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Japanese Foreign AidJapan has been a controversial figure in foreign aid for a number of reasons. The nation is famous for its strict policies in terms of refugees and immigrants, only accepting 20 refugees out of 19,000 asylum-seeking applicants in 2017. However, historically, Japan has taken the ranks as a leading provider of foreign aid, especially during the 1990s. Even today, Japan ranks fifth in global foreign aid. While impressive, Japan faces criticism for its decreases in providing aid abroad when the nation takes in so few asylum seekers. However, currently, Japanese foreign aid is making a name for itself through the country’s significant contributions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Development Association (IDA)

In December 2021, Japan pledged to give $3.4 billion to the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank, a record donation for the nation. The aim of this contribution is to provide developing nations with the resources necessary to rebuild after the economic losses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Japanese Finance Minister Sunichi Suzuki announced, “Now is the time for global solidarity,” according to Reuters. Japanese foreign aid to the IDA will significantly help developing nations facing the highest levels of poverty globally.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Japan has extended its support to other nations beyond simply providing monetary donations. In September 2021, Japan doubled its goal of providing 30 million COVID-19 doses, extending this number to 60 million doses globally. Japan had distributed the first 30 million vaccines to nations with vaccine shortages, such as Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia.

The vaccines will continue to reach nations in need and may extend beyond Asia. This donation is crucial in eliminating the health care disparities among nations, especially as the impoverished in developing nations suffer the most from a lack of COVID-19 vaccines. Overall, this is beneficial for all nations because the intensity of the pandemic could calm as vaccine distribution accelerates.

Supporting Latin America and the Caribbean

When Japan is not directly sending vaccines, it donates to organizations that distribute vaccines. Japan donated more than $11.1 million to UNICEF in August 2021 to support Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The funds will support the storage of vaccines at ideal temperatures and assist in achieving “effective and inclusive vaccination” across the LAC region. Much of this donation will directly aid in the creation of vaccine sites and the payment of staff and health workers to operate such facilities.

UNICEF reports that children in the LAC region are enduring social, educational and emotional impacts due to COVID-19. Japanese foreign aid in the form of the donation will increase vaccination rates for normality to resume. UNICEF has coordinated much of the efforts to drive donations for vaccines in the LAC region, a region reporting more than 40 million cases and 1.4 million deaths by the close of July 2021, accounting for 20-30% of the global toll of COVID-19 cases. Thus, UNICEF applauds Japan for its donation to accelerate vaccination efforts in the LAC.

Current Top Aid Provider

According to data from the Overseas Development Institute, among the Group of Seven nations, Japan has donated the most in global aid for COVID-19 at $5.1 billion in 2020. In comparison, Germany pledged $4.4 billion while France committed $1.9 billion and Canada gave $1.0 billion. Falling on the lower end of the donation spectrum, Britain gave $990 million while the United States gave $103 million and Italy committed $50 million. However, the United States could surpass Japan’s total donations as the Biden administration has expressed several foreign aid commitments during the COVID-19 pandemic with more to come.

Nonetheless, Japan is contributing greatly to the overall mission of aiding developing countries amid COVID-19, whether it be through monetary or in-kind donations.

Now more than ever, critics affirm that developed countries can do more to support developing nations. Japan has certainly stepped up to the plate during this time of global crisis. Japanese foreign aid has become crucial for developing countries and their recovery from the pandemic.

– Rachel Reardon
Photo: Flickr

Inclusive Education Programs
UNICEF is working alongside NGO Zhan, a software development company and a youth center to help children in Kazakhstan who have visual impairments gain more out of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program teaches children with visual impairments how to access useful learning resources and maximize the benefits of technology. Inclusive education programs are particularly valuable in developing countries where many often stigmatize disabilities and those with disabilities do not receive accommodation from schools. The COVID-19 pandemic has made inclusive education even more essential due to an expansive surge in digital learning, which is rarely accessible to children with disabilities.

UNICEF’s Approach

UNICEF and NGO Zhan program taught children how to navigate smartphones, computers, web resources and messenger and navigation apps. The children also learned the basics of programming and became familiar with several software programs, as UNICEF reported.

Children who participated in the program ended up with heightened abilities to communicate with their teachers, peers and families, both inside and outside of school. Children with visual impairments who learn technological skills like computer programming have better chances of finding stable jobs later in life. Inclusive education programs like UNICEF’s help provide opportunities to children with disabilities who may otherwise lack access to education altogether, especially in developing countries.

Educational Benefits

Children with disabilities are often marginalized within educational systems, which makes it difficult to find career opportunities as adults. Children with disabilities face disproportionate amounts of exclusion in low-income areas, according to the World Bank. Educational programs that provide learning resources for children with disabilities help put them on level playing fields with their classmates.

Teachers in developing countries often lack the training and resources to assist children with disabilities, so outside organizations like UNICEF can help make schools more inclusive. According to the World Bank, inclusive education programs may involve teacher training, removing physical barriers for students and obtaining accessible learning materials. These resources allow children with disabilities the opportunity to learn the same material as their classmates without falling behind in school or missing out on job opportunities in the future.

Socioeconomic Benefits

Around the world, 57 million children lack access to primary education. While many children with disabilities struggle to keep up in school without accommodations, others lack access to education altogether. Educational disparities in low-income areas are particularly common among young girls.

Inclusive education programs and policies can improve child literacy, gender equality and educational opportunities at large for children with disabilities. When more children have access to positive educational experiences, more children can enter the workforce and contribute to their local and national economies.

UNICEF’s program for children with visual impairments is a prime example of how inclusive education can benefit children’s education and social lives. Inclusive education accepts and embraces all children, allowing them to succeed in school and pursue their ambitions for the future.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Food Security in Nigeria
Nigeria is a West African country that stands as the most populous nation in Africa with more than 182 million citizens. The nation holds a high population growth rate as well as a high poverty rate. About 60% of Nigerians live in impoverished conditions, a consequence of several factors including conflict, drought and floods. The ongoing conflict and violence in Nigeria has not only led to more than 2 million internally displaced Nigerians but has also led to high food insecurity levels. The violence and conflict are “disrupting food supplies, impeding access to basic services and markets and limiting agricultural activities and livelihood opportunities.” With more than 8.7 million people facing food insecurity in the northern parts of Nigeria, establishing greater food security in Nigeria is more important than ever.

Reasons Behind Food Insecurity in Nigeria

The escalation of the conflict together with the crisis that COVID-19 caused and rising numbers of internally displaced persons make food insecurity in Nigeria a growing problem. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened both poverty and food insecurity in the nation. According to ReliefWeb, “embargoes on food items, the reluctance of manufacturing countries to export and the reduction of economic activities due to the pandemic has led to food price hike as high as 120% across markets nationwide.” Severe droughts and floods also impact agricultural output, exacerbating both food insecurity and economic insecurity, especially for rural people who depend on the agricultural sector for their income and sustenance.

How the World Food Programme (WFP) is Providing Assistance

Because food insecurity links to malnutrition, the WFP is providing “specialized nutritious food” to vulnerable children younger than 5 as well as pregnant and breastfeeding Nigerian women. With the support of UNICEF and Action Contre La Faim (ACF), the WFP is able to provide “an integrated package of essential health and nutrition services” to reduce and address severe malnutrition among vulnerable Nigerian people, especially in the most isolated and remote regions. In the most conflict and violence-ridden states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, the WFP aims to expand its food security efforts to support 1.9 million citizens by the close of 2022.

In November 2021, the WFP had supplied more than 12,105 metric tonnes of local food to more than 1 million people enduring food insecurity in the most conflict-ridden parts of Nigeria. Through $7.1 million worth of cash-based assistance in the form of “E-vouchers, prepaid cards, bank cards and mobile money,” the WFP was able to help more than 551,000 people buy “life-sustaining food and engage in livelihood activities” to secure an income.

To address nutritional deficiencies, the WFP supplied “nutrition support to 126,631 children aged 6-23 months and 87,396 pregnant and lactating women and girls,” among other efforts. According to the WFP, women formed 60% of the beneficiaries of the WFP’s aid efforts. In total, the WFP’s work helped more than 1.4 million people in November 2021.

The food insecurity crisis in Nigeria is ongoing due to limited food access as a consequence of the conflict, which is why the WFP seeks funding of $211 million between December 2021 and May 2022 to continue with the goals of the Country Strategic Plan (2019-2022).

The Road Ahead

The Nigerian government could establish greater food security in Nigeria by focusing on rural development, appropriate policies for food, political stability and the reduction of poverty. All these strategies must work in collaboration with international aid in order to see true success. With the support of the WFP, Nigeria was able to stabilize staggering levels of food insecurity in the nation. However, “4.4 million people are still entirely depending on food assistance” for their survival. Ongoing humanitarian assistance is necessary to provide emergency food relief and support and improve food security in Nigeria.

– Ander Moreno
Photo: Flickr

Audrey Hepburn’s Granddaughter
Decades after the late actress Audrey Hepburn’s passing, her granddaughter, Emma Ferrer, took on her grandmother’s legacy, becoming involved in international advocacy projects. Ferrer is a national ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees USA and a spokesperson for UNICEF. Here is some information about Audrey Hepburn’s granddaughter as well as some background on Hepburn’s work with UNICEF.

Audrey Hepburn’s Work with UNICEF

Late actress Audrey Hepburn’s humanitarian efforts made a significant difference in the lives of countless children. Hepburn was a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. UNICEF operates in more than 190 nations and regions to ensure that every child’s rights are protected. Her commitment to the organization began after a journey to Ethiopia in the late 1980s where she sought to assist individuals in areas impacted by a severe drought that brought famine to the nation. She subsequently communicated with journalists about the work occurring in Ethiopia, and as a result of her international fame, media interest and attention grew dramatically.

In the years thereafter, Hepburn made multiple philanthropic trips, aiding in areas such as Turkey, Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam and Sudan. Hepburn was a staunch advocate of UNICEF. She conducted new studies, organized ceremonies and enabled the organization to gain widespread media coverage. In 1992, she received the “Presidential Medal of Freedom,” the highest civilian honor. Despite her cancer diagnosis, Hepburn continued to work for UNICEF, traveling globally on the organization’s behalf. Hepburn died in 1993 after focusing the latter years of her life on humanitarian efforts. However, her granddaughter continues her legacy.

Emma Ferrer’s Work

Though Hepburn’s granddaughter Emma Ferrer never met Hepburn, Ferrer learned much about her grandmother through her grandmother’s legacy, which ultimately influenced her desire to follow Hepburn’s lead. Ferrer was inspired that such a high-profile celebrity would ally herself with humanitarian causes. Ferrer feels a sense of connection to her grandmother through Ferrer’s own work with UNICEF. Additionally, Ferrer is a fervent advocate of UNICEF’s work and the good that these efforts can achieve in the form of significant decreases in child fatalities, illnesses and malnutrition.

Ferrer’s passion for humanitarian endeavors began when she saw photos of lifeless children washing up on an international shore as a result of war. These heart-rending images prompted her to create artwork based on the images. In her free time, Ferrer writes on the well-being of youth in nations rife with conflict and violence. Her writing comes from extensive research and comprehension. She incorporates her understanding of the realities of disadvantaged people into her artwork.

Ferrer donated artwork proceeds to the UNHCR after her first exhibition as an art curator in 2018. She has collaborated extensively with nonprofit groups and her philanthropic activities and artwork serve to continue Hepburn’s legacy.

Ferrer reflects her grandmother’s values and fights valiantly to continue Hepburn’s legacy, notably campaigning to preserve children’s rights across the world. “I think it’s so important to have a history and a legacy that you want to carry on in your family, whether you’re famous or not,” Ferrer tells UNICEF.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Niger 
Niger, one of the largest countries in West Africa, holds the highest rate of child marriages compared to the rest of the world. In fact, 75% of young girls marry before turning 18. This is because the nation’s legal marital age is 15 for girls and 18 for boys. Although Niger has made efforts to reduce child marriage, the country has noted only minimal progress in the last 20 years. As a result, many consequences have arisen from child marriage.

Why Does Niger Have a High Child Marriage Rate?

First, child marriage in Niger harshly affects girls deprived of attending school because they need to rely on others to survive. In addition, many young girls choose to drop out of school because of the unsafe learning environments. As a result, they cannot live an independent life due to the lack of income and confidence to make rational decisions. Due to few other options for their futures, many families decide to marry their daughters off for financial stability.

According to the World Bank, Niger has a poverty rate of 42.9%. However, Niger’s population continues to increase, causing the number of people in poverty to grow. Currently, many families are struggling financially, so they view child marriage as a way to alleviate their financial burdens. Because of this, marriage becomes “a strategy for economic survival” due to the lack of social protection, according to Save the Children.

Moreover, child marriage in Niger is common because many communities believe a woman’s purpose is to become a housewife and bear children. Due to this belief, families tend to prioritize the education of sons over daughters. To add, marrying young is a way that Niger communities attempt to prevent pregnancy before marriage, which is “a source of shame for the family,” Save the Children reports.

Consequences of Child Marriage in Niger

Although families aim to avoid pregnancy before marriage and look for financial stability by marrying their daughters off at a young age, this only causes more damage in the long run. For example, without education, young girls are unaware of the risks of early pregnancy. In fact, these young girls are at greater risk because 30% of the young girls show signs of malnutrition. As a result, “maternal mortality constitutes 35% of all adolescent deaths between ages 15 and 19,” according to Save the Children.

Not only do women face physical challenges but they also face mental health challenges caused by marrying at a young age. This is because young girls have to abruptly transition to adult life and take on responsibilities they are not mentally prepared to tackle. They are still at an age that requires guidance from a guardian. In a BMC Public Health study, many Nigerian girls expressed emotional distress and depression due to fulfilling their marital responsibilities and sexual demands from their husbands.

Due to the common practice of child marriage in Niger, young girls do not have the opportunity to have a childhood and face threats to their lives and health. For instance, some experience domestic violence and cannot return to school to escape these living conditions. Unfortunately, young married girls “have worse economic health outcomes than their unmarried peers, which are eventually passed down [sic] to their own children,” UNICEF reported.

How is Niger Receiving Help to End Child Marriage?

UNICEF is working to help implement laws and policies to help end child marriage and work within Nigerian communities to address the social norms that encourage child marriage. UNICEF partnered with the Niger Traditional Leaders and Association and the Islamic Congregation because they are well respected in their communities and can create new rules for people to follow.

Due to these advocacy efforts, the Niger Government created a national action plan, “Towards the End of Child Marriage in Niger,” that convenes every month to discuss what the community needs to do to advocate for better treatment of young boys and girls. Fortunately, “Education sessions by the Village Child Protection Committees were able to prevent cases of child marriage through direct mediation with parents and assisted girls to return to school,” UNICEF reported.

Lastly, Plan International Niger is helping girls establish confidence to fight child marriage in their communities. As a result, the young girls are using their voices and asking their leaders to end child marriage and provide them with an education to gain independence through employment. The Plan International Niger placed child protection committees throughout Niger and provided them with the tools to protect the rights of young girls to ensure change.

Child marriage is common in Niger, but it has far-reaching negative impacts on girls, such as emotional stress and depression. To add, young girls are at risk of domestic violence and pregnancy complications due to their age and malnutrition. These young girls have to become adults at an early age, which strips them of their childhood experiences. Fortunately, many young Nigerian girls are receiving help in an attempt to end the cycle of child marriage.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Child Malnutrition in Chad
Chad, a country located in Central Africa, faces one of the highest levels of child malnutrition worldwide. A meta-analysis of child malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa from 2006 to 2016 found that 39.9% of children in Chad suffered from stunting and 28.8% were underweight. Extreme weather events and conflict in the country exacerbate food insecurity, making it more difficult for many families to provide adequate, nutritious diets for their children. To help improve children’s health and reduce food insecurity, four recent initiatives are tackling child malnutrition in Chad.

Scaling Up Nutrition

Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) is an organization that collaborates with low- and middle-income countries’ governments to organize malnutrition prevention efforts. In 2017, SUN developed partnerships with five civil society organizations in Chad focused on improving nutrition. SUN has also established six local Civil Society Alliance offices across different provinces of the country. With SUN’s support, these organizations adopted nutrition as an integral part of their development plans. SUN has also trained and mobilized 35 radio presenters and journalists for nutrition communication, who continue to help raise awareness on malnutrition across the country.

Collaboration with UNICEF and the UK

Through its Department for International Development, the U.K. committed £4 million to a collaboration with UNICEF to reduce acute malnutrition in Chad in 2018 and 2019. Using this grant, UNICEF provided therapeutic milk, Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food and essential drugs to 58,670 children across 20 provinces nationwide.

UNICEF also used the DFID grant to develop more sanitary and hygienic health centers, improving 30 facilities across the country. This development benefited an estimated 40,000 mothers and caregivers of children suffering from acute malnutrition.

Zafaye West Health Center

A nutrition project that UNICEF and the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office sponsored supports the Zafaye West Health Center. The project selected N’Djamena, where the health center is located, as a priority province in Chad for nutrition aid because a 2019 survey detected a high prevalence of acute malnutrition in the area.

Community volunteers from the center travel door-to-door to reach out to mothers, encouraging them to visit the health center to check up on their children’s health and engage in educational campaigns. The campaigns educate mothers on the importance of balanced diets for their children and teach them nutrient-dense, affordable recipes to prepare. The nutrition project has saved 43,000 children, located within the six target provinces it serves, from acute malnutrition as of June 2021.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

The World Food Programme is an organization that provides food assistance across more than 80 countries worldwide. WFP helps provide nutritious meals to 120,000 school children in the Sahel, the region of Africa where Chad is located. The organization also feeds 15,000 children in the Lake Chad region through an emergency school meal program.

In addition, WFP helps prevent child malnutrition in Chad among 6-month-olds to 2-year-olds by providing cash-based nutrition support to their families. This support provides families with more stable access to nutrient-dense foods.

Although many children in Chad currently face malnutrition, these four initiatives are making progress in eradicating this issue. With this support, child malnutrition in Chad may decline in the years to come.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Lebanon
Children living in Lebanon have been experiencing the full impact of the weakened economy in the country. Due to the Beirut explosion and the collapse of the Lebanese pound, child poverty has been on the rise in Lebanon. Child’s education, health and protection have become difficult to acquire.

The Deterioration of the Economy

Lebanon has struggled with its economy for a while due to its reliance on foreign imports and the limited exports coming from its country. As of 2021, Lebanon has failed to see economic growth, but the government is continuing to borrow money from other countries.

In addition, Lebanon’s government consists of 18 politicians of different religious denominations, such as Christian and Muslim. Because of this, Lebanon is susceptible to interference from other countries. As a result, Lebanon has become “one of the world’s largest debt burdens as a result of years of inefficiency, waste and corruption,” according to Reuters.

Moreover, in October 2019, the Lebanese pound began to lose its value due to the shortage of foreign currency in their commercial banks. This caused high-interest rates, leading to the emergence of a black market. Because there is an absence of taxes on the transactions and the government is not aware of the activity happening in the black market, this harms the economy.

While Lebanon was struggling economically, an explosion in Beirut worsened its situation. For instance, on August 4, 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in agricultural fertilizers and bombs, exploded throughout the city of Beirut. Due to this, the air filled with dust, causing concern about the toxins people were consuming in the air.

Unfortunately, the explosion killed 140, wounded 5,000 and displaced 300,000. Of those 300,000, 100,000 of them were children, as UNICEF reported.

About Child Poverty in Lebanon

Due to the deterioration of the economy, Lebanon’s poverty rate has doubled from 42% to 82% between 2019 to 2021. As a result, many families cannot afford basic necessities for their children because of inflation, thus increasing child poverty in Lebanon. These families face shortages of food, water and electricity in their homes. Under these circumstances, many children have no choice but to skip meals, according to the OWP.

In addition, “34% of children were not able to receive necessary primary health care,” the OWP reported. In fact, many families need to access water through private providers at a cost because water from public works is insufficient to drink.

Child poverty in Lebanon leads to children living in conditions where they cannot grow and thrive. As economic inequality increases, children become susceptible to child marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Education in Lebanon

Additionally, many children do not have the option to attend school anymore because of the Beirut explosion. Unfortunately, the explosion damaged 163 schools, leaving children struggling to obtain an education through other means.

Due to the lack of technology and internet connectivity, many children cannot participate in remote learning activities. As families endure the hardships brought upon by the explosion, families are resorting to  “sending their children to work in often dangerous and hazardous conditions, marrying off their daughters or selling their belongings,” said UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon, Yukie Mokuo.

To avoid child marriages and selling their belongings, children need to work. Many of them work in agriculture, metalworking or factories under inhumane conditions. Addressing child poverty in Lebanon, the government signed the ILO’s Convention on Child Labor, but it failed to become a law.

Save the Children

Lebanese children are receiving help from various organizations, such as Save the Children. Save the Children believes that children are the most vulnerable when disaster strikes, so it created an organization that focused on protecting them and giving them a chance at a new beginning.

Specifically, it is asking for donations to achieve its goals to improve the lives of Lebanese children. Some of the organization’s goals for child poverty in Lebanon are to increase the quality of education, restore schools and install water, sanitation and hygiene resources for the children to access.

Lastly, it hopes to protect Lebanese children from “psychological stress, neglect, violence, and abuse.” By doing this, Save the Children hopes to show the Lebanese children that they have the right to obtain these basic needs for a better future.

UNICEF

UNICEF has also been aiding children in Lebanon by providing Lebanese families with children with cash grants in the form of U.S. dollars, aiming to help 70,000 children in need. This is an effort to remove children from working and avoid skipping meals.

To add, UNICEF “is also providing mental health support and psychological first aid to children who are engaged in child labor, those who have experienced or are at risk of violence,” as stated on its website.

As a result, the children will have the ability to think for themselves and gain confidence and self-esteem. Similar to Save the Children, UNICEF has spent $6.9 million to help repair Lebanon’s water systems, aiding children’s health. The organization is continuing to reach more vulnerable children and their families, offering them support in any way it can.

With the increasing poverty rate in Lebanon, living conditions are becoming unbearable for many Lebanese children. Fortunately, Save the Children and UNICEF are assisting Lebanon, providing education measures, health services and protection for Lebanese children.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Starvation Tactics in YemenSince 2014, the conflict in Yemen has raged without an end in sight. In a November 2021 article, the World Bank estimates that Yemen’s poverty rate rose from approximately half of the population pre-conflict to as much as 78% because of the conflict. Although a Saudi-led coalition offensive largely defines the conflict, human rights abuses are apparent on both sides and by all parties. Starvation tactics in Yemen stand as one of the most malicious violations, bringing a wave of shock to the international community.

Background of the Conflict

The conflict in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthis, a Shia Muslim minority in Yemen, captured the major city in Yemen’s northern province and began moving southward. The rebellion was strategically timed as the Houthis have fought several rebellions against Yemen’s government over the years but chose to attack this time because of a new sitting president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Unfortunately for Hadi, the country initially supported the rebels, who overran and seized the capital city of Sanaa in 2014.

The Houthis are Shia Muslims and have a close affiliation with Iran, the Middle East’s Shia bastion. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia largely adheres to Sunni Islam and views Shia power as a threat. Therefore, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen alarmed Saudi Arabia, prompting “Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states” to launch an air campaign in 2015 to end the rebellion and reinstate Hadi’s government. The United States, United Kingdom and France provided “logistical and intelligence support” for the air campaign.

Human Rights Consequences

The conflict in Yemen has come at a steep cost to human life. As of December 2021, Yemen notes nearly a quarter of a million deaths and 4 million displacements. Furthermore, about 24 million Yemeni people require humanitarian aid. Due to these dire statistics, many world organizations deem the situation in Yemen the “worst humanitarian crisis” in the world.

One of the most concerning developments to arise out of the conflict in Yemen is the use of starvation tactics. Human rights groups documenting starvation tactics in Yemen show that both sides use such tactics “as a weapon of war.” The Mwatana Organization for Human Rights and Global Rights Compliance, both human rights organizations, have records of Saudi airstrikes destroying water facilities and fishing vessels as well as farms.

In a report, the groups indicate that the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of air and seaports has slowed the flow of food into Yemen. Their reports also detail Houthi rebels denying civilians aid, which includes food. Specifically, the report says that “restrictions were so severe that they forced the World Food Program (WFP) to suspend its operations in 2019 and again in 2020.” The report also states that the rebels’ use of landmines prevents farmers from using their land productively.

The humanitarian cost of the starvation tactics in Yemen is astounding. In September 2021, in a plea for urgent funding from the international community, the United Nations warned that 16 million people in Yemen may face starvation. According to Henrietta Fore, the head of UNICEF, more than 11 million children in Yemen need humanitarian aid to survive and close to 400,000 children enduring “severe acute malnutrition are at imminent risk of death.”

Humanitarian Aid

Donors cut funding to the World Food Programme (WFP) in 2020, citing aid obstruction as their concerns. As a consequence, in April 2020, the WFP had to halve “food aid to every other month in parts of Yemen” under the control of the Houthis. However, donors took heed to U.N. warnings about the famine, and in June 2021, the WFP resumed monthly distributions to millions around Yemen. Since then, the WFP has taken extensive efforts to combat the effects of starvation tactics in Yemen.

The WFP says that despite barriers to access, it manages to provide humanitarian aid “to the vast majority of vulnerable people in the country.” The WFP is providing daily snacks to more than 1.5 million Yemeni students and nutritional support to more than 3 million “pregnant and nursing women” as well as children younger than 5. The WFP also provides food aid through food rations or cash assistance to purchase food.

Despite significant suffering in Yemen, there is no shortage of organizations eager to provide aid. With enough advocacy and aid, there lies a possibility to end starvation tactics in Yemen and bring an end to the conflict overall.

– Richard J. Vieira
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Peru
Compared to other countries, Peru has the worst COVID-19 death rate, with “nearly 6,000 deaths for every 1 million Peruvians.” On the other hand, the United States has recorded 2,400 COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people. When Peru reached 71 COVID-19 cases, it implemented strict lockdown restrictions on March 15, 2020. In fact, Peru was one of the first countries to take action against COVID-19. The Peruvian government closed the country’s borders and advised its citizens to refrain from leaving their homes unless they went to work or bought any necessities for their families. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Peru has continued to worsen, but some are taking action to help slow the problem.

Economic Challenges in Peru During COVID-19

Even with lockdown restrictions in place, Peru continued to see an increase in COVID-19 cases because people needed to leave their homes to survive. According to the World Bank, Peru has a poverty rate of 27%, which is about 2 million people. As a result, about 70% of the population have informal jobs that do not provide them with basic health care benefits, social protection or education due to the lack of legal recognition. Most street vendors, domestic workers and waste pickers only make about $100 a month, making it impossible to stay home because they need to work to afford necessities for their families.

Furthermore, 40% of households lack access to a refrigerator. Because of this, families do not have the option to stock up on food for a couple of days. To have enough food to eat in their homes, families need to venture out to busy food markets, a place where COVID-19 can easily spread among people. To illustrate, “when authorities shut down one of Lima’s more than 1,200 food markets and performed rapid discard tests on traders, 163 of 842 came back positive.”

Due to these economic challenges, the Peruvian government provided disadvantaged families “grants of around $200 each to help them weather the crisis.” However, people from the poorer areas of Peru do not have bank accounts, causing them to get their money by traveling to the banks in person. As a result, COVID-19 spread in the long lines people waited in.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Iquitos

One city that the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Peru most affected is Iquitos, a port city on the Amazon river that many refer to as an island. Many believed the pandemic would not reach the island because of how secluded it is from the mainland. However, unfortunately, COVID-19 reached Iquitos, and it did not have the proper equipment to treat people for the virus. The Loreto Province hospital consisted of 12 ICU beds, but it used seven of them as designated COVID-19 treatment beds. “By mid-May of 2020, that hospital was on the verge of collapse.” With increasing COVID-19 cases, hospitals began to use army cots to treat virus-infected patients.

The Challenges of Acquiring Supplies

Peru struggled with the pandemic because it did not produce its own medical supplies, causing it to rely on imports. When the pandemic first began, every country wanted to stock up on surgical face masks, ventilators and protective equipment to protect their citizens and stop the spread of COVID-19. Because of this, Peru had to compete against wealthy countries, such as the United States. However, it did not have the money to do so. Without any of the proper medical equipment, Peruvian doctors continued to help their COVID-19 patients any way they could. Unfortunately, the staff at the hospital worked long shifts with a single mask, causing many of them to get sick.

A Catholic priest and physician, Raymond Portelli, posted a request for donations on his Facebook page to invest in an oxygen bottling plant when he realized oxygen was the pivotal treatment to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Peru. Portelli’s fundraiser succeeded, which led him to buy four more plants for Iquitos. Moreover, “Peru also lacked the stable political leadership needed to address the crisis at home and negotiate for medical supplies from abroad.” According to Mariana Leguia, an infectious disease expert, Peru had four presidents in 2020. This made it impossible for the government to act on the medical, economic and social crises.

Garnering Vaccines

Although the FDIC has approved a COVID-19 vaccine for people 5-years-old and older, Peru’s vaccination rate is only 4%. “Peru has secured enough doses to vaccinate its population,” but it is waiting for the delivery of the vaccines to reach its country. Once Peru receives the vaccines, it will need to keep them at the correct room temperature. Luckily, UNICEF is helping ensure careful distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by “bolstering Peru’s cold chain capacity,” which includes social freezers and refrigerators. So far, UNICEF has provided Peru with 1,100 solar-powered freezers to store the vaccines.

Lastly, the World Bank Board of Directors allocated $68 million in loans to help strengthen “epidemiological surveillance and response capacity to public health emergencies in Peru.” By doing this, hospitals will be able to detect any new COVID-19 cases in a timely manner, helping them have a better response system towards any health emergencies. To add, in July 2021, the United States government decided to provide Peru with $36 million to afford new resources and 2 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. By doing this, the United States will help Peru’s emergency efforts reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Peru led to people not complying with lockdown restrictions because they needed to continue working to survive. Luckily, UNICEF, the World Bank and the United States are providing COVID-19 relief to stop the spread of the virus in the country.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Arab Spring
The term “Arab Spring” characterized a series of upheavals across the Middle East and North African regions (MENA) in which a surge of citizens defied their authoritarian governments. It all started in Tunisia in 2010 when a man set himself on fire in a demonstration against police corruption. Sudan joined the anti-oppression movement in an effort to eradicate oppression and poverty in Sudan soon after. Now, a decade and a new government later, the country finds itself in an ideal position to begin seriously addressing poverty in Sudan.

A Tragic History

For many years, the Sudanese have suffered the brutal dictatorship of an authoritarian regime. In 2003, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) took up arms against their government in Darfur. These groups launched attacks against government facilities and army facilities in an attempt to obtain more financial and democratic power for the citizens. The subsequent conflict became known as the Darfur Genocide.

Both Sudan’s government, headed by President Omar al-Bashir, and the movements that opposed it were non-Arab. This conflict led to the deaths of around 15,000 people and the uprooting of millions of citizens. Bashir created a country dichotomized into Arabs and Africans, as opposed to a country that acted as a home for all Sudanese people. These conditions laid the foundation for the Bashir administration’s oppression of the Sudanese people. In 2011, the stage was set for the Arab Spring in Sudan. As a result of these protests, violence erupted. Throughout, Bashir retained his presidency.

Economic Challenges

Poverty in Sudan and socioeconomic woes increased following July 2011, when South Sudan gained independence from Sudan after Africa’s longest-running civil war. Considering most oil fields prospered in the south of the country, the most significant price Sudan paid was the loss of oil profits. As a result, Sudan’s inflation went rampant, provoking major upset among the Sudanese. The younger generations found it exceptionally challenging to find a job. Instead of addressing these issues, Sudan used most of its resources for military purposes. Additionally, a drought worsened Sudan’s already restrictive agricultural policies.

The failure of the industrial labor market caused unemployment and poverty to spread. The absence of economic opportunity prompted Bashir to eradicate nearly all civil society organizations. As a result, human rights and labor units shut down. Conjointly, due to Bashir’s Islamic leadership, women experienced extreme restraints. Indeed, Sudanese people experienced their basic rights stripped from them and those they loved, leaving them with exceptionally limited freedom.

Poverty in Sudan prevailed when bread, a basic food, became unaffordable. Violence and economic struggles contributed greatly to the oppression of the Sudanese people. However, the loss of affordable access to the most basic aspect of life, food, triggered the people to rise up and demand change.

New National Solidarity

One catalyst driving the protests was the desegregation of the different factions of Sudan. New national solidarity arose in recent years with the hope of ending Bashir’s rule. It was no longer Arabs verse the Africans. One example illustrating this was the chants throughout the northern and southern parts of Sudan beginning in late 2018. Multi-ethnic protestors chanted “we are all Darfur” while Darfur’s protestors chanted “we are all Khartoum,” demonstrating solidarity across the different religions and ethnicities of Sudan.

As the protests gained momentum, many more joined in hopes of replacing the regime with a government that could recover some of the economic loss. Public opposition groups played a key role in even the poorest communities. This ensured that everyone’s voices were on display despite their economic status. Women also took to the streets to protest the mistreatment they had experienced over the years, proving that all segments of Sudanese society engaged and committed themselves to the revolution.

A Successful Revolution

Sudanese citizens again requested Bashir to resign, but he refused. The government reacted violently, murdering a number of protestors. This only served to further outrage and inspire demonstrators around the country. Finally, the opposition assembled peacefully outside Sudan’s military headquarters in Khartoum, the capital, demanding Bashir’s resignation.

Critically, the revolution attained military assistance despite the military being a fundamental pillar of Bashir’s rule. In the face of the massive scale of the uprisings, the military began wavering in its support of Bashir. Leaders eventually determined that self-preservation was the only choice, and the military deposed the dictator.

Sudan Today

Despite the success in overthrowing Bashir, poverty in Sudan remains a major issue. Some 36% of the population lives below the poverty line. Poverty in Sudan exacerbates other issues, resulting in approximately 1 million children experiencing global acute malnutrition.

Due to its perseverance, Sudan is experiencing rebuilding. Many organizations are addressing poverty in Sudan. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is assisting in the establishment of early childcare programs in Darfur, Sudan. Additionally, the organization is going through an appeal process to raise $211 million to assist in humanitarian efforts. Some of the targeted recipients include 7.4 million children and 2.5 million internally displaced persons. Another organization committed to aiding the next generation of Sudan is Save the Children. In 2020, it helped 374,000 children by addressing poverty in Sudan through nourishment, education, protection and crisis aid. Doctors Without Borders also aims to improve the severely-lacking health care in Sudan.

A Brighter Future

The Sudanese have always fought for human rights and against tyranny. They triumphed due to their tenacity, finally ending a dictatorship that lasted for 30 years. Now, with support from its international allies, Sudan is undeniably on its road to alleviating the effects of poverty.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr