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Public Health and Education
Russia is a country located in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Russia is one of 10 nations that the World Bank has recognized for the greatest improvements to public health and education over the last decade. This improvement in human capital has had positive implications for the country’s economic and social prosperity. Here is some information about public health and education in Russia.

Improvements in Health

Russia has made strides in improving public health care since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, the country’s health care system was underfunded and lacked resources, which resulted in many people being unable to receive treatment for common illnesses. In the 30 years since, Russia has vastly reformed and improved this system. Here are three ways that Russia amended its healthcare system.

  1. Quality Improvement Methodology – U.S. and Russian Federal officials worked together with the Quality Assurance Project (QAP) to implement quality improvement methods in doctor’s offices and hospitals, some examples being increased focus on patients, teamwork and use of data. Officials sought to set attainable and realistic goals for improvement that the country could fulfill in the foreseeable future.
  2. Increased Health Financing – Officials sought to direct more money into the health care system, using several methods including establishing payroll taxes for employers and private financing through commercial companies. In addition, the financing of health care was decentralized to regional and local levels to decrease strain on the national budget. Furthermore, larger cities used voluntary health insurance as a way for employers to purchase access to higher-level facilities.
  3. Pharmaceutical Reforms – Several reforms have emerged to better regulate pharmaceutical prices and production. For example, vital and essential drug lists set products at a fixed price at the federal level. This management of drug prices has increased medicinal accessibility for low-income Russians.

These measures have had several implications for overall public health improvements. Several previously common ailments have drastically decreased in prevalence. For example, pregnancy-induced hypertension, which occurred among 43.8% of women in 1998, is only present among 5.6% of women presently. In addition, better use of resources has cut costs for medical treatment of several conditions; hypertension treatment costs, for example, have decreased by 41% since the 1990s. In the future, Russia’s health care system will continue to develop with focuses on further increasing accessibility and developing primary healthcare.

Improvements in Education

Russia has demonstrated a strong education system, and the quality of education is continually improving as enrollment in higher education increases. Here are three improvements that Russia has made to its education system.

  1. State Education Strategy – Russia’s education system has incorporated a standardized curriculum, including clear milestones, implementation metrics and an action plan. This regularity has improved the quality of education nationwide by establishing the same educational expectations across all regions. In addition, the organization of two ministries, the Education Ministry and the Science and Higher Education Ministry, have improved the management of the quality of secondary and higher education.
  2. Increase in Higher Education Enrollment – From 2013 to 2017, enrollment in Russian universities increased by 40%. In addition, Russia boasts about 200,000 international students, a figure which expectations have determined could triple in the coming years. Furthermore, higher education in Russia is more affordable than Western higher education, increasing access to education for those in rural regions and low-income communities.
  3. Private Education Reform – In recent years, Russia has experienced an increase in investment in private education, with more wealthy Russians sending their children to private schools with Western-style curriculums. In accompaniment with this, teachers have been moving to Russia from other countries to teach in these schools, many coming from Britain in particular to teach English curriculums. Along with this, Russia has been cracking down on private institutions pushing ideologically irresponsible messages, limiting access to fraudulent or incomplete educations.

These measures have drastically improved the overall quality of education in Russia, which has led to increased expected years of schooling and improvements in secondary school enrollment. An overall better-educated population will be more productive in the long-term, as they will be able to transition into a competitive job market more easily and produce greater economic outcomes.

Conclusion

Education quality is strong in Russia and performance expectations are high. Health outcomes, however, are a work in progress, with Russia’s public health quality lying below the global average. Improvements in this sector will not only allow this gap to reduce but will also increase the quality of Russia’s human capital.

According to Renaud Seligmann, the World Bank Country Director in Russia, “Human capital contributes greatly to improving economic growth in every country. Investments in knowledge and health that people accumulate during their lives are of paramount concern to governments around the world.” By increasing the quality of public health and education in Russia, the country is making an investment in its population for years to come, guaranteeing that future generations will have longer life expectancies and educational attainment than those that came before them.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is among one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, child poverty in Nicaragua impacts one out of two children. Nicaragua’s population is young; out of 6 million people, 2 million are school-age children. To tackle the issue of child poverty, the Nicaraguan government has promised to create more access to education, sanitation and food security.

Nicaragua has a long history of chronic poverty. For much of the 20th century, the country was under a dictatorship. A revolution beginning in the late 1970s further decimated the well-being of many throughout the 1980s. The revolution ended with thousands dead and a need for Nicaragua to rebuild itself.

Child Poverty in Nicaragua

Child poverty in Nicaragua remains a critical issue. According to UNICEF, 50% of Nicaraguan children live in poverty, with 19% of them in extreme poverty. Furthermore, child poverty is much more prevalent on the Atlantic coast of the country. About 58% of children on the Atlantic coast had completed six years of primary education as opposed to 72% for the country as a whole. Moreover, 500,000 Nicaraguan children do not attend school at all, mainly because of the cost of education and the need to support their families.

When families need financial support, many children and adolescents have no choice but to enter the workforce. An estimated 250,000 to 320,000 Nicaraguans are child laborers. Some children work in sugar cane fields and mines, creating a dangerous work environment for them. In addition to child labor, human trafficking is a growing issue impacting young girls.

Preventing Child Labor

To curtail child poverty, the Nicaraguan government has signed agreements to make sure companies do not hire child workers. In 2019, the Nicaraguan government and private employers have signed 6,129 cooperative agreements that prevent the hiring of children laborers. The U.S. Department of Labor has found that the Nicaraguan government has done little to actually reduce young children in the workforce. However, the international community has been pressuring the country to be more aggressive in diminishing child labor.

Improving Education

An area of increased government involvement is in educational spending. Accepting the help of supranational organizations, such as The World Bank, the country has invested in education. The Alliance for Education Quality Project for Nicaragua has helped fund the training of primary school teachers and the construction of forty schools. Over 1,250 teachers received mentoring and more than 9,000 pre-school teachers obtained training. Additionally, the project supplied materials and equipment for the staff and students. Construction of most of the schools occurred in rural areas, improving these communities’ access to education.

Reducing the Infant Mortality Rate

The infant mortality rate is high, with child poverty in Nicaragua being the culprit. According to UNICEF, 74% of Nicaraguans use standard sanitation services and 52% have access to clean drinking water. Furthermore, 40% of children under 5 are malnourished. The Nicaraguan government and The World Bank have created strategies to tackle these issues. The Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) Sector Project (PROSASR), provided rural communities with adequate infrastructure for sanitation. Furthermore, access to food and clean drinking water has also seen improvements. The Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast Food Security Project has invested in agricultural and fishery techniques for farmers and improved socio-environmental practices. Impacting mostly rural communities, food security increased with 33% of beneficiaries being the youth.

Political and economic instability, stemming from the civil war, has created chronic child poverty in Nicaragua. Nonetheless, Nicaragua has implemented changes, with the help of the World Bank, to decrease the child poverty rate.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty Eradication in Angola
Angola has struggled to recover from decades of civil war and economic turmoil, with over 40% of the population, mostly in rural areas, living in extreme poverty. However, recent innovations in poverty eradication in Angola have begun to help the once virulent nation gain stability. New technologies and funding from private companies, financial institutions and organizations have allowed Angola to modernize and combat extreme poverty. Here are three innovations in poverty eradication in Angola.

Open Data Platforms

Open data platforms are a way to gather large amounts of data, statistics and information from diverse and large groups to analyze potential problem areas. Governments and large organizations use this analysis to tackle identifiable issues head-on. For example, an investment group may notice a glaring need for communications upgrades in rural areas, which leads to the creation of jobs and infrastructure.

Open data is a recent innovation in poverty eradication in Angola and examines anything from economic growth to healthcare strategy. Through the International Monetary Fund’s Enhanced General Data Dissemination System, Angola set up its own National Summary Data Page at opendataforafrica.org in 2018. The African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offer the NSDP to Angola for free. Using key indicators through the NSDP, the IMF and other organizations utilize this information for transparency, economic investment opportunities and identifying necessary aid in Angola, which are ways the NSDP’s data collection can reduce poverty.

South Atlantic Cable System

Angola lacks a strong telecommunications network. Rural communities suffer the most due to decreased technological abilities in farming and irrigation and emergency medical services. But a revolutionary project may help. One of the most impressive innovations in poverty eradication in Angola is the South Atlantic Cable System. Developed by the telecommunications operator, Angola Cables, this submarine communications cable provides interconnectivity between Luanda, Angola and Angonap Fortaleza, Brazil. The SACS improves the telecommunications and information technology infrastructure in Angola while connecting fast communication services throughout Africa and South America.

Although Angola is still developing its ICT sector and job growth has remained stagnant, the SACS potential is exponential. Angola could use this project to establish the country as a leader in tech in sub-Saharan Africa. This would reduce Angola’s reliance on oil exports and drive IT education to encourage entrepreneurship and competition, leading to increased IT and communications jobs and eventual ICT expansion in rural Angola to reduce poverty and improve healthcare access.

Neighboring nations that lack IT infrastructure can reach out to Angola Cables and the Angolan government, launching international funds to Angola. The SACS also makes Angola a centralized location for data in the entire southern hemisphere. The premium digital connection is unrivaled, leading to even more considerable international interest in Angola as a tech hub.

Commercial Agriculture Development Project (PDAC)

Due to the Angolan Civil War, farming in Angola suffered from a lack of development and slow regrowth due to landmines. Agriculture also suffers due to persistent and unpredictable droughts in Angola. The Commercial Agriculture Development Project received funding from the World Bank in 2018 to improve the economic condition and technology in Angola’s rural areas, providing much-needed support to the most vulnerable people in Angola to improve domestic food security. Primarily directed at improving irrigation systems and infrastructure related to the electric grid, the PDAC receives funding through 2024 and supports developers’ creative solutions to these problems.

So far, the project has granted contracts and requests in 2020 for the following:

  • Creating innovative management systems for irrigated perimeters, which help water efficiency usage during periods of drought
  • Development of financial risk tools, like risk management software and microinsurance for at-risk communities to ensure oversight of food security
  • Geospatial electrification options to create renewable energy that people can use in rural areas
  • IT tools, such as tablets, drones and tech support for better agriculture analysis
  • Multiple feasibility studies

All of these contracts and requests have happened in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with the pace slowing to handle the pandemic, the PDAC has led to several innovations in poverty eradication in Angola. Developers have maintained a healthy advancement rate since the beginning of the project, and they will continue through 2024.

Angola’s Future

With all the new technology and projects, Angola will continue to reduce extreme poverty for large portions of its population. As the nation continues to establish a commercial agriculture program and the telecommunications sector, there is a reduced reliance on oil exports. Angola can continue to diversify its economic strategy allocating its vast resources for a bright future and eliminate extreme poverty.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Pixnio

Poverty in Micronesia
Poverty in The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is a complex issue that requires dynamic solutions. The lack of jobs, vocational training, education, agricultural land and an aging population are all contributing factors to the high poverty rate on the island chain. The median household income of the nations’ 112,000 people was roughly $7,336 as of 2019, primarily earned in the agriculture, fishing and tourism industries. Poverty figures can vary wildly in rural islands and atolls. Luckily, there are several innovations working toward eradicating poverty in Micronesia.

The FSM has been gathering data and implementing programs to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the early results of which reports determined in 2011: “… the FSM is on track to achieving MDGs for universal primary education, ensuring environmental sustainability and strengthened global partnership for development by 2015. While progress is expected on gender equality and empowerment of women, child mortality and combating HIV/AIDS, the FSM is unlikely to eradicate poverty and improve maternal health.”

The following list of partnerships are working with the citizens and local governments to make eradicating poverty in Micronesia a reality.

Yap Renewable Energy Development Project

The Yap Renewable Energy Development Project (YREDP) is a program in FSM with the aim of building and maintaining renewable energy sources. Solar and wind power projects will provide jobs and training to local workers, reducing several factors indicative of poverty. The YREDP continually emphasizes the employment and training of local unskilled or under-employed workers, providing long term job opportunities further improving the local economy. Stable incomes and increased cash flow to workers’ families provides the economic foundation for future infrastructure that will utilize the renewable energy the YREDP aims to provide.

A stable supply of renewable energy allows people to accurately budget for utilities, limiting interruptions to food storage, education and healthcare. The environmental impact of renewable energy is also a factor in eradicating poverty in Micronesia. Environmental challenges are particularly challenging for Micronesia with 3,798 miles of coastline vulnerable to rising sea-levels.

The Establishment Agreement

The Establishment Agreement is a plan to increase the partnership between FSM and The World Bank, with the aim of helping the country meet its development goals in finances, energy, education and healthcare through technology and financial cooperation.

Proposed technological infrastructure improvements such as The Digital States of Micronesia will increase access to the internet. This will increase economic opportunities by decreasing the effects of geological isolation of FSM. The plan proposes methods to increase access to the internet by laying down terrestrial fiber infrastructure throughout FSM, enabling the efficient operation to both private and public sectors.

The increasing financial involvement of The World Bank outlined in The Establishment Agreement will help government offices by incorporating logistical solutions into previously slow processes like the granting of licenses and access to vital records. As the country invests in its infrastructure, connectivity improvements will provide the technological backing necessary to modernize education, vocational training and small businesses.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) Country Program

The Green Climate Fund Country Program focuses on sponsoring and planning environmentally-friendly infrastructure and sustainable development projects. The GCF Country Program covers 13 projects and programs amounting to $1.4 billion in resources. This money goes towards aiding environmental conservation, public transportation infrastructure, sustainable agriculture, health, education and water supply management.

FSM faces environmental risks such as variable climate shifts from drought to extreme rainfall (El Nino and La Nina, respectively). The country is also geographically vulnerable to high swells, storm surges and typhoons. The impacts of environmental challenges in FSM are far-reaching, necessitating investments into innovative solutions as the country develops.

The Micronesian Conservation Trust is one program that works with the GCF to create and manage climate adaptation measures and resource management. Its work provides long term outcomes that preserve the environment while fostering sustainability. The focus on this type of infrastructure development aids in decreasing factors that contribute to poverty in Micronesia such as natural disasters, resource depletion and interruption of government resources by supporting measures that create jobs, provide clean water and outline plans for sustainable agriculture.

Katrina Hall
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Belarus
The Eastern European post-Soviet state of Belarus has had a tumultuous, bumpy ride in the last 30 years. A long-treasured satellite of the Soviet Union for almost the entirety of the 20th century forced the country to adopt massive changes when it broke off from the Soviet Union when it collapsed in 1991. Since then, one man has ruled this small country with an iron grip. Alexander Lukashenko has been a dictator-like figure masquerading in a phony democratic society. He has been drawing social, economic and political policies in Belarus for the last three decades since the fall of the Soviet Union. Though he did reduce poverty according to official government statistics, there has been a high fluctuation in actual figures related to the poverty rate in Belarus since he took office in the early 1990s. Understanding the underlying causes and remedies of this poverty in Belarus is a complex affair, however, it is clear that certain political, economic and social actions have impacted the country in many ways.

Poverty in Belarus

Being one of the poorest countries in the geographical limits of Europe, the inability to properly take care of its citizens hampered Belarus. Showing its signs of instability, the Belarusian system creaked heavily during a brief two-year recession during 2015-2016. Within a matter of months, the share of the population living below the poverty line increased by three percentage points while in rural areas that number doubled. This fluctuation shows an economy and political system that is not yet resilient to normal market pressures. Additionally, according to a UNDP report, Belarus ranked in the bottom third in countries on the metric “socioeconomic sustainability” which predicts the longer-term impact of economic growth factors and the sustainability of economic output.

Compounding this dilemma, a comprehensive study concluded that much of Belarus’ economic growth in the past 20 years is quite vulnerable, citing both demographic concerns about aging and continuous reforms in the utility sector, which employs much of the workforce of the country. The myriad of challenges facing Belarus is not just abstract downstream economic impacts. President Alexander Lukashenko hampers the prosperity of his own citizenry in many ways through his brash leading style and the specific intricate political decisions that impact his citizens.

According to the University of Pennsylvania professor of Eastern European Studies, Mitchell Orenstein, the Lukashenko regime “is certainly repressive. His regime regularly beats peaceful protesters and threatens and imprisons and tortures opposition presidential candidates.” This type of social order is not conducive to finding the best public policy that helps the most people, but rather a closed-off system that is resistant to change–which is important when advancing important economic interests that lift people out of poverty in Belarus. Orenstein also notes that many Belurrusians tolerate much of this behavior, as President Lukashenko argues, “Belarus must have a powerful dictator to prevent invasion from outside forces, noting Belarus’s World War II history, and Russia’s desire to undermine Belarusian sovereignty. He also blames NATO for seeking to subdue Belarus.” This provides an underpinning of legitimacy that was successful at holding off dissatisfaction among his people, but as poverty trends stagnate, that dissatisfaction may inevitably boil over.

Improvements in Belarus

Upon examining the raw data, one might come to the conclusion that Belarus has been dealing with its poverty problem quite well since Lukashenko took office. In the year 2000, 41.9% of the population was below the national poverty line while in 2013 that number astoundingly fell 36.2 percentage points to 5.7% below the poverty line in the country. This was due to mass mobilization of the public sector for manufacturing–mainly to fuel the growing Russian economy at the time. Moreover, massive investments from multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank, spurred the production of critical infrastructure all around the country and international investment.

With the 90 million Euro investment from the World Bank in 2019, coupled with numerous other investments like the UNDP project, Belarus is making extraordinary strides in not only fighting poverty but developing and cultivating the systems that attract foreign investment in their country. Moreover, innovative NGOs are tackling every angle of the poverty cycle in the country. Organizations like Ponimanie are fighting to protect children’s rights and ensure positive outcomes for vulnerable groups of children.

This type of organization is crucial for breaking the cycle of poverty and providing opportunities to succeed in disadvantaged communities in the country. In addition, poverty in Belarus has received aid from the fact that Belarus’ main trading partners–like Russia–have experienced an economic boom as well. This reaction sets a favorable sequence into motion that spurs production in its energy and agricultural sectors lifting people out of poverty.

Importantly, while Belarus has made great strides in its ability to fight poverty (as shown by the successful years of positive economic policy and results), many of the trends have leveled off during recent times. Life expectancy, education and GNI per capita all increased dramatically over the course of the first years of the 21st century while then plateauing into the 2010s. This certainly shows progress but also highlights the inability of the Belarussian system to maintain and replicate the growth and prosperity that the country experienced 15 years ago.

While poverty in Belarus is most certainly an ongoing threat, understanding some of the more intricate causes of instability and continued poverty are important for determining the outcome of millions in this Eastern European country in the future.

– Zak Schneider
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 and Global Poverty
Since early 2020, the entire globe has been battling the COVID-19 pandemic and attempting to address the outbreak properly. Most of the world’s population is currently under some form of social distancing as a part of a response to the outbreak. From scientific research to increased travel restrictions, almost every country is working on ways to boost the economy while managing the spread of the virus. However, COVID-19 has affected much more than the economy. Here are four ways COVID-19 and global poverty connect:

4 Ways COVID-19 and Global Poverty Connect

  1. The Consumption of Goods and Services: For most developing countries struggling with poverty, much of their economies depend on commodities, such as exports. Food consumption represents the largest portion of household spending, and the increase in food prices and shortages of products affect low-income households. Countries that depend on imported food experience shortages. The increase in food prices could also affect the households’ inability to access other services such as healthcare, a major necessity during this time. These are two significant connections between COVID-19 and global poverty.
  2. Employment and Income: The self-employed or those working for small businesses represent a large portion of the employed in developing countries. Some of these workers depend on imported materials, farming lands or agriculture. This requires harvest workers and access to local farmers’ markets to sell produce. Others work in the fields of tourism and retail. These fields require travelers, tourists and consumers — all of which lessen as COVID-19 restrictions increase. Without this labor income, many of these families (now unemployed) must rely on savings or government payments.
  3. Weak Healthcare Systems: This pandemic poses a major threat to lower-middle-income developing countries. There is a strong correlation between healthcare and economic growth. The better and bigger the economy, the better the healthcare. Healthcare systems in developing countries tend to be weaker due to minimal resources including beds, ventilators, medicine and a below-average economy. Insurance is not always available for low-income families. All of this affects the quality of healthcare that those living within the poverty line receive. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Public Services: Low-income families and poor populations in developing countries depend on public services, such as school and public transportation. Some privatized urban schools, comprised of mainly higher-income families, are switching to online learning. However, many of the public rural schools receiving government funding do not have adequate resources to follow suit. This could increase the rate of drop out. Moreover, it will disproportionately affect poorer families since many consider education an essential incentive for escaping poverty. Aside from school, COVID-19 restrictions could prevent poorer families from accessing public transportation. For developing countries, public transportation could affect the ability of poorer families to access healthcare.

Moving Forward

There are many challenges that families across the globe face as a result of COVID-19. Notably, some organizations have stepped forward to help alleviate circumstances. The World Bank, Care International and the U.N. are among the organizations implementing programs and policies to directly target the four effects of COVID-19 mentioned above.

For example, the World Bank is continuously launching emergency support around the world to address the needs of various countries in response to COVID-19. By offering these financial packages, countries like Ethiopia, which should receive more than $82 million, can obtain essential medical equipment and support for establishing proper healthcare and treatment facilities. These financial packages constitute a total of $160 million over the next 15 months as a part of projects implemented in various countries, such as Mongolia, Kyrgyz Republic, Haiti, Yemen, Afghanistan and India.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in El Salvador
El Salvador, home to more than 6.4 million people, is a middle-income country located in Central America. Despite El Salvador’s efforts to reduce poverty and food insecurity — hunger remains an issue for its citizens. Fortunately, several organizations, including the World Food Program (WFP) and Feed the Children, are stepping in to fight hunger in El Salvador.

Poverty, Agriculture and Hunger

The poverty rate in El Salvador dropped from 39% in 2007 to 29% in 2017. Throughout those 10 years, extreme poverty decreased by 6.5%. Half of the country’s youth live on just $1.25 or less a day. Reasons for continued poverty in El Salvador include high unemployment, natural disasters and crime. The World Bank predicts an increase in poverty for the year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has left millions worldwide unemployed and food insecure.

Although El Salvador produces coffee, sugar, corn, rice and more — threats to agriculture remain in the nation. These threats include deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution. Furthermore, natural disasters such as hurricanes and volcanic eruptions often leave El Salvador with food shortages. In this same vein, decreased agricultural production contributes to hunger and food insecurity in El Salvador.

Between 2008 and 2014, El Salvador made progress in reducing malnutrition and food insecurity. However, 14% of children younger than 5 years old still suffer from chronic malnutrition. Hunger in El Salvador contributes to health issues that range from low birth weights to increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, such as malaria and meningitis. Children who are malnourished often also have issues with their mental development — which can impact them for the rest of their lives.

The World Food Program (WFP)

The WFP is a U.S.-based, nonprofit organization that fights global hunger. Its mission includes working with U.S. policymakers, corporations, foundations and individuals to help eliminate hunger as an issue in several countries — including El Salvador.

Through advocacy, U.S. government funding and private sector fundraising — the WFP continues to work toward ending world hunger and food insecurity. The money raised goes towards delivering food to people in need, especially women, children and those who have experienced natural disasters. Natural disasters that have impacted El Salvador in 2020 include Tropical Storm Amanda and El Nino. Both contributed to hunger, as they affected crop production.

Feed the Children

Founded in 1979, Feed the Children has had a significant impact on hunger around the globe. The organization has distributed roughly 78 million pounds of food and essential items that have benefited more than 6.3 million people worldwide. Feed the Children began working in El Salvador in 1987 and currently works in 17 communities.

In addition to providing food, Feed the Children focuses on holistic development. This includes food and nutrition, health, water and education. Its funding allows the organization to continue supporting countries like El Salvador and implement livelihood activities. For example, one livelihood activity is tilapia farming — which helps increase food and income for families in need.

Moving Forward

Addressing hunger remains a challenge for El Salvador. Natural disasters and poverty are two of the leading causes of hunger in the country. Moving forward, it is essential that organizations like the WFP and Feed the Children continue to prioritize fighting hunger in El Salvador. With continued support, there is hope for continued, significant progress.

Amanda Cruz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Healthcare in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East, with more than 34 million people, and it is a country highly dependent on oil for income. The Ministry of Health (MOH) operates, controls and manages public health in Saudi Arabia. Here is some information about the challenges and efforts to privatize healthcare in Saudi Arabia.

Challenges in Healthcare in Saudi Arabia

The MOH is responsible for prevention and primary care and sponsors over 3,300 health centers in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia established the department nearly 100 years ago to provide free health services to its citizens. However, the MOH could not meet the population’s healthcare needs, which stimulated and motivated changes in the country’s healthcare systems.

Media reports claimed that the public health system in Saudi Arabia presented deficiencies in maintaining standards. Public health services were more difficult to maintain as public health spending rose due to the aging Saudi Arabian population and higher chronic disease rates.

The government’s challenge in sustaining proper public health services is primarily due to the reduced revenues from oil. But the government was keen on reforming the health sector to fulfill social demands in the country, which ultimately led to the privatization of public health systems. Privatization happens when a publicly-owned business or industry transfers to private ownership and control. In healthcare, privatization involves non-governmental individuals becoming engaged in financing and managing healthcare.

 A study in Taif found that only 59% of patients who sought treatment at public healthcare facilities were satisfied in comparison to 77% satisfaction in the private sector.

The New Saudi Health System (NSHS)

The New Saudi Health System (NSHS) allowed local and foreign insurance companies to deal with expatriates and citizens in the private healthcare sector. Additionally, new legislation allowed private healthcare providers to enter the healthcare market.  Private healthcare continued to grow after the government introduced interest-free loans to encourage the construction of private facilities. Foreign investment supported the transition, which reached $3.5 billion in 2018.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a loan for a small business that needs help paying its workers. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank believe PPPs would improve health care services, and the Saudi Arabian government has drawn up a PPP law that aims to boost private healthcare.

Efforts to Privatize

 Privatization intends to serve the needs of the rising population. Saudi Arabia will need 5,000 more beds by 2020 and 20,000 more beds by 2035, so the country hopes to privatize 295 hospitals and 2,259 healthcare facilities by 2030. With these changes, experts expect to see life expectancy increase to 78.4 for males and 81.3 for females by 2050. Leaders hope that privatization will reduce government healthcare spending and ultimately produce new funding for the MOH.

Privatization increases the motivation to provide efficient healthcare. Leaders in Saudi Arabia constructed Vision 2030, which is a framework and collection of long-term goals and expectations “to create a vibrant society in which all citizens can fulfill their dreams.” A key factor in the Vision 2030 blueprint is the privatization of healthcare in Saudi Arabia as it aims to improve the lives of those living in the country.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

SDG Goal 1 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
After an unstable and violent beginning to the 21st century, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has begun to make significant and encouraging progress in the campaign for poverty reduction. Investments from The World Bank have provided the capital that the DRC’s government needs to begin addressing the largest obstacles in the way of poverty reduction. Though SDG Goal 1 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is still a long-term one, which aims for no poverty, the nation is beginning to make progress in the process of rebuilding.

A History of Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo first gained independence in 1960 and has had a somewhat turbulent history since. The violence began in 1994 as a spillover from the genocide in nearby Rwanda. Hutu génocidaires fled into eastern provinces of the DRC and their presence soon sparked tension and conflict. Additionally, the DRC fought a civil war known as the Second Congo War between 1998 and 2003.

This presence of conflict in eastern provinces has had numerous effects on social and economic structures in the country, most notably the destruction of most of the country’s infrastructure. This has left poor conditions for personal hygiene and a serious transportation problem. According to a report from the World Bank, the limited availability of transportation–stemming from the lack of public infrastructure–is the single biggest obstacle to SDG Goal 1 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Projections have determined that the DRC’s population will increase from 30 million to 44 million in the next 15 years. The subsequent increase in demand for infrastructure of all kinds will only exacerbate existing problems if no one addresses this fundamental obstacle to poverty reduction.

The World Bank’s Efforts

The World Bank has led investment in the DRC over the last decade and has seen encouraging success. The High Priority Reopening and Maintenance Project began in 2008 and concluded in early 2020. The project’s objective was to re-establish lasting access between provincial capitals, districts and territories in three provinces in a way that is sustainable for the people and the natural environment in the project’s area of influence.

The World Bank invested more than $100 million in order to fund the reopening and subsequent maintenance of 376 km of high priority national roads in the Equateur province, caretaking of 741 km and rebuilding of six worn out panel bridges on the Route National (RN4) in the oriental province. This much-needed investment in transportation services has the potential to significantly expand the DRC’s economy. Investment in transportation addresses the infrastructure problem in the DRC and improves Congolese citizens’ ability to relocate in pursuit of more job opportunities. This is especially helpful for those citizens living in rural areas who are otherwise isolated and lack the ability to diversify their occupations. It is also an important measure in rebuilding the unity and interconnectedness of a nation divided by civil war in recent decades.

The DRC’s Efforts

In 2010, the government of the DRC provided a report on its poverty reduction efforts to the OCHA division of the United Nations. The report detailed government spending and effort related to poverty reduction. In 2009, 60% of primary public expenditure went toward  “promoting good governance and peace.” The second-largest area of expenditure was for “promoting access to social services.”

This spending has been productive in helping the government improve the security of the nation. A variety of operations successfully reestablished peace and the government’s authority in the eastern and western parts of the country.

Spending on social services in 2009 also improved transportation infrastructure. The project completed 22,900.60 kilometers of roads, representing 113% of the project’s target of 20,352.05 kilometers. The efforts largely focused on rehabilitating and modernizing roads while re-opening unpaved roads and focusing on large-scale maintenance projects. The poverty rate in the nation has also decreased from around 85% in 2008 to 76.6% in 2012.

By investing in infrastructure and modernization, the DRC’s government is helping the nation to move forward following a period of serious instability and unrest. The presence of additional roads, houses and social services creates an environment in which Congolese citizens can build an economy for a post-war future. The social cohesion and unity of the people are just as important as government programs and foreign investment; by demonstrating an ability to take care of its people, the DRC’s government is showing that there is the potential for recovery and improvements in quality of life.

The Eastern Recovery Project

The Eastern Recovery Project (STEP)–another World Bank-led effort–received approval in 2014 and should reach completion in 2024. Its objective is to improve access to employment and socio-economic infrastructure like schools in vulnerable communities in the eastern provinces of the DRC. Since its beginning, the Project has rehabilitated more than 850 community infrastructure facilities and has created 1.3 million person-days of employment for vulnerable people. Additionally, markets are now present in every province. Reports showed that the poverty rate was 72% in 2018, which was down from 94% in 2004 and 85% in 2008.

Over the last decade, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has begun the process of recovery. Years of devastating conflict and poor governance have left much room for improvement within the infrastructure and social services of the nation. Investments from the World Bank as well as commendable efforts from the DRC’s government have resulted in significant progress regarding the largest obstacles facing the nation.

Though there is still much work necessary to reach SDG Goal 1 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the process of rebuilding is underway.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Homelessness in SomaliaWhat do people tend to think about when they first hear the word “Somalia?” A Google search of Somalia would bring up pirates. Somalia is a small country off the coast of Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 50% of its population living in poverty. Poor living conditions and homelessness in Somalia afflict many of its citizens.

Somalia as of 2018

Government policy in Somalia is leaving the citizens out on the street. At the end of 2017, Somali government officials damaged around 3,000 homes in the city of Mogadishu. They used bulldozers to tear down houses and evicted people from their homes. In 2018, the government displaced more than 2 million people living in Somalia. Moreover, the number of homeless citizens in the nation reached millions.

Droughts have left the second-largest city in Somalia with hundreds of homeless children. Interviews with the children of Hargeisa revealed terrible conditions in which children left their homes due to neglect and loss of means. Moving from rural to urban cities has resulted in these children living on the street, addicted to smelling glue to ease the pain required to fight for their lives. The drought along with a lack of food, water and shelter has resulted in child death, every day in Somalia.

Homelessness in Somalia

Somalia is in grave need of humanitarian aid. Whether due to droughts, violence or politics — millions of Somali citizens have been displaced from their homes. Homelessness in Somalia has progressively become a more urgent issue. In October of 2019, flooding washed away thousands of homes, separating families. Another factor affecting homelessness in Somalia is the migration of citizens from rural areas to cities. People moving into urban areas are settling in tents with little protection.

Poor sanitation is also a significant issue in Somalia. The lack of proper housing combined with a lack of water and food can increase the risk of disease. The number of people affected by malnourishment in 2019 was in millions. Furthermore, this tragedy has a major effect on children. Malnourishment is one of the leading causes of death for 14% of children less than age five. The lack of humanitarian aid in Somalia is also causing citizens to flee from home and move toward urban housing. Those who choose to move, settle in “makeshift shelters” which increase their exposure to terrorism and abuse.

Hope for Somalia

Overall, homelessness in Somalia is the result of multiple factors. Violence and terrorism cause a majority of people to flee from their homes. Yet, forced evictions pose a major threat to families in the agricultural sector as well. Changing weather patterns and year-long droughts result in death, famine and the loss of homes. Political instability and regime changes are also an underlying cause of homelessness in Somalia.

On a more positive note, there is hope for the future of Somalia. In February of 2020, the World Bank announced it would normalize its relations with Somalia. This new relationship will go a long way in helping to grow the country politically, socially and economically. The World Bank is providing Somalia with grants of over $250 million to help reduce poverty. The grants will provide natural disaster recovery for citizens impacted by the droughts. In the same vein, these grants aim to increase security for families by improving education, the health system and providing basic, household utilities such as water.

Hena Pejdah
Photo: Wikimedia Commons