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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

Hunger in Cyprus
The Republic of Cyprus is an island country that is located in the Mediterranean. The country is between the Middle East on one side and Europe on the other. While The Republic of Cyprus has a rich history and is a beautiful location, the country has had issues with feeding its citizens in the past. Nonetheless, international organizations are making efforts to help reduce hunger in Cyprus. The U.N. is one such organization that is making efforts to help the people of Cyprus through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Hunger in Cyprus

One of the goals is to end hunger in Cyprus by providing food security, improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. The U.N. states that Cyprus is usually able to provide food for its people and that the status of nutrition among its citizens is for the most part good. However, there have been instances in the past where this was not the case. In 2013, for example, there was a financial crisis in the country where 2,500 families had to rely on the charity of food banks to meet their daily needs. Additionally, Cyprus faced difficulties in agriculture because Cyprus has a semi-arid climate and water resources that rely on rainfall to replenish them. To overcome those challenges to effective agriculture, Cyprus must improve its production through investments and innovation.

Improving Agriculture in Cyprus

The E.U. is currently trying to do just that for the agriculture of Cyprus. It has implemented The Farm Advisory Services Programme back in 2017. The E.U. understands how vitally important agriculture is to the economy of Cyprus. There are about 10,000 farms that take up 60% of the land in Cyprus. There are also about 125,000 hectares in the north of Cyprus that have dedicated themselves to agricultural production alone. The Food Advisory Services Programme seeks to provide the farmers of Cyprus with the training and technical support that they need to best improve their production. The E.U. began the Food Advisory Program by reaching out to Cyprus farmers in 723 consultations with them. The goal of these consultations was to make sure that as many farmers as possible would have access to E.U. funding. By providing this type of support, the E.U. hopes to prevent hunger in Cyprus.

Not only will improved agricultural techniques help prevent hunger in Cypress, but it will also help the country compete on a global scale. Since 2018, the agricultural sector of Cyprus has been able to make great strides. About 50% of agricultural exports in Cyprus go to the E.U. with the rest going to European countries not part of the E.U., the Middle East or Asia. While Cyprus cannot put out as many agricultural products as larger countries, it can excel in the quality of its agricultural goods. For example, the Cypriot potato is a well known and vital export that makes up 40% of the country’s agricultural products. This particular product is of great quality in Cyprus.

Such progress in the agricultural sector will help the country alleviate its poverty and prevent the possibility of hunger in Cyprus should there ever be another economic crisis.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Rethinking Development in Situations of Fragility, Conflict and Violence
Fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) threaten to crumble hard-won development achievements in developing countries around the world. The World Bank is transitioning to an FCV strategy that can help maintain development progress amidst conflict through prevention, engagement, transitional assistance and mitigation techniques.

Effects of FCV on Development

Situations of FCV have risen significantly in the past 30 years. The number has grown from approximately 40 million forcibly displaced people worldwide in 1990 to more than 79.5 million people at the end of 2019. FCV has devastated countries’ economies and left millions in poverty, while threatening to crumble hard-won development achievements. A World Bank report predicted that in the next decade, two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor will reside in countries that fragility, conflict and violence plague. Economies that fragility and conflict burden often have persisting poverty rates of over 40%, while countries that stabilized in the past decade have dropped their poverty rates by more than half.

About 20% of people living in situations of FCV experience educational, financial and infrastructure losses. Human capital development, a pivotal component of economic growth and poverty reduction also tend to decrease in conflict settings, as the health, education and skills of an entire population get put on hold. Human capital losses from fragility and conflict can decrease lifetime productivity and earnings. As a result, it leaves the youth population at a disadvantage even conflicts end.

The “New” Humanitarian Aid

Aid to situations of fragility, conflict and violence has traditionally focused on humanitarian interventions to save lives and fulfill basic needs, putting development planning aside until the restoration of peace. Although short-term humanitarian aid is crucial, situations of conflict have become increasingly protracted. This dilemma has stretched the operational capacity of U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), designed to provide short-term humanitarian assistance. However, the need for long-term solutions is crucial. The World Bank has concluded that securing peace is mandatory for extreme poverty eradication, and is rethinking the way it approaches development in settings of FCV as a result. In a five-year strategy, the Bank aims to assist countries before, during and after situations of FCV through four pillars of engagement.

