Information and news about mobile technology

Posts

HIV/AIDS in Africa
The HIV/AIDS epidemic remains a significant public health problem in southern Africa. In the last decade, infections have drastically dropped while awareness of HIV status and availability of treatment has increased. This progress aligns with the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goal. Meeting this goal means that at least 90% of people with HIV are aware of their status, 90% are receiving antiretroviral drug treatments and 90% are virally suppressed. Viral suppression means that the virus will not negatively affect a person and that that person will not be able to transmit it to another person. Some of the most HIV-afflicted countries in Africa have met and even exceeded the 90-90-90 goals. Eswatini has the highest HIV prevalence in the world today at 26.8%. It has reached 95% in all categories and is on its way to reducing new infections.

HIV/AIDS and Conflicts

Despite recent progress, international aid has been focusing on HIV/AIDS less and less, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has become a more imminent global threat. Sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world. It is also one of the most conflict-ridden regions in the world.

HIV/AIDS has a history of destabilizing political and social institutions in countries and leaving them vulnerable to violent conflict. The International Crisis Group estimated that one in seven civil servants, including government employees, teachers and the armed forces in South Africa were HIV-positive in 1998.

How Does HIV/AIDS Affect Civil Servants in Africa?

  1. The disease affects the productivity of the military and its ability to respond to armed conflicts. In 2003, the Zimbabwe Human Development Report estimated that the Zimbabwe Defense Forces had an HIV prevalence rate of 55%. With such a high rate of illness, the military has high training and recruitment costs, as soldiers get sick and are unable to work. In addition to this, HIV can transmit through sexual contact. It disproportionately affects younger populations which typically make up the bulk of the armed forces.
  2. The HIV/AIDS epidemic breaks down political institutions by limiting their capacity to govern. According to former president Robert Mugabe in 2001, AIDS had a significant presence in his cabinet, killing three of his cabinet ministers in the span of a few years and infecting many more. The disease wipes out workers essential to the function of a state, like policymakers, police officers and judicial employees.
  3. HIV/AIDS threatens the quality and accessibility of education. A UNICEF report found that more than 30% of educators in Malawi were HIV positive. If children cannot receive a quality primary education, they are less likely to receive secondary education and start professional careers. Instead, crime may open up opportunities for security that education could not provide. With increased antiretroviral use and awareness of the disease, HIV rates and deaths among educators have likely dropped along with overall rates in the last decade.

Civil Servants

The impact of HIV/AIDS on civil servants in Africa has been immense. The disease affects vulnerable populations such as gay men, sex workers and young women disproportionately. However, it has also affected those who work as civil servants. Civil servants are integral to the functioning of governments. Without them, countries are vulnerable to conflict and violence. Furthermore, HIV/AIDS prolongs conflict in countries already experiencing it.

While there are many other causes of violent conflict, the breakdown of political and social institutions fueled by HIV/AIDS only exacerbates conflict. War can also be a vector for the further spread of the disease. According to UNHCR, both consensual and non-consensual sexual encounters happen more often during the conflict. Rape has been a weapon of war in conflicts in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Liberia in recent years and has likely contributed to the spread of HIV.

Solutions

Combating HIV and AIDS is a very important step in stabilizing economic, political and social structures across Africa. USAID programs like PEPFAR have had a significant role in combating HIV and AIDS. PEPFAR has invested nearly $100 billion in the global AIDS response in various ways. Most notably, it has provided 18.96 million people with much-needed antiretroviral treatment.

PEPFAR also aids in prevention care. For example, it has supported more than 27 million voluntary medical male circumcisions as well as testing services for 63.4 million people. In 2012, there was a government campaign in Zimbabwe to promote circumcision, in which at least 10 members of parliament participated.

These campaigns and USAID programs have had tangible results. In 2013, a study by the South African National Defense Forces showed an 8.5% HIV prevalence rate among its soldiers, much lower than the 19% prevalence in the general population. Given the successes in decreasing HIV/AIDS infections across Africa, perhaps economic, political and social stability is to follow.

– Emma Tkacz
Photo: Flickr

Women in Yemen
Yemen’s ongoing conflict has driven the nation progressively nearer to socioeconomic disintegration since it erupted in 2015. Inflationary pressures have put the cost of fundamental needs beyond reach for the majority of people. The conflict in Yemen continues to significantly damage the position of women, resulting in a near-elimination of their safety protocols and increased their susceptibility to assault and exploitation. Yemen has a deeply ingrained patriarchy that severely limits the quality of life for women. Yemeni women face some of the world’s most heinous despotism and are fighting for their rights in three key areas: workplace possibilities, gender discrimination and political underrepresentation.

Fight for Rights in the Workplace

According to Article 40 of Yemen’s Personal Status Law, a woman cannot acquire employment in the same capacity as a male and “the work must have been agreed by her husband.” The most recent figure from 2019 was the 6.04% employment rate for women in Yemen. In comparison, the global average in 2019 was 51.96%, based on 181 nations.

Additionally, there is no legislation prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, nor are there legal sanctions or civil recourse for workplace sexual misconduct. Because of the unspoken societal consensus that females are often at fault, women are less likely to submit a sexual misconduct complaint due to a concern that they will receive accusations of soliciting men’s attention. Women in Yemen have to fight for rights in the workplace because no law requiring equivalent compensation for the labor of equivalent merit exists.

USAID promotes women’s financial freedom in Yemen by providing career development, allocation and guidance to help women boost competitive engagement in the workforce. Additionally, technological guidance and strategic initiatives aid females in obtaining investment and job options, hence improving take-home pay. In 2020 alone, USAID helped more than 1,300 Yemeni women.

The Fight Against Gender Discrimination

Yemen sees women as secondary. Because of that, many women in Yemen cannot make important family decisions. In Yemen, there is no particular statute regarding spousal abuse. Females do not disclose abuse instances because they are afraid of arrest or abuse.

According to Articles 51-72 of Yemen’s Personal Status Law, men can obtain a divorce with significantly fewer limitations than women. Men’s rights to the guardianship of kids exceed that of women in the event of divorce.

According to UNICEF, 80% of the nation is reliant on relief aid. Therefore, poor Yemeni households frequently have to marry young in an attempt to nourish the youth and obtain bare necessities. Fathers sell their daughters into marriage and consequently, abruptly end their adolescence. This is a basic breach of human freedoms. In 2020, USAID funded initiatives aimed at avoiding forced early-aged marriages by equipping more than 6,000 girls with essential competencies such as “problem-solving and decision-making.”

The Fight for Women’s Rights in the Political Arena

In the 2011 protest, women were key participants and continued to be throughout the subsequent domestic discourse. When the uprisings’ effect dissolved, the women ultimately experienced abandonment and could not promote their beliefs. Yemen does not have a policy that safeguards women. Instead, Yemeni legislation disparages them if they undermine any political organization.

Women in Yemen have virtually no authority to sway legislation in order to strengthen their roles. They do not have widespread popular political support due to the fact that a disproportionate number of men participate in politics. The men exclude women who promote or show any political interest.

U.N. Women works in Yemen to increase women’s civic involvement. It firmly supports encouraging engagement in community affairs and political judgment. U.N. Women values the significance of equitable participation of both sexes in diplomatic discussions and crisis settlement.

Because of the importance of increasing political dialogue for women in Yemen, it established the Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security platform. It advocates for the inclusion of women in all political conversations.

Despite the marginalization of Yemeni girls and women, they are receiving assistance from major global organizations. These efforts have been essential in effectively working to promote women’s rights in Yemen.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan, formally the Kyrgyz Republic, is a country in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan has a population of approximately 6.5 million people, with more than 60% of the population living in rural areas. A practice of the Kyrgyz people, most prevalent in the country’s poor rural areas, is bride kidnapping, which occurs when men abduct women and force them into marriage with or without the consent of the woman’s family. Kyrgyzstan’s government and USAID are working to tackle this issue. However, one of the most effective ways to combat the practice of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan is addressing poverty in rural Kyrgyzstan.

The Connection Between Poverty and Bride Kidnapping

Because some of Kyrgyzstan’s population regard bride kidnapping as a traditional and romantic practice, men may “kidnap” brides with consent from the bride and her family. This is known as consensual bride kidnapping. However, bride kidnappings that occur without the bride’s knowledge or agreement are non-consensual bride kidnapping. The U.N. has condemned this practice of forced marriage as a violation of human rights.

Poverty and unemployment in recent years provide a source of frustration for young men in rural Kyrgyzstan seeking to marry. One characteristic of traditional Kyrgyz marriage is kalym, or the “bride price,” by which a man seeking to marry must pay the bride’s family in cash and livestock.

Poor men in rural Kyrgyzstan often do not have the money or resources to pay this price. Additionally, these men face pressure from their communities to marry before they reach a certain age. Thus, the quickest and cheapest way to do so is to kidnap a bride.

Other Factors in Bride Kidnapping

Aside from poverty, many other factors can also help explain why bride kidnappings occur. One reason why a man may kidnap a bride is simply that he cannot otherwise obtain her consent or because he is worried she may marry someone else.

Another factor that explains bride kidnapping is the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Once the Soviet Union collapsed and Kyrgyzstan gained its independence, the young country sought to assert its nationalist dignity and separate its identity from the Soviet Union by reviving traditional practices, such as bride kidnapping.

The U.N. estimates that one in five marriages in Kyrgyzstan is the result of bride kidnapping. Poverty is one factor that incentivizes bride kidnapping. However, bride kidnapping can also cause further poverty, particularly for the few women who manage to escape their marriages. Often uprooted in the middle of their pursuit of education or professional opportunity, these women return to a society where they lack the skills they need to support themselves and their children.

Additionally, the state does not register marriages that are a product of bride kidnapping, as Girls Not Brides reported. Therefore, these women are not entitled to any assets or support they might have otherwise received in the case of legal divorce. Along with driving women further into poverty, negative effects of bride kidnapping on women also include domestic abuse, denial of educational or economic opportunities, high rates of depression and suicide.

What is the Government Doing About It?

In 2013, Kyrgyzstan’s government increased the prison sentence for bride kidnapping from a maximum of three years to a maximum of 10 years. The state also set forth a Criminal Code that prohibits bride kidnapping and forced kidnapping.

The government’s efforts to criminalize bride kidnapping are worth noting and encouraging further. Still, it needs to more consistently and effectively enforce laws that address bride kidnapping. Women who manage to file a complaint against their kidnappers often find that the crime remains unprosecuted. Additionally, the government does not yet sufficiently fund services for survivors of bride kidnappings and the domestic abuse that can result from such a practice.

The Five-Year Enterprise Competitiveness Project

However, the state is not alone in its efforts. Several USAID projects focus on helping the poorest regions of Kyrgyzstan by supporting job creation and economic growth. Since poverty is one factor that can potentially motivate bride kidnapping, efforts to relieve poverty may translate into deterrence from bride kidnapping.

For example, in 2018 USAID started the five-year Enterprise Competitiveness Project. It focuses on growing sectors that can quickly create more jobs such as the agricultural, manufacturing and apparel sectors. The project provides businesses in regions with high levels of poverty and unemployment with grants and technical advice, funds research and creates partnerships with financial institutions. USAID expects the project to create 19,000 new jobs.

The USAID Business Growth Initiative

USAID also works to support and empower the women of Kyrgyzstan in a variety of ways. The USAID Business Growth Initiative supports women-owned businesses in sectors such as tourism and apparel. Thus far, the project has provided 2,000 women with new technical skills.

USAID also provides professional training for female Members of Parliament. The agency sponsors conferences between these women and political activists. It is fostering connections that strengthen support for legislation that combats bride kidnapping and prioritizes women’s rights. Furthermore, USAID partners with civil society organizations to raise awareness about criminal liability for bride kidnapping. It also advocates for laws protecting women from domestic violence.

Thus, providing greater economic opportunity for men in rural Kyrgyzstan is one way to decrease the risk of bride kidnapping. Men who are more secure in their finances and assured of their employment will have less incentive to kidnap brides.

Additionally, providing greater state protections and services for victims of bride kidnapping as well as a greater guarantee for prosecution can also serve to deter this practice and rehabilitate the victims of this human rights violation. Finally, raising awareness for women’s rights could help dismantle traditional, misogynistic practices such as bride kidnapping.

– Savannah Algu
Photo: Flickr

Digital Healthcare in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is a land-locked country located on the eastern side of the African continent, making up the greater part of the distinctive “Horn of Africa.” It is home to one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, increasing by around 2.5% annually. Ethiopia’s manual, primarily paper-based health care system has proven to be ill-equipped and ineffective at efficiently providing for citizens. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made the inadequacy of the country’s current system even more apparent. It propelled the development and expansion of digital health care in Ethiopia.

The Need for Digital Health Care

As of 2020, the World Bank still classifies Ethiopia as a low-income country (LCI). Nearly half of the country’s population lives below the international poverty line. More than 18% were in need of humanitarian assistance in 2021. This is a result of the pandemic among other recent hardships, including drought and internal conflict.

The current life expectancy in Ethiopia is 66.24 years at birth, well below the world average of 72.6 years. This is largely due to the “severe underfunding of the health sector,” resulting in an inadequate number of existing health institutions, the inefficient delivery of medical supplies and great challenges when it comes to extending much-needed health services to those living in pastoral areas.

With 79% of Ethiopians residing in rural lands, this is a huge problem. Furthermore, greater than 50% of the population must walk more than 6 miles to reach the nearest health facility, according to the JDC study. This means that many Ethiopians go untreated for conditions such as malaria, tuberculosis, meningitis and COVID-19. The expansion of digital health care in Ethiopia will help mitigate disparities between rural and urban areas. It could extend the reach of health care providers to those in need.

The United States’ Role

In December 2019, just before the onset of the pandemic, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health. It invested $63 million in Ethiopia’s health sector. The project launched in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, with the name “Digital Health Activity” or DHA.

The Digital Health Activity aims to modernize Ethiopia’s health information systems in the following ways:

  1. Consolidating patient medical information by transitioning from paper-based records to an electronic medical record (EMR) system.
  2. Training both policymakers and health care providers in the utilization of technology to better reach rural Ethiopians in need of health care.
  3. Partnering with local universities to develop courses in innovative health and inspire young Ethiopians to choose career paths in the health sector.
  4. Creating a digital COVID-19 surveillance system that allows for better contact tracing and expedited test results.
  5. Supporting the development of the Digital Health Innovation and Learning Center in Addis Ababa to encourage the continued modernization of Ethiopia’s existing Health Information Systems.

By the end of its first year, the DHA had already made great progress. Its first annual report showed that the DHA provided supervised assistance to more than 3,000 health facilities.

It trained 1,100 health care professionals in open-source software to better collect and manage health data. The DHA also created an online ordering system. This allows health facilities to process orders more efficiently and provide medications to patients in a more timely manner.

Digital Health Care and COVID-19

The Digital Health Innovation and Learning Center (DHILC) experienced its inauguration as the first of its kind in August 2020 in Addis Ababa. The Ministry of Health funded the center in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It serves a variety of purposes, including the development and testing of new digital applications. This will help revolutionize health care in Ethiopia as well as the establishment of a call center to offer remote support to users.

The prediction is that the DHILC would solve approximately “85% of users’ minor health information system-related problems.” It has been crucial in the testing and development of applications related to COVID-19.

There are now several apps that aid in the management of COVID-19 in Ethiopia. This includes a toll-free recording app that has provided accurate and reliable COVID-19 health information. Various applications work to educate patients on COVID-19, screen travelers for the virus and deliver timely test results. They provide contact tracing services and help manage the spread of the virus in Ethiopia.

The development of digital health care in Ethiopia was long overdue. But thanks to the innovative efforts of the Ministry of Health and USAID, citizens who once struggled to obtain access to quality health care can now access it remotely.

By providing more accurate information and up-to-date training for professionals, this new age of digital care has the potential to raise Ethiopia from low to middle-income status. It could improve the health and well-being of citizens in every area of the country.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Ukraine
Ukraine has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world, with an estimated 260,000 people living with the disease. Odessa, the third-most populous city in Ukraine, has “the highest concentration of HIV/AIDS of anywhere in Europe.” Poverty exacerbates HIV/AIDS in Ukraine and primarily has links with injected drug use, threats to government funding, lack of access to antiretroviral treatment and social discrimination.

Poverty and HIV/AIDS in Ukraine

Ukraine is second to Moldova as the two poorest countries in Europe. The poverty rate in Ukraine increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, from 42.4% in 2020 to 50% as of February 2021. There is a strong connection between poverty and the spread of diseases; it could be both a cause and a result of poverty.

HIV/AIDS causes conditions of poverty when working adults become ill and can no longer support their families. The disease becomes a result of poverty when the conditions of poverty put people at greater risk of contracting it. As an example, women and girls who live in poverty are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. They are more likely to resort to working in the sex trade. That could put them at dangerous risk for contracting HIV.

HIV/AIDS in Ukraine’s Women and Girls

UNAIDS estimates that out of all people with HIV/AIDS in Ukraine, 120,000 are women over the age of 15 and 2,900 are children aged 14 or younger. Gender inequality, poverty and violence against women and girls are significant factors in the spread of HIV. Women and girls who live in fear of violence may be reluctant to advocate for safe sex, receive testing or seek treatment for HIV and other diseases.

Gender inequality inhibits women’s access to resources for sexual and reproductive health. In rural Ukraine, where the poverty rate is highest, 36% of women do not participate in community or family decision-making. Only 46% are competent with a computer or the internet. Almost 48% do not have access to medical services.

The Lack of Access to Antiretrovirals

As Sky News reported, access to antiretrovirals is a major problem for many people living with HIV/AIDS in Ukraine. Although a law stipulates that antiretroviral therapy should be free to all citizens, limited national resources have resulted in restricted access.

Antiretrovirals are crucial for preventing the spread of HIV to children. The use of antiretrovirals during pregnancy and administered to an infant for four to six weeks after birth can result in a transmission rate of 1% or less. According to U.N. Women, the majority of women living with HIV/AIDS in Ukraine were between 18 and 45 years old. Out of these women, 39% discovered that they were HIV-positive during pregnancy.

Social Discrimination Against People Living With HIV/AIDS

According to WHO, discrimination against people who use drugs and people living with HIV presents a serious challenge to identifying those who need treatment. Harsh drug laws, fear of HIV/AIDS and systematic police abuse undermine efforts to provide HIV information and services such as testing and safe needle exchanges. In addition, the law requires drug treatment centers in Ukraine to register drug users and share the information with law enforcement. This protocol keeps people who use drugs from seeking medical help, which subsequently prevents them from testing and receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS.

The War in Donbas

The war in Donbas has made it difficult for people to receive treatment in a region that previously had one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country and was home to nearly one-quarter of all antiretroviral recipients. When the war began in March 2014, it displaced 1.7 million people. To compound this, unsafe sex has resulted in an increase of HIV/AIDS within the military. Combined with ongoing military conflict and a shortage of antiretrovirals, Ukraine is experiencing a crisis: the government has failed to keep up with infection rates.

Solutions

In July 2021, Ukraine received a grant of $35.8 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. According to the Ukrainian government, it would use the funds to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), reduce risks associated with COVID-19 and strengthen the health care system.

Ukraine is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), USAID and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The country wants to implement prevention campaigns, increase access to antiretroviral treatment and target key risk groups, such as people who inject drugs, sex workers and men who have sex with men.

On September 1, 2021, President Biden announced that the United States would provide more than $45 million in additional assistance for Ukraine. The aid would help people the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Donbas affected. The U.S. is working with USAID-supported programs to provide supplies for Ukrainian health care centers, training for health care workers and psychosocial support for the most vulnerable populations.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Unsplash

Foreign Aid to Afghanistan
Some definitions of foreign aid provide a distorted vision of its purpose. This in turn drives citizens, government officials and donors away from supporting it. An accurate definition of foreign aid is one country helping to improve a recipient country’s standard of living through economic, military and various other services. Donors provide this type of support after war or natural disaster. The recent withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is slowly concluding more than 40 years of conflict. However, foreign aid to Afghanistan remains necessary.

Afghanistan’s Violent Past

More than half of the population in Afghanistan lives on $1.90 a day. In headlines, history books and news stories, many do not see Afghanistan beyond the label of an economically developing country. This label often comes from a place of unfair judgment.

The longevity of the Afghan crisis is why aid is vital in transforming the country to work toward a better quality of life and future for the younger generations. The detrimental relationship between the state and citizens has damaged every part of what is necessary for a society to flourish. For example, the top-down monopoly with profiteers and warlords on top formed to control economic markets producing bottom-up violence is a significant barrier in the country flourishing. Understanding the nature of the conflict that has created a dystopian climate throughout the country is vital in producing foreign aid to Afghanistan because planning for the long term is what will produce change.

Antony Blinken’s Push for Reform

The U.S. is the world’s largest provider of foreign aid, but reform is necessary for providing quality aid for the future. During secretary of state Antony Blinken’s visit to Afghanistan on April 15, 2021, he spoke on several areas of reform to ensure the foreign aid sector continues to progress and attend to the needs of Afghanistan.

The U.S. is studying previous aid distribution models and methods to ensure that country receives the maximum amount of help. This also promotes other governments to continue the change. The U.S. plans on holding the Afghanistan government accountable to the pledge of acknowledging the basic human rights of their citizens. For example, traveling outside of the country has been nearly impossible for Afghan citizens. The U.S. will also hold the Taliban accountable for using Afghanistan as a base for formulating attacks on other countries. Neutralizing any form of threat prevents damage to other countries that would ultimately produce the need for more foreign aid and will push away allies.

The U.S. will ensure even aid distribution throughout the country. It will have clear communication with the Taliban in the coming years. The Taliban must allow aid groups to work on uninterrupted terms. Overall, the U.S. is enforcing long-term change through rectifying the relationship between the state and citizens that has been upholding the unlivable climate.

The Future of Foreign Aid to Afghanistan

The narrative of putting a stop to the current war or any war in the future is an unreachable goal. Foreign aid will not go towards a single issue. Instead, it will focus on changing the systemic problems that continue to produce wars. The U.S. often uses a militant approach, however, with the updated forms of foreign aid, it will not be using violence to overcome it. This includes $64 million in new humanitarian assistance which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will distribute. This new surge of funding will provide a large range of assistance including shelter, essential health care, sanitation, food aid, hygiene services and more. These are forms of aid that will contribute to the overall building of a better livelihood for Afghan citizens.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which U.S. Congress introduced in 2004 is an agency separate from the State Department and USAID. It continues to abide by its mission statement of reducing poverty through economic growth by providing aid to countries like Afghanistan. The U.S. has also developed a range of grants and programs to assist Afghan women who the civil upheaval greatly impacted. USAID continues to provide grants in helping Afghan women gain access to universities through the Women’s Scholarship Endowment.

The US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM)

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) funds several programs for Afghan women refugees and internally displaced persons. The programs include literacy training, gender-based violence prevention and mother-child health care. PRM works with various partners to ensure change including the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In large groups, varying interests can prevent the proper allocation of funds to aid. However, the government and donors continue to work closely together. The impact that aid has extends beyond providing food and emergency medical assistance. It has the potential to provide a hopeful future for those who have only known living in a war zone. It reconciles individual relationships within the society. As aid strategies are revised to adhere to current needs the long-term quality of life for Afghan citizens will improve.

– Maggie Forte
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Poverty and Hunger
In September 2021, the White House introduced two of USAID’s new programs to reduce poverty and hunger. USAID, the U.S.’s international development agency, provides aid to countries to support various sectors such as agriculture, trade and human rights. The latest programs of USAID include the Gender Responsive Agricultural Systems Policy (GRASP) and its latest collaboration with the Eleanor Crook Foundation’s Global Nutrition Financing Alliance. GRASP will provide African female policymakers with a three-and-a-half-year virtual leadership development fellowship to empower women in food systems. USAID’s collaboration with the Eleanor Crook Foundation will mobilize $100 million over five years to reduce COVID-19’s impact on food insecurity and reduce malnutrition worldwide.

GRASP: African Women in Agriculture

According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women account for 43% of the world’s agricultural workforce. Although women make up nearly half of all global agricultural workers, they may not receive equitable opportunities in developing countries. In some regions of Africa, women make up 60% of domestic farm labor. Despite their participation, African women hold limited leadership roles in food systems.

Issues regarding legal ownership of land, fair compensation and access to financial resources hinder African women’s leadership in agriculture. According to Feed the Future, “women tend to own less land, have limited ability to hire labor and face impediments to accessing credit, agricultural extension services and other resources.”

GRASP intends to address gender inequality within African agriculture by empowering female policymakers and inciting change in food systems. With help from USAID, GRASP will provide 100 women with mentorships, networking opportunities and virtual leadership programs targeted to create food-secure communities. By empowering African women in leadership, GRASP strives to develop improved and equitable food systems beneficial to all.

USAID and the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance

USAID has also joined the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance in mobilizing $100 million to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition in low- and middle-income countries. The Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF) and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC0 initially established the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance. The partnership combines public and private sectors to address the pandemic’s effect on malnutrition.

The ECF projects a 50% rise in severe malnutrition due to COVID-19’s economic and existing food programs disruption. USAID’s partnership will help catalyze comprehensive approaches to decrease food insecurity. The alliance will prioritize health and food systems along with food-oriented small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The collaboration seeks to address the financing gap among SMEs, bolster women-led businesses and advance food safety. The alliance also seeks to end malnutrition by 2030.

USAID’s Promising Next Moves to Reduce Poverty and Hunger

USAID’s latest programs will benefit not only those in need but also the rest of the world. GRASP can open new markets by supporting African women in agriculture. The program will also expand leadership and business in African food systems. With accessible development opportunities, African women can create social and economic change to address global poverty and food insecurity.

Additionally, USAID’s alliance with the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance will help reestablish the world’s progress to reduce poverty and hunger. The alliance’s monetary aid will also function as a sustainable investment in global food systems. In helping the world’s poor and hungry through programs like GRASP and the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance, USAID helps the world get back on track.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Nigeria
Nigeria ranked 142 out of 195 countries in a 2018 global health access study. However, although Nigeria has a challenging health care system, the country has improved the infrastructure that has helped it fight diseases such as polio, measles and Ebola. Nigeria now has centralized offices called Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) that serve as a base for government health workers and aid agencies to coordinate immunization programs and collect data. While there is progress, many diseases still plague Nigeria.

Cholera

Cholera is a water-borne disease that results in a quick onset of diarrhea and other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and weakness. It is one of the many diseases impacting Nigeria in 2021. If people with cholera do not receive treatment, the disease may kill them due to dehydration. A simple oral rehydration solution (ORS) can help most infected people replace electrolytes and fluids. The ORS is available as a powder to mix into hot or cold water. However, without rehydration treatment, about half of those infected with cholera will die, but if treated, the number of deaths decreases to less than 1%.

In August 2021, Nigeria began to see a rise in cholera cases, especially in the north, where the country’s health care systems are the least prepared. The state epidemiologist and deputy director of public health for Kano State, Dr. Bashir Lawan Muhammad, said the rise in cases is due to the rainy season. It is also because authorities have been dealing with Islamist militants in the north. In Nigeria, 22 of the 36 states have suspected cholera cases, which can kill in hours if untreated. According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, 186 people from Kano have died of cholera since March 2021, making up most of the country’s 653 deaths.

Malaria

Malaria is another one of the diseases affecting Nigeria. Through the bites of female Anopheles mosquitos, parasites cause malaria and transmit it to humans. Globally, there were 229 million malaria cases in 2019, with 409,000 deaths. Children under the age of 5 years old are the most susceptible group, and in 2019, they accounted for 274,000 or 67% of worldwide malaria deaths. That same year, 94% of malaria cases and deaths occurred in the WHO African Region. Although the disease is preventable and curable, the most prevalent malaria-carrying parasite in Africa, P. Falciparum, can lead to severe illness and death within 24 hours.

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which USAID and the CDC lead, works with other organizations to help more than 41 million Nigerians. Despite the difficulties that COVID-19 presented in 2020, the PMI was able to assist Nigeria to distribute 14.7 million treatment doses for malaria, 8.2 million of which went to pregnant women and children. Besides that, the “PMI also distributed 7.1 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs), provided 7.2 million rapid test kits, and trained 9,300 health workers to diagnose and treat patients” of malaria. Before the PMI, only 23% of Nigerian households had bed nets, but since 2010, that number has risen to 43%. The PMI also aims to improve health systems and the skill of health workers to administer malaria-related services.

HIV

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) attacks the immune system, leading to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). One can control the virus with proper medical care, but there is no cure. The disease is prevalent in Africa because it originated in chimpanzees in Central Africa. The virus likely spread to humans when the animals’ infected blood came into contact with hunters. Over the years, HIV spread across Africa and other parts of the world, becoming one of the diseases impacting Nigeria today.

The CDC works with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and other organizations to create and sustain HIV response programs in Nigeria. The CDC’s “data-driven approach” and prevention strategies and treatment strengthen the collaborative system in Nigeria. These include HIV treatment, HIV testing, counseling, services to help prevent mother-to-child transmissions and integrated tuberculosis (TB) and HIV services. TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV.

From October 2019 to September 2020, nearly 200,000 Nigerians tested positive for HIV and began treatment. During the same period, over 1 million HIV-positive people tested for TB. More than 5,000 of those individuals tested positive and began treatment for TB. By the end of September 2020, nearly 25,000 orphans and other vulnerable children received HIV/TB services through the CDC. Not only that, but all facilities in Nigeria that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) supports now use TB BASICS, which is a program that “prevents healthcare-associated TB infection.”

In 2021, Nigeria will face many diseases. On the other hand, great strides are occurring to educate the Nigerian population on diseases like HIV, malaria and cholera. Despite efforts, there is still much more necessary work to reduce illness in Nigeria.

– Trystin Baker
Photo: Flickr

USAID's Foreign Assistance
On November 3, 2021, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrated its 60th year of existence. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 made the formation of USAID possible. USAID’s creation stems from President John F. Kennedy’s aim to consolidate the foreign assistance work of several organizations into one main agency. Today, USAID operates in more than 100 nations across the world, fully or partially manages $24.8 billion in accounts and employs roughly 3,450 U.S. citizens to help fulfill USAID’s foreign assistance mission.

Official Mission Statement of USAID

As an agency representing the foreign assistance interests of U.S. citizens, USAID aims to “promote and demonstrate democratic values abroad and advance a free, peaceful and prosperous world.” Ultimately, USAID plays an instrumental role in making a reality the foreign policy values of the U.S. As such, “through partnerships and investments” USAID aims to “save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance.”

The Birth of USAID

Coming out of World War II, the U.S. stood as the world’s preeminent superpower. However, not long after, in 1947, the Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union began. Looking to prevent the spread of communism, the U.S. realized its endeavors would require more than just military might — the U.S. would also need to win the hearts and minds of developing countries before the Soviet Union did.

Through diplomacy and goodwill, the U.S. hoped to spread democratic and free-market principles to as many countries as possible, and in return, not only stop the spread of communism but also open up new global markets for trade and shared prosperity. With this goal in mind, President Kennedy felt the U.S. needed a more strategic approach to foreign assistance. Therefore, he pushed Congress to pass the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which empowered him to then create USAID via executive order.

USAID Over the Years

USAID’s approach to international development has evolved over the years. In the 1960s, the focus was on large-scale capital and technical assistance projects in select countries committed to economic reforms. Gears shifted in the 1970s when the agency pivoted toward a more humanitarian approach that focused on widespread delivery of food, education and health services to the most impoverished populations. The 1980s brought about the increasing use of U.S. NGOs and for-profit contractors to fulfill USAID’s mission. In the post-9/11 world, development assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq would consume a large share of the USAID budget as the U.S. sought to rebuild these war-torn nations.

The Legacy

In the early years of USAID’s foreign assistance, the U.S. stood as the undisputed leader in international development aid. Through its innovative development and humanitarian efforts over the decades, it is clear that USAID has helped shape a better world with much less hunger, disease, illiteracy, child and infant mortality and all-around suffering than would otherwise be the case. Other advanced nations have since developed similar programs, with several countries now spending significantly more on official developmental assistance than the United States, proportional to their respective gross national incomes (GNI). However, the U.S. still leads in absolute spending, with $47 billion in foreign assistance obligations worldwide in 2019, of which, USAID obligations made up 45%.

In a November 3, 2021, tweet to mark the 60th birthday of USAID, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Now more than ever, as we face historic challenges in global health, climate and other critical issues, it’s vital that our diplomacy and development go hand in hand. That’s why I’m so grateful to the outstanding public servants at USAID…” Ultimately, USAID’s foreign assistance transforms nations, improving the lives of millions of people while contributing to the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reducing global poverty.

– Jeramiah Jordan
Photo: Flickr

USAID’s support in the Congo
As one of the poorest countries in the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) consistently deals with the consequences of poverty, such as disease and starvation. The country’s low GDP of $49.87 billion leaves its government with little funds for the infrastructural and industrial development necessary to invigorate its economy and derive profits. At the same time, the Congo contains trillions of dollars in untapped natural resources, which, of course, it cannot extract for sale on the global market because of its economic underdevelopment and consequent lack of industrial power. However, foreign aid can enable the Congo to develop its industries and invest in the machinery needed to cultivate and export its vast natural resources.

Successfully entering the global market promises large profits, economic development and stability and infrastructural development. For the Congo, such economic success entails allocating its profits towards government programs that would eliminate poverty, starvation and disease.

For this reason, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has intervened in the Congo, providing $781 million, with $40 million given for this reason alone, in financial and economic support to jumpstart the country’s underdeveloped industries. Furthermore, it has intervened in the Congo’s labor sector to open the ability for women and previously marginalized groups to work in hopes of increasing economic productivity. Details about USAID’s work and overall vision for economic development in the Congo are below.

USAID’s Vision

USAID’s support in the Congo stems from its goal of bringing the country to a place of economic self-reliance. The organization believes it can achieve this goal by localizing agricultural practices, enlarging and empowering the Congo’s workforce, encouraging the expansion of farmable land, influencing local economic participation and introducing stable mining techniques to safely extract the Congo’s natural resources. While USAID’s support in the Congo has led to slow development, it hopes to see drastic economic changes by 2025.

Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS)

The organization’s Country Development Cooperation Strategy aims to transform local enterprise by encouraging economic participation. USAID’s program first intends to do this by enlarging the Congo’s labor force and diversifying its agricultural sphere. The size of the labor force is a driving factor in economic development. Young people and women are also overrepresented in the country’s unemployed population.

Through its Country Development Cooperation Strategy, USAID desires to increase employment in the Congo, which would not only result in economic productivity but also market participation. Importantly, increased market participation results in the spreading of wealth in which both the buyer and the seller benefit from the exchange. Thus far, USAID has focused on widening the Congo’s labor force by empowering women and previously marginalized groups to work. If citizens become employed, they can adequately farm and harvest foodstuffs, which would bring them the agricultural productivity necessary for economic independence apart from global food imports. Furthermore, by increasing employment, USAID hopes that these workers will expand their local agrarian enterprises to account for the “80 million hectares of arable land” in the Congo that farmers currently only use 10% of. Such an expansion is a necessary step for economic self-reliance.

Another concern is establishing economic productivity in a way that preserves the Congo’s plentiful natural resources without damaging them. It is no secret that resources such as water and forests experience pollution or destruction during aggressive industrial development. Because USAID desires to foster the expansion of farmable land and induce market participation, it is also interested in minimizing “biodiversity and habitat loss.” In effect, safe practices that are conscientious of the environment and reflect sustainable resource management will inevitably “increase economic opportunities for local communities.”

Responsible Minerals Trade (RMT)

USAID’s Responsible Minerals Trade (RMT) program is concerned with commencing a well-regulated minerals sector that focuses on decreasing the likelihood of trafficking and slavery concerning humane economic progression. In the past, the Congo has struggled with a plethora of problems, with blood-diamond mining as the most prevalent issue because of its humanitarian negligence and economic greed. Aside from the strict humanitarian violations, mining agencies that engaged in illegal practices rightfully could not sell their products on the global market and instead sold their minerals on the black market, thereby evading taxes that the government would have profited from and allocated towards industrial development.

However, USAID’s Responsible Minerals Trade program helps the Congo’s government surveil illegal practices and encourages mining companies to adopt legal practices, such as paying their employees and paying their taxes to the government. Consequently, USAID’s support in the Congo, on “both industrial and small-scale, artisanal mines will build on the tax and business reforms” and “will continue to support responsible minerals trade and promote compliance.” If these legal business models become widely adopted, the Congo will continue to derive profits that it can channel towards industrial development, which, in effect, will bolster its economy and render government programs directed towards poverty elimination.

Conclusion

USAID’s support in the Congo has resulted in $781 million in foreign aid and culminated in the formation of the Country Development Cooperation Strategy and the Responsible Minerals Trade, which envision increased employment and high profits through legal and humane market practices. If done properly, the Congo’s economy will grow stronger, empowering it to extract its valuable resources leading to overall economic self-reliance. Because of USAID’s support in the Congo, poverty in the Congo is closer to reaching elimination.

– Jacob Crosley
Photo: Flickr