COVID-19's impact on IndiaIn January 2020, India reported its first COVID-19 case, a student attending the University of Wuhan in China. As the virus spread, Prime Minister Modi ordered a massive lockdown to prevent any further spread. “If you can’t handle these 21 days, this country and your family will go back 21 years,” said Modi in an address to the nation. The lockdown worked in reducing COVID-19’s impact on India. Over time, the country managed to successfully contain the virus while the rest of the world struggled. However, difficulties were on the horizon with an impending second wave. Nevertheless, COVID-19 vaccinations bring hope to the nation of India.

A Deadly Second Wave

In April 2021, the manageability of COVID-19 cases in India took a turn for the worse. India was hit by a second wave of the virus, far more severe than the first. Religious ceremonies and political rallies exacerbated the spread of the virus, creating the perfect breeding ground for its resurgence. In May 2021, India reported COVID-19 deaths surpassing 4,000 per day. But, official tallies are most likely inaccurate due to systematic undercounting. Excess deaths, seen by pundits as a more reliable proxy for COVID-19’s impact on India, were much higher, at more than 12,000 per day during the same period. This number of excess deaths is significant compared to around 5,000 daily excess deaths in the United States at the height of the pandemic.

Major Economic Trouble

India has the sixth-largest economy in the world. The nation has long been in a position to greatly drive global poverty reduction. Thus, heavy pandemic-related casualties in the country have had the potential to magnify the national economic crisis. In 2020, sustained lockdowns and supply chain disruptions caused a sharp GDP contraction, more severe than any declines noted in the United States. Once the second wave hit in April 2021, millions of people were pushed below the poverty line almost overnight. In total, the poverty rate in India increased more than twofold.

Vaccines Bring Hope

Like other nations, India has entered a new phase of recovery, one that promises to be more durable and long-lasting than any phases in 2020. The keys to this nationwide recovery are COVID-19 vaccines and their widespread distribution. From social media to politics, Indian nationals call on the rest of the world for help, with many individuals and organizations responding. In June 2021, the White House pledged to send stockpiled doses to India.

Meanwhile, on the ground, NGOs have taken the lead. A local Delhi organization called the Centre for Holistic Development is helping to enroll eligible citizens for official COVID-19 vaccinations from the government. These efforts include homeless people living in government-managed shelters, a frequently marginalized and excluded population.

These cumulative efforts have added up. Although less than 5% of India’s massive population is fully vaccinated as of July 8, 2021, compared to 47% in the United States and 16% in China, about 22% of Indians have received at least one dose as of July 12, 2021. There is hope that this rate will increase, further slowing the spread of infection.

Going forward, mobilization from the Indian government, in combination with NGOs and international aid, has the potential to create positive conditions on the ground. The acceleration of vaccine drives will inoculate the population faster and more expansively. If all goes to plan, cases of COVID-19 in India will become manageable again and the economy will be able to fully recover as economic activity normalizes.

Zachary Lee
Photo: Flickr

Helping Refugees Worldwide
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, humanity is facing its largest displacement crisis on record. Violence, persecution and regional instability have caused more than 65 million people to abandon their homes and seek refuge in other lands. These numbers are devastating, and they leave citizens of stable countries wondering what they can do as individuals in helping refugees worldwide.

The White House website states that the U.S. has been active alongside many countries offering sanctuary and assistance to refugees, providing shelter, medical care, and basic services “But the need remains great. Helping refugees isn’t just up to governments — every American can play a role, too.”

Here are three simple ways Americans can begin helping refugees worldwide:

  1. Make a donation.
    The U.N. Refugee Agency states that every donation it receives goes toward worldwide field operations. Currently, the organization is making an urgent appeal for donations that will go toward the crisis in Iraq. Fighting in Mosul and Northern Iraq has resulted in a humanitarian crisis. The website lists what each amount of money will accomplish. As little as $50 will provide five people with sleeping mats and keep them off the ground at night; $200 will provide emergency shelter for two whole families.The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is another organization that, for every dollar donated, spends 90 cents on programs and services that directly benefit refugees. This organization consistently receives high marks from charity watchdog organizations. When making a donation, research where the money will go. Decide what organization is doing an effective job in helping refugees; information about their finances should be available on their website.

    One might wonder how to support refugees on an ongoing basis. The IRC, for example, encourages monthly donations as a Rescue Partner. This steady support allows them to, “respond swiftly and effectively when conflict strikes, to rescue lives in the midst of chaos and to help fragile communities rebuild and move toward a more stable future.”

  2. Fundraise.
    One individual is only able to give so much financially. Another option to help refugees is to become a fundraising partner. By mobilizing others in the surrounding community, one person can have an even greater impact than would have been possible with a single wallet.The organization Help Refugees will launch its “Choose Love” campaign this month, a series of events designed to encourage empathy, promote awareness and expand the organization’s reach on the frontlines of this crisis. Help Refugees encourages people to raise money with t-shirts, bake sales, events and more.
  3. Keep asking questions.
    The displacement of 65 million people is devastating, but lives can be saved through the collaborative efforts of millions of individuals willing to help. By simply asking the question ‘What can I do to help refugees?’, you are the beginning of the solution.

    Continue searching for organizations fighting against silence in the face of tragedy. Have open conversations with people seeking to discover new ideas and viewpoints concerning how to help refugees.

Help Refugees says, “As a brutal winter approach, we need you now more than ever. This is still a crisis, but we are not powerless.”

Rebecca Causey

Photo: Flickr

White House Launches Global Climate Resilience Service
Launched by the White House Office of Science and Technology in October 2016, the Resilience Dialogues is an online consultation service that connects community leaders with experts around the world. Their goal? To help one another build climate resilience service.

“Start a dialogue.”

Those are some of the first words that greet visitors of the Resilience Dialogues webpage. They’re also the name of the game — that is, a global conversation and info-sharing platform that proffers the who’s, what’s and how’s of strategic climate resilience.

The Resilience Dialogues defines resilience as the “capacity of individuals, communities and systems to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions, recover from threats, and thrive in the future.” A tall order, to be sure, but one that will become all the more necessary as coastlines and inland alike grows more vulnerable to the hazards of global warming.

By 2080, according to the World Bank, the occurrence of drought could potentially grow by more than 20 percent. That means the amount of people affected by drought would increase proportionally by 9 to 17 percent come 2030, and by 50 to a whopping 90 percent by the time 2080 comes around.

On the flip side of the coin, the World Bank also estimates that flooding is set to spike within the same time period. Those exposed to river floods will amount to around 4 to 15 percent in 2030, before jumping to 12 to 29 percent by 2080.

The Resilience Dialogues is a collaborative means of beating back the tide of climate variability, giving stakeholders an opportunity to connect and share sector-based, place-specific data on likely risks, serviceable products and other technical resources.

Backers come from the private and public sector in equal measure, ranging from MIT’s Climate CoLab, which created and hosts the beta, to the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange, which will play a crucial role in recruiting experts and coordinating leadership.

The service builds on previous White House actions on climate resilience, including the similarly designed U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, their public-private Climate Services for Resilience Development partnership and their Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP).

The global scope of the Resilience Dialogues, however, echoes the new directions of the National Climate Assessment (NCA), which will include a chapter of international content for the first time in its next report.

On paper, the Resilience Dialogues reflects the shift of both national and global institutions’ climate change responses towards integrative and participatory solutions. If successful, the initiative could potentially chart a course for future U.S. government-sponsored endeavors in the sphere of climate resilience — one that empowers and inspires local decision makers.

Josephine Gurch

Photo: Flickr

Climate Change
It is unfortunate for a family to go without food or water for extensive periods of time. However, the real disaster is climate change. In the world’s poorest countries, where carbon emissions are at their lowest, people experience the worst natural disasters. Droughts affect the production of crops and storms destroy developing regions.

According to Oxfam, “In the next 40 years, climate-related disasters are projected to displace between 150 million and one billion people.”

People living in poverty will experience the greatest loss when natural disasters occur, increasing their risk of starvation and lack of clean water. However, natural disasters will put all people, rich and poor, out of homes and ultimately make climate change one of the main barriers to ending world poverty.

“Just about everything we do has to be focused on tackling climate change, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation,” says World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

During his lecture at Georgetown University, Kim addressed the importance of tackling climate change in order to help the world’s poor and shared his five-point plan that will reduce carbon emissions.

The leading countries in carbon emissions are China and the U.S., therefore these nations are the most responsible for the ongoing production of greenhouse gases. However, these nations are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint. In 2014, the U.S. and China set a goal to reduce emissions by 2025.

“The announcement was a historic step for climate change action and for the U.S.-China relationship, as the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers, and carbon emitters came together to demonstrate leadership on an issue that affects the entire world,” said the White House.

Since climate change affects electricity in some regions, technology is being built to accommodate these issues. The Gates Foundation has invested in the Omniprocessor that not only produces clean water from human waste but also generates electricity without exerting carbon emissions. Additionally, 3D printers have become a potential resource to help developing regions. Given the versatility of 3D printers, they can be used, for example, to create tools to monitor the weather so that people can better prepare for storms or heat waves.

Although technology is being produced and people are fighting for laws that recognize and halt climate change, individuals can help. Saving energy, water and recycling are all steps that can be taken to help the environment and, ultimately, the nations being affected.

– Kimberly Quitzon

Sources: Georgetown University, Oxfam America, The White House
Photo: Flickr

On January 14, the United States government took a strong step toward combating modern-day slavery. The White House released its Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking 2013-2017 in the United States — the first of its kind — on Monday. The Plan’s release is a timely one, as January marks National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

According to White House blog writer Cecilia Munoz, the Plan “describes the steps that federal agencies will take to ensure that all victims of human trafficking in the United States are identified and have access to the services they need to recover and to rebuild their lives.” The federal government anticipates increased coordination, collaboration and capacity across multiple agencies over the span of five years.

More than 15 federal agencies were involved in developing the Plan, with public feedback from concerned stakeholders; the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security spearhead the efforts.

While the ultimate aspiration – identification of and access to services for all trafficking victims – is ambitious, the Plan is broken down into four more succinct goals: align efforts at the federal, regional, state and local levels, improve understanding through amplified research and data evaluation, expand access to services via outreach and training and improve both short- and long-term outcomes for victims.

Concise methods and action steps for achieving these goals are delineated throughout the document.

Victim sensitivity and empowerment are the cornerstone of the government’s action plan. “Meaningful engagement with survivors,” states to the Plan’s core values, “in all aspects of program development, implementation, and evaluation is critical in order to develop effective service networks.”

Furthermore, the Plan will focus on increased public awareness and sustainable solutions for trafficking survivors.

Reiterating the importance of a victim-centered approach, President Obama offers an encouraging and personal sentiment in the opening pages of the release: “To those who are suffering and have suffered the horrors of human trafficking, our message remains: We hear you. We insist on your dignity.” This statement sets the tone for the goals of the Federal Strategic Action Plan and carries a message of justice to activists, advocates, victims and survivors across the country and the globe.

Mallory Thayer

Sources: White House Blog, Office for Victims of Crime
Photo: News One

world povertyThough information is now a button-click or Google search away, most citizens of first world countries tend not to concern themselves with facts and statistics about world poverty. Even the term ‘developing world’ implies that poverty stricken third world and transition countries are part of an entity somehow separate and removed from the ‘developed world’. Here are some poignant and eye-opening facts about world poverty that many first world citizens are not aware of:

1. Approximately 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1.25 a day. In addition to this, around 3 billion people—almost half of the world’s population—live on less than $2.50 a day. While this is technically above the poverty line, it would be impossible an impossible task for most citizens of the developed world. To put this in perspective, poverty is defined in the United States as living on around $30 a day.

2. It would cost approximately $40 billion to offer basic education, clean water and sanitation, reproductive health for women, and basic health and nutrition to every person in every developing country, according to This is less than the U.S. Navy’s newest proposed aircraft carrier production program, which will produce three ships and cost $42 billion.

3. Out of the 2.2 billion children in the world, 1 billion live in poverty. Children growing in poverty often end up stunted and malnourished. 22,000 children die every day due to poverty. The children that survive are forever hindered by their impoverished upbringing, whether from malnutrition, lack of medical treatment, lack of education, or countless other issues.

4. The biggest obstacle to ending world poverty is leadership from the White House and Congress. The US is the first country ever to have both the ability and political influence to end poverty and hunger; all that is needed is more action from the federal government in fighting poverty.

5. CEOs, economists, the business community, and the military all find ending world poverty to be a benefit to their agenda. As citizens of the developing world rise out of poverty and into the middle class, new markets open up for businesses, leading to greater profits. Poverty is also linked to instability and conflict. Military personnel see the importance in addressing world poverty to increase international security.

The developed world has the resources to end world poverty. In addition, it is in the interests of the first world to do so. Citizens of the developed world simply need to use these facts to pressure their government to address world poverty through aid and sustainable development.

– Martin Drake

Sources: Global Issues, The Borgen Project, Bloomberg, IRP
Photo: Needpix