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Domestic violence in the Maldives
In July, the Maldives’ Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services introduced a nationwide campaign to combat domestic violence and encourage women’s empowerment. The campaign is intended to last for a three month period and raise awareness on domestic violence in the Maldives.

The Maldives is considered a “development success” by the World Bank. In the last few decades, the Maldives’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita multiplied by more than fifty. The average life expectancy is the Maldives is now 78 years it has almost achieved full literacy across the nation. Now, the country is turning its attention to women’s rights and domestic violence.

Women’s Rights in the Maldives

The Maldives has improved its Gender Inequality Index score significantly in the last two decades from 0.649 to 0.367. The GII takes into account a variety of factors to measure equality between genders, with nations closer to 0 being the most equal. Women contribute to the nation’s economic and political progress through leadership roles and participation in the workforce.

However, the Maldives today still grapples with structural forms of gender inequality. A byproduct of this is the prevalence of domestic violence. According to data collected by the U.N. in 2017, 56% of women ranging from ages 15 to 49 had experienced physical or sexual violence from their partners in the last 12 months.

To continue furthering socio-economic progress in the Maldives, women’s rights and gender equality must not be sidelined. Recognizing this, the government has begun to make a stronger effort to combat domestic violence.

Women’s Rights and Poverty

Economic inequality between the genders is also a persistent social issue in the Maldives. According to research done by the UNDP, Maldivian women’s Gross National Income is lower than men’s by a staggering 48%.

As of 2016, 8.2% of Maldivians live below the nation’s poverty line. Due to structural inequalities that exclude women from major sectors of the economy, such as tourism and agriculture, women are more vulnerable to poverty in the Maldives. For example, the tourism industry indirectly accounts for nearly 60% of the Maldivian economy, but only three percent of women contribute to this sector, in contrast with nearly 50% of men.

Greater women’s empowerment and gender equality have been shown to boost nations’ economic growth. Gender gaps in employment and access to equal opportunity can cost approximately 15% of a nation’s GDP. Allowing women to access the same employment as men in the Maldives would not only benefit the nations’ path of economic growth but help to lift the Maldives’ most vulnerable from extreme poverty.

Furthermore, women’s economic empowerment can be linked to domestic violence. While it is not the only factor, when women can financially support themselves, they are more likely to be able to leave their abusers. Improving women’s rights and helping raise them out of poverty can improve the overall economy and help women escape domestic violence.

The ‘Geveshi Gulhun’ Campaign

The president of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, participated in the inauguration of the Maldives’ anti-domestic violence campaign on July 15, 2020. This campaign comes after public demands from individuals and civil society groups that the government fulfill its promises to address issues like sexual violence and domestic violence.

The campaign aims to raise further national awareness about gender inequality and change long-standing stereotypes about women. The ‘Geveshi Gelhun’ campaign is a necessary first step to what is hopefully a more equitable future in the Maldives.

At the event, President Solih announced that the government would almost double the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services budget to develop resources to address gender-based violence against women in the nation. In addition, he promised that the government would make legislative changes to further punish cases of sexual violence.

The three-month campaign is mostly administered through various forms of media. This has consisted of live television programming, social media posts and billboards to raise awareness. The Ministry is working with local businesses and artists to develop the campaign’s messaging.

Moving Forward

The ‘Geveshi Gelhun’ campaign is a great step in the right direction. Raising awareness and enacting stronger legislation will hopefully have a significant impact on women’s rights. To continue combatting domestic violence in the Maldives, the government and other humanitarian organizations must make this issue a focus of their efforts.

Leina Gabra
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Moldova
Since its independence from Russia in 1991, the Republic of Moldova has struggled to maintain economic sovereignty and is one of Europe’s most impoverished countries. As the country is rife with poverty, rampant hunger also affects it. Hunger in Moldova is a result of an array of factors that contribute to the multilayered issues that the country faces. Some of these factors include emigration and severe weather.

Natural Disasters

Moldova’s climate creates an ideal environment for extreme weather. In 2007-2015, droughts impacted 90% of the country’s territory and 80% of its population. These natural disasters have proven to be detrimental to the country’s agriculture as they are unpredictable and hinder crop production. As 17.7% of Moldova’s economy is contingent upon agriculture, the prevalence of natural disasters endangers the country’s ability to produce for itself and compete within the international economy. This has resulted in Moldovans suffering from a lack of consistent nutrition and resources that has impacted their overall health. Traditionally, the prevalence of anemia is indicative of hunger. Currently, 26.8% of women in the reproductive stage are anemic.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the progress to eliminate hunger in Moldova is under threat. Developing countries are currently at risk because they lack the proper resources to contain outbreaks and stabilize affected communities. According to the UNDP, 75% of those in the least developed countries have access to soap and water. With no way to effectively sanitize, the COVID case counts in developing countries are much higher than those in developed countries. The high numbers of cases in Moldova have proved detrimental to the Moldovan workforce, thus leaving many without access to the goods and services they require. Moreover, COVID-19 is not just a health concern, it also places fundamental resources in jeopardy. The UNDP predicts that developing countries will lose over $220 billion in income and that only 45% of people in those countries will have social protection. As a result, the reversal of efforts regarding education, hunger and human rights may occur.

Solutions

While poverty and hunger have endured in Moldova since its independence from Russia, many international organizations have made efforts to improve the wellbeing of its citizens. Contrary to popular belief, efforts do not have to be particularly large scale. Some of the most effective mechanisms to lessen poverty are local, though internationally funded. Examples include improving small-scale food producers and promoting disaster-resistant agricultural practices. When implemented correctly these small changes create a ripple effect into the country as a whole. Consequently, larger organizations provide funding which strengthens the country’s ability to compete in the international economy.

Efforts in Moldova have decreased the poverty rate from 30.2% to 12.7% from 2007 to 2012, which was 7.8% over the 20% goal. This decrease is impressive because it displays the importance of community efforts in the fight against poverty and the subsequent hunger. An additional example of community outreach is that in 2013, the local government was able to support projects that contributed to helping over 100,000 people gain access to clean water sources. A specific project is the Global Humanitarian Agency’s water project, which focuses on the application of underutilized water resources like rainwater and improving sanitation. In regards to hunger in Moldova, clean water is an essential resource and is often a factor that contributes to poverty.

Additionally, local groups have also been able to train roughly 80% of their elected officials in order to identify needs within their communities. As a result of allowing elected officials to identify needs, communities can regain a level of autonomy. Different places have different needs as far as financial and food resources are concerned. Thus, training elected officials allows them to serve as educated ambassadors and make intelligent decisions regarding their respective areas. These examples illustrate the ability of small efforts to catalyze large scale development.

How to Help

There are many organizations for one to choose from if they would like to help end hunger in Moldova. USAID and UNDP are some of the most reputable.

USAID has championed a project known as the Moldova Competitiveness Project which partners with the Swiss government and focuses on the expansion of the Moldovan economy. The project emerged in October 2015 and is transparent about its objectives. The project plans to elevate Moldova’s economy by increasing productivity within Moldovan businesses and innovation as a whole throughout the country. The improvement of the products that Moldova produces would connect it to the global economy and allow it to become economically sustainable. This improvement of products will occur through the project’s support of specialized training for workers and industry excellence centers like ZIPHouse, a creativity center.

Meanwhile, UNDP seeks to lessen poverty by applying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Effective since 2016, these goals serve as the primary mission statement for UNDP’s global outreach programs. It prioritizes innovation, sustainability and economic equality in an effort to improve the lives of those impoverished and ultimately end poverty as a whole. In response to COVID-19, the UNDP has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to aid developing countries amid the pandemic. It focuses on stopping the spread of the virus by utilizing adequate medical equipment and providing resources to bar the economy from collapsing. It has already utilized $20 million but predicts it will cost at least $500 million in order to sufficiently aid 100 countries.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

SDG 16 in Burkina Faso
After semi-authoritarian rule for 27 years and the end of the Compaoré regime by a popular insurrection, the people of Burkina Faso had the chance to open the door to a political transition and the creation of a competitive democracy. As a result, Burkina Faso held peaceful elections in November 2015. Since then, the new government and the local communities have been working on addressing the challenges of more inclusive development, transitional justice and a new governance model of security. Here are some updates on SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In that same year, all the United Nations’ Member States adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which emerged as an urgent call for all countries to achieve peace and prosperity for humanity and the planet. The SDGs tackle issues as diverse and relevant for today’s world as to end hunger, eliminate poverty and achieve gender equality. Despite this, the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), the antecessors to the SDGs, demonstrated that to achieve progress in the realms of poverty and development, there must be a greater focus on its root causes. Now, violence, insecurity and conflict play a key role in constraining development.

The SDG 16: “Peace, justice and strong institutions” aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. In many ways, the SDG 16 is one of the most ambitious goals, since it faces many challenges for its implementation, especially in countries with weak institutions and armed conflicts.

