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Foreign Aid to ChinaForeign aid to China has played a crucial role in combating poverty. China stands as a long-term receiver and donor of foreign aid due to its rapidly growing economy and desires to sustain its international power. However, China receives less foreign aid than before due to its current classification as an upper middle-income country, with various international relations implications.

General Aid to China

Since the revolution in 1949, foreign aid to China has increased bilaterally and multilaterally, supporting social reform and development initiatives. In terms of foreign relationships and support, international organizations, such as the World Bank, still support China by investing billions in various development projects in transportation, public administration, water and sanitation, agriculture and more.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has also focused on poverty relief in China. For instance, in partnership with the Alibaba Group, the UNDP launched the Rural Taobao project in 2014, which established e-commerce platforms in rural areas to provide access to goods and services that were previously unavailable. This public-private sector collaboration has helped many people in rural areas sell their products online and has created job opportunities for local residents.

Special Projects

Like other countries, China has also received foreign aid from various countries and international organizations, particularly in the aftermath of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. For instance, in May 2008, the Singapore Red Cross provided support worth S$150,000 to victims of the Sichuan earthquake, including assistance to meet the shelter, food, water and health care needs of 120,000 people in Lushan county.

In addition to responses to natural disasters, USAID has supported a range of poverty reduction projects in China, such as improving access to clean water and sanitation, supporting the development of small and medium enterprises and strengthening civil society organizations. However, the United States has reduced its foreign aid to China over the years.

This is due to the increasingly tense bilateral relationship between the world’s two superpowers and related geopolitical implications. Instead of having a much larger investment realm, the U.S. has focused aid on Tibetan communities, rule of law initiatives and climate change policy, particularly in areas where international attention and humanitarian assistance are crucial and localized, as these programs align with the values and interests of the United States.

The decision to provide foreign aid to China depends on various factors, including the specific development needs of China and the donor country’s priorities and resources.

Aid From China

In recent years, China has become a large donor of foreign aid itself, particularly to developing countries in Africa and Asia. Since 2000, China has spent $843 billion on bilateral aid, financing 13,427 bilateral aid projects in 165 countries, making it the biggest new player in this domain. The 2021 version of China’s approach to foreign aid and development priorities document “offers high-level principles that China claims to ascribe to.”

Although some concepts are carried over from previous papers, the 2021 version expands on the vision “articulated by its predecessors,” with “many of its new terms seeming to be in direct response to recent critiques of China’s flagship push to fund physical and digital infrastructure overseas through the Belt and Road Initiative.”

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a global infrastructure development strategy the Chinese government proposed in 2013. The initiative aims to connect Asia, Europe and Africa through a network of roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure projects, with the goal of promoting economic development and trade. According to the World Bank, the initiative involves more than 70 countries and represents more than “one-third of the global trade and GDP and approximately 60% of the world’s population.”

The BRI is controversial, with some countries accusing China of using it to expand its global influence and engage in “debt-trap diplomacy.” However, proponents argue that the initiative has helped to reduce poverty and boost economic growth in participating countries.

A Significant Role in China’s Development History

Foreign aid has played a significant role in China’s development history, with foreign aid to China increasing bilaterally and multilaterally since 1949. However, there has been a significant downward trend in foreign aid to China as China has become a key donor of foreign aid itself.

– Scarlett Ren
Photo: Flickr

Food Safety in Ethiopia
SafeDish is an Ethiopian company behind an award-winning, innovative product that inventor Helen Weldemichael created. Targeted toward making it easier for a local Ethiopian banana-esque plant to undergo processing for consumption, the product helps improve food safety in Ethiopia as a way of combating food insecurity and malnutrition. While doing so, Weldemichael is also empowering female entrepreneurship in Ethiopia.

Foodborne Illnesses in Ethiopia

Foodborne illnesses are of very big concern in countries like Ethiopia. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Ethiopia’s citizens are susceptible to foodborne illnesses. With an economy dependent on agriculture, foodborne illnesses are of particular concern in Ethiopia. 

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, foodborne illnesses have a greater impact in lower-income countries like Ethiopia. These types of illnesses in Ethiopia have a strong resistance to antibiotics, making it hard for people to receive treatment for them. This alone makes food safety in Ethiopia a top priority.

Also worsening the problem of food safety in Ethiopia is how food choice for some is dependent on whether or not they perceive their food sources as clean. A study of adolescent food choices in Ethiopia by CGIAR found that unaffordable, unavailable and unsanitary food choices may lead to more children eating packaged food, which is not good for their health.

The Potential of Enset

Enset is one Ethiopian plant that people use in the production of traditional foods. Dubbed the “false banana,” Enset is a solution to food insecurity in Ethiopia and the world. Merely 15 enset plants can feed one person for a year, according to Kew Gardens.

Despite this potential, harvesting enset is particularly challenging, especially in some regions of Ethiopia. USAID reports that women tasked with harvesting the plant often do so with their bare hands and feet, which is a risk factor for foodborne illnesses. Enset must also undergo fermentation to make it edible, a process that usually takes nearly a year.

Weldemichael’s Solution

Weldemichael created an enset fermentation pot and machine via her company SafeDish as a way of making the enset harvesting process easier. The product speeds up the fermentation process to allow the enset to become edible sooner. It also promotes a more hygienic fermentation process since her fermentation method uses peat, as opposed to the ground, where people often leave the enset plant to ferment.

She submitted her invention to USAID’s “Feed the Future EatSafe Innovation Challenge” with the intention of sharing her invention with people beyond her country. Her invention was successful, winning the $10,000 grand prize.

With her prize money, Weldemichael plans on expanding SafeDish and her enset product. USAID says she plans to “scale her business by seeking investors, selling other food products across Africa, and trademarking her innovation in Ethiopia and other African countries.”

Weldemichael also mentioned education as a priority, stating that people can change their communities if they receive an education. As a female inventor herself, Weldemichael emphasizes women’s empowerment in her work. Of the total of four SafeDish employees, two are women. Products like Weldemichael’s invention and companies like SafeDish continue to prove why local businesses can find some solutions to issues relating to poverty.

Mohammad Samhouri
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Fighting Poverty in Ethiopia
The nationwide famine in the 1980s and the genocide in the Tigray region have plummeted Ethiopians into extreme poverty and put the country at the center of international media attention only temporarily. In 2015, more than 23 million people lived below the poverty line and the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the challenging conditions. Civil War, poor health and social services and passive ignorance from the international community have reinforced families’ constant economic struggle and disrupted efforts of fighting poverty in Ethiopia. Despite the efforts to drive record economic growth and industrial advancement, more than 5 million people are still in need of aid in the Tigray region.

How USAID is Dealing With the Issue

To address this problem, USAID funded Livelihoods for Resilience (L4R) through the Feed the Future initiative, a five-year project that helps the government of Ethiopia solve chronic food insecurity through sustainable solutions.

L4R builds on the practices of its predecessor program, Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development (GRAD). This program provides Ethiopian households with agricultural and financial skills, loans and startup capital to fight extreme poverty in the country. The program has reached more than 97,000 households in Ethiopia. Furthermore, L4R encourages families to join the government’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) with the generous support of USAID’s Feed the Future program. PSNP gives access to participants to microfinance, means to improve on – and off–farm productivity, and enhance links to markets. The program also advocates for women’s empowerment and improved nutritional practices, which proved to be important in to fight against poverty.

Village Economic and Social Associations (VESAs), which local villagers established, further support the beneficiaries through diverse strategies, that focus on gender equity issues, financial literacy, nutrition and resilience towards climate change. USAID published a report in 2015 that stated that GRAD is the most cost-effective investment they have prosecuted in Ethiopia, with an 84% increase in family income and a 40% reduction in weather-related crop loss, according to CARE.

Personal Experiences

Feed the Future documented a lot of personal stories during the duration of the program showing the success of L4R. Wondater Agajalew, who joined Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Program years ago, says how much he profited in a short period and went from extreme poverty to making decent revenue from shoat fattening. The skills he acquired from the USAID-funded programs have encouraged him to escape hardship due to recurrent crop loss because of unpredictable weather.

Another inspiring story describes how Menze Gera’s and her family’s life transformed through L4R. Now their children can enjoy a more nutritiotious diet and a fulfilling and secure social life. Similar stories demonstrate how these programs have entirely changed the lives of ordinary people, given hope for the better and subsequently enhanced measures for fighting poverty in Ethiopia.

Model for a Successful Effort

These people’s participation in the L4R activity for the past couple of years has generated many positive changes. They have received training on the knowledge and skills necessary for financial decisions and improved practices in agriculture, poultry and gender equity.

L4R serves as a model for a successful effort in tackling such a complex issue, such as fighting poverty in Ethiopia and further demonstrates the need for strategic financial foreign aid and thorough media coverage of the matter. By launching the Feed the Future initiative in Ethiopia, the U.S. Government has invested in improving food security, expediting economic growth opportunities and building resilience. It has modernized agriculture and established various national-level development strategies that support Ethiopia’s goal to “become a prosperous, middle-income country by 2025.”

– Nino Basaria
Photo: Flickr

River Blindness in the Americas
Three decades ago, river blindness in the Americas stood as a major concern. However, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) by the end of February 2023, “the region of the Americas [had] largely eliminated the disease, with remaining local transmission only in some areas of the Amazon.” Following tens of years of efforts, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Guatemala successfully eliminated river blindness between 2013 and 2016, thanks to the work of several key organizations. The near-elimination of river blindness in the Americas has also brought economic benefits by decreasing the financial and social impacts of ill health.

Onchocerciasis/River Blindness

Onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness, is a parasitic disease that transmits to humans through the bite of infected Simulium blackflies. These blackflies typically breed in fast-flowing rivers, commonly found in rural areas.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), symptoms of river blindness can include extreme itching, skin disfiguration and in severe cases, visual impairment. Currently, no vaccine exists to protect against river blindness. However, the ivermectin drug, when administered on a six-month basis for 12 to 15 years, can prevent transmission of the disease.

The Impacts of River Blindness

Classified as a Neglected Tropical Disease, most of the people infected by river blindness (about 99%) live in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in rural areas that are prone to poverty.

River blindness is a debilitating disease that can hinder human progress in more ways than one. Some of the socio-economic impacts it can have are increasing hunger and poverty, causing vulnerability to other diseases and hindering education.

A study led by Caitlin Dunn and others, published in 2015, states that, in particular, river blindness exacerbates poverty by reducing agricultural yields, increasing medical expenses and decreasing worker productivity. To avoid river blindness infections, in Africa, for example, people resort to relocating to less fertile areas, which reduces their agricultural productivity and impacts overall income.

Those infected by river blindness face higher medical costs, the burden of which pushes people further into poverty through medical debt. Besides the usual symptoms such as severe itching or skin disfiguration, the disease also weakens the immune system, making one more susceptible to other illnesses too. This places a significant financial burden on those living in poverty.

River blindness can also reduce people’s ability to work and earn an income due to fatigue, pain and visual impairment. This leads to lower incomes and impacts children’s learning abilities at school.

Fighting Against River Blindness

One of the first programs with the goal of tackling river blindness began in West Africa in 1974. The Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) underwent implementation in 11 countries including Ghana and Senegal. At first, the program utilized vector control methods such as spraying insecticides in areas where blackflies transmitted river blindness. It later included ivermectin distribution to aid treatment.

According to the WHO, the OCP “relieved 40 million people from infection, prevented blindness in 600,000 people and ensured that 18 million children were born free from the threat of the disease and blindness.” Furthermore, people reclaimed “25 million hectares of abandoned arable land… for settlement and agricultural production, capable of feeding 17 million people annually,” the WHO website says.

In an effort to bring forth similar results in the Americas, the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas began in 1992. OEPA’s main goal was to halt the transmission of river blindness in 13 endemic areas via mass drug administration of ivermectin. The program received great support from the Carter Center, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and others.

OEPA and similar initiatives saw significant success, according to the Carter Center. Overall, 11 of the 13 endemic areas in the Americas have successfully eliminated river blindness transmission. In 2013, WHO declared Colombia the first country in the world to be free of the disease. Ecuador, Mexico and Guatemala followed soon after.

Looking Ahead

The WHO estimates that river blindness in the Americas currently still affects 28,000 Yanomami Indigenous people who live in parts of the Amazon between Brazil and Venezuela. They continue to receive ivermectin treatments via OEPA.

River blindness elimination programs have seen great success. The programs not only combat diseases but also improve the productivity and quality of life of people living in poverty. According to the World Bank, programs like OCP and OEPA have an economic rate of return of more than 15% annually. Therefore, contributing to the fight against river blindness can mean investing in poverty reduction and economic growth.

– Siddhant Bhatnagar
Photo: Flickr

Future of Ukraine
The future is often war’s largest casualty. For some 8,000 Ukrainian civilians and 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers who have fought to preserve their homeland, the future no longer exists. Nearly 14 million civilians are now disconnected from their homes. The future of Ukraine stands on a knife’s edge; however, a year after Russia’s invasion, there is at least a future to discuss. Moreover, there is a growing consensus that Ukraine’s recovery requires planning right now.

Economic Devastation

On February 23, 2023, the United Nations called for an immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukrainian territory. Although Putin, known for his violations of international law, will almost certainly ignore the resolution, it does beg the question of what a post-war Ukraine would look like. As a result of the war, a third of the country lives in poverty, with another 60% at risk of falling into poverty should the conflict continue. The war has destroyed $100 billion of infrastructure and forced 50% of businesses to close.

Marshall Plan for Ukraine?

Given this financial and physical devastation, one may wonder exactly what the future of Ukraine is. Participants during the Davos 2023 Summit discussed that rebuilding the country would require a recovery program comparable only to the Marshall Plan after World War II. With that plan, the United States contributed the equivalent of almost $200 billion to western Europe in aid. A Marshall Plan for Ukraine would cost three times as much as the original and would have to overcome the hesitancy of nations like the U.S. to further involve themselves in the country.

Estimates for Recovery

In September 2022, the World Bank, the European Commission and the Ukrainian government place the recovery estimate at $349 billion, of which around $100 billion is needed for short-term recovery. This includes financing the rebuilding of hospitals, schools, roads and bridges. It also consists of the clearing mines that prevent the cultivation of Ukraine’s fertile soil. In a separate communication a few months earlier, Ukrainian President Zelensky declared the target figure at $750 billion, citing the need for repatriation, humanitarian assistance and modernization.

Commitment to Providing Aid

Although allies are shying away from direct military assistance, international aid is crucial in keeping Ukraine afloat. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) leads the charge, which provided $12 billion in 2022 and plans to augment that support in 2023. This aid goes primarily to health care workers and educators, protecting the future of Ukraine in the short and long term. Additionally, the World Bank provided more than $18 billion in grants and loans for Ukraine as of February 2023, the vast majority of which comes from the United States.

Supporting Ukraine: In the Best Interest for Europe and Beyond

The future of Ukraine remains incredibly uncertain. However, a consensus is emerging that the situation cannot remain fraught when the war comes to an end. A weakened or failed Ukraine is a security threat to Europe and would create a refugee crisis because Ukrainian refugees would have no need to return to their country. As the Financial Times wrote in December 2022, “The potential geopolitical cost of failure is high…The fighting continues, but the time to plan for peace is now.”

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Flickr

Programs in Yemen
The continued civil war in Yemen, ongoing since 2014, has led to a severe humanitarian crisis. The UNFPA says the conflict has displaced 4.2 million Yemenis as of 2022 and 20 million citizens are suffering from malnutrition and hunger, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). By February 2022, about 80% of the population lived in poverty. Extreme climate events have only worsened this while increasing people’s susceptibility to disease outbreaks. Since 1959, apart from a 70-year hiatus ending in 2003, USAID programs in Yemen have helped to better the quality of life in the country.

USAID Programs in Yemen

  1. Health Services. USAID’s Yemen Systems Health and Resilience Project (SHARP) aims to improve maternal and child health care in Yemen. SHARP has provided training to “210 community midwives and 413 reproductive health volunteers to improve access to services for women of reproductive age and children under five,” the USAID website states. SHARP also provided skills training to “97 health facility service providers on evidence-based reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition services to ensure the provision of quality services for mothers, pregnant and lactating women and children.” When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, USAID worked with the U.S. government to donate 319,200 COVID-19 vaccines to Yemen, provide oxygen to COVID-19 isolation units, strengthen the country’s cold storage and transport systems for vaccines, trained health workers on infection control methods and carried out awareness-raising activities, among other efforts.
  2. Sanitation and Water Management. About 50% of Yemenis report major water quality issues, making the water situation in Yemen one of the globe’s most severe water crises. In response, in 2021, USAID programs in Yemen provided more than 1.5 million disadvantaged people with access to clean water, improved sanitation and hygiene education. USAID has also brought water access and sanitation to 377,606 students at schools. USAID aligns its water and sanitation projects with the U.S. government goals laid out in the U.S. Global Water Strategy, which defines the framework and steps for the U.S. to advance global water and sanitation.
  3. Food Security. Recently, during a pledging event on June 8, 2022, the U.S. government announced an allocation of $585 million in humanitarian aid for Yemen, which includes more than $561 million from USAID for “emergency food assistance as well as prevention and treatment of severe malnutrition and humanitarian protection for vulnerable populations,” the U.S. Department of State website says. USAID in partnership with the Department of Agriculture will utilize $282 million from the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust to aid Yemen, along with five other countries, in addressing food insecurity and wheat price hikes. In November 2022, the agency partnered with Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population on a $4.8 million malnutrition prevention and recovery program to promote nutrition and open resources to families.
  4. Economy and Trade. USAID’s Economic Recovery and Livelihoods Program supports the Yemeni government in economic reform and stabilization of its trade regime by “facilitating the flow of commercial and humanitarian goods and services through Yemen’s borders and ports.” The program has also brought support to smaller enterprises within the country, such as fishing and farming, linking these smaller businesses to the international market. In 2021, USAID helped 1,200 Yemenis attain stable jobs in specific sectors, provided agricultural support to 4,000 workers and “facilitated 400 trade agreements worth $5.04 million between Yemeni producers and local and international buyers for agriculture products.” USAID also helped Yemen’s Ministry of Finance launch “a pilot e-payment system in February 2022 to pay public sector salaries and eliminate financial waste and abuse,” USAID’s website highlights.

Looking Ahead

In a world where many still require emergency humanitarian assistance, foreign aid is critical. Even though there is room for the U.S. government to do more, so far, the U.S. stands as a champion in bringing support to Yemen amid its crisis.

– Audrey Gaines
Photo: Flickr

Sri Lanka's Debt Crisis
Sri Lanka’s debt crisis has become the latest point of geopolitical contention. The country experienced extreme economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving it unable to pay billions of dollars worth of debt to private and government creditors. Following an unprecedented defaulting of its debts and a political crisis that saw the president resign and the prime minister’s office raided, Sri Lanka stands on the precipice of an economic and humanitarian catastrophe. With the United States, Russia, India and China all weighing in, the world’s monetary eyes have turned toward the struggling island nation.

A Closer Look at Sri Lanka’s Collapse

Sri Lanka’s debt ballooned over the last few years due to domestic crises and an unfavorable economic situation. Relying primarily on exports to feed an ever-growing deficit, the country’s situation took a turn for the worse when pandemic supply shocks and tourism dried up foreign revenue, causing blackouts along with food and energy shortages. Unsurprisingly, political turmoil quickly followed suit, ending with the ousting of President Rajapaksa and the ascension of Wickremesinghe to office. Now, Sri Lanka has nearly no foreign reserves and a 119% debt-to-GDP ratio.

If the macroeconomic situation seems dire, it pales in comparison to the suffering of Sri Lanka’s poorest citizens. Between 2021 and 2022, poverty rates increased by half to 25.6%, pushing 2.7 million more people into the grips of poverty. Additionally, inflation in Sri Lanka hit a record high of 73.7% in October 2022. With the world’s economy expected to shrink over the next year, Sri Lanka’s predicament threatens to worsen as its crisis deepens.

Sri Lanka’s Creditors

Underlying these pressures are private and public groups using Sri Lanka as a pawn on the international stage. China accounted for close to 10% of Sri Lanka’s debt by April 2021 but refuses to negotiate the amount owed, insisting on “a two-year moratorium” instead. India, China’s competition in the region, offered Sri Lanka an emergency $4.4 billion in credit, attempting to woo the island nation away from its traditional source of funding. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it will only consider a relief package if Sri Lanka can come to an agreement with its main creditors.

In addition, private banks have played hardball with Sri Lanka, exacerbating the current crisis. These organizations collectively hold half of Sri Lanka’s debt, lending to the island nation at an exorbitantly high-interest rate. Renowned economists, such as Thomas Piketty, note that many of these companies knew Sri Lanka would be unable to repay its debt but chose to offer it loans regardless. His conclusion is that risky lending must bear the consequences.

Debt Assistance

Although some economists like Piketty champion cancellations of Sri Lanka’s debt, a more moderate solution does seem plausible. The IMF showed more openness to an emergency loan as talks with China and India continued. Provided Sri Lanka passes austerity and anti-corruption measures, the IMF said in September 2022 that it would be willing to give $2.9 billion in funding. Vitally, this aid would allow the country to purchase much-needed medical equipment and food. Private creditors also demonstrated a willingness to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt, pending approval from President Wickremesinghe.

Domestically, Sri Lanka’s president stressed the importance of weathering the economic storm. Urging his fellow countrymen forward, President Wickremesinghe stated that as pay raises for civil servants come into effect “the public would become prosperous, with income sources increasing. The interest rate can be reduced. In another three years, present incomes can be increased by 75%.” Indeed, inflation will likely decrease from 45% in 2022 to 23% in 2023 and only 8% in 2024.

Foreign Aid to Help During Sri Lanka’s Debt Crisis

Amid Sri Lanka’s debt crisis, it is important not to lose sight of those most affected by the country’s economic woes: its people. Given the dire condition of food, fuel and supplies, immediate aid provides the most tangible form of assistance. In June 2022, USAID announced almost $6 million worth of humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka on top of assistance worth close to $12 million a month prior. The funding will “provide cash assistance, short-term jobs, and agriculture supplies such as seeds directly to crisis-affected people to meet their basic needs,” the USAID website says.

Meanwhile, the United Nations raised $79 million to relieve food and medicine shortages in Sri Lanka. Through its Humanitarian Needs and Priorities Plan, the U.N. aims to help about 3.4 million Sri Lankans in need of aid.

With increased aid and pressure from the international community to resolve the crisis, a resolution to the crisis appears, if not imminent, at least plausible. Although this provides scarce comfort to the 6.3 million Sri Lankans that food insecurity has affected as of September 2022, it is an important step in the right direction while humanitarian organizations address the needs of struggling people on the ground.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Pixabay

Ukraine’s Energy
As the war in Ukraine approaches its one-year mark, the European Union implemented a new product ban on Russian gas to cut off Russian funding for the war. The soaring gas prices are responsible for numerous countries and their poorest citizens navigating the challenges of extreme energy poverty. The energy battle left many Ukrainians without energy for days, weeks and even months. Ukraine’s energy coming from new sources is necessary to support citizens nationwide. In the coldest months, Ukraine continues to fight for heating for homes and businesses nationwide. In early February 2023, USAID promised a new mobile gas turbine power plant to provide energy to more than 100,000 businesses and homes.

Ukraine and Its Dependence on Russian Gas

Energy prices skyrocketed worldwide, effectively pushing millions of European Union members and Ukrainians into energy poverty. Energy poverty is when energy bills consist of such a high percentage of income that they have no option but to reduce their household’s energy consumption, which then negatively impacts health and well-being. In Ukraine, 42 million cubic tons of Russian gas flow through the country daily, acting as a major source of income for Russia.

Throughout the war, Ukrainian energy supplies have been a prime target both physically and financially. Russia is a primary supplier of Ukraine’s energy. In August 2022, Russia’s Nord Stream One pipeline, a dominant gas vessel in energy transportation, shut down due to leaks and prices rose exponentially overnight.

In November 2022, Russian forces attacked major providers of Ukrainian energy and cut energy supplies by at least 30%. The energy cuts are in addition to diminished Russian gas supplies already cutting into energy sources available for Ukraine. Energy prices across Europe have increased on average by about 73%. Natural gas alone has risen in price by 122% within a few months. The rise in energy prices is forcing more and more Ukrainians into poverty. The latest estimate of impoverished Ukrainians is approximately 25% of the nation, a dramatic increase from the much lower 2% one year ago.

Sanctions on Russian Gas

Governments worldwide implemented sanctions on Russian gas to decrease potential funding for the war in Ukraine. After a year of nations changing and renewing sanctions, in February 2023, the European Union and all G7 nations, United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada agreed on new sanctions on Russian gas. The latest ban is on all Russian diesel exports, a critical export of Russia. Diesel is an import that nations worldwide depend on for powering cars, farming equipment, factory machinery, and more to earn income. With each sanction, gas and energy prices could continue rising and Ukraine could be among the first nations to feel the price impacts of the sanctions. Ukraine’s energy coming from a new source without sanctions could allow a window of opportunity for Ukrainians to regain economic footing.

USAID’s Energy Assistance to Ukraine

The mobile gas turbine power plant that USAID has brought to Ukraine is not the first instance of aid from the U.S. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, USAID has invested $55 million into energy supplies and assistance for Ukraine. The government organization has brought energy assistance in the form of generators and financial investments to lift the burden of energy poverty and traditional poverty off of Ukrainians.

The new mobile gas turbine could lessen the Ukrainian energy burden. Mechanics and engineers have rushed non-stop to bring new energy sources to Ukraine while fixing the ones the war destroyed. USAID’s efforts for Ukraine engage the public and private sectors. It is working to bring more relief and energy providers to Ukraine. One of USAID’s most promising partnerships is with G.E., a major energy conglomerate and USAID is hoping to bring more energy poverty relief efforts with G.E. energy poverty remains an issue in Ukraine, but Ukraine’s energy coming from a source where they will not be skirting sanctions could help stop or at least slow the rise of poverty rates.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Maternal and Child Health
USAID recently unveiled its Roadmap to 2030 for Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition, a plan that seeks to help countries reach the target date for completing part of their Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) targets in 2023. USAID’s Roadmap to 2030 identifies areas where the agency can shift its work in order to help countries achieve certain targets for completing SDG 3, many of which poverty and access to basic needs directly impact.

Current Data

Globally, the under-five mortality rate (U5MR) has fallen according to UNICEF, and as of 2021 stands at 38 deaths for every 1,000 births. While some of USAID’s “target countries” have made tremendous progress in maternal and child health and are currently on track to meet some of their SDG 3 goals by 2030, many have not, according to the agency. In order to meet their SDG 3 goals, countries must meet four criteria by 2030 according to USAID:

  • A projected under-five mortality rate (U5MR) of ≤25.
  • A nation-specific projected maternal mortality ratio (MMR).
  • A projected neonatal mortality rate (NMR) of ≤12.
  • A projected postneonatal mortality rate (PNMR) of 13 for children under five.

Very few countries are on track to achieve some of these goals, according to the framework. Out of 24 target countries, six are on track to meet the U5MR target, and projections have indicated that three will meet their specific MMR target, three will meet their NMR target and 12 will meet their PNMR goal.

The Goal of the Roadmap

The self-stated main goal of USAID’s Roadmap to 2030 is to help put target countries on track to meet their SDG 3 targets and to “save lives, decrease morbidity and disability, and increase the potential of women, newborns, children, families, and communities to thrive.” Through a series of five intermediate results, the agency seeks to achieve some of the following in regard to maternal and child health:

  • Improve access to pre and postnatal care, as well as childcare.
  • Improve health care systems and providers’ ability to deliver high-quality care.
  • Support programs that work with local actors.
  • Continuing to improve the nutritional status of women and children, while also increasing access to water and sanitation.

Many of these proposed programs would combat the effects of poverty on child health, putting target countries closer to being on track to meeting SDG 3 in 2030.

Shifts in USAID’s Work

While significant worldwide progress has occurred toward achieving SDG 3, which seeks to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened “decades of progress” toward achieving the goal, according to the United Nations. As a result of the pandemic, 22.7 million children did not receive basic vaccinations in 2020, putting children at significant risk of infection or death from preventable illnesses.

Due to the fact that many countries are at risk of not meeting some of their SDG 3 goals, USAID’s Roadmap to 2030 identified three areas where they can shift their current work in order to further assist these countries. One of these areas is in primary health care approaches, as the pandemic “underscored the need for more resilient systems,” according to USAID. On top of millions having missed essential vaccinations, the report also projected that 3.6 million children would experience growth stunts due to the disruption to global food systems in 2022 as a result of the lasting effects of the pandemic.

The other two areas are localization and private sector engagement, both of which the agency seeks to use in order to provide more local engagement in combating these issues — ensuring that progress toward the goals involves both local government and private sector participation. 

With COVID-19 having exposed flaws in some approaches to combating the effects of poverty on maternal and child health, USAID’s Roadmap to 2030 identifies and adjusts approaches in order to further combat these issues. With the pandemic on the back burner, this roadmap provides a much-needed “renewed sense of urgency” on the issue of maternal and child health and represents an effort to put countries back on track to meeting SDG 3 by 2030.

– Mohammad Samhouri
Photo: Unsplash

The Cambodian Fish Industry
The Cambodian fish industry is vital to the nation’s food security and economy. Recent support that USAID provided has bolstered the skills, knowledge and resources of those engaged in the fish market. This action provides positive assistance to strengthen a vital system within an impoverished country.

The Importance of the Cambodian Fish Industry

Cambodia depends on the strength of its fishing industry, both for the economy and for the nourishment of the general population. It is estimated that its fisheries produce around 2.1 million tonnes of fish per year. According to Open Development Cambodia, “The country holds two world records: the highest catch of inland fisheries per capita and the highest consumption of freshwater fish per capita.” Since seafood is so ingrained in Cambodian society, growths within this field have the ability to reduce poverty and raise the quality of living for inhabitants. As of 2019, 17.8% of the population lived below the poverty line. Two separate projects that USAID produced are fostering positive growth within the Cambodian fishing industry, showing promising implications for future success.

New Fishway Development

The first of these projects reached completion on August 24, 2022. USAID funded the creation of two new fishways to increase accessibility to fishing in the Pursat Province. Prior to the official construction of the new fishways, two demonstrative fish passes were constructed in 2019 and 2021 to act as proof of concept. Because the passes correctly showed the possible impact of the final plan, USAID moved forward with the project shortly after.

These new routes will allow fish to avoid irrigation structures and travel upstream, touching communities in otherwise unreachable areas. USAID states that “These fishways also demonstrate that small-scale fish passes are a feasible, relatively inexpensive solution to the problem of declining fish stocks,” which provides a sense of optimism for future use of similar ventures. The new fishways will allow growth within the crucial Cambodian fish industry.

Nutritional Information Database

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, is another USAID program. A Cambodian researcher by the name of Chakriya Chum has been collecting fish samples across the country for more than a year, for the sole purpose of creating a nutritional database focused on the fishing industry. Feed the Future has supported her work in the hopes of spreading dietary knowledge across Columbia.

Because the population is so highly reliant on fish, it is important for citizens to understand the differences between each type. Chum stated that “Knowledge and research [generated with and] transferred to the community will improve health, fish processing and their livelihood.” The database includes information about best practices for preservation, which will hopefully increase national food security. In addition to the general population, policymakers and farmers can utilize this information to help them create more productive practices.

Both USAID projects provide support for the Cambodian fish industry, an important factor in national food security and economic matters. In the coming years, these programs may be able to expand to neighboring areas and expand in size to create greater change on an international level.

– Hailey Dooley
Photo: Flickr