Impact of COVID-19 in CyprusSituated south of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus is a small island with a population of 1.2 million, increasing modestly. Approximately 15.3% of the population is vulnerable to poverty or social exclusion — and given the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cyprus, this percentage is only rising.

Cyprus Before the Virus

Poverty existed in Cyprus before the COVID-19 pandemic. This is due in part to the country’s political divisions, which include the Northern Republic of Cyprus, a Turkish de facto state that has controlled one-third of the island since 1974, and the Southern Republic of Cyprus. With such a stark division, the Cypriot government has found it difficult to track its impoverished population and provide assistance where it is needed.

A recent survey found that in 2019, just one year before the advent of the pandemic, “194,400 Cyprus residents were living in households with disposable income below the at-risk-of-poverty line.” Cyprus’s ethnic division also accounts for this, in that dense Greek-Cypriot populations in the South have tight-knit familial relationships. If one person in these families falls into financial difficulty, they are likely to not have another stable family member to fall back on. This leaves unsupported people like immigrants, single mothers and the elderly most vulnerable to poverty.

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Cyprus

As one of the most popular destinations in Europe, tourism is a vital component of Cyprus’s economy. Prior to COVID-19, Cyprus had three consecutive record years of tourist arrivals, topping 4 million annual tourists. International travel bans that were implemented in March 2020 stagnated the country’s economy and exacerbated the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cyprus. In that vein, domestic quarantine restrictions also halted the progression of potential reunification talks between Turkish-Cypriot President Ersin Tatar and Greek-Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

Cyprus also saw a surge in unemployment rates at the height of the pandemic. According to the most recent data on Cyprus’s unemployment rate, unemployment rates were at a low of 6.3% in July 2019, but jumped to 10.2% a year later, just a year after the pandemic hit.

Taking Initiative: Caritas Cyprus

Despite these drawbacks, fellowships have been able to make a dent in combating the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cyprus. Organizations like Caritas Cyprus were among the first to do so.

Since its inception in 1986, Caritas Cyprus, a member of the Caritas Internationalis confederation, has worked at the grassroots level. It aims to end poverty, promote justice and restore dignity by “responding to humanitarian needs on the island with the aim of providing compassionate care and support to the poor, dispossessed and marginalized.”

Caritas Cyprus primarily works through local parish initiatives as well as cross-island programs that focus on migrants, local needs (diaconia) and youth engagement. The Migrant Sector typically affords support to hundreds of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants through the operation of two centers. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine restrictions, these two centers weren’t able to operate at full capacity. Nonetheless, the organization still provided sufficient aid through its two other sectors.

The Diaconia Sector provided extensive relief for Cyprus’s unemployed population amid the pandemic. Job Search Program connected jobseekers with potential employers using networks within the community.

Following the relaxation of quarantine restrictions, the Youth Sector encouraged the country’s youth to participate in volunteering, fundraising, social events and other humanitarian efforts to raise awareness for groups that bore the brunt of the pandemic’s poverty.

Looking Ahead

As of October 2021, Cyprus has administered more than 1.1 million doses of COVID vaccines; assuming that every person requires two doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated nearly half of the country’s population. Though the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cyprus has posed an acute setback on the country’s economic progress, hope still exists that the country can recover. The rapid distribution of vaccines, assistance from organizations and potential reunification talks between Northern and Southern Cyprus can not only suppress the spread of COVID-19, but ultimately make headway in eradicating poverty.

– Tiffany Grapsas
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in TanzaniaTourism involves traveling to locations other than one’s usual environment to participate in activities of interest. Tanzania contains many tourist destinations, including Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti National Park and Zanzibar beaches. As such, tourism in Tanzania remains essential to the economy of the nation and has a significant impact in more ways than one.

Tanzania’s Poverty Statistics

With a population of approximately 55.6 million people, Tanzania has one of the world’s most impoverished economies despite its previously high rates of growth and remarkable tourism industry. Tanzania’s GDP growth rate decreased from 5.8% in 2019 to 2% in 2020, meaning that Tanzania’s growth per capita became unprecedentedly negative. Furthermore, the Tanzanian poverty rate was 25.7% in 2020, which means that almost 15 million Tanzanians could not afford some or all of their basic necessities.

The Impacts of COVID-19 in Tanzania

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 140,000 people in Tanzania lost their formal jobs in June 2020. Additionally, more than two million people with informal, non-farming jobs experienced a decrease in income. Because of these pandemic job losses, more than half a million people could be pushed below Tanzania’s poverty line.

Furthermore, Tanzania’s rapid population explosion during the pandemic has resulted in an increase in the number of citizens living under the poverty line. Tanzania’s poverty rate increased to nearly 2% in the past year, meaning hundreds of thousands of people have been pushed below the poverty line since the pandemic began. According to the World Bank, “[b]ecause a large share of Tanzania’s population is close to the poverty line, even a mild economic shock can push numerous households into poverty.”

Moreover, the pandemic has halted many businesses, especially in the tourism and manufacturing sectors. However, with the new development of the COVID-19 vaccine, many people are starting to travel again, which may indicate that an economic turn-around could be in Tanzania’s near future.

Tourism in Tanzania

According to University of Dar Es Salaam students Nathanael Luvanga and Joseph Shitundu, Tanzania’s tourism industry contributes to the alleviation of poverty. In their study, they examined three popular tourist attractions in Tanzania and how the qualities of those three locations helped alleviate poverty.

The students found that tourism in Tanzania creates employment for those who live in poverty, including jobs operating hotels, providing tours, working at stores and handcrafting goods to sell to tourists. Job creation in the tourism industry is decreasing poverty rates because the skills needed to obtain employment are not specialized. This means that with proper training, anyone can excel as a tourism industry employee.

The Benefits of Tourism

As a result of positive tourism in Tanzania, the country has observed an increase in the number of people acquiring income from tourism-related jobs. With tourism and travel rates beginning to increase again, many are hopeful that more job opportunities in the tourism industry will arise.

Moreover, tourism strongly correlates with national and even international capital, which opens many opportunities to benefit impoverished citizens and further reduce poverty rates. Tourism was Tanzania’s “largest foreign exchange earner,” the second-largest GDP contributor and the third-largest employment creator, per a World Bank report. With access to numerous foreign markets, Tanzania is able to create employment opportunities for the impoverished, preserve cultural traditions through tourism, expand efforts to further develop the country and decrease poverty rates.

Tourism Alleviates Poverty

More than two million people have visited Tanzania each year to view its exquisite scenery and learn about Tanzanian culture, but tourists are unaware of just how important their visits are to alleviating poverty. Tourism creates jobs for those living in poverty, allowing many impoverished Tanzanian people to provide for their families, and therefore, lift themselves above the poverty line. Additionally, tourism allows Tanzania to use foreign capital to boost its economy, contributing to a rise in its GDP. National and international funding gained from tourism allow an expansion in efforts to eliminate poverty in Tanzania and generates more unique opportunities to benefit the impoverished.

Lauren Spiers
Photo: Flickr

Protests in ThailandThe current pandemic wave hitting Thailand has resulted in a new wave of anti-government protests in the nation. These protests are a part of a pro-democracy movement within Thailand that has been active for several years. The current demonstrations are driven by spikes in both COVID-19 and poverty.

Background on the Pro-Democracy Movement

The protests in Thailand are part of a larger pro-democracy movement that has opposed the Prime Minister’s governance since he and the military overthrew the elected government in 2014. Sentiments regarding the power of the royals in Thai society also exist. Protests right before the pandemic often had tens of thousands attending. Some believe the constitution put into place in 2014 allows for greater military control over the Thai government. The current protests in Thailand have built off of earlier protests that opposed the Prime Minister’s governance.

Recent Surge in COVID-19

A recent surge in COVID-19 cases has hit the country. This has been a critical factor in the ongoing protests in Thailand. The overwhelming majority of Thailand’s COVID-19 cases are from the last few months. The Sinovac vaccine from China, which Thailand has relied on upon along with the AstraZeneca vaccine, carries concerns about lower effectiveness against the Delta variant.  More pressingly, only a relatively small portion of the country has been fully vaccinated as tens of millions of people await their turn.

The devastating impact of the pandemic on Thailand’s economy has driven many into poverty. As the outbreak of the Delta variant has rocked the country, many continue to suffer from the economic ramifications of the pandemic.  The economic shock of the pandemic on Thailand has been tremendous. Estimates show that 1.5 million Thais entered poverty in 2020 due to the pandemic. More than 8% of the country is living on less than $5.50 a day, which only contributes to the unrest felt in the country. The devastation of the tourism industry by the pandemic has been a crippling blow to the Thai economy. The industry generates tens of billions of dollars in revenue a year and is among the world’s most profitable tourist industries. In 2018, the World Bank estimated that tourism made up about 20% of Thailand’s GDP.

Vaccination rates within Thailand combined with surges in the Delta variant have made it extremely difficult for Thailand to fully reopen this critical industry. Priorities to alleviate economic pain include “[i]mprovements in employment, productivity and labour incomes, especially among the poor.” There have few “effective government schemes” to assist Thais who have lost their jobs in industries like tourism crippled by pandemic measures. Additionally, there are some indications that homelessness has skyrocketed in cities around Thailand.

Demands of Protesters

The connection between growing poverty, the Delta variant and the protests in Thailand is evident when looking at protesters’ demands. At the start of August, more than a thousand protesters gathered in Bangkok. Police used “water cannon[s], tear gas and rubber bullets to stop a march toward Government House, the office of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha.” The protesters marched with purpose; calls have risen for the Prime Minister to step down due to a lack of vaccines and jobs.

The pandemic has forced many Thais into poverty, and many have lost their homes and incomes. In addition, critical industries such as tourism have been frozen due to the pandemic, depriving Thailand of revenue and jobs. The recent surge in the Delta variant is made worse by the lack of effective vaccines in the country. In response, Thais are taking to the streets to demand the Prime Minister step down due to his mishandling of the twin crises of poverty and COVID-19.

– Coulter Layden
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact in Bolivia Since September 2020, COVID-19’s impact in Bolivia has greatly improved. The country’s COVID-19 cases have reduced, possibly due to the fact that 25% of the population is fully vaccinated. Compared to the fact that less than 0.1% of the population was fully vaccinated in March 2021, this is good progress.

Small Town Controversies

In the small town of San Jose de Chiquitos, they immobilize the virus for a period of time via a controversial method. They use a chlorine dioxide solution (CDS), which is produced from the public university of Santa Cruz de la Serra, and administered by professional healthcare workers to treat people with coronavirus strains.

The town came about this alternative treatment due to the fact that it does not have a lot of advanced equipment, such as respirators, to keep up with COVID-19’s impact in Bolivia.

Originally, the government did not exactly approve of the treatment; however, the lower house has approved a special bill that authorizes the production and therapeutic use of the CDS. It is known as MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution).

Tourism Hit and Recommendation

Bolivia was one of the most tourism-dependent countries in South America, and the hit was felt by many since tourism provides 110,000 jobs for the people. Even domestic travel has suffered greatly. Even though the total percentage of unemployment in 2020 was only 5.61%, according to Statista, COVID-19’s impact in Bolivia has affect many. These people are eager to get back to work in any way possible.
Travel to Bolivia is still not recommended, and it is not allowed if it is deemed nonessential. According to the CDC, Bolivia is still at level 3, and it is ranked among the 10th highest for coronavirus cases in South American countries and countries in the Caribbean. Those who are fully vaccinated are permitted to go, but upon returning, they should get tested three to five days afterward. According to Statista, due to the lack of tourism, the tourism economy has taken a big hit in domestic tourism, with a loss of $530 million.

Vaccines for Everyone

On September 7, Bolivia received a shipment of 150,000 doses of the vaccine from Mexico. President Luis Arce’s administration estimated that some 7.5 million out of 11 million inhabitants are a vulnerable population that should receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. The country has already seen a dramatic increase in vaccinations in just a short period of time.
The country has also been encouraging and promoting everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, including the indigenous groups in rural areas. The country tends to spread the awareness of the vaccine, and just like many South American countries are now doing, they want to help all of their people.
Rinko Kinoshita, Bolivia’s representative for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), did a 5-question interview with The Pivot. She stated, “Through United Nations interagency collaboration, we also are supporting the government with communication campaigns to promote COVID-19 vaccination, especially in indigenous rural communities on the border with Brazil”.

– Veronica Rosas
Photo: Flickr

Improvements in Tourism in Saudi ArabiaIn recent years, the Saudi Arabian government has made tourism a priority because of Vision 2030. Vision 2030 is a strategy created by the Saudi Arabian government to improve the country in several different areas, tourism being one of them. Increased tourism has expanded the economy and is also improving the lives of the citizens. With tourism comes more forms of entertainment that benefit Saudi Arabians and attracts visitors from other countries.

How has tourism helped the economy?

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) states that in 2019, travel and tourism comprised 9.8% of Saudi Arabia’s GDP. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the tourism industry hard. In 2020, that percentage went down to 7.1%. Even with the decrease in tourism because of the pandemic, tourism in Saudi Arabia is still performing relatively well. For instance, the tourism industry provided 12.2% of employment in Saudi Arabia as of 2019; that figure went down to 11% in 2020.

How has entertainment improved in Saudi Arabia?

Additionally, one of Vision 2030’s goals is to create more entertainment for Saudi people. Entertainment and tourism go hand in hand. One of the biggest developments is that Saudi Arabia had a cinema open recently. A cinema opening in Saudi Arabia is notable. For the last several decades, there have been no cinemas in the country. Now, more than 30 new ones have opened.

More so, there has been an increase in entertainment venues in general. From 154 in 2017 to 277 in 2020, these venues vary from cinemas to amusement parks. The Saudi Arabia government is determined to have a successful entertainment market. By 2030, estimates say the entertainment sector will be worth $1170.72 million. As of 2020, the market is worth $23.77 million. Tourism in Saudi Arabia will benefit from these changes because visitors will now have more options for entertainment when they visit.

What is the Saudi Arabian government doing to meet these goals?

Vision 2030 is where the improvements for entertainment stem from. One of the categories for Vision 2030 is a “vibrant society,” which connects to improving the daily lives of Saudis while preserving cultural values. The Saudi government has implemented the General Authority for Entertainment (GAE), which directly supports the funding to improve the entertainment sector. A tourism e-visa that costs $173 is also available, opening the legal pathway for people to enter the country.

What is next for tourism in Saudi Arabia?

The pandemic has slowed down progress for tourism and entertainment to flourish in Saudi Arabia, seeing as unnecessary visits into the country have halted. The revenue from the entertainment sector is suffering, as is employment for people who work in the industry. However, Saudi Arabia has a solid infrastructure now to uphold its entertainment industry; it is a priority for the nation. Saudi Arabia is determined to reach its goals for Vision 2030 and get back on track for when the pandemic is finally over.

– Shelby Tomassini
Photo: Flickr

DagestanOnce seen as a dangerous and violent place, the Republic of Dagestan in Russia has recently experienced a dramatic shift in visitation. Amid a strict lockdown, Russian tourists have swarmed to Dagestan during COVID-19. Although the republic remains one of Russia’s poorest regions, its tourist sector has thrived under pandemic conditions while Russian tourists scour for affordable trips and avoid capricious international borders.

A Brief History of Dagestan

Two consecutive wars in its neighbor region, Chechnya, greatly afflicted Dagestan. The Chechen revolution produced a “breeding ground for latent animosity” for both Chechnya and Dagestan. The spillover from the Chechen wars scarred Dagestani territories.

In the late 1990s, many Dagestani villages seceded from Russia and established Islamic law. The ensuing deployment of Russian troops to Dagestan resulted in 10 years of fighting.

Today, Russian soldiers are still present in Dagestan. However, the insurgency that gave the republic its fearsome reputation has been mostly suppressed.

Dagestan and COVID-19

From the beginning, Dagestan was an easy target for COVID-19. Many Dagestani men are truck drivers who travel across Russia to Iran and beyond. Furthermore, many citizens of Dagestan returned to villages unchecked when the lockdown was first declared in March 2020.

Low resources plagued Dagestan during COVID-19. The republic suffered from poor COVID-19 testing capacity, little to no PPE and a shortage of medicine/medics. In the summer of 2020, the immediate crisis had lightened and volunteers were a huge help, saving villages from turmoil.

However, Dagestan did its best to fight COVID-19. A new hospital in Gurbuki, Dagestan, opened in December 2019 and 50% of medical personnel fell ill. Instead of waiting for the government to provide aid, locals rounded up volunteers who began working in the wards. Additionally, volunteers set up checkpoints at the village’s entrance, attempting to control the spread of COVID-19. When the hospital started running low on oxygen, volunteers trekked 75 miles round trip to Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital, to refill gas canisters. Dagestan’s efforts proved worthwhile as the region became attractive to tourists during the pandemic.

The Effects of Tourism in Dagestan

Dagestan has benefitted from the recent influx of visitors. Tourism brings in revenue and the increasing popularity of the region might save its culture.

In recent years, thousands of young people have left the isolated mountain villages of Dagestan to live in towns and cities. The departure of this many young people is enough to worry about the survival of villages in Dagestan. The abandonment of the ancient mountain villages, or auls, inevitably leads to the disappearance of the village altogether. Additionally, with the loss of the villages comes the loss of culture.

Chokh villager, Zaur Tshokholov, came up with the idea to save the villages using income from guesthouses. After gaining some fame from a documentary, Man of Chokh, Tshokholov’s guesthouse is now almost always full. Recently, more rooms have been added and other buildings have been renovated.

The guesthouses have sparked tourism potential across Dagestan. Tourism has provided income and job opportunities. Additionally, tourism has the potential to break down past political barriers that were put up by terrorist attacks from a different era. Not to mention, the increased interest in Dagestan could help save many villages. Dagestan during COVID-19 has been revitalized in a way once thought impossible.

– Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in TurkeyThe COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world over a year ago and tourism worldwide has since seen a considerable decline. Turkey heavily relies on its tourism industry and previously hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors daily. But in 2020, figures fell significantly due to the virus and subsequent travel restrictions. However, implementation of increased safety measures provides hope for the tourism industry in Turkey. 

The Pandemic’s Effects 

With a rich cultural history, Turkey offers a variety of stunning historic sites and tourist attractions. In recent years, the country has ranked among the top 10 most-visited countries worldwide, according to WorldAtlas. Places like Istanbul and Antalya draw in millions of visitors, creating thousands of jobs as well as revenue for the country. This was before the pandemic. 

The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating for many countries, especially those that relied on tourism and travel for economic stability. For Turkey, the pandemic led to up to $12 billion in lost revenue and slashed tourism rates by 75% in the first half of 2020 compared to the previous year.

Contrasting those dim statistics, Turkey was labeled as a success last year by the WHO due to its fast actions in containing the virus. The Turkish government quickly instituted strict curfews for citizens,  which proved successful and indicated a quick end to the virus. Consequently, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan loosened restrictions in Turkey’s “controlled normalization” phase in early 2021. Since then, there has been a drastic spike in cases this year. There is an estimated 1000% increase in daily cases, with an average of around 50,000 cases per day. Despite Turkey’s impressive initial control of COVID-19, deaths have doubled since the end of 2020. 

Turning a Corner with Safety

When will former capacity return to sites like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar? That is the main question business have in 2021. In response, the president of Turkey’s Travel Agencies Union, Firuz Bağlıkaya, stated that tourist agencies plan to create the best experiences possible for tourists rather than increasing tourism rates. As such, the government has begun to roll out what it calls the Safe Tourism Certification Program, which is spearheaded by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The program is mandatory for businesses with 30 or more rooms and optional for smaller businesses. After a company applies, an accredited team comes to assess the safety of the establishment. Companies that pass the inspection are then announced on the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s website. Certified companies also receive safety logos that are visibly placed throughout the facilities. To ensure continual safety, periodic inspections occur in both a planned manner and secretive visit on a monthly basis. All of this information is made easily accessible to everyone, including guests, by simply scanning the QR code found on every safety logo. 

Tourism Season in 2021

Although small businesses and vendors in Turkey have been hit hard, things are looking up for the country’s tourism industry. According to Firuz Bağlıkaya, European countries rolling out vaccines at higher rates is an encouraging sign for the tourism industry. Tourists from these countries may be more inclined to travel, which is very important since the tourism industry relies on foreign traffic. Additionally, establishments within Turkey are measuring up to safety standards due to the Safe Tourism Certification Program. This will entice more visitors to come back the country and see its famous sites. With increased vaccine rollouts and continued safety protocols, Turkey may be back on its feet for the 2021 tourism season.

Maddie Youngblood

Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Latin America ReducesLatin America is a vast region with diverse weather, geography, culture and foods. Each year, millions of tourists flock to Latin America to enjoy its natural beauty. A vacation haven, tourism in Latin America is a driving force for economic development in the region. Furthermore, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty.

Tourism in Latin America

From the beaches of Cuba to the Andes mountains in Peru, any traveler can find a destination of their preference. The most visited countries in Latin America are Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. According to the World Bank, more than 113 million tourists traveled to Latin America in 2018, bringing $103 billion worth of revenue. Tourism in Latin America has created more than 15 million jobs, which accounts for 7.6% of all employment. Furthermore, international tourism contributes roughly $348 billion to the GDP of the countries in the region.

Ecotourism in Costa Rica

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Central America saw a 7.3% growth in its tourism sector, the biggest subregional growth in Latin America. Moreover, the country of Costa Rica has attracted millions of international visitors thanks to its ecotourism. Costa Rica is a leader in preserving its environment while attracting millions to come and enjoy its natural beauty. Beaches, rainforests, volcanoes and wildlife attract tourists which contributes to the economic development of the nation. A study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences correlates ecotourism with improving the lives of Costa Ricans. The study found those living near protected areas and parks saw a 16% reduction in poverty. Furthermore, tourism in the country accounts for 5% of the GDP.

Poverty Reduction in the Dominican Republic

Punta Cana is the dream destination for many, with captivating views of the ocean and exciting nightlife, the beach town welcomes 60% of all Dominican Republic’s tourists. Moreover, the country has benefited more from international tourism than any other Latin American nation. The tourism industry contributes to 9.5% of the island nation’s GDP. Even though poverty is still an issue for the country, extreme poverty decreased to 1.6% of the population in 2018. Furthermore, malnourishment has also decreased and life expectancy has increased. Tourism has steadily contributed to the well-being of Dominicans.

COVID-19 and Mexico

Mexico’s tourism is very important for its economy. Mexico is dependent on its tourism sector since it accounts for 16.1% of its GDP and employs nearly nine million people. Destinations such as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo are very popular for tourists to visit. Furthermore, Mexico’s tourism was thriving until the COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges to the country. The pandemic brought a halt to tourism and hurt the economy of Mexico. Nonetheless, Mexico still manages to keep the industry alive. Mexico began to limit hotel and restaurant capacity to curtail the virus. Mexico is also working with the CDC to ensure U.S. travelers going back to the United States are returning uninfected. Even though tourism has decreased because of the pandemic, flights to the state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun and Tulum are located, were averaging 460 air arrivals compared to an average of 500 pre-pandemic.

Tourism and the Future

Tourism in Latin America has positively impacted many lives across the region. The U.N. acknowledges that tourism is a way for a developing country to economically sustain itself. Moreover, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty. Challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic put a setback to the growing tourism sector. Regardless, Latin America has an abundance of beauty and adventure, thus ensuring tourism will be kept alive once the pandemic is over.

– Andy Calderon Lanza
Photo: Flickr

Madagascar’s PovertyMadagascar, an island country located in the Indian Ocean, is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, with 75% of its population living in poverty in 2019. Due to the country’s insufficient infrastructure, isolated communities and history of political instability, the economy of Madagascar has long been incapacitated and heavily dependent on foreign aid to meet the basic needs of its people, with food being the most urgent. In recent times, Madagascar’s poverty has been further impacted by more crises amid the country’s continued search for economic stability.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar’s economy has drastically worsened and so has Madagascar’s poverty as a result. With an already frail economic climate before COVID-19, the pandemic has negatively affected both the rural and urban areas of Madagascar, as precautionary measures enforced by the government are obstructing the flow of food and job opportunities, further stifling the already impoverished. Movement restrictions, one of many precautionary measures being enforced by the government, have cornered the most poverty-susceptible households to stay in place versus finding labor opportunities through seasonally migrating. Without the freedom to move about and access markets, these rural households are hard-pressed to find food and urban households are feeling the economic effects of this as well.

Drought in Madagascar

About 1.6 million people in southern Madagascar have suffered from food shortages since 2016. The reason for this food shortage: drought. Ejeda is one of many Madagascar villages that finds its villagers trekking miles away from their homes to dig holes into sand beds around rivers in search of water. If water is found, these villagers are then tasked with transporting it miles back home. Three years of recurrent drought in southern Madagascar has almost entirely eradicated farming and crop yields.

Declining Tourism Industry

Tourism in Madagascar is a significant source of annual revenue for the country. Home to lush national parks and scenic beaches, it is estimated that the fallout of COVID-19 has taken away about half a billion dollars of tourism revenue from the country since the pandemic began. Travel restrictions in Madagascar have gradually been eased but the damage has been done as people are simply not traveling unnecessarily during COVID-19. This loss of tourism revenue has been widely felt as it has added to the people’s ongoing struggle with poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty in Madagascar continues to worsen due to COVID-19, drought and the ensuing loss of tourism. With an already feeble economy before these crises, poverty has been intensified in both rural and urban areas as these crises continue to play out.

The Good News

Madagascar’s poverty has increased but there is good news to be found. A dietician and missionary from Poland named Daniel Kasprowicz recently raised 700,000 PLN through an online fundraiser to build a medical facility for malnourished children. Construction on the building has already started, and as poverty is expected to increase throughout Madagascar for the foreseeable future, it is believed that the facility will be opened and treating the malnourished by February 2021. In a time of crucial need, foreign aid means life or death in Madagascar and no act of assistance goes unnoticed.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

Demining Zimbabwe's National ParkLocated in southeast Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park is home to 11,000 African elephants, which is how it earned its name as the “Place of Elephants.” Unfortunately, it is also the site of thousands of buried landmines. These landmines were placed by the Rhodesian army during Zimbabwe’s Liberation War and have remained there for more than 40 years. Although there have been efforts to remove these mines, they continue to be a constant threat to the people of Zimbabwe and local wildlife. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park will have several benefits for the country.

APOPO: Demining Efforts

The United States has provided a grant of $750,000 to the nonprofit APOPO to demine the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, where a large portion of the undetonated landmines reside. The Sengwe Wildlife Corridor covers a stretch of land that connects the park to South Africa and is used regularly by migrating elephants.

The area that APOPO has been designated to work is one of the largest in the world: 37 kilometers lengthwise and 75 kilometers in width. With almost 6,000 landmines per kilometer, communities in the surrounding area are unable to access potential land for farming and endangered species are at constant risk.

The presence of the minefield prevents the elephant population of the park from migrating and potentially mixing with other elephant populations. This presents a long-term risk of limiting the already shrinking African elephant gene pool.

APOPO has established a five-year plan for demining Zimbabwe’s national park, expecting to remove all undetonated landmines from the area by 2025. It estimates that it will remove more than 15,000 landmines before the end of its operation in the corridor.

The nonprofit will be working in tandem with the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust to maintain that the process will not impede conservation goals for the park.

The project also complements USAID programs to support community-based natural resource management, provide climate-smart agricultural technologies and improve the value chain for communities to sell their products for a fair market price.

Poverty in Zimbabwe and COVID-19

Zimbabwe is currently facing severe economic hardships that have only worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 50% of Zimbabweans experienced food insecurity and 40% faced extreme poverty. This number is projected to increase as conditions worsen with the onset of the pandemic and severe droughts. Inflation in the country has been rampant, with prices of food increasing by 725%, resulting in a severe loss of purchasing power for the poor. The pandemic has impacted the already economically challenged country by decreasing trade and tourism.

Aiding Economic Recovery in Zimbabwe

The United States and APOPO hope that by clearing out the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, ecotourism in Zimbabwe will begin to thrive. As it stands currently, only 8,000 tourists on average visit Gonarezhou National Park compared to the 1.8 million tourists that visit the neighboring Kruger National Park of South Africa. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park means providing an extended opportunity for increased tourism in the struggling country. The efforts of APOPO, with the support of the United States, may be able to help economic recovery, reduce the impact of the pandemic and uplift communities that are battling poverty.

-Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr