Period Poverty in Mauritius
Period poverty in Mauritius exists due to the unaffordability of menstrual products, leading girls and women to resort to unsanitary alternatives such as handkerchiefs, pieces of fabric and newspapers. The stigma surrounding menstruation accentuates the issue of period poverty in Mauritius. Organizations such as The Ripple Project are taking action to make menstrual supplies more accessible and raise awareness about the importance of proper menstrual hygiene to maintain good health.

A Barrier to Gender Equality

According to a UNDP article in 2021, in terms of gender equality, Mauritius ranks in the top six in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the existence of period poverty in Mauritius stands as a barrier to further gender equality advancements. In 2017, gender equality activist Trisha Gukhool started a petition for the Mauritian government to provide free menstrual products to girls and women.

In the 2017-2018 budget reform, the Ministry of Finance announced the removal of taxes on pads and tampons. Unfortunately, even without tax, period products are still unaffordable for impoverished and disadvantaged girls and women in the country.

Local Activism

Female activists in Mauritius have continued to advocate for free menstrual products. The non-governmental organization Raise Brave Girls, which Prisheela Mottee founded, set up a petition for the national budget 2021-2022 to prioritize the distribution of free period products to vulnerable women and school girls. The petition also calls for menstrual leave that is not deductible from annual sick leave.

The petition, which gathered more than 5,000 signatures, saw some success. The Ministry of Finance announced that girls from grades six to 13, registered under the Social Register of Mauritius, would receive free sanitary pads.

The Ripple Project

The Ripple Project is an initiative that activist Djemillah Mourade-Peerbux set up in 2016 after realizing that the expense of sanitary products is one that many Mauritian girls and women cannot afford. At the time, about 1,000 Mauritian rupees could only buy basic hygiene products for two people.

Fast forward five years and the project became an association, devoted solely to fighting menstrual taboos and providing menstrual products to women and girls experiencing period poverty in Mauritius. Mourade-Peerbux collects monetary and menstrual product donations and distributes them to shelters across the island.

The association also takes into account the power of advocacy. The Ripple Project runs campaigns to raise awareness about period poverty and the importance of menstrual health. Mourade-Peerbux is advocating for the free period product allowance to extend to all females, even those who are not part of the Social Register of Mauritius.

The Ripple Project team relies on partners and donors to secure and distribute period-related products to hundreds of women throughout the year. The feminine hygiene brand Saforelle is supporting The Ripple Project through a campaign. For every intimate hygiene cleanser sold, Saforelle will donate three Mauritian rupees to The Ripple Project. This campaign will run until December 31, 2022, The Ripple Project’s Facebook page says.

Looking Ahead

Although progress is visible, period poverty in Mauritius is still an issue. Advocacy and campaigns will continue until all Mauritian girls and women have constant and reliable access to menstrual products. By dissolving the stigma surrounding menstruation and extending access, further progress could be visible.

– Alexandra Piat
Photo: Flickr

The United Nations' Fight Against Poverty
The United Nations’ fight against poverty began as early as 1945. The U.N. General Assembly declared the years 1997 to 2006 as the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. The Second U.N. Decade for the Eradication of Poverty then ran from 2008 to 2017 and the Third U.N. Decade for the Eradication of Poverty began in 2018 with an end date of 2027. The United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed by U.N. member states in September 2000, is a commitment from global leaders to “combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.” The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) formed part of this Declaration and set targets to reach by 2015.

Progress in Reducing Extreme Poverty and Hunger

The target of reducing global extreme poverty rates by 50% occurred “five years ahead of the 2015 deadline,” the U.N. website notes. Since 1990, more than 1 billion individuals rose out of extreme poverty. Close to 50% of people in underdeveloped countries in 1990 survived on less than $1.25 per day. In 2015, this rate declined to 14%.

Furthermore, since 1990, the percentage of undernourished individuals in developing regions has decreased by about 50%. However, the percentage of employed working-age people reduced from 62% in 1991 to 60% in 2015, with a particularly notable decline occurring during the global recession of 2008/2009.

Here are three significant programs and funds aiding in the United Nations’ fight against poverty.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

A pledge to “eradicate poverty everywhere, in all its forms and dimensions by 2030” is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which came about in 2015 after the MDG deadline. The UNDP is the “U.N.’s global development network” that works across 170 nations and territories to help further the SDGs. Its work also centers around “democratic governance and peacebuilding” as well as “climate and disaster resilience.”

