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women in the Olympics

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was highly anticipated for many reasons. One of the most historic reasons is that it was the most “gender-balanced” Olympics in the history of the global competition. With all 206 National Olympic Committees sending “at least one female and one male” athlete from their country, women made up just under half of all competing athletes at the Tokyo Olympics. This Olympics produced many role models for children across the world, but young girls are seeing firsthand the empowerment of women in sports.

Women from across the world broke barriers and became the face of change for women in sports forever. These Olympians left a lasting legacy in their respective sports and represented progress toward gender equality for their home countries. Hundreds of women broke barriers at the 2020 Olympics, but Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Hend Zaza and Yulimar Rojas were three women whose stories are just as notable as the history they are making.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Earning the nickname “second-fastest woman in history” is no small feat, and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has left her mark on the world by doing more than just running. Growing up in one of the poorest areas of Kingston, Jamaica, she first discovered the sport by running to primary school every day while barefoot. Fraser-Pryce dedicates her life to more than her sport and has a passion for working with underprivileged kids. Even with a silver medal in the women’s 100m and a gold medal in the women’s 4x100m relay at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Fraser-Pryce’s legacy extends beyond the Olympic finish line.

Since 2010, she has served as a UNICEF National Goodwill Ambassador for Jamaica. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she coordinated a fundraiser through her resource center, The Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce Resource Centre in Waterhouse. As a result, the Centre supplied computers to allow education to continue during the pandemic for local children. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is a role model to more than just girls hoping to run as fast as her one day. She also proves to underprivileged kids with upbringings similar to hers that anything is possible when it comes to achieving your dreams.

Hend Zaza

Hend Zaza was the youngest person competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and was also the youngest since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. At 12 years old, the Syrian native left a mark on the world as a table tennis prodigy with invitations to train in China by the Chinese Olympic Committee. Zaza did not have a conventional upbringing, being born just two years before the civil war began in Syria.

Because of the conflict in Syria, it was difficult for Zaza to train or even travel between cities. Another barrier for Zaza was the lack of funding for competitions and equipment, like paddles and balls. This left her competition experience limited before her qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Her training for the Olympics occurred primarily at the Al Faiha Club in Damascus. With little or no air conditioning and frequent power outages, Zaza defeated many odds to make strides at the Olympics. While Zaza did not receive an Olympic medal this time around, her mark on the sport of table tennis and the story of her determination and passion will last for many years.

Yulimar Rojas

Awarded Female Athlete of the Year by World Athletics, Yulimar Rojas makes history as the first Venezuelan woman to win this honor. Rojas won the gold medal while breaking the world record for the women’s triple jump at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Born in a rural and poorer region of Venezuela’s capital Caracas, Rojas grew up in a house known as a “ranchito.” Aside from her impoverished upbringing, Yulimar Rojas was originally not allowed to compete and travel to international competitions due to her father’s disapproval. The societal standard of women competing in sports is a hurdle athletes like Rojas fight to overcome. Venezuela has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality, but Rojas continues to push for her change through her life and impressive athletic career.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics brought the world together during an unprecedented time. The women on this global stage were not just sources of empowerment to girls who look up to them. They were also representatives of resilience, passion and drive for the world. Gender equality and women’s representation in the 2020 Olympics is just another reason these historic few weeks were something to remember for generations to come.

Annaclaire Acosta
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Cuba's Abdala Vaccine, 4 Things To KnowCuba’s political and economic conditions have long been mysterious due to the little information the government publishes. While Cubans have access to free healthcare and education, the country is still impoverished. According to The World Bank, there is no official information available regarding how many Cubans live in poverty; however, estimates put the poverty rate anywhere from 5% to 26% and the extreme poverty at around 15% in Cuba’s urban areas. The lack of tourism caused by the pandemic has worsened economic conditions in Cuba, providing an incentive to create an effective vaccine. Cuba has produced and begun administering a homegrown vaccine, making it one of the smallest countries to do so. Here are four things to know about Cuba’s Abdala vaccine.

4 Things to Know About the Abdala Vaccine

  1. Local authorities say it’s 92% effective: According to Cuban health authorities, the Abdala vaccine is roughly 92% effective. Full efficacy requires three doses, according to the BioCubaFarma laboratory. Abdala is only one of five vaccines that Cuba is currently working on. Another is the Soberana 2 vaccine, which shows 62% efficacy after three doses.
  2. Not internationally approved: PAHO (Pan American Health Organization), a local office of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the Americas, urges Cuba to publish the data for the Abdala vaccine and seek approval from COVAX. In doing so, scientists worldwide can peer-review studies on the vaccine. Cuba has yet to provide data to the WHO or COVAX, sparking international concern about transparency and vaccine efficacy.
  3. Authorized in Cuba due to rising COVID-19 cases and a recession: COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Cuba, so the Abdala vaccine is already in use despite not being approved by the WHO. Following this, the Cuban government faced criticism from local medical associations and NGOs. Since November 2020, COVID-19 cases have increased due to the rise of tourism in the country. Moreover, as of June 18, Cuba has been running low on syringes to administer the vaccine, an especially disastrous shortage since the Abdala vaccine is given in three doses. Furthermore, the country is in a recession and is experiencing shortages of food, medicine and medical supplies.
  4. Authorized in Venezuela as well: The Abdala vaccine is now being administered in Venezuela, the first country to use the vaccine besides Cuba, despite the WHO and local medical authorities urging Venezuelans against it due to the lack of public information about the vaccine. In June, Venezuela received 30,000 doses of the Abdala vaccine, enough to vaccinate 10,000 people.

Cuba has been producing its own vaccines since the 1980s, including an impressive lung cancer vaccine now in clinical trials in the United States. However, Cuba has yet to submit the Abdala vaccine for peer review by the global scientific community. International health authorities worry about the lack of transparency on the science behind the vaccine, as well as its use in other countries. Through international cooperation, vaccine development and approval can commence faster. Hopefully, Cuba’s Abdala vaccine can soon be reviewed by global authorities, taking the international community one step further in alleviating the effects of COVID-19.

Ana Golden

Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in VenezuelaAccording to the World Food Programme’s 2019 report, in the current Venezuelan economy, food insecurity has brought approximately 2.3 million Venezuelans into extreme poverty. Thankfully, international organizations are coming in to help mitigate this reality.

Food Insecurity and Poverty in Venezuela

Andres Burgos wakes up around 3 a.m. every day to prepare arepas: the Venezuela staple of cornbread. After filling his backpack, he rides his bicycle through the streets of Caracas, Venezuela. He looks for people prying into trash bags for food and offers them this bread stuffed with ham, cheese or vegetables. There are many others like Burgos that do the same in Venezuela’s major cities.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), levels of food insecurity are higher in 2021 than in the WFP study from 2019. In the same line of analysis, ENCOVI, a group of national universities, conducted a survey that concluded 74% of Venezuelan households face extreme poverty and food insecurity.

Due to the economic situation in the country, the pattern of consumption has forced the fragile population to change diet habits. Individuals are forced toward consuming more carbohydrates such as rice, pasta and beans. Items including meat, fish, eggs, cheese and vegetables are often too expensive for this sector of society. This type of diet leads to chronic malnutrition.

Addressing Food Insecurity in Venezuela

Numerous organizations are advocating to improve the lives of Venezuelans in need. Recently, Executive Director of the WFP David Beasley arrived in the country to set up the program: The Venezuela Humanitarian Response Plan with Humanitarian Needs Overview 2020. The goal is to reach out to the most vulnerable populations and include them in the program’s three objectives: to ensure the survival and well-being of the most vulnerable, to continue sustaining essential services and strengthening resilience and livelihoods and to strengthen institutional and community mechanisms to prevent, mitigate and respond to protection risks

Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation is another organization that collects funds with the goal of empowering vulnerable Venezuelans with the skills to provide for their own needs and ultimately improve their quality of life. Programs include a health program, a nutrition program and an empowerment program. The health program provides medicine and supplies and hosts educational health drives. The focus of the nutrition program is providing food staples, including formula, to orphanages, nursing homes, schools, hospitals and organizations that cook for the homeless. Additionally, the empowerment program offers training for success in micro-business and funds educational programs centered around children’s creativity, social dialogue and use of their free time.

GlobalGiving is a website that hosts groups and organizations that are collecting funds for a variety of social programs. This one site offers the ability to donate to programs targeting a large spectrum of vulnerable individuals, including the food insecure in Venezuela. Likewise, Alimenta la Solidaridad is an organization that develops sustainable solutions to the food security challenges of Venezuelan families. The organization promotes community organization and volunteer work as a way to provide daily lunches to children at risk of or experiencing a nutritional deficiency as a result of the complex humanitarian crisis.

These organizations are just a handful from the vast number working toward helping the most vulnerable populations of Venezuela who are facing food insecurity and poverty.

– Carlos Eduardo Velarde Vásquez
Photo: Flickr

Vital Relief to VenezuelaThe country of Venezuela has an economy that is extremely reliant on its oil sales. About 99% of its exports come from the sale of oil. The natural resource also takes up a quarter of Venezuela’s GDP. Such high reliance on this resource has caused the country economic hardship in recent years. The GDP of the nation shrank by two-thirds between 2014 and 2019. The struggling economy has been devastating for the citizens of Venezuela. It has caused five million Venezuelans to leave the country and flee to neighboring ones. As of 2020, 96% of Venezuela’s population live in poverty when measured solely according to income levels. Despite the dire situation in Venezuela, countries and organizations are trying to deliver vital relief to Venezuela.

USAID’s Assistance

USAID is working on behalf of the United States to provide aid that Venezuelans so desperately need.USAID has provided more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid to vulnerable Venezuelan communities. The monetary aid is used by NGOs and organizations to assist the Venezuelan people. The assistance these groups provide includes food, health and sanitation supplies. The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the world has worsened the situation for many Venezuelans. On top of the severe economic situation, Venezuelans are now dealing with the impact of a pandemic a well. USAID has adapted its efforts to help Venezuelans during COVID-19. The funding of USAID has allowed affiliated partners to provide important healthcare assistance for the delivery of vital relief to Venezuela.

The European Union Helps Venezuela

The European Union (EU) has been active in providing support for Venezuela in these trying times. Since 2018, the European Union has provided a total of €156 million to not only Venezuela but to the neighboring countries that Venezuelans have fled to. Similar to the way aid from USAID is carried out, the EU’s funding goes to partners that then use it to help the Venezuelan people. The partners of the EU include multiple U.N. agencies, international NGOs and the Red Cross. The partners of the EU provide the same type of assistance the USAID’s partners do. However, the EU notes that much of the supplies go to groups that are especially at risk. These groups include children that are under the age of 5, the elderly and the indigenous people of Venezuela. The EU also provided enough aid for 500,000 Venezuelan people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The monetary support of the EU continues to help in providing vital relief to Venezuela.

NGOs Assisting Venezuela

Other small NGOs in Venezuela are trying to provide help to Venezuelans as well. Fundación Madre Luisa Casar, for example, has secured multiple donations to provide support to the Jenaro Aguirre Elorriaga School that is located in the slum called Barrio 24 de Marzo. Its goal is to make sure that the children are provided the education and human rights they need.

Hogar Bambi Venezuela also helps children under 18 who are unable to live with their families due to abuse, mistreatment or economic difficulties. These two NGOs are just a few of many that are making vital relief in Venezuela possible.

With all the humanitarian aid coming in to provide vital relief to Venezuela, it is hopeful that the country will soon be on its way to recovery.

– Jacob. E. Lee
>Photo: Flickr

Electricity in VenezuelaOn March 7, 2019, Venezuela entered the worst power outage in the country’s history. Plunging all 23 states into darkness, the blackout lasted over five days in majority of the country. The economic losses triggered by this event exceeded $800 million and led to the deaths of an estimated 46 people. Electricity in Venezuela has since become a huge cause of concern for people.

Blackouts in Venezuela

Regrettably, this blackout was not an isolated incident, although it was the longest. Blackouts have become a routine aspect of Venezuelan life, dating back to as early as 2010. In a country where 96% of the Venezuelan population lives in poverty, these blackouts serve only to exacerbate the struggles of a vulnerable population. They strip people of access to basic necessities like water, food and fuel. Their root causes are often unclear although the key contributing factors are widely agreed-upon.

Understanding the Power System

In 2007, Venezuela’s private power companies were nationalized and transformed into one state-run monopoly known as Corpoelec. The company is underfunded, rife with corruption and unable to recover its own operating costs. The factors creating this untenable situation for Corpoelec date back even further to 2002 when national electricity rates were frozen. In Venezuela, “consumers pay only 20% of the real costs of producing power, delivering Venezuelans the lowest electricity prices in Latin America.” The drawback to these low rates is that energy is extremely overused and that Corpoelec is unable to generate sufficient revenue to fund infrastructure investments or even basic maintenance of its facilities.

Overdependence on Hydropower

The aforementioned problems are exacerbated by Venezuela’s near-complete reliance on hydropower from just one dam. The Guri Dam located in the eastern state of Bolívar accounts for 80% of the country’s electricity production and its systems are woefully neglected. The dam currently operates at a capacity considered unsustainable, “jeopardizing the machine room in the case of a flood,” according to experts. In a region where flooding is common, this is cause for concern.

Whereas other countries that rely heavily on hydroelectric power like Brazil and China have made large investments into other forms of energy, Venezuela’s ability to shift away from hydropower is crippled by underfunding, a lack of engineering power from within the country and corruption.

Corpoelec has stagnated progress as well. The company, “paid millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to political connections,” to maintain its dominance. Projects to build new dams and other forms of electricity production like thermal or wind have routinely been stalled due to a lack of funding and inadequate staffing.

The Cause of the Blackout

The March 7 blackout that heavily circulated the news was caused by a system failure at the Guri Dam. It was initially painted as a terrorist attack by president Nicolás Maduro, who tweeted, “The electrical war announced and directed by the imperialist United States against our people will be defeated.”

The Venezuelan president’s claim was that the U.S. had caused the power outage through a cyberattack on the hydroelectric plant. However, engineers who worked on the dam later clarified that the plant’s electronic monitoring system is not actually connected to the internet, proving a foreign attack to be an unlikely root cause. The plant has been poorly maintained and neglected for a very long time. In actuality, failure to properly manage the electricity grid may have caused a fire has been deemed the likely cause, and unfortunately, there is no quick-response system in place at the facility to protect its systems from damage.

The Future of Electricity in Venezuela

To ensure the return of consistent electricity to the people of Venezuela and protect against future blackouts, massive overhauls would be beneficial. However, such agendas seem unrealistic given the current economic and political climate in the country. Rather, a focus on increased upkeep and basic maintenance of power plants offers a more realistic path forward. This requires access for NGOs to bring in engineers and consistent revenue toward infrastructure repair. Without this basic funding and commitment from the government, the Venezuelan people will continue to suffer through blackouts.

– Scott Mistler-Ferguson
Photo: Flickr

Saving the Venezuelan EconomyA combination of poor leadership and crippling sanctions have created a nation-wide economic crisis in Venezuela. The Center for Strategic and International Studies found that even before U.S. sanctions were placed on Venezuela, the country was already enduring hyperinflation, had seen food imports fall by 71% and more than two million Venezuelans had fled the country. Nevertheless, sanctions only exacerbated the crisis as Torino Economics found U.S. sanctions on Venezuela were associated with an annual loss of $16.9 billion in oil revenue. As a result, the Atlantic Council reports that more than 80% of Venezuelan households are food insecure and 3.7 million individuals are malnourished. Consequently, refugees filed more asylum claims globally in 2018 than any other country has. The number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees is expected to reach eight million in 2020, surpassing Syrian migration by more than three million. Reforms in the county are being implemented with the aim of saving the Venezuelan economy.

Saving the Venezuelan Economy

While this economic collapse still ravishes the country, there is certainly hope for the future. Due to both internal and external pressures, the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, has begun to encourage policies of economic liberalization and privatization that are indicating an economic rebound.

Toward the end of 2019, Argus Media reported the Venezuelan government was beginning to ease economic controls. Specifically, the Maduro government erased most price controls, loosened capital controls, tightened controls on commercial bank loan operations, and most importantly, began to accept informal dollarization. Immediately these policies curbed the levels of hyperinflation that had caused the food crisis across the country. Advisers estimate inflation to be at only 5,500%, a significant improvement compared to the International Monetary Fund forecasts that predicted inflation levels of more than 10 million percent. This is largely in part to the importation of dollars into the Venezuelan economy, pushing out the uselessly-inflated Bolivars. Indeed, a Bloomberg study found Venezuela’s economy is increasingly dollarized, as 54% of all sales in Venezuela by the end of last year were in dollars. Most importantly, food and medicine imports have rebounded, now reaching 15% of the population.

Privatization of the Oil Industry

In addition to the Maduro government relaxing economic controls, the economic rebound in Venezuela has occurred due to increased privatization of the oil industry. Despite being under the control of the military for years, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company has trended toward letting private firms handle operations, aiding in fixing the mismanagement perpetrated by the military’s control of the industry. For the first time in decades, the private sector accounted for more than 25% of GDP in 2019 and likely more by the end of 2020. Consequently, the Panam Post reported that oil production increased by more than 200,000 barrels, a 20% increase following privatization.

Initiatives to Help Venezuelans in Poverty

The South American Initiative, through its medical clinic, provides medical care and medicine to Venezuelans in need, with a special focus on mothers and children. To provide these essential services, it relies on donations that people provide on the GlobalGiving platform.

Fundacion Oportunidad y Futuro addresses hunger and malnutrition with regards to children in Venezuela. It is running in an initiative to provide meals to 800 school-aged children in Venezuela. It also operates through donations via the GlobalGiving platform.

The Future of Venezuela

While there is hope to be found in these reforms, Venezuela has far from recovered. The National Survey of Living Conditions indicates that more Venezuelans are in poverty in 2020 than in 2018, with food security decreasing another 7% over the past two years. The average income of Venezuela remains low at just over 70 U.S. cents a day. These reforms are the foundational steps needed to begin to reverse the economic trend that has relegated millions of Venezuelans to extreme poverty. If the economy is ever to correct itself, liberalization and privatization will be the jumping-off point for an economically thriving Venezuela in the future.

– Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Rappi: The Colombian Unicorn that Has Given Venezuelans a ChanceThe socio-economic and political crisis in Venezuela has forced millions of citizens to flee the country in pursuit of better opportunities. In fact, there are approximately 4.5 million Venezuelans abroad. Almost 1.8 million are in the neighboring country of Colombia. This migratory movement has generated a demand for blue-collar jobs. Rappi, the Colombian unicorn, has become a very important niche for migrant labor. It allows them to start over and overcome their poor economic and social condition.

Rappi is an innovative App that works as a large shopping center in which the customer gets all kinds of products. The product quickly arrives at the customer’s location. This business model requires thousands of office employees as well as shoppers and distributors. While many of the Venezuelans that enter neighboring countries only have a high school diploma, Rappi has opportunities for them. The Venezuelans can provide for their families with only a bike and a smartphone.

The Presence of Venezuelans in Rappi

With only five years in the market, Rappi has seen a constant 20% growth every month. This reaches thousands across 9 countries in Latin America. This rapid increase has been directly correlated to the massive emigration of people. Today, 57% of Rappi’s distributors, or better known as rappitenderos, are Venezuelans. This is because Rappi only requires the special permit acquired with the traditional migratory process and no previous working reference.

Many studies have shown that Venezuelans in Rappi work considerably more hours and days by choice in comparison to Colombians. Rappi provides a flexible model in which distributors accommodate the hours they work according to their necessities and availability. The Venezuelan rappitenderos work around 10 to 12 hours a day, while Colombian rappitenderos work approximately 8 hours. Moreover, 97% of Venezuelans work up to 7 days a week while only 5% of Colombians work 6 days. 

Rappi has helped Venezuelans find a job in which they can provide for their families. It also has looked for other ways to help their families. Rappi has partnered with Valiu, a Colombo-Venezuelan startup. This collaboration helps the rappitenderos send money to their relatives that live in Venezuela and struggle with poverty. This partnership has created better alternatives for distributors to manage their income and help their families.

The Impact

Rappi is the first fully Colombian, and one of the most important, tech firms in Latin America. It is the perfect innovation that has eased people’s lives, changed consumption habits and helped small businesses thrive. More than anything, it has allowed thousands of Venezuelans that have been looking for a better quality of life. It has become a means to reduce poverty and close the gaps of inequality.

The startup was born with the mission to make people’s lives easier. It extended its main goal to a community that today calls for help and needs to generate extra income for their personal and professional goals. Additionally, Venezuelan migrants contribute to the national economy of Colombia. Despite challenges and migratory processes, they have found their way and Rappi has been the dominant employer for this strong workforce.

Isabella León Graticola
Photo: Pixabay

Alimenta la SolidaridadVenezuela has a convoluted political, economic and social situation. The present humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has placed the country in fourth for the largest food crisis in the world. The nonprofit organization  Alimenta la Solidaridad (Feed Solidarity) chooses to tackle this issue head-on.

The Situation in Venezuela

According to the World Food Program, one in every three Venezuelans require food assistance. Venezuela’s deteriorating situation has decreased the household’s access to food as well as the purchasing power of the people. In 2019, an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans suffered from food insecurity and approximately 9.3 million required immediate food assistance.

The current food dilemma is expected to worsen due to the current economic crisis. Already, the plight has increased childhood malnutrition and starvation. Children in Venezuela rarely obtain vital nutrients for proper growth and adequate cognitive development.

A Nonprofit to the Rescue

Alimenta la Solidaridad was determined to combat the rampant food insecurity in Venezuela. Since 2016, it has provided around 7,508,000 meals to Venezuelan children in need. The program started mainly in Distrito Capital, the capital’s state, but it has gradually expanded nationwide. It now operates in 14 additional states, has a total of 188 dining rooms across the national territory and gives food assistance to over 14,000 children.

The nonprofit recognizes the necessity to contribute their part to society. Alimenta la Solidaridad aims to find sustainable solutions to the food-related challenges that plague many low-income Venezuelan families. This organization works exhaustively to soften the effect of the nutritional deficiencies that many children in this program possess.

How Alimenta la Solidaridad Works

Alimenta la Solidaridad operates through donors with the help of mothers and fathers from the communities. The nonprofit gathers people willing to share their home to provide the space for community kitchens. Volunteers cook, organize the children, clean and manage the daily operations of this effort. The organization is “more than a plate of food.” When people with Alimenta la Solidaridad get together, they create a place of transformation.  Sometimes, they create activities that turn into opportunities for the development and empowerment of children. Mothers in the program also receive growth opportunities.

Alimenta la Solidaridad provides training courses that will empower the mothers. The new skills are then put right back into the organization. These mothers often end up taking one of the most important roles within the organization. They don’t only make the initiative possible, they also teach the children to grow in the values of co-responsibility, involvement and service.

Alimenta la Solidaridad aids the outside communities as well. The initiative contributes to the reduction of criminal indexes within the surrounding areas. Further, the organization promotes community organizations and volunteer work. They uplift these avenues of aid as a way to fulfill their mission of providing daily meals to children with food insecurity in Venezuela.

Hope for the Fight

Despite the painful reality in Venezuela, many efforts across the territory keep trying to find ways to help. Alimenta la Solidaridad is the perfect example of an organization that managed to provide aid despite the bleak circumstances. The nonprofit’s dedication and goodwill has developed a model based on responsibility and empowerment. This method boosts the sense of involvement and amount of voluntary service within Venezuelan communities in need. Food insecurity has met its match with the hopeful spirit of the resilient Venezuelan people.

Isabella León Graticola
Photo: Pixabay

Refugee CrisesWars, persecution and horrific conditions caused by extreme poverty created 36 million refugees around the world. 24 million of these refugees come from just 5 countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. Here’s a look into the five largest refugee crises of our time.

Syria

Syria has 5.6 million refugees and is among the largest and most well-known refugee crises today. When the government cracked down on peaceful student protests, the Syrian Civil War started March 15, 2011 and has now killed 500,000 people.  Bombing infrastructure destroys living conditions resulting in 6 million people being displaced. With 70% of Syrians living in extreme poverty, nearly 11 million Syrians need humanitarian aid. Due to conflict, aid groups are struggling to access the areas that need assistance.

One-fourth of the world’s refugees are from Syria. Turkey and Germany host many Syrian refugees. The neighboring country of  Turkey hosts the most refugees in the world, totaling 3.6 million Syrian refugees. To handle the large influx of refugees in its country Turkey is working to improve refugee conditions. Germany hosts 1.1 million Syrian refugees. Germany recently obtained the EU presidency and plans on reforming the asylum rules so there will be a more equal number of refugees among EU states. The Syrian refugee crisis has lasted a decade and affects over 17 million people globally. If Turkey and Germany continue to work to adjust laws regarding asylum, more Syrian refugees will be able to find a safe haven in those countries.

Venezuela

Venezuelan refugees number 3.7 million. In 2014, oil prices fell and created an economic collapse. The current inflation rate of 15,000%  has pushed 14 million Venezuelans to live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 a day. Shortages of food, water, and medicine constantly threaten the health of Venezuelans. Hyperinflation and lack of resources drive refugees from this crisis into bordering countries such as Columbia.

Columbia hosts the second most refugees in the world with 1.8 million Venezuelan refugees. The Columbian government is working to include Venezuelan refugees economically by providing Special Stay Permits that allow more than 100,000 refugees to earn a living working in the country.

Afghanistan

Forty years of conflict following the Soviet invasion in 1979 created 2.7 million refugees from Afghanistan. Political uncertainty and conflict have led to 2 million people being displaced in Afghanistan. Natural disasters and attacks on aid workers prevent those displaced from receiving much-needed support. Pakistan and Iran host most of these refugees.

With one out of every ten refugees being from Afghanistan, this crisis needs immediate attention. Pakistan hosts 1.4 million Afghan refugees and is working with the UN to provide more schooling opportunities. However, if conditions improve in Afghanistan, it is possible that 60,000 refugees could return to Afghanistan.

South Sudan

Around 2.2 million refugees are from South Sudan. South Sudan is the youngest nation in the world after becoming independent from Sudan in 2011. In 2013, a civil war broke out causing 383,000 deaths due to violence and hunger. Meanwhile, 4 million people became displaced from their homes. Food insecurity caused by famines and war has left 5.5 million people hungry.  Malnourishment greatly affects the development of children, who make up 63% of this refugee population. This is the largest refugee crisis in Africa, with most refugees fleeing to Ethiopia and Uganda.

Uganda hosts 1.7 million refugees and works to integrate them into society by providing them with land.
Currently, there is a mental health crisis among refugees. Suicides are on the rise, and COVID-19 puts an even bigger strain on the health of South Sudanese refugees. If Uganda gains more funding, it can improve the mental health of refugees by providing more support. Uganda’s progressive approach to refugees can help South Sudanese refugees start a new life.

Myanmar

The Rohingya Crisis has created 1.1 million refugees from Myanmar. Myanmar is a Buddhist country, but the Rohingya Muslims are a minority group. The Myanmar government refuses to recognize the Rohingya people as citizens, therefore they are a stateless people. In 2017 the Myanmar army burned up to 288 Rohingya villages and carried out mass killings.  To escape persecution, over 700,000 people have fled to Bangladesh and now stay in the largest refugee camp in the world: Cox’s Bazar. In 2020 the United Nations International Court of Justice has called for an end to the violence against the Rohingya and for the government to recognize the Rohingya as citizens.

Future of Refugees

Conflict and poverty are creating refugees in 2020. Most refugees originate from Syria, but Venezuela’s numbers are beginning to rise to the same level. Host countries need to continue to reform government laws to include refugees in their communities. Millions of people, both refugees and host countries, are globally affected by the current refugee crises.

— Hannah Nelson

Photo: Flickr

Colombian agribusiness
As of June 2019, approximately 4 million Venezuelan refugees had fled their home country in search of shelter from the “State-Sponsored Terror” of dictator Nicolás Maduro; by the end of 2020, this number could increase to as many as 8.2 million total Venezuelans seeking refuge. Already, around 1.7 million Venezuelan refugees have sought shelter in neighboring Colombia, creating an overwhelming demand for food and other supplies in regions closest to the Colombia-Venezuela border. In response to this emerging humanitarian crisis, a Colombian agribusiness has found an innovative solution that ensures Venezuelan refugees receive food and humane treatment while also helping struggling local economies. What exactly is this solution? The agribusiness of imperfect potatoes.

Agribusiness In Motion

The Colombian agribusiness company Acceso works to revitalize the economy of a nation whose rural poverty rate is 35%. Acceso’s success derives from its business model, which links rural farmers to urban marketplaces and provides a variety of resources to farmers–from startup cost aid to seed access–to ensure that they turn a profit.

Essentially, Acceso acts as a middleman between small Colombian farms and larger stores. Acceso buys crops in bulk from small Colombian farmers in order to resell them in commercial marketplaces. However, in doing so, Acceso often ends up purchasing products like “imperfect looking but edible potatoes.” Despite their imperfections, these potatoes hold the key to the success of Acceso’s entire operation.

Crops that are too small or have visual defects like scratches are still nutritious and viable; their defects, though merely visual, impair the ability of farms and Colombian agribusiness firms to sell them in commercial marketplaces. For the small farmer, growing imperfect crops elicits a loss of money. In normal farmer-market relationships, imperfect crops either have to be sold by small farmers in local markets for a lower price or they go to waste.

Because Acceso buys all of a farm’s crops regardless of their condition, they assure that farmers are adequately compensated for all of the crops they grow. An Acceso partnership can increase the revenue of an individual farm by as much as 50%. It maximizes the profit of small farms because Acceso pays more than normal consumers would for every piece of produce grown, enriching every sector of Colombia’s farming industry and helping stabilize the economy of rural Colombia.

Colombia’s agricultural GDP has increased by 1,502 billion Colombian pesos (about $400 million) since late 2019. An increase of this quantity illuminates how the growth of Colombian agribusiness keeps small farmers from falling into poverty, rewards them for their hard work and expands the Colombian economy.

Kitchens Without Food

In 2017, 8 out of 10 Venezuelans reported having a reduced caloric intake due to a lack of food at home, and around one-third of Venezuelans eat less than three meals each day. This explains why many Venezuelan refugees in Colombia–especially children–come across the border severely undernourished.

As they cross the border into Colombia, these refugees–some of whom have only eaten salted rice for an extended period of time–need nutrition urgently. This creates immense demand for food in border cities like Cúcuta, which have seen a massive influx of Venezuelan refugees. The Colombian government has partnered with NGO’s to establish relief kitchens on the border such as Nueva Ilusión in Cúcuta in order to meet the nutritional and humanitarian needs of Venezuelan refugees.

Unfortunately, these border kitchens still struggle to find adequate funding. International relief aid for the Venezuelan refugee crisis has only totaled $580 million, a number woefully short of the amount needed to ensure humane treatment for all refugees entering Colombia. To remedy this, the Colombian government has launched over $230 million in credit lines to invest in border cities with high numbers of refugees.

Albeit, even an amount that large might be insufficient to meet the needs of the incoming refugees. Many border kitchens providing nutritious meals to Venezuelan refugees lack the appropriate financial resources to provide enough of it.

Supply? Demand.

Each organization mentioned thus far faces an issue. Acceso has acquired imperfect crops that they cannot sell. Border kitchens lack funding and need nutritious foods to turn into meals for Venezuelan refugees.

This is where supply meets demand.

Recognizing the gravity of the malnutrition crisis among Venezuelan refugees in Colombia, Acceso partnered with border kitchens like Nueva Ilusión to give Venezuelan refugees the dignified treatment they deserve.

Instead of throwing away the imperfect crops that they cannot sell, Acceso now donates these crops to border kitchens. As of March 2020, the Colombian agribusiness contributed over 480 metric tons of fruits and vegetables to border kitchens, making 4.3 million nutritious meals.

On a daily basis, the products donated by Acceso are made into around 2,000 meals per day per kitchen, 600 of which are served to malnourished children fleeing from Venezuela. By donating food to meet the demand of border kitchens, Acceso has helped make progress towards alleviating the nutritional crisis that plagues Venezuelan refugees both young and old.

With their agribusiness, Acceso links the needs of two impoverished groups in Colombia and assures that their needs are met with reciprocal flourishing. In conjunction with both the farmers and kitchens, Acceso confers economic benefits to small Colombian farms while also ensuring that border kitchens have enough food supplies to provide refugees.

Acceso’s work linking the needs of small Colombian farmers and Venezuelan refugees has helped to fill the gap in relief created by a lack of funding for humanitarian aid efforts in this region. Its successes with rural farmers and malnourished Venezuelan refugees have shown how the most impactful relief can often be found in the most dignified mediums of exchange.

Nolan McMahon
Photo: Flickr