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Impacted by HurricanesOn November 2, 2020, Hurricane Eta made landfall in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. As a Category 4 hurricane, it was the strongest hurricane to hit the Central American region in many years. Shortly after, Hurricane Iota hit. Thousands have died and many have experienced displacement. Since Central America is one of the poorest areas of Latin America, the U.S. is in a position to help alleviate the crisis by providing foreign aid to those impacted by hurricanes.

Poverty in Central America

Nicaragua is the second-poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, Nicaragua’s poverty rate sits around 15.1%. Geographically, the poorest area of Nicaragua is the Atlantic Coast of the country. Similarly, Honduras is an impoverished nation located north of Nicaragua. Honduras is also one of the poorest countries in Central America. Furthermore, Honduras’ geographical location leaves it exposed to extreme weather such as heavy rainfall and droughts. The most vulnerable, oftentimes rural and coastal populations, are susceptible to these intense weather changes. Neighboring countries of El Salvador and Guatemala are also impoverished nations with vulnerable populations. The increased climate disasters leave these populations at risk of death, poverty and becoming climate refugees.

Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota

On the eve of Hurricane Eta’s landfall, the Nicaraguan government evacuated around 3,000 families living in the coastal area. According to UNICEF, more than a million Nicaraguans, which also includes half a million children, were endangered by the hurricane. El Salvador evacuated people as a precaution and many of Guatemala’s departments declared a state of emergency.

Hurricane Eta made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm destroyed houses, hospitals and businesses. Widespread flooding and mudslides were responsible for the casualties across the region. Unfortunately, Hurricane Eta was not the only storm blasting through Central America.

Weather forecasters predicted another strong storm, Hurricane Iota. Also a Category 4 hurricane, Iota made landfall 15 miles south of where Hurricane Eta did just days prior. The hurricane further stalled the rescue efforts of the region. In Honduras, the hurricanes impacted around 4 million people with more than 2 million losing access to health care. Moreover, Guatemala had more than 200,000 people seeking shelter after the two hurricanes.

Foreign Aid to Central America

The Central American region is impoverished and vulnerable to natural disasters. Furthermore, many Central American nations depend on foreign aid from the United States. The countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (the Northern Triangle) rely on foreign aid from the U.S. to manage rural poverty, violence, food insecurity and natural disasters. Moreover, that aid has been reduced under the Trump administration. Since Donald Trump took office, the aid for these countries has reduced from $750 million to $530 million. In April 2019, Trump froze $450 million of foreign aid to the Northern Triangle, further diminishing the lives of many. Foreign aid keeps Central Americans from plummeting to extreme poverty and also curtails migration to the United States.

Congress Pleads for Foreign Aid

As Hurricane Eta ravaged through Central America, Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35) wrote a letter urging Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to increase foreign aid to Central America. Torres (CA-35) wrote, “Hurricane Eta was an unavoidable natural disaster, but its aftermath is a preventable humanitarian crisis in the making.” In addition, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), Eliot Engel (NY-16), also showed his support for increased aid to those Hurricane Eta impacted. Engel wrote, “a large-scale U.S. effort is needed to provide much-needed relief to those affected by Eta so that they are not forced to leave their countries and make the perilous journey north.”

USAID Provides Disaster Relief

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has agreed to increase aid by $17 million to the countries impacted by Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Studies have shown that foreign aid is a successful policy to reduce global poverty. Any aid given to these countries benefits the lives of those impacted by hurricanes in several significant ways.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Flickr

5 Ways Haiti Uses Its Foreign AidAccording to The World Bank, Haiti currently ranks as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Of its 11 million residents, more than half live in poverty and an estimated 2.5 million of that demographic live in extreme poverty, or on less than $1.12 USD a day. The Human Development Index metric assesses the development of a country based on the upward mobility of its residents. On this scale, Haiti ranks 169 of the 189 countries which have been analyzed.

