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Hunger in Nigeria
Nigeria is currently facing a daunting challenge that impacts the lives of millions in the country: hunger. Hunger in Nigeria has been escalating in recent months for various reasons and it has received international attention.

The Scale of the Crisis

Hunger in Nigeria is an immense problem that is currently putting millions at risk in the country. Between the three northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, almost 4.5 million people are now at risk of hunger. Of that 4.5 million, more than 700,000 are at imminent risk of starving to death.

Economics and Food

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a critical contributing factor in the ongoing rise in hunger in Nigeria. Unemployment has skyrocketed in the country, as one-third of the population does not have a job. Additionally, 70% of Nigerians have lost at least one form of income because of the pandemic.

Food inflation has also skyrocketed, worsening the state of hunger. Food inflation reached a 15-year high in 2021, rising to 22.95% in March. Import restrictions on rice and rising fuel costs have both contributed to this inflation.

Overall inflation and poverty levels have been on the rise, further compounding the hunger crisis. Inflation in Nigeria is the highest in the region, and the World Bank predicts the 2021 Nigerian inflation to be 16.5%. The inflation prediction for the sub-Saharan Africa region, excluding Nigeria, is only 5.9%. In the past year, food price inflation alone has accounted for 70% of Nigeria’s inflation.

The economic fallout of the pandemic could put more than 11 million Nigerians in poverty by 2022. The effects of the pandemic created a dangerous mix of unemployment, increased poverty, increased overall inflation, increased food inflation and widespread loss of income.

Conflict and Hunger

Conflict in Nigeria has contributed to the current hunger crisis. The impact of conflict in Nigeria is especially apparent with food inflation. Food costs have risen due to conflict between farmers and herders in the agricultural sector, as well as the ongoing insurgency by the Boko Haram terrorist organization.

Further, the ongoing conflict has made the state of hunger in Nigeria even worse by displacing many Nigerians. The states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, which are at high risk of widespread hunger, have also seen mass displacement due to conflict. In recent years, 8.7 million people have experienced displacement in these states due to the violence that “non-state armed groups” instigated

These large numbers of displaced persons often move into host communities that are ill-suited to the task. Such communities end up under the tremendous strain, as they have insufficient supplies, including food, to serve their newly enlarged populations.

Armed conflicts that prevent humanitarian aid from reaching those who need it is complicating the addressing of this crisis. Estimates indicate that aid cannot reach more than 800,000 people who live in areas that non-state armed groups control.

Aid Efforts

International organizations are trying to address hunger in Nigeria. The U.N. and other international organizations have continued to provide food assistance in Nigeria thanks to a process called localization. This process involves international organizations partnering with local NGOs to assist those in need, which enables local people, who might understand more, to help with local problems.

This coalition of organizations has provided support to camps for internally displaced persons. For example, the World Food Programme (WFP) has given starving Nigerians money to purchase food. However, this assistance has had a limited scope, as some camps only offer food support to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. All of these efforts to assist have not proven to be enough to address the crisis. 

Looking Ahead

Much work remains to address the current state of hunger in Nigeria. The U.N.-led coalition of organizations is attempting to reach more than 6 million Nigerians with humanitarian aid. However, this effort has received limited funding as it has only garnered 20% of the necessary funds.

To address this crisis, a significant amount of funding is necessary. The U.N. is calling for $250 million in food aid to meet Nigeria’s severe hunger situation.

The situation of hunger in Nigeria is in a state of crisis. Millions of Nigerians are at high risk of becoming food insecure, and hundreds of thousands are at risk of starving to death. Conflict, widespread displacement and high food inflation all impact the hunger situation in Nigeria. While a coalition of organizations provides as much aid as possible to those at risk, these organizations need more support from the international community.

– Coulter Layden
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Israel
With the marvels of medical technology, medical professionals can now cure most infections and diseases with a combination of treatments and pharmaceutical drugs. However, it is challenging for them to treat some viruses still. Amongst the stubborn viruses that still elude the medical communities’ ability is the HIV/AIDS virus, a diagnosis that for too many means the end of living a normal life. The effects of HIV/AIDS in Israel have been profound and COVID-19 may worsen the situation.

The Effects of HIV/AIDS in Israel

Following the first case of AIDS in the 1980s, the world bore witness to an epidemic that swept the globe in an unprecedented manner. From 1981 to 2010, Israel reported nearly 10,000 cases, with around 7,000 of them still ongoing in the country. People living with HIV/AIDS in Israel fall into some of the most vulnerable groups in society. This includes injecting drug users and immigrants. Israeli immigrants, often from countries like Sudan, China and Eritrea, often face obstacles receiving treatment for AIDS. While testing is free, the pathway to HIV/AIDs drugs remains expensive and out of reach for many. This creates a socioeconomic divide on who has access to treatment and who does not. According to a report by the Israeli Task Force, many immigrants are unaware of their access to free testing.

