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Facts About Poverty in Serbia
The Republic of Serbia, or simply Serbia, is a landlocked country in southeast Europe. Poverty in Serbia remains a persistent issue. During the 1990s, the region experienced war, internal displacement of populations and economic depression. Global and national reports indicate that despite the increase in coverage of infrastructure, unequal access to housing, adequate sanitation and education persists between rural and urban populations. Here are five facts about poverty in Serbia.

5 Facts About Poverty in Serbia

  1. In Serbia, deprivation of education is the largest contributor to the Multidimensional Poverty Index, a measure that looks at multidimensional poverty at an international level. This is especially true of Serbia’s minority populations, where primary and secondary school attendance is lower than the national average. This education disparity worsens social exclusion and reduces employment opportunities for vulnerable populations. On its path towards E.U. accession, Serbia must comply with the Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative, improving its educational system’s inclusion of all social groups, therefore facilitating their entry into the labor market.
  2. Poverty rates in Serbia are four times higher in the southeast than near the capital. The country is unevenly developed, with marked differences between rural and urban areas. This inequality stems from the vulnerability of Serbia’s agricultural regions, which face a combination of seasonal flooding, weakened infrastructure and a crop yield that climate change has lowered.
  3. Serbia faces the highest percentage of citizens living below the national poverty line in the Balkan region. Estimates determine that this percentage has declined from 25.8% in 2015 to 18.9% in 2019, following Serbia’s emergence from economic and political isolation. Adequate conditions for implementing market reforms and sustainable development have only recently emerged.
  4. One-third of Serbians have inadequate health care. Women make up most of these cases at 33%. Unequal access to health care results from citizens’ financial status or proximity to health care facilities. Earlier this year, vulnerable Serbian medical centers received a 4.6 million Euro donation from the E.U. to purchase medical equipment to fight COVID-19. This donation contributed to the Serbian government’s renovation program as well, aiming to modernize the nation’s health care system to improve its efficiency.
  5. With an undernourishment rate of 5.7%, Serbia has the second-highest population living in hunger in Europe. This number has only decreased by 0.3% in the last 5 years. The U.N. is working to end malnutrition in Serbia by 2030 as a part of its Sustainable Development Goals. This means increasing agricultural productivity and improving rural infrastructure to promote sustainable food sources.
While it is important to be aware of the conditions that these five facts about poverty in Serbia present, it is equally as important to consider the projections that some are making in regard to the country’s economy and growth. The containment of COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll on the Serbian economy, restricting growth. The economy is set to enter a recession, driven by lower tourism, transport activity, exports and investment.

The Serbian government introduced a 5.2 billion Euro stimulus program, approved in late March 2020. The program aims to bolster employment and aid small and medium enterprises. If successful, these efforts, along with ongoing reform programs seeking to stabilize the economy, will allow for the creation of more secure jobs in vulnerable areas.

Economic recovery depends on international developments and the rate of change. It is critical to consider the longterm impacts of these projections on poverty in Serbia’s most vulnerable regions.

Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in North Korea
Poverty in North Korea has been persistent for decades. North Korea is one of the most secluded countries in the world, both socially and economically. Since the Korean War in the 1950s, the nation has followed an ideology of self-reliance, called Juche in Korean. According to the official website of the North Korean government, Juche has three tenets: political independence, economic self-sufficiency and self-reliance in national defense. Adhering to these principles, North Korea withdrew from contact with other nations, gradually developing into the closed-off state it is today.

However, poor economic policies and the misallocation of resources have caused much of North Korea’s population to fall into poverty. One study estimates that the poverty rate of North Korea is around 60%, and another puts the percentage of undernourished North Koreans at 43%. The country suffers from chronic food shortages and has some of the worst income inequality in the world. Here are four influences on poverty in North Korea.

4 Influences on Poverty in North Korea

  1. Resource Misallocation: North Korea is notorious for its obsession with nuclear weapons and its military. The Korean War created high tensions between the country and its neighbors, leaving North Korea feeling threatened. As a result, North Korea funnels large amounts of resources into developing and maintaining weapons and the military, when it could better use those resources to fight famine and improve the economy.
  2. Environmental Collapse: To become self-reliant in food production, North Korea has employed intensive agricultural methods, using copious amounts of chemicals and cutting down forests to create farmland and increase crop yields. The loss of forests has led to erosion and flooding, costing the country much of its food supply. In addition, people chop down trees for firewood and eat wild animals to survive, leading to an imbalance in the ecosystem. With land growing less fertile, North Korea struggles to produce enough food for its people.
  3. Government Decisions: In 1995, the government cut supplies to the north of the country to provide more food for the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to garner support for the regime there. This decision hurt the regime greatly. Farmers began hoarding food and selling it independently of the state. Citizen support of the regime fell, decreasing even further when the regime used force to maintain its power. The Juche ideology backfired, as the country had to rely on international aid during the famine.
  4. Decreased Foreign Aid: During the Cold War, North Korea received Soviet aid. However, the country refused to pay its debts to the USSR, which responded by withdrawing support for North Korea. The fall of the Soviet Union forced North Korea to rely more on China for imports. In the 1990s, however, China decreased its grain exports because its own population needed the crops. In response, North Korea condemned China as a traitor. Without foreign aid, poverty in North Korea has only worsened.

These four influences on poverty in North Korea show that it is the product of ill-advised governmental decisions. Fortunately, the global community has begun to take note of the country’s struggles, and other nations are offering help. China has been the most generous donor, sending over 200,000 tons of food in 2012 and $3 million in aid in 2016. South Korea has also been generous to its neighbor, pledging 50,000 tons of rice and $8 million in 2019. The U.N. asked donors for $120 million to give to North Korea, eliciting responses from countries like Denmark, Norway and Germany. Non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross and the World Food Programme likewise commit to helping North Koreans in need. Hope remains for the people of North Korea.

Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr

Combating Intensified Hunger in ZimbabweSince the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Zimbabwe has faced crippling issues of hunger, starvation and high malnutrition rates. The World Food Programme (WFP) recorded in December 2019 that 7.7 million people living within Zimbabwe were food insecure. Moreover, Global Citizen reported that approximately 90% of children between the ages of 6 months and 2-years-old may die without food aid. Here is some information about intensified hunger in Zimbabwe.

COVID-19 is Intensifying Hunger

The population of people lacking sustenance in Zimbabwe–half of its total population–has only grown since the conception of COVID-19. There has been an increase of nearly 10 million people surviving on less than one meal a day since COVID-19.

Reginald Moyo, a resident of Cowdray Park, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe told The Borgen Project that the “majority of the people don’t have permanent jobs and they [live] by hand to mouth, so [with] a month without working[,]…they are now facing starvation.” Many people are working to address this growing crisis. The people of Zimbabwe, international organizations and the Chinese government have provided aid to Zimbabweans in need.

Efforts from International Organizations

On May 4, 2020, the U.N. entities of Zimbabwe, working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), released an official food analysis report in response to the growing hunger in Zimbabwe. The report stated that “The total funding required to assist the 3.7 million people by the international humanitarian community for July 2019 to April 2020 amounts to USD 331.5 million.” The effects of COVID-19 have intensified hunger in Zimbabwe and increased the need for assistance. The Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) requested an additional 6.7 billion USD to combat hunger in order to protect lives.

However, aid is not only monetarily based. In 2002, the nonprofit group Action Against Hunger set a goal to provide food aid, healthcare, sanitation/hygiene needs and water to countless Zimbabweans in need. It estimated in 2018 that its efforts aided 25 Zimbabweans through nutrition and health programs; gave 52 people water, food and healthcare; and dispensed 3,187 people with food. Action Against Hunger not only gave the required resources for survival but also provided education on how local Zimbabwe efforts could improve hunger in their country.

Response from Zimbabwe’s Government

On March 30, 2020, President Mnangagwa reopened the markets to aid small-scale farmers and traders in the difficulties they faced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this may seem to not directly address hunger in Zimbabwe, the decision has determined their survival in the upcoming months. Prior to this change, farmers and traders could not go outside or attend to their crop which limited their income as well as their food supply.

The Borgen Project interviewed Nkocy Thando, a farmer living in rural areas within the Bulawayo area of Zimbabwe. Thando stated that since the markets have opened up again, locals have been able to “work when they open in the morning to three [in] the afternoon.” He expressed his immense gratitude for this change and stated that he felt that “all would be okay soon.”

Aid from China

The Chinese Embassy and the private sector are also combating hunger in Zimbabwe by addressing COVID-19 needs. RFI, a worldwide French news and current affairs broadcast reported that China’s efforts have included:

  1. Completing an upgrade worth $500,000 to the Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital, which is the main COVID-19 center in Harare, Zimbabwe.
  2. Two Chinese firms providing 1,000 goggles, 50,000 masks and 510 protective suits to a charity that the First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa, runs.
  3. The Chinese Embassy equipping Zimbabwe with 7,600 suits for protection, 166,000 masks, 20,000 testing kits, 12,000 pairs of gloves and five ventilators.
  4. The China International Development Cooperation Agency donating $3 million to UNICEF Zimbabwe.

Diverse Responses

There are many organizations working to address the existing and intensifying issues of hunger, starvation and high malnutrition rates in Zimbabwe. However, their solutions range from governmental mandates reopening markets to increased funding for poverty-reduction organizations in the United Nations (UN). While the current responses to hunger in Zimbabwe seem mainly focused on COVID-19 efforts, they still are making a difference in combating intensified hunger in Zimbabwe.

– Alexis LeBaron
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America and a key player in the international sphere. Despite its power and influence, there are still human rights issues prevalent in Brazil’s population. Human trafficking affects a significant portion of the 211 million people living in the country. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Brazil.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Brazil

  1. Due to recent urbanization in Brazil, many industries, such as textile companies, are exploiting undocumented workers, especially those from neighboring Spanish-speaking countries. Undocumented workers are not the only victims of human trafficking in Brazil, however, as women and children are in situations of forced labor or prostitution. Between the years of 2010 and 2017, Brazil had over 500 cases of forced sexual exploitation, stemming from the country’s severe income inequality. Since 2005, Brazil’s government has made efforts to reduce the income gap, but since over 70 percent of those in forced labor situations are illiterate, these efforts have yet to impact the high rates of human trafficking in Brazil.
  2. Traffickers are taking women from their homes in small villages. The NGO Rede Um Grito pela Vida, which translates to A Cry for Life Network, reports that criminal organizations are taking females from their homes in small villages along the Amazon. The traffickers tell these women that they will have a better life involving work or education. Furthermore, criminal organizations usually move them to other Brazilian cities. The traffickers commonly place these women into roles of forced sexual exploitation.
  3. The U.S. Department of State has commended the efforts of the Brazilian government in its work towards ending human trafficking in the country. Such work includes convicting more traffickers, investigating and prosecuting more trafficking cases and identifying more victims of “trabalho escravo,” or unpaid labor. Although each state’s reported data varies, Brazil remains a “tier 2” country, meaning that it is working in the right direction, but still has a long way to go to decrease human trafficking at an effective rate.
  4. In 2019, Brazilian authorities brought down a human trafficking ring that specifically targetted transgender women. At least 38 transgender women were working in brothels in the state of Sao Paulo, where traffickers were holding them due to the debts they owed for undergoing illegal transitional surgeries. The importance of this case involves the distinction between sex work and the exploitation of sex workers. Sex work is legal in Brazil. However, the exploitation of sex workers blurs the line between human trafficking and legal employment.
  5. The Ministry of Labor implemented the use of “Special Mobile Inspection Groups” with the aim of spotting forced labor in rural areas. It does this by performing unannounced inspections in farms and factories. Between the years of 1995 and 2017, there have been over 53,000 successful rescues of forced laborers in Brazil through the efforts of these inspection groups.
  6. According to the Digital Observatory of Slavery Labour in Brazil, government agencies rescued over 35,000 people from slave labor between 2003 and 2017. The Federal Police performed many of the rescue missions in the form of raids on groups that utilize human trafficking. These raids, in particular, focused individuals who had to provide labor for no cost to their captors.
  7. Although there are many kinds of human trafficking, a common type of modern slavery inside Brazil is forced labor. Forced labor is prevalent in rural areas. It focuses on industries that require field labor, such as cattle ranching, coffee production and forestry. About 7 million domestic workers in Brazil are victims of forced labor. This means they work long hours, suffer abuse and receive little to no pay.
  8. There are many NGOs working to provide legal and social assistance to victims of human trafficking in Brazil and its neighboring countries. The GLO.ACT, an initiative that the E.U. and the U.N. support, began its efforts in Nicaragua, and since then expanded to providing assistance to over 100 participants from NGOs and government agencies in Brazil. In addition, it provides missions in Brazil where participants can visit cities and help vulnerable migrants find shelter, all while creating awareness about the issue of human trafficking.
  9. The U.S. Department of State’s 2019 trafficking report outlines the role of the Brazilian Federal Police (DPF) in combatting human trafficking. The DPF has a unit in every state in Brazil that investigates most trafficking crimes. Although law enforcement at all levels lacks sufficient funding and staffing, the support of international organizations and foreign governments is supplementing this deficit.
  10. Traffickers often trick undocumented migrants into entering Brazil under the false pretense that they will live in the U.S. The traffickers then either force those migrants into human trafficking rings or dangerous journeys from Brazil up to the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The U.S. is taking legal action in response to these crimes and prosecuting human traffickers through its judicial system when their crimes cross the U.S. border.