In addition, Haiti has a history that demonstrates its vulnerability to natural disasters. In 2010, the country was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that claimed the lives of nearly 250,000 and displaced 1.5 million Haitians. Matthew, a category 4 hurricane, struck the island in 2015. The disaster claimed the lives of hundreds, displaced thousands and created a humanitarian crisis for over a million residents. The provision of foreign aid in Haiti has tremendously restored much of the damage incurred from these disasters. It has also been crucial in creating momentum in the nation’s development. The following are the five primary sectors in which Haiti has invested the $172.5M it has received in foreign aid from the United States.

Political Infrastructure and Democracy

Given its history of political instability, one of Haiti’s primary focuses is developing its democratic system and providing the means to facilitate the exchange of ideas between its government and constituents. To this end, programs have been instituted to improve the rule of law and the preservation of human rights, as well as investments in infrastructure, which provide mediums for constituents to interact with their political ecosystem. This comes in the form of developing media platforms and the formation of advocacy and interest groups. The country is currently in the midst of political gridlock, so the investments being made toward its democratic development are essential for Haiti’s development.

Economic Development

Like many developing countries, Haiti depends heavily on agriculture for economic output. To this end, the agriculture sector receives much of the aid allocated to economic development. Even with half of the Haitian workforce being employed in the agricultural sector, there is still a shortage of output. As nearly 60% of the country’s food supply has to be imported, there is still much room for development in this sector. Moreover, much of the remaining budgetary allocation that goes toward economic development is invested in infrastructure. This is absolutely essential in facilitating economic activity. This comes in the form of electric power lines and networks, gas stations, airports, railways, and more.

Administrative Costs

Every program instituted to carry out the functions necessary to assist in these developments requires manpower and infrastructure. Thus, it is paramount that a sizable percentage of Haiti’s foreign aid goes to this sector. This is the price of business in a developing country. Any given program or project requires personnel who need to be trained, housed and compensated. Furthermore, the housing programs require funding to compensate the contractors who build them and the cost of executing varying tasks. This expenditure can often be overlooked, but it is vital to development. Aside from the funding necessary to establish these programs, those who oversee these expenditures and evaluate the performance of the instituted programs receive aid compensation.

Humanitarian Efforts

The two natural disasters of the last decade have caused major developmental setbacks and internally displaced persons. Therefore, much of the foreign aid in Haiti goes into natural disaster readiness and the expenses involved in supporting those who have lost everything. It is through foreign aid that Haiti was able to house the 1.5M displaced individuals temporarily in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and again with the 188,000 displaced after hurricane Matthew in 2015. In 2020, this aid has helped Haiti battle not only with the health imperatives implicated by COVID-19, but in managing the increasing costs of its food imports. As a result of the pandemic, the global market put a premium on international trade, further straining Haiti’s budget.

Health Issues

Haiti puts the majority of its foreign aid towards health issues. These can include reproductive health, safe water supply, maternal and child health and now mitigating the spread of COVID-19. This investment of foreign aid has led to notable improvements in the state of these issues. An increase from 5% to 20% occurred in women being discharged with a long term contraceptive in place.

Additionally, access to potable water has increased from 43% to 59% in 2016 and there is an ongoing installation of proper sanitation facilities throughout the country. There has also been an increased effort to educate residents on the dangers of poor sanitation. The most pressing health issue that Haiti currently faces is the battle against HIV/AIDS; thus it demands the greatest allocation of aid invested in this sector. Roughly 160,000 Haitian residents live with this disease, and its spread is on the rise. However, through investments made in testing and treatment throughout the country, the progression of the rise in deaths and infections is slowing. Since 2010, deaths have decreased by 45% and the number of new cases per annum has changed from 8,800 to 7,300.

Haiti is a country where political turmoil, a struggling economy, food insecurity and considerable setbacks on all these fronts. Moreover, the results of natural disasters cause achieving a developed status to be difficult. However, foreign aid has played an essential role in Haiti’s recovery and in assisting in creating development momentum.

Christian Montemayor
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in MozambiqueThe provision of foreign aid from the United States serves as a multifaceted solution and preventative measure to many issues that ultimately impact the United States. In assisting with the development of under-resourced countries and those afflicted by natural disasters and conflict, the country’s interest in strengthening U.S. eminence in the global political ecosystem is served, as is the initiative to foster and stabilize democracies that are essential in maintaining global peace. Mozambique is one such country that receives aid from the United States. Nearly half of the population lives in poverty and while having managed to combat that statistic with an annual decrease of 1%, the country continues to see rising levels of inequality. USAID’s 2019 assistance investment in Mozambique totaled $288 million. Foreign aid in Mozambique is being used in several key developmental areas.

Developing Education

A significant portion of U.S. foreign aid has been invested in providing basic education. This foreign aid in Mozambique has been applied in conjunction with the country’s national budgetary allocation of 15% for basic education. This initiative has led to improved access to education with the abolishment of enrollment fees, an investment in free textbooks, direct funding to schools and the construction of classrooms. With access to education improving, Mozambique now moves to focus on developing the quality of education it provides and extending the initiative of improving access to those who are in the early learning stage. Only 5% of children between the ages of 3 and 5 have access to such services. Moving forward, educational initiatives aim to focus on the improvement of teacher training, the retention of students (as only 8% continue onto secondary level) and optimizing the management and monitoring of education nationally.

Addressing Humanitarian Needs

A large part of foreign aid in Mozambique has been committed to battling humanitarian crises. Cabo Delgado is the northernmost province of the country and is experiencing an insurgency that is decimating its infrastructure and food security. As a result, there is an ongoing displacement of the population. In November 2020 alone, more than 14,300 displaced people arrived in the provincial capital Pemba. The World Food Programme estimates the cost of feeding internally displaced people in northern Mozambique to be at approximately $4.7 million per month, aside from the housing costs and the complexity of managing the crisis amid a global pandemic. This allocation of the country’s foreign aid will be vital in maintaining the wellbeing of people during the conflict and restoring the country’s infrastructure once the insurgency has subdued.

Improving the Health Sector

The bulk of foreign aid in Mozambique goes toward the many challenges the country faces with regard to health issues such as funding family planning, battling tuberculosis, maternal and child health as well as water and sanitation. More than $120 million goes toward this initiative but the most pressing of the issues is mitigating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2014, Mozambique ranked eighth globally for HIV cases. With the support, antiretroviral therapy and testing has expanded, which is evidenced by more than a 40% drop in new cases since 2004. Additionally, with a sharp increase in the treatment of pregnant women who carry the virus, one study recorded a 73% drop in cases among newborns between 2011 and 2014. The executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, has claimed that the epidemic could be completely eradicated by 2030 if such a rate of progress continues.

The developmental progress in Mozambique is reflective of the substantial impact that foreign aid has on developing countries. As U.S. foreign aid to developing countries continues, the hope is for other well-positioned countries to follow suit.

– Christian Montemayor
Photo: Flickr

Prosper Africa helpsTwo direct consequences of the alleviation of poverty in a region are economic growth and bolstered purchasing power. For countries that invest in the development of a region, there is the potential that a two-way economic relationship begins once that region’s population gains the necessary financial strength to buy more expensive consumer goods. The relationship between the United States and Africa reflects this trend, especially with the start of the Prosper Africa initiative. Prosper Africa helps end global poverty, starting with Africa.

Africa’s Economic Potential

Despite having struggled with chronic poverty issues, Africa is home to six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world. With one billion potential consumers, Africa has the potential to become an economic powerhouse that can provide any international trading partner with a valuable destination for exports and a significant source of imports.

Seeing this opportunity, in 2018, the United States federal government launched the Prosper Africa initiative, which developed out of increasing requests by U.S. companies to have easier access to African markets.

With the oversight of the U.S. State Department and International Trade Administration, Prosper Africa offers U.S. and African businesses a wide-ranging set of economic tools such as access to financing, loan guarantees, insurance and business strategy advising. The program facilitates deals between U.S. and African businesses to foster a stronger two-way economic relationship between the United States and Africa.

Prosper Africa Shows Promising Signs of Success

According to a 2019 analysis by the Congressional Research Service, Prosper Africa has been implemented across the continent. Each U.S. embassy in Africa has created a team designated to fostering ties between U.S. and African businesses. Furthermore, the U.S. Development Finance Corporation has also launched an online point of access to the array of business tools that the initiative offers.

These efforts have had noticeable results across the continent. Since June 2019, Prosper Africa has facilitated more than 280 deals valued at roughly $22 billion in more 30 African countries, including Cameroon, Namibia, Sudan and Madagascar. These deals have been struck in sectors as diverse as healthcare, aerospace and financial services.

Prosper Africa helps countries in that it has also led to government reforms aimed at fostering a more transparent and efficient business environments in 10 African countries. These reforms ensure that small and medium-sized African businesses can access financial services and that governments can effectively implement necessary regulatory frameworks to govern business environments.

Ending Global Poverty is Beneficial for All

Prosper Africa helps Africa and the entire world because the fight against global poverty does not solely consist of one-way foreign aid investments. These investments have the potential to be the beginning of a healthy economic relationship between a developed nation and emerging economies. Once the United States takes the lead on an issue, the rest of the world follows. From addressing drug trafficking to addressing terrorism, the United States has shaped the focus of the international community on countless issues. Through Prosper Africa, the United States has the potential to lead the way once more and uplift the lives of billions in Africa.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

mexican avocadosMexico is the second-largest nation in Latin America with over 130 million residents. Mexico exports an abundance of fruits and vegetables but its number one export crop is avocados. Not too long ago, avocados were not the number one crop being exported from Mexico. Today, the economic impact of Mexican avocados has helped many people escape poverty.

Poverty in Mexico

According to the World Bank, in 2018 almost 42% of Mexicans lived in poverty, with the rural population being the most impacted. Moreover, around 62% of Mexican children make it to high school and only 45% graduate. To reduce poverty, Mexico has increased its social spending to help those in need. The Mexican government has implemented programs such as cash transfers, farmland subsidies, scholarships and subsidized medicine. These programs are put into place in the hope of reducing poverty in Mexico.

The Mexican state of Michoacan is one of the poorest in the country. A whole 46% of people in the state lived in poverty in 2018.  However, Michoacan is rich in agriculture. In fact, around 20% of the land is used for agriculture and the industry employs 34% of the population. Moreover, Michoacan’s most popular crop is the avocado.

The Avocado Industry Boom

Michoacan is the top producer of avocados not only for Mexico but for the entire world. Increased demand for avocados has created an economic boom in the country. Mexican avocados make up 82% of all U.S. avocado sales. Furthermore, Mexican avocados have created more than 30,000 U.S. jobs and have an economic output of $6.5 billion. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, avocado sales were flourishing.

The United States had banned the import of Mexican avocados in 1914 due to fears of insect infestation. In 1994, The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)  implemented between Mexico, Canada and the United States resulted in the ban being lifted. The agreement led to the free flow of Mexican avocados into the U.S. The company Avocados From Mexico (AFM) has sold 2.1 pounds of avocados in 2020 and expects 2.3 pounds to be sold in 2021. Mexican avocados have had such a great economic impact that they are called “green gold” by the locals.

Impact of Mexican Avocados

The increased demand for Mexican avocados has led to less migration of Mexicans into the United States. The competitive wages avocado farming has produced has meant many more Mexicans are willing to stay in their home country. The popularity of avocados has led to the creation of thousands of jobs in Mexico. Due to this fact, families do not feel the need to migrate to the United States for employment.

The demand for Mexican avocados has led to employment opportunities, less migration and closer economic ties to the United States. The Mexican avocado industry is playing a part in reducing global poverty.

– Andy Calderon Lanza
Photo: Flickr

Diabetes in MicronesiaFood and celebratory meals are the cornerstones of culture in The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The gradual change from traditional foods like fish and taro root to imported convenience foods has caused a rise in non-communicable diseases including diabetes and high blood pressure. FSM health officials attribute the rise of diabetes-related deaths to an influx of processed food. As of 2020, 463 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, with 90% of cases being Type 2. The FSM has the world’s highest percentage of diabetics by population in the world; a staggering 37.2 % of people have diabetes in Micronesia.

Type 2 diabetes can result in a host of life-threatening complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure and amputations. Furthermore, dialysis machines, used to support patients in advanced stages of the disease, are largely inaccessible in the FSM.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

The people of the FSM traditionally fished and farmed local crops before World War II. The remote location and minimal infrastructure called for physical work to produce food, balancing the intake of nutrients with exercise. After the war, the U.S. began to import food to improve relations with its strategically located allies in the FSM. Presently, up to 40% of imports are food items. For instance, Micronesia imports 12% of canned meat products.

Micronesians, like all people, particularly those in poverty, consider prices when buying food. The median household income was $7,336 as of 2019. At this time, most Micronesians earned a living in the agriculture, fishing and tourism industries. Today, a combo meal at a fast-food chain can range from $8 to $10, whereas a head of iceberg lettuce alone routinely tops $4 per head. Additionally, because the group of islands is remote, the cost of importing goods continues to rise.

In recent years, there has been a push to return to locally grown food. Increasing the production of domestic food will lower prices and increase the demand for healthier food. Ideally, higher demand for healthy food will decrease diabetes in Micronesia. Micronesians aim to invest in their agricultural systems and to improving their growing measures. For example, hydroponics will increase the availability of affordable produce.

Displacement and Diabetes

The effects of climate change in the FSM are becoming increasingly apparent. For example, seawater is damaging productive agricultural land at an alarming rate. Native crops like breadfruit and taro suffer from rising sea levels as saltwater leeches into their root systems, limiting crop-yields or rendering them inedible.

As climate change displaces people and increases the unemployment rate, it becomes even more challenging for Micronesians to afford basic necessities like healthy food. Unfortunately, the decrease in the supply of domestic produce also inherently increases dependence on imported food.

Additionally, many residents choose to relocate on account of rising sea levels. Otherwise, services like emergency food supplies and health care become inaccessible. Displaced people are also more likely to run into financial barriers. This obstacle leads to poor diets and ultimately overrides awareness and care of diabetes in Micronesia. Finally, diabetics often suffer complications including visual impairment and amputations, increasing the likelihood that they will fall into poverty.

Education is Prevention of Diabetes in Micronesia

Battling diabetes in Micronesia requires a multidisciplinary approach: doctors, nurses, teachers and healthcare workers must striving to educate their communities about the disease. Healthcare workers have focused their response on educating patients about the causes, symptoms and treatment of diabetes. Local health departments such as those in Kosrae provide ‘One-Stop Shops’ for vital bloodwork, wound care, vaccinations and dietary advice. The staff also works throughout the surrounding communities to educate people about obesity, tobacco and alcohol use, to provide vision and blood pressure screenings and to refer diabetics and pre-diabetics to specialty clinics for follow-up.

Educating patients about wound care and infection prevention has already lowered the incidence of amputations in some areas of the FSM. On average, a quarter of people with diabetes have some form of foot or lower leg ulceration during the course of their disease. Education and prevention are pivotal in improving the outcomes of patients who receive one lower-limb amputation. Currently, 21% of these patients need a second surgery. Thankfully many clinics and hospitals have focused on nutritional education, helping patients to improve their food choices and, in some cases, to reverse the diagnosis.

Katrina Hall
Photo: Flickr

Aid to AfghanistanThe period of 2018 to 2020 brought with it a series of difficulties for the people of Afghanistan, including droughts, floods and pandemics. A severe drought in 2018 impacted 95% of the country’s farmland and dried up crucial water sources. More than 250,000 people were displaced and at least 1.4 million civilians required emergency aid. Following the drought, 2019 had the opposite occurrence: heavy rainfall activated widespread flooding in nine provinces, impacting more than 112,000 people. These crises continue to be felt in 2020 as both old and new challenges exacerbate conditions for the poorest Afghans. Countries all over the world are pledging to provide aid to Afghanistan.

Conditions Affecting Afghanistan

  • COVID-19: In November 2020, Afghanistan documented 44,133 coronavirus cases and 1,650 fatalities. The socio-economic impacts have been extensive. Average household debt rose by 36,486 AFS (US$474) and the poverty level increased from 54% to 70%. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s economy is predicted to contract by at least 5.5% due to the 2020 impact of COVID-19.
  • Displacement: Nearly 286,000 Afghans at home and 678,000 abroad suffered displacement in 2020, bringing the total displaced to approximately four million. Internal displacement camps are rife with insanitation, poor healthcare, unemployment, limited potable water and food insecurity. According to estimations by the 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview, one million displaced people will require aid by the end of 2020.
  • Political Uncertainty: Political instability has been a mainstay in Afghanistan for decades and continues to trouble both citizens and the international community. Despite ongoing 2020 peace negotiations with the Taliban, fighting continues in the region. As a result, desperately needed health clinics have suffered closures and 35,000 Afghans were displaced from the Helmand Province in October 2020 alone.
  • Women’s Rights: Conditions for Afghan women and children have improved in recent years, allowing 3.3 million girls to receive an education. Additionally, women have experienced expanding opportunities for political, economic and social engagement. However, government participation is still strictly limited and women are still at high risk of violence.
  • Food insecurity: Afghan farmers still had not fully recovered from the 2018 drought and 2019 flood before the impact of COVID-19 on the country raised food prices, and with it, further food insecurity. Estimates warn that one-third of the population have already exhausted their savings and are in crisis levels of food security, with 5.5 million of them in emergency levels. However, farmers are hopeful that improved climate conditions will alleviate some of the damage done in previous years of difficulties.

2020 Afghanistan Conference

International donations fund at least half of Afghanistan’s annual budget. This is unlikely to change anytime soon, especially as COVID-19’s toll on the country’s economy also decreases government revenues. There was concern that the 2020 Conference would see a diminished aid pledge from Afghanistan’s largest donors, but the meetings that took place on November 24 secured a minimum of US$3.3 billion annually for four years contingent upon a review of Afghanistan’s progress in areas of peace, political development, human rights and poverty reduction. The United States is one such donor, pledging $300 million for 2021 and promising another $300 million worth of aid to Afghanistan if the ongoing peace talks prove successful. To this end, the “Afghanistan Partnership Framework” details the principles and goals of Afghanistan’s growth in peace-building, state-building and market-building.

Rebuilding Afghanistan

While some have expressed concern that the donations for aid to Afghanistan are not enough to cover costs and that the contingency requirements will be very difficult for Afghanistan to implement without compromises, there nevertheless is hope that tighter restrictions will prevent fewer funds from being lost to corruption. Despite the future challenges ahead of Afghanistan, Afghan leaders reiterated their commitment to “finding a political settlement that can not only bring an end to the suffering of the Afghan people but strengthen, safeguard and preserve the gains of the past 19 years.”

– Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in LibyaLibya has been a regular victim of severe flooding for many decades and the problem is only becoming more severe. Heavy rains have caused significant problems, with flooding and landslides in urban and rural areas making day-to-day life infeasible for thousands.

Flooding in Al-Bayda, Libya

On November 6 2020, Al-Bayda, Libya, experienced torrential rains and extreme flooding, resulting in the displacement of thousands. High water levels on public roads have made daily commutes impossible for many. Additionally, the floods have left thousands without electricity and have greatly damaged properties.

The flooding of 2020 is reminiscent of the flooding in the Ghat district in 2019, which affected 20,000 people and displaced 4,500. In June of 2019, flooding devastated areas in south Libya and damaged roads and farmland.  Central infrastructure suffered unrecoverable damages, setting the region back. Areas prone to disaster are significantly limited in their progression and development when devastation is so frequent.

Flooding and Poverty

The pattern of flooding in Libya has consistently contributed to problems of economic decline, poor infrastructure and poverty. As one of the most common natural disasters, flooding impacts impoverished areas more severely because their infrastructure is not built to withstand floods or landslides.

Poor countries take a long time to recover from the impact of flooding because they do not have the resources and money to repair property damage and help people to bounce back from the effects. War-affected countries are even more vulnerable and Libya is such a country affected by war and conflict.

Within the country, a two-day holiday was declared on November 9 and 10 of 2020 due to the extreme flooding and $7 million has been allocated to address damages in Al-Bayda municipality.  Since the flooding, there has been little recognition and support from the international community.

Humanitarian Aid

A humanitarian aid team from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operation (ECHO) assembled to provide aid to support the city of Al-Bayda and other cities vulnerable to flooding in Libya. The team worked to gather information and identify what resources are most needed to help families get back on their feet and be better prepared for future severe flooding and weather. Cleanup efforts are ongoing and teams started using satellite imaging and other data-collecting resources to help assess and plan for resource distribution.

The Need for Foreign Aid in Libya

In response to Libya’s chronic vulnerability to severe flooding, in 2019, the U.S. Government provided nearly $31.3 million to address the humanitarian needs of conflict-affected populations throughout Libya. Since the floods are ongoing, ongoing assistance is needed. Proactive and preventative measures need to be implemented in response to the devastating pattern of flooding in Libya. These are expensive investments, however, and Libya cannot implement these preventative measures alone. Help from the international community is crucial in order to create a more resilient country.

– Allyson Reeder
Photo: Flickr

Efforts to Combat AIDSAcquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has plagued the world since 1981. The global AIDS pandemic has infected more than 65 million people around the world since its arrival, with more than 30 million deaths from AIDs-related causes. The impact of AIDS has resulted in a worldwide effort to discover methods to treat and cure the disease. To date, significant progress has been made in the fight against AIDS. However, more needs to be done and the United States has shown continued commitment to support efforts to combat AIDS globally.

AIDS and the Global Poor

While AIDS is a global problem, it has disproportionately affected poorer regions since its arrival. Africa in particular has a significant number of people living with AIDS. Out of the 1.7 million newly infected people around the world in 2019, 990,000 people resided in Africa alone. The disproportionate numbers in poorer regions as compared to wealthier nations could be attributed to lack of quality healthcare and preventative education. However, continued efforts are being made to address the global AIDS pandemic.

Congressional Efforts to Combat AIDS

The United States has been a leader in progress against the AIDS pandemic. It has made significant efforts to contribute its resources to fight the AIDS pandemic, and tangible results have emerged. For example, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (or PEPFAR) has contributed over $85 billion since its inception in 2003 to AIDS research and prevention, thus preventing millions of infections.

The United States Government has indicated that it has no interest in slowing down support for the cause through efforts to combat AIDS. For example, the Global Health Programs section of Title III in House bill H.R.7608, the State, Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Rural Development, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2021 specifically outlines Congress’ plans for AIDS-related contributions in the coming years.

Introduced by Rep. Nita M. Lowey [D-NY] on July 13, 2020, the bill appropriates more than $3.2 billion for USAID through 2022. A portion of these funds will be devoted to programs for the prevention, treatment and research of HIV/AIDS, providing assistance to communities severely affected by HIV/AIDS. The bill also appropriates more than $5.9 billion through 2025 for HIV/AIDS research, prevention and treatment efforts, including a $1.56 billion contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. This all coincides with the billions of dollars already spent in the last decade to combat AIDS globally.

AIDS Progress

As with most issues, funding and resources are necessary to make progress in the AIDS pandemic. The vast majority of new infections occur in countries and regions with weaker finances, poorer healthcare and less quality education, such as Africa and Southeast Asia. It is easy to see that these efforts by the United States and other wealthy nations are invaluable to progress. A particular stride made thus far is that the cost of AIDS treatment drugs has decreased from $10,000 a person to $100 a person in the past 20 years. This has allowed more than 8 million people in impoverished regions access to AIDS treatments. This particular result could be attributed to years of research that the United States and other nations have contributed billions of dollars to maintain. Continued funding will improve the good work that has already been done, such as furthering cost reduction measures on AIDS-related drug treatments as well as further quality education on prevention strategies in regions where AIDS education is sparse.

With continued support and efforts to combat AIDS from wealthier nations such as the United States, even greater strides can be made in combatting AIDS globally.

Domenic Scalora
Photo:  Flickr

Women’s Rights in Djibouti and What the US is Doing to HelpGenerally speaking, many inequalities exist between men and women in Djibouti. Men make up the vast majority of the national workforce. Women have a very low proportion of representation in government compared to men. Historically, the state permitted many forms of unjust treatment for women. In recent years, the Djiboutian government has made many strides in improving the lives of women through legislation, the ratification of international treaties and the cooperation with foreign governmental agencies. In spite of these improvements, quite a bit of work remains in order to assure women’s rights in Djibouti.

Women in the Workforce

Djibouti’s constitution, ratified in 1992, states that all people are equal under the law regardless of sex, language, origin, race or religion. Nevertheless, large gaps exist between men and women which is particularly evident within the workforce. Only 19% of women are employed, compared to 81% of men. According to the Labor Code and Penal Code, all people are protected from discrimination when seeking employment. It is illegal for employers to take into account one’s gender when hiring and is punishable by imprisonment and fines. Furthermore, employers are required to pay men and women equally for equal work.  In spite of these legal protections, labor restrictions still exist for women. For example, women are restricted from working a job that is considered above their strength. This frequently excludes women from jobs that include any manual labor. Thereby, it contributes to 19% employment rate.

Domestic Issues

When it comes to domestic issues, obstacles stand in the way of women having equality within the family. For example, men can request a divorce without the burden of evidence. However, for a woman, she must surrender any financial rights and sometimes even pay her spouse damages. Furthermore, the high illiteracy rate of women in Djibouti (61%) causes women to have minimal access to justice, information regarding their rights and legal assistance. In terms of domestic violence, the penal code only criminalizes violence generally. However, it does not provide specific legal protections from domestic violence. Rape is a violent act and punishable under the law. In spite of this, marital rape remains taboo and is rarely prosecuted.

Gender-based Violence

Gender-based violence (GBV) is another women’s rights issue in Djibouti. The Djibouti federal government has taken many administrative and legal actions to outlaw gender-based violence and reduce its occurrence. The Ministry of Women and Family collaborates with the National Union of Djiboutian Women (UNFD) to combat gender-based violence. This collaboration advocates for better legal protections for women and also provides counseling services to victims of GBV.

One of the greatest obstacles for women in terms of GBV is female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C). Many legal instruments are in place that aims at eliminating FGM/C such as Article 333 of the Penal Code and the establishment of the National Committee for the Abandonment of FGM/C. However, FGM/C is still a common practice. As of 2015, an estimated 71% of women and girls were victims of FGM/C. In order to respond to the continued practice of FGM/C, the Ministry of Women and Family released the National Strategy for the Total Abandonment of FGM/C 2018-2022. This plan aims to use radio, television, door-to-door campaigns, school curriculum and high-profile publicity strategies to effectively and quickly eliminate the practice.

How the U.S. Is Helping Djiboutian Women

USAID, through a grant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), began a two and a half year program entitled “Women’s Empowerment and Community Strengthening.” This plan aims at empowering impoverished women in suburban and rural areas through skills-strengthening strategies.

This program has three primary goals: to improve the capacities of the Ministry of Women and Family, to bolster women’s income-generating skills and to promote new women’s cooperatives. A relatively small-scale operation, the program plans to provide about 850 women with the skills to engage in small-scale economic activities. Some of the program’s successes include the donation of raw materials and equipment to women creating handicrafts. It also includes providing literacy courses to women in national languages and supporting artisan fairs where women can showcase their crafts.

This program through USAID is certainly a step in the right direction in improving women’s rights in Djibouti and the ability to earn income. However, a larger-scale program would do even more to help. In light of the efforts of the Ministry of Women and Family and the more recent structural and legal protections, the future looks hopeful for Djiboutian women.

Alanna Jaffee

Photo: Flickr