U.S.-Pacific Island PartnershipIn September 2022, The Biden Administration announced the first U.S.-Pacific Island Partnership Summit. The promise made by the United States government highlights nine key areas to improve relations between the U.S. and Pacific Island nations such as Papua New Guinea and Fiji. 

Among various initiatives, such as addressing climate concerns and enhancing maritime security, a significant focus has been the expanded involvement of USAID in the region. A year following this summit, it’s essential to assess the progress made toward achieving goals and addressing poverty in the area. How has the region advanced in its efforts to combat poverty?

Environmental Protection

With global concerns about climate and environmental changes at an all-time high, the focus on conservation and protection is one of the main pledges to the Pacific Islands. 

In February 2023, USAID gave $1 million to Fijian organizations that work to aid the poorest in society and protect them against natural disasters. 

The main benefactors of these grants are the Live & Learn Environmental Education Fiji group, an organization that builds the resistance of poor communities in the form of food security, biodiversity education and correct sanitary practices. 

A similar campaign was launched in Samoa also. USAID provided an additional $1.5 million to fund Samoan plans, many of which focus on rural communities that do not have accessible means to facilities found in the cities. 

Communities in Vanuatu were devastated by a pair of cyclones in March. Less than a month later, USAID funded a $3.2 million aid program that gave vulnerable citizens shelter, safe water systems and food support to kickstart the agricultural processes again.

The U.S.-Pacific Island Partnership Declaration focused heavily on giving thousands of people the relief they would need due to environmental issues. So far, USAID has delivered on its promise, allowing vulnerable people to be given the support that they desperately need. 

Food Security

As stated, many environmental protection organizations work hard to provide food security for the vulnerable. Grants have been given by USAID to support specific food programs across the Pacific Islands. 

In May 2023, USAID awarded $950,000 to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Fiji. The funds were used to incorporate technology into agriculture to increase yields across the most vulnerable communities.

A total of 50 different communities were involved with the project, improving their agricultural independence and education on the best methods for more bountiful, greener growing. 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), an estimated 3.85 million people in the Pacific Islands live beneath the international poverty line — $1.90 per day. 

Dietary-related Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are high in the Pacific Islands. One-quarter of people in the Pacific Islands deal with a degree of food insecurity, particularly women and children in rural communities. 

Point four of the U.S.-Pacific Island Partnership Summit is to enhance sustainable development in the Pacific. Food security is at the heart of this issue, and programs carried out so far have been successful in granting people suffering from food security greater reassurance. 

Economic Support

One of the most important components of developing nations is creating self-sufficiency through stronger economic conditions. The U.S.-Pacific Island Partnership has worked over the last year to create infrastructure in some of the nations that need it most. 

In May 2023, the U.S. pledged a $23 million grant to Papua New Guinea, with a major focus on resources and economic structure. Earlier, the East Micronesia Cable project progressed further with support from the U.S., Australia and Japan. The plan involves creating a cable link under the Pacific Ocean to connect Micronesia with Kiribati and Nauru. 

The project will not only fund thousands of jobs during its completion but also provide improved communications to rural populations on the islands, increasing societal growth and quality of life across the different nations. 

The Future Is Promising

As promised in its pledge, the U.S. opened a country representative office in Papua New Guinea and a new regional mission in Fiji. These two implementations cover all across the Pacific Islands, allowing USAID to be based directly in these nations to oversee projects and create greater relationships with the people its work is impacting. 

In August 2023, USAID administrator Samantha Power announced further plans to support the Pacific Islands with issues regarding climate, cybersecurity and health care partnerships with the FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

In her keynote speech, Power stated “This new mission here in Fiji, and the new office based in Papua New Guinea, are the next step in the United States’ reinvigorated commitment to the Pacific Islands. It will provide a platform to substantially increase our investments in the salutations that you are advocating for, to build on the process we have made together, and to partner more deeply.”

A year after its initiation, the U.S.-Pacific Island Partnership Declaration offers valuable insights into the region’s poverty outlook. While numerous projects and goals remain to be achieved, the commitment to this pledge endures due to the dedicated efforts of USAID. With sustained growth and emerging opportunities, the future appears more promising for many individuals facing poverty in the Pacific Islands since President Biden made this commitment.

– Oliver Rayner
Photo: Flickr

afghan-womens-protest-highlights-a-desire-for-more-aidOn August 13, 2022, Afghan women in the capital city of Kabul gathered in front of the education ministry building, to protest human rights abuses by the Taliban including depriving women of the ability to work and participate in politics. They were also aiming to secure more aid and support from nations abroad. The Taliban swiftly responded by chasing and beating the female protestors. The international community, including the U.N. and human rights groups, have condemned the Taliban’s repression of women’s rights.

The Current Situation

The Afghan women’s protest was motivated, in part, by a desire for more humanitarian aid to be distributed to the 24 million Afghans in need. As of August 15, 2022, approximately 20 million of these Afghans are at critical risk of starvation and an estimated 1.1 million Afghan children may face severe malnutrition this year. Drought conditions and a spiraling economy have only exacerbated these issues. Furthermore, the Taliban have restricted women’s right to work and closed school to most girls after the sixth grade. As a result of these restrictions on women, Afghanistan has lost upwards of $1 billion. The government budget this year is a fraction of the 2020 budget and the economy has become increasingly dependent on foreign aid to fund public spending.

The Response from Other Countries

The deteriorating human rights situation in Afghanistan, especially for women and girls, has led to increased foreign intervention. For example, the U.S. has admitted more than 81,000 Afghans since the Taliban regained control over the country. Furthermore, on August 12, 2022, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a $30 million commitment in support of gender equality and female empowerment in Afghanistan. This money will also be allocated to organizations seeking to advance women’s rights in Afghanistan. However, the Afghan women’s protest shows that these efforts have been too far and in between and highlights the dire need for more international partnership on these issues.

The Efforts of International Organizations

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has also prompted aid from international organizations. In fact, since the Taliban takeover, U.N. agencies have stayed in Afghanistan and provided aid to nearly 23 million people. Moreover, on June 10, 2022, the U.K. provided donations to The World Food Programme (WFP), which allowed the organization to aid 17 million Afghans through cash transfers and food and nutrition support. This helped families address their most urgent needs by putting food on the table.

The Road Ahead

Afghanistan has been plagued by violence and anguish for decades now. Many children and young adults do not know of an Afghanistan that is not war-torn and barren. They do not know of the nation that was on its way to international prominence – this might be the greatest tragedy of all. Despite the havoc caused by the withdrawal of U.S. forces, humanitarian agencies such as the WFP have stayed in the country. Countries, such as the U.S. and the U.K., continue to provide aid to the Afghans in a pragmatic manner. Although this is indicative of the international community’s determination to help Afghans, as the women’s protest has emphasized, there is still a considerable amount of work left to do.

Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

USAID Assistance to SudanUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance to Sudan offers hope to alleviate poverty in the struggling country. Sudan has a population of more than 44 million people, but as of August 2021, approximately 13.4 million Sudanese people require humanitarian aid. Citizens are grappling with conflict, food insecurity, economic crisis and the impact of drought and flooding. The onset of COVID-19 has only exacerbated issues of poverty in the country. Even though there were developmental gains in the past decade, the African country of Sudan is still dealing with widespread poverty, conflict and violence. However, with USAID assistance to Sudan, the country has the potential to make significant strides in reducing poverty.

The Economy of Sudan

The secession of South Sudan in 2011 is a leading cause of many of Sudan’s modern economic struggles. When South Sudan seceded, the most significant economic loss to Sudan was oil revenue. Oil contributed to more than 50% of the Sudanese government’s income and “95% of its exports.” Without oil revenue, the country experienced a lack of economic growth and “consumer price inflation” as well as soaring fuel prices. However, Sudan came to an agreement with South Sudan “to lower oil transit fees” in 2016 in order to address some of these issues.

While oil is still Sudan’s main economic sector, about 78% of the population work in the agricultural sector. However, the agricultural industry in Sudan is highly rain-dependent and very sensitive to “changing weather patterns” that lead to drought and flooding. This volatility can hurt the incomes of the many people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture.

The State of Poverty in Sudan

Sudan faces significant challenges regarding poverty. Sudan has “one of the highest rates of stunting in the region,” with global acute malnutrition impacting about one million children in the country. In addition, roughly 83% of the citizens live in rural areas and 80% of the population survives on less than $1 a day. Furthermore, more than a third of the country experiences food insecurity. The culmination of these factors means, on the Human Development Index, Sudan ranks 170th out of 189 countries. This ranking puts Sudan in the “low human development category,” according to the 2019 Human Development Index.

USAID Assistance to Sudan

“The United States has been the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan for more than a quarter-century.” USAID assistance to Sudan aims to reduce poverty and provide immediate humanitarian relief. In June 2020, USAID gave Sudan roughly $356 million “to support the democratic transition in the Republic of Sudan following a peaceful revolution in 2019.” Of this funding, $20 million went toward the Sudan Family-Support Program, “a safety net administered by the World Food Programme” to assist Sudanese people “through a difficult period of economic reform needed to end unsustainable state subsidies on wheat and oil.” In addition, some of the funding went toward strengthening the COVID-19 response in Sudan.

More recently, on August 3, 2021, USAID Administrator Samantha Power proclaimed that the agency will provide more than $56 million worth of humanitarian aid to Sudan. The aid looks to increase healthcare resiliency by assisting with “emergency health care,” medical resources and the training of healthcare personnel. Furthermore, the funding will support victims “of gender-based violence by improving case management and training personnel on survivor-centered approaches.” The funding will also increase resources with regard to water and sanitation. Through this assistance, USAID strives to help approximately 13.4 million Sudanese who need humanitarian aid.

Looking Ahead

With the addition of this recent aid, the U.S. asserts its position as the most significant donor to Sudan, providing nearly $377 million worth of aid since the beginning of 2021. U.S aid to Sudan provides support for millions of Sudanese people who deal with food insecurity, lack of clean water and conflict, among other issues. With U.S. aid, Sudan can make strides in the fight against poverty.

– Kyle Har
Photo: Flickr