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Poverty Eradication in Yemen
The U.S. has ignored a major impediment to development in Yemen, which is Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war. Instead, USAID’s development strategies focus on democracy, economic opportunity and social development. Along with resistance toward Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), USAID intends to improve water sanitation, healthcare, gender equality and natural resource management in Yemen in an effort to promote poverty eradication in Yemen.

The advancement of agriculture underpins efforts to improve Yemen’s 79% poverty rate. However, the U.S. has disregarded more pressing issues in Yemen. While Saudi Arabia provides billions in aid to the Yemeni government, the Saudi regime’s involvement in the civil war is more of a detriment than a solution to poverty eradication in Yemen. The U.S. has failed to appropriately acknowledge this involvement and continues to indirectly support the Saudi coalition with arms.

A Summary of Yemen’s Civil War

Yemen has been in conflict ever since 2015. In 2011, the Arab Spring, a series of uprisings against poverty and authoritarianism in the Arab world, deposed four autocrats. One of them was Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled Yemen for 33 years. Monsour Hadi eventually replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Houthis, a staunchly anti-American, anti-Jewish movement that emerged in Northern Yemen, rebelled against Mansour Hadi, igniting a civil war. In 2015, they seized control of the capital of Sanaa, with the death count gradually rising. Now, some reports estimate that approximately 100,000 people have died as a result of the conflict. According to Human Rights Watch, 6,872 civilians have been killed, leaving out the death toll from mass famine and the rise of cholera in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is responsible for 67% of these fatalities. Because of the growing suspicion that Iran is funding the Houthis, Saudi Arabia is attacking Houthi territory to presumably weaken Iran’s sphere of influence. In addition, the coalition has imposed a naval and air blockade, impeding food, fuel and medicine from entering Yemen.

Today, Yemen’s unclean water has bred the largest cholera epidemic in history, with 1.2 million contractions. Around 18 million people do not have access to clean drinking water. According to the U.N., Yemen is currently in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. From its inception till now, the destruction has led to an increase in Yemen’s poverty rate from 47% to 75%.

US Complicity in Yemen’s Civil War

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is the number one customer of U.S. arms imports. In fact, the U.S. has exported $13.72 billion worth of arms to the Saudi kingdom, accounting for 59.6% of Saudi arms imports.

If the U.S. is attempting to mitigate poverty in Yemen, the solution is obvious. Bruce Riedel of the CIA stated that “the United States of America and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom continue to provide the kind of support that allows this war to go on.” If the U.S. concedes that the civil war is the cause of Yemen’s rising poverty rate, development efforts should be secondary to weakening the main impediment to poverty eradication in Yemen, the Saudi coalition.

Conclusion

Many know the civil war in Yemen as the forgotten war. Not enough attention has gone to the U.S.’ indirect involvement in it. Greater opposition toward U.S. complicity in the war and more media coverage would pressure the U.S. government to cut ties with Saudi Arabia, dramatically crippling its power in Yemen. To move forward with poverty eradication in Yemen, people must address Saudi involvement in Yemen and oppose foreign meddling.

– Blake Dysinger
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Over 89,000,000 people live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), making it the 16th most populated nation. Located in southern Africa, the DRC is one of the world’s poorest nations with around 72% of the population living in poverty. Sadly, infants and children are the main victims of this poverty making the need for help vital. Significant efforts from many different organizations have helped to save thousands of lives. Here are five important facts about child poverty in the DRC.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in the DRC

  1. Mortality Rate: The DRC has an 84.8 under-5 mortality rate out of every 1,000 births. This means that for every 100 children born, eight of them will not reach the age of 6. However, this number has dropped exponentially in the past 20 years due to the work of agencies such as USAID which has invested $34,000,000 to the cause. In 2014, USAID began the Acting on the Call Report which uses data analysis to pinpoint where it needs to allocate its funding. Helping mothers both before and after birth with medical supplies has saved thousands of children because of this data analysis. In the six years since, the under-5 mortality rate has dropped by more than 15.
  2. Education: Providing quality learning opportunities in school is a crucial aspect of breaking the poverty cycle. Over 7,000,000 children in the DRC cannot receive an education because of poorly funded schools and a lack of supplies. Improvement is coming as the government in the DRC has stated that it will allocate 20% of its spending budget to education in 2018 and maintain it at that level until 2025. This increased funding has led to more children reading and writing as now the DRC posts an 85% literacy rate for all children ages 15-24. Still, young girls experience discrimination as only 79% between 15 and 24-years-old are literate, proving that more work is necessary.
  3. Clean Water: Access to clean water is important to anyone, regardless of age. In the DRC, only 43% of people have access to basic drinking water services. This lack of water has contributed to the high infant mortality rates and will impact the Congolese for their entire lives. Projects to bring clean water to all citizens are occurring but the government is unable to expedite the process. Reports have determined that donors provide nearly 99% of water sector financing in the DRC, making every contribution meaningful. From 2008 to 2017, 2.3 million DRC citizens gained access to clean water as a result of Global Waters and other water relief efforts.
  4. Malnutrition: Right from birth, children in the DRC are in a food shortage. UNICEF has created a system to detect potential malnourishment by collecting data on child nutrition and household food security through a network of 110 sites. This has helped make sure that children and their families who may need assistance are identified and provided food. Additionally, Actions Against Hunger helped nearly 200,000 Congolese in 2019 alone gain food security and nutrition.
  5. Play Time: War and violence have become a common occurrence in the DRC. This has created a dangerous environment for young children to play with friends. Hearing these stories motivated Bethany Frank to create a toy to help DRC’s youth deal with trauma. PlayGarden, as it is known, is a small sanctuary that can include spatial awareness games that can reduce the likelihood of relieving symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many times, the focus on poverty eradication efforts goes towards resources and neglects the fact that children need to play.

Child poverty in the DRC is challenging to combat. But advancements in clean water, food and education will help pave the road to better conditions. The work that some are doing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not reached completion, but many children have benefitted from what they have accomplished so far.

Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

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

AIDS and the Global Poor

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

Congressional Efforts to Combat AIDS

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

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

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

AIDS Progress

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

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

Domenic Scalora
Photo:  Flickr

Child Poverty in Tanzania
In the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, Tanzania is one of the leading nations in development and reform. Since 2010, Tanzania’s economic indicators have held steadily above the average numbers of the rest of the region, boasting a positive GDP growth between 5% and 7% in the last 10 years. According to the World Bank’s 2019 Tanzania Mainland Poverty Assessment, poverty decreased by 8% in 10 years. Still, the World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Bella Bird, urged the nation “to accelerate the pace of poverty reduction as the number of poor people remains high.” This article will assess child poverty in Tanzania and the efforts to eradicate it.

Better Planning, Better Counting

 In 2011, Tanzania committed itself to a series of national Five Year Development Plans (FYDP) to reach economic and human development goals by 2025. The Second Five Development Plan (FYDP II), 2016/17 – 2020/21, includes “poverty reduction” as a main focus. Tanzania’s overall positive economic performance results from a commitment to accurate assessment and careful planning that has welcomed newer and better ways to assess certain indicators, such as child poverty.

With the help of UNICEF, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) published the Child Poverty in Tanzania report in 2019. This report assesses child poverty in Tanzania through the recently developed framework known as Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA), which “complements the traditional method of measuring poverty through the lens of a household’s aggregate income and consumption.” The report notes that MODA brings to focus the “importance in the wellbeing of a child during childhood” without losing sight of the monetary implications of poverty.

Multidimensional Child Poverty in Tanzania

The report defines “multidimensional child poverty” as a child who “suffers deprivation in three or more key dimensions of poverty: nutrition, health, protection, education, information, sanitation, water and housing.” The report further divides each dimension into indicators, thresholds and applicable ages. Using data from the 2014/15 National Panel Survey, this 2019 report provides an update on a previous report from 2016, and a clearer look at the issue of child poverty in Tanzania.

Below is a breakdown of each dimension, its indicators and the percentage of children (0-17 years old) deprived of each respective dimension.

  • Nutrition: The prevalence of stunting or wasting, body mass index (BMI) and dietary diversity – 30.1% of children deprived.
  • Health: Mother’s assisted delivery, antenatal care, support to a child with severe disability, malaria and diarrhea – 54.7% of children deprived.
  • Protection: Victim of crime, birth registration, early marriage and child labor – 86.4% of children deprived.
  • Water: Unimproved water and time to fetch water – 72.3% of children deprived.
  • Sanitation: Unsafe waste disposal, unsafe stool disposal and unimproved/shared sanitation – 91.1% of children deprived.
  • Housing: Inadequate floor/roof, overcrowding and solid cooking fuel – 88.8% of children deprived.
  • Education: Literacy, school enrolment, completed primary, pre-school enrolment and grade for age – 36.1% of children deprived.
  • Information: Communication device and access to information – 39.4% of children deprived.

The report concludes that a total of 88% of children in Tanzania are multidimensionally poor, meaning that they suffer from at least three deprivations above.

Higher Figures, Good or Bad?

According to the report, 19.5% of children live in monetary poverty, a much lower figure. Why, then, should Tanzania pay attention to the higher figure from the more complicated model? Working through the MODA methodology provides a more accurate look at the barriers that block Tanzanian children from participating in the semi-industrial future of their government’s goals.

Furthermore, this approach to understanding poverty highlights the importance of investing in programs that go beyond monetary solutions. While Tanzania has been successful in its cash-transfer programs, there may be a need to improve programs that tend to the non-monetary wellbeing of children should the country heed to Bird’s suggestions of speeding up the pace of progress.

USAID and Tanzania

Fortunately, Tanzania is not alone in the development and investment of such programs. USAID has recognized the need to empower the youth by increasing access to health care, water, nutrition and education, among other resources. Since the updated report in June 2019, USAID has developed two new programs that affect children directly: one in nutrition (30.1% of children deprived) and one in education (36.1% of children deprived).

Advancing Nutrition

Through the Advancing Nutrition activity, USAID works with Tanzanian authorities to support the implementation and further development of the National Multi-sectoral Nutrition Action Plan (NMNAP), initially set up in 2016 and due for a second iteration after June 2021. According to the midterm NMNAP report, Tanzania is on track to meet most of its goals from 2016.

Between 2014 and 2018:

  • Acute malnutrition in children 5-years-old and under has dropped from 3.8% to 3.5%.
  • The prevalence of overweight children under 5-years-old has dropped from 3.5% to 2.8%.
  • The proportion of children aged 0-5 months who are exclusively breastfed rose from 41% to 58%.
  • The proportion of children aged 6-23 months who received a minimum acceptable diet increased from 20% to 30%.

Hesabu Na Elimu Jumuishi (“Arithmetic and Inclusive Education”)

The second program developed after June 2019 for children revolves around education. The Arithmetic and Inclusive Education activity expands math instruction for young children and “addresses the need for inclusive education for children with disabilities.” According to the UNICEF report, around 48% of children 5-13 years old experience deprivation in the education dimension. This USAID activity will work directly to improve this indicator of multidimensional in child poverty in Tanzania.

Looking Ahead

Tanzanian leaders and international groups understand the need to develop more aggressive plans to tackle poverty. As the USAID Tanzania Activity Briefer notes in the “Better Policies” activity description: “a reduction in poverty slower than the economic growth rate implies that growth has not sufficiently reached those who are the most vulnerable.”

In the next two years, Tanzania’s development (FYDP) and nutrition (NMNAP) plans will be re-discussed and re-planned. Many of USAID’s programs in Tanzania will also soon reach a conclusion, such as the “Water Resources Integration Development Initiative” (WARIDI), which improves sanitation and water management while creating jobs (72.3% of children experience deprivation in the water dimension).

Through this new look at indicators of poverty, namely multidimensional child poverty, such programs along with the government now have a better understanding of how to allocate resources purposefully to address more directly the issue of child poverty in Tanzania.

– Luis Gonzalez Kompalic
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Foreign Aid
People have historically looked at U.S. foreign policy as a stool supported by three legs: Defense, Diplomacy and Development. The final leg, development, refers to foreign aid. U.S. foreign aid is a vital tool in the U.S.’s national security toolbox and yet its 2019 budget did not even account for 8% of the budget for the first leg, national defense.

The need for national security is obvious, but the apparent belief that defense spending is the unilateral key to achieving this goal is dangerously reductionist. The U.S. federal budget represents a heavy reliance on military strength and a contrasting disregard for the other two facets of security. Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, called for a “whole of government approach,” when asked in his Senate confirmation hearing about how the U.S. should approach its competitive coexistence with China.

Where Does the Money Go?

In 2019, over $46 billion went toward foreign assistance, representing a roughly $6 billion decrease from appropriated funds in 2015. Where those tax dollars go matters when understanding the investment they represent in American safety and prosperity. The vast majority of those funds went to the U.S. Department of State and USAID. These are the two principal government agencies with the charge of managing U.S. foreign aid. Within those two federal agencies, funds go into nine categories with Peace and Security, Health and Humanitarian Assistance making up the bulk of aid.

Looking more closely, the Health sector received $9.5 billion in appropriations in 2019. The majority of that figure went towards HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. This can have a substantial impact on reducing poverty as AIDS-related illnesses greatly reduce life expectancy in the countries that the epidemic most affected. Additionally, statistics have proven that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has slowed economic growth in Africa as it often prevents those affected from receiving an education or obtaining a job. Prevention and treatment of this epidemic is just one aspect of U.S. foreign aid.

Slow and Steady

Proving the results of U.S. foreign aid has long been a complicated task. The absence of conflict in a region is hard to credit with just one measure and not nearly as easy to point to as the existence of conflict elsewhere. Specific examples of changes in spending do however uncover gradual successes. Peace and Security funding goes towards military equipment, training and development. However, as the situation improves incrementally in certain countries, USAID and the Department of State are able to shift their efforts towards Democracy, Human Rights and Governance projects.

One example is Afghanistan, which received more U.S. aid in 2019 than any other nation. One should not ignore the fact that 17% of funds went to Peace and Security while 49% went to the aforementioned Democracy, Human Rights and Governance sector. This represents a marked shift as previous years focused the majority of aid on the military. Furthermore, it is representative of the slow yet undeniable progress that just about 1% of the federal budget has made.

When USAID first started working in Afghanistan in December 2002, the literacy rate was 50% for men and 20% for women. The budget that the Afghan government operated on came exclusively from donor support and accounted for just $600 million. The GDP per capita, a useful measure of average living standards in a country, was $250. By 2017, the GDP per capita had risen to $2,000. In 2018, the literacy rates had increased to 55.5% for men and 29.8% for women and the government’s budget had risen to $2.2 billion. These figures are not indications that the task is finished, but just some examples that U.S. foreign aid made the task possible.

Foreign Aid is Key to Grand Strategy

U.S. history has demonstrated the strategic gains of foreign aid countless times throughout U.S. history. Dating all the way back to the Marshall Plan in 1948, the U.S. provided more than $13 billion in aid to Europe so that the continent could rebuild after WWII. This allowed the U.S. to build stronger bilateral and multilateral ties with Europe, forming lasting alliances that reaped benefits in trade and a return to reduced conflict in the region.

During the 1960s, the U.S. improved upon this practice with the creation of USAID and the Peace Corps. From there, U.S. foreign aid expanded beyond to areas like education, agriculture and health. As a result, the U.S. could continue to project more than just military might. Key democratic values like education for girls and boys, free and fair elections, freedoms for the press and more could be developed around the globe. This all occurred in the context of a great power competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union with a clear understanding of the benefits of a three-legged approach in lieu of a military standing alone. As recently as 2017, a letter to Congress authored by roughly 120 retired U.S. admirals and generals called for a continuation of aid funding in the interest of, “preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way.”

An End to “Forever Wars”

As the world becomes ever-more intertwined, the U.S. must evolve its own foreign policy to meet new challenges. Relying solely on the military places an impossible task on its shoulders as it attempts to help rebuild nations, improve foreign governments and end global poverty. This work requires professional diplomats trained for these tasks and foreign aid that allows governments and NGOs to do it themselves. In the long term, more foreign aid could mean the sending of fewer troops to war.

– Scott Mistler-Ferguson
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Moldova
Since its independence from Russia in 1991, the Republic of Moldova has struggled to maintain economic sovereignty and is one of Europe’s most impoverished countries. As the country is rife with poverty, rampant hunger also affects it. Hunger in Moldova is a result of an array of factors that contribute to the multilayered issues that the country faces. Some of these factors include emigration and severe weather.

Natural Disasters

Moldova’s climate creates an ideal environment for extreme weather. In 2007-2015, droughts impacted 90% of the country’s territory and 80% of its population. These natural disasters have proven to be detrimental to the country’s agriculture as they are unpredictable and hinder crop production. As 17.7% of Moldova’s economy is contingent upon agriculture, the prevalence of natural disasters endangers the country’s ability to produce for itself and compete within the international economy. This has resulted in Moldovans suffering from a lack of consistent nutrition and resources that has impacted their overall health. Traditionally, the prevalence of anemia is indicative of hunger. Currently, 26.8% of women in the reproductive stage are anemic.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the progress to eliminate hunger in Moldova is under threat. Developing countries are currently at risk because they lack the proper resources to contain outbreaks and stabilize affected communities. According to the UNDP, 75% of those in the least developed countries have access to soap and water. With no way to effectively sanitize, the COVID case counts in developing countries are much higher than those in developed countries. The high numbers of cases in Moldova have proved detrimental to the Moldovan workforce, thus leaving many without access to the goods and services they require. Moreover, COVID-19 is not just a health concern, it also places fundamental resources in jeopardy. The UNDP predicts that developing countries will lose over $220 billion in income and that only 45% of people in those countries will have social protection. As a result, the reversal of efforts regarding education, hunger and human rights may occur.

Solutions

While poverty and hunger have endured in Moldova since its independence from Russia, many international organizations have made efforts to improve the wellbeing of its citizens. Contrary to popular belief, efforts do not have to be particularly large scale. Some of the most effective mechanisms to lessen poverty are local, though internationally funded. Examples include improving small-scale food producers and promoting disaster-resistant agricultural practices. When implemented correctly these small changes create a ripple effect into the country as a whole. Consequently, larger organizations provide funding which strengthens the country’s ability to compete in the international economy.

Efforts in Moldova have decreased the poverty rate from 30.2% to 12.7% from 2007 to 2012, which was 7.8% over the 20% goal. This decrease is impressive because it displays the importance of community efforts in the fight against poverty and the subsequent hunger. An additional example of community outreach is that in 2013, the local government was able to support projects that contributed to helping over 100,000 people gain access to clean water sources. A specific project is the Global Humanitarian Agency’s water project, which focuses on the application of underutilized water resources like rainwater and improving sanitation. In regards to hunger in Moldova, clean water is an essential resource and is often a factor that contributes to poverty.

Additionally, local groups have also been able to train roughly 80% of their elected officials in order to identify needs within their communities. As a result of allowing elected officials to identify needs, communities can regain a level of autonomy. Different places have different needs as far as financial and food resources are concerned. Thus, training elected officials allows them to serve as educated ambassadors and make intelligent decisions regarding their respective areas. These examples illustrate the ability of small efforts to catalyze large scale development.

How to Help

There are many organizations for one to choose from if they would like to help end hunger in Moldova. USAID and UNDP are some of the most reputable.

USAID has championed a project known as the Moldova Competitiveness Project which partners with the Swiss government and focuses on the expansion of the Moldovan economy. The project emerged in October 2015 and is transparent about its objectives. The project plans to elevate Moldova’s economy by increasing productivity within Moldovan businesses and innovation as a whole throughout the country. The improvement of the products that Moldova produces would connect it to the global economy and allow it to become economically sustainable. This improvement of products will occur through the project’s support of specialized training for workers and industry excellence centers like ZIPHouse, a creativity center.

Meanwhile, UNDP seeks to lessen poverty by applying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Effective since 2016, these goals serve as the primary mission statement for UNDP’s global outreach programs. It prioritizes innovation, sustainability and economic equality in an effort to improve the lives of those impoverished and ultimately end poverty as a whole. In response to COVID-19, the UNDP has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to aid developing countries amid the pandemic. It focuses on stopping the spread of the virus by utilizing adequate medical equipment and providing resources to bar the economy from collapsing. It has already utilized $20 million but predicts it will cost at least $500 million in order to sufficiently aid 100 countries.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

Economy in the DRC
On June 25, 2020, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo declared that the 10th Ebola outbreak was over in three provinces. With the rise of COVID-19 cases in the country, Ebola cases have also increased significantly as social distancing became difficult in medical facilities. As of August 13, 2020, there have been 86 confirmed Ebola cases in the northwest Equateur province. As of July 3, 2020, there were a total of 3,481 cases in the entire country. With Ebola and COVID-19 cases rising, medical costs, personnel and resources will heavily affect the economy as government officials scramble to contain the outbreaks. Here is some information about how Ebola has affected the economy in the DRC.

Keeping Inflation in Check

The recent outbreaks in the Equateur province are in remote areas, regions that are difficult for medical supplies to reach. The lack of access to these areas requires an increase in medical cost support, however, the DRC currently cannot shoulder the financial burden due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy in the DRC has been stressed because of COVID-19 costs and has been adjusting rates in order to control inflation. During the week of August 10, the Central Bank of DRC increased the key interest rate from 7.5% to 18.5% in order to prevent inflation. Despite the pandemic, Central Bank experts are expecting an increase in the economic growth of 2.4% at the end of 2020. This would be a downward trend from expectations at the beginning of 2020.

Tracking COVID-19 and Ebola

The DRC will only be able to contain both viruses if it can properly document progression and transmission. However, the DRC has more than 500 regions of difficult terrain that do not have access to basic resources. These remote, populous areas are unable to receive medical resources or be properly tracked. They have less access to electricity, medical personnel and resources. The economy in the DRC has exacerbated most funds in order to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that almost 13,000 people have received vaccinations since the 11th Ebola outbreak that started near the end of July 2020.

International Aid

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is delivering an additional $7.5 million in humanitarian assistance to the DRC for Ebola. With these funds and WHO’s vaccine distribution procedures, testing facilities and medical personnel volunteers, the DRC will be able to more efficiently combat these pandemics.

Additionally, the DRC is receiving a $363 million loan from the International Monetary fund, $47 million from the World Bank and $40 million in emergency funds from the United Nations to strengthen the economy. These monetary aids will go toward the COVID-19 medical response, 11th Ebola outbreak vaccinations and necessary medical facilities.

Conclusion

Despite battling two pandemics at once, the DRC has maintained its composure and enacted the proper medical responses with the resources it has. The economy in the DRC has suffered because of the new Ebola outbreak. However, the DRC’s mission and determination to wipe out the last of the Ebola infections are unparalleled by previous responses. The DRC is on track to declaring another Ebola outbreak over.

Aria Ma
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid  in South Sudan
As the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan has amazing potential to be an emerging economy in East Africa. Unfortunately, conflict has plagued the newly formed country, as it emerged as a result of a war for independence, and continues to see regional conflicts as it remains politically unstable, resulting in weaker public institutions and infrastructure. Due to this instability, it has been difficult for a strong and developed economy to take hold. However, with South Sudan’s access to natural resources and untapped human capital, a strong economy is definitely possible if there is enough of an investment in humanitarian aid in South Sudan.

Many nations and organizations, such as the United States and UNESCO, have planned solutions and committed resources to help South Sudan remedy its largest issues. The most prominent issue facing South Sudan is the continued conflict the fledgling country faces. These issues cannot be fixed purely from foreign donations and humanitarian aid but there has been a concentrated effort to help relieve the worst impacts the continued fighting has caused.

Peacekeeping

In a U.S. backed mandate, the U.N. has committed to providing humanitarian aid in South Sudan by maintaining a peacekeeping force in the country till at least March 2021. These peacekeeping forces have the task of maintaining the stability of the new peace agreement as well as assisting the roughly 3.9 million displaced South Sudanese citizens. The U.N.’s forces will have the job of monitoring the new transitional government for abuses of international humanitarian law.

While a lack of political stability is the root cause of most of South Sudan’s economic struggles, a lack of dependable infrastructure also hampers the country’s ability to combat poverty. Humanitarian aid workers have found difficulty reaching rural populations in South Sudan during regular flood seasons. Roughly 70% of South Sudan’s population lives in rural areas and as many work in the agricultural sector, meaning that for a lengthy portion of the year, they are inaccessible to humanitarian workers in addition to not having access to urban centers.

Education

Another difficulty facing South Sudan is a lack of a comprehensive education system. In 2018, South Sudan had the lowest rate of adult literacy in the world at 27%. This is partly due to its reliance on agriculture and the sparse rural communities where many South Sudanese people live. As a response, UNESCO is promoting non-formal educational spaces to not only educate South Sudanese youth but also illiterate adults. Expectations have determined that over 2,000 learning spaces will emerge by the year 2023, which will serve 330,000 children who cannot attend a traditional school due to displacement from conflict.

As of 2018, 70% of South Sudan’s population was under the age of 29 years old which has the potential to lead to exponential growth in the country. The young nature of the country’s population means that they can receive training in specialized skills and can create a sudden surge of development in certain sectors of industry. Combined with developing a stronger educational network for young adults, South Sudan can see a major increase in educated and skilled workers.

The United States, recognizing the potential for South Sudan to become a strong economy in East Africa, has continued to provide humanitarian aid in South Sudan as it develops. The United States has dedicated $97 million from the State’s Department’s Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration as well as an additional $11 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance in an effort to aid those displaced due to the conflict in South Sudan.

Looking Forward

South Sudan has all the makings of a stable and prosperous economy, a substantial amount of natural resources, access to undeveloped land and a population that is young enough to receive thorough training and education. All the country needs to do is to create and maintain political peace within its borders and continually receive humanitarian aid from global leaders such as the United States.

Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

The Rohingya Refugees: What to Know and International Response
According to the U.N., the country bordering Laos to the east and Bangladesh to the west is called Myanmar, but to the U.S. and U.K., it is Burma. Its name is just one source of the conflict that has plagued the country for years; another is regarding relations between the government and the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group living in the Rakhine region. After Myanmar’s independence in 1948, the Rohingya people in the Rakhine region became stateless and the Myanmar government refused to give them citizenship. The animosity between the Rohingya and Myanmar’s government continued to grow until the group experienced exclusion altogether from the national census in 2014. In 2017, the Rohingya faced a crisis that forced them to seek help from other nations and become refugees.

Background Information on Rohingya Refugees

In August 2017, the perpetuated institutional discrimination against the Rohingya hit its limits when the Burmese military launched a campaign of targeted violence. In the first month after violence broke out, at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed and 300 Rohingya villages were burned. As a result, an estimated 740,000 Rohingya were displaced out of Myanmar’s Rakhine region and into Bangladesh. Today, more than 900,000 Rohingya still live in Bangladesh.

Upon arriving in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees found shelter in refugee camps that are now some of the largest in the world. Due to the pace at which mass numbers of Rohingya became refugees. Camps did not have adequate resources including shelter, food, clean water and medical facilities. Many refugees have also become traumatized after witnessing the acts of violence in the Burmese military campaigns. The U.S. State Department now deems the actions as ethnic cleansing.

US Humanitarian Assistance

Since the outbreak of violence in 2017, the U.S. has contributed $669 million in humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya refugees. According to USAID, this funding goes toward addressing the needs of Rohingya refugees including emergency shelter, food, health services, psychological support, education, water and sanitation. Additionally, the U.S. funding aims to support programs that will improve disaster preparedness and education for Rohingya in Bangladesh.

With this assistance, the U.S. also aims to augment existing systems and programs that provide relief to refugees. For instance, the increased number of vouchers that are going to Rohingya refugees should allow them to buy food in local markets. Furthermore, the U.S.’s push for educational programs for refugees should yield more access to better economic opportunities in Bangladesh.

US Diplomatic Stance

The U.S. State Department has consistently and publicly condemned the actions of the Burmese military against the Rohingya. It also stated a commitment to justice and accountability on behalf of the Rohingya people. Furthermore, the State Department urges Myanmar to formally acknowledge the acts of injustice and violence. It calls on other nations to support this stance as well. In 2018, the U.S. imposed sanctions on four Myanmar military and police commanders and two army units for their human rights abuses against the Rohingya. The Myanmar government did not respond to this stance. As a result, the U.S. imposed more sanctions on a high-ranking general and three senior officers in 2019. The U.S. State Department is also working with international organizations to encourage Myanmar to adopt conditions that would eventually allow Rohingya refugees to return to their homes.

After the outbreak of violence in Myanmar, the U.N. Human Rights Council established the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in March 2017 to investigate and make conclusions concerning the extent of human rights abuses committed. Its findings conclude that Myanmar committed crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide against the Rohingya.

With Myanmar’s lack of indication that the country will acknowledge the violence the government committed against the Rohingya, almost 1 million Rohingya remain in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The international response has strongly condemned Myanmar’s government and offered humanitarian assistance. However, more permanent plans for the Rohingya refugees will likely need to occur soon. The U.S.’s push for more education in camps is one example of a positive step in the direction toward relief for the Rohingya. In addition, the U.S. along with other nations and international organizations should continue to develop these programs with further humanitarian assistance.

Isabel Serrano
Photo: Flickr

Education Inequality in Pakistan
Pakistan, a Muslim-majority country and home to over 221 million people, is trying to get girls the education they deserve. Education inequality in Pakistan exists primarily because of a lack of funding from the government, unsafe transportation, early marriage and poverty. Families living in poverty in Pakistan frequently choose between sending their children to school, hoping they get there safely, or buying household necessities. According to a 2018 Human Rights Watch article, “32% of primary school age girls are out of school in Pakistan, compared with 21% of boys.”

The Current Situation in Pakistan

Today, the youth population in Pakistan is larger than it has ever been. With 64% of individuals now under the age of 30, this new generation may be able to change Pakistan’s economy and education system, according to World Education News and Review. However, how can girls make a societal change when only 39% out of that age group, 2% of whom are female, have employment?

Women in Pakistan often do household chores such as cooking and taking care of the children while men in Pakistani culture are the breadwinners. Many in Pakistan see them as worthy of a proper education because they need those skills to create a prosperous life for their family. This adds to the gender and education inequality that exists in the patriarchal society of Pakistan.

For the girls who have the opportunity to go to school, they often face obstacles such as rape and discrimination. The gender-based violence present in Pakistan often occurs through child marriage, domestic abuse and maternal mortality rates. Many girls marry before they turn 18, and according to a 2018 article by TheirWorld, “In 2012 and 2013, 53.7% of married girls between 15 and 19 had never been to school.”

The gender discrimination that girls face in the educational system is an intergenerational problem. The United States has been working to aid Pakistan in furthering its educational system and obtaining education equality for girls.

Solutions

USAID aims to help girls in developing areas gain access to education, diminish the gender gap and keep girls in school when they are at high risk of dropping out. According to the Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education, 22.7% of children drop out of primary school. In an attempt to change those statistics, USAID has constructed and repaired 1,607 schools and awarded scholarships to 19,000 students in Pakistan in the past decade.

Education in Pakistan is often poor. School budgets are frequently low, infrastructure is improper and teachers are illegitimate. Change must begin on the inside, starting with the intentions of the Pakistani government.

In past years, Pakistan has fallen short when it comes to financing education. In 2000, Pakistan spent 1.8% of its gross domestic product on education. In 2017, Pakistan spent only 2.9% on education. According to the Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education, “The government has allocated Rs. 83.3 billion for Education Affairs and Services in the federal budget for 2020-21.” While there are plans in place to help Pakistan’s economy and promote education, some organizations are working on a more personal level.

Save the Children

Save the Children is an organization that strives to create a better future for children by providing aid to healthcare, education and disaster relief. In Pakistan, the organization’s goal is to raise awareness about girls rights, work towards gender equality and help improve the country’s education system.

“We want to help every child, each one is important but we know girls need more help breaking down those barriers,” said Save the Children’s Vice President of Public Policy and Advocating, Nora O’Connell, in an interview with The Borgen Project. Save the Children’s Choices, Voices, and Promises program aims to educate children about gender and social norms to move towards equality. The program intends to teach boys about the obstacles that their sisters and friends in order to create a supportive, less divided community. “In some cases we see boys helping their sisters with their chores so they have more time to focus on their school work,” said O’Connell.

Save the Children also has programs about sexual and reproductive health, teachers as role models and a mentor program. According to O’Connell, the mentor program is a great way for adolescent girls to stay in school when they are at risk of dropping out. Save the Children pairs girls with mentors who may have dropped out of school due to marriage or pregnancy, in order to show girls they are capable of moving past social barriers.

Through continued work, education inequality in Pakistan should become a part of the past. Everyone deserves the right to an equal and proper education no matter their gender. As the African proverb goes, “if you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”

– Jessica LaVopa
Photo: Flickr