 Although these 10 facts about human trafficking in Brazil present startling statistics, there remains a beacon of hope surrounding the topic. Brazil’s government is taking steps towards advancing the legal protection of human rights in the country, such as ratifying the United Nations Palermo Protocol. International human trafficking is an issue that requires support from various sectors, especially from governments and their agencies. Through international support and awareness, facts about human trafficking in Brazil may replace with more positive statistics. Overall, the work of NGOs, foreign aid and the Brazilian government continues to generate progress in the fight against human trafficking.

Ariana Davarpanah
Photo: Flickr

Climate Change Causes Plagues of Locusts in KenyaKenya and other nations in East Africa are under siege from a plague of billions and billions of locusts “in numbers not seen in generations,” according to the Washington Post. The locusts are from Somalia and Yemen, where conflict inhibits governments from stopping the locusts’ breeding. Meanwhile, climate change has caused unseasonable rains in East Africa, which is in the locusts’ migration path, the destination of which is lush feeding grounds further inland. Here is more information about the plagues of locusts in Kenya.

Climate Change Causes Plagues of Locusts in Kenya

The desert locusts have been a problem for East Africa since the beginning of 2020 if not sooner. The U.N. anticipates that the problem will worsen by the summer. Specifically, some project the number of locusts to multiply 500 times by June 2020. This is the greatest locust threat that Kenya has experienced in the last 70 years, and the U.N. fears that more countries are at risk too.

The Causes of the Plagues of Locusts in Kenya

The plague of locusts is due to a confluence of factors, namely climate-change-related events and armed-conflict, which exacerbated the issue. The locusts, which first ravaged the arid counties of Mandera and Wajir in north-eastern Kenya, came from Ethiopia and Somalia.

The weather in Kenya and elsewhere in the region has been unseasonably wet and hot due to climate-change-related cyclones in the Arabian Peninsula in May and October 2018. These conditions are perfect for generations of locust eggs to breed and hatch.

Climate change has worsened the locust problem because it has caused the warming of the Indian Ocean. This is responsible for increased and more severe tropical cyclones in the area. Furthermore, the warm temperatures aid the locust eggs in hatching and the winds help the locusts to spread. In addition, people cannot spray insecticide to control the locusts while it rains.

The Plague’s Effects

The most devastating effect of the plague of locusts is that it threatens the food security of the Kenyan people and the surrounding sub-region of Africa. The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) considers desert locusts to be one of the most dangerous flying pests because they can fly long distances and thus migrate in a short period of time.

Each locust can eat its own weight in food every day, so when a swarm the size of Luxembourg descends upon Kenya, that is a huge problem. In fact, that number of locusts can eat the same amount of food as 10s of millions of people. The plague of locusts is a threat to the Kenyan economy, which is dependent on its agricultural exports. In 2019, the agricultural sector made up 26 percent of the country’s GDP. Due to these economic problems, Kenya’s currency could depreciate, which would be catastrophic.

International Response

The U.N.’s FAO has called on the international community to provide aid to “avert any threats to food security, livelihoods, malnutrition” from the unprecedented and devastating swarms of locusts. According to the FAO, aerial control, meaning insecticide that an aircraft sprays, is the only way to deal with the locusts, which local and national authorities have not been able to adequately deal with.

Kenya and other nations in East Africa are facing a perfect storm of climate-change-related weather events and conflicts in surrounding countries that have led to an unprecedented plague of locusts with the potential to cause famine. This locust plague is evidence of how climate change causes real damage to humans, most frequently from developing countries. Thus, the world must address the root cause of climate change to prevent catastrophic events like this from happening in the future.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

UN Report on Global Unemployment
Global unemployment plays a key role in global poverty. After all, the logic goes that employment leads to prosperity, even if little by little. Development economists proclaim the efficacy of providing jobs, however low paying, as the means to the end of escaping poverty, regardless of location. There is some evidence for this. According to the Brookings Institute, increasing work rates impacted poverty most, with education being second. With that said, a recent U.N. report on global unemployment clouds the future of international job growth since, for the first time in nearly a decade, the global unemployment rate has risen.

Previous Global Unemployment Rise

In 2008 and 2009, the Great Recession hamstrung the United States economy in the worst way since the Great Depression nearly 70 years prior. Unemployment soared, reaching 13.2 percent nationally and 5.6 percent globally. Between 2008 and 2009, the last time the U.N. reported on global unemployment rate increases, it increased by nearly a full percentage point, according to the World Bank. The stock market crash in the United States and Europe clearly caused this, but thankfully the rate recovered and surpassed the 2009 point in 2019, returning to about 4.9 percent.

Reasons for the Present Situation

A U.N. report on global unemployment in January 2020 indicated that this rise in the global unemployment rate was due largely to trade tensions. The United Nations said that these conflicts could seriously inhibit international efforts to address concerns of poverty in developing countries and shift focus away from efforts to decarbonize the global economy. Due to these strains, the report claims that 473 million people lack adequate job opportunities to accommodate their needs. Of those, some 190 million people are out of work, a rise of more than 2.5 million from last year. In addition, approximately 165 million people found employment, but in an insufficient amount of hours to garner wages to support themselves. These numbers pale in comparison to the 5.7 billion working-age people across the world but they concern economists nonetheless.

To compound the issue, the International Labor Organization said that vulnerable employment is on the rise as well, as people that do have jobs may find themselves out of one in the near future. A 2018 report estimated that nearly 1.4 billion workers lived in the world in 2017, and expected that 35 million more would join them by 2019.

The Implications

A rise in global unemployment, like that which the U.N. report on global unemployment forecasts, assuredly has an impact on global poverty. More people out of work necessarily means more people struggling to make ends meet. The World Economic and Social Outlook places this trend in a bigger context. Labor underutilization, meaning people working fewer hours than they would like or finding it difficult to access paid work, combined with deficits in work and persisting inequalities in labor markets means an overall stagnating global economy, according to the report.

Hope for the Future

First of all, stagnation is not a decline, and a trend of one year to the next does not necessarily indicate a predestined change for the years ahead. In fact, the World Bank points toward statistics that it issued at the end of the year to support the claim that every year, poverty reduces. In 2019, nearly 800 million people overcame extreme poverty from a sample of only 15 countries: Tanzania, Tajikistan, Chad, Republic of Congo, Kyrgyz Republic, China, India, Moldova, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Namibia. Over a 15-year period, roughly from 2000 to 2015, these 15 countries showed the greatest improvements in global poverty, contributing greatly to the reduction of the global rate of people living on $1.90 a day or less to below 10 percent. Additionally, efforts by organizations such as the International Development Association have funded the needs of the 76 poorest countries to the tune of $82 billion, promoting continued economic growth and assisting in making them more resilient to climate shocks and natural disasters.

While the U.N. report on global unemployment forecasts a hindrance to these improvements, hope is far from lost. The fight against global poverty continues with plenty of evidence of success and optimism for the future.

– Alex Myers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Serbia
The Republic of Serbia gained independence following the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992. Although birthed from the aftermath of a bloody civil war and a subsequent period of violence and civil unrest, Serbia is a progressive nation with a high quality of life standards. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Serbia.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Serbia

  1. Trends: Life expectancy in Serbia continues to trend upwards. The current average life expectancy is 76.05, a 0.18 percent increase from 2019. U.N. statistical projections anticipate that life expectancy rates will grow to 80.21 by 2050.
  2. Leading Causes of Death: A 2018 report from the WHO identified the leading causes of death in Serbia as coronary heart disease, which accounted for 21.39 percent of deaths. In addition, around 14.92 percent of death are from strokes.
  3. Infant Mortality: Serbia’s infant mortality rate is steadily improving. In 2000, there were approximately 13.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. Today, the metric stands at only 4.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. Additionally, U.N. data predicts that infant mortality rates will drop even further by 2050 to just over two deaths per 1,000 births.
  4. Health Care: Serbia underserves health care to around 20 percent of Serbian citizens. However, Serbia, in general, has an inclusive and effective health care system. Pregnant women, infants, college students and children 15 or younger all receive free health care. Furthermore, mental health services and treatment of infectious diseases are free for all.
  5. Access to Medical Facilities: The post-World War II Serbian government invested heavily in the territory’s medical schools. Eventually, it hopes to correct its problematic lack of trained medical professionals. As of 2016, there were 3.13 doctors per 1,000 citizens. That same year, Serbia recorded health funding equivalent to 9.1 percent of the national GDP.
  6. Birth Rate: Serbia’s population is shrinking. The estimated fertility rate in 2020 is 1.46 children born per woman. This place Serbia at 211 out of 228 nations. As a result, the population should decline by an estimated 0.47 percent.
  7. Violent Crime: Serbia’s murder rate has significantly declined over the past decade. In 2007, there were 1.9 homicides per 100,000 citizens. By 2017, the number dropped to 1.1. However, Serbia is a strategic corridor in the international drug trafficking trade. This means that multiple organized crime syndicates operate there.
  8. Women’s Health: In general, Serbian women live longer and healthier lives than their male counterparts. Women live on average around five years longer than men. Estimates determine that Serbia’s maternal mortality rate is 12 deaths per 100,000 live births. It places Serbia in the upper half of global maternal mortality figures.
  9. Sexual/Reproductive Health: Serbia is a highly religious nation. In addition, citizens typically hold conservative attitudes towards sex and relationships. Contraceptive prevalence is a comparatively low 58.4 percent. Only 18.4 percent of married or committed women use modern contraceptive methods. The United Nations Population Fund is in the midst of a campaign to ensure universal access to contraception and family planning services.
  10. Ethnic Minorities: Hungarians, Romani, Bosnians and other ethnic minorities comprise 16.7 percent of the Serbian population. Historically, Serbia’s relationship with the rest of the Balkans has been volatile both within and outside national borders. Additionally, this contributed to unequal access to health care, particularly for the Roma population. In concert with UNICEF, the Pediatric Association of Serbia is engaged in improving pediatric care for minorities and children with disabilities.
These 10 facts about life expectancy in Serbia attest to the nation’s rapid recovery from the tragedies of the 1990s and early 2000s. Serbia’s health care system and quality of life standards should improve even further in the coming years.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr

Locust Swarms in Ethiopia
Brutal locust swarms have been decimating the food supply of Ethiopia and other African nations. Over 40 percent of Ethiopia’s GDP comes from agriculture, specifically the cultivation of grains like wheat and barley. Locust swarms attack the food supply of the livestock as well, of which Ethiopians consume at a much higher standard than most developing countries. Ethiopia consumes 15 kilograms of meat annually, 50 percent of which is beef. Locust swarms plaguing East Africa have the potential to create a famine that threatens to starve the people of Ethiopia. Here are some facts regarding the locust swarm crisis in Ethiopia recently.

7 Facts About the Locust Swarm Crisis in Ethiopia

  1. The locust swarm crisis in Ethiopia threatens to plunge several Eastern countries into famine. The United Nations (U.N.) has released a call to action, asking other nations around the world to provide $76 million for relief efforts in order to spray the affected areas with insecticide. This is one of the only ways to quell this impending famine.
  2. Ethiopia is no stranger to this kind of epidemic, as a similar influx of locust swarms preyed upon nearly 100 percent of green plant cover in Northern Ethiopia back in 1954. This locust swarm, along with extreme drought that year, plunged Ethiopia into a year-long famine.
  3. The locust’s ability to fly over 150 kilometers in one day makes it a traveling crop reaper. A single locust swarm, containing 40 million locusts, can consume the amount of food required to feed 35,000 people in a single day. This is the largest locust swarm Ethiopia has faced in 25 years.
  4. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in order to monitor prime breeding locations of locusts to effectively eradicate them before a full-blown infestation comes to fruition. USAID also backs the research of naturally-occurring pest control agents over harmful chemicals.
  5. USAID aids in coordination with national authorities in order to quickly locate swarm locations so every party has the preparation to eliminate the swarms. Local farmhands and herdsmen often alert locust control staff when people have spotted locusts in a particular area, playing a primary role in the prevention of locust swarms. Locusts tend to destroy crops very quickly, so it is important for locust control staff to know whether it is necessary to intervene with the local sightings and data they collect.
  6. Biologist Arianne Cease believes that the practice of overgrazing livestock creates more severe locust swarms. The land management that farmers implement creates a humid climate that is perfect for spawning locusts. Cease says that farmers should feed crops to their livestock that are optimal for that specific animal and not for locusts. For example, locusts thrive on a high carbohydrate crop, such as the grain that farmers grow in Ethiopia, while a sheep thrives on a high protein crop. Therefore, selecting the right crop and not overgrazing can decrease the severity of swarms, according to Arianne Cease.
  7. Dr. Cease has begun working with over 1,000 Mongolian farmers at a university for agriculture in order to implement these farming strategies, all with the hope of decreasing locust swarm sizes, such as the city-sized swarm currently plaguing Ethiopia.

One locust swarm can threaten Ethiopia’s entire food security. With the right precautionary measures like selective crop growing, moderate grazing and reporting locust sightings to international and local authorities, Ethiopia and the rest of the East African nations that these swarms plague can work together to mitigate the destruction that these pesky insect swarms caused.

– William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Libyan Civil War
In the wake of the Arab Spring revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, protests broke out in Benghazi, Libya in February 2011. The protest was over the arrest of human rights lawyer Fethi Tarbell. When the government responded with greater and deadlier force to suppress the protests, demonstrators took up arms against the Qaddafi regime. NATO forces intervened in support of the rebels, who found and killed Qaddafi in October of that year. Libya has experienced a civil war between the Libyan National Army and the General National Congress. The ongoing conflict has had severe consequences for the Libyan people. Here are four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War.

4 Humanitarian Costs of the Libyan Civil War

  1. Displacement: The Libyan Civil War has resulted in the displacement of tons of Libyans. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the amount of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Libya was upwards of 217,000 people as of late 2017. By January 2020, the estimated number of IDPs rose to 343,180 Libyans. In addition to these IDPs, Libya is housing tens of thousands of refugees. Because of its proximity to Europe, Libya has remained a hub for migrants and asylum-seekers despite the civil war. Currently, Libya has 46,913 registered refugees and asylum-seekers. Refugees and migrants living in Libya face unsafe living conditions. This can lead to a litany of abuses at the hands of smugglers and members of militias and gangs including rapes, beatings and killings. This is due to weak law enforcement in Libya. Both internally displaced Libyans and refugees from other countries are often exposed to the violence of the civil war.
  2. Poor Living Conditions: The civil war has significantly worsened living conditions for Libyans. Three percent of Libya’s population, or 229,468 people, live in extreme poverty. Rural Libyans more commonly live in these conditions when measured proportionally. The incredibly high unemployment rate has worsened economic living conditions of young Libyans. At 48.7 percent, Libya now has the fourth-highest youth unemployment rate in the entire world. More young people in Libya are unemployed per capita than in the Gaza Strip or in Syria. More than 1.3 million are in need of humanitarian assistance in Libya. In addition, hundreds of thousands of them lack adequate access to health care and essential medicines, reliable food, drinking water sources, safe shelter and education.
  3. Violation of Human Rights: An important consequence of the civil war is the transgression of basic rights, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech and expression. Since the civil war broke out in 2011, armed militias and ISIS fighters have threatened and attacked religious minorities. This includes Sufis, Ibadis and Christians. They destroyed religious sites in Libya with impunity. Unidentified groups have committed several attacks of violence against Sufi religious sites including a historic Sufi mosque in Tripoli and Sidi Abu Gharara. The violation of freedom of speech and expression occurs when groups have intimidated, threatened and physically attacked activists, journalists, bloggers and media professionals. Journalists and members of the media have experienced arrests and detainments without charge.
  4. Human Trafficking: Another problem that has intensified during the civil war is human trafficking. According to the CIA World Factbook, Libya is a destination and transit country for men and women from Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Migrants who seek employment in Libya as laborers and domestic workers or who transit Libya en route to Europe are vulnerable to forced labor. Traffickers often force migrants to work on farms and construction sites. Additionally, they frequently force women to work in brothels. Militias and armed groups have been forcibly enlisting children under 18 years old since 2013. The civil war exacerbates this problem. The violence and unrest of the conflict hinder the ability of international actors and of the Libyan government to gather information on human trafficking. Libya’s judicial system is dysfunctional. Thus, the government cannot investigate, prosecute or convict traffickers, complicit detention camp guards or government officials, or militias or armed groups that used child soldiers. The Libyan government cannot protect trafficking victims.

International Response

These four humanitarian costs of the Libyan Civil War have significant negative effects on local civilians. In response to the civil war and its effects, organizations like the U.N. sought to provide aid to the Libyan people. The UNHCR has instituted a Quick Impact Project (QIPs) in Libya. It is a small project that helps support those in need with health, education, shelter or water and sanitation sectors. UNHCR provides vital assistance to refugees and migrants at 12 disembarkation points in western Libya. Other activities include working to end the detention of refugees and asylum seekers, resettlement, family reunification and voluntary repatriation.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

corruption in El Salvador

In 2018, El Salvador received a Corruption Perception Index score of 35 out of 100, with 100 being no perceived corruption. El Salvador ranked 105 out of 108 countries that the index scored. This poor rating is a reason for concern. However, with the establishment of the International Commission Against Impunity in El Salvador in September 2019, there is newfound hope.

Cost of Corruption

Corruption is not just morally wrong, it is also expensive, costing the world at least $2.6 trillion every year according to an estimate by the World Economic Forum. The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has noted that corruption often disproportionately affects the poor. That $2.6 trillion comes from schools, hospitals and other critical institutions losing resources and businesses and individuals paying bribes, creating a deteriorating effect on the society as a whole.

President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador estimates that every year the government loses $1.5 billion without a trace. Former President Tony Saca cost El Salvador $300 million because he redirected government funds into the companies and banks of family and friends. Meanwhile, his successor, Mauricio Funes, gave away another $351 million to family and associates.

Corruption in El Salvador has also largely centered around the actions of the state security forces and gang-related activities. Within the state security forces, there has been a pattern of excessive force, including reports of extrajudicial killings and threats against the LGBT community, children and those who work toward the rehabilitation of gang members by the U.N. In 2017, there were reports of a death squad engaging in killings, disappearances, robbery, sexual assault and extortion. Additionally, there are approximately 60,000 gang members throughout the country, and in many cases, they are the ones who set and enforce local rules and partner with government officials in criminal operations.

The International Commission Against Impunity in El Salvador

The commission serves to act as an autonomous and neutral institution to ensure transparency within the federal government by investigating possible corruption in El Salvador and helping to enforce the laws. It is accomplishing this by establishing close relations with institutions in the country. This includes the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Unit within the National Civil Police, as well as working with the Ministry of Finance, the General Directorate of Customs and the General Directorate of Migration.

The El Salvadoran government has worked with the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States to set up the commission. The organization includes 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere and dedicates itself to the promotion of democracy, security and development. It has been working with various institutions within El Salvador, including the Attorney General’s Office, Supreme Court of Justice and various civil society organizations to ensure greater transparency and that authorities properly enforce the laws in El Salvador.

Concerns with the Commission

Firstly, Bukele’s major step of establishing the commission has come only in the past few months, meaning it is too early for there to be conclusive evidence of its impact on corruption in El Salvador.

Secondly, the commission is in conjunction with the Organization of American States, not the U.N. People have questioned the legitimacy of the commission due to the fear that the organization will not lead the commission with as serious intent, as the U.N. led the Guatemalan impunity commission. This fear stems from the belief that the organization is “underfunded, poorly managed and inadequately staffed,” according to the Foreign Policy Magazine. It is important to note that despite these concerns, the organization has played a crucial role in uncovering human rights violations in the Americas over the past several decades.

Lastly, President Bukele has stated that the commission will not require lawmaker approval to run. Jessica Estrada of the National Foundation for Development has added that the El Salvadoran “constitution does not allow the establishment of a mechanism” similar to that led by the U.N. in Guatemala. These statements call into question how much will change if there is a lack of legal enforcement available.

Reason for Hope

For one, the International Crisis Group reported in 2018 that the Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala has helped lead to a 5 percent average annual decrease in the murder rate in the country since it formed in 2007, providing a precedent for success. The commission in Guatemala accomplished this by being instrumental in the passing of legislation that allows for wiretaps along with greater use of DNA and ballistic testing and with other modern investigation methods. These efforts helped to create stronger law enforcement, discouraging criminal activity.

Also, already under the newly elected President, El Salvador has seen its most peaceful month this century, averaging only 3.6 homicides per day in October 2019. At its worst, the country suffered through an average of 17.6 homicides per day throughout the entire year of 2015.

Finally, within weeks after his election, President Bukele deployed police and soldiers to areas of highly concentrated extortion efforts where the gangs in the country receive 80 percent of their income, giving some sense of how seriously he is taking the issue.

While the fight against corruption in El Salvador is far from over, there is meaningful potential for the creation of a more peaceful and transparent state.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: UN Multimedia