4 Pillars of Engagement

  1. Preventing Violent Conflict and Interpersonal Violence: Prevention is a key pillar of The World Bank’s FCV strategy because of its humanitarian and economic efficiency. According to the U.N. and World Bank, approximately every $1 invested in preventing situations of FCV can save $16 in the future. Prevention starts with addressing the drivers of FCV and assessing the risks associated with FCV.  Discrimination, injustice, economic and social exclusion, gender inequality and demographic shocks can all play a role in igniting FCV. Therefore, addressing these issues is crucial to improving peace and resilience before tensions escalate. For example, The International Development Association’s (IDA18) Risk Mitigation Regime is helping countries like Niger identify FCV risks. Risks that include youth disenfranchisement, corruption and natural resource competition. IDA18 is addressing them through the provision of resources and programming.
  2. Remaining Engaged During Crises and Active Conflicts: The World Bank aims to remain engaged during crises and active conflicts. It hopes to protect development, strengthen community resilience and establish foundations for recovery. Continuing investments into places experiencing FCV will protect human capital development and strengthen institutions. The World Bank is cooperating with humanitarian actors in Yemen to strengthen its projects during the conflict and is continuing its assistance with energy and agricultural sector development by employing Yemenis and sustaining their livelihoods during the conflict.
  3. Helping Countries Transition Out of Fragility: Transition periods are often turbulent, consequently leaving populations vulnerable to socio-economic shocks that can trigger the return of FCV. The World Bank aims to strengthen institutions, develop the private sector and improve relations between citizens and the state. Improving relations between the population and the state will ensure a peaceful transition out of fragility. During Somalia’s transition, for instance, The World Bank is helping to improve financial governance. It is also providing economic support to manage debt, strengthen the banking sector and reform public financial management.
  4. Mitigating the Spillovers of FCV: Spillovers from situations of fragility, conflict and violence can have major humanitarian consequences and strain the capacity of nearby states. The most vulnerable and marginalized communities often suffer the worst from cross-border crises such as displacement, famines, environmental challenges and public health emergencies. In order to reduce FCV spillover, The World Bank aims to strengthen its assistance to refugees and host countries. Ethiopia’s refugee policy reforms serve as a key example of spillover mitigation. The World Bank is helping Ethiopia’s government transition towards a progressive long-term settlement framework, integrating refugees into Ethiopia’s socioeconomic system. In addition, giving refugees access to employment and essential services will help build self-reliance, improve living standards and develop human capital development. With help from The World Bank and other development partners, Ethiopia has received the tools necessary to support its refugee population.

The World Bank’s new strategy is redefining the way to approach development in situations of fragility, conflict and violence. Through prevention, engagement, transitional assistance and mitigation, The World Bank is helping FCV communities prepare for a more peaceful and prosperous future.

Claire Brenner
Photo: Flickr

Documentation Crisis in Syria
Syrians are facing striking consequences from the nearly 10-year civil war. With the destruction of the country also came the destruction of legal documents, including IDs, birth certificates and education degrees. This article will articulate the specific consequences of the documentation crisis in Syria, as well as organizations working to help.

Homelessness

For many Syrian refugees, finding housing is not a simple task. While some simply fled their homes in hopes of escaping the war, many had to leave due to the loss of their documentation. As The New Humanitarian stated, receiving proof of homeownership is extremely difficult in Syria as is. As the war progressed, more and more homeownership files experienced destruction or people lost them. Moreover, those living in stable homes had to leave.

Further Marginalization of Women

In Syria, significantly fewer women have proper documentation than men. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) conducted a study in 2017 which showed that one in five Syrian men own passports, while only one in 50 women own passports. Not only are women at a great disadvantage due to Syria’s conservative values but as the war continued, Syrian women also lost their already little documentation. Gaining their passports back will be even more difficult than the process was before the war due to the documentation crisis.

Loss of Prior and Further Education

The war directly affected Syrian education as well. In fact, over 33% of Syria’s schools have experienced damage or destruction due to the decade-long war. Displaced people are primarily using the ones that remained intact. Syrian refugees who choose to come back to Syria may not have the ability to further their education without government documents; as of 2019, nearly half of school-aged children in Idleb, Syria is at risk of not having access to school. For some, a lack of documentation inhibits their ability to continue even elementary or secondary education. For others, the loss of their diplomas and other proof of graduation results in further difficulty in finding jobs. This, then, stunts any sort of academic mobilization for Syrians.

Further, secondary schools in Jordan, one of Syria’s bordering countries, “re-imposed documentation requirements it had previously waived, which risks undermining school access for vulnerable students,” according to Human Rights Watch. Moreover, some Syrian documents certify the most recent classes students have completed. Without these documents, the education ministry will place students based on their perceived age. If students lost their birth certificates along with class documentation, they might end up in a difficult learning environment, as they may be ahead or behind in their given class. Some students were drastically misplaced, as one student was meant to be in class two, but was placed in class five. This resulted in the student dropping out.

The Documentation Crisis and Poverty

With each mentioned issue comes the potential for poverty. Homelessness in Syria directly affects the family and the country itself. According to The Guardian, many families are only living on $200 a month, or $50 each week. This is a direct result of the decade-long war and the accompanying loss of homeownership documentation in the nation.

Moreover, as women in Syria already experienced great marginalization, leaving their homes caused serious effects on their health. According to the UN, nearly 7 million Syrians experience food insecurity. According to a 2017 study, food insecurity directly affects pregnant women, as they may suffer from anemia. The study also found that close to 8% of childbearing-aged women continued acutely malnourished. As the documentation crisis continues, so does the risk of poverty, which causes serious health risks for all people, but especially young women.

Lastly, education is pivotal in mobilizing any community. The UN confirmed 385 attacks on educational institutions since the year 2014. The Syrian war has obliterated all opportunities for young people to continue their education anytime soon. For example, 400,000 students were unable to take their final exams in the northwest region of Syria as of 2020. With education comes the ability to move up in the world both socioeconomically and personally. Now, with the documentation crisis paired with the destruction of schools in Syria, children are not able to participate in furthering their education. Some families (17%, according to the Norweigan Refugee Council, or the NRC) have resorted to obtaining false documentation in an attempt to restart their lives post-war.

Current Aid for Syrian Refugees

Organizations like UNICEF are providing various ways to help the documentation crisis in Syria. Whether it be psychological help or advocating for policy reform, there have been significant efforts to aid Syrian refugees. For example, UNICEF has involved 200,000 young people, youth and adolescents in civic engagement activities. The organization has also given 1 million children in both Syria and nearby countries the psychological help they may need. Additionally, UNICEF (along with partnering organizations) has given children access to informal and formal education.

The Borgen Project also allows individuals to make a difference with a simple email. Using The Borgen Project’s Action Center, one can send an email to their local representative to protect the International Affairs Budget. Further funding towards the budget allows for the U.S. to provide foreign aid and give Syrian children the education they deserve.

– Anna Hoban
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Africa
Tourism has been a fundamental component of the African economy for years, with many countries depending on the industry as a primary source of revenue. In addition to supporting the economy directly through foreign currency, tourism in Africa has become a reliable source of income for many locals. Some of these individuals work as tour guides, while others own tourism-dependent businesses like hotels and cultural craft shops. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry has changed dramatically over the past year.

Economic Shifts

The World Bank reported that, in 2012, tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) contributed $36 billion to the region’s GDP. The report also indicated that many countries in SSA were still working to develop their tourism facilities. Since 2012, these countries have improved security and provided better quality resources to attract tourists and tourism investors. However, COVID-19 disturbed this progress. Many countries established touristic travel bans to fight the pandemic, and many visitor attractions had to close. In total, the World Travel and Tourism Council has predicted that Africa’s resulting GDP loss could be $52.8 billion.

Unemployment

COVID-19 terminated many jobs, including tourism-related occupations like travel agencies and small businesses. The World Bank has reported that “one in twenty jobs in SSA is in travel and tourism.” According to a recent study from the African Union, an estimate of 2 million jobs directly or indirectly related to travel and tourism will disappear during the pandemic. These losses will affect all citizens in this region. For example, consumers will experience increased prices on commodities and higher taxes to compensate for the loss of tourism revenue.

Finding Solutions

However, countries typically reliant on tourism for economic stability are finding creative ways to adapt to the changes.

Many countries had no choice but to close borders in order to control the entrance and spread of COVID-19. Various policies implemented now encourage people to observe social distancing and wear masks in public places. To promote the industry amidst these new safety guidelines, the U.N. reported that Kenya and Zambia encouraged domestic tourism in the absence of foreign visitors. South Africa has donated approximately $11 million in relief aid to eligible tourism-related businesses, and the International Trade Centre reported that young Gambians who worked in community tourism became “COVID-19 first responders to awareness and prevention.”

These initiatives have helped people gain some income and retain access to basic needs. Additionally, countries have been conducting virtual tours in parks to continue engaging international tourists and increase chances of visitation following the pandemic. BBC reported that Kenya, Seychelles and Rwanda would open in August 2020 for international travelers; however, tourists would have to undergo different procedures to gain safe access to hotels and touristic sites.

Many African countries greatly profit from the tourism industry. This industry has been rapidly growing in Africa. In fact, the continent expected a consistent increase in the number of incoming international visitors over the next several years. However, in response to the recent surge of COVID-19, the continent is adapting to creatively compensate for these changes and continue protecting citizens’ health and safety.

– Renova Uwingabire
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in portugal
Portugal is part of the Iberian Peninsula and lies along the coast of the Atlantic Sea. It is located in Southern Europe and bordered on its northern and eastern sides by Spain. Many know Portugal for its resorts and beaches, cuisine and soccer team, especially its star athlete: Cristiano Ronaldo. However, many also know this country for its amazing, world-renowned healthcare systems and facilities. The following are eight facts about healthcare in Portugal.

8 Facts About Healthcare In Portugal

  1. Universal Health Coverage: Portugal provides healthcare free of charge to children under age 18 and adults over 65. If citizens do not meet these requirements, and unless they need urgent care or have a unique situation, the NHS offers healthcare to them at a low cost. According to internations.org, the average cost of health insurance in Portugal, “could cost between 20 and 50 EUR ($22–55) a month, depending on your age and the extent of your coverage.” This means that a Portuguese citizen could pay, “anywhere between 400 EUR ($440) a year for a basic plan and 1,000 EUR ($1,100) yearly for a more well-rounded coverage.”
  2. Twelfth in the U.N.: In an analysis of the healthcare systems of U.N.-member countries, WHO ranked Portugal 12th best out of 190 countries. Further, Portugal received a 94.5 rating out of 100 on fairness in financing and the efficiency, quality and equity of health responsiveness.
  3. Free Childbirth: Giving birth in Portugal is free if one is a citizen of Portugal. Women receive medical care in all stages of their pregnancy. This includes free appointments with an OB-GYN and delivery, for both natural births and C-sections.
  4. Prevalent Health Conditions: Cancer and cardiovascular diseases are the two most concerning health issues in Portugal. According to the State of Health in the E.U., other causes of death for Portugal’s citizens include diseases in the nervous system (dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc), respiratory diseases and external causes.
  5. High Life Expectancy: The life expectancy of Portugal’s citizens is 82.1 years. Men in the country live for 78 years on average while women can live for about 85 years. Portugal’s life expectancy is higher than the European average of 80.9 years, and expectations have determined that it could keep increasing. U.N. projections have determined that the life expectancy in Portugal could rise to 83.67 by 2030.
  6. NHS-run Hospitals: In 2016, there were about 225 hospitals in Portugal. Portugal’s National Health Service ran 111 of these hospitals, amounting to about 49.3% of the hospitals.
  7. Bad Habits: In 2014, about 17% of adults that resided in Portugal smoked every day, and adult obesity rates had risen to 16%. These habits, when coupled with excessive binge drinking, another popular activity in Portugal, lead to a high prevalence of health issues, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  8. Disability: As of 2000, many Portuguese women can expect to live three-quarters of their life with some type of disability. Meanwhile, men can expect to live three-fifths of their years with some disability, illness or ailment.

These eight facts about healthcare in Portugal demonstrate the benefits that Portuguese people face with their healthcare system as well as some of their challenges. Hopefully, the ability for Portugal’s citizens to obtain free healthcare during early life and old age can serve as an inspiration to other parts of the world.

Kate Estevez
Photo: Pixabay