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How to Help People in Central African RepublicThe Central African Republic (CAR) is ranked 188 out of 188 countries in the 2016 United Nation’s Human Development Index. Its ranking is determined by markers of income inequality and life expectancy. Its rank speaks largely to the estimated 2.7 million citizens in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, its half a million citizens internally and externally displaced resulting from years of civil conflict and violence and the absence of basic infrastructure.

Bearing in mind CAR’s long road towards social, political and economic recovery, many ask the question: how to help people in Central African Republic? Three agencies worth considering are the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and International Rescue Committee (IRC).

  1. U.N. World Food Programme
    The WFP strives to strengthen communities within CAR with short-term and long-term approaches. In the short-term, the WFP distributes food for the internally displaced in shelter communities and local populations. In the long-term, the WFP has a quid pro quo approach in that the organization will supply food for the participation of local populations in rebuilding and repairing community infrastructure. It is estimated that through food, cash and vouchers the WFP has reached up to 305,000 people in the CAR, with plans to reach at least 700,000 by the end of this year. Specialized nutrition packages for pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children, as well as management of the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), also fall under the scope of the WFP.
  2. United States Agency for International Aid
    Earlier in July it was announced that the World Food Programme received a $11 million donation from the USAID in assisting the growing hunger issue in Central African Republic. Reportedly, this aid will help bring food supplies to approximately 550,000 people through CAR. Importantly, the U.S. Fiscal Year 2017 published that in response to CAR a total of $57,580,923 would be made available.
  3. International Rescue Committee
    Since 2006, the IRC has been assisting in Central African Republic by providing emergency funds, rebuilding educational infrastructure for children and working to recover clean water sources for communities. Amongst many other forms of assistance, the IRC has outlined its priorities until 2020 to achieve its short-term and long-term goals in CAR. Currently, its primary goals are to achieve widespread health, safety, education, economic sustainability and helping the displaced regain their decision-making agency. Moreover, its gendered approach to its solutions sets the IRC apart from many agencies, as the IRC has a special focus on underscoring its dedication to gender equality in its relief programs.

These three standout organizations have made great efforts to mitigate the humanitarian crisis in Central African Republic. In asking how to help people in Central African Republic, civil society members can volunteer their time, donate money or help connect businesses that are willing to help with these international agencies. Undoubtedly, pulling CAR out of its long plight is no easy feat, one that requires the attention of the public and private sector. Yet, with these agencies and the CAR’s problems gaining international traction, there shows to be steady progression being made. How to help people in Central African Republic largely relies on a steady influx of international aid and successful mechanism of peacebuilding.

Sydney Nam

Blockchain Technology and PovertySince its conception, blockchain technology has become widely synonymous with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. However, the utility of blockchain comes not necessarily from its manifestation in online currency but the nature of its security and accessibility. These two features are what make blockchain technology and poverty so interlinked. It holds promise as a secure and equalizing tool for the world’s poorest and most rural.

The inner mechanisms and mathematical coding of blockchain are highly complex. The principle is simple. It is a public ledger, stored and spread across multiple networks in countries around the world, making an impermeable information network. The decentralized nature of the data stored on blockchain allows for its application across all sectors without risk of disruption.

Significant to alleviating poverty, blockchain technology’s secure nature allows for it to be used as a financial services platform. In both urban and rural areas of developing countries, banks can be hard to come by, expensive to set up an account in and somewhat unreliable.

Cryptocurrency services can be scaled up and down to be incorporated into everything from the most basic phones to the world’s most sophisticated smartphones. This cryptographic technology would allow its users to send money directly to other individuals without a middleman or “trusted third parties” which take a percentage as a fee for its services and can be largely inaccessible.

Estimates suggest that by 2020 over 70 percent of the world will have access to smartphones. With financial technologies such as blockchain services, there is a real chance for those in rural or economically unstable countries to secure themselves without huge risk. Blockchain technology and poverty could have a progressive and important relationship.

By using cryptocurrencies or internet-money, individuals in financially insecure nations can take steps to avoid financial vulnerabilities, such as fraud or hyperinflation. M-PESA, a mobile money-transfer and micro-loan financing company, operates all across Africa and in parts of central Asia. Numbers from early 2017 suggest that M-PESA’s user base allowed approximately 186,000 families, two percent of Kenyan households, move from poverty into sustainable working conditions.

Blockchain’s financial services allow for mass participation in the most remote parts of the world. A wide range of business owners can build financial credibility. Currently, Chinese pharmaceutical companies receive assistance from Yijan, a blockchain created by IBM and Hejia, a Chinese supply management company.

Significant and notable players on the international landscape are quickly getting involved in blockchain techniques. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Level One Project aims to use digital financial services to bring the impoverished into the formal economic ecosystem, providing them with the tools necessary for financial mobility.

In early 2017, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) incorporated blockchain technology and cash-based transfers into its humanitarian aid outreach in Pakistan. By using mobile-transfers, the WFP ensured that those in need were receiving financial aid without the risk of the disruption possible with cash-based aid. The technology-based transfers also allowed for the WFP to streamline its tracking system. Since the success in Pakistan, the WFP has chosen to expand blockchain to other humanitarian efforts.

These are a few of blockchain’s many applications. Its reach and potential as a tool for poverty alleviation are great, especially if utilized jointly by governments and NGOs. Although it may be no panacea, the incorporation of blockchain technology may be a significant macro approach in solving the systematic issue of poverty. Blockchain technology and poverty disruption may be one of the most exciting aspects of the new digital age.

Sydney Nam

Poverty in Mali
As the 12th poorest country in Africa, Mali has remained poverty-stricken for many years. Malnutrition issues, lack of education and conflict are the main causes of poverty in Mali.

The average wage in Mali is $1.25 per day, and more than half of the population currently lives below the international poverty line. This contributes to Mali being one of the least developed countries in the world. The average life expectancy of adults in Mali is 55, due to malnutrition and the lack of access to clean water.

Mali is mostly self-sufficient in the food market. Many people work on farms in order to grow crops to provide for their families and communities. Mali faces many issues involving its climate and landscape. Two-thirds of Mali is desert, meaning that immediately, droughts become a serious issue. With poor soils, millions find it difficult to grow the crops they need and due to low wages, they are unable to buy what their family demands. As a result, malnutrition becomes a leading issue and is the main factor of poverty in Mali.

Poor education facilities across the country have led to poverty across Mali and as poverty heightens, the level of education deteriorates further. School enrollment is currently at 67% and across the country, the adult literacy rate is 38.7%. This is one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, as the global average stands at 86%. This figure shows that the level of education needs to be higher, which means that facilities need to be improved and the level of teaching must be higher.

The current conflict is adding to the problems revolving around poverty in Mali as over half a million families are affected. As the conflict continues, Malians are fleeing to neighboring countries in seek of asylum. Families continue to live in poverty as food shortages continue to be an issue. As people are moving away from Mali, they are not earning enough money to provide their families with what they need.

The United Nations World Food Programme is aiding Mali by providing nutritional support to those who still live there. In 2013, around 125 thousand people were provided with food support in the north of the country. Others in the south are also aided while they work on community-building projects. The program is helping to provide citizens with money to buy fresh vegetables and meat, which not only helps to provide for families but also to boost the local economy.

Georgia Boyle

Photo: Flickr