fit into four different categories:

  • Families on the street: “Families on the street” represent 75% of the homeless population. They are families who earn their livelihood on the street, but eventually return to their original communities. This category includes both “displaced homeless families” and “community-based street families”.
  • Families of the street: “Families of the street” are families who live on the street for a long time and have created communities among themselves. They perform daily activities, like cooking, bathing or playing in the public spaces they live in. They are visible by their use of a “kariton,” also known as a pushcart that contains their family’s belongings, which they move around within Manila.
  • Displaced homeless families: “Displaced homeless families” are families who have lost their homes due to natural disasters or live in their communities. They are families who leave their rural communities of the Philippines to find a job in the cities. This category also may also include families and children who may be escaping abuses at home. Displaced homeless families may also push around a kariton that contains their personal belongings.
  • Community-based street families: “Community-based street families” are families who are from rural communities, but move to urban areas for a better way of life; however, they often end up returning to the rural area they are from.

Homeless Children

Homeless children are among the most vulnerable of the homeless in the Philippines. There are approximately 250,000 homeless children; however, that number could be as high as 1 million. Children leave home and end up on the streets because of the excessive beating from their parents, poverty or sexual exploitation.

When children are on the streets, they can face problems such as sexual exploitation, abuse and prostitution. Although victims of circumstances beyond their control, children who live on the street are often viewed as criminals or future criminals resulting in discrimination from the police. Additionally, to numb their pain and their hunger, some children may turn to drugs. Both the external and internal factors that children face make it very difficult for them to escape the street life.

Addressing Homelessness in the Philippines

The government, NGOs and religious institutions are working help the homeless. Government programs include the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Homeless Street Families program (MCCT-HSF). This program provides financial support, such as housing grants and funding for health and education, to homeless families in Metro Manila.

To help street children, ASMAE-Philippines travels the streets of Manila to teach kids on the basics of hygiene. The organization also provides children with school support, as well as supporting other NGOs in the area. Kanlungan sa ER-MA Ministry, Inc. is another organization that works to educate street children, though projects that teach children about hard work while providing them with an income.

Although the government and NGOs have made efforts to help the homeless population, much more still needs to be done. Moving forward, these initiatives need to be increased in order to significantly reduce homelessness in the nation.

– Joshua Meribole 
Photo: Flickr

financial inclusion through technologyIn 2018, 1.7 billion adults worldwide, nearly 1 adult out of 3, still live without basic financial transaction accounts.

For the 1.2 billion people who did open financial accounts between 2011 and 2018, the problem is that many do not actively use their account. For example, in India’s initiative of financial inclusion in the early 2010s, nearly 90percent of the 100 million accounts opened are dormant, unused, or closed.

These are some of the daunting statistics that pose key challenges for universal financial inclusion by 2020 set by the World Bank. The goal is clear: getting people to open and maintain financial accounts.

Why Financial Inclusion?

Before discussing the mechanics of reaching universal financial inclusion, particularly for impoverished people in developing countries, why the push for financial inclusion at all?

The World Bank has released several studies that closely link poverty reduction, economic growth, and access to digital or physical financial services. In particular, for developing countries, empowering small farmers, merchants, and villages through financial stability and services can significantly improve their livelihood and economic security.

Additionally, financial inclusion, particularly through less formal means such as through microfinance or rotating savings and credit associations, has a key role in reducing social inequality for rural, poorer populations and women in developing countries.

What Are The Solutions?

Particularly in Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, digital solutions to financial inclusion prove most successful. For example, a financial company in the Philippines, PayMaya, has opened doors to people across the country to allow new, emerging payment methods using QR codes. WeChat pay have partnered with a variety of businesses and mom-and-pop styled stores.

This strategy has worked, in part, due to the prevalence of smartphones in Philippines. The number of mobile phone users in the Philippines reached 74.2 million (out of a population 108.2 million), around 70 percent of the country’s population. PayMaya has also utilized the network of local vendors and merchants in the Philippines, which makes their service convenient and credible to impoverished populations who trust local merchants they have been going to for years.

Success in Indonesia

Indonesia is another success story of digital financial inclusion. For example, by making their G2P programs digital, welfare recipients receive payments directly to their digital accounts, which demonstrates the power that technology can have in reducing transaction costs and increasing convenience for those in need. Indonesia also has the regulatory framework to house a thriving banking industry and network of mobile operators. Indonesia has identified that 119 million adults are still excluded from financial services, but that, 100 million out of the 119 are smartphone users. So, the continued path forward for financial inclusion in Indonesia will be increased digitization of financial services.

What Is The Future of Financial Inclusion?

The examples of Indonesia and the Philippines shed light on broader discussions about financial inclusion from governmental organizations like the World Bank and companies like the International Finance Corporation. The success of Indonesia’s and the Philippines’ financial inclusion depends on lowering regulatory barriers, making financial options attractive and convenient, especially to poorer populations, and establishing strong social networks throughout the country.

Significant Barriers

These are exactly the barriers to reaching the last 1.7 billion excluded people, who are predominantly in developing countries. These populations often do not have enough money to open a bank account, lack the financial literacy to maintain a bank account, or simply do not trust brick and mortar institutions that do not have particular incentives to penetrate rural markets. Less formal means, such as microfinance or rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs), are more attractive because these systems pool money between trusted individuals, often friends or family, and allow people to save and borrow smaller amounts of funds that would not be enough to open a bank account.

World Bank Efforts

The World Bank has targeted several categories to develop over the coming years, such as creating a regulatory environment to enable access to transaction accounts, drive government-based solutions and programs for transaction accounts, focus on the disadvantaged, such as rural families and women, and digitize payments. The World Bank has identified 25 priority countries where nearly 70 percent of all financially excluded people live worldwide and are on track to reach 1 billion opened accounts by 2020.

From a corporate standpoint, PayMaya shows that financial inclusion offers a new, emerging market for financial and fintech companies, who have an economic incentive and profit motive for tapping into developing countries and helping to improve access to financial services. Digital finance has the potential to reach over 1.6 billion new retail customers in developing countries, with potential profits from the aggregate market estimated to be an astounding $4.2 trillion.

With both political will and economic incentive, the way forward seems clear: invest in digital solutions that partner with local networks and that work to tailor to the preferences of poorer populations, who may have low financial literacy and may mistrust large, corporate institutions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Countries being helped by the UNDPThe United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is a U.N. network that aims to eliminate poverty, increase resilience in poor communities, improve access to education and develop policies in struggling countries. One of the UNDP’s major projects is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This project focuses on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, clean water and sanitation and climate action.

The UNDP works with multiple struggling countries around the globe to meet these goals. Out of the 170 countries and territories being aided, below is a list of eight countries being helped by the UNDP.

8 Developing Countries Being Helped by the UNDP

  1. Nigeria: Nigeria is home to the highest number of people in poverty in the world, making it one of the poorest countries being helped by the UNDP. Due to this, the UNDP’s main focus in Nigeria is eradicating poverty. Since a large percentage of the poor population are farmers, the UNDP is working to make agricultural progress in communities and addressing challenges faced in terms of sustainability. In addition, the UNDP is working to create more jobs and improve access to sustainable energy sources.
  2. Afghanistan: A large part of Afghanistan’s population faces issues with the quality of life. The UNDP in Afghanistan aims to fight extreme poverty and inequality for the most vulnerable. Significant progress has already been made in terms of education. In 2001, only 70,000 school-aged children in Afghanistan were attending school. Currently, eight million children are attending school. The UNDP worked with the Ministry of Economy in Afghanistan in 2015 to spread the importance of Sustainable Development Goals for the country.
  3. Nepal: Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia. Due in part to the UNDP’s efforts in Nepal, major progress has been made in terms of eliminating poverty. Within four years, the country has reduced the poverty rate from 25.2 percent in 2011 to 21.6 percent in 2015. Specific goals the UNDP has for Nepal include building resilience against natural disasters, improving education access and improving access to basic resources such as electricity and clean water.
  4. Côte d’Ivoire: Through the anti-poverty program that was established by the UNDP, more than a quarter of a million people’s lives have significantly improved in Côte d’Ivoire. Through this initiative, 62 community organizations received monetary donations, project funding and vocational training to help them progress and reach their goals. In terms of agricultural issues, due to this program, fishing equipment has become more easily available and affordable. In addition, crop diversity has increased, providing more income and food options.
  5. Syria: Syria is a war-torn, impoverished country. As a result, Syrian people face issues with access to basic needs. This includes housing, access to necessary services and basic needs for women and the disabled. In 2018, the UNDP introduced the UNDP-Syria Resilience Programme, that focuses on improving the livelihood of such vulnerable groups. Through this project, more than 2.8 million Syrians were able to receive aid and benefits. These interventions have also produced benefits on a larger scale, including the creation of jobs, productive assets distribution and vocational training.
  6. Thailand: A large percentage of Thailand’s population lives in rural areas. Major problems for the rural poor include human rights issues, considerable economic inequality and weak rule of law. In Thailand, the UNDP is supporting and providing aid to ongoing projects and operations dedicated to problems being faced by its citizens. A major program the UNDP is supporting is the Thailand Country Program which focuses on environmental regulation and economic development. The UNDP is also working with the Thai Royal Government.
  7. Bangladesh: One of the biggest problems faced by Bangladesh is natural disaster risk. The UNDP started a project in January 2017 which is an ongoing collaboration with the National Resilience Program, the government, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and U.N. Women. It aims to develop strategies to create lasting resilience against unpredictable natural disasters, shocks, and crisis, that strongly impact the poor community. Specific aims of the project include strengthening communities, improving recovery and response to disasters and local disaster management.
  8. The Philippines: Approximately 25 percent of the Philippines lives in poverty. The UNDP’s projects in the Philippines include development planning, policymaking and implementing sustainable practices. One of the main aims of the UNDP is to localize poverty reduction and increase community involvement. The UNDP is also going about development planning in a way that will include increasing the use of natural resources in a sustainable manner while reducing poverty.

– Nupur Vachharajani
Photo: Flickr

 child-sponsorship-works-borgen-project-compassion-international_opt
When people ask how to help the poor, child sponsorship often is suggested. Indeed, for a small amount of money each month, organizations allow individuals to sponsor a child and help to provide education, food, and clothing for them. In return, the sponsors get a picture of the child and quarterly or annual updates from the organization regarding their child.  It has long seemed like an easy way to make an impact. The question many people ask, however, is does it really work? One development economist decided he was going to find out.

It seemed no one had ever been interested in finding the answer despite the fact that 9 million children are sponsored worldwide and more than $5 billion dollars per year is invested in child sponsorship programs. For organizations, obviously the stakes were high. If they allowed researchers to study the effectiveness of their programs, what would they do if they came back ineffective? After several years, one organization decided to allow themselves to be studied under one condition: anonymity.

The study initially looked at individuals in Uganda, studying 809 individuals including 188 who were sponsored as children. The results from the first study were any economist’s dream. The data clearly showed large and statistically significant impacts on the educational outcomes of sponsored children. It appeared the program was actually working! To solidify the results, the study was conducted in six other countries: Uganda, Guatemala, the Philippines, India, Kenya and Bolivia. Data was obtained on 10,144 individuals and the results were consistent with the first study. 27 to 40% more sponsored children complete secondary school and 50 to 80% more complete a college education. In addition to effects on education, the study found that sponsored children were also more likely to gain meaningful employment.

As a result of the study, the sponsorship organization removed the anonymity clause. Compassion International was the organization that allowed its program to be scrutinized; the results were clear that child sponsorship works. It helps lift kids and families out of poverty and provides them with hope. For more information about child sponsorship, visit Compassion International at www.compassion.com.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Sources: Christianity Today, Compassion International

child soldier facts
The subject of many a documentary, news report, and even novel, the figure of the child soldier emerged onto the global stage in the late 20th century, largely the result of publicized conflicts in places like Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The heartbreaking and sometimes frightening images of children—almost all of them African boys—turned into violent killers captured the attention of many in the west.  Like most images, these tell only a part of the story.  Here are five important and sobering facts about child soldiers.

1. Not all child soldiers are African. The organization Child Soldiers International reports that “since 2000, the participation of child soldiers has been reported in most armed conflicts and in almost every region of the world.” No exact figures have been compiled, but some estimates put the number at 250,000 child soldiers currently fighting in conflicts around the world. Countries where child soldiers can be found include Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, the Philippines, Colombia, Thailand, India, Somalia, and Yemen.

2. Child soldiers do more than just fight. Child soldiers not only fight on the front lines, but they also serve as runners, spies, and in some cases human shields. Many of them are also sexually abused and exploited.

3. Not all child soldiers are boys. Girls under 18 are often recruited or captured during conflicts, and most of the time they suffer sexual abuse and exploitation. An estimated 40% of child soldiers are girls.

4. Child soldiers are both recruited and forced into serving. Many soldiers are violently kidnapped and forced to serve in armies or in opposition groups.  Some, however, are drawn in because poverty and deprivation leave them vulnerable to the promise of money, food, and clothing if they take up arms. Desperation proves to be a powerful motivating force for some children.

5. Child soldiers can be and have been rehabilitated. Despite the horrors they have suffered and in many cases committed, these soldiers are children forced or lured into war. Many organizations around the globe work to provide the therapy, medical attention, and education that these children need. Hundreds of former soldiers have benefited from this kind of care and been reunited with family members and loved ones.

– Délice Williams

Sources: Child Soldiers.org, Peace Direct USA
Photo: MW