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Best Poverty Reduction Programs
In the global fight against poverty, there have been countless programs to effectively downsize this issue. Poverty reduction programs are an important part of the fight against poverty and because of this, countries should be able to cooperate and learn from one another. Thankfully, with the help of the U.N., the world has been making progress in terms of cooperating to implement good poverty reduction programs. In no particular order, these are the five countries with some of the best poverty reduction programs.

Five Countries with the Best Poverty Reduction Programs

1. China

For the Middle Kingdom, poverty reduction is a key contributing factor to its rapidly growing economy. China has helped reduce the global rate of poverty by over 70 percent, and according to the $1.90 poverty line, China has lifted a total of 850 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2013. With this, the percentage of people living under $1.90 in China dropped from 88 percent to less than 2 percent in 32 years. China’s poverty reduction programs have also benefitted people on a global scale by setting up assistance funds for developing countries and providing thousands of opportunities and scholarships for people in developing countries to receive an education in China.

2. Brazil

Brazil has taken great steps in reducing poverty and income inequality. Brazil has implemented programs such as the Bolsa Familia Program (Family Grant Program) and Continuous Cash Benefit. Researchers have said that the Family Grant Program has greatly reduced income disparity and poverty, thanks to its efforts of ensuring that more children go to school. They have also said that beneficiaries of this program are less likely to repeat a school year. Meanwhile, the Continuous Cash Benefit involves an income transfer that targets the elderly and the disabled.

3. Canada

Canada has implemented poverty reduction programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the National Housing Strategy. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a monthly benefit for low-income senior citizens. This program helped nearly 2 million people in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, the National Housing Strategy in an investment plan for affordable housing that intends to help the elderly, people fleeing from domestic violence and Indigenous people. With its poverty reduction programs in place, Canada reportedly hopes to cut poverty in half by 2030.

4. United States

Although the United States has a long way to go when it comes to battling poverty, it does still have its poverty reduction programs that have proven to be effective. According to the Los Angeles Times, programs such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps have all helped to reduce deep poverty. In particular, people consider the Earned Income Tax Credit to be helpful for families that earn roughly 150 percent of the poverty line, approximately $25,100 for a four-person family. Social Security could help reduce poverty among the elderly by 75 percent.

5. Denmark

Denmark has a social welfare system that provides benefits to the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly, among others. People in Denmark are generally in good health and have low infant mortality rates. Denmark also has public access to free education, with most of its adult population being literate.

It should be stressed that none of these countries are completely devoid of poverty, but they do provide some good examples of how governments can go about reducing this issue. With the help of organizations like the USAID, it is clear that this is an issue many take seriously.

Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan
Presidential candidate Julián Castro has introduced many policies that he would implement during his presidency revolving around protecting indigenous communities, policing and education reform. One of the most pressing policies that Castro proposed revolves around immigration. With a three-part plan, Julián Castro is attempting to create an immigration policy that focuses on reforming the system altogether. However, one of the more ambitious parts of the plan deals with something he has coined as a 21st Century Marshall Plan for Central America. Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan could be a major step in solving immigration issues in both the United States and Central America.

Meet Julián Castro

Castro is no stranger to the world of politics. At a young age, he watched his mother run for San Antonio’s city council as the first woman of Mexican descent to do so. He learned the values of hard work and dedication from both his mother and his grandmother, who was an immigrant from Mexico that started her family with a fourth-grade education and a job as a housekeeper.

However, Julián Castro’s political career did not start when he decided to run in the 2020 presidential election. At age 26, he entered the San Antonio city council. Not only did he make history as the youngest councilman elected in the city, but he began his path to public service that would result in him becoming mayor of San Antonio in 2009 and then the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 2014. Along the way, he even became the first Latino to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

The Original Marshall Plan

In 1948, Europe had severly damaged infrastructure. World War II caused strain to Europe’s economies and disrupted agricultural production. To alleviate this issue, George C. Marshall created a plan to give roughly $15 billion to European countries. These countries used the money to rebuild cities and various economic industries for four years. In the process, these European countries and the U.S. created trade opportunities and development programs. The plan created substantial results across the continent. Industrial and agricultural production increased by over 37 percent and the overall balance of trade and economic stability improved as well.

The Marshall Plan differed from other aid programs during the time because it was a joint effort between many nations. The United States created the funding and programs that could benefit Europe, and the nations committed to implementing these programs. This plan benefitted Europe’s economic growth and reestablished the United States’ influence in the region after the war.

The Marshall Plan was also a way to test various programs concerning development and relief efforts. For example, the Economic Cooperation Administration’s model, designed to provide financial assistance to these European nations, was a model to create the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Overall, the 20th century Marshall Plan was a major step in development programs that helped Europe drastically.

A Plan for Central America

In an NPR podcast, Castro describes the importance of working to rebuild Central America for multiple reasons. For one, it helps create stronger relationships with the U.S.’s neighbors to the south. By creating an alliance with these countries, the U.S. can continue being an economic competitor with China, which is on track to pass the U.S. in becoming the largest economy in the world by 2030.

Along with the economic benefits of strengthening a region with potential trade partnership, the second major reason for assisting Central America is immigration issues. Castro states that “…if we want to solve the immigration issue, we need to go to the root of the cause…and that is that people can’t find safety and opportunity in Central America.”

Central America is a region where large numbers leave to seek asylum from violence and corrupt governmental institutions. By 2015, nearly 3.4 million people born in Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) were living in the U.S., with over half being undocumented immigrants.

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan would firstly target some of the root causes of violence in the Northern Triangle such as transnational criminal organizations and illicit networks. According to Castro, an increase in law enforcement programs would help eliminate criminal activities such as human and drug trafficking. Also, this plan would require a heavier focus on anti-corruption and government transparency practices. With the cooperation of leaders in Central America and the United States’ resources, the high rates of violence in the region can decrease and create safer environments and sustainable governments less susceptible to corruption.

His policy also provides more funding for programs designed to prevent violence at local levels, create jobs and support health and nutrition across Central America. By stimulating economic development through more sustainable jobs, it allows people to stay and grow their communities rather than leaving them to find better success in the United States.

The final major point that this candidate emphasizes is the importance of prioritizing diplomatic relations with Latin American countries. To ease the instability in this region, all nations have to become part of this plan. Cooperation between these nations and the United States will ultimately be the major stepping stone to creating safe and sustainable communities.

This major foreign policy proposal would only be one component of his push to tackle immigration, but his message stands clear throughout his campaign. Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan intends to put people first, and for millions of people living in Central America, that is something they can begin hoping for in 2020.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Tajikistan
Tajikistan is located in central Asia, with Kyrgyzstan, China, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan bordering. Though the smallest in land size, Tajikistan does have a higher elevation average with a more mountainous landscape which should place it at a disadvantage with the spread of health care. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Tajikistan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Tajikistan

  1. According to data from the United Nations, Tajikistan ranks 134th in life expectancy for both sexes and second in relation to its neighboring countries. Life expectancy in Tajikistan follows the global trend of rising and currently has a male life expectancy of 68.6 placing it at rank 126 for male life expectancy. Tajikistan has a female life expectancy of 73.1 years placing it at 134th for female life expectancy.

  2. During the past 60 years, the only time life expectancy in Tajikistan has dropped was during its five-year civil war through May 1992 and June 1997. The civil war resulted in between 65,000 and 150,000 deaths, which accounted for about 1 percent of Tajikistan’s population at the time. Additionally, severe food shortages, as well as refugees and internally displaced people negatively affected Tajikistan’s standard of living.

  3. Since 2005, Tajikistan’s maternal mortality rate decreased from 95/100,000 to 32/100,000 in 2008. Afterward, the rate decreased to 25.2/100,000 in 2016. Throughout this time USAID and the United Nation Population Fund (UNFP) were working with Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health to strengthen its health care programs through improved health care education and financial support. This support came through the USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Project which focused on improving health, nutrition and hygiene for the women and children at the community level, as well as the UNFP training of doctors and midwives on effective perinatal care.

  4. Tajikistan has 170 physicians and 444 nurses per 100,000, which is comparatively less than the EU average of 347 and 850, respectively. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SADC) is currently working to help improve the condition of health care education by promoting medical education. Currently its efforts are supporting roughly 900 undergraduate medical students, several hundred nurses and over 100 postgraduate residents per year.

  5. Since 2009, USAID has helped to create or fix 76 water systems allowing 242,000 or more people to access safe drinking water. Tajikistan also has an estimated 354,000 cubic meters per year, which is four times the average water flow than the entire region of Central Asia. This is important as roughly 3.7 percent of deaths are related to water-borne diseases such as bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid.

  6. Non-governmental organizations are working to fill the gaps in their health care systems relating to the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). These gaps exist due to Tajikistan’s limited manpower and financial resources.

  7. At 99.8 percent Tajikistan has a high literacy rate compared to countries of similar economic standing. The high literacy rate should help facilitate the spread of health care information.

  8. Since 1994, Tajikistan has had legislation to protect patient rights and give patient choice, complaint and reimbursement procedures. Tajikistan’s constitution even includes this legislation in Article 38 which promises that each person has the right to basic health care and any other sort that future laws deem necessary.

  9.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Tajikistan ties for the 76th rank in road fatalities at 18.8 deaths per 100,000 people. For comparison, the U.K. has 3.1 deaths for every 100,000 people related to road fatalities. Though road safety contributes to a large number of deaths in Tajikistan, the road affects access to health care as well. As mentioned previously, the mountainous landscape proves to be a major obstacle in improving access to health care.

  10. The 10th fact about life expectancy in Tajikistan is that even though these problems and solutions are occurring, 45 percent of women from the ages 15 to 49 agree that the largest issue is getting the necessary money to afford health care treatment.

Life expectancy in Tajikistan is steadily improving with help from NGOs and further promoted health care education. While proper laws are in place to allow the population to seek out proper/adequate health care, financial limits burden those in poorer parts of the country and force them to seek the cheapest alternative.

With data being collected on Tajikistan’s health care system, an interest in increasing clean water access and an ample desire to better its system, Tajikistan is on the road to progress. There are several ways to contribute to helping improve the life expectancy in Tajikistan through supporting NGO’s efforts to provide children and families with clothes, food and shelter and to improve education standards and accessibility.

– Richard Zamora
Photo: World Bank

Global Development
Global development is a term that politicians, think tanks and scholars frequently use when they discuss foreign aid, but what is it? Simply put, global development refers to the actions countries or organizations take to lend aid to other countries in need around the world. The United States frequently contributes to global development in the form of directed financial aid through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In 2018, the U.S. gave a total of $29 billion of foreign aid. The countries that received the largest amount of aid in 2018 include Ethiopia, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria. The monetary aid that countries or organizations provide, such as the $29 billion from the U.S., supports a specific program of development. The breakdown for monetary aid to Ethiopia in 2018 shows that the primary sector receiving aid was Emergency Response at approximately $409 million with Developmental Food Aid receiving the second-largest amount of aid at approximately $142 million.

Global Development and Climate Change

With the increased degradation of natural resources and the frequent occurrence of natural disasters, sustainable development acquires a new meaning. In Ethiopia, USAID implemented a program under its Food Security sector to help pastoralists living in rural areas of Ethiopia to sustain themselves despite worsening droughts. A USAID program in Ethiopia has made it possible for pastoralists to collect and sell their milk to a regular buyer, thus creating a dependable source of income for many families in the area. Programs such as this one create food and economic security for families where there previously was none or where security was undependable.

Past programs for global development have found success by taking into account the resources that communities require and what the availability of those resources might be in the future. The focus of the development itself may also face necessary change in response to a changing environment. If a community has begun to experience repeated damage from natural disasters, foreign aid for development could focus on preparing the community to meet future disasters. For example, the Pacific Islands have experienced an increase in weather-related natural disasters in recent years resulting in washed-out roads, a shortage of freshwater and widespread power outages. Recurring storms of this strength make life difficult for all people living on the islands, but especially those with disabilities. In 2017, USAID partnered with the University of the South Pacific as part of its USAID Ready Project to work to create a five-month-long management course for individuals with disabilities. This course gives participants skills in risk assessment and business communications to equip them to advocate for the creation of sustainable solutions to the impacts of climate change that include people with disabilities.

Global Development Projects

There are many ongoing projects for global development around the world. Currently, the World Bank is developing a project of the Greater Accra Resilient and Integrated Development Project for Ghana. As it currently stands, the Odaw River Basin floods frequently and the lack of poor drainage for waste in the area contaminates the water of the river which is necessary for life in the region. This project’s objective is to create long-term solutions to flood and waste management of the Odaw River Basin in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana with a projected closing date of December 31, 2025. By this projected end date, the World Bank aims to increase the capacity of the Odaw River to carry floodwaters, increase the upstream detention of floodwater, create a forecast system for floods, increase the amount of solid waste that people dispose of in sanitary landfills and increase the number of people who have access to urban living conditions. This program plans to achieve these end goals through the creation of new drains in the Odaw River as well as the rehabilitation of existing drains and the implementation of improved sanitation practices within low-income communities. With the proposed development in the Odaw River Basin from the World Bank, the quality of life for the people of this particular region of Ghana would improve significantly and see sustained improvement for future generations.

Global development is a common and effective approach to foreign aid. When employed responsibly and intentionally, global development can be a force for good and a tool for the improvement of life for thousands of people around the world.

– Anne Pietrow
Photo: Flickr

the global fragility act
The Global Fragility Act of 2019 (H.R.2116/S.727) is one of the first-ever whole-of-government efforts to recognize regions where violent conflict exists or could potentially arise and address those issues through diplomatic, development and security efforts. Its main goal is not only to stabilize these areas but also prevent the emergence of violent conflict in countries that are at a higher risk or are more fragile due to a lack of governance and economic opportunity, as well as extreme poverty.

What Is the Problem?

With the current levels of humanitarian crises and extreme poverty worldwide, there is a great need for a bill like the Global Fragility Act. Globally there are over 134 million people that are in need of aid with the main causes being conflict and natural disasters. Additionally, over 550,000 people die annually as a result of violence, which has led to an increase in the need for aid from $3.5 billion in 2004 to about $20 billion currently. Unfortunately, when some provide assistance to address these issues, places mostly use it to address the consequences of violence rather than the root causes.

What Is the Global Fragility Act?

The Global Fragility Act is a bipartisan measure that will steer away from the focus placed on the symptoms of violence and instead solve the problem before it starts. It covers 12 different goals which will address the causes of fragility such as instability, weak governance and a lack of economic opportunities. The bill will resolve these issues by enhancing stabilization in the areas where conflict is prevalent.

According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the bill aims to “establish an interagency initiative/strategy to reduce fragility and violence, select pilot countries where the U.S. will implement the initiative, provide critical funds for stabilization, prevention and crisis response, [and] mandate evaluation and accountability.”

The inter-agency initiative is the first of its kind and will include the joint efforts of the U.S. State Department, Defense Department and USAID. These agencies will select countries and regions where conflict and violence are the most prevalent based on the most current data available regarding fragility, violence and number of people forcibly displaced, among other indicators. Additionally, the Global Fragility Act will also establish the Stabilization and Prevention Fund and the Complex Crises Fund. The Department of State and USAID will manage these with the intention of taking preventative or responsive measures to crises. Furthermore, the Act will also establish indicators to monitor the progress in the pilot regions, while also requiring the agencies involved to send biennial reports to Congress regarding how the program has developed in each region.

Who Are Its Sponsors?

The Global Fragility Act is a bipartisan effort given that it addresses issues that go beyond party adherence. As has been mentioned there are two versions of this bill, the House H.R.2116 bill and the Senate S.727 bill. Sponsors for the House bill include the following: Representatives Engel (D-NY), McCaul (R-TX), A. Smith (D-WA), Wagner (R-MO), Keating (D-MA) and Rooney (R-FL).

The senators in support of the S.727 bill include Senators Coons (D-DE), Graham (R-SC), Merkley (D-OR), Rubio (R-FL) and Young (R-IN). There are a number of additional supporters, but these are the main sponsors, as well as the ones who introduced the bills to their respective chambers.

Where Does It Stand Now?

Currently, the Global Fragility Act has passed in the House of Representatives; however, it has yet to be approved in the Senate. On June 25, 2019, the Bill went to the Senate for consideration. Once the Senate approves it, it will then move on to the President to sign into law. However, everyone needs to support it for it to receive approval. The U.S. public can involve themselves and help turn this bill into law. U.S. senators are only a call, email or letter away. Constituents can find their senator’s contact information here and they can email Congress here. Voicing support for this bill would not only contribute to raising people out of poverty but also strengthening U.S. national security.

Laura Rogers
Photo: Pixabay

 

Malnutrition in MaliA land-locked country in West Africa, Mali has an economy that is primarily based on agriculture. The main crops produced are millet, rice and corn. However, this country-wide reliance on agriculture depends on the weather, which often includes unpredictable rainfall patterns. Inconsistent agricultural production, high population growth and increasing desertification are some of the causal factors that have resulted in the country’s ranking 182nd out of 189 countries in the world on the Human Development Index. Malnutrition also happens to be one of the leading causes of death in Mali. Because of this, many NGOs and governments around the world have funded programs in Mali to help improve living conditions and decrease malnutrition.

Political Instability

Aside from agricultural issues, political instability has also led to severe malnutrition in Mali. Recently, USAID predicted that an additional 868,000 people will require urgent food assistance in 2019. Of these 868,000, 160,000 will be children. Children who are malnourished are at high risk of growth deficiencies; as such, many children in Mali are severely underdeveloped with regards to their height and weight.

Current and Past Progress

However, some progress has been made. From 2006 to 2013, thinness among women of reproductive age and adolescent women decreased by 2 and 4 percent, respectively. Additionally, the prevalence of underweight children (under the age of 5), decreased from 14 percent to 13 percent. Although this may not seem like a significant statistical improvement, 1 percent of the population of children under 5 years old (3.33 million) represents 33,300 children, indicating that progress has been made towards reducing malnutrition in Mali.

In 2010, then-U.S. President Barack Obama started the Feed the Future initiative, a U.S. funded foreign assistance program that targets specific countries to alleviate global poverty and improve food security. As one of 12 countries selected to receive aid, Mali continues to benefit from the implementation of environmental and nutritional plans. The country has begun to invest in fertilizers in farms across the nation to improve the quality of crop production, and an additional 4.3 million trees have been planted around the country to help make farms more resilient. Additionally, the initiative has encouraged farmers to plant oilseeds, which they can sell for people to use as biofuel and soap. As a result of all of this, the Feed the Future initiative has provided nutritional and humanitarian assistance to millions of individuals in Mali.

Other USAID programs have proven to be of great help in Mali as well, such as the Food for Peace program which has provided $28.5 million of emergency food assistance in the Mopti, Koulikoro and Segou Regions. The program aims to increase the diversity of foods consumed in these regions to decrease malnutrition and make the population healthier.

Today, the Office of Food for Peace (FFP), an organization within USAID, partners with the U.N. World Food Programme, U.N. Children’s Fund and CARE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending world poverty, to provide food assistance in the poorest regions of Mali. As of July 2019, FFP assists 300,000 people with food distributions, supplemental nutrition assistance and asset-building activities. 33,000 severely malnourished children have received ready-to-use food and 124,000 people in the Mopti Region have been provided with programs to improve food security, promote hygiene and provide conflict support.

– Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

The U.S. Foreign Aid Freeze
On August 3, 2019, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered two federal agencies to temporarily freeze billions of foreign aid funding. This decision ordered the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide accounts for all unobligated resources of foreign aid. Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Budget Office, said the order aims to ensure accountability. According to the Associated Press (AP), the letter lists 10 areas that the U.S. foreign aid freeze targets, including development assistance, global health programs and United Nations peacekeeping. In total, the freeze puts $2 billion to $4 billion of congressionally-approved funding on hold.

Subsequent Response

The U.S. foreign aid freeze has met with bipartisan criticism. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel said that the Trump administration has amounted to contempt and emphasized that congressionally-approved foreign aid is law and backed by the Constitution. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticism was harsher, labeling the freeze insane. In a letter to the OMB, lawmakers from both parties agreed that cutting foreign aid and development spending would not be in the interest of national security.

Critics of the OMB’s decision point to the fact that foreign aid spending makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget. Before the freeze, the U.S. spent $30 billion annually on programs to reduce global poverty. Liz Schrayer, the chief executive of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, claims the OMB is cutting one of the smallest portions of the federal budget, but one that could have catastrophic impacts on U.S. economic and national security interests.

Impacted Countries

The U.S. foreign aid freeze will directly affect Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries. The nation consistently ranks very low in various health indicators, such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. In addition, an estimated one million people or 9.2 percent of adults in Malawi live with HIV/AIDS with an estimated 13,000 deaths annually. In Malawi, USAID works to improve the quality of life by supporting development, education and health programs, especially those that prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Due to the Trump administration’s order, Malawi may not have aid for the remainder of this financial year. According to documents that Foreign Policy obtained, the freeze could also affect foreign aid to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Funding for UNICEF projects to protect children account for a large portion of the U.S. foreign aid freeze. One of these programs involves early childhood education and development in Uzbekistan. According to UNICEF, only 30 percent of Uzbek children attend preschool while 70 percent are unable to achieve their full potential due to a lack of early education. UNICEF is rolling its program out across six regions in Uzbekistan and it has designed it to increase access to quality education for children. Regional instructors have trained 2,159 preschool teachers in child-centered learning and model schools, which have increased enrollment by 2,841 children. The U.S. foreign aid freeze will have a direct impact on similar programs across the globe.

Bipartisan Solution

On August 15, 2019, the OMB sent an official rescission request to the State Department to cut foreign aid funding by more than $4 billion, yet canceled the request a few days later. Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to cut foreign aid funding, and in some cases by as much as 30 percent. Members of both parties in Congress firmly rejected all attempts. Daniel Runde, former director of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) in the Bush administration, says development, diplomacy and defense experts are in full agreement that the Trump administration should work collaboratively with Congress to create a more robust and sustainable approach to foreign aid and development.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

Women in Belarus
Belarus, located in Eastern Europe, finds itself ranked among other third world countries. People can identify many different issues about Belarus but one major problem that the country recognizes and is fighting to change is the autonomy of women. In many third world countries, women are at many more disadvantages in men. With the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the successes of women in Belarus are growing to transform the country.

The Gender Gap in Belarus

Women in Belarus did not always have the upper hand when it came to running businesses and having their foot in the working world. As for gender gaps, Belarus was never the worst country on the list. As of 2017, the latest Global Gender Gap Index ranked the country 26 out of 144 countries. This means that there is quite a high level of gender equality in Belarus.

Almost 100 percent of girls attend school because primary and secondary education is compulsory in the country. Women also face barriers in the labor market, so they strive to get more education, which causes them to have higher tertiary enrollment compared to men. Although this is true, women in Belarus still tend to face more discrimination in the labor market than men. Women are approximately 2.5 times less likely to receive a managerial position. Seventeen percent of women and 41 percent of men tend to hold top hierarchical positions. Employers also pay women less than men with the wage gap at 25 percent as of 2017.

USAID in Belarus

USAID noticed an issue with discrimination and wage gaps and decided to step in and transform the business and social landscapes for women in Belarus. Belarus Country Office Director Victoria Mitchell Avdiu spoke on a panel about women’s representation in entrepreneurship. Over 100 women were in attendance, wanting to know how to build confidence, where to find mentors and how to pursue meaningful professional partnerships.

USAID’s objective is to empower women and girls. In doing this, it created the Community Connections Exchange Program. As of 2018, the participants were 60 percent women, and in the last 10 years, 400 women have benefited from this program. The program entails people from Belarus participating in a short-term exchange to the United States. While in the United States, participants learn about practices in a variety of professional fields, participate in entrepreneurship programs, teach business to youth and empower women to resolve community issues.

The Karat Coalition

USAID is not the only organization working to develop pathways for women. The Karat Coalition works to advance legal protections of women’s human rights in Belarus through the adoption of the law on gender equality. Beginning on February 1, 2014, the coalition began a project called Advancing Gender Equality in Belarus. There were three main objectives of this project:

  1. To develop a draft law on gender equality.
  2. To create a strategy for advocacy for the adoption of the law on gender equality.
  3. To empower and mobilize women’s human rights defenders.

The Karat Coalition completed this project on June 20, 2014. It managed to:

  1. Strengthen the capacity of the Belarusian experts’ group to create the draft law.
  2. Strengthen the capacity of Belarusian experts to advocate for the implementation of gender equality laws and standards.
  3. Develop materials to share with the women’s rights advocates community which encompasses information on formulating effective law on gender equality.

Successful Women

With the work of organizations like USAID and the Karat Coalition, women are able to make milestones and be their own person in their own countries. Three women have stood out after taking advantage of opportunities in Belarus.

  1. Margarita Lazarenkova: People know Lazarenkova for her development of creative industries in Belarus. She has developed NGO Creative Belarus that began in response to a worldwide growing trend.
  2. Ludmila Antonauskaya: Antonauskaya has decided to defy the stereotype that women and business do not go together by creating a small company that competes with international giants. In the Top 100 Successful Businesspeople in Belarus, Antonauskaya falls at number 65, the first among women. She created her business, Polimaster, to improve people’s health and save their lives.
  3. Evgeniya Dubeshhuk: Dubeshhuk is the head of the youth exchange organization, Fialta. Fialta helps young people develop critical thinking, broaden their horizons and take on an active role in society.

With the help of organizations creating law and advocating for women to have basic rights in their own country, Belarus is at the start of its transformation. Women in Belarus are beginning to have more opportunities and take control of their own lives.

– Lari’onna Green
Photo: Flickr

Ways to Fight Ebola in the DRCThe Democratic Repulic of the Congo (DRC) has been ravaged by violence and a deadly Ebola epidemic. Thousands have died, however, there may be hope on the horizon. A vaccine and cure for the terrible virus may soon end the years of pain and suffering caused by Ebola. Here are some ways to fight Ebola in the DRC.

Ebola in the DRC

The Congo has dealt with Ebola outbreaks before and managed to contain them before they grew out of control. The current outbreak, however, is proving to be difficult to contain as there have been more than 2,500 cases. Almost 1,800 people have died and the virus is spreading fast. With cases having been confirmed in neighboring Uganda, the World Health Organization says that there is a high risk that Ebola could spread into Rwanda and South Sudan as well. 

Challenges

The main obstacles to containment are a mistrust of doctors and violent conflict. Unfortunately, violent conflicts spill over into clinics where doctors are attacked for providing life-saving treatments for Ebola patients. In addition, a recent study found that almost 25 percent of Congolese people think Ebola is fake due to a lack of trust and the spread of misinformation. Some people even believe that Ebola is a money-making scheme and a way to suppress voters. Unfortunately, distrust means many Congolese avoid formal health care and decline vaccines.

Potential Cure

Scientists have been trialing two new antibody-based treatments. The success of these two treatments has been so great that Ebola may no longer be considered incurable. The two drugs, REGN-EB3 and mAb-114, have both increased survival rates to around 90 percent. REGN-EB3 is a drug invented by the pharmaceutical company Regeneron. mAb-114 is an antibody that was drawn from the blood of an Ebola survivor.

Recently, both treatments were involved in a study to test their effectiveness in comparison with the current drug Zmapp that has a mortality rate of 49 percent. The two new drugs, REGN-EB3 and mAb-114, were both found to have mortality rates under 35 percent. Even more encouraging, the mortality rates for the two drugs drops to below 15 percent when patients are treated as soon as they are infected. A major obstacle in the fight to control the epidemic is that patients wait a long time to seek medical attention. The new more effective treatments could convince people to seek help earlier since their mortality rates are better than the older treatments.

Possible Vaccine

American pharmaceutical company Merck has created an experimental vaccine that has proven to be very effective. Merck uses ring vaccination to vaccinate those who have come in contact with an Ebola patient. Using this method, almost 200,000 people in the DRC and its neighboring countries no longer have to worry about contracting Ebola. The vaccine has given 97 percent protection for those who have taken it. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that it will fund Merck’s vaccine production, with a $23 million investment signaling good news in the fight to contain (and prevent) Ebola in the DRC.

– Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

 

Free Press Reduces Poverty
Strong governments and effective leadership offer lasting improvements for those living in poverty, as they provide social and economic structure for a nation. Efficiency and transparency of government actions and regulations are the first steps toward protecting individual rights. The promotion of transparent governments leans toward a democratic governing system, where citizens may have the right to elect their officials and representatives. The free press and its contributions to democracy in helping to eradicate poverty may not always be at the forefront of aid organizations’ initiatives. Many organizations, however, do recognize that journalists help provide transparency about the states of governments to the people and that a free press reduces poverty.

What is a Free Press and Who Has One?

A free press means that private and public newspapers, magazines or radio programs have the right to report the news without being controlled by the government. This critical freedom from the government’s powers means that the press may act as the people’s eyes and ears for the shifts and changes within the institutions of power.

Unfortunately, more than a third of the world lives under presses that are not free or media coverage that their governments highly control and censor. In the Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 World Press Freedom Index, it is unsurprising that more developed and economically stable countries find themselves at the top of the ranking. Norway comes in first, followed by Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. Ranking at the bottom are countries with highly restrictive governments or some of the poorest nations, such as Yemen, Syria, Sudan and Turkmenistan.

How Does a Free Press Reduce Poverty?

A free press reduces poverty by allowing for an open exchange of information and opinions among ordinary citizens; there is no need for government clearance to learn about the day to day government actions. Journalism provides transparency which helps decrease the risk of corruption in governments and holds them accountable for their actions. A free press helps provide a channel of information about government actions for public assessment and debate. Citizens can see exactly how governments spend taxes or what revenues from big industries they receive. They can even see inside houses of governments where administrators sign laws. Knowledge about the government and freedom to express opinions without fear empowers ordinary citizens.

Debate and exchanging information and ideas is a foundational component of democratic practices. Free presses allow for free debate among the people and not just the political leaders. While debates among community members may not immediately change laws, the debate itself establishes self-autonomy, because everyone participates in conversations and decisions that affect their lives.

Countries with stronger economies and less poverty require strong and stable governments to utilize their resources and to participate in foreign markets. Strong governments strive to enable the political voices of even the poorest populations. Improving governance includes maintaining fair laws, respecting human rights and combating corruption. By promoting all of these, a free press can reduce poverty.

Who is Fighting for Freedom of the Press?

The USAID is one organization that has recognized how a free press reduces poverty. By strengthening journalistic skills, building economic self-sustainability of media outlets and working to legally protect press independence, USAID promotes freedom of the press in 35 countries. The organizations work in Afghanistan produced a national network of 50 Afghan-owned and operated radio stations.

Reporters Without Borders advocates for a free press in order to promote democracy, development and individual empowerment. It helps journalists gain access to equipment anywhere from bulletproof vests to insurance. Working in countries across five continents, the organization monitors a great number of countries’ treatment of journalists and their rankings of press freedom.

The Windhoek Declaration

Some countries, like Namibia, decided to take matters into their own hands. The 1991 Declaration of Windhoek on “Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press” helped establish a foundation for a free press in Africa by joining the forces of journalists, editors and media owners across the continent. The Windhoek Declaration helped spark the establishment of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA). MISA’s continental email alert system hoped to make the world aware of violations of media freedom as soon as they occurred, bringing national attention to the power and importance of journalists. Inspired by the success of the Windhoek Declaration, similar support for free press like the Declaration of Santiago in Chile, the Declaration of Sana’a in Yemen and the Declaration of Sofia in Bulgaria, soon followed.

The globe recognizes the Windhoek Declaration and leaders of the conference even consulted with the U.N. for the implementation of International Press Freedom Day every May 3rd. The Declaration has inspired and allowed journalists to start their own independent newspapers like MediaFax in Mozambique and The Monitor in Malawi.

The purpose of a free press is to empower ordinary citizens, no matter their economic status. By providing honest information, journalists help hold political leaders accountable and decrease government corruption. Through the democratic power of debate, even the poorest populations can have a political voice.

– Maya Watanabe
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