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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

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

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

hunger in vietnam
Over the course of two decades, there was a decrease in the number of citizens facing starvation in Vietnam, a Southeast Asian country. Each year, statistics that Macrotrends has provided show the percentages of citizens facing hunger slightly dropping. Vietnam’s World Food Bank reports that, as of 2010, its country is no longer an undeveloped country but rather a middle-income country. Still, issues of hunger in Vietnam persist.

Statistics

Based on the annual statistics from Macrotrends, the amount of people facing hunger in Vietnam as of 2016 is 9.40%, which declined by 0.4% from 2015. The following year in 2017, the percentage of those facing hunger is 9.30%, which is a 0.1% decline. Macrotrends also present a line plot on its site, displaying the steady decrease of starvation in Vietnam from 2000-2019.

Root Causes of Vietnam’s Hunger Problem

Despite the decrease in percentage over the years, the number of those who face hunger in Vietnam is still very high. Here are four factors that ultimately connects to Vietnam’s hunger problem:

  1. High Poverty Rates: The issue of hunger ultimately roots to the high rates of poverty in Vietnam. According to the U.N., Vietnam has around 9 million citizens, or 9.8% of the entire population, who live in extreme poverty. The statistics of those facing hunger mirror the percentage of citizens in poverty.
  2. Issues with the Education System: The VN Express International News, or the most viewed Vietnam newspaper, reports that the key to combating poverty is providing an equal opportunity for an education to children of all backgrounds. According to a report provided by Oxfam in 2018, only 3.1% of the population were college-level graduates in Vietnam. As a result, the same research discovered that only one-fifth of Vietnam’s young adults occupy a different job from their parents. Without the proper higher education, the majority of those in poverty remain in the endless labor-working cycle that their parents lived through.
  3. Imbalanced Income and Spending: The Vietnam Briefing, a website that provides insights on doing business in Vietnam, reports that the average monthly spending of a Vietnam citizen is VND 6.5 million, or $280 USD. However, the citizens’ monthly income is on average only VND 4.6 million, or $197.8 USD. Due to this issue, most people have to work overtime to make ends meet.
  4. Agriculture: Vietnam is one of the top five countries that faces environmental challenges. Due to this problem, rice production has experienced negative impact. The United States predicts that Vietnam’s rice paddy production will drop 3.3% in 2020 because of its droughts and incidents of saltwater intrusion. In the Central Highlands, coffee production also declines frequently due to intensive droughts. The food production rate affects the percentage of Vietnam citizens facing hunger.

3 Things the Vietnam Government Did to Help Decline Hunger Rates

  1. Vietnam has launched a Zero Hunger Program, in 2015, which aims to reduce malnutrition rates in children. Its goal is to end hunger by 2025. In order to accomplish its goal, farmers receive encouragement to work with co-operatives and food production chains. This will increase the rate of food production, resulting in citizens obtaining more food. Presently, there are no known updates on the outcomes of the program.
  2. In 2018, the government planned on reforming the education system. It wants schools to help develop students’ workforce skills. Production of labor force skills receives priority with large-scale investment in relevant, job-oriented training. By educating students on varying job skills, they will have more career opportunities. This positively influences their income.
  3. As of 2018, the Vietnamese Government also planned on improving access to credit because it will help highland farmers make strategic investments on agricultural crops that profit more. Access to credit impacts the poverty rate, which in return, influences hunger rates. Issuing credit to farmers helps expand their livelihood activities, help them to improve living standards, and raise annual income. However, this plan still remains controversial because there are many factors, such as the number of household members and one’s age, in determining who gets credit and who does not. As of now, there is no official system providing all rural farmers with credit.

Although the number of citizens facing hunger in Vietnam is gradually declining annually, there are still many communities facing famine. The implemented programs and improved education for children bring hope for the future of Vietnam’s hunger crisis.

Megan Ha
Photo: Pixabay

Armed Conflict and Humanitarian Need in Central Africa
An economic crisis ravaging Sudan, Chad and other such nations of Central Africa has made the region a hotbed for protest and armed conflict. As a result, this worsens the living conditions of the citizens residing there. Recently, rising tensions in these nations have contributed to an actively worsening humanitarian crisis. Consequently, this left countless people with homelessness and food insecurity. In Sudan alone, 260,000 people face displacement and hunger due to conflicts in Port Sudan and the Red Sea State. While international relief organizations are administering humanitarian aid, a long list of challenges due to conflict in Central Africa made this process exceedingly difficult.

Crisis and Military Conflict in Sudan

Sudan has been in military conflict since a military coup removed its long-serving ruler Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. The coup removed al-Bashir as a result of austerity measures in response to an economic crisis that has been ongoing in Sudan since 2012. Austerity measures or higher subsidies on products worsened the poor quality of life of citizens living in the area. Instability within the Sudanese reached a boiling point when public protests of living conditions broke out across the country with citizens often calling for al-Bashir’s removal.

Since the April 2019 coup, a council of generals exercised executive power over the nation. However, stability has yet to return. On June 3, 2019, the government of Sudan responded to the protests with violence. The government murdered dozens of journalists and threw their bodies into the Nile. Meanwhile, the military government and armed conflict in Central Africa worsened the humanitarian conditions of the vulnerable citizenry further. Moreover, the nation remains on the United States’ “State sponsors of terrorism” list. Consequently, the nation has less access to debt relief through the United States. This means that the $50 billion debt that Sudan owes to external nations falls on the shoulders of the military government. This will affect vulnerable and impoverished citizens.

Civil Conflict and Resource Scarcity in Chad

Civil unrest in Chad is the primary factor contributing to the depletion of the resources of the already economically insecure population for a number of decades. Since 1990, the Chadian population lived under the power monopoly of the Zaghawa military clan. Its leader is the long-standing president Idriss Déby. Under this military regime, the Chadian population has suffered from political violence and poor social relations due in large part to the nation’s corrupt spoils system. Likewise, poor international relations with the government of Sudan perpetuates conflict within the Chadian border, as each nation offers its support to the other nation’s rebels.

Chad suffers from resource depletion, widespread internal displacement and a high influx of foreign refugees. Protracted internal conflict in Nigeria has displaced more than 200,000 refugees to Chad, Cameroon and Niger alone. As Chad, Sudan, Niger, Nigeria and other surrounding nations participate in armed conflict in Central Africa, resources spread ever-thinner for those in the throes of poverty.

Relief and Reduction of Conflict in Central Africa

Some nations in Central Africa receive funding and foreign aid in order to relieve their populations of the life-threatening stress of resource depletion and military violence. Sudan, however, failed to meet the political requirements for such funding. Likewise, while Chad, Niger and Nigeria all receive funding, these nations are consistently underfunded by 30-40%. Providing guidance to the Sudanese government will foster peace and greater security and end the conflict in Central Africa. Funding goals should be consistent in order to resuscitate the faltering economies of the Central African region.

The Sudanese government has made a recent effort to repair social relations with its citizens. The government prioritizes education and health care as central goals of government funding. Likewise, international partners in humanitarian aid, headed by the U.N., intend to develop programs in the Central African region. This act hopes to align economic stability with improved humanitarian resilience.

Aid does exist for those struggling in Central Africa. However, armed conflict poses a continual threat to the safety and security of the population there. In order for the humanitarian situation to improve in this region, the global community must make a more dedicated effort to support peace and economic stability.

Anthony Lyon
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and FragilityThe year 2020’s biennial World Bank Fragility Forum is a series of seminars and discussions about working to build peace and stability in conflict-ridden areas. It brings together policymakers and practitioners in many different sectors from around the world, including the government, to address poverty and fragility and use international aid to promote peace in fragile settings. The Forum exists in conjunction with the World Bank Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence for 2020-2025 and focuses on fighting poverty as a means to eliminate conflict and violence in fragile settings, acknowledging and addressing the link between poverty and fragility.

What is Fragility?

There is no simple definition for a fragile setting or context since each fragile region is circumstantially unique. The Fragile States Index (FSI), though, says there are many common indicators that include state loss of physical control of territory or social legitimacy, loss of state monopoly on legitimate force, loss of connection to the international community and an inability to provide basic public services. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also explains that there are common characteristics of fragile settings, like extreme poverty, authoritarian regimes, high rates of terrorism, high rates of armed conflict and short life expectancy. The majority of fragile settings currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Fragile States Index lists Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan as the three most fragile contexts in the world.

Poverty and Fragility

The World Bank explains that addressing poverty and fragility go hand-in-hand. While only 10% of the global population live in fragile contexts, more than two-thirds of the people around the globe who live in extreme poverty live in fragile contexts. Experts expect this figure to rise to 80% by 2030. Poverty and fragility exist in a sort of feedback loop, as it becomes more difficult to escape poverty in a fragile setting given poor living conditions and likely economic ruin, while poverty is also an initial driver of fragility. Global Washington reports that fragility hurts economic productivity – violent conflict caused a 12.4% decrease in economic activity in 2017 alone – and is the main driver of both global hunger and refugee crises.

Fragility Forum Highlights

Three lectures from the Forum in particular address key components of poverty and fragility by looking at case studies: the social and economic inclusion of refugees, the use of country platforms to increase the effectiveness of global aid and the effectiveness of existing economic programs in fragile contexts. These lectures were:

  1. Refugee Policies: Increasing Self-Reliance & Economic Inclusion in Protracted Crises – Around 80% of refugees today live in developing countries and, as Global Washington reports, the violence and conflict of a fragile region are the main drivers of forced migration. Lecturers in this session explained that aid to refugees and their host countries must address both the immediate needs of refugees with investment in basic needs like healthcare and in long-term, policy for economic and social inclusion of refugees in their host countries. Refugees currently do not have permission to work in 50% of host countries and refugee mobility is severely restricted across the globe. This makes refugees dependent on aid from international agencies like the U.N. Economic self-sufficiency for refugees shifts the responsibility from these international bodies to the host country and both enhances the living situation of refugees and develops the host country’s economy. The Senior Director of Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank Franck Bousquet explains in the lecture that the World Bank focuses largely on support to the host country and strengthening national systems through emergency response programs and using grants to incentivize host countries to include refugees in their economies.
  2. Reducing Fragility and Conflict: What We Are Learning from Impact Evaluations – This lecture looks at the impact of a wide range of interventions in fragile settings from behavioral studies on social interventions to how labor market programs and economic intervention can increase stability in fragile settings by creating a market opportunity for individuals through vocational training. One particular study in Liberia explored the claim that economic insecurity can encourage violent or criminal behaviors in individuals. The study also explored how giving impoverished Liberians agricultural training increased the employment and average wealth of the individuals in the study, the root connection between economic opportunity and criminal activity, large-scale questions about what motivates violence and whether poverty causes criminality. The theory that underwent testing hypothesizes that increased economic returns to noncriminal activities will minimize the incidence of criminal activities by occupying individuals’ time, building social skills in youth and reducing grievances with poor economic opportunities. The study found that vocational training can decrease the time that individuals spend on illicit activities, but found little effect on individuals’ attitudes about democracy and violence.
  3. Revisiting Development Cooperation in the Hardest Places: The Case of Somalia – This session discussed “country platforms,” which the featured Center for Global Development (CGD) podcast defined as a “government-let coordinating body that brings together partners and stakeholders to define shared goals and coordinate development efforts in the country.” Places like Afghanistan and Somalia have utilized these country platforms, which are part of the World Bank’s Strategy for Fragility, Stability and Violence for 2020-2021, to streamline aid efforts by encouraging collaboration and joining local government and civic leaders with international donors to better implement international aid projects in fragile settings. Country platforms allow for more streamlined and effective flow from a donor to the recipient country, as evidenced by the organizational progress made in Somalia, where the U.S. invested over $400 million in aid in 2019; the country platform in Somalia has been developing clearer plans for development, humanitarianism and politics and shifting control of aid efforts into the hands of the Somali government to both increase aid efficiency and promote state legitimacy.

The World Bank Fragility Forum has made the link between poverty and fragility apparent. Hopefully, an increased understanding of how these two topics interlink will help eliminate poverty in fragile settings.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Wikimedia

Hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic
The Syrian Arab Republic is a country in the Middle East that has a rich and unique history going as far back as 10,000 years ago. More recently, political instability led to the Syrian civil war which has created a humanitarian crisis that extends far beyond its borders. It has been nearly a decade since the Syrian civil war first began in 2011. The U.N. approximated that over 13 million people in Syria were in need of some type of humanitarian assistance. Over 5 million people seek asylum in the surrounding countries of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic soared to the forefront of the humanitarian crisis.

Nearly one-third of Syria’s population is dealing with food insecurity partly due to an increase in food prices. The COVID-19 lockdown measures and the collapse of the Lebanese economy have caused food prices to increase by 200%. This makes them 20 times higher than they were before the civil war. Additionally, Syria’s local currency has been devalued by two-thirds. Consequently, people cannot afford to buy available food.

Efforts to Alleviate Hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic

  • Turkish Exports: In May 2020, the U.N. placed restrictions on exports as a way to combat the spread of COVID-19. Shortly after, the U.N. authorize Turkish exports to alleviate hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic. This aid from Turkey is a crucial survival source for 2.8 million people in the northwestern part of Syria.
  • Extending the Lifeline: The U.N.’s Emergency Relief is working to extend intraregional aid deliveries. The U.N. has authorized aid deliveries to the Syrian people in several resolutions since April 2012. The latest resolution, resolution 2504, was to expire in July 2020. On May 14, 2020, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres requested that the Security Council extend the authorization of this cross-border aid for another 12 months. In Guterres’ report, he noted that this U.N. cross-border operation helped an average of 2 million Syrians each month in 2019.
  • Large and Small-scale Efforts: Many formerly displaced people have returned to their land. However, many people are facing issues resuming food production. As of June 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) introduced several programs to help more than 300,000 households at risk of food insecurity. About 155,000 households will directly benefit from livestock production support which includes vaccinations and anti-parasite treatments. On a smaller scale, about 3,000 households will benefit from better nutrition that local school food gardens provide.
  • Creative Solutions: Since 2012, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) has provided more than $3 billion in emergency food relief. In January 2020, USAID committed to providing emergency food assistance through two specific methods. Firstly, USAID is providing emergency food aid to newly displaced peoples through ready-to-eat rations, food vouchers and locally or regionally procured food baskets. Secondly, they are continuing to support local bakery inventions to help with the production of bread. The FFP has helped over 4 million people in Syria and over 1 million Syrian refugees since 2012. 

It is evident that hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic is the result of a combination of factors following the eruption of the civil war. International organizations and NGOs dedicated their resources to help the Syrian people, especially as COVID-19 threatens much of the progress that the country has previously made.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Albania
After the fall of its communist government in 1991, significant political, social and economic challenges confronted Albania. Albania is a country that lies on the Mediterranean Sea and borders Greece. The fall of the Communist Party left the country with high levels of extreme poverty that it needed to address quickly. As the government has transitioned to a constitutional republic and the centrally-planned economy has shifted to an open-market structure, it has also implemented considerable economic plans and reforms. These reforms partially alleviated the severity of the poverty much of the population faced before 1992, but poverty in Albania continued to be a challenge as the country moved forward.

Understanding Poverty in Albania

  • Privatization and a new legal framework were some of the key reforms the government implemented in 1992 that helped to increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and strengthen the economy. The privatization of agriculture, which employs 40% of the population, particularly helped alleviate poverty in the rural areas where it is most prevalent. The new legal framework lowered poverty in urban areas by encouraging the private sector activity necessary to an open-market economy.
  • Consistent low-income levels and low administrative capacity are limitations to the success of economic reforms in Albania. The low-income population is particularly susceptible to price fluctuations and unemployment. For this reason, inflation in 1996 and 1997 caused a downturn in the economic growth the country had experienced earlier.
  • Fluctuations in the global economy impact the level of poverty. Remittances – money that Albanians working mostly in Greece and Italy sent back to the country – are a significant component of economic growth. After the 2008 financial crisis, remittances decreased from 15% of the GDP to 5.8% by 2015. Simultaneously, the poverty level in Albania increased from 35.8% in 2008 to 38% in 2017. This definition is the percentage of the population living on less than $5.50 per day, the poverty threshold for upper-middle-income countries. The World Bank classifies Albania as an upper-middle-income country.
  • Low-skill occupations, including agriculture, require lower levels of education and offer little job security yet employ the majority of the working population living in poverty. Those workers then have limited skills relevant to other types of higher-income labor and have constrained potential for social mobility.

Efforts to Alleviate Poverty in Albania

  • Recent growth in labor-intensive sectors has increased the number of potentially higher income jobs available to Albanians and raised the GDP. Available jobs in textiles, tourism, trade and administrative services have been on the rise since 2013 and contribute to greater economic stability. Tourism, for instance, is one of the fastest-growing industries in Albania. In 2019, the number of foreign visitors increased by 8.1% in comparison to 2018.
  • International investments and donations have grown in recent years. The government has attracted international interest by taking the initiative to encourage economic growth through improving roads and rail networks and introducing plans of economic and legislative reform. These reforms primarily focus on strengthening tax collection and increasing public wages and pensions. They have been successful thus far and the World Bank estimates that the poverty rate has lowered to 37% as of April 2020.
  • Public debt remains high and a potentially significant barrier to the constant growth necessary to sustain Albania’s economy and keep the poverty level steadily decreasing. Although the debt requires a strong fiscal policy response by the government to avoid economic shocks, it has shown a promising 3% decline rate from 2015 to 2018.

Albania’s Partnership with International Organizations

Although not yet a member, Albania received E.U. candidacy status in June 2014 and officially adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. Furthermore, Albania’s government released its National Strategy for Development and (European) Integration 2015-2020 in 2016. It also partnered with the U.N. in Albania to release the Programme of Cooperation for Sustainable Development 2017-2021, a comprehensive plan for sustainable development and alleviation of poverty.

The U.N.’s work in alleviating poverty in Albania and its partnership with Albania’s government has proven to be successful as it has helped achieve sustainable economic development through various reforms. The poverty rate in Albania has shown steady signs of decrease since its peak in 2014. The international community is also supporting the government’s steps to combat poverty in Albania. After a devastating earthquake in November 2019 hindered ongoing efforts of infrastructure improvement and other reforms, Albania’s government received €1 billion in assistance from several international donors during a conference in February 2020.

The U.N. in Albania is just one of the organizations working to fight poverty in Albania through collaboration with the government and other civil society and private sector organizations. Among its goals are Albania’s integration into the E.U. and the achievement of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which should stabilize the country’s economy and ultimately lower the poverty rate.

Looking to the Future

The onset of COVID-19 could strain the government’s resources and ability to continue with these reforms to alleviate poverty in the immediate future. However, the U.N.’s work in Albania, support from international donors and stronger commitments from the government to lower the poverty rate point to an optimistic future of long-term development. This should subsequently lead to economic growth and a steady decrease in the rate of poverty.

Isabel Serrano
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid in Yemen
Today, Yemen is experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. The violent conflict is between the Yemeni government, which has backing from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the Houthi rebels. This conflict has killed thousands of Yemenis, including women and children, since 2014. The war has torn Yemen apart, with more than 20 million Yemenis facing food insecurity and 10 million at risk of famine. Additionally, there is the general disappearance of public services, a shattered economy, abusive security forces and broken institutions. Humanitarian aid in Yemen is crucial, with 80% of Yemenis in need, necessitating a staggering international effort to save the country.

Economic strife and a lack of governance have exacerbated this humanitarian catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of households have no steady source of income. With a Saudi-led import restriction, access to the country via ports and airports is nearly nonexistent, so resources like fuel and general aid have struggled to reach those in need. The Houthis have also inhibited the flow of aid, with the U.N. accusing them of stealing food from U.N. food supplies. This issue is multifaceted, and a lack of effective governance and aid management has left millions of Yemenis to suffer. There are organizations working to provide humanitarian aid in Yemen, despite the obstacles and risks that this conflict has created. Here are three organizations providing humanitarian aid in Yemen.

3 Organizations Providing Humanitarian Aid in Yemen

  1. Yemeni-Americans established the organization Yemen Aid in 2016 with the sole mission of providing aid to Yemenis, no matter their identity or beliefs regarding the conflict. Yemen Aid provides food and medical assistance, promotes water and shelter access and assists in general advocacy efforts. Food baskets are the organization’s primary form of food assistance, providing items like wheat flour, kidney beans, vegetable oil, sugar and iodized salt. Yemen Aid provides support for cities throughout the country, also providing resources like goats, sustainability training, rice-soy meals and supplies to respond to natural disasters. As for medical aid, in April 2020, the organization distributed over $2 million worth of supplies to hospitals that serve 2 million patients annually. It has supported water access by building wells, raising awareness about good hygiene practices and aiding the establishment of a camp for refugees, complete with bathrooms, clean water access and solar power. This organization is one of many taking on the challenge of providing humanitarian aid in Yemen. Its efforts show just how many issues require staunch support to save Yemenis caught in the conflict.
  2. As the primary food assistance branch of the U.N., the largest project of the World Food Programme is in Yemen. The World Food Programme (WFP) tries to feed 12 million Yemenis each month. According to the organization, more than 1 million women and 2 million children are in need of treatment for acute malnutrition. The organization already supports 1.1 million women and children under the age of 5 each month, but WFP aims to expand this outreach to more people suffering from acute malnutrition. WFP provides aid primarily through direct food distribution and food vouchers, with a family of six getting monthly supplies of wheat flour, pulses, vegetable oil, sugar and salt. The organization has a system to provide $12 per person, per month, to beneficiaries for the purchase of food supplies. WFP assists thousands of refugees and allocates snacks for over 950,000 schoolchildren, all while facilitating the delivery of and access to general humanitarian aid in Yemen.
  3. The humanitarian medical support nonprofit Doctors Without Borders provides medical aid in countries that conflict has hit hard. In Yemen in 2018, Doctors Without Borders worked in 13 hospitals and supported more than 20 health facilities. This was despite attacks on the medical staff, which forced the organization to suspend aid in some locations. With both violence and the COVID-19 pandemic all but destroying and overwhelming the health system in Yemen, Doctors Without Borders provides invaluable support. In 2018 alone, the organization did over 500,000 outpatient consultations, admitted over 60,000 patients to hospitals and assisted over 24,000 births. The nonprofit also supports surgical care for those caught in indiscriminate air raids and skirmishes, while providing donations and technical support to hospitals throughout Yemen.
Clearly, Yemen is a microcosm of many different aspects of humanitarian strife and conflict. The war between the Houthis and the Yemeni government has decimated the country, and some international actors have contributed to the conflict more than they have helped to mitigate its effects. Fortunately, the larger international community recognizes how serious this issue is, and many, like the three organizations above, have rallied to take it on. While Yemenis are still suffering and at even greater risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the efforts these organizations showcase do provide hope for the seemingly insurmountable task of providing consistent, reliable humanitarian aid in Yemen to save those suffering from bitter violence and a lack of support since the conflict began.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr