Posts

Facts About Joseph Stalin
Born on Dec 18, 1878, Joseph Stalin served as the Soviet Union’s Premier and the General Secretary of the Communist Party. Here are 10 horrendous facts about Joseph Stalin.

10 Horrendous Facts About Joseph Stalin

  1. As the Communist Party’s General Secretary, Stalin conducted so-called purges throughout the 1930s during which his administration imprisoned, exiled or executed political enemies and ethnic minorities. The time between 1936 and 1938 was the Great Purge and Stalin had approximately 750,000 people executed and sent millions to forced labor camps. In a forest by Toksovo, a small town near St. Petersburg, human rights workers discovered a mass grave of more than 30,000 victims in 2002.
  2. The First Plan, implemented in 1928, had a motive to modernize the Soviet Union’s industry. Stalin introduced the concept of collectivization by taking control of farmers’ lands. As a result, many farmers had to move towards cities for work. Stalin created state-run farms in the usurped lands and introduced time-specific quotas for the remaining farmers. These farmers could not eat the food they produced unless they reached the quotas they had to send to the cities. Subsequently, between 7 and 8 million people died on these rural lands from starvation and severe working conditions.
  3. Stalin designed and nurtured a famine throughout Ukraine between 1932 and 1933 that resulted in the death of approximately 7 million people. The Communist Party specifically targeted Ukraine for its efforts in gaining independence from Soviet rule. Stalin enforced quotas on Ukrainian farms to agricultural products to the Soviet Union. These quotas continued to increase until there was not enough food to sustain Ukrainian populations. When Ukrainian Communists appealed to the Soviet administration, Stalin used military force to purge the Ukrainian Communist Party and subsequently sealed Ukraine’s borders to prevent the shipment of food into the country. Additionally, Soviet forces confiscated all food sources from private Ukrainian residences.
  4. In 1919, Vladimir Lenin established the first Soviet forced labor camps. However, these camps, called the Gulags, did not reach full notoriety until the early 1930s under Stalin’s rule. Prisoners at the Gulags had to work at least 14 hours of demanding physical labor every day. These tasks included felling trees and digging frozen Soviet lands with rudimentary tools or mining coal and copper by hand. Prisoners received food based on how much work they completed in a day, however, even a full ration was insignificant. This labor force comprised of robbers, rapists, murderers, thieves and political enemies. Yet the majority of the prisoners were those the Soviets arrested for petty theft, lateness or unexcused absences from work.
  5. During Stalin’s early reign, the communist regime promoted the elimination of religion by confiscating church property, belittling religious beliefs and believers as well as promoting the indoctrination of atheism in schools. The Soviets exected the majority of the Russian Orthodox Church clergy and followers or sent them to the Gulags. The communist regime almost completely blocked the practice of Judaism instigated the systematic suppression of Islam until 1941.
  6. One of Stalin’s most heavily used tactics of oppression was censorship. Stalin cultivated a personality cult of artists that the state forced to create work that glorified the dictator. Those who read literature, viewed paintings and listened to music that the Soviet administration did not approve would have to go to the Gulags. Many artists committed suicide or attempted to flee the country in response.
  7. The Communist Party strictly controlled Education in the Soviet Union and based it on indoctrination. The government dictated which subjects schools could teach and test on. Teachers would teach History classes using materials that Stalin appointed, like the book A Short History of the USSR.
  8. Children received encouragement to join youth organizations outside of schools. Three tiers of these organizations existed: for 8 to 10-year-olds, there were the Octobrists; for 10 to 16-year-olds, the Pioneers; and for 19 to 23-year-olds, the Komsomol. Such organizations taught children how to be good communists. Stalin’s motive behind these youth clubs was to indoctrinate Soviet children into unquestioning obedience to the Communist Party. Further, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, children as young as those in the Pioneers tier received arms to defend the State.
  9. Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union deported over 1.5 million people. The majority of these people were Muslim. Reasons for deportation included resisting Soviet rule, ethnicity, religion and collusion with Germany’s occupational forces. The Soviets had deportees rounded up in cattle cars and taken to resettlement locations like Siberia or Uzbekistan where almost two-fifths of resettled populations died.
  10. Following World War II, Stalin began a press campaign of attacks on Jewish culture and Zionism. In 1948, the Jewish Antifascist Committee, an organization promoting Soviet policies, Stalin’s forces had it disbanded and its chairman assassinated.

As seen by the aforementioned 10 facts about Joseph Stalin, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union created immense suffering and strife under Stalin’s reign. Scholars and historians assert that between 20 and 60 million people died as a result of Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship.

Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Flickr

 

HIV in Ukraine
Over the past several years, Ukraine has been battling the second largest HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. As of 2018, approximately estimates determined that 240,000 people were living with HIV in Ukraine out of the nearly 45 million citizens.

Causes of Ukraine’s HIV Epidemic

In origin, Ukraine’s HIV epidemic stems from transmission through the injection of drugs, predominantly among the male population. However, as of 2008, the catalytic force driving the outbreak has shifted to the transmission through sexual contact. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), up to 73.8 percent of the HIV cases in Ukraine during 2018 spread through sexual contact.

Complicating treatment initiatives is the fact that only 71 percent of the people living with HIV in Ukraine are aware of their condition and only 52 percent are receiving treatment. Further, the war in Donbass between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists has spurred the spread of the virus as national unrest grows. Both war conflict and HIV are predominant in the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Initially, the government made attempts to supply the areas with antiretrovirals for HIV treatment but security reasons and separatist control throughout the region obstructed the efforts.

Efforts to Treat and Prevent HIV

Following the report of 12,000 new HIV cases among citizens in 2018, the Ukrainian government designated $16 million to fund and expand HIV prevention methods and treatment services for the 2019-2020 year. This budget is a part of Ukraine’s plan to shift to a nationally-funded HIV response as opposed to the previously held international donor funding.

Working closely with the government, 100% Life, the largest patient-based and nonprofit organization in Ukraine for people living with HIV provides services for up to 90,000 patients. According to the Ukrainian Philanthropic Forum, the organization served as the nation’s largest philanthropist in both 2016 and 2017.

Moreover, in March 2019, Merck & Co. Inc., a pharmaceutical company, agreed to reduce the price of HIV treatment drug Raltegravir as a direct result of the organization’s advocacy. The cost per pill fell from $5.50 to $2.75, the lowest price for the drug in all of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This was not the first time that 100% Life urged the company to make treatment more accessible for HIV patients. In 2016, the price reduction of HIV drug Atripla also received confirmation as Merck & Co. Inc. agreed to forgo patent protection of the drug. Estimates allege that non-patented or generic versions of the drug should result in savings that could provide up to an additional 2,800 patients with treatment annually.

Despite the intensity and duration of Ukraine’s HIV epidemic, the nation’s government and activists are continuously working to ensure treatment and prevention initiatives for the whole population. The implementation of a domestic response budget and the availability of more cost-effective treatment commence the reinvigoration of Ukraine’s approach to HIV management and restriction.

Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Unsplash

Mental Health In Ukraine

Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has faced many troubles. As of early 2014, Ukraine has been in nearly continual conflict with Russia and Eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists. Ukraine is also home to almost 45 million people. In July 2018, over 1.5 million people were internally displaced, meaning that they had to leave their homes as a result of the fighting. Mental health in Ukraine is affected by the enduring strife in their country.

Issues Impacting Mental Health in Ukraine

Many of those living in Ukraine deal with problems like anxiety and depression, that negatively influence their mental health. These conditions are exacerbated by turmoil. Citizens of Ukraine have dealt with the consequences and brutalities of war, including casualties of friends and family members. Some have had to leave behind the places they call home.

In addition, physical threats are also often an issue. Those living in war zones or even partial cease-fire zones, such as the line of contact through Donetsk and Luhansk, are in constant danger. Roughly 3,300 civilians were killed from 2014 to 2018.

Mental health care is also taboo in Ukraine. During the Soviet era, mental health issues were used as an excuse to imprison in asylums those with differing political beliefs from those in power. The ramifications of this injustice persist today, with many skeptical of psychiatry.

This taboo worsens the effects of anxiety and depression. One survey of 1,000 internally displaced individuals found that 20 percent of those internally displaced suffer from moderately severe to severe anxiety. Also, 25 percent suffered from moderately severe to severe depression. These numbers are significantly higher than the percentage of people suffering from anxiety or depression in the United Kingdom.

The stigma surrounding mental health deters some from voicing their struggles. The matter is further complicated as people who prefer to speak with Church leaders are now unable to do so because many leaders have also fled out of necessity. Those living in separatist territories are denied access to a psychological help hotline. Also, up to 77 percent of the internally displaced are completely deprived of any and all forms of professional help.

Organizations Working to Improve Mental Health in Ukraine

UNICEF has a mobile outreach program that aims to provide psychosocial support to the people of Ukraine. These individual and group activities are designed to focus on relieving anxiety and fear, issues that are abundant in the turbulent areas. UNICEF’s efforts are near the line of contact and provide help for children and their caregivers; 1,792 people were helped by these efforts during January 2019.

Also, UNICEF established the aforementioned hotline for both legal and psychological relief. In 2017, over 43,000 calls were made to the hotline. This outlet for help provides much-needed support to those in need.

The WHO, in cooperation with Ukrainian health authorities, also created a mobile mental health center to provide psychological services, support and education. The program is community-based. Based on the success of the four mobile units across the conflict areas, this system may be implemented on a larger scale as a measure to reform mental health care in Ukraine.

Johns Hopkins University, along with USAID, recently completed a project that started in March 2015 in Ukraine. The design sought to improve the mental health of community members and research the effects that conflict has had on the population.

With the help of these organizations and more, hopefully, the effects of the Ukrainian struggle on mental health can be alleviated. The programs are working to find workable solutions to mental health stigmas and to provide relief for those facing issues with mental health in Ukraine.

– Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

The Endless War in the DonbassThe War in Donbass is still ongoing after its onset in 2014. What started as a trade disagreement between the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia, spiraled into civil protest which shifted into a bloody civil war among the protestors and the military.

Living in a War Zone

Since then, the civil war has worsened, affecting a majority of the citizens who reside in the war zone. There will be no signs of a permanent ceasefire within the country until common ground is found between the resistance and Russia’s military presence. Nick Thompson, a reporter for CNN, stated in 2016 that, “Ukraine’s prolonged stalemate is causing grief and isolation among millions living in the conflict zone, the United Nations warns, 9,500 people have been killed in the violence and more than 22,100 injured, including Ukrainian armed forces, civilians and members of armed groups, the UN says.”

Damaged Healthcare Facilities

Along with the high casualty rate, health care for citizens is becoming harder to reach due to the destruction of many hospitals and healthcare clinics in the region. Nearly one-third of medical facilities in the Donbass region have reported damage as a result of the conflict from the civil war.

The destruction of medical facilities is only worsening the burden placed on the citizens of the Donbass by the war. The significantly reduced accessibility of healthcare is compounding the many elements of poverty that have stricken the region.

A Weakened Economy

Before the war, the urbanized area of the region accounted for nearly 15 percent of Ukraine’s population and produced 16 percent of its domestic product. The GDP in Ukraine in 2013 was approximately 183.31 Billion USD until the conflict arose, which dropped the GDP by nearly 50 percent.

This reflects the economy present within the region and asserts the idea that individuals, as well as the country, are suffering from the effects of the civil war. Many have been forced out of their homes to migrate to other parts of Ukraine leaving displaced individuals in need of aid. While the EU expanded sanctions against Russia for a brief period, they shrank back in 2015, reducing Russia’s incentives to end the conflict.

The War in Donbass has permanently affected the people who once lived there or are currently residing in the war zone. This war has created many new elements of poverty by damaging the economy and reducing healthcare access. Many reforms will have to be established in order to combat against this civil war and rebuild the region once the war has ceased.

Struggling Peace Agreements

NATO has increasingly worked on their relationship with Russia in order to hinder the war but most of these agreements have failed to appease both sides.

While the outlook for the Donbass region may appear grim, the EU can still hold its considerable sanction power over Russia. Additionally, peace agreements are still in the works, despite their failures to reach a quick conclusion. A number of organizations are undergoing efforts to support the people of the region. For instance, the People’s Project of Ukraine, a non-profit organization, is engaging in crowd-sourcing efforts to support those displaced by the war. Consider donating to projects such as these if you are interested in helping the people of Ukraine.

– Elijah Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine Addresses HungerDespite gaining independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine is currently enduring serious challenges. War and corruption have left nearly 1.5 million people without food or water, and an estimated four million people are in need of humanitarian assistance as of August 2017. This figure includes approximately three million people who were affected by the water supply system disruptions and an increase in internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country.

The suffering is due to the separatist movement in Ukraine’s south and east regions after a reversal in government that has led to protests, violence and over 6,500 lives lost. Millions of citizens have been forced from their homes, creating a food crisis. However, efforts to increase humanitarian aid to Ukraine have been implemented over the past few years. The U.S. government has provided more than $27 million in assistance to meet the health, food, shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene and protection needs in the conflict-affected areas of the Ukraine during 2017 alone.

In response to Ukraine’s political transition and its effects, USAID’s Ukraine Confidence Building Initiative program was formed in 2014. The Confidence Building Initiative (UCBI) complements ongoing USAID efforts to create a prosperous and stable Ukraine. UCBI assistance will come in the form of small in-kind grants, such as goods, services and technical support, to a range of partners, including national and local civilian government entities, civil society organizations and community leaders.

By providing quick, short-term assistance to Ukrainian partners who are in support of a peaceful democratic transition, UCBI seeks to reduce social tensions and increase available information on the conflict and its impact. According to ReliefWeb, USAID has implemented 70 activities in Ukraine and provided approximately 100,000 IDPs with economic opportunities and other important resettlement services.

By rebuilding confidence and stability in vulnerable communities in the eastern European nation, the goal of humanitarian aid to Ukraine is to create an integrated, educated and unified nation.

– Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in UkraineUkraine made global headlines just over three years ago, when weeks of protests culminated in the Maidan revolution that unseated President Viktor Yanukovych. Russia’s subsequent seizure of Crimea and the outbreak of war in the Russian-speaking east caused the country’s economy to collapse, plunging many Ukrainians into poverty and hunger.

Ukraine’s GDP decreased by 6.6 percent in 2014 and 9.8 percent in 2015, when fighting in the east escalated and devastated the once-rich industrial regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Ukraine is now home to one of the most violent conflicts on the planet.

Around 1.5 million Ukrainians suffered from hunger due to the conflict in eastern Ukraine after two years of fighting in 2016, with 300,000 in need of immediate help and food aid. The ongoing war led Ukraine to become the only European country to require assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP), which distributed rations and aid to Ukrainians in the east. The WFP has assisted over one million people in the country since it began operations there in August 2014.

Hunger is also a problem in western and central Ukraine, untouched by the conflict but still deeply affected by the country’s economic crisis. Corruption is still seen as a major problem after the 2014 revolution, and protests against the government of President Petro Poroshenko have erupted over concerns of rising poverty and corruption.

While the war has left over 2,500 civilians dead, the conflict has stalled and Ukraine is making progress in reducing poverty since the most violent periods of the war. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2017 Global Hunger Index, Ukraine sharply reduced its rate of hunger over the last several years and was one of the strongest performers after China since 2008.

– Giacomo Tognini
Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Ukraine
Ukraine is one of the most impoverished countries in Europe. Approximately 58 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. This is an incredible increase from 2015 when it was 28.6 percent. The main reason for this increase is the most recent political conflict, which has caused significant disturbances. Learning how to help people in Ukraine starts with ending the bloodshed in the country.

It is a well-documented fact that conflict leads to poverty. The War in Donbass is an armed conflict occurring in the Donbass region of Ukraine. The conflict started with pro-Russian and anti-government protests and then escalated into an armed, deadly conflict between the Ukrainian government and the separatist forces. This conflict has been incredibly costly for Ukraine, which spends around $5 million each day. This money could be put into their development goals instead of cleaning up the turmoil that has occurred. The country is also at risk of losing international aid because of their political climate. Ukraine is moving backward, away from its development goals.

This war has prolonged poverty for many Ukrainians. The money being spent on the war should instead be spent on development to help push these citizens out of poverty. Foreign aid is essential for a country like Ukraine—they cannot risk losing it. A civil form of communication needs to exist in order for this economically draining war to end. Once peace is established, economic advancements can commence.

Families are the most vulnerable to poverty in Ukraine and have been disrupted because of the current conflict, as unemployment rates and the prices of food and other basic goods have risen. Social assistance programs have much room for growth. Improvements such as healthcare and medical provisions, housing subsidies and security in education are all crucial for development. Focusing on families and their impoverishment is crucial in figuring out how to help people in Ukraine

Learning how to help people in Ukraine begins with addressing the current conflict. The War in Donbass has severely wounded Ukrainian citizens in almost every aspect of their lives. Once this war ends, economic goals will be able to be reached and economic and political well-being will have the ability to be permanent.

Lucy Voegeli

Photo: Flickr

Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is an infection transmitted by contact with infected blood or other body fluids that can result in fatal liver disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Hepatitis C infects more than 185 million people around the world, and 350,000 people die from the infection every year. In the Ukraine, more than two million of its 45.2 million population are infected with Hepatitis C.

Seventy to 80 percent of those with an acute Hepatitis C infection do not show symptoms, which can prove dangerous when trying to prevent the spread of Hepatitis C. The annual mortality rate from Hepatitis C in Ukraine has increased by 141.7 percent since 1990 (an average 6.2 percent per year).

Hepatitis C treatment can be prohibitively expensive for the world’s poor. In 2015, the lowest cost for the 12-week treatment course of Sofosbuvir, an antiviral used to treat Hepatitis C, was $900, a price not suitable for low-income Ukrainians suffering from the infection.

In 2013, the Ukrainian government approved the first National Targeted Program of HCV Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment. The state budget only funds the treatment component of the program, and this funding accounts for a mere 20 percent of the existing need.

U.S. organizations are doing their part as well. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the EQUIP project to fight HIV and AIDS, but EQUIP and USAID recently partnered with the Ukrainian government to fight Hepatitis C in Ukraine. EQUIP provides a simplified system with two stages of testing and treatment for 4,000 patients with Hepatitis C. In the first stage, 800 people with serious cases of double and triple pathology – a combination of HIV, Hepatitis C and Tuberculosis — will be treated; in the second, 3,200 individuals will receive treatment. Patients will be given a fixed dose of Ledipasvir and Sofosbuvir.

EQUIP is aimed at developing new treatment protocols and calculating its cost for Ukrainian patients. As well as giving doctors the experience they need with the medication to effectively treat patients and consult with the Ukrainian Government to create programs to increase access to those who need treatment. EQUIP is determined to eliminate viral Hepatitis by 2030.

With a combination of national and international efforts, we can end the spread of Hepatitis C in Ukraine.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Google

International Monetary Fund Facts
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in combination with the World Bank is the world’s largest public lender today.

 

Key Facts About the International Monetary Fund

 

  1. In the 1930’s the world was overtaken with financial turmoil of the Great Depression. Markets all over the world collapsed and countries closed their doors to foreign imports. The IMF was conceived in July 1944 at the United Nations Bretton Woods Conference in New Hampshire, to protect the world from a similar blow and hasten financial recovery in war-torn nations.
  2. The Fund was created to act as a credit union and watch over the values of the world’s currency, and facilitates International Trade, promotes employment and sustainable growth and helps to reduce global poverty. Its main aim is to maintain economic stability and help countries complete financial transactions.
  3. The three main responsibilities of the IMF are: Surveillance — specifically to monitor the economic and financial policies of its members; financial assistance through loans to its members experiencing balance of payments issues; and technical assistance to help members design and implement economic policies that foster stability and growth.
  4. Primary aims of the IMF: Promote international monetary cooperation, facilitate the expansion and balanced growth of international trade, promote exchange stability, assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments and make resources available to members experiencing balance of payment difficulties.
  5. The IMF is accountable to 189 member countries. Its Headquarters is located in Washington D.C.
  6. A country’s voting power is based on the size of its economy and the amount of the quota it pays when it joins IMF. The U.S. has the largest share of votes (approximately 17 percent). Decisions require a supermajority– 85 percent of votes.
  7. The IMF advocates currency devaluation for governments of poor nations with struggling economies.
  8.  Largest borrowers of the IMF are Portugal, Greece, Ukraine and Pakistan. The largest number of IMF loans have gone to the African Continent.
  9. The U.S. contributes about 20 percent of the total annual IMF Budget. The largest member of the IMF is the U.S. and the smallest member is Tuvalu.
  10. The fiscal year for the IMF begins on May 1 and ends on April 30.
  11. The head of the IMF staff is the Managing Director. The Managing Director also acts as Chairman of the Executive Board and serves a five year term. The present Managing Director is Christine Lagarde of France. The Executive Board Members monitor the day to day work with the guidance of the International Monetary and Financial Committee.

Studies show that contrary to the criticism of the IMF, it fulfills its functions of promoting exchange rate stability and helping its members correct macroeconomic imbalances.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr


Amidst facing a humanitarian crisis and lack of mine regulations, Ukraine received aid totaling one million euros from Italy through the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF to help those impacted by the actions in Eastern Ukraine in 2017. The donation will help the WFP provide basic necessities and humanitarian assistance Ukrainians need to combat hunger, while also fighting against their own government and people.

Among a population of 45.2 million, more than 4.4 million Ukrainians have been impacted, and more than 3.8 million still need humanitarian assistance.

“Our contribution to WFP and UNICEF operations will help ease people’s suffering, in particular for the most vulnerable, providing food assistance, increasing knowledge and building safe behaviour practices to deal with the risk of mines,” said Davide La Cecilia, the Italian Ambassador to Ukraine in a press release published by the WFP.

Thanks to Italy’s donation, UNICEF will help protect 500,000 children and their guardians from the dangers in mines by supporting the mine risk education program.

The WFP plans to help those who do not receive assistance from other humanitarian actors and further small-scale recovery activities, such as providing food, to aid local citizens. UNICEF will use the funding to promote children’s education programs and for families living in areas close to the contact line, which divides the government and non-government controlled areas and where the fighting is most intense.

Giancarlo Stopponi, WFP deputy country director in Ukraine, said, “WFP greatly appreciates Italy’s support at a time when communities across Ukraine continue to experience the negative consequences of the conflict.”

The WFP has been aiding Ukraine since 2014 by providing emergency food services to internally displaced citizens in Eastern Ukraine, handing out monthly food packages and food assistance. To this day, about 850,000 of most Eastern Ukraine’s most vulnerable people have received food from WFP, despite attempts to bar humanitarian staff.

The program plans to continue their efforts aiming to assist 220,000 citizens in Eastern Ukraine. These people both rely on and need WFP’s food assistance, along with their other operations, such as the Logistic Cluster Support to the Humanitarian Response in Ukraine.

In 2017, UNICEF has appealed to the U.S. for $31.3 million to be used towards combatting hunger in Ukraine. The money will be used for health and nutrition needs, education, water, hygiene and sanitation, and protection for those most vulnerable to the conflict, such as children and families.

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr