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Aid for Lebanon
At the beginning of the year, in January 2021, the World Bank approved and accepted the United States’ $249 million project proposal to bring aid into Lebanon. The social and economic situations in Lebanon over the past several months and years have become desperately dire, and the United States, the World Bank and its parent organization, the United Nations, are all seeking to meet the needs of the many suffering Lebanese people.

The Situation in Lebanon

Lebanon has been facing a prolonged financial crisis as well as economic upheaval, which, in 2020, resulted in severe inflation of the country’s currency, the Lebanese Pound (LBP), and led to a 19.2% drop in the GDP. As of September 2021, the U.N. reported that the multidimensional poverty rate in Lebanon has risen to 82%, with 32% of the Lebanese population living in extreme multidimensional poverty.

The Lebanese people are lacking in basic commodities and healthcare services, which has also exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on Lebanon. Unable to reach treatment facilities or even get diagnoses, the Lebanese people have suffered greatly from the pandemic. The pandemic’s stifling effect on businesses in Lebanon has also further compounded the financial struggles that Lebanon is already facing.

The Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project (ESSN)

The Emergency Crisis and COVID-19 Response Social Safety Net Project (ESSN) began official operations in February 2021, providing funds and services to those struggling under the combined crises of Lebanon’s dismal financial state, complicated geopolitical relations and poor COVID-19 response infrastructure. The ESSN will attempt to work with and bolster existing active programs within Lebanon; the goal is to complement other projects without collateral damage to the already fragile internal systems.

The ESSN has been working closely with social programs that are already established, and that both the Lebanese Social Development Centers of the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education run. Understanding the importance of using every available resource, the ESSN has also been working closely with other third-party projects, most notably Lebanon’s National Poverty Targeting Program (NPTP), which also runs through the U.N. and the World Bank to identify problem areas within the country and help codify response programs.

How the ESSN is Providing Aid for Lebanon

To try to get Lebanon back on its feet, there are two main fronts on which the ESSN is attempting to help revitalize economic growth and stem the tide of poverty. The first is basic aid packages in the form of cash deposits for families, individuals, and those with unfortunate circumstances. These are to provide immediate relief and bring some sense of stability to the people stranded in poverty. In order to accomplish this, the ESSN had been providing financial and technical support in order to greatly increase the capabilities and operations of the NPTP. Using the infrastructure already put in place through the NPTP, both projects hope to be able to proliferate aid quickly, effectively and fairly.

The second front that the ESSN is attempting to fight poverty on is that of human capital, specifically the promise of the young people of Lebanon. Recognizing that people are the most valuable resource, the ESSN’s work with the Lebanese Ministry of Education has begun to keep children in schools. Education is the key to opportunity, and ESSN is working to subsidize both the public school systems in Lebanon and also the schooling costs for individual students. By ensuring the quality of education and by granting students the socioeconomic stability to be able to continue attending school, the ESSN is attempting to assist Lebanon with investing in its future.

Becoming fully approved and operational in 2021, the ESSN will receive funding, and it will remain running for three years as it provides aid for Lebanon. Reports as recently as July 2021 have positive responses, and already, a large amount of aid has undergone disbursement to individuals, families and students alike. The ESSN has plans to continue to show support by investing in Lebanon and its people, a hearty show of humanity.

– John J. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Armenia
As of August 2021, the World Bank found that increases in food prices account for about two-thirds of Armenia’s rise in inflation. The World Bank also pointed to rising transportation and health prices as contributors to inflation. COVID-19’s impact on Armenia has resulted in increases in unemployment, food insecurity and poverty. Accessible medicine and transportation would stimulate Armenia’s economy following its economic shutdown.

Since July 2021, Armenia’s currency has depreciated by 2%. In December 2020, the World Bank estimated that Armenia’s economic reaction to the pandemic could impoverish 70,000 Armenians and cause 720,000 people to experience a downward economic shift.

The pandemic expanded Armenia’s lower welfare group considerably. In 2019, about 26% of Armenia’s population lived below the poverty line. The 2020 economic shutdown will ultimately expand Armenia’s impoverished population. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the only stressor on Armenian welfare.

Conflict and COVID-19’s Impact on Armenia

Before the pandemic, Armenia was working to recover from the first Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which lasted from 1988 to 1994. In September 2020, the dispute arose once again and ended after six weeks. Although Russia brokered a cease-fire between Azerbaijan and Armenia in November 2020, the conflict’s effects persist. The second Nagorno-Karabakh dispute exacerbated the effects of the pandemic by displacing 100,000 civilians.

In an interview with UNICEF, Dr. Naira Stepanyan, an infectious disease specialist in Yerevan, compared the sobering effects of the war to the pressures that the pandemic brought on. Together, conflict and COVID-19 place a significant burden on Armenians in need. Additionally, as of October 8, 2021, Armenia has had 269,874 confirmed cases and 5,499 deaths. Reuters estimates that only about 8.7% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Slow vaccination turnout curbs economic recovery.

International Aid

The COVAX Initiative and the Ministry of Health have spearheaded vaccination efforts in Armenia. In March 2021, the Ministry of Health received 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Additionally, UNICEF and USAID united to provide and distribute personal protective equipment and hygiene materials to Armenia.

Armenia also received aid from the World Bank’s development projects. The World Bank has provided 70 ventilators and 80 patient monitors to Armenia. The World Bank’s Country Partnership Framework established the State Health Agency and the Disease Prevention and Control Project in Armenia, creating a more secure infrastructure to address the COVID-19  pandemic. The framework’s goals include:

  • Saving lives
  • Protecting the vulnerable and impoverished
  • Encouraging economic growth
  • Reinforcing policies, institutions and investments within the country

Cohesive COVID-19 responses, economic stimulation and international partnerships are working to place Armenia back on the path to recovery.

The Path to Recovery

Although COVID-19’s impact on Armenia has been significant, the path to progress is not far. Despite the increased inflation and unemployment rate, Armenia’s macroeconomic recovery continues to develop. For instance, foreign trade continues to increase along with copper, agriculture and textile exports.

Additionally, Armenia’s government outlined a series of actions to address the pandemic’s economic impact. For instance, Armenia established a loan program aimed to support agriculture, small businesses and tech industries. Armenia’s domestic investments offer stability to citizens in need.

Aid and support significantly shifted the pandemic’s course in Armenia. The World Bank’s continued help through the Country Partnership Framework supports the economy and serves to reduce the unemployment rate. Overall, international aid, domestic investment and growing vaccination rates work to ease the pandemic’s effect on Armenia.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Turkey
Conditions seemed to improve for the disadvantaged in Turkey for a decade-long period through the early 2000s. When first elected, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan purported to lift the country out of the severe economic recession in progress at the time. Unemployment and poverty rates plummeted until 2013 when civil unrest roiled after the Turkish government’s violent response to the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul. Foreign investments in Turkish government bonds fell from 25% in May 2013 to 5% by 2020. Now, Turkey is once again experiencing a poverty crisis. Here are five facts about poverty in Turkey.

5 Facts About Poverty in Turkey

  1. Turkey has been in a financial crisis since 2018. The Turkish lira is devaluing, worth only $0.12 to the U.S. dollar and $0.10 to the euro. The rate of inflation reached 17.53% in July 2021. This means that along with many Turks losing their jobs, they must grapple with the rapidly growing costs of basic necessities. Food inflation alone has increased by 20% since 2020.
  2. COVID-19 is exacerbating poverty in Turkey. About 17 million people out of a population of 81 million lived below the poverty line in 2019. Now, the poverty rate has increased to about 12%. Many Turks are struggling to find employment and cannot pay for accommodation or electricity. These conditions have additionally prevented children from continuing education remotely.
  3. Turks are finding new ways to secure themselves in an unpredictable economic environment. Investments in cryptocurrency, stocks, gold and foreign currency are gaining traction among Turkish people. Many fear losing their savings if they do not take such actions. However, even these methods may be at risk of destabilizing as Turkey’s economic crisis progresses.
  4. It is increasingly difficult for the Turkish government to accept Syrian refugees. This is largely due to the continuing economic crisis and lessening support for Syrian immigration from citizens. The European Union assisted 1.6 million of the most vulnerable refugees through a program called Emergency Social Safety Net. Each family received monthly cash transfers of 120 Turkish lira for each family member. This has also helped the Turkish government manage struggling refugees. Poverty in Turkey is impacting the country’s ability to serve as a safe location for Syrian refugees.
  5. The World Bank is taking steps to respond to increasing poverty rates. In the fiscal year 2020, the World Bank established the Safer Schooling and Distance Education Project, providing $160 million worth of aid. Two new programs added in 2021 include the Emergency Firm Support Project, worth $300 million in aid, and Rapid Support for Micro and Small Enterprises During COVID-19, worth $500 million. The programs aim to preserve jobs for the Turkish people. So far, this fiscal year, the World Bank has given Turkey $1.5 billion in assistance. Many other World Bank projects will continue to mitigate poverty in Turkey.

Looking Ahead

The state of poverty in Turkey is in flux. The country continues to struggle with an economic and refugee crisis in the midst of a pandemic. With the support of the European Union and the World Bank, however, Turkish people in need will have the ability to combat poverty.

– Safira Schiowitz
Photo: Flickr

Youth Empowerment in Indonesia
The information technology (IT) and mobile technology sectors in Indonesia have flourished in the last few years, and the country is poised to dominate those fields in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. In order to meet the growing demands of such booming sectors, tech-oriented education in Indonesia has become a prominent national goal.

Education and Technology

Throughout the past 20 years, Indonesia has made great strides toward increasing the quality and accessibility of education. Although Indonesia still has one of the lowest national education expenditures per GDP in the APAC region, the increased spending since 2005 has had positive impacts on Indonesian students. Schools’ capacity and reach have grown, and education has become more and more available to youth in rural communities through educational outreach and education technology.

In fact, a 2018 Cambridge Assessment of International Education found that Indonesian students are some of the most technologically engaged in the world. As education and mobile technology became more accessible, young Indonesians sought both. The surveying that the Cambridge Assessment completed found that around 40% of students were in computer science courses, which would help prepare them to enter the professional world of technology.

US Assistance

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has worked to help prepare Indonesian students for employment in various fields. With regards to technology, USAID recognizes the growing IT sector in Indonesia and the potential for student success in related positions. Therefore, USAID created a plan called Accelerating Work Achievement and Readiness for Employment 3 (AWARE3) in which 25 vocational schools in Jakarta are able to maintain partnerships with local businesses and corporations.

Within these partnerships, there are opportunities for students to engage with current business structures and potential employers through work readiness training, internships and more. The partnered businesses also assist the schools with maintaining an up-to-date curriculum that will best prepare students to enter the professional world with regard to the specific industry or vocation.

USAID and the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture have goals for AWARE3 to meet by mid-2022. They hope to equip 250 or more teachers in Jakarta with resources to provide work readiness training for their students, and they aim for this training to reach areas all across Indonesia through distance-learning methods. The goal is to reach 4,500 students with the work-readiness curriculum via a remote learning platform. USAID has updated these goals based on the COVID-19 pandemic but hopes exist that the remote nature of these educational opportunities will limit the negative impacts of the pandemic.

Use of EdTech in Tech-Oriented Education in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture has worked with global organizations and foreign governments to implement several strategies and initiatives to broaden the reach and efficiency of its public education system. One of the most significant ways in which it has made education more accessible in Indonesia is through the use of education technology (EdTech). The World Bank, with help and funding from the Australian government, started the Improving Dimensions of Teaching, Education Management, and Learning Environment (ID-TEMAN) program in 2016.

This program works to analyze educational information from the Ministry of Education and Culture and push Indonesia to reach its full educational potential. The ID-TEMAN program is all about effectively using and appropriating the country’s resources, which are becoming abundantly technological. Indonesia is still working to provide more internet and mobile coverage across rural areas, which would expand educational opportunities through EdTech.

Bright Futures for Indonesian Students

As the world has seen in the past decades, and especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is becoming increasingly efficient through the use of technology. This includes tech-oriented education in Indonesia, with more accessible remote learning in rural areas and initiatives to better prepare students for potential employment opportunities. Technology is the new way of the world, and Indonesian students are gearing up to successfully enter the workforce.

– Hayley Welch
Photo: Flickr

End to Poverty in China
In a speech on February 25, 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that China had eliminated extreme poverty. China defines extreme poverty as surviving on $1.69 a day. Over an eight-year period, President Xi Jinping stated that almost 100 million individuals rose out of poverty in China, ultimately putting an end to poverty in China. As the news of President Xi Jinping’s official declaration of China’s successful fight against poverty spreads worldwide, China’s anti-poverty legislation has become a popular topic for anti-poverty advocates, especially considering the vast history of poverty in China. China’s anti-poverty initiatives and reports have also acquired a fair amount of international criticism as the country continues to claim victory in eliminating extreme poverty.

China’s Battle Against Poverty: A Brief History

Following the impact of Chairman Mao Zedong’s failed Great Leap Forward initiative in the 1950s, approximately 10 to 40 million people died between 1959 to 1961 in what is labeled as the “most costly famine in human history.” However, economic reforms beginning in 1976 reshaped the economy as Deng Xiaoping granted farmers rights to their own plots, which led to better living conditions and more food security.

Since China opened up its economy in 1978, GDP growth has averaged about 10% a year and an estimated 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty over the past 40 years, according to the World Bank. After China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and lifted trade barriers and tariffs, growth increased even more as China grew into the economic superpower it is today.

Under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, eliminating extreme poverty in China became even more of a priority. Over the last eight years, China has spent 1.6 trillion yuan, or $248 billion, to put an end to poverty in China. Local officials even traveled door-to-door in some communities, delivering assistance either in the form of loans or farm animals. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterreś describes China’s anti-poverty efforts within the last decade as the “greatest anti-poverty achievement in history.”

China’s Anti-Poverty Infrastructure

China has issued a large number of subsidies to create jobs and build better housing over the last decade in order to put an end to poverty in China. Since 2015, local governments have constructed “more than 700,000 miles of roads.” As the most impoverished province in China, the Guizhou province alone spent RMB 1.8 trillion ($280 billion) on anti-poverty projects. Beijing has invested $700 billion in loans and grants for poverty reduction efforts in the past five years, amounting to about 1% of the nation’s annual economic output, according to The New York Times.

Critics and Sustainable Solutions

With China’s tremendous recent success in ending extreme poverty, critics globally questioned the sustainability of China’s anti-poverty strategies. The World Bank country director for China, Martin Raiser asserts the World Bank’s standing that “China’s eradication of absolute poverty in rural areas has been successful.” However, due to the resources utilized, Raiser is uncertain whether the poverty reduction is “sustainable or cost-effective.”

Critics also point out that China’s poverty relief programs only aid people in extreme poverty and do little to help the population just above the poverty threshold. The government’s poverty aid program eligibility excludes car owners, people with more than $4,600 in assets, homeowners and people who recently rebuilt a house. According to a New York Times report, “people hovering just above the government’s poverty line struggle to make ends meet, but are often denied help.”

The World Bank reports that China’s growth from “resource-intensive manufacturing, exports and low-paid labor” has reached its limits and has led to social and economic imbalances across society. The World Bank also reports that while China is the only major economy that has achieved positive growth in 2020, that growth has been uneven as wealth inequality and other societal imbalances in China have increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s Influence and Anti-Poverty Progress

While organizations, including the World Bank, are urging China to focus on societal imbalances informing sustainable anti-poverty solutions, the recent success of China’s anti-poverty legislation is a significant accomplishment for the nation and the world. As reported by the United Nations, China’s anti-poverty efforts contribute significantly to advancing global efforts to alleviate poverty by 2030, the U.N.’s first Sustainable Development Goal.

China’s anti-poverty work has raised the current standard for all world leaders aiming to combat poverty within their own nations, especially when understanding how far China has come in anti-poverty efforts over the last few years and even the last century.

– Lillian Ellis
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Punjab
In August 2021, the World Bank announced that it would be working with the Indian government on a new $105 million program, entitled the Punjab Municipal Services Improvement Project (PMSIP), to improve “urban services” in Punjab’s two largest cities, Amritsar and Ludhiana. As urbanization accelerates in these areas, issues such as access to water and proper infrastructure are becoming more significant to poverty in Punjab. This program aims to address those increasing problems in a way that reduces poverty and improves the livelihoods of the citizens of these cities.

Poverty in Punjab

The state of Punjab in India as a whole has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country, with just about 8% of the population living below the poverty line.  However, economic growth in the last 15 years has slowed down, increasing by just 1% per year — well below the national average. It is also important to note that Punjab is the only state in India that has a higher urban poverty rate than rural poverty rate, highlighting the importance of focusing efforts on urban areas in Punjab. In Ludhiana, one of the cities targeted with the new program, the urban poverty rate is about twice the rural poverty rate. This is partially due to a lack of focus on manufacturing industries and the extremely high levels of “spatial inequality”– a high concentration of poverty in a few areas.

The Punjab Municipal Services Improvement Project

The main focus of the Punjab Municipal Services Improvement Project is the water supply and sanitation systems in Ludhiana and Amritsar. One of the main problems that increasing urbanization causes is the overuse of groundwater, which puts access to clean drinking water for the people of the city at risk. The two cities use bore wells to access groundwater but pumping the water out directly often causes wastage. Various substances also contaminate the water: arsenic in Amritsar’s groundwater and nitrates and other metals in Ludhiana’s groundwater.

This program aims to improve the water situation by building new water systems, treatment plants, transportation systems and more facilities to better supply water that is clean and accessible to everyone in the cities. It will specifically address water contamination by creating a central plant that will collect water from the surface, such as from canals, so people do not have to use the bore wells containing contaminated water. The World Bank predicts that all these adjustments will help more than 3 million people by 2025 by improving their health, sanitation and daily lives.

Addressing Several Problems Simultaneously

These improvements all lead to a lower risk of falling below the poverty line due to reduced disease spread and less money spent on clean water. The program will also help with the economy as industries and businesses will have a reliable source of water for production. Since growth in Punjab has slowed down in the last 15 years, boosting growth will help create new jobs, increase salaries and reduce poverty in Punjab.

The program will not just address water issues in Punjab but will also put forward solutions for other urban problems. Another main focus is infrastructure; waste and sewage management and public transportation are just a few of the specific problems that the program’s reforms are addressing. The problems of cities are often very different from those of the rural or suburban parts of the same region. This new program, which the World Bank led, aims to address urban-specific problems and both reduce poverty and improve the standards of living of the people of Ludhiana and Amritsar.

– Ritika Manathara
Photo: Flickr

President Hichilema
In August 2021, Zambia elected a new president, Hakainde Hichilema, who will replace the incumbent President Edgar Lungu. Based on the results of the August 12 elections, Hichilema will serve as the Republic of Zambia’s seventh president. Previously, President Hilchilema ran five unsuccessful campaigns. However, the election saw a strong turnout among voters between the ages of 18 and 24 and Hichilema’s victory marks a new era for a nation that is in dire need of economic growth.

Zambia’s Dire State

Zambia is struggling economically as it became the first African nation to default on its debt in the coronavirus era in 2019. The country was experiencing a recession prior to the COVID-19 pandemic due to a steep decline in commodity prices. Since then, the country has struggled to pay off its international debts. With the onset of the pandemic, which further slowed the nation’s economy, the country accumulated roughly $12 billion in external debt. Additionally, $3 billion of this debt comes from international bonds and large loans from Chinese state-owned lenders. The country is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while currently awaiting word on a $13 billion bailout.

Zambia’s poverty rate currently sits around 58%, significantly higher than the 41% rate for all of Sub-Saharan Africa. As a nation that faces massive challenges in the form of international debt and domestic poverty, the world is curious to know what Hichilema’s election means for poverty in Zambia.

Hichilema’s Story

President Hichilema himself is a witness to the challenges that many rural Zambians experience. He refers to himself as a “cattle boy,” coming from a humble upbringing raising livestock. His personal story is one of success despite poverty. Having earned a scholarship to the University of Zambia, and later studying in England, Hichilema is now one of Zambia’s wealthiest people. He made a fortune as a businessman in various endeavors, from finance and property to tourism and healthcare.

Many young voters flocked to his voting camp with this story in mind. His agricultural roots appealed to many of the nation’s farmers. Likewise, his economic-minded platform addresses the country’s foremost needs that many citizens feel former President Lungu worsened.

What Can President Hichilema Accomplish?

One of Hichilema’s economic strategies under his administration is to take advantage of Zambia’s natural resources. The country is Africa’s second-leading producer of copper. Copper is becoming more advantageous economically as companies and industries move away from fossil fuel energy. Additionally, new technologies like electric vehicles rely on critical minerals like copper. The mining sector accounts for roughly three-quarters of Zambia’s export revenue.

Zambia’s political history in the mining industry has been testy. Under the Lungu regime, the government consolidated mines and created state-owned quarries, mostly as a ploy to maintain Lungu’s political power. Furthermore, foreign investors looking to capitalize on the unstable nation might be able to swoop in and cut safety requirements, leading to further crises.

By reexamining the mining codes and regulations, Hichilema has an opportunity to create long-term capital investments, jobs and economic growth. Other countries like Madagascar called on the World Bank to act as a third-party mediator between industry and government in the mining industry. Such a strategy could help Zambia take advantage of a booming copper market and assist in addressing the nation’s poverty needs.

With the new presidency of Hakainde Hichilema comes a new opportunity to reduce poverty in Zambia. Hichilema has shown a dedication to improving these conditions throughout his campaign and his ability to follow through on these promises and successfully manage Zambia’s mining industry could drive down poverty in the nation.

– Sam Dils
Photo: Flickr

Lighting Papua New Guinea Program
Papua New Guinea is an extremely remote island nation located across from Indonesia on the same piece of land and just north of continental Australia. Despite a small population of just 8 million people, the island is very diverse — it is home to more than 800 unique languages and more than 10,000 ethnic groups living throughout the 600 total islands. More than 80% of the inhabitants live in rural locations, however, there are “only 18 people per square kilometer,” making Papua New Guinea “one of the least densely populated” nations on the planet. Only 13% of the total population has access to electricity. The Lighting Papua New Guinea Program has created innovative solutions to provide power to this underserved part of the world.

The Perfect Climate for Solar Power on Papua New Guinea

The majority of the islands of Papua New Guinea experience more than “300 days of sunshine” every year, presenting the perfect solution and climate to implement large-scale solar power projects. The Lighting Papua New Guinea program primarily focuses on remote areas deep in the wilderness, where the majority of the population lives. Since the start of 2014, the program has provided power to 1.8 million people, approximately 22% of the nation’s total population.

Before the Lighting Papua New Guinea program started islanders would go hours at a time without any substantial light. Students struggled to complete their homework and other essential tasks were much more difficult. Most families only had dim kerosene lamps to use for reading and cooking. The islanders have expressed their satisfaction with the program, noting how portable and dependable solar power is, as well as the difference the program has made in their quality of life.

International Support and Growth of Papua New Guinea’s Markets

The Lighting Papua New Guinea Program receives financial support from both Australia and New Zealand. Remote villages and other hard-to-reach locations have benefitted the most with small business profits rising through selling solar power products and household costs decreasing thanks to more efficient energy solutions. According to the energy advisor of the program, Subrata Barman, a whole new market for solar power in Papua New Guinea took root by creating awareness about high-quality lighting solutions and drawing interest from global manufacturers to partner with people living in Papua New Guinea to take the products to those who need them most.

The Lighting Papua New Guinea program’s partner, Lighting Global, is the World Bank Group’s project to provide off-grid energy through solar power to 1 billion people worldwide who lack electricity. Origin Energy Australia has provided those living in Papua New Guinea an affordable business model, by paying a monthly rate for solar-powered lights and cell phone chargers, as well as radios that rooftop solar panels power.

The model is completely new for many islanders who have never had the opportunity to use banking and credit services. Origin Energy Australia has also provided home solar power kits distributed by salesmen who travel from village to village. The kit costs $250 and follows the same pay-as-you-go system as Origin’s other solar products, with a required 20% deposit and the rest paid over a period of 12 months. Thus far, the kits have been a huge success in providing affordable solar lighting and improving citizens’ quality of life.

Papua New Guinea Leading the Way in Off-Grid Solar Power

Through the Lighting Papua New Guinea program, Papua New Guinea has developed into a world leader in advocating for solar power. Replacing kerosene lamps with solar-powered products throughout the nation has reduced greenhouse emissions by approximately 28,000 metric tons per year which has the same impact as “taking 6,000 cars off the road.” Australia, New Zealand and the Lighting Papua New Guinea program are utilizing their partnership to increase private sector investment throughout not just Papua New Guinea but the Pacific as a whole in order to mitigate poverty throughout the region. Papua New Guinea is hopeful that 100% renewable energy is possible by the year 2050 throughout the entire nation.

– Curtis McGonigle
Photo: Unsplash

Combatting Elderly Poverty in EthiopiaThough Ethiopia has one of the fastest-growing economies in its region, it remains one of the poorest nations in the world with a per capita annual income of $883 in 2019. Along with many inevitable health and wellness concerns that come with old age, a rising concern for seniors is deepening poverty.

Elderly poverty in Ethiopia poses a major threat to the well-being of older people, leaving them particularly vulnerable to economic insecurity in countries without social protection systems that offer high coverage and adequate benefits. However, important developments have been made in Ethiopia to support the aging population and combat elderly poverty.

Gender Dynamics within Elderly Poverty

Gender inequality manifests in elderly poverty, with older women being at much greater risk to experience poor living conditions than older men. The U.N. outlines multiple factors that contribute to this phenomenon, arguing “women’s lower labor force participation, the large number of women who are self-employed, and the fact that women often have shorter and interrupted careers due to childbearing and rearing” contribute to older women being particularly vulnerable to poverty.

Pension coverage is also often significantly lower for women because there is a gender-pension gap. The gender pension gap refers to several factors that contribute to fewer women receiving pensions than men. This is indirectly impacted by gender discrimination built into the pension system itself, “including the disproportionate exclusion of women from being automatically enrolled into a pension scheme.” In comparison to the 287,666 men who received civil servant pensions in Ethiopia in 2018, only 31,222 women received the same pension.

Policy Progress

In 2018, only 15% of Ethiopia’s older population received any kind of social protection. As stated by HelpAge, “Older persons have virtually no access to either formal or informal savings and loans opportunities. Unless supported by civil society, poor older Ethiopians are unable to engage in regular saving activities.” Given the large coverage gap in social protection for the elderly, many argue that the nation should explore a dedicated social pension to combat elderly poverty in Ethiopia.

Despite its flaws, Ethiopia has made notable progress in the world of social protection interventions in the last few years. Two World Bank-funded projects have been instrumental in laying the groundwork to support seniors: the Ethiopian Rural Productive Safety Net Program, which launched in 2005, and the Urban Productive Safety Net Program (UPSNP), which launched in 2016.

The Ethiopian Rural Productive Safety Net Program is designed to support the Government of Ethiopia in improving its rural safety net systems. There is a specific focus on nutrition and food security, flood and drought risk management, and rural infrastructure and service delivery. Expanding the safety net in rural Ethiopia is central to supporting the lives of the thousands of seniors who live outside a city center and need social programs and systems to maintain a liveable quality of life. The UPSNP is designed with similar features but targeted towards poor households in urban centers.

Moving Forward

HelpAge outlines a few key recommendations to improve elderly poverty in Ethiopia, including increased advocacy from citizens toward local government and more awareness around the issue itself. Moreover, the organization argues an increased focus on older women is necessary, especially widows, in social protection interventions.

There is a long road to dismantling elderly poverty in Ethiopia, but the creation of necessary systems to support the aging population has proven to be a viable start. Knowledge, advocacy and cooperation with the government to address systemic issues within pension plans can definitely move the needle forward to alleviate poverty within the elderly community.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Flickr

Disability-inclusive COVID-19 ResponsesFor those living in developing countries, there is a direct link between poverty and disability, as each factor has the potential to influence the other. The World Bank estimates that 20% of the world’s poorest “have some kind of disability.” As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate existing problems faced by marginalized groups, and particularly people living with disabilities, it is important that developing countries around the world implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses.

Throughout the entire world, roughly one billion people –15% of the total population– live with some form of disability. Within this figure, 80% of people living with disabilities reside in a developing country. People living with disabilities often face adversities such as “less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates.”

Impact of COVID-19 On People With Disabilities

Through a policy brief, the United Nations found that people with disabilities face greater risks of contracting COVID-19. They risk developing severe and sometimes fatal conditions from the virus as well as health care discrimination. People with disabilities are often reliant on physical touch for support, which is difficult considering the importance of remaining socially distant and using hand-washing facilities. Additionally, people with disabilities often face secondary health conditions that are worsened by COVID-19.

Resource-rationing in healthcare facilities is often guided by ableist ideas on “quality or value of life based on disability,” making people with disabilities a lower priority with regard to life-saving resources. People living with disabilities face even worse conditions when living in poverty, particularly in the areas of education, health and transportation. Not only are some health care services inaccessible, but important information on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 is rarely provided by way of Braille, captions or sign-language interpretation.

Approximately 90% of children who live with a disability in developing countries are not in school, and school-shutdown mandates leave these children with even fewer resources. Without school, many are unable to receive resources such as sanitation, water and meal programs. Lastly, those who rely on public transportation for medical appointments or fundamental necessities are unable to travel. These adversities contribute to the global need for disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses.

Disability-Inclusive Responses to COVID-19

Although people with disabilities are often left out of global crisis responses, efforts to implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses continue. The Peruvian government implemented Legislative Decree No. 1468, which establishes protective measures for people with disabilities as prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this decree, the state recognizes people with disabilities as having the right to “personal security” and priority access to any services provided by the state. Although some Peruvians with disabilities still feel as though there are barriers that limit their access to resources, the government’s efforts still offer many benefits.

Inclusion International, a network that advocates for the human rights of those with intellectual disabilities, reported on a growing trend. Various regional networks are unifying to “identify, document, and advocate against the discrimination and exclusion that people with intellectual disabilities are facing in their region.” These efforts include the European COVID Impact report and Pan-African advocacy. Members of Inclusion International currently work to collect data and experiences about the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities in Latin America. This project, known as the Latin American Project, aims to identify the key factors that obstruct disability-inclusive responses to COVID-19. It includes countries such as Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and Bolivia.

Work remains to implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses, especially in developing countries. However, efforts to address the adversities of people with disabilities are certainly on the rise. With this work continuing into the future, inclusive advocacy will soon be the standard, not the goal.

Cory Utsey
Photo: Unsplash