From 2019 to 2021, thanks to the UNDP, 71 million individuals in 36 nations obtained “access to essential services” and labor market policies safeguarded 1 million jobs globally, the UNDP website highlights.

About 81 nations adopted “policies based on COVID-19 socio-economic impact assessments” and “82 countries adopted more than 580 digital solutions for e-commerce and e-governance.” While “2.4 million rural households in 33 countries benefited from clean, affordable and sustainable energy,” about 3 million individuals across 29 nations “benefited from jobs and improved livelihoods in crisis or post-crisis settings,” the UNDP website notes.


In more than 190 nations and territories, UNICEF strives to protect children’s lives, uphold their rights and assist them in realizing their full potential from infancy through adolescence. Thanks to UNICEF, several million children by 1950 received “garments made of wool, leather and cotton” and more than 6 million received meals on a daily basis.

By 1973, UNICEF had assisted approximately 70 nations in reducing the number of deaths resulting from ingesting contaminated water. The Child Survival and Development Revolution, which UNICEF started in 1982, aimed to save more children by implementing four main strategies: tracking development, delivering immunizations, encouraging breastfeeding and providing oral rehydration therapy.

Compared to the end of World War II, life expectancy rates had climbed by more than 33% by 1993. A rise in school attendance coincided with a sharp decline in child mortality rates. The standard of living was also fast increasing; many households who had previously struggled to find clean water now had easy access. More recently, in 2012, polio saw eradication in India thanks to UNICEF’s global immunization program for the poor. Africa celebrated one year without any confirmed cases of polio on August 11, 2015.

World Food Programme (WFP)

The WFP is the largest humanitarian organization in the world, saving lives in dire situations and utilizing food aid to create a road to peace, stability and prosperity for those recovering from war, natural disasters and the effects of environmental changes.

The WFP collaborates with governments and humanitarian partners on the front lines, responding to an increasing number of disasters, such as droughts and floods, which can destroy crops, disrupt markets and demolish roads and bridges. The WFP also implements preventative measures that lessen the number of people in need of humanitarian aid. In 2021, 12.2 million individuals from 47 different nations benefited from climate risk management strategies, including 2.7 million in 14 nations who were insured against climate-related risks.

The WFP has shifted its emphasis in recent years from emergency interventions to tackling all types of malnutrition, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies, overweight and obesity. In 2021, 23.5 million people, a 36% increase from 2020, mostly children, pregnant and lactating females, benefited from WFP programs to treat or prevent malnutrition.

Smallholder farmers produce most of the world’s food yet also ironically suffer from hunger. In 2021, WFP and partners provided assistance to around 947,000 smallholder farmers in 44 countries. In 2021, WFP purchased 117,000 metric tons of food from smallholder farmers in 27 countries, valued at $51.9 million.

Looking Ahead in the United Nations’ Fight Against Poverty

Apart from these three programs, other U.N. initiatives also play a significant role in supporting the world’s most impoverished. For example, the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, U.N. Women and U.N.-Habitat. The World Bank, the IMF, the WHO, the ILO, the FAO and other U.N. Specialized Agencies play a significant part in addressing emerging global issues. Overall, the United Nations has had a positive influence on the eradication of poverty worldwide.

– Karisma Maran
Photo: Flickr

Child death in Honduras
Child death in Honduras is becoming a significant problem as a combination of factors is creating a crisis of poverty in the country. With the Central American country already being one of the poorest in Latin America as well as having the second-highest poverty rate in the LAC according to the World Bank data in 2020, the children of the country experience the brunt of this poverty. The most significant impact this rising poverty rate has had is pneumonia which has grown due to malnutrition, lack of safe water and sanitation and health care.

Poverty in Honduras: An Overview

  • Poverty in Honduras has been a concern for a long time. Before 2020, 25.2% of the country lived in extreme poverty and according to the World Bank, 4.4 million people lived in poverty. Since 2014, there has been very little decline in poverty levels as well.
  • When it comes to human development as well, Honduras has performed very poorly and has the lowest human development outcomes in Latin America. Children in particular suffer from child malnutrition as a result of this. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 23% of children under 5 experience stunting and anemia affects 29%.
  • The reasons for Honduras’ struggle with poverty have roots in economic, political and environmental factors. The climate makes food insecurity in the region much worse, with extreme droughts in Honduras’ Dry Corridor and irregular rainfalls that resulted in the loss of more than half of the crops in 2015. Moreover, 72% of the country relies on agriculture which makes matters worse.

Rising Cases of Pneumonia

The worsening poverty rates and resulting poor nutrition have resulted in an increase in child mortality rates in Honduras. One of the leading causes of child death in Honduras is pneumonia, which according to UNICEF is 16% of deaths of children under 5 years of age in 2019. The cause of the rising cases of pneumonia is the amount of malnutrition rising in the population due to the poverty crisis. With malnutrition comes a lack of safe drinking water, lack of sanitation and poor healthcare systems. Some parts of the country, such as the south region, are mountainous areas where finding safe drinking water is difficult and jobs are lacking.

These levels could rise as famine will likely hit the dry corridor of Honduras as well as Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica. In an interview with The Guardian, Ramón Turcios, the southern regional director for the Ministry of Agriculture, places the blame for this rising poverty on the government’s lack of response to the droughts. Although The Guardian reported that the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing supplementary nutrition to children in the Vado Ancho region, many doctors and healthcare providers are concerned about the future. “I’m scared that, as a result of the drought, the situation will get worse and there will be more cases of pneumonia, especially in children under five,” said a doctor at a local health center in an interview with The Guardian.

Hope For the Future

While the future looks bleak, there is hope that Honduras might be able to tackle this crisis and help millions of children. The World Bank currently has 11 projects in Honduras that it has committed $814 million. These commitments aim to address sanitation, health care and food security. The World Bank has pledged $70 million to specifically provide water to the Dry Corridor. It is also working on a new Country Partnership Framework with Honduras as of April 2022. Honduras also partnered with UNDP in 2019 to tackle child malnutrition specifically. Although there are fears for the future, many international organizations are working with Honduras to abate the number of pneumonia cases and reduce child death in Honduras.

– Umaima Munir
Photo: Flickr

Support to Bangladeshi Women
Poverty has been disproportionately affecting women in Bangladesh in the aftermath of natural disasters such as Cyclone Amphan. In commitment to the Generation Equality Compact on Women Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action (WPS-HA), U.N. Women has worked with local partners in Bangladesh to aid in economic recovery and provide support to Bangladeshi women, especially post-natural disasters, by issuing grants and providing vocational training to local women.

Gender and Economic Disparity in Bangladesh

In 2019, 20.5% of Bangladesh’s citizens fell under the national poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank. Furthermore, the unemployment rate for Bangladeshi females in 2021 stood at almost 8% whereas the unemployment rate for males in Bangladesh stood at 4.1% in 2021, according to International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates. In 2019, the workforce participation rate for Bangladeshi males aged 15-64 stood at 84% but only 38% for females in the same age group. Furthermore, in 2022, the literacy rate among men stood at 76.56% whereas for women it stood at 72.82%.

When comparing the margin of difference between literacy rates and employment rates among Bangladeshi men and women, it is clear that women face inequalities that result in their exclusion and marginalization, pushing them deeper into poverty.

Story of Mahmuda Khatun

When Cyclone Amphan hit Bangladesh in 2020, many people lost their livelihoods and fell deeper into poverty, including Mahmuda Khatun’s household. Khatun wished to start a small business to help support her family but she faced barriers such as “a lack of banking history” and inadequate financial literacy. She reached out to the Prerona Foundation for help, “a local women’s organization supported by U.N. Women.”

The Prerona Foundation works with vulnerable women to improve their economic resilience, especially in crisis-prone areas. The Foundation helped Khatun establish a livelihood by providing training and a loan for her to start a poultry farm to generate income. Khatun now provides for her two daughters and husband by raising poultry. Since its beginnings, her business has flourished and Khatun now earns about 17,000 takas ($200 USD) per month.

Multi-Industry Glass Ceilings

Organizations like the Prerona Foundation and U.N. Women recognize the importance of involving and providing support to Bangladeshi women in the wake of humanitarian crises and natural disasters. Women are a key catalyst in a community’s response and recovery and are often end up out of the equation albeit being valuable agents.

Furthermore, when one woman receives uplifting, the benefits do not stop there. Khatun is now looking to help other women in her community by providing vocational training and championing women’s empowerment in Bangladesh. According to U.N. Women, in 2020, “less than 60% of Bangladeshi women have access to credit,” which stands as a significant barrier to their entrepreneurial potential. Moreover, about a third of the nation’s labor force consists of female employees and less than 5% of them hold formal positions. Bangladeshi women also “earn 21% less than their male counterparts.”

Rising Through Recovery

Given such statistics, it can seem daunting for women in Bangladesh to assume financial independence and see success, especially amid a natural disaster like Cyclone Amphan. However, U.N. Women continues to work with dozens of civil society and local women’s organizations on the ground to help address these systemic issues.

In 2022, U.N. Women has also partnered with the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) to further “gender equality and women’s empowerment in Bangladesh.” Both institutions have “signed an inter-agency agreement” for 2022-2026 to establish “gender-responsive inclusive governance,” reduce discrimination against women, and advance “women’s economic empowerment and access to justice,” among other aims.

Going forward, the focus will be on starting a normative agenda, establishing gender-inclusive legislation, providing financing to advance gender equality and supporting women-led businesses. This partnership also stresses the importance of addressing gender-based violence in Cox’s Bazar, placing women in leadership roles and providing females with the skills training, services and resources to thrive.

Given the commitment, both at a local and international level, there is hope for more Bangladeshi women to rise out of poverty despite the impacts of Cyclone Amphan.

– Samyudha Rajesh
Photo: Flickr

Progress In Malawi
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) created a digital risk management information system (DRMIS). Currently headquartered in four districts (Balaka, Chikwawa, Mangochi and Phalombe), this initiative collects key data from various sectors to aid communities that natural disasters affected through the delivery of essential services. This advancement in technology has created immense progress in Malawi, a nation that suffers frequently from floods.

Impact of Natural Disasters

Furthermore, studies have shown that floods may lead to an average GDP loss of 1% each year. Floods in Southern Malawi have also caused annual losses of 12% in maize crops. This can seriously stint progress in Malawi as maize is the nation’s staple food crop and accounts for 25% of total agricultural employment.

However, the system that UNDP and DoDMA created aims to digitally record disaster-related information, make better sense of the data available and provide more accurate data-informed insights on what action to take. This will help tackle issues that have risen in the past such as the lack of cohesion and coordination between various disaster relief units in Malawi. Data can help disaster relief units become more organized and effective in their response to crises like floods, cyclones, droughts and hailstorms.

Features and Functions

The system is user-friendly and incorporates several digital design principles using open-source technology. In addition, the system can function in offline mode as well which ensures that users can input data during power outages that may follow a natural disaster. Once the connection undergoes restoration, the data automatically uploads into the system and feeds into a set of real-time data visualizations that users then engage with.

The system also relies on a cluster approach to help coordinate humanitarian assistance in times of emergency. Data pipelines are in place for key reporting units and can help generate key insights on clusters such as shelter and sanitation. Although the initiative is only championed in four key regions, there are plans underway to expand the system to another five regions and then nationwide. The UNDP is exploring methods to improve the system even further, possibly to include features informing users on resource allocation, availability of supply of goods and estimated time for supply deliveries.

Progress in Malawi

This new technology will save countless lives, and lessen the negative impact of natural disasters on the economy. Furthermore, since Malawi relies heavily on rainfed agriculture, it is extremely vulnerable to non-compliant weather conditions and natural disasters. The nation has also faced further difficulties in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the effects of the fourth and most recent wave of the pandemic in 2021 have created far less economic damage than in previous years. Favorable weather and agricultural input subsidies have created a boost in maize and tobacco production which has in turn helped to boost the local economy. With the support of the data system introduced by the UNDP and DoDMA, one can expect a positive trajectory for the economy and progress in Malawi.

– Samyudha Rajesh
Photo: Flickr

Libya’s Digital Strategy
Libya is a country in North Africa. One of the largest countries in Africa, Libya has many deserts and is rich in culture and natural resources. There is a greater requirement for a digital lifestyle in today’s culture. The expanding digitalization in Libya is now undergoing exploitation effectively for the country’s benefit. Beginning on February 15, 2022, in New York, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Libya will concentrate on a new digital strategy to help communities and countries use digital technology as a tool to help combat and expand economic opportunity, promote diversity and reduce inequality. UNDP intends to keep up with the constantly evolving digital landscape and advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with its daring new Digital Strategy 2022–2025.


According to UNDP Libya, the strategy provides a three-pronged strategy for how UNDP would help countries profit from digital technology. First, UNDP will integrate digital into its work, experiment with new methods and technologies, scale up effective solutions and use foresight to comprehend potential futures in order to amplify development outcomes. Second, it will ensure that everyone is included in digital technology by making building more “inclusive digital ecosystems.” Third, UNDP will keep evolving and setting the bar high in order to satisfy present and foreseeable technical needs. To promote cooperation around the ethical and sustainable use of technology, UNDP will also interact with business entrepreneurs, academics, researchers, students and policymakers.

The Reason the Digital Strategy is Necessary

Libya has grappled with the problem of conflict since April 2019. Unfortunately, this has negatively affected Libya’s services such as electricity. According to a Human Rights Watch article, “The United Nations-recognized and Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) has been embroiled in an armed conflict with the rival Interim Government based in eastern Libya.” As a result, violence impeded the delivery of essential services, including power and health care. Armed groups on all sides persisted in carrying out illegal killings and indiscriminate shelling that killed civilians and destroyed crucial infrastructure.

In addition, when Libya’s provisional unity government formed in March 2021, internet freedom declined significantly. The population became less able to have access to the internet. The population grew adamant about better living conditions and less corruption in 2020 and as a result, local authorities throttled cell service. Libya has endured technological issues and the plan will guide UNDP’s efforts to address the new issues that the new digital environment brought on. There is also a large digital gap that UNDP is trying to diminish. There is a digital gap of about 2.9 billion people in developing countries and this consists mainly of women and children. Digital technology has the potential to amplify biases and further inequities if it is not used responsibly.

A Promising Future

Libya’s digital strategy has a strong potential for success. It will help Libya to benefit from a more digitized economy. According to UNDP Libya, “the strategy complements the U.N.’s global efforts to expand access to affordable broadband and enhance the digital capacity of key groups including women and people with disabilities – ultimately creating new opportunities like jobs while boosting human development.” Libya’s Digital Strategy is helping lessen the burden on the less fortunate by ensuring that everyone has access to digital futures, which can improve job opportunities and education.

– Frema Mensah
Photo: Flickr

Addressing Tree Inequality is Key to Achieving the SDGs
People surviving on less than $1.90 daily live in extreme poverty, which accounts for 9.2% of the global population in line with a 2021 World Vision report. With worldwide disruptions to economic activity amid the COVID-19 pandemic, progress against global inequality is continuously under threat, especially as 97 million more individuals fell into extreme poverty in 2020 the World Bank testified. A 2020 ForestNation report has revealed a causal relationship between tree canopy and income, stating a clear association between high income and green-rich areas. One can see this trend on the island of Montreal, highlighting an apparent discrepancy between the prosperous Town of Mount Royal and a low-income neighborhood, Parc-Extension.

According to a 2021 CBC News Analysis of City of Montreal and Census Data, the average household income for the former accounts for $110,000, equating to 30% tree cover. Meanwhile, the latter assumes a median income ranging from $32,000 to $40,000 with only 6%-15% tree cover.

Addressing Tree Inequality is Key to Achieving the SDGs

Planting trees in both rural and urban areas strengthens the world’s economic systems by introducing new opportunities for employment and trade. The timber sector validates this, generating worldwide economic contributions worth $600 billion, equivalent to 1% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while also providing a total of 54.2 million formal and informal employment opportunities as per the World Bank.

According to the Global Assistance Report, trees provide valuable nutritional support necessary for eradicating food insecurity. One billion of the world’s population relies on forests to secure food, with women and children resembling an unprecedented share. This illustrates how addressing tree inequality is key to achieving the SDGs via reducing inequality and hunger and improving human welfare, livelihood and food security.

Trees help improve agriculture by creating an environment favorable for growing crops. By regulating the temperature and improving moisture, trees reduce soil salinization and make crops less sensitive to weather fluctuations and especially violent winds. Recognizing that agriculture assumes an essential role in enhancing worldwide economic development, accounting for 4% of global GDP according to the World Bank, this highlights one way how addressing tree inequality is key to achieving the SDGs by attaining economic growth and improved standards of living.

UNICEF defines quality education as access to rudimentary literacy and numeracy skills for every human irrespective of one’s origin. ForestNation shows that planting trees can improve a student’s cognition and linguistic, scientific and mathematical proficiency. Trees can widen students’ knowledge of environmental and ecological matters, as well as spark curiosity and innovation amongst them, which illustrates the positive ramifications of expanding access to trees in education.

Positive Work Across the Globe

Several organizations have launched various worldwide efforts to lead reforestation. Since 2015, ForestNation, a for-profit sustainable business, has aided Tanzania in planting trees across the country. Today, the number of trees that the business planted exceeds 1 million, which brings eminent contributions to Tanzania’s wealth. For example, every 100 fully grown fruit-bearing trees including mangos and bananas generate around $173 in income. Knowing that agriculture represents one-quarter of Tanzania’s GDP, indicates significant economic development within the country.

In Morocco, the country sought to lead an initiative to overcome the country’s susceptibility to drought, collaborating with civil society, the government aims to plant 800,000 trees by 2024 in varying parts of the country. Such a partnership aims to reinforce the agricultural sector’s strength and provide food sources necessary for socioeconomic development, particularly since agriculture assumes 30% of Morocco’s employment and 20% of GDP.

To build inclusive development among rural and urban areas across Turkmenistan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aided a tree planting campaign on the national level. Following training sessions that USAID funded, and with support from several local community, private sector and administrator representatives, around 5,000 fruit-bearing tree seedlings have undergone implementation in two different project areas. Such a sustainable endeavor plays an important role in developing Turkmenistan’s agriculture and widens its income sources according to the UNDP.

Overall, tree equality has proven effective in enabling the world to stay on track to achieving the SDGs by 2030, as the positive impact of trees can trickle down from addressing poverty to other SDGs.

– Noor Al-Zubi
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Sierra Leone
Government findings in 2020 report a 60% decline in average weekly profits for businesses operating in Sierra Leone. However, customer demand witnessed an 80% decline by late May. Around 60%-70% of businesses had “difficulties accessing suppliers.” The liquidity status of several businesses declined and 52% were behind or likely to fall behind on paying their rents. Employees reported momentary layoffs, while others experienced reductions in working hours, to reach around four to six hours. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sierra Leone is further exemplified through youth unemployment, which forced the closure or scaled down operations of many youth-owned businesses in Sierra Leone. Youth unemployment reached 60% in 2021 and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 4% in 2020.

Impact on Tourism Sector

Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, 71,000 tourists visited Sierra Leone in 2019 and projections have stated that tourism generated $39.00 million corresponding to 0.93% of GDP. This is demonstrating the power tourism has on the country’s income and economy. With travel restrictions, the level of tourism fell by 77.3% in 2020 as per Ministry of Finance records. This pushed 97% of tourism businesses into experiencing a massive impact on operations. Besides that, 29% of them encountered either provisional or permanent closure.

Accordingly, it is evident that the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sierra Leone is showcased through its direct ramifications on the country’s economic strength and employment rate, especially with 8,000 people working in the tourism sector indicating its importance in the development of Sierra Leone.

Food Security and Livelihood

Around 30% of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown live on less than $1 per day, the international poverty line standing at around $1.90 per day. Among 116 countries, Sierra Leone ranked 106 in the 2021 Global Hunger Index illustrating the severity of the food crisis. Recent 2022 records validate that 73% of the population is experiencing food insecurity, 11% of which are acutely food insecure. This illustrates direct challenges to human welfare and basic standards of living, especially as 74% of households reported using more than 75% of their income on food.

Economic Assistance

To build and encourage economic resilience, in 2020, the World Bank permitted the International Development Association to support Sierra Leone with a grant worth $100 million. Such financing supports the development of greater productivity in varying sectors including agriculture, a primary sector of Sierra Leone’s economy. In 2021, economic growth accounted for 3.1%, with agriculture contributing for half the rise.

To further sustain the government’s ability in delivering rudimentary human rights such as education and health care services in the midst of an economic crisis, in 2020 the European Union allocated €10 million in economic support. For instance, improvements in health care are evident in the infant mortality rate, declining from 78.643 for every 1,000 births in 2019 to 72.253 for every 1,000 births in 2022.

Supporting Unemployed Youth

In 2021, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched a vocational training program in Sierra Leone worth $4.3 million to close the gap between labor and the necessary skills the market demands. This program has reached out to 940 participants thus far and seeks to eradicate unemployment in the country by developing skilled labor, thereby fostering a population capable of initiating independent economic growth, according to IOM.

A similar effort by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) promoted inclusive growth among rural areas in Sierra Leone. The UNDP trains youth with a skillset that advances their employability prospects in a globalized world.

Partnering with Restless Development and the Institute of Development and Humanitarian Assistance-IDHA, the UNDP further issued grants to over 1,000 youth business owners to preserve businesses from closing, as reported on its website. Business owners reported they have been able to grow their businesses, as well as offer employment opportunities.

Nutrition and Food Assistance

With collective effort from the European Union, the U.S. and China among other multilateral donors, the World Food Programme (WFP) delivered food and nutritional support for around 540,000 people across Sierra Leone in 2021. To further support the U.N. Peacebuilding Fund Project, the WFP partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to enable the development of inland valley swamps and create a continuous and lifelong food supply.

In January 2022, the OPEC Fund for International Development also provided contributions by extending two loans worth $35 million to curb hunger and encourage food security for 1.4 million Sierra Leoneans.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sierra Leone has presented pronounced challenges on varying economic and social levels. However, with the right collective efforts such as UNDP grants, the economy can recover to allow its population to lead a prosperous future.

– Noor Al-Zubi
Photo: Unsplash

Homs Yeast FactoryThe war in Syria has resulted in the destruction of important infrastructure including factories that produced yeast essential for making bread. The yeast would then be delivered to bakeries who use it to bake bread to sell to the people. However, because of the war, the only operating yeast factory is the one at Homs but it is producing less yeast than before due to reduced resources. Nevertheless, on June 1, 2022, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced that it will use its resources to rebuild the Homs factory so it can produce as much yeast as before the war. UNDP’s heroic efforts to rebuild the Homs yeast factory are an illustration of a modern-day success story.

This story is more inspiring when looking at the mechanical details of the Homs yeast factory before and after UNDP’s intervention. Before UNDP’s intervention, the yeast factory in Homs produced “only six to 10 tonnes of yeast” every day. This is 5% to 9% of the amount before the war started. But with the intervention, the UNDP is aiming to have the Homs factory produce “24 tonnes of yeast daily” to give to the bakeries in Syria so they can bake and sell bread to Syrians. This is an ambitious goal to achieve especially since the quality of life in Syria has deteriorated sharply in the 12 years since the war started.

Current Poverty Rate and Food Insecurity in Syria

The war in Syria has devastated the lives of ordinary Syrians with the poverty rate increasing and food insecurity worsening. This makes UNDP’s heroic efforts to rebuild the Homs yeast factory more uplifting. The number of Syrians living in poverty has reached nearly 90% of the population in the whole country as of June 1, 2022, according to a press release published on ReliefWeb.

Furthermore, as of June 1, 2022, the percentage of the population struggling with food insecurity is at a “historic highs with an estimated 60%.” Therefore, the UNDP is facing many obstacles in tackling food insecurity in Syria by rebuilding the Homs factory, which requires sophisticated solutions. Nevertheless, the UNDP has the necessary strategies to successfully reconstruct the Homs factory so it can feed more Syrians just like before the war started.

How the UNDP is Rebuilding the Homs Yeast Factory

UNDP’s heroic efforts to rebuild the Homs yeast factory are possible because of the meticulous plan the UNDP formulated within the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan. Technical assessments conducted by the UNDP on June 1, 2022, show that nearly $1 million is needed in order to reconstruct the Homs yeast factory.

UNDP is planning to allocate 80% of the $1 million to “the technical rehabilitation of yeast processing,” according to U.N. News. Twenty percent of that $1 million UNDP plans to spend on “packaging equipment, factory safety and hygiene standards.” The UNDP plan’s intended goal is to be able to feed 3 million more Syrians who cannot afford bread currently.

Nationwide Efforts to Distribute Bread to Syrians

Reducing poverty and food insecurity in Syria is not strictly dependent on UNDP’s heroic efforts to rebuild the Homs yeast factory. The interim government in Syria announced on May 19, 2022, that it “prohibited the export or transport of any of the strategic crops,” such as wheat. The reason is that prohibiting exports of wheat and other strategic crops would “achieve food security in the liberated areas.”

Furthermore, on June 13, 2022, the interim government in Syria has also been “working on a plan to purchase large quantities of grains,” from Syrian local farmers. That way, the interim government can “boost stocks needed to produce bread,” Al-Monitor reported. The efforts of the interim government, if successful, are complementary to UNDP’s work on rebuilding the Homs yeast factory which produces materials necessary for making bread.

Looking Ahead

UNDP’s energetic efforts to rebuild the Homs yeast factory highlight an international determination to help Syrians. It is commonly heard that the world is forgetting about Syria because of the longevity of the war. However, the UNDP’s hard work, planning and investment in rebuilding the factory shows that the world has not only not forgotten about Syrians, but is coming up with clever solutions to save them. International relations analysts usually ask whether the U.N. has lost its credibility because of its inability to end the Syrian war. The UNDP story proves that the U.N. is still credible and capable of saving lives despite the odds.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Albania
The 2020 pandemic lockdowns hit Albania, a nation still struggling to cope with the effects of a once-in-a-century earthquake from just the year before, extremely hard. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Albania resulted in acute economic and social challenges but targeted fiscal policies and international aid suggest a hopeful future for the Balkan state.

Impact on the Most Vulnerable Sectors

Albania’s economy relies heavily on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which comprise more than 85% of the private sector’s formal employment. Its reduced size increased its fragility in the face of the earthquake and the pandemic made it difficult for MSMEs to access loans and use insurance policies. MSMEs’ hardships meant a significant drop in tax returns for the government and increased unemployment in the lower socio-economic sectors.

In 2019, one-third of the Albanian population lived on less than $5.50 a day, making it the nation with the highest rate of poverty out of all the Western Balkan states. COVID-19 ended up increasing the poverty rate by 4%, which is equivalent to additional 112,000 people living in poverty.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Albania is especially hard for women. Not only did more women face an increase in unpaid domestic labor compared to men, but 97.5% of women-led firms are in the MSME category, Financial Protection Forum reports. In addition, a 2020 U.N. Women report found that women between 25-44 years old living in urban areas were at the highest risk of unemployment.

International Response

This dual economic and social blow to women’s livelihoods required urgent action to prevent this vulnerable group from falling into long-term unemployment. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) addressed the issue of the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Albania through a series of small projects for women in Tirana and other municipalities. The projects also targeted the promotion of equal family gender roles along with measures to combat domestic violence and offer psychological support to victims.

The UNDP aided other at-risk groups as well. From teletherapy services for disabled persons to employment promotion for ethnic minorities, the UNDP provided localized efforts to address problems raised by the pandemic.

The French Agency for Development (AFD) also continued its projects to increase Albanian women’s access to economic opportunities and further the fight for gender equality. The AFD’s foreign aid is part of an initiative to lead Albania towards fulfilling the social criteria needed for entry into the EU.

Albania’s cultural sector also needs help to recover from the impact of COVID-19. Lockdowns and travel restrictions gravely damaged the industry as it relies heavily on events and tourism. Along with MSMEs, the cultural sector plays a significant role in the economy, generating 2.95% of Albania’s GDP.

Wide-Reaching Solutions

These severe impacts on two of Albania’s most lucrative sectors, MSMEs and culture, needed to be curbed as soon as possible while addressing the state’s high pre-pandemic poverty rate. The Albanian government thus implemented a fiscal stimulus of about 3.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Through welfare support, tax relief and credit schemes the government alleviated the burden on the private sector and policies on credit installments curtailed impacts on new businesses.

Only 18% of Albanian firms reported using digital platforms to adapt to the pandemic, suggesting that the government efforts were the primary aid to alleviate the pandemic’s impact. The cultural sector, however, stands out. The Ministry of Culture founded the National Digitalization Center. Apart from that, 87.5% of institutions and enterprises in the cultural sector reported moving part of their business to virtual platforms, UNESCO reported.

The government also alleviated the impacts of the fall of the euro. The Bank of Albania promoted the lek’s stability and increased transparency in transactions involving foreign currencies. The European Commission and European Central Bank contributed financial aid to stabilize the banking system and provide euro support, LSE reported.

These sweeping measures were effective in helping the nation bounce back in the post-pandemic period. Despite rising inflation levels and supply chain disruptions, both the real wage and the minimum wage increased in 2021. Most significantly, the poverty rate dropped to 22% in 2021.

Looking Ahead

In 2021, the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) agreed to loan Albania €60 million to “mitigate the effects of COVID-19.” The loan aims to aid individuals especially vulnerable to the pandemic and help close the €570 million gap created in 2020. The loan and government measures may thus offset the impacts of COVID-19 on poverty in Albania through sustainable growth.

The impacts of COVID-19 on poverty in Albania were challenging, touching the most vulnerable sectors of the economy and exacerbating social challenges for women. However, the government’s wide-reaching economic reforms successfully curbed the pandemic’s economic impact on the industries and continued decreasing the nation’s poverty rate. International aid from the UNDP, EU and CEP was crucial in helping complement the government efforts by addressing the pandemic’s social impacts. This continued aid can continue to help Albania lower its poverty rate.

– Elena Sofia Massacesi
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