Aid to Turkey and Syria
On February 6, 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southeast Turkey and northern Syria collapsing more than 6,500 buildings and destroying neighborhoods. The earthquake has become the worst disaster in Turkey’s modern history. As a result of this natural disaster, dozens of countries and humanitarian organizations across the globe have mobilized to send assistance and aid to Turkey and Syria in their times of need.

Humanitarian Organizations

Turkey, a country with the largest refugee population in the world, is home to an already vulnerable population in the exact towns where the earthquake struck. With 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey, many humanitarian groups and aid organizations are already familiar with these areas. Many old and new humanitarian organizations have stationed themselves in and sent aid to Turkey to help rescue and slowly rebuild the nation:

  • Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS): This foundation serves on the front and in hospitals providing emergency medical treatment to those in need. Focusing on neurological procedures, SAMS performed 43 surgeries involving head, nerve and spinal injuries. It also provided $1.2 million of supplies to hospitals in need.
  • United Nations: The U.N. has launched a humanitarian appeal of $1 billion for the nation of Turkey. It intends the funds to aid 5.2 million people in the country and will help provide food security, education, shelter and water. Simultaneously, the UNHCR is on the ground in Turkey providing urgent assistance by providing thermal blankets, sleeping mats, winter jackets and other relief items, Time reports.
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC): The IRC has sent more than 1,000 staff to Turkey and Syria for support. It has provided cash assistance and financial support to organizations in Syria and Turkey. It is also providing households with essential items like hygiene kits for women, towels, blankets and much more. The organization also provided two mobile health teams providing care to those in need.

Foreign Aid and Resources

Many countries have sent aid to Turkey and Syria in their time of need. Different countries are providing help in various forms. Some are sending teams and dogs to help rescue people from the rubble, others are sending money and many are sending physical resources.

Germany has offered temporary visas to victims of the disaster whose families are already living in Germany. It also sent search and rescue teams to the countries. The EU has sent search and rescue teams from 19 different countries. China has sent $5.9 million to Turkey along with an additional $200,000 to both Syria and Turkey.

Thousands of individuals went to Turkey and Syria as part of rescue and medical teams from various countries including the United States, Switzerland, the European Union and the Czech Republic. Tons of supplies like medical supplies, tents, food and emergency equipment have gone to the two countries from supporting countries across the globe including Algeria, Australia, Iran and Pakistan. In terms of financial aid, countries like France, China, Malaysia and New Zealand have sent hundreds of millions of dollars.

Moving Forward

While aid to Turkey and Syria is still an immense need due to the destruction caused by the earthquake, the global community has offered support and come to the aid of those affected. From humanitarian organizations like the United Nations to more than 32 countries globally, the response to this disaster has shown that the people of Turkey have the support of those around the world.

– Kellyjohana Ahumada
Photo: Flickr

Period poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina
When it comes to feminine hygiene, many people bow out of the conversation. It tends to be a forgotten issue because of the taboo nature of the problem. Period poverty refers to the struggle that many women go through when they cannot afford to buy feminine hygiene products. According to MedicalNewsToday, period poverty is affecting more than 500 million people globally as of 2021. Period poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina is very much affecting thousands of women and girls throughout the country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country located in the Balkan region with a population of around 3.2 million people. Along with its seemingly shrinking population, it is also a very rural country, with 60% of the population living in rural areas. These rural people are also twice as likely to be poor compared to a citizen who lives in a city. Poverty in this country is nothing out of the ordinary. According to Brookings, in 2015, 15% of people in the country could not afford “basic life essentials.” According to the World Bank, 50.8% of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population is female as of 2021. This leaves thousands of women and girls in the country at a disadvantage when it comes to being able to regularly afford sanitary products.

Period Products and Salaries

Period products are expensive. According to Bosnia’s Statistic Agency, the average salary of an average citizen in Bosnia and Herzegovina was just about €575 a month. A tax on tampons exists in many countries in the Balkan Region that many people have called on government agencies to address, as it has become difficult for many women to afford these products. In Croatia, for example, there is a 25-cent tax on tampons. On average, women in this country spend about €25 on period-related items such as sanitary items and painkillers each time they get their period.

The United Nations

The lack of access to these products makes it difficult for girls to attend school. Access to period-related products allows more girls to go to school and feel comfortable in their environments without the distraction of menstruation.

In the coming school year, the U.N. has teamed up with schools in Bosnia’s Sarajevo Canton to provide access to sanitary pads and menstrual health to students in order to shrink the effects of period poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The name of the campaign is “Za naše dane u mjesecu/For our days every month.” This initiative’s goal is to provide wider access to sanitary products and create awareness of this taboo issue that many people feel uncomfortable talking about. The U.N. wants to make sure that no one has to miss school days due to their period. With the launch of this new initiative, the country hopes to see fewer social inequalities because of menstruation.

How Always is Using Its Platform

Always also launched an initiative called #EndPeriodPoverty to combat the challenges that many girls face. The brand found that since the outbreak of COVID-19, “one in three girls feel less confident because they have missed school activities because of period-related issues.” The brand has teamed up with retailers to donate its products to countries in need with purchases of its products at participating retailers. It also launched the hashtag to bring awareness to this issue so people can post under the hashtag to their followers to make others aware. Though Always does not have a specific campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the brand’s initiative is fighting period poverty on a global scale.

Moving Foward

Period poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina seems to be shrinking with the help of these different initiatives. The U.N. campaign started in September 2022 and will continue through the school year until May 2023. Through this campaign, countless school-aged girls will gain access to the necessary products and education to ensure a hopeful school year and end the stigma and shame surrounding menstruation.

– Olivia MacGregor
Photo: Unsplash

Smart Farming
In many parts of the world, communities hugely rely on the success and yield of various crops to feed and financially support their inhabitants. As both weather patterns and air temperatures continue to fluctuate, smart farming could offer opportunities to adapt to those who these situational changes affect the most.

What is Smart Farming?

Smart farming is the use of various new technologies to allow farmers to improve both the quality and quantity of crops. This includes the use of AI, Wi-Fi-enabled machinery and drones. The use of such technologies could help improve productivity and lead to more sustainable farming practices.

Why Do Farms Need To Become Smart?

The Paris Agreement states that countries worldwide should reduce global emissions by the year 2030 to minimize the changing weather patterns. As environmental conditions change so too will farming. A number of these changes could impact farming including soil degradation, temperature differences and changes in rainfall and weather patterns, negatively affecting the productivity and yield of crops. In the face of this feedback loop of unsustainable farming leading to unsustainable environments, research suggests that technological advancements are necessary to break the cycle.

In the current global system, those principally responsible for environmentally damaging practices are not necessarily the ones that weather patterns affect the most. It largely falls on already disenfranchised communities, such as those living in the Global South, to bear the brunt of others’ pollution.

Smart Technologies 

Smart farming is just one example of the kinds of smart technologies which are increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives. From watches to fridges, more of the things that surround us are using Wi-Fi. This growing digitization is known as the Internet of Things.

In the context of smart farming, digitization could allow farming technologies to effectively communicate with one another using sensors and automation to adapt to light and moisture levels in real-time, according to IoT For all. This leads to a huge increase in the efficiency of the farming practice and a much higher yield for farmers.

Agricultural Drones Offering Opportunities

Agricultural drones are a growing example of the kinds of technologies people will use on farms in the coming years. Drones are currently able to conduct imaging and monitoring of crops, however, Global Data explains that by 2030 drones will also be able to conduct advanced crop spraying and terrain monitoring.

According to the U.N. smart farming offers huge opportunities for communities that are struggling with the adverse effects of fluctuations in weather and climate. The donation of and investment in smart farming technologies provides communities with a long-lasting solution. Unlike food donation, an approach used in traditional foreign aid strategies, investment in these technologies would grant communities greater autonomy and provide them with a future-focused solution.

The Use of Agricultural Drones in Nigeria and Malawi

One strong example of the use of smart farming to improve access to food is in the West African nation of Nigeria where people use drones to plan design and construct rice irrigation systems. Using the drones on a farm near New Busa, situated 700 km from the nation’s capital Abuja, enabled farmers to adopt irrigation and drainage systems to the natural landscape. The resulting rice paddies were much more efficient leading to greater crop success and more food for both sale and the local community.

Malawi is a Southeastern African nation that has been facing big consequences of the recent droughts. High-precision drones and weather station data have been used to accurately predict crop yields. These images were then used by researchers to help devise solutions for the 80% of Malawi’s population who make their living as small-hold farmers.

– Florence Jones
Photo: Flickr

North Korean Defectors in China
Every year, thousands of North Korean nationals attempt to escape their home country, fleeing from poverty, famine, forced labor and political persecution. Many smuggle into China, as it represents the best chance of escape in comparison to the highly guarded South Korean border. Unfortunately, once in China, defectors are hardly safe. The questionable legal status and vulnerability of these North Koreans make them uniquely susceptible to human trafficking, sex slavery, forced marriages, prostitution and more. These rampant human rights violations in China happen across the country, leaving hundreds of thousands of victims suffering in silence.

Living Conditions in North Korea

For many, the living conditions in North Korea are so grievous that they would rather take their chances in China than stay. According to the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, North Korea has detained “an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 persons in political prison camps and an undetermined number of persons in other forms of detention facilities, including re-education through labor camps.” Regularly, authorities hold these citizens without any formal criminal charge, trial or conviction. Reports also indicated many cases of detention of accused persons’ family members.

Inside the prison camps, everyone from children to the elderly is “subject to forced labor, including logging, mining, manufacturing or farming for long hours under harsh conditions.” Children get little to no access to education and all prisoners face routine beatings, sexual assault, unhygienic living conditions and insufficient food or medical attention. Closing its borders, North Korea made it impossible to gauge exact numbers, but many do not survive this treatment.

Even outside detention facilities, living conditions are bleak. Since the Arduous March of the 1990s, millions of North Koreans have died from starvation. Largely attributed to a Stalinist economic system and Russia and China’s halted food and oil subsidies to North Korea after the Cold War, this period of sweeping destitution caused a massive spike in migration. Though the estimated rates of defection have slowed since then, starvation is still an issue across North Korea and a prominent reason for an escape to China.

Life in China

The pervasive human rights violations North Korean defectors face in China are appalling. Victims face sexual assault and kidnapping and are often part of perpetually abusive situations. A 2019 report by Korea Future Initiative alleges that tens of thousands of North Korean women and girls become a part of the sex trade and sale–an industry that generates roughly $105 million annually.

This report also revealed that “an estimated 60% of female North Korean refugees in China are trafficked into the sex trade. Of that number, close to 50% are forced into prostitution, over 30% sold into a forced marriage, and 15% pressed into cybersex,” according to Forbes.

Prostitution in China reportedly accounts for about 6% of China’s GDP. Cybersex trafficking is becoming a more prevalent issue, with girls as young as 9 years old becoming victims in front of cameras live-streaming to a global audience.

Forced marriage has long been a practice of abusers of this vulnerable population. China’s “long-standing one-child policy and penchant for sons have resulted in a massive gender imbalance, making it challenging for Chinese men to find wives.” The physical and psychological abuse of “bride trafficking” that victims face is often overwhelming.

What is more, victims of these atrocities are unable to speak up. A simple recognition as a North Korean national has dire consequences, primarily due to China’s ruthless repatriation policy. If Chinese authorities discover them, they forcibly return trafficking victims to North Korea, “where they are subject to harsh punishment, including forced labor in labor camps, torture, forced abortions” or even executions, according to the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report. Many choose to endure the conditions in China rather than face retribution from their native country.

Legal Gray Area

The legal status of North Korean escapees is a major contributor to their unique vulnerability. They are typically classified between categories in international law that divide migrants into “deserving and undeserving groups–forced or voluntary, political refugee or economic migrant, trafficked or smuggled.”

North Koreans usually want to leave their country, making them arguably complicit with their smugglers. Therefore, many perceive them more like ‘economic migrants,’ defined as “smuggled” instead of “trafficked.”

The U.N. Protocol on Trafficking calls on governments to protect the victims of trafficking. However, as China classifies North Korean defectors as economic migrants, they do not make any protective efforts, instead opting for their notorious repatriation policy.

Refugee protections would almost certainly benefit these defectors. However, the U.N. defines a refugee as a person who has “fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and has crossed an international border to find safety in another country.” This definition does not include economic migrants, meaning that North Korean defectors do not apply the protections a refugee gets either.

However, according to UNHCR, the same people that China deems “economic migrants” could arguably be considered refugees “sur place” given the “well-founded fear of persecution” and grave consequences they would face upon their return.

All said, there is no perfect classification of North Korean defectors in China, leaving them to fall between the cracks of international law. With no protections, nowhere to turn for help and no resources, their abusers are free to act without consequence.


Some organizations have taken steps to help address these atrocities. The All-China Women’s Federation, an NGO headquartered in Beijing, has established ongoing projects to address and “alleviate the problem, including, in four provinces, the establishment of transfer, training and recovery centers” that have assisted more than a thousand victims to date. China has also hosted a number of Children’s Forums in Beijing to raise awareness for child trafficking, and in 2007, the government agreed to a Plan of Action Combating the Trafficking of Women and Children. 

Nonprofit organizations around the world, such as Crossing Borders and Liberty in North Korea, have done what they can to assist North Korean refugees. However, they are facing pushback due to China’s 2017 Foreign NGO law. The U.N. has called for this law to be repealed, stating it “can be wielded as tools to intimidate, and even suppress, dissenting views and opinions in the country,” E-International Relations reports.

While it is a relief to see governmental and non-governmental organizations taking steps to address this complex and distressing issue, advocates are calling for increased attention and an international response. Some North Korean escapees, such as activist Yeonmi Park, have amassed broad followings by sharing their harrowing stories. By uplifting the voices of these survivors and demanding action, the global community can make a vital difference in the lives of these individuals.

– Carly Ryan Brister
Photo: Unsplash

War on Drugs in Latin America
The “War on Drugs” is an international focus that began in 1961 when the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs recommended countries adopt punitive measures for drug charges. Prohibitionist efforts to eliminate illegal drug use intensified 10 years later when U.S. President Richard Nixon announced his war on illegal drugs, which he deemed “public enemy number one” on June 17, 1971.

After this, the U.S. took the lead in the war on drugs, leading international drug-control efforts such as halting the harvesting of the sacred Incan coca plant and criminalizing product consumption. These efforts mainly impacted Latin America, specifically Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, which are the main cocaine producers. Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean are the distributor countries that funnel drugs into Europe and the U.S. These Latin and Central American countries have experienced community and environmental damage, as well as an increase in violence and corruption because of the war on drugs. Even when levels of drug production in one country decrease, production moves to another country, a phenomenon called the “balloon effect.”

The war on drugs in Latin American countries weakened the economy, environment and overall safety and well-being of citizens. As new progressive leaders in Latin America gain power, Latin America begins the work of creating less punitive measures for drug offenses with the hope of ending the war on drugs.

The Need for Change

The “war on drugs” harms the national development of “narco-economies” and infringes on human rights, through forced labor and torture, the absence of fair trials and the right to a clean and healthy environment. Ending the war on drugs in Latin America is an important step because it frees up Latin American resources to focus on reparations for human rights violations.

Policies created during the war on drugs negatively impact marginalized communities. For example, women serve in prison for drug-related offenses at a higher rate than men, even though women with drug offenses are often non-violent and first-time offenders. These policies have also led to the use of harmful practices such as racial profiling. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention conducted a study released in 2021 on the “war on drugs,” which found that the war resulted in mass incarceration, disproportionate sentencing, abusive use of the death penalty and extensive human rights violations. The UN system Common Position on drug policy states that drug use and dependency are not to be treated as a criminal matter, but as a health issue that should be treated using public health education, mental health support and rehabilitation and reintegration programs.

New Leadership, New Policies

The main voice for ending the “war on drugs” in Latin America comes from the new Colombian President Gustavo Petro, a progressive leader of the state whose focus is peace in Latin America. Petro calls for a reversal of anti-narcotics efforts like ending the criminalization of coca growers and instead focusing on prosecuting the criminal organizations that profit off of drug trafficking.

Colombia, as well as Cuba, Norway, Venezuela and now Mexico, are all guarantor countries participating in the process of peace with the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN). The recruitment of countries to participate in ending the war on drugs in Latin America is a large focus for Petro, who joined a conference of leaders in Latin America at the National Palace in Mexico to announce reforming Latin American drug policy. After the conference, Petro announced on social media that “concrete agreements” were made in regard to development, sovereignty, migration and integration.

Looking Ahead

During Colombian President, Gustavo Petro’s appeal to the world to end the “hypocritical war on drugs” at the U.N. general assembly in 2022, he called out the world’s obsession with carbon, oil and money, which has led to deforestation and the destruction of Latin American stability and health. Petro announced a new time of peace in Latin America, because, in Petro’s own words, “without peace with the planet, there will be no peace among nations. Without social justice, there is no social peace.”

President Gustavo Petro represents a new age of progressive leaders whose focus is to repair the damage to the environment and citizens due to the war on drugs and the climate crisis. His efforts have gained the attention and support of the Puebla Group – made up of progressive Latin American leaders – and The Global Commission on Drug Policy, an organization of cultural and political leaders whose goal is to push reforms for international drug control by using responsible regulation.

With the support of these groups and leaders, economic, social and environmental justice will be at the forefront of future policy creation. Ending the war on drugs in Latin America is no easy task, as it involves creating a nurturing, supportive society for those addicted to and involved with drugs. However, it is a crucial step that must be taken to reverse the climate and humanitarian crisis created by the war on drugs.

Moving forward, the U.N. Human Rights Council requires drug policies to cohere with international human rights laws. Moreover, countries are to provide technical and financial assistance to drug policy to ensure that they protect fundamental freedoms and human rights. In addition, current drug policies are to be replaced with a restorative justice approach involving support rather than punishment for drug offenses. With these policy changes and the focus of dedicated world leaders like Colombian President Gustavo Petro, ending the war on drugs in Latin America is an achievable reality.

– Arden Schraff
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Palestine
According to a 2021 report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), only 5% of the population in Palestine is 60 or older. The World Bank reports that Palestine’s poverty rate stood at 27.3% in 2021, a decrease of around 2% from the previous year when the economy deteriorated as a consequence of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elderly people have an increased risk of falling into poverty and the absence of adequate social protection systems exacerbates this vulnerability. The U.N. states that “in most countries, the risk of poverty increases with age.” OECD countries’ data from 2015 indicates that people in the age category of above 75 report poverty levels higher than those in the 66-75 age group. In 2017, the prevalence of elderly poverty in Palestine stood at 27%, equating to 5% of Palestine’s total number of impoverished persons.

4 Facts About Elderly Poverty in Palestine

  1. Uneven distribution. Elderly poverty in Palestine is not evenly distributed across the country. In fact, according to data gathered in 2017 by the PCBS, the percentage of older people living in poverty in the Gaza Strip stood at 47%, which is almost 29% more than in the West Bank. The Gaza Strip notes higher poverty rates in general due to the now 15-year-long Israel-led blockade of Gaza, which has brought severe economic and humanitarian consequences to Gaza.
  2. Low education levels contribute to elderly poverty. Slightly more than 40% of the elderly in Palestine have no educational attainment. Given the relationship between education and economic well-being, this could be one of the factors affecting the financial stability of older individuals in the country. Moreover, lack of education significantly affects the transmission of poverty from generation to generation and education is often a key determinant of financial success. PCBS data from 2019 shows that illiteracy rates are highest among the elderly age group of 65 and older.
  3. Lack of economic independence increases vulnerability to poverty. Another significant fact about the demographic profile of older individuals in Palestine is that only 13% of them engaged in employment in 2018, with a stark contrast between the West Bank (16%) and Gaza (7%). This suggests that a large majority of the elder community is not financially independent, making them more vulnerable to poverty. As a matter of fact, senior citizens in Palestine typically depend on other family members to meet their needs.
  4. Health and disability. Approximately 48% of Palestine’s elderly had to deal with at least one impairment or disability in 2020. Mobility difficulties are the most common, followed by visual impairments. In addition, “33% of the elderly in Palestine suffer from at least one chronic disease according to a medical diagnosis (36% in the West Bank and 27% in Gaza Strip).” For elderly people living in poverty, a lack of access to essential goods and services could easily exacerbate health conditions, PCBS reports.

Looking Ahead

A lack of adequate social safety nets exacerbates elderly poverty in Palestine. In 2020, following the negative impacts of the pandemic on the country, the U.N.’s Joint Sustainable Development Goal Fund, the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO) worked with the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development to improve the social protection system. The Joint SDG Fund says, “While the existing Palestinian social protection system is among the most advanced in the region, it is not sufficient to address the needs of the most vulnerable groups.” The collaboration aims to strengthen the social protection system and make it “more inclusive and accessible to older people, particularly women.”

In June 2022, Palestine’s GDP rose by 1.1%. A stronger financial performance may improve the living standards of the population overall.

– Caterina Rossi
Photo: Unsplash

Economic Empowerment
One of the goals of decreasing global poverty is tackling historical inequities that disadvantage certain groups in society. Local, national and international institutions work to empower women in the economic sphere to bring together a variety of groups in society. Four agencies within the United Nations began a partnership to focus on economic empowerment for women in rural regions.

A new phase of the Joint Program: Accelerating Progress Toward Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment (JP RWEE) launched in March 2022 at the 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. This program is a collaboration between five agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., the International Fund for Agricultural Development, U.N. Women, the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the World Food Program (WFP). As the breadth of involved agencies suggests, the program aims to build economic empowerment for rural women in the agricultural sector by increasing their ability to obtain resources and services enabling them to succeed in their own livelihoods. The intended result is a decrease in poverty in rural regions as women unify in communities and combat historically limiting social norms.

Phase 1

The first phase of the JW RWEE was launched in 2014 and ended in 2021. The focus regions were Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger and Rwanda. Results indicate that economic empowerment goals succeeded in raising agricultural production by 82% and assisting about 80,000 women. The new phase of the program also seeks to improve the lives of rural women through sustainable development. 

The program is part of the larger 2030 Agenda to improve poverty in rural communities. Initiatives within the program include improving food security, increasing the income of rural women, strengthening skills in leadership and community and promoting gender inclusivity to complement the goal of economic empowerment. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Swedish International Cooperation Agency provide funding.

Phase 2

The second phase of the program will focus on Nepal, Niger, the Pacific Islands, Tanzania and Tunisia. Norway and Sweden donated $25 million toward the initiative. In October 2022, one component of the program began in Tanzania. Over the course of five years, the program will cost $5 million and will target the provinces of Singida, Dodoma and Zanzibar in Tanzania. In that nation, subsistence farming contributes 80% of women’s income. Thus, the five-year JP RWEE will deliver economic empowerment in the form of agricultural assistance to provide resources and skills to combat changes in climate and leadership.

In Africa, the first phase of the JP RWEE assisted Ethiopia, Liberia, Niger and Rwanda. The new phase of the program will continue to assist the country in gender equality and economic empowerment. In addition, all countries in Africa agreed to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and many also agreed to the African Charter on Human and Women’s Rights. However, despite these efforts, women in Africa still continue to face discrimination on a regular basis. The African Union’s ten-year strategy for gender equality lasts until 2028, but leaders have expressed their commitment to reinforcing gender equality across the continent beyond that timeframe.

– Kaylee Messick
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Moldova
Human trafficking in Moldova is a particularly serious issue that corruption and the coronavirus pandemic have worsened. The U.S. State Department assigns different tiers to countries in its 2021 Trafficking in Persons report, with Tier 1 countries being the ones that have been most resistant to human trafficking through prosecution, prevention and protection for victims. Moldova is listed as a Tier 2 country.


Moldova’s classification demonstrates that the nation has taken steps to address the issues of human trafficking while not being entirely compliant with U.S. State Department guidelines. Moldova has begun “prosecuting more suspected traffickers, developing a new national referral mechanism (NRM), open[ed] a center for male trafficking victims, and commence[ed] construction of a center for child victims and witnesses of crime, including trafficking.” However, while human trafficking has been an interest of the Moldovan government, COVID-19 has severely undermined new prosecutorial programs as many state employees are “working remotely” and “In March 2020, the government closed courts and did not reopen them until June 2020.”

Secondly, corruption has been a significant limiting force to prosecutorial and preventative efforts. Specifically, even though government employees had received accusations of complicity in human trafficking, the government did not investigate or prosecute anyone. Unfortunately, Moldova failed to meet various “minimum standards” that the State Department set, as authorities in Moldova have recently “investigated, convicted, and identified fewer trafficking victims overall.”

UN Aid and the Centre

Luckily, the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) has taken steps to protect Moldovan human trafficking victims and to aid them in reassembling their lives. Beginning in 2003, the IOM  implemented a “comprehensive Prevention and Protection Programme.” The primary agent of this mission is the Assistance and Protection Centre, which acts as a refuge center for trafficking victims. The Centre offers an incredible array of services to victims of human trafficking in Moldova, including medical, psychological, social, legal and recreational aid.

Personal Stories From the Centre

The IOM also presents a variety of personal stories relating to the Centre and gives examples of how donated funds may help aid victims. For instance, the IOM webpage on the Moldovan Centre relayed the story of Natalia, whose traffickers offered domestic work in Turkey before they kidnapped her and forced her into providing sexual services. The IOM also indicated how funds can help people like Natalia repair their lives, specifically in regard to obtaining copies of documents and relevant records necessary for employment and travel. The IOM also identified how funds can aid victims materially, specifying that “A donation of US $250 will buy clothes and shoes for a victim like Natalia.”

This type of assistance is especially significant considering that many of Moldova’s trafficking victims in the past have been young migrant women lured with fake passports from neighboring regions such as Romania and Ukraine, and the program previously installed to train Moldovan-Ukrainian border checkpoint officials to screen for signs of trafficking ended in 2016. Trafficking victims are not only often victims of poor migration infrastructure but also of prejudice, as “The undocumented or stateless population, including the Romani community,” are especially at risk.

The 2022 Trafficking in Persons report on Moldova concludes that of 312 identified trafficking victims, traffickers trafficked 277 for the purposes of forced labor, and the majority of victims were girls. Despite the limits of Moldovan intervention, the IOM reported fantastic results, claiming that it and the Centre aided 3,403 victims, including 337 children by the end of 2017. This is a noteworthy result as Moldova only reported “341 trafficking victims” in 2019.

Looking Ahead

Evidently, human trafficking in Moldova is a multifaceted issue without simple solutions, however, work that international organizations such as the IOM and its affiliated programs have provided helps victims of human trafficking in Moldova to recover a semblance of stability in their disrupted lives. Corruption and the COVID-19 pandemic have evidently hindered Moldova’s efforts to combat human trafficking, which demonstrates the necessity of international intervention through aid.

– Braden Hampton
Photo: Flickr

MySDG Foundation
The United Nations in Malaysia and the Malaysian government have launched the MySDG Foundation and MySDG Trust Fund to combat poverty and further the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Poverty in Malaysia

The need for the government and other agencies to step up against poverty may be because of the step back Malaysia faced recently. This need is not only from normal obstacles that tend to cause economic hardship. The COVID-19 pandemic has also been one of the main struggles for Malaysia recently.

In 2019, the incidence of absolute poverty in Malaysia was 5.6%, recovering from 7.6% in 2016. However, the devastation and hardship from the pandemic caused it to increase to 8.4% in 2020.

Malaysia’s Partnership

Malaysia’s partnership with MySDG Foundation and MySDG Trust Fund has shown its commitment to the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 which is stated as a “collective blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” The SDG agenda could also be a strategy that changes or helps many different sectors. The agenda aims to work towards improving health care, education, security and many other topics, while also improving the environment and promoting eco-friendliness.

This new coordination showcases the “whole-of-nation,” approach among the U.N.’s great contributions to many countries and their work toward sustainable development for them. The global goal for the U.N. is for people everywhere to have peace and for poverty to end while still protecting the earth’s environment.

The Malaysian government’s work with the MySDG Foundation and other groups to combat poverty shows how cooperation and partnerships can go a long way to resolving issues. 

The Formation of the MySDG Foundation and MySDG Trust Fund

Because of the need to further the agenda, the government formed the MySDG Foundation. The aim was for the Foundation was to help the government work on improving the economy and preserving the environment and the sustainability of Malaysia’s people.

One way the MySDG Foundation aims to provide aid is through the MySDG Trust Fund. Funds will go through the Trust Fund and then undergo dispersal between the government’s SDG projects/programs. The money will also go to other participating nonprofits, civil society organizations and U.N. agencies, which also have the same SDG agenda or partnerships as the Malaysian government.

The starting funds were RM 20 Million ($4,319,187.99), kicking off this cooperation in 2021. However, the initial start date of the foundation was January 27 and listed the founder as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Summarized Goals by the Ministry of Finance

The Malaysian Ministry of Finance was able to summarize the objectives of the fund as targeting struggling sectors first. The Ministry stated that “It also aims to fulfill financing gaps and facilitate joint initiatives by various stakeholders to translate SDG aspirations into practical actions through effective multi-stakeholder collaboration.” The Ministry also commented on supporting the SDG agenda and not making decisions until having consultations from many levels and parts of different sectors that they are working on.

The official portal of Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance also lists those involved with the project like the Board of Trustees, explanations about the experts for the different sectors, the founders, the U.N. agency segments in the collaboration, the committees and a donation fund link that is coming soon.  

Future Outlook

The ultimate goal is to revive the Malaysian economy by having the MySDG Foundation and funds to combat poverty. The showcase of the U.N. collaboration and the opportunity for other private and public companies to help towards a common good radiates hope for the people of Malaysia and elsewhere. The sustainability the workers of this fund want for the Malaysian people will bring them out of poverty but they hope that they will be able to continue to protect the earth’s environment too.

– Marynette Holmes
Photo: Unsplash

Hurricane Ian
In the midst of the most powerful hurricane in nearly a century, Cuba’s Antonio Guiteras thermo-electric power plant lost power leaving 11 million without electricity. By Monday, October 3, 2022, reports stated that some of the island had regained power, yet large numbers of Cubans were still in the dark. Much of the island has experienced a subsequent water crisis as the plant is responsible for pumping fresh water across the island. Hurricane Ian produced winds upwards of 150 mph, leaving two dead and 20 unaccounted for. As authorities scramble to recoup in the wake of hurricane Ian, many have been wondering what is next, and when the state-run power grid will be up and running for all.

Dismay in the Eye of the Storm

On Tuesday, September 27, 2022, Hurricane Ian hit Cuba as a Category 3. It impacted the city of Pinar del Rio the hardest. Winds of up to 125 mph battered the western part of the island, damaging some of the most important tobacco farms in La Robaina. Agriculture is the main industry in the island nation and damage to this farm could result in further deprivation, as the circulation of goods is already slow. Cuba’s power outages have grown more frequent in the previous months, with a dated electrical power system, and blockage of income from tourism, the country’s stability is teetering.

The country depends on its export of medicine, and medical practitioners, as well as tourism and remittances, to remain somewhat secure. The COVID-19 pandemic left the country in a desperate economic state, with the closure of tourism, and President Trump’s new restrictions on Western Union transfers introduced in November 2020. Now Russia’s war in Ukraine has blocked tourists from dispersing their usual flow of hard currency in the country. Russians made up 40% of the tourists visiting Cuba in 2021, but the war halted flights back to Russia overnight, and along with air travel, a flow of touristic income has ceased to exist.

Upside and Solutions

Luckily, the Cuban model of disaster relief is much more advanced than the U.S. The U.N. has called the Cuban system “A Model in Hurricane Risk Management.” However, the factor that makes this model so advanced is education. Cubans learn how to prepare for a storm from a young age and receive warnings well in advance when a hurricane is approaching. This leads to fewer deaths overall as people flee the area of impact well before the storm arrives. Moreover, people are knowledgeable about how to prepare for hurricanes, and they take absolutely nothing for granted.

The U.N. reported that “All institutions are mobilized 48 hours before the hurricane hits the island, to implement the emergency plan, and measures such as massive evacuation are taken.” Unfortunately, much of this initiative has occurred out of necessity. Due to the authoritarian government, Cuba’s actual poverty data is hard to come by, but in 2020, the population was indirectly estimated to be at a poverty level of 41-50%. With the country in a dire state due to the pandemic, increased sanctions, and now trade issues with its global partner, individuals have often been on their own.

Global Solutions

Cuba is set to receive 1 million Euros in Aid from the EU. The storm damaged an estimated 100,000 homes, leaving many in need of housing. This act of solidarity by the EU will help the island nation recoup in the wake of the disaster. While government sanctions have still been largely hindering the country from receiving donations, Catholic Relief Sevices, in partnership with Caritas Cuba, has found a way around the blockade to get vital, non-perishable goods, water and supplies to people who need them.

– Shane Chase
Photo: Pixnio