Burkina Faso and the SDGs

Since the two events, both the democratization of Burkina Faso and the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals, occurred at almost at the same time, the country quickly decided to include the SDGs in its political agenda. First, the country implemented a five-year National Plan for Economic and Social Development (PNDES) that was almost 90% SDG compliant. Moreover, numerous reforms are underway to promote human rights, improve the efficiency of the justice system and other public institutions, address corruption and guarantee legal inclusion, all of these to achieve the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

Human Rights

In 2016, Burkina Faso established the National Human Rights Commission, as the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (UNOHCHR) recommended and in compliance with the Paris Principles. The members of this commission are administrative and financially independent by law.

Later, in the 2018 Universal Periodic Review, which involved the participation of the government together with the civil society, development partners and U.N. entities (such as UNDP, UNICEF and UNOHCHR), the international community commended the country’s efforts to improve political, social, economic, civic and cultural rights. After the adoption of this report, the Human Rights Council set 184 recommendations that the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Burkina Faso quickly implemented.

That same year, the country’s parliament abolished the death penalty and increased the protection of victims and witnesses by law.

Finally, freedom of the press and plurality of media has played a crucial role in making the country’s leaders accountable. The country ranked 38 in the 2020 Press Freedom Index with a value of 24.53 and, although it is lower than the previous year, it is still considered as a positive trend to achieve this indicator of the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

Justice and Legal Inclusion

The advocacy efforts of a women-led civil society organization, Association des Femmes Juristes, sprung into a law that ensures vulnerable populations’ access to justice. The establishment of a legal aid fund to support women in need of judicial assistance and cover their legal costs soon followed the adoption of this law. As a result, between 2016 and 2018, the fund has helped close to 600 people.

Additionally, great progress has occurred in modernizing civil registration, mainly ensuring registration of children under 5, displaced populations, migrants and refugees. This prevented the classification of many people at risk as stateless. Later in 2018, Burkina Faso ratified the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and adopted a National Action Plan against Statelessness, in which the government collaborated with religious institutions and the U.N. to organize hearings in several regions and allocate citizenship to approximately 40,000 people.

Civic Participation

The government of Burkina Faso created platforms for citizen engagement through annual, two-way dialogues with the civil society to openly discuss numerous policy issues. Some citizen platforms such as Dialogue Citoyen and Presimetre encourage the government’s accountability and the civilian’s interest in public affairs. Since its launch, many political leaders have made appearances on media platforms to respond to civil queries and many surveys have occurred.

The Future is Bright

Overall, there have been significant improvements for sustainable development in Burkina Faso. Specifically, the country has a spillover score (which results from the actions by countries to achieve the SDGs under four dimensions: environment, economy & finance, society and security) of 99.3 out of 100, showcasing that there is Burkina Faso is undergoing a great number of positive actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Unfortunately, recent security threats are negatively affecting the country’s political transition and development, such as terrorism and organized crime. Despite this, the new context of insecurity has raised the redesign of security measures at two levels: first, at a central state-level, and second, at the local state-level with non-state security initiatives (LSIs). These new challenges have highlighted the importance of social cohesion and the promotion of peaceful societies to achieve the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

Finally, the developments on the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso showcase how new democracies can address their structural and social issues in short periods when the actors involved are willing to do so. Today, these efforts combined with international assistance are imperative to support the country’s sustainable development and prevent these achievements from disappearing due to new threats.

– Helen Souki
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Sao Tome and Principe
Sao Tome and Principe is a developing country located on the African west coast. More than two-thirds of the population of this small island state lives on under $3.20 a day and faces the effects of critical disease. However, many organizations are working with the country to fight the war against diseases in Sao Tome and Principe.

Common Diseases in Sao Tome and Principe

Three of the most common diseases in Sao Tome and Principe are tuberculosis (TB), malaria and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

TB is an airborne disease caused mainly by air droplets that someone infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis transmits; it is endemic in Sao Tome and Principe. TB can cause various pulmonary symptoms and affect the lymphatic system, joints and even the central nervous system.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease; it is common in the country. Malaria can be very fatal to the victims and cause them to suffer from flu-like symptoms and high fevers.

Finally, HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and can lead to dangerous acquired immunodeficiency symptoms (AIDS); it is still a significant problem in Sao Tome and Principe.

Key Players in Supporting Sao Tome and Principe

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund have been key players in supporting the fight against diseases in Sao Tome and Principe. Since 2005, the organizations have funded the country in its efforts against HIV, TB and malaria.

Over the years, the organizations have spent $4.5 million for HIV, $3.9 million for TB and $25.4 million for malaria. Through this funding, the UNDP has been able to ally with the National TB Program to develop various treatment and education plans for patients. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016, there was a 63% decrease in TB mortality since 2000, a 95% detection rate for the disease and a 78% success rate in treating patients.

The UNDP also runs an HIV program; it supports those living with HIV and counsels populations who are at a higher risk for HIV about preventative actions. From 2008 to 2014, the prevalence rate of HIV among 15 to 49-year-olds declined from 1.5% to 0.5%. According to UNDP’s data from 2018, 249,700 people received counseling and HIV testing.

Sao Tome and Principe observed its greatest success in defeating malaria. Mortality rates from malaria have declined from 3.9 to 0.5 cases per 100,000 people. Although the Global Fund is no longer supporting the malaria program, it helped distribute 503,000 bed nets, reaching 100% of the population, and treated 56,800 cases of malaria according to UNDP in 2018. The incidence of malaria morbidity decreased from 65.5 to 11.3 cases per 1,000 people in the time frame between 2012 and 2016. Further, UNDP has granted approximately another $6 million to support the complete eradication of malaria and further control TB and HIV.

Others in the Fight to Eradicate Diseases in Sao Tome and Principe

Although UNDP and the Global Fund have been the major players in supporting the country, there are other groups that have helped toward the goal of eradication of critical diseases in Sao Tome and Principe. In 2015, Brazil spent over $500,000 to build a laboratory that would be focused on diagnosing and treating TB. This laboratory would ensure that the patients would receive quicker lab results and correct diagnoses.

Medical Care Development International, a nonprofit organization, has also taken up a project that will last from 2019-2023. It aims to bolster the ability of the military to provide HIV/AIDs care for its members and population in Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe. The project will increase its capacity to provide care in the military health facilities and laboratories.

A Ray of Hope for Sao Tome and Principe

Despite the dangers of malaria, TB and HIV, the people of Sao Tome and Principe can have hope in the fact that there are many international allies willing to provide support in their fight against these diseases. These common diseases in Sao Tome and Principe may still impose fatal effects on its victims; however, Sao Tome and Principe is not alone in its fight to protect its people.

San Sung Kim
Photo: Flickr

Improving Water Supply in Palestine
Water is an extremely important resource in Palestine; yet, its inhabitants struggle to obtain adequate amounts of it to survive. When Palestine and Israel signed the Oslo Accords, Palestinians were to receive a certain degree of water access. However, the population of Palestine has doubled since the Oslo Accords came into play. Despite its growing population, Palestine retains the same amount of water access as in 1995. This is troublesome, considering the Oslo Accords’ purpose was to guarantee Palestinians’ water supply would increase to about 200 million cubic meters by 2000. The current amount of water access the Palestinian people have is simply insufficient. In the face of this dire situation, various international organizations are working on improving the water supply in Palestine.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

One organization that has assisted Palestinians for some time now is the international development agency, USAID. Since 1994, the group has been committed to improving Palestinian infrastructure. One of the agency’s key successes in improving water resources in Palestine was the upgrading of water distribution networks. This resulted in access to clean water for about 310,000 people as of 2014.

Since 1994, USAID has drilled or refurbished 17 wells and installed 900 kilometers of water pipelines. In addition to helping residents meet basic human needs, USAID initiatives have improved the state’s economy. In total, the organization’s accessibility efforts have provided 1,300,000 days of employment for Palestinians.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The United Nations Development Programme has also been improving the water supply in Palestine. One example of the program’s support is in the Palestinian city of Rafah. Here, only 7% of water is utilized for domestic use as defined by the World Health Organization. Fortunately, the UNDP aided these Palestinians by building a 3000-cubic-meter water tank. This water tank has raised the water supply for about 50% of the city’s population. To date, the UNDP has conducted 200 other projects aimed at improving water supply in Palestine.

The UNDP has also initiated its Emergency Water Supply and Rehabilitation Programme. Many of the ongoing improvements have helped people in Rafah. Moreover, the Tel Al Sultan area, near Rafah, has seen boosts in its water supply as well. For example, 75,000 people living in the area have access to a reliable water supply for about 12 hours per day. This stands in stark contrast to previous statistics of half that amount, provided every three days. Another city the Emergency Water Supply and Rehabilitation Programme reaches is Beit Hanoun. About 70,000 Palestinians in this area now have a reliable source of water due to the implementation of two water tanks. Both tanks fairly distribute water from wells throughout the city. Finally, the UNDP has installed 10,000 meters of a new and improved water network that will prevent pipeline contamination.

Hope Flows

While Palestinians still struggle to obtain the water resources that they need, they have received crucial assistance from international organizations like USAID and UNDP. As Palestine continues receiving this beneficial assistance and reaps the subsequent health and economic benefits, there is hope that this state will soon provide clean water to all of its inhabitants.

– Jacob Lee
Photo: Flikr

Temporary Basic Income
A recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report advises that temporary basic income in 132 of the world’s low and middle-income countries could curb the spread of the new coronavirus and reduce the pandemic’s massive, adverse effects on global poverty.

Those Hardest Hit: Low and Middle-Income Countries

Co-author of the report, Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez, explained in a blog post that low and middle-income countries are more vulnerable to the economic effects of COVID-19 on the workforce. This is due to a few significant reasons, e.g., 80% of workers in low-income countries work in jobs that cannot adjust to accommodating lockdown procedures. Furthermore, 70% work in the informal sector — only 14% of which have access to employment-based, social protection programs. Compounding these vulnerabilities is the existing high level of poverty in low and middle-income countries. All of these variables considered, low and middle-income countries have taken disproportionate losses in the face of the pandemic and will struggle to rebuild.

Temporary Basic Income: A Solution

The solution that the UNDP proposes — temporary basic income: an unconditional emergency aid that is an “urgent, fair and feasible way of stopping people falling into poverty or further impoverishment as a result of the pandemic.” UNICEF reported that direct cash transfers, how temporary basic income would be delivered, are among the most effective poverty-reduction methods. The basic income recommended by the UNDP would affect nearly 2 billion people around the globe, in 132 countries. Most of these nations are in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and the Pacific. The basic income would eventually cost between $200 and $465 billion per month, which is equivalent to between 0.27% and 0.64% of the collective GDPs of all countries involved. The World Economic Forum explained that the cost of this temporary basic income could theoretically come from these countries’ suspended debt payments, totaling around $3 trillion this year. This, in turn, could pay for up to 16 months of temporary basic income, depending on the distribution system.

Delivering Temporary Basic Income

The UNDP made three recommendations for the delivery of temporary basic income. Moreover, each recommendation depends on country-specific access to data and resources. Adding on to vulnerable individuals’ existing incomes to make sure they exceed a minimum of 70% above the poverty line in their respective country. “Lump-sum transfers” are given to vulnerable individuals totaling half of the average income in the respective country. Uniform “Lump-sum transfers” given to vulnerable individuals in all 132 affected countries that meet a minimum of exceeding the “typical level of the poverty line among upper-middle-income countries.”

Slowing the Spread of COVID-19

Temporary basic income could solve multiple problems at once, but most importantly, it would slow the spread of the new coronavirus by allowing workers the financial flexibility to stay home. While this income program cannot retroactively reverse existing pandemic economic damage — it would slow the rapid increase in global poverty. Increasing income could also affect a wide range of existing issues, worsened by the pandemic. E.g., spending on education, community health and gender inequalities that affect working women.

Model Programs Currently in Practice

UNICEF reported that Spain’s government rolled out a “Basic Income scheme” in June, reaching about 2.5 million vulnerable people. At the time, the country faced a projected 13% decline in GDP due to the pandemic. The basic income program will remain in place in Spain after the pandemic slows as a permanent social protection program. A similar program has also rolled out, in Tuvalu. However, the scope of the UNDP proposed program, would be much larger and thus, more far-reaching.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty Eradication in Germany
Historically, Germany has not been without its economic or financial hardships. Since the 1990s, nearly a quarter (or 15%) of Germany’s population has had the classification of being poor. What is Germany doing in the modern age to combat a significant and stagnant impoverished population? Additionally, why have Germany’s poverty rates not reflected the country’s staggering economic growth? Finally, how is Germany’s poverty-reduction legislation impacting refugee families? This article will illuminate the radical legislation and innovations about poverty eradication in Germany including what the country has implemented to reduce inequality, domestically and globally, in the 21st century.

The BMZ Behind It All

Poverty eradication in Germany began with the BMZ (a German-language acronym for the English-translated “Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development”). The BMZ is solely responsible for all affairs regarding poverty relief and economic development in Germany and abroad. In recent history, the BMZ has committed itself to addressing the underlying factors, circumstances and mechanisms that create poverty in the first place. In the early 1990s, the BMZ published international and domestic development goals which, to this day, influences the nation’s fight against poverty. Strong social welfare, personal incentive for work and widespread access to education reduced the national proportion of people experiencing poverty to as low as 7% in 2007.

At the time, radical steps like systemic reformations and direct focus on franchising majority impoverished groups of people were novel and began Germany’s repertoire as a powerful benefactor to its poorest constituents. With recent international crises (like the Syrian Civil War) and the advent of automation, however, Germany’s poverty line has all but slowly grown. However, a recent 6.1 billion euro ($7.2 billion USD) expansion of Germany’s social welfare program, Hartz IV (dedicated to long-term unemployment) spells relief for many displaced and at-risk peoples in Germany.

Young Families, New Challenges

Starting a family is, unquestionably, one of the most difficult and unique things a couple (or individual) can undertake. Additionally, it is no short order to both raise a young family while providing for it – and, sometimes, it is nearly impossible to maintain a “work-life balance,” which typically ends in financial hardship. Poor families are at risk to begin with; a new child may well be the tipping point into impoverishment, and the cycle only proliferates when families raise children in poverty. Enter one of Germany’s most radical pieces of legislation, the Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act, created exclusively to alleviate the financial stresses that new families often face. New parents may receive up to 60% of their income for up to 3 years, addressing underlying systemic cycles of poverty, especially with already at-risk, younger individuals, rather than focusing on short-term manifestations of it.

Providing low-risk, low-stress economic stability for growing families almost ensures that the cycle breaks as well. As of 2014, only 9.5% of children in Germany lived in poverty, compared to the nation’s average of 14%. The Parental Allowance and Leave act has proven to be an extremely successful player in poverty relief in Germany.

International Commitments

Germany has not only invested in domestic poverty relief, it is also interested in working toward poverty relief internationally. Chancellor Angela Merkel has committed to doubling the nation’s UNDP core funding to combat the economic hardship that COVID-19 has brought on internationally. Germany has been the largest single contributor to the UNDP’s core resources since 2017 and has solidified that position by donating nearly $124 million to the core fund this year alone. What that means is increased spending power for the UNDP during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the UNDP predicts will cause the first reversal of human global development since the early 1990s. Germany’s increased budget for the UNDP will go to essential poverty relief efforts in 130 countries that the pandemic has greatly affected, providing assistance for hundreds of millions across the globe.

COVID-19 Relief in Germany

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany experienced its impact economically, socially and culturally much like the rest of the world. In Germany, the unemployment rate from March to April 2020 increased by 0.8%. Poverty rates have remained consistent as well, with surprising research showing that poorer workers are at no greater risk of succumbing to the novel coronavirus. What differentiates Germany’s COVID experience is its radical response and mobilization against the extreme economic fallout COVID spelled.

The German government has committed an unprecedented $868 billion relief package for its most vulnerable populations, small businesses and manufacturers. In addition, Germany has expanded wage subsidies for furloughed individuals and executed a tax slash of 3%. In this exceptionally trying time, Germany has revolutionized the way the world thinks about social security, and it stands that German citizens will feel the impact of this emergency poverty relief in Germany for decades to come.

Germany has been a litmus test as a standard for social welfare since the dawn of the modern age. Poverty eradication in Germany is a multifaceted, extensive and progressive approach to the seemingly Sisyphean task of battling poverty at home and abroad. Strong COVID-19 relief plans, the groundbreaking Parental Leave Act, a dedicated ministry of economic affairs and a commitment to international well-being makes for innovative anti-poverty measures that are paving the way for the world.

– Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Getty Images

Poverty Eradication in Egypt
Innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt have taken a sustainable and decentralized form in the last four years. Through local initiatives and collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Egypt has incorporated social welfare and development programs aimed at improving the standard of living in its poorest governorates and providing a permanent path out of poverty for future generations.

With Egypt’s poverty rate rising to 5% in 2019, how exactly does Egypt plan to have a “competitive, balanced, diversified, and knowledge based economy” that would eliminate poverty by 2030?

UNDP Sustainable Development Strategies

One significant innovation in poverty eradication in Egypt is the UNDP’s adoption of a social entrepreneurial and minority centralized model. Through partnerships with Egypt’s public sector, private companies and civil society, the UNDP not only helped prioritize economic development but also made women, children and disabled people a focal point.

  1. The GSER Program: The GSER program under the Misr El-Kheir Foundation, a nonprofit development institution in Egypt, organizes social innovation camps with UNDP’s support. Youth from all parts of Egypt co-scheme solutions to improve the livelihoods in Fayoum’s fishing community, one of Egypt’s poorest governorates. Accomplishments include a redesigned shrimp peeling table for fishermen’s wives, which advanced hygiene and shell quality in Fayoum.
  2. The IBM Academic Initiative: The IBM Academic Initiative invested $70 million with the objective of providing over 25 million Africans free digital skills training and launching one of its regional offices in Egypt. UNDP’s contributions will help Egypt cultivate a STEM-oriented workforce through access to IBM’s cutting edge tools and course material.
  3. The Game Changer Fellowship: The Game Changer Fellowship is a one-year program that provides incubation support to aspiring Egyptian game designers through a partnership between UNDP Egypt and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College in Boston, U.S.A. This has enabled Egypt’s youth to uniquely approach development challenges by stimulating behavior change. Given that 84% of Egypt’s unemployment rate comprises young men and women, such initiatives are imperative in enhancing human capital in order to prevent an underdeveloped workforce.
  4. The Mobile Ramp App: The Mobile Ramp App helps Egypt’s disabled community lead easier, more integrated lives. UNDP partnered with Fab Lab Egypt and the Misr El-Kheir Foundation to launch a media campaign that promotes and teaches sign language as well as maps out locations with available ramps.

J-PAL’s (Abdul Latif Jamil Poverty Action Lab) Innovative Research

Despite these innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, reports determined that there were 32.5% of Egyptian citizens living below the poverty line in 2019. According to J-PAL, a global research center aiming to reduce poverty, this extreme poverty figure of 32.5% indicates that the policies and programs designed to alleviate Egypt’s poverty are not as effective as they could be.

In order to achieve successful innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, J-PAL’s MIT branch is launching a research center at the American University in Cairo. Through research and professional training to inform evidence-based policies and engage governments and relevant NGOs, Egypt will establish a culture of empirical policy making so that it can adequately evaluate the efficacy of its plans. 

Institutionalizing Social Innovation and Sustainable Development

While international efforts facilitate innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, government and grassroots organizations in Egypt have adopted technological and sustainable based solutions to economic problems through their own localized projects and findings.

  1. The Egyptian Government: The Egyptian government is investing EGP 47bn ($3 billion) to Upper Egypt governorates in its 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is a 50% increase from 2019, representing 25% of total government investments.
  2. The Takaful and Karama Program: The Takaful and Karama program provides income support to the poor through a conditional and unconditional cash transfer program that aims to increase food consumption and necessary healthcare. Nevin al Qabbaj, the Social Solidarity Minister, reported that by 2020 around 2.5 million Egyptian families have benefited from the program.
  3. SEKEM: SEKEM, an Egyptian sustainable development organization, is working with the Egyptian government to implement Egypt Vision 2030. The plan includes 12 “pillars” targeting economic development, social justice, innovative research, education, health and the environment. Additionally, along with local NGOs, SEKEM has revitalized Egypt’s desert land and developed its agricultural businesses using biodynamic methods.

Egypt’s ability to mitigate poverty across all demographics using sustainable, innovative and ethical practices is testimony to its economic and cultural prosperity. Egypt’s innovations in poverty eradication are unique in that they exemplify the duality of individual, entrepreneurial growth in the private sphere and collective, righteous leadership in the public sphere.

– Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Algeria
Algeria is located on the Northern coast of Africa and is home to 42.2 million people. The nation adopted a universal single-payer healthcare system in 1984, which allows anyone to access healthcare at no cost to themselves. The nation’s economy is largely reliant on oil prices and sales, but these have proven to be volatile in the past several decades. Due to this economic instability, 23% of the population lives below the poverty line, even though the nation has some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. What is even more startling is the 29% youth unemployment rate. Given that such a large segment of the population falls below the poverty line and cannot find work, many Algerians are reliant on their publicly funded healthcare system to provide for them in times of need. Here are five facts about healthcare in Algeria in light of the country’s economic hardship.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Algeria

  1. The Public Healthcare Network has Struggled Recently: In 2019, Algeria’s public healthcare network ranked as the 173rd most secure healthcare network out of 195 nations. This stems from the chronic economic insecurity that dominated the nation due to drops in oil prices. The “breakeven” price for oil in Algeria was $157 per barrel in 2020. However, the price fell to just $20 a barrel, leaving the nation to stumble upon hard times. Yahia Zoubir notes that many Algerian medical professionals have chosen to take their practices out of the nation due to the “chronically insufficient healthcare system.”
  2. A Private Healthcare Sector Exists within Algeria: In 2015, there were 250 operational private clinics, and the government approved plans for the construction of the first private hospital in the nation. Many questioned the utility of the private sector because it fills in the gaps of the public sector, but it can only serve those who could afford it. Essentially, the presence of the private sector heightens disparity in the quality of care that the healthcare system provides to Algerians in different socio-economic classes.
  3. COVID-19 has Highlighted Major Issues with the Public Healthcare Network: As noted before, the national economy took major hits in 2019, and the nation announced a 50% cut in public spending as a result. Due to an inability to provide physicians with the necessary equipment and a general lack of human capital, there were 17 beds per 10,000 Algerians, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015. Because of this limited hospital capacity, COVID-19 patients easily overran public healthcare in Algeria.
  4. Where Health Officials Fail, the People Provide: Throughout the pandemic, government officials were notorious for failing to communicate with the public to slow the spread of the virus. Villages located further away from urban centers encountered these issues most prominently. Despite this, the Algerian people demonstrated resilient and innovative capabilities. The United Nations Development Program notes two distinct ways Algerians are reacting to the pandemic. First, in urban centers, many merchants are turning away from their cash-based system and moving toward e-commerce. E-commerce limits the amount of person-to-person contact involved in economic transitions of all sorts. Meanwhile, villages are working together to limit the spread of the virus themselves. Notably, a village called Tifilkout went into self-confinement to protect its citizens and other villages in the area. This plan originated from the tradition of “wise men” leading the village. These solutions demonstrate that while healthcare in Algeria may be unstable, the people will still assist one another regardless.
  5. The Algerian Struggle has Incited a Global Response: Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have also stepped up to assist in COVID-19 relief. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to donate $20 million to fight COVID-19 in Africa. The money will go towards ensuring that PPE and treatments are available to all who need them, not just those who can pay the most. While these efforts going towards Africa generally, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has demonstrated its commitment to Algeria in the past. In 2002, it joined groups working to fight the spread of malaria, and through its assistance, Algeria was the second nation in Africa to become malaria-free.

Healthcare in Algeria has struggled for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many of its weaknesses. However, the pandemic has also allowed communities to respond to such weaknesses in full force. While Algerians are working to protect one another through e-commerce and social distancing, the international community is banding together to support the nation as well.

Allison Moss
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food safety in el salvadorThe ability to have access to safe and nutritious food is essential to maintaining life and good health. Unsafe food contains harmful parasites, viruses and bacteria that can lead to more than 200 diseases, from diarrhea to forms of cancer. Approximately 600 million people become ill after consuming contaminated food each year, which results in 420,000 deaths and the loss of thirty-three million healthy life hours. Food safety and nutrition are linked to cycles of health. Unsafe food causes disease and malnutrition, especially with at-risk groups.

Education on Food Safety in El Salvador

Women in El Salvador are participating in an educational program supported by the World Health Organization that teaches safe hygiene practices and food safety. The WHO works in collaboration with El Salvador’s government and other United Nations partner organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNICEF, UNWomen, and the World Food Program (WFP). The program aims to address foodborne illnesses and poor nutrition by educating local women who then pass on their knowledge to other women in the community.

In preparation for the village workshops, there are two ‘train the trainers’ workshops held to train health promoters who can then go on to educate women in other villages. The women teach others how to host their own educational workshops. Women are chosen as leaders since they play a vital role in food preparation and safety.

Teaching Subsistence Farming

In El Salvador 1 in 10 people live on less than $2 U.S. a day, which makes it hard to buy food.  A large sector of the population lacks the proper education about nutrition needed to grow food themselves. This program provides women with education about farming, specifically focusing on five keys to growing safer fruits and vegetables.

  1. Practice good personal hygiene. Good hygiene begins in the home with a clean body, face, and clothes. People must maintain cleanliness to curb the spread of pathogens and prevent food contamination. A toilet or latrine must be used for proper sanitation.
  2. Protect fields from animal fecal contamination. In areas where animals live in close proximity to humans and fields, it is imperative to control the risk of exposure to fecal matter. Exposure to animal feces is correlated with diarrhea, soil-transmitted helminth infection, trachoma, environmental enteric dysfunction and growth faltering.
  3. Use treated fecal waste. Waste may be reused as a fertilizer for agriculture, gardening or horticultural, but must be safely handled, treated, stored and utilized.
  4. Evaluate and manage risks from irrigation water. Be aware of all risks of microbial contamination at all water sources and protect water from fecal matter.
  5. Keep harvest and storage equipment clean and dry. Wash harvest equipment with clean water and store away from animals and children. Remove all visible dirt and debris from all products.

Results

After participating in the program, the women involved began to change their lifestyles and safety habits. Women use mesh to protect fields from contamination from animals and can grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables while practicing food safety. Foodborne illnesses decreased in households where safety measures were practiced. Families that utilized the five keys at home reduced their chances of getting diarrhea by 60% compared to families in communities where these hygiene and safety measures were not applied. Families that began to practice food safety also had a more diversified crop production that contributes to improved nutrition.

 

Many people in El Salvador live on less than $2 U.S. a day and education on nutrition needed to grow food independently is sometimes lacking. In order to address these issues, The WHO, and other organizations, partnered with El Salvador’s government to host workshops on food safety and hygiene practices. While food safety remains an important issue in El Salvador, the workshops positively impacted food safety in the country by decreasing foodborne illnesses in households that applied the safety measures.

– Anna Brewer
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