COVID-19 Compounding Consequences

Since the beginning, nation-states have strived to mitigate the effects of the HIV/AIDS virus on their populations. Communities most at risk often face marginalization and are disproportionately at risk of poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has halted services to help these groups. This has caused many to fall into poverty. The Health Ministry of Israel worries that poverty and food and housing insecurity will rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the Health Ministry of Israel is collaborating with other government sectors to create and strengthen initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS. For example, needle exchange programs, homeless shelters and meals all function as efforts to combat the effects of HIV/AIDS in Israel. Health officials in these programs are now essential as the government prepares for a rise in cases.

The Good News

As a result, Israel is taking steps in the right direction to fight HIV/AIDS. Within society, a conservative outlook on sex and the religious practice of circumcision keep the numbers relatively low. In addition regional cooperation inside of Israel with IGOs like the UN and WHO have made workshops and collaboration with Israeli NGOs and the Jerusalem AIDS Project. Israeli researchers are some of the world’s foremost pioneers and drivers of HIV/AIDS vaccine research and in 2019 introduced a ‘mosaic’ vaccine that identifies and responds to more variant strains of the HIV virus. Though HIV/AIDS is still a prevalent issue, Israel is making great strides in combating the virus.

– Alex Pinamang
Photo: Flickr

The Tigray Conflict
Thousands of refugees have fled the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia since early November 2020 to seek safety in eastern Sudan. This has resulted in a full-scale humanitarian crisis. Refugees, many of whom are children and women, have been arriving at remote border points that take hours to enter from the closest towns in Sudan. Most of them do not have any possessions and arrived exhausted from walking long distances over harsh terrain. The steady influx of daily arrivals is exceeding the existing capacity to provide assistance.

The Tigray Conflict

The Tigray conflict is an ongoing armed conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia. According to the International Crisis Organization think-tank, the violence in Tigray has left thousands dead and sent tens of thousands of refugees into Sudan. Estimates have determined that the conflict has displaced more than 222,000 people, in addition to the 100,000 people who experienced displacement prior to the conflict. Moreover, the loss of livelihoods, destruction of homes and lack of resources have affected local neighborhoods. As a result, people living in those areas urgently need shelter, food, water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as health and protection.

Humanitarian Efforts

While humanitarian efforts are emerging to provide aid after the Tigray conflict, they remain challenged by the insecurity and bureaucratic constraints throughout the region. As a result, it can be challenging for humanitarian groups to access countrysides as well as Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps.

The U.N. is working with Ethiopia’s government and all relevant interlocutors to aid in the safe passage of humanitarian personnel and the provision of supplies to all parts of the Tigray region. Meanwhile, health facilities in major cities are partially working with limited-to-no stock of supplies and the absence of health workers and facilities outside major cities are not operational.

In addition, UNHCR and Sudan’s Commission for Refugees are continuing to relocate refugees from the border to designated refugee camps. These are further inland in Sudan’s Gedaref State, in support of the government-led response in Sudan. Um Rakuba refugee camp is approaching its full capacity. UNHCR and its partners are swiftly relocating refugees to a newly opened refugee camp, Tunaydbah, in order to keep refugees safe and offer them better quality living conditions.

Humanitarian Funding

In 2020, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, launched an appeal for $147 million to support as many as 100,000 people fleeing Ethiopia’s Tigray region into neighboring Sudan. In its appeal document, UNHCR said that it took an anticipated increase of refugees into account during its planning. At the minimum, it planned to be able to help a total of 100,000 by April 2021, whereas at the maximum, it intended to be able to provide aid to an influx of 200,000 refugees.

In November 2020, UNHCR began airlifting aid to refugees, sending the first of four planeloads of supplies to Khartoum. One of the flights to Khartoum brought 100 tonnes from Dubai comprising mosquito net, blankets, plastic sheets, solar lamps, tents and prefabricated warehouses. The intention behind the appeal for $147 million was to fund UNHCR so that it could help Sudan manage the humanitarian crisis over the following six months.

Looking Ahead

CSW’s founder and president, Mervyn Thomas, urged Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, to prioritize the protection of refugees within Ethiopia’s borders. These refugees’ forcible return to a country that many deem to have committed crimes against humanity is an appalling violation of international law and humanitarian norms.

Abiy Ahmed needs to take immediate steps to de-escalate the conflict and enter into meaningful dialogue with regional representatives who the people of Tigray recognize. People can also call on the government of Eritrea to withdraw its forces from Tigray immediately and end its egregious violations of the rights of Eritreans, both at home and abroad. More nations also need to step up their humanitarian support for the region, including Sudan, which is suffering the brunt of the refugee wave from Tigray.

Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr

Botswana's Renewable Energy
Nearly half of Botswana’s population remains poor despite its economic strides. About 46% of children under the age of 15 are vulnerable to poverty. In 2013, UNDP measured Botswana’s rural areas as having the highest poverty rates with nearly 45% of people living below the poverty line. Botswana has abundant solar and biogas resources that it can harness to increase access to affordable, sustainable energy alternatives in rural populations while providing opportunities to grow local economies and jobs through investments in solar plants and biogas digesters. Leveraging natural sources such as these could alleviate Botswana’s reliance on more expensive imported petroleum sources and centralized electric grids. Communities can bridge the gap between their demand and supply with affordable, viable options that are sustainable. Current investment levels do not fully exploit the potential of Botswana’s renewable energy options.

About Botswana

With its stunning landscapes and majestic wildlife, Botswana has long been a magnet for travelers and adventurers the world over. Nestled and landbound between Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, deep in the Kalahari desert, some have touted Botswana as an economic and political success story in the region. The country has enjoyed sustained economic growth and political stability primarily due to its diamond and tourism industry.

Solar Power

Botswana has lots of sunshine. Per the World Bank, Botswana “has abundant solar energy resources receiving over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year with an average insolation on a horizontal surface of 21MJ/m2, one of the highest rates of insulation in the world.” With its annual sunshine among the highest globally, there is much potential for Botswana to advance its solar energy capabilities. The far-flung desert spaces of rural areas lend themselves well to establishing vast solar farms.

The Botswana government has indicated an interest in growing its renewable energy sector, hosting its first large workshop on the topic in 2014.

While adoption of solar technologies holds great promise for Botswana, legacy financial, policy and institutional frameworks are barriers. Botswana’s government has also highlighted a lack of knowledge on the evolving technologies and practices in the renewables area as a challenge to the advancement of its goals.

Biogas

Biogas, which producers generate from waste, has much potential as a renewable energy source. This type of energy source is useful in the generation of heat and power, replacing conventionally used fossil fuel sources, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions while recycling agro-waste such as cow-dung and chicken litter. The high quantities of manure from the large cattle population enable the necessary capacity to establish independent biogas-based power plants in addition to solar farms. Countries can explore methane capture technologies for local energy options while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Success Stories

The Botswana government is working strategically to diversify its energy sources and build resiliency in its energy sector by investing in new solar power plants. As of 2020, plans for building four new solar plants over the next six years for a cumulative 610MW capacity are underway.

The Biogas Project of Botswana supports the production and use of biogas for agro-waste producing farms and organizations. The project is a part of Botswana’s 11th National Development Plan (NDP11), seeking to promote equitable, affordable energy while reducing the country’s carbon footprint by leveraging renewable energy sources public-private partnerships. The Biogas Project intends to build 200 digesters with a focus on addressing the needs of current underrepresented and vulnerable parts of the community, such as women and children. One of its beneficiaries speaks of how it has reduced her fuel costs by relying on locally generated manure as well as eased her daily burdens of collecting firewood for her chores of cooking and other household needs.

Looking Ahead

Investment in renewable energy such as solar power and biogas technologies in rural Botswana empowers rural communities by reducing their reliance on imported fuels such as petroleum and large-scale centralized electric grids. Building renewable energy plants closer to rural communities bolsters rural economies, promotes autonomy and improves adaptability to changing energy circumstances and costs.

The U.N. has laid out key global objectives to achieve sustainable energy for all by 2030 that includes doubling the share of renewable energy globally. Given the plummeting costs of renewable sources in recent years, the government of Botswana is moving to articulate a renewal energy strategy as part of its overall energy objectives. Achieving self-sufficiency and establishing sustainable energy sources is of great importance to Botswana.

While Botswana has far to go in advancing these objectives, it shows promise in its abundant solar and other local energy resources to alleviate living conditions for the rural poor. Botswana should continue its path to sustainable, self-sufficient energy focusing on enabling private-public partnerships and investments in solar power programs. The country will benefit from the expertise, learnings and perspectives of collaborators worldwide. It is well-positioned to meet its challenges in alleviating rural poverty with thoughtful investments in Botswana’s renewable energy sector, given its historically stable governance, well-regarded global economic standing and long hours of sunlight.

– Mala Rajamani
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Tunisia
Human trafficking in Tunisia is prevalent, while also existing in several other countries. Trafficking has three parts including the act of moving an individual, manipulating an individual’s free will and using an individual for exploitation.

The Situation

Between April 2019 and February 2020, the National Authority identified 1,313 trafficking victims from among the potential victims that some government agencies referred to it along with 780 victims that the previous reporting period identified. Tunisia is a destination for human trafficking involving forced labor and forced prostitution, where traffickers coerce or manipulate individuals to work under no contract for less than minimum wage.

Trafficking is a large topic of world discussion. Most victims in Tunisia are children, women and people with disabilities. Women and young girls are the most at risk of becoming victims of trafficking in Tunisia. Traffickers force the victims into a domestic servitude partnership or involvement in criminal activities. Due to the severity of human trafficking in Tunisia, many new tactics have emerged to tackle the issue. Here are seven facts about human trafficking in Tunisia.

7 Facts About Human Trafficking in Tunisia

  1. Tunisia passed an anti-human trafficking law. In July 2019, the government of Tunisia started making procedures and guidelines for the National Authority and four other trafficking commissions to put more focus on monitoring, testing, studying, developing and tracking trafficking victims’ cases. The new law will criminalize sex and labor trafficking. Thus far, the new law has helped identify victims of human trafficking in Tunisia and push victimizers into the courtroom to undergo prosecution. The Tunisian government is also making efforts to address human labor trafficking recruitment practices. The Agency for Placement Abroad in Private Establishments (EPPA) filed 30 complaints to private employers for cases of fraud, extortion or abuses of Tunisian workers. The Tunisian government has officially requested that the Ministry of Women shut down the seven private employers that are recruiting Tunisian workers without proper EPPA registration.
  2. The National Authority created an anti-trafficking efforts website in February 2020. This online platform helps to provide education on how to stop and fight against human trafficking. This website is open to anyone who is a victim of human trafficking or has witnessed someone be a victim of human trafficking. The website includes a human trafficking hotline, education for health care professionals on red flags, shelter resources and more. To date, the website has aided trafficking victims so that they can receive medical and social support.
  3. More accountability exists for traffickers in Tunisia. Tunisia has implemented an increase in trafficking investigations. Tunisia increased its investigations in 2016 due to the passing of new legislation in July of that year. Human trafficking in Tunisia now has a punishment of 10 years in prison and a 50,000 Tunisian dinar fine, or $16,620 USD for cases with adult victims. Meanwhile, trafficking cases involving children in Tunisia are now punishable with 15 years in prison and a fine of 50,000-100,000 Tunisian dinar or $16,620-$33,230 USD. Tunisian law enforcement has worked on the implementation of several anti-trafficking laws as well.
  4. Human trafficking victims in Tunisia can receive legal assistance with protection and medical care. When Tunisia adopted legislation in August 2016, it started providing medical and social help for victims of all types of human trafficking. Tunisia is currently working on providing employment to victims as well. It has also assured rights to protection and medical services for human trafficking victims. The Ministry of Health runs hospitals in Tunis that have units with trained personnel committed to helping victims of trafficking in Tunisia. Additionally, Tunisia has dedicated 79 centers to trafficked youth in Tunisia and another three for men. These centers have provided health care to 69 foreign and local trafficking victims. Moreover, the Ministry of Social Affairs gave psychological and socio-economic assistance to 83 victims.
  5. The U.N. and Tunisia hosted workshops to aid in the fight against human trafficking. The Tunisian Ministries of Justice and Interior worked along with the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) to hold three-day workshops called “Capacity-Building for the Fight against Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling in Tunisia.” These workshops operated from April 16, 2013, to December 31, 2018, with the purpose of addressing topics like identifying human trafficking, judicial considerations, protection and help for victims and international assistance in fighting the problem of human trafficking in Tunisia. The meetings tried to dismantle the trafficking systems by implementing new tactics. The session of meetings led to Tunisia drafting anti-trafficking legislation.
  6. National victims referral mechanisms aid in rescuing Tunisian trafficking victims. The new national victim’s referral mechanism in Tunisia is helping trafficking victims. These new centers, which work to specifically target victims of human trafficking in Tunisia, utilize national hotline systems. Tunisia has used the network to rescue over 150 victims.
  7. Governmental efforts create positive changes for trafficking operation investigations. From 2014 to 2018, the number of victims Tunisia identified increased from 59 cases to 780 cases with a significant number of those cases being foreigners. A judge ended up overseeing 31 of the cases with one case ending with a conviction. Four of the cases against human trafficking in Tunisia will now undergo criminal prosecution, while the rest require further investigation.

Looking Ahead

The Tunisian government is steadily working toward reducing human trafficking. Tunisia is making victimizers more accountable and providing victims with further protective resources, while national organizations like the U.N. are stepping in to lend a helping hand. The fight to ending human trafficking is long but Tunisia is headed in the right direction.

– Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

New Zealand's Foreign Aid
A small country can have a big impact beyond its borders when it knows what it is doing. While the United State’s foreign aid receives significant attention, some pay considerably less attention to the efforts of nations in uniquely beneficial positions to help, such as New Zealand. Here is some information about New Zealand’s foreign aid.

Unique Location

New Zealand is far from its nearest big neighbors. This relatively small island of about 100,000 square miles and just under 5 million people brought the world the film adaptations of “The Lord of the Rings,” the comic musical duo Flight of the Conchords and what some call the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the world. Despite a rich cultural impact, New Zealand also has a history of others overlooking it. On a world map or globe, New Zealand should show up to the right and slightly downwind of Australia. Instead, it almost looks like it went the way of the fabled Atlantis, swallowed up by the ocean, vanishing mysteriously without a trace, ready for adventurous archaeologists to make endless documentaries trying and failing to find it.

This modern mapmaking tendency to treat New Zealand like it went the way of the Dodo ended up turning into a tourism campaign that ran the tagline of “Getting New Zealand on the Map.” This happenstance showcases the humor and humility that Kiwis, the nickname for New Zealand citizens after the namesake unique bird, are known for. But while the country is breathtaking in its own right, perhaps its gifted application of focused foreign aid is what will really put New Zealand on the map in years to come.

New Zealand’s Foreign Aid and the Pacific Islands

While remote, New Zealand is not isolated in the sense of its outreach focus and capabilities. The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has received praise for her empathetic approach to leadership which seems to extend to the foreign policy that her administration enacts. While New Zealand provides aid across many regions including Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, a particular focus goes to its closest neighbors in the Pacific Islands region. This includes countries known as small island developing States (SIDS) like Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa to name a few.

While undeniably beautiful, many of these islands are extremely remote making it challenging to provide them with a steady flow of viable trade and resources. The situation has worsened in part because the islands have also been among those that tend to experience significant natural disasters and environmental challenges. The UN reported that a fourth of all Pacific Islanders live below what it considers the basic needs poverty line.

This is where New Zealand comes in. As a nation that consistently ranks as having a high quality of life, it is working to provide aid to its fellow islanders. New Zealand is also arguably better equipped to understand the challenges facing island dwellers than larger landlocked nations governments.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)

According to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) website, its policy acts on the notion that stability in the region surrounding a homeland is crucial for the success and stability of the homeland as well. This type of foreign aid does not intend to be a charity endeavor, but rather an investment that has shown great promise in minimizing and even sidestepping unnecessary conflicts entirely. To that effect, roughly 60% of New Zealand’s Official Development Assistance funds go toward “…shared community interest in the prosperity and stability of the [Pacific] region.” The dollar amount of this contribution is around $1.331 billion and helps the collective efforts of more than 30 government agencies throughout the Pacific region.

MFAT sets criteria and monitors the implementation plans of the countries that receive these funds. The overarching aim of these allocations and efforts is to foster infrastructure and trade development. Like many nations that have significant foreign aid programs, the result is potentially mutually beneficial as new markets emerge in tandem with stable governments and societies. To understand the success of its programs as objectively as possible, MFAT has stated that it uses external evaluators. Such a strategy is one of increased accountability without crossing the line into overbearing and overregulated. MFAT also focuses on humanitarian outreach and disaster relief, again with a specified focus on the Pacific Islands region. It acts as a support rather than a domineering neighbor.

Uniquely Focused Scholarships

New Zealand offers a clever array of scholarships with different beneficial outcomes in mind. Of particular interest are the short-term training scholarships for pacific citizens which provide comprehensive skills training as well as valuable job experience. For those struggling in the Pacific Islands, an opportunity like this can provide them with a relatively quick and practical way to change their lives. An English Language Training for Officials Scholarship is also available to government officials from qualifying African and Asian nations. From workers making a livable wage to those governing entire countries, these educational focuses do well to showcase the different angles in which New Zealand is hoping to foster more stable communities near and far from home.

A Useful Blueprint

New Zealand’s efforts provide a wonderful blueprint that other small, but economically strong nations worldwide could apply. While a greater challenge, the largest developed countries could utilize its strategy in foreign aid practices. If New Zealand’s foreign aid practices show the world anything, it is that insurmountable problems seem more manageable when empathetic eyes view them.

– Jack Leggett III
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 and Global Poverty
Since early 2020, the entire globe has been battling the COVID-19 pandemic and attempting to address the outbreak properly. Most of the world’s population is currently under some form of social distancing as a part of a response to the outbreak. From scientific research to increased travel restrictions, almost every country is working on ways to boost the economy while managing the spread of the virus. However, COVID-19 has affected much more than the economy. Here are four ways COVID-19 and global poverty connect:

4 Ways COVID-19 and Global Poverty Connect

  1. The Consumption of Goods and Services: For most developing countries struggling with poverty, much of their economies depend on commodities, such as exports. Food consumption represents the largest portion of household spending, and the increase in food prices and shortages of products affect low-income households. Countries that depend on imported food experience shortages. The increase in food prices could also affect the households’ inability to access other services such as healthcare, a major necessity during this time. These are two significant connections between COVID-19 and global poverty.
  2. Employment and Income: The self-employed or those working for small businesses represent a large portion of the employed in developing countries. Some of these workers depend on imported materials, farming lands or agriculture. This requires harvest workers and access to local farmers’ markets to sell produce. Others work in the fields of tourism and retail. These fields require travelers, tourists and consumers — all of which lessen as COVID-19 restrictions increase. Without this labor income, many of these families (now unemployed) must rely on savings or government payments.
  3. Weak Healthcare Systems: This pandemic poses a major threat to lower-middle-income developing countries. There is a strong correlation between healthcare and economic growth. The better and bigger the economy, the better the healthcare. Healthcare systems in developing countries tend to be weaker due to minimal resources including beds, ventilators, medicine and a below-average economy. Insurance is not always available for low-income families. All of this affects the quality of healthcare that those living within the poverty line receive. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Public Services: Low-income families and poor populations in developing countries depend on public services, such as school and public transportation. Some privatized urban schools, comprised of mainly higher-income families, are switching to online learning. However, many of the public rural schools receiving government funding do not have adequate resources to follow suit. This could increase the rate of drop out. Moreover, it will disproportionately affect poorer families since many consider education an essential incentive for escaping poverty. Aside from school, COVID-19 restrictions could prevent poorer families from accessing public transportation. For developing countries, public transportation could affect the ability of poorer families to access healthcare.

Moving Forward

There are many challenges that families across the globe face as a result of COVID-19. Notably, some organizations have stepped forward to help alleviate circumstances. The World Bank, Care International and the U.N. are among the organizations implementing programs and policies to directly target the four effects of COVID-19 mentioned above.

For example, the World Bank is continuously launching emergency support around the world to address the needs of various countries in response to COVID-19. By offering these financial packages, countries like Ethiopia, which should receive more than $82 million, can obtain essential medical equipment and support for establishing proper healthcare and treatment facilities. These financial packages constitute a total of $160 million over the next 15 months as a part of projects implemented in various countries, such as Mongolia, Kyrgyz Republic, Haiti, Yemen, Afghanistan and India.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid  in South Sudan
As the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan has amazing potential to be an emerging economy in East Africa. Unfortunately, conflict has plagued the newly formed country, as it emerged as a result of a war for independence, and continues to see regional conflicts as it remains politically unstable, resulting in weaker public institutions and infrastructure. Due to this instability, it has been difficult for a strong and developed economy to take hold. However, with South Sudan’s access to natural resources and untapped human capital, a strong economy is definitely possible if there is enough of an investment in humanitarian aid in South Sudan.

Many nations and organizations, such as the United States and UNESCO, have planned solutions and committed resources to help South Sudan remedy its largest issues. The most prominent issue facing South Sudan is the continued conflict the fledgling country faces. These issues cannot be fixed purely from foreign donations and humanitarian aid but there has been a concentrated effort to help relieve the worst impacts the continued fighting has caused.

Peacekeeping

In a U.S. backed mandate, the U.N. has committed to providing humanitarian aid in South Sudan by maintaining a peacekeeping force in the country till at least March 2021. These peacekeeping forces have the task of maintaining the stability of the new peace agreement as well as assisting the roughly 3.9 million displaced South Sudanese citizens. The U.N.’s forces will have the job of monitoring the new transitional government for abuses of international humanitarian law.

While a lack of political stability is the root cause of most of South Sudan’s economic struggles, a lack of dependable infrastructure also hampers the country’s ability to combat poverty. Humanitarian aid workers have found difficulty reaching rural populations in South Sudan during regular flood seasons. Roughly 70% of South Sudan’s population lives in rural areas and as many work in the agricultural sector, meaning that for a lengthy portion of the year, they are inaccessible to humanitarian workers in addition to not having access to urban centers.

Education

Another difficulty facing South Sudan is a lack of a comprehensive education system. In 2018, South Sudan had the lowest rate of adult literacy in the world at 27%. This is partly due to its reliance on agriculture and the sparse rural communities where many South Sudanese people live. As a response, UNESCO is promoting non-formal educational spaces to not only educate South Sudanese youth but also illiterate adults. Expectations have determined that over 2,000 learning spaces will emerge by the year 2023, which will serve 330,000 children who cannot attend a traditional school due to displacement from conflict.

As of 2018, 70% of South Sudan’s population was under the age of 29 years old which has the potential to lead to exponential growth in the country. The young nature of the country’s population means that they can receive training in specialized skills and can create a sudden surge of development in certain sectors of industry. Combined with developing a stronger educational network for young adults, South Sudan can see a major increase in educated and skilled workers.

The United States, recognizing the potential for South Sudan to become a strong economy in East Africa, has continued to provide humanitarian aid in South Sudan as it develops. The United States has dedicated $97 million from the State’s Department’s Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration as well as an additional $11 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance in an effort to aid those displaced due to the conflict in South Sudan.

Looking Forward

South Sudan has all the makings of a stable and prosperous economy, a substantial amount of natural resources, access to undeveloped land and a population that is young enough to receive thorough training and education. All the country needs to do is to create and maintain political peace within its borders and continually receive humanitarian aid from global leaders such as the United States.

Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Kosovo
In the aftermath of a civil war in the 1990s, Kosovo is riddled with hunger and poverty. Inadequacies in education, employment and healthcare all contribute to food insecurity and scarcity in Kosovo. Here is some information about poverty and hunger in Kosovo.

Obstacles

Kosovo is Europe’s youngest country, just inland of the Adriatic sea and is home to around 1.85 million people. Available poverty data from 2011 shows that almost one-third of the population (29.2%) lives on less than $2 per day and an additional 10% live in extreme poverty ($1.20 per day). Many households reported that aside from property, food was their most significant expense. Research indicates that in many low-income houses, as much as 40% of a household’s income went toward food.

In the 1990s, Kosovo suffered from a prolonged civil war and as a result, its economy is still recovering. Long term stability seems distant with high unemployment rates. As the USCIA reported, youth unemployment sits at 51.5% for males and 64.8% for females, making it the second-highest in the world at 55.4% (ages 15-24). Meanwhile, reports determined that the unemployment of the working-age group was 32.9%. Due to a lack of economic reforms and investments, these unemployment rates remain high and unwavering.

Protracted problems of environmental degradation, drought and biodiversity loss contribute to problems of food scarcity. Once an agriculturally sustainable area, droughts and infertility made land unfarmable. As a result, the country gradually has become less self-sufficient and is now heavily dependent upon imported goods.

Healthcare

Nutrition insecurity is widespread. In addition to lacking consistent access to food, it is even more difficult for people to find foods with adequate nutrition. Unsurprisingly,  obesity and anemia rates have risen due to a lack of consistent access to nutritious foods. The World Bank states that “[food] producers also face large losses on perishable and nutritious food as consumption patterns shift towards cheaper staples.” The loss of local nutritious foods further contributes to the problem of nutrition security and perpetuates health conditions like obesity and anemia.

Historically, chronic hunger as a result of poverty has characterized Kosovo. “In 1999 in Kosovo, 11,000 children older than 5 years were estimated to be acutely malnourished and about 17,000 would be affected by stunting. Over 5% of the surveyed mothers had a BMI below 18.5 and more than 10% were obese.” The same report stated that “58% of the children were anemic.” These statistics are significant obstacles to the country’s development.

Solutions

While there have been considerable improvements in Kosovo’s development, there is still plenty of room to grow. Until Kosovo can reach a point of self-sufficiency, aid should go to those in need.

The good news is that there are several nonprofit organizations operating in Kosovo to help relieve some of the stressful effects of poverty on its citizens. One of these organizations is CARE International, which aims to promote peaceful resolution of conflict and stability in the country. Since its foundation in 1993, effective strategies have been petitioning to increase foreign aid, educating the public and encouraging volunteer work and fundraising for the most vulnerable communities in Kosovo.

Along with functioning nonprofit organizations, the U.N. has implemented a plan, the Stabilization Association Agreement (SAA), which establishes an official relationship between Kosovo and the E.U. Through this agreement, Kosovo has received more aid and is on a more sustainable path. “This agreement is a milestone for the E.U.-Kosovo relationship. It will help Kosovo make much-needed reforms and will create trade and investment opportunities.” The economic stability produced through this agreement will provide jobs and allow for progress within the country, eventually leading to more independent governance.

Allyson Reeder
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Lebanon
Three recent events in Lebanon have crucially impacted its ability to feed its people. Conversely, there are three organizations or political actors working to combat the devastating hunger and guide Lebanon toward food security. Here are three recent crises and three organizations that are working to provide aid and reduce hunger in Lebanon.

The Beirut Explosion

On August 4, 2020, an explosion devastated the port of Beirut, Lebanon. Without a functioning port, the country is missing 65% to 80% of its food imports. The explosion destroyed 15,000 metric tons of wheat and the main grain silos. The disaster at the port has exacerbated hunger in Lebanon by preventing and delaying access to food, while also increasing the cost of imported food.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

As of early August 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) agreed to distribute 5,000 food parcels to families currently suffering from hunger in Lebanon in light of the explosion. Each package includes necessities such as rice, sugar and oil and contains enough ingredients to feed five people for one month. Moreover, the World Food Programme has partnered with the government’s National Poverty Targeting Programme to provide over 100,000 Lebanese people with prepaid debit cards so they can purchase groceries. Lastly, the organization, in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered 8.5 metric tons of surgical and trauma equipment to Beirut two days after the explosion. Not only will this equipment help those the disaster affected, but it will also allow the country to focus on repairing the port, which is crucial to its survival.

The Challenges of COVID-19

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has made it significantly more difficult for families to put food on the table, and Lebanon is no exception. Relieving the devastating effects of the virus has become more important than addressing food insecurity. In a recent study that the World Food Programme conducted, due to the virus, one in three workers have found themselves unemployed and one in five workers have seen a pay cut. Moreover, there has been a country-wide halt in channeling resources toward hunger, as they have all gone toward the containment of COVID-19.

The United Nations

The United Nations has involved itself in providing aid to Lebanon during the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF, an organization that provides aid to children across the globe, has created an eight-point plan for countries in the Middle East and North Africa dealing with the combined effects of COVID-19 and food insecurity. There are three points in particular that are closely related to the inability to afford food due to COVID-19. These points include establishing job and income security for those who perform agricultural or casual labor and instigating social protection schemes and community programs for the benefit of vulnerable groups and those who are unemployed due to lockdowns. The aforementioned will ensure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods. Another point involves creating a food security and nutrition surveillance system that will collect and update necessary information to identify populations at risk and address factors that will negatively affect said populations.

Furthermore, the UNHCR, a refugee agency, has allocated $43 million as of late August 2020 in response to the coronavirus and its effects. This aid will allow Lebanon to purchase proper medical equipment and create isolation units, both of which will help treat those suffering from the virus and slow its spread. As a result, Lebanon can renew its feverous efforts on solving hunger.

Political and Economic Turmoil

Since October 2019, an extensive list including corruption and civil unrest has led Lebanon’s economy to the tip of a very steep iceberg. The Lebanese pound has since lost over 80% of its value, thousands of businesses have gone under and candlelight is the new normal. Due to these extreme changes in the political and economic climates, hunger in Lebanon has reached an unprecedented level, affecting citizens and refugees alike. To bridge their income gap, citizens have reported spending less money on food, an intuitively counteractive response. As for the 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon due to civil war in their home country, nearly 200,000 have reported going 24 hours without eating, and 360,000 have reported skipping meals.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity has been providing help to Lebanon. The branch of this organization based in Great Britain employs tradesmen and builders from the Lebanese and Syrian communities in order to complete its various infrastructure projects in Lebanon. For example, empty and distressed buildings that vulnerable families reside have undergone rehabilitation. Rehabilitation efforts included water and sanitation upgrades, heat and solar light installation and the addition of necessary furniture such as beds. During this process, the spaces were either free or had reduced rent. Not only does this benefit the community by providing jobs which in turn boosts the economy, but it also allows families to focus their resources on food as opposed to shelter, an issue specific to refugees.

Despite how daunting the aforementioned issues are, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Various global organizations are taking action to bring attention to and end hunger in Lebanon. As resources and support continue to pour into the country, the people of Lebanon will begin to see brighter days.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr