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Updates on SDG Goal 8 in Spain
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 objectives that the United Nations created to measure a country’s progress in the journey towards sustainability. The focus of SDG Goal 8 is economic growth and quality jobs. By creating decent jobs, a country can significantly improve the living standards of its citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the positive progression of this goal for many countries. Meanwhile, the countries that were falling behind in economic growth before COVID-19 hit are even farther from their objectives now. This article will focus on providing updates on SDG goal 8 in Spain.

6 Indicators of How a Country has Progressed Toward SDG Goal 8

These are the six indicators of a country’s progress toward SDG Goal 8:

  1. Adjusted GDP Growth
  2. Victims of modern slavery
  3. Adults with a bank account
  4. Work-related accidents associated with imports
  5. Employment-to-population ratio
  6. Youth not in employment, education or training”

SDG Goal 8 in Spain

Currently, Spain has achieved the SDG for adjusted GDP growth, victims of modern slavery, adults with a bank account and employment-to-population ratio. “Significant challenges” remain in the work-related accidents category, but Spain is currently on track to reach the SDG. “Major challenges” remain for the youth in employments or education indicator. Though Spain has made significant progress towards a sustainable economy, it continues to face these challenges. The Mediterranean country has specifically struggled to create opportunities for its youth. With about one in five people between the ages of 15-29 unemployed and not in any type of education or training, Spain still has some ways to go before it can achieve economic sustainability. However, the country is on track to achieving the SDG.

The Reasons Spanish Youth Struggle to Find Employment

The two largest contributors to the lack of opportunities for young people are overqualification and a high dropout rate (relative to other E.U. countries). In 2010, the school dropout rate in Spain was 31.6%. For comparison, the rate for both Finland and Germany was about 12%. Meanwhile, young people who have obtained a formal education tend to lack an understanding of how to find a job and market themselves. Unfortunately, Spain’s methods of preparing young people to enter the labor force do not appear to be as effective as some of its surrounding European countries.

Plan of Action

Spain’s labor ministry has developed a plan of action to combat youth unemployment. By 2021, Spain hopes to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Develop a new economic model with an emphasis on productivity and workplace dignity
  2. Support public employment services in offering individualized assistance to those seeking work
  3. Create more skill-building opportunities
  4. Assist young people in becoming more self-sufficient employment seekers
  5. Fight gender biases and the gender wage gap through equal opportunity training
  6. Encourage young people not to give up on seeking employment
  7. Pay special attention to more at-risk groups such as migrants and school dropouts

Youth Business Spain

Some organizations are on the ground working to create employment opportunities for Spanish youth. One of those organizations is Youth Business Spain, a branch of Youth Business International (YBI). YBI helps young people begin or further their careers. The organization does this by providing training, mentorship and financial support to young entrepreneurs. Through this program, young Spanish entrepreneurs have received over 28,400 hours of mentorship dedicated to improving skills in business management. From 2013 to 2017, over 1,000 people benefitted from Youth Business Spain. The program has a multitude of inspiring success stories, but it hopes to reach out to even more young entrepreneurs in the future.

Looking Ahead

While significant challenges remain, the country is on track to achieve SDG Goal 8 in Spain. After the Spanish financial crisis of 2008, Spain’s economy was struggling to stay afloat. However, the Spanish government and many non-governmental organizations have gradually improved economic opportunities for young people in the country. Though COVID-19 has caused a bit of a setback in most countries, Spain continues to work on improving employment situations for Spanish youth.

– Jillian Reese
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual StigmaMillions of women and girls around the globe are affected by period poverty every day. Countless women must choose between food and menstrual products. Due to insufficient access to menstrual products and/or menstrual stigma, schoolgirls often miss school when they are on their periods. Some teenagers even use unhygienic insoles of shoes to substitute menstrual products, which may lead to further physical health risks due to bacterial infections. Moreover, other women resort to free contraceptive injections (which stops the release of an egg) when they cannot afford menstrual products. This, in turn, leads to health risks such as significant bone mineral density loss.

People widely consider period poverty as insufficient access to menstrual products. While this accounts for a major portion of period poverty, the term also refers to issues of shame, menstrual stigma, and the lack of education about menstruation. Around 50% of girls in the U.K. experience menstrual shame and around 70% of girls in Uganda are embarrassed and fearful about menstruating.

Access to Period Products Worldwide

Globally, a minimum of 500 million women experiences period poverty, every month. Among the 355 million menstruators in India, 12% cannot afford period products. Similarly, 65% of females in Kenya are unable to afford menstrual products. Menstruation products are extremely difficult to access because of their high costs. This, even though these products are a necessity. They are perceived as luxury products to millions because many countries still do not accept the products as “daily necessities” and still have not abolished the value-added tax (VAT) on menstrual products. The 2020 tax rate on menstrual products in Hungary marked 27%, followed by Sweden with 25% and Mexico with 16%. Some of the countries that abolished VAT on menstrual products include Malaysia, Lebanon, Tanzania, Ireland among others.

Effects of Menstrual Stigma

Women and girls face period stigma every day. Menstrual stigma causes women and girls to feel embarrassment and shame about their healthy bodies. Furthermore, it keeps them at home when they should be at school — affecting their education and social life. In Nepal, the community expels menstruating women to huts when they are on their period cycles because menstruators are perceived as impure. In Uganda, 70% of girls feel embarrassed to be on their periods and are afraid of menstrual-related accidents. This fear is such that more than 50% of the population skips school to avoid teasing from classmates. In the U.K., 50% of girls feel ashamed of their periods. One anecdote shared that a girl and her classmates suffered great embarrassment when a male teacher taught them about menstruation.

The Pink Protest

Many nonprofit organizations are actively fighting against period poverty. Other than NGOs, period poverty activists create many campaigns that also work toward ending period poverty. Based in the U.K., The Pink Protest works with period poverty activists on the #FreePeriods campaign, to “call on the British government to put an end to British period poverty.” A teenage activist, Amika George, initiated the #FreePeriods campaign in 2017 after she read a report by BBC that 10% of girls cannot afford menstrual products in the U.K. On a winter day in 2017, the campaign gathered 2,000 people to protest. People held up signs saying “bleeding is not a luxury,” “ditch tax on Tampax,” “we are not ovary-acting” along with many celebrities and period poverty activists giving impactful speeches. This included model Adwoa Aboah, Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom Jess Phillips, comedian Deborah Frances-White, period poverty activist Chella Quint, and more.

The Pink Protest has accomplished to become a part of the change of two U.K. laws. Also, they acknowledge that engagement of young people and the utilization of online activism have helped them in this goal. The Pink Protest is a good example of how society can utilize social media to fight period poverty. With their weekly Instagram series ‘On Wednesdays We Wear Pink and Protest,’ The Pink Protest encourages young people across the globe to take one action each week. In this way, young people may become activists, themselves. The Pink Protest hopes that as it provides an exciting and easy way to involve people in activism (through regular campaigns and video series), they can “redefine what activism means to young people”. In this way, they can “create a way for activism to be not just accessible, but also fun.”

The Role of Social Media

According to The Pew Research Center, 70% of Americans use social media and 90% of the people aged 18–29 use at least one social media site. It is also surveyed that 90% of teenagers aged 13–17 have experienced social media and 51% visit social media sites, daily.

The U.N. also discussed the power of social media and how it can help to reduce period poverty. According to the U.N., social media has the power to raise public awareness and get people more involved. As mentioned previously, period poverty is about insufficient access to menstrual products and menstrual stigma. Therefore, openly sharing information about this via social media, which many teenagers and young adults use, can reduce menstrual stigma. Sharing information through posts and infographics alone are good ways to educate others and increase attention to period poverty. Social media engages young people to become period poverty activists. Consequently, this increases the chance that young people become more compassionate and active with menstruators. The millions of women struggling from period poverty around the world stand to benefit greatly.

Alison Choi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Seeds of Hunger in Iraq
Security conditions in Iraq have gradually improved since the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the end of 2017. However, significant challenges persist as the nation struggles with political instability, social unrest, economic volatility and low standards of living. With the poverty rate at a steady 23%, Iraqis are in need of humanitarian assistance to fight the next uprising – hunger. In 2016, data collection concluded that 53% of Iraqi residents and 66% of internally displaced people are vulnerable to food insecurity. Current social conditions are sowing the seeds for hunger in Iraq, but the potential exists for future improvement.

ISIL and Current Conditions

The nation is facing a multifaceted food security challenge, as the years it spent under ISIL’s military campaigns exacerbated issues such as limited water supply, damaged homes and disrupted food production. Water shortages and the lack of affordable agricultural inputs continue to negatively affect the performance of Iraq’s large farming sector. Additionally, families are reporting limited livelihood opportunities, reducing their purchasing power and restricting their access to the public distribution system – a social safety net program.

With the insurgent infiltration, Iraq lost the majority of its annual wheat and barley harvests, which had once combined to contribute to over one-third of the nation’s cereal production. Moreover, ISIL expropriated over 1 million tons of wheat in 2015 and left it to rot, worsening food insecurity in Iraq. The remaining farmers are unable to harvest their crops due to issues like lack of machinery or fuel, unexploded mines in their fields and inter-ethnic retribution. If farmers and herders experience displacement or are unable to venture to their fields, the future of agricultural production will remain bleak and have strong implications for long-term food security.

The Future of Food Insecurity

Experts expect that food security conditions will keep deteriorating due to the high volume of internally displaced persons (IDPs) straining hosting communities. As of 2019, almost 2 million people remain displaced in Iraq, and over 245,000 Syrian refugees are living in or have fled toward cities in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq. Furthermore, a renewed COVID-19 surge in the Middle East will further test the resilience of Iraq and neighboring countries, as the pandemic could lead 265 million people to suffer from “acute food insecurity, which requires urgent food, nutrition, and livelihoods assistance for survival.”

Therefore, the United Nations is calling on governments, non-government organizations and donors to address the “availability, access and affordability of safe and nutritious foods and protect the nutrition of … vulnerable families.” For instance, the World Food Programme (WFP) is helping Iraq’s most vulnerable people strengthen their capacities to absorb, adapt and transform in the face of shocks and long-term stressors. WFP has been operating in Iraq since 1968, providing emergency food assistance and aiding the government with social service reforms. With millions of displaced Iraqis and IDPs, the WFP is providing monthly food assistance to 1.5 million displaced people across all 18 districts through cash assistance and monthly family rations.

As the humanitarian crisis endures, millions of families living in protracted displacement situations are reaching a breaking point. These families are continuing to face constrained access to basic services and critical protection risks and are in desperate need of life-saving aid.

Cultivating Progress

However, the Iraqi government has proven ineffective in resolving hunger in Iraq as it struggles to reconcile current social and economic unrest. Proactive policy-making and international aid are essential to halting the impending vicious cycle that starts with hunger and feeds back into the protracted conflict. Rather than sowing the seeds for hunger in Iraq, governments and humanitarian organizations alike have the power to cultivate hope for thousands.

– Carlie Chiesa
Photo: Flickr

Coronavirus Data
Currently battling cholera, measles, ebola revival and the new coronavirus — the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is experiencing one of the worst public health crises in the world. The DRC has seen about 9,300 cases of coronavirus, a small number given its population. Roughly 90% of these cases are located in the Kinshasa Province,  which has a 2.3% mortality rate as of July 2020. At first glance, this number looks very small and suggests that the government has effectively prevented the spread of COVID-19. However, a hard look at coronavirus data in the DRC, reveals otherwise.

These numbers are misleading — given that over 50% of the countries’ population live in rural areas. These regions do not have the same access to testing equipment nor the technology that would provide valuable coronavirus data. As a result, the government’s main objectives now are to slow the propagation of COVID-19, support communities with insufficient medical infrastructure and strengthen the healthcare system. Mobile data is central to accomplishing these goals and avoiding further economic contraction.

The Need for Mobile Data in the DRC

Data is vital to limiting the spread of any virus, as it allows governments to obtain necessary health equipment for communities — based on existing medical infrastructure. Also, proper information enables health officials to warn at-risk citizens, promptly. Mobile data has five stages in the fight against COVID-19:

  1. Population mapping
  2. Plotting population mobility
  3. Adding data about virus spread
  4. Preparing logistics and health infrastructure
  5. Modeling the economic impacts

In countries where most of the population uses the internet, coronavirus data is available in abundance. This, in turn, allows such governments to progress through these five phases, quickly. However, the DRC’s ability to obtain and use coronavirus data is hindered by limited infrastructure. Only 17% of the country’s population has access to electricity. Furthermore, around 70% of the population lives in poverty. Therefore, only 4% can afford the internet.

Improving Information Accessibility

Recognizing its need for data to fight public health crises, the DRC is increasingly funding improved internet access. Most notably, the country partnered with Grid3, a company that helps governments collect, utilize and map demographic and infrastructure data. This results in better population estimates and enables the country to plot its healthcare centers concerning that data. Additionally, the DRC has partnered with various mobile operators, digital health specialists and public health NGOs to jumpstart its data-driven coronavirus policy project. Such projects have already produced promising results, such as mobile connectivity has risen by one million connections from 2019 to 2020.

Data Is the Key

Ultimately, data will be essential to tracking and predicting the spread of the new coronavirus as communities begin to open up. Better data will create more informed policies that will better protect the DRC’s fragile healthcare system and economy. Although the U.N. has said that 50% of all workers in Africa could lose their jobs because of the coronavirus, (putting millions more Congolese at risk of poverty) the DRC’s recent data collection efforts are promising for the future of poverty in the DRC. If the government continues to value mobile data and access to technology, poverty can be greatly reduced. Likewise, widespread electricity and internet availability, as well as the advent of a modernized, more resilient economy will increase the quality of life in the DRC.

Alex Berman
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking and Violence Against Women in Africa
African women have experienced inequality in many aspects of life throughout history. Today, some of the largest risks African women face are human trafficking and gender-based violence. These risks are prevalent in underdeveloped areas where women are more likely to have lesser access to education and formal job opportunities. According to a 2005 article in the U.N.’s African Renewal, the majority of impoverished people in Africa are women. Thus, violence against women and modern-day slavery are two major consequences of poverty in Africa today.

Quick Facts About Human Trafficking in Africa

The largest group of human trafficking victims across the world are between the ages of 9 and 17. Most female trafficking victims fall within the 18-20 age group. According to the African Sisters Education Collaborative, 9.24 million people in Africa are currently victims of modern-day slavery. This is 23% of the world’s population of modern-day slaves. In addition, over half of all human trafficking victims in Africa are under the age of 18. The majority of African human trafficking victims are female. Moreover, sexual exploitation makes up over half of all human trafficking exploitation in Africa. The exploitation of victims frequently lasts for less than a year. However, some victims reported experiencing exploitation for up to 16 years.

History of Violence Against Women in Africa

Female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) is a traditional practice that has occurred in at least 28 African cultures throughout history. Additionally, over 120 million women and girls are victims of genital mutilation across the world. Despite violating international human rights laws, FGM/C often goes unreported within African countries. This is due to its prevalence and importance in cultural traditions. According to the Translational Andrology and Urology article, a nonmedical practitioner often performs FGM/C. The aim of this practice is to fulfill religious or cultural rites and sometimes for economic benefits.

Domestic violence is another alarming issue that is prevalent across Africa. A third of all African women had experienced physical or sexual domestic violence. In addition, every eight hours a domestic partner kills a woman in South Africa. Around 51% of African women experience beatings from their husbands. This happens when women go out without permission, neglect the children, argue back, refuse to have sex or burn the food.

Modern-day Women’s Rights in Africa

Many African countries accord equal rights to women in their current constitutions, such as Uganda, South Africa and Kenya. The African Union (AU) recognizes the “critical role of women in promoting inclusive development” in Article 3 of the Protocol on Amendments of the Constitutive Act of the AU. Additionally, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa lays a foundation for African governments to follow to promise equal rights to their female citizens. The document also protects women against gender-based violence and empowers women to fulfill their potentials within society.

Women received the right to vote in many African countries throughout the 20th century. Since then, many African governments have increased the number of women they allow in leadership roles and governmental positions. Some African countries, like Uganda, require by law that a certain number of government positions and organizations’ leadership roles be allocated specifically for women. This is similar to the United States’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Countries like Rwanda criminalize violence against women in domestic violence laws. However, there is a low circumstance in enforcing and implementing these policies due to cultural traditions. In addition, the village or family institution is informally superior to law enforcement.

Strides Towards Women Empowerment in Africa

The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1979. Since then, the CEDAW has worked to encourage African countries to “commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms.” Ninety-nine countries around the world have ratified the CEDAW since 1980.

Eliminating the risk and existence of human trafficking is also a major part of female empowerment and keeping women safe in Africa. Educating women, showing them their potential for formal job prospects and warning them against the signs of engaging with human trafficking can prevent human trafficking.

The Devatop Centre for Africa Development is a leading global advocacy group that focuses on anti-human trafficking efforts in Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest human trafficking hubs. Devatop Executive Director Joseph Osuigwe told The Borgen Project in an interview that he created the Centre in 2014 after hearing stories from human-trafficking survivors. Since then, the Centre has implemented several training programs to raise awareness of human trafficking in Nigeria and to provide protection for victims. “Within 9 months, the trained advocates [from The Academy for Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matters] sensitized 6000 people in over 30 communities,” Osuigwe said. “They reported three cases of human trafficking, of which one of the victims was rescued.”

What Still Needs to be Done for Women in Africa?

Few sub-Saharan African countries have successfully addressed gender-based violence issues. Hence, bridging the gap between policy and practice across Africa will help end human trafficking and violence against women.

Government leaders, nonprofit organizations, international allies and citizens alike will need to unite to protect and empower all African women.

Myranda Campanella
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in BarbadosThe population of Barbados is approximately 290,000. While hunger rates have drastically fallen within the last two decades, a new problem emerges—childhood obesity. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic posed additional threats to both of these issues in the scarcity of healthy options or food altogether. In addition, the decreases in GDP indicate the economic consequences of lost tourism revenue. Here are five facts covering the state of hunger in Barbados as they recover from the impact of coronavirus.

5 Facts About Hunger in Barbados

  1. Pervasiveness: In 2004, roughly one in 16 Barbadians’ food intake fell below the necessary consumption requirements to meet efficient dietary standards. As of 2017, 3.9% of the population experiences undernourishment, which is a 0.1% increase from the previous year. However, there is a decreasing trend in the percentage of malnourished people in Barbados.
  2. Agriculture: In 2018, 22.6% of Barbados’ merchandise imports were food products, a near 3% increase from the previous year. Barbados is unique compared to other impoverished nations in that most of its land is arable. Large farm complexes tend to dominate the agricultural industry, with sugar production previously leading the economy until the 1950s. As sugar prices decreased, government efforts to diversify food production led to significant increases in local food resources. Modernization programs continue to support fishing and foliage industries.
  3. COVID-19’s Impact: Compared to other impoverished nations and the United States, Barbados handled the pandemic fairly efficiently. Following 35 days with no reported new cases, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley lifted flight restrictions and all curfews were no longer in effect beginning July 1. However, a joint report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) projected that COVID-19 could push 83.4 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean into extreme poverty. Fortunately, Barbados’ competency in pandemic response resulted in the coronavirus posing no significant additional threat to food security. In the Eastern Caribbean, over 40% of GDP and 25% of private-sector employment comes from tourism. With the pandemic under control, Barbados is likely to recover from the months-long travel standstill.
  4. Negative Impacts: While hunger in Barbados rapidly decreased in the last few decades, a new problem emerged: childhood obesity. A 2012 World Health Organization survey found that 31.5% of school children were overweight and 14.4% were obese. Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Weir is taking the lead in finding effective solutions against childhood obesity. This includes increasing access to nutritious foods and cooperating with fast-food businesses to help find solutions. The Barbados Childhood Obesity Prevention Program (B-CHOPP) plans to take “a broader and more systemic approach.” B-CHOPP is looking at disparities in access to healthy food. The plan promoted five strategic actions, including promoting healthy school initiatives and physical activity.
  5. Progress: Zero Hunger is the second goal in the United Nation’s Development Program (UNDP). In Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, UNDP is currently working on multiple projects. This includes transforming food and agriculture while actively combatting climate change. According to the United Nations, the last 20 years have shown considerable strides in increasing food security. This is due to economic progress and agricultural productivity. A 2019 FAO report reveals that the objective of the U.N.’s sustainability programs empowers small farmers and family farms to increase food production and productivity. This sustainability model also plays into using limited resources for effective aquaponics. In addition, a 2017 FAO report found that the test facilities were “fully operational and… actively producing fish and vegetables for sale.” While hunger is significantly lower than before, local and international organizations continue to fight hunger in Barbados.

From the ongoing success of the UNDP, FAO and other local and international associations, Barbados continues to address food insecurity and promoting nutrition to its citizens. Yet, the emphasis on local programs that simultaneously combat global and local issues, like climate change, demonstrates the workings of a multi-pronged approach to combat hunger.

Francesca Gaynor
Photo: Flickr

Anniversary of the United Nations
In the 75 years since its establishment, the United Nations has led global efforts to promote human rights and eradicate poverty, especially in developing nations. House Resolution 1024, in the U.S. House of Representatives, celebrates the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and its establishment. The resolution also acknowledges the organization’s role in leading responses to global crises and promoting international peace and security.

The United Nations Purpose

Established in 1945 in the aftermath of the Second World War, the United Nations (U.N.) is an international organization that is currently comprised of 193 member states. The primary bodies that make up the U.N. are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice and the U.N. Secretariat. The mission of the U.N. is to maintain international peace and unite peoples around the globe in pursuit of a better world. Additionally, the U.N. provides humanitarian assistance to those in need, upholds international law and protects human rights.

The United Nations & Global Poverty Reduction

For decades, the U.N. has been a leader in global efforts to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development. The first of the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to end poverty in all its forms, everywhere. In line with this goal, the U.N. has mobilized its member states to dedicate resources to the eradication of poverty. It has facilitated cooperation between countries to support developing countries in particular in implementing poverty reduction programs and policies.

Due to global efforts spearheaded by the U.N., poverty has decreased substantially in the past few decades. For instance, from 1990 to 2015, extreme global poverty decreased from 36% to 10%. However, the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening this progress. In addition, the U.N. warns that global poverty could rise for the time in 30 years. Nevertheless, the U.N. is committed to a comprehensive and coordinated, global response to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

House Resolution 1024 (H.Res. 1024)

The purpose of H.Res. 1024 is to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations. Another purpose is to call upon the President of the United States to issue a proclamation. As a result, U.S. citizens can observe the anniversary with appropriate ceremonies and activities. The resolution praises the U.N.’s commitment to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and its leadership in addressing global health issues. It also commends the U.N. for its responses to unprecedented humanitarian crises and its essential role in maintaining international peace and security.

Status of the Resolution

On June 25, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations’ Charter, Rep. Barbara Lee [D-CA-13] introduced H.Res. 1024 into the U.S. House of Representatives — recognizing the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the U.N. The resolution was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Additionally, it currently has 27 Democratic co-sponsors. Moreover, H.Res. 1024 is in the first stage of the legislative process.

H.Res. 1024 commemorates the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations. According to Rep. Lee, it is “vital to our global community and essential to realizing a peaceful and prosperous shared future.” She notes that, since its founding in 1945, the U.N. has played a crucial role in conflict prevention, peacemaking, maintenance and the safeguarding of human rights around the world.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Pixbay

poverty in nepal
Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia along the Himalayan Mountain Range. According to the United Nations, it is one of the least developed nations in the world. Natural disasters, geographical isolation, ongoing political conflict and poverty exacerbate the challenges of large populations in Nepal.

4 Major Groups that Poverty in Nepal Affects

  1. The Dalit people live outside of the caste system and have no social mobility, facing extreme discrimination. Lower members and untouchables experience restriction from moving up in the caste system; 46% of the Dalit people in Nepal experience poverty. Dalit women are poorer than Dalit men. Women work for their landlords while men work low social status jobs. Some women are unpaid because they work in Haliya Pratha (bonded labor) or Khala Pratha (forced labor). The Dalit population does not receive equal job opportunities and earns unfair wages. Nepal should enforce laws against discrimination to improve the lives of the Dalit.
  2. Women and girls in poverty need stronger government protections to prevent crime. There is little legal accountability for those who commit violence and rape against women. Girls who have the responsibility of walking miles to get clean water are at often at risk of human trafficking. In 2018, authorities refused to recognize the rape and murder of a 15-year-old Dalit girl. Gender discrimination is legal in Nepal and the 2015 Constitution grants men a higher legal status than women. Unfortunately, the government does not strongly enforce laws against chhaupadi (menstrual seclusion) and child marriage.
  3. Landlords control the land-poor or landless people in rural areas. Land ownership results in food access and control over one’s own resources. The feudalistic land system contributes to the fact that the top 5% of people own 37% of the land. Tenants constantly face the threat of face eviction and have no land to grow food on. Landless people do not get access to services such as running water and electricity in their homes whether on private or public property. Nearly 25% of the population owns no land and 85% of people living in rural areas are land poor. Women and Dalits make up a large portion of landless people that poverty in Nepal affects.
  4. The struggling middle class is at risk of falling back into poverty. Although people in the middle class have overcome adversity, chronic poverty still threatens a significant portion. For every two people that overcome poverty, one falls back into poverty. This means that even though Nepal has been successful at reducing poverty, 45% of people are in the vulnerable class that is struggling to stay above the poverty line. If Nepal can provide more social safety nets, it can prevent the vulnerable class known as the struggling middle class from falling back into poverty.

The Poverty Alleviation Fund

The Poverty Alleviation Fund is working in 55 districts to improve the Nepali lives. Community building and social inclusion methods uplift groups customarily discriminated against, including the Untouchables, women, rural land-poor and the vulnerable middle class. Using approaches to provide relief and resources to communities, the Poverty Alleviation Fund is working directly with those experiencing poverty in Nepal.

Hannah Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Newly Independent Nations
Poverty in newly independent nations is an extremely common phenomenon. Within the past two decades, millions of people have sought independence through referendums and massive social movements, and have succeeded in severing ties with parent nations. However, these grand pursuits of freedom can often lead to instances of large-scale poverty. When analyzing the economic statuses and poverty in newly independent nations likeMontenegro, Kosovo and South Sudan, it is evident that they are no exception.

Montenegro

After the end of World War II, Montenegro became a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. When Yugoslavia dissolved in 1992, Montenegro unified with Serbia, originally the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Later in 2003, it joined Serbia and Montenegro in the much looser association. In the spring of 2006, Montenegro held a referendum on independence from the state union, citing its right under the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro. The vote for severing ties with Serbia exceeded 55%, officially allowing Montenegro to formally declare its independence on June 3, 2006.

Since this success, the country has experienced many changes and the growing issue of poverty. The majority of the poor in Montenegro, however, is its own citizens, despite housing an impressive number of refugees. When considering economic development by region, one can observe large disparities. In fact, in the northern region of Montenegro, the poverty rate has risen to 10.3%, much higher than the national average. Much work remains to combat poverty in Montenegro that its struggle for independence may have been temporarily overshadowed.

Kosovo

After declaring independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo established a parliamentary republic. It officially declared independence on February 17, 2008, and more than 100 United Nations members and 23 out of 28 members of the European Union currently recognize it as a fully independent nation.

Kosovo’s economy has experienced tremendous growth in the past decade. However, despite its economic inclusivity characterizing it, it has not been able to provide a sufficient amount of formal jobs for citizens, particularly for women and the youth. Additionally, Kosovo has failed to significantly reduce the high rates of unemployment across the nation. As a result, unemployment and poverty have been on the rise since 2008. There have been solid efforts on the part of the government, foreign aid and service projects–such as the Kosovo Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Project, a $31 million project to reduce energy consumption– to help alleviate poverty in the new nation, but it remains an issue requiring further attention.

South Sudan

The Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest nation, as well as Africa’s 55th country, on July 9, 2011. However, resumed conflicts in late 2013 and mid-2016, undermined the development it achieved since independence, negating much of the progress that it had made.

With over half the population currently requiring humanitarian assistance, South Sudan faces massive challenges in economic development despite receiving considerable foreign aid and owning significant oil reserves. Not long after South Sudan’s independence, the country encountered successive crises, resulting in a large-scale conflict and an economic recession. By late 2017, nearly 4.5 million people experienced displacement from their homes, accounting for more than a third of the country’s population. Prolonged financial insecurity and large-scale displacement have taken a huge toll on the lives of the South Sudanese people.

Furthermore, private consumption has consistently fallen since the beginning of the civil war that prompted the nation to seek independence in the first place. Amid continuing violence, the economy is experiencing a significant reduction due to sinking oil revenue and disruptions of economic production.

Conclusion

These nations are a testament to the complications that may arise post-independence, including rising poverty levels and the difficulty of developing a robust economic sector capable of supporting citizens. However, the progress that some have made to reduce poverty in newly independent countries demonstrates that there is hope for these countries’ future success.

Daniela Canales
Photo: Pixabay


The recent economic crisis in Lebanon has led to a massive shortage of medical supplies and hospital capacity, worsening an already strained healthcare system. The COVID-19 pandemic is further intensifying the nation’s economic crash and incidents of supply shortages. However, relief programs are stepping in to help improve health conditions in Lebanon.

Causes and Contributing Economic Factors

Lebanon has held substantial debt since the country began accepting aid to recover from its 1975 civil war. On top of this, Syria and the surrounding region experienced turmoil in 2014 that significantly reduced the value of the Lebanese pound relative to the U.S. dollar. This process has been exacerbated by government mismanagement and the decreasing amount of money being sent in payment from the Lebanese diaspora. The country has now racked up debt equal to 170% of its gross domestic product.

As COVID-19 challenges the global economy, the situation is rapidly intensifying. The value of currency in Lebanon has decreased by 78% since October 2019. The main issue facing healthcare in Lebanon results from the country’s lack of U.S. dollars. Depositors are withdrawing their money from Lebanese banks due to fears of further inflation, bank restrictions on withdrawals to curb the crisis and decreased foreign investments as a result of Lebanon’s perceived instability. Since Lebanon imports four-fifths of its consumer goods and depends on U.S. dollars to facilitate these transactions, the country is now facing shortages in all sectors of the economy, including healthcare.

The Current Hospital Crisis and COVID-19

The Lebanese government cannot pay both private and public hospitals using funds like the National Social Security Fund due to its present debt and currency inflation. This financial setback jeopardizes hospitals’ capacities to provide essential surgeries or import medical supplies. Private hospitals make up 82% of all healthcare in Lebanon. The national government only paid private hospitals 40% of what they were meant to receive in 2019, and has yet to fulfill any of its regular payments this year.

Public hospitals have also received a fraction of their regular government aid in recent years. This lack of funding limits hospitals not only from purchasing critical supplies, but also from paying employees. Hospitals are being forced to delay salary payments and even to consider cutting salaries in half. Lebanese hospitals import 100% of their medical equipment and rely on U.S. dollars for these shipments, so the absence of U.S. dollars has created a supply shortage. Since September, the country has imported less than 10% of the supplies it needs.

The recent rise of COVID-19 has not only left hospitals unprepared to meet increased patient demand, but also places immense strain on healthcare in Lebanon as a whole. Hospitals lack appropriate protective gear like masks and gloves, ventilators and spare parts. Furthermore, without the money to pay their employees full salaries or hire new workers, hospitals are finding themselves understaffed amidst the surge of demand precipitated by the pandemic.

Solutions and Relief

Many organizations like the United Nations (UN) have offered aid to help improve healthcare in Lebanon. The Central Bank has also intervened, guaranteeing half of the money withdrawn for imports will be exchanged at the official rate, rather than the inflated rate, in an effort to help hospitals purchase supplies. In March, the World Bank also gave Lebanon a 39 million dollar loan to prepare public hospitals for COVID-19.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN have committed to help Lebanon obtain medical supplies during the pandemic. The Chinese government also shipped medical supplies to Lebanon and pledged to continue providing relief.

Nonprofit groups are working on the ground to address the needs of healthcare workers in Lebanon. Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organization that addresses poverty worldwide, delivered a shipment of N-95 masks, face shields, gloves and other supplies in May. Direct Relief will continue to cooperate with local organizations to provide essential resources during the pandemic.

The economic crisis in Lebanon has led to a strained healthcare system. COVID-19 has served to exacerbate the already difficult situation. However, acts of global partnership and aid show promise for eventually strengthening the system of healthcare in Lebanon.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Flickr