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Waste Management
Laos, known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is one of the most impoverished countries in Southeast Asia. However, over the last 20 years, its economy has been one of the fastest-growing in the region, resulting in an increase in the amount of waste generated. Waste management systems struggle to keep up with this increased waste. Waste management in Laos is “limited to urban centers” and tends to be poorly managed with just 40%-60% of waste collected. Pollution affects the Lao people negatively, resulting in around 10,000 deaths per year, according to a 2021 study by the World Bank. With waste management emerging as a dire issue, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) are offering support to address the issue.

The Larger Part of the Issue

Around four million tonnes of plastic waste discharges into the world’s seas annually, mostly originating from rivers in Asia such as the Mekong, which goes through Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. About 70 million people rely on this river for food and resources, especially in Laos, though it is “one of the dirtiest in the world.” The Laotian lifestyle is transitioning from a “traditional and subsistence-based lifestyle” to a more urban lifestyle that focuses more on consumerism and imported goods.

The lack of waste dump sites and formal infrastructure significantly and directly impacts the health of citizens, especially when resorting to disposal practices such as burning, burying trash and discarding waste in rivers. Testing of the water sources across more than 3,000 households in Laos shows that  E.Coli in drinking water contaminated 86% of the household population. Furthermore, even for homes using bottled water, a staggering 85% of individuals had E. Coli in their bottled water.

Making the Effort

Laos citizens view plastics as a luxury item, portraying a sign of economic progression. However, this mindset also contributes to plastics becoming the second-largest type of waste, accounting for up to 24% of total waste generated by Laos. But, even as plastic and other wastes are prevalent, cities such as Luang Prabang are making an effort to keep the area’s streets clean. With the locals taking action to actively keep the city clean, these city-dwellers set the example for other city-dwellers in Laos. Responsibility is on communities and households, especially as Laos has a small budget for addressing the waste management issue.

A World Bank 2022 Get CLEAN and GREEN – Solid waste and Plastic Management in Lao PDR report recommends strategies to resolve the waste management issue. One strategy is to move from a linear to a “circular economy.” This would reduce waste by “reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products.”

The UNDP’s Work

The UNDP gathered a focus group of around 30 university students from diverse economic backgrounds, finding that close to 90% of students realize how poor waste management impacts the planet. The organization gave students suggestions for taking action, such as establishing task forces in communities and using social media to share information on helping as green advocates.

The UNDP also found that students who learned to separate waste in schools were eager to follow waste separation procedures. An online UNDP survey shows that social media would influence the mindsets and behaviors of more than 80% of respondents. The UNDP considers the immediate banning of plastic as critical.

The GGGI is aiding in solid waste management in the capital city of Vientiane, formulating a 10-year Strategy and Action Plan. It also has created four project activities:

  • Decentralized garbage collection services
  • A Waste Bank and the designation of the role of waste pickers
  • Organic waste segregation systems and private composting companies
  • Glass recycling involving 10 elementary schools to maximize waste disposal

Looking Ahead

While the Lao PDR transitions to a more urban economy and struggles with waste, organizations have offered solutions to support a more sanitary Laos, which will benefit the health and well-being of people. As education reaches citizens and offers them pathways out of poverty, Laos can create a safer, cleaner and more prosperous country for its populace. And if the country does lean more toward a “circular economy,” Laos could be on its way to reaching a net carbon neutral status by 2040.

Jerrett Phinney
Photo: Flickr

Everything to Know About Poverty in Lebanon
It has been almost three years since Lebanon, previously labeled as the “Switzerland of the Middle East,” began to slowly drown in poverty. As the ESCWA report stated, 82% of the Lebanese and non-Lebanese population lives in multidimensional poverty while 40% of them live in extreme multidimensional poverty. Those numbers result from an unprecedented economic crisis that started in October 2019 and kept on worsening with the COVID-19 outbreak, the Beirut Port explosion, the ongoing corruption and the war in Ukraine. Here is everything to know about poverty in Lebanon.

Health Care

One of the most important and dangerous symptoms of the poverty increase in Lebanon is the degradation of the health care system. The Lebanese lira has lost more than 90% of its value since 2019, making it impossible for many health care professionals (nurses and doctors) to live decently with their salaries, thus leading them to leave the country for better opportunities abroad. In addition to that, the country imports many medical care products and medicines, leading to a huge increase in their prices, making them unaffordable for many. Lebanon has the means to produce its drugs, an action that the actual government is encouraging while it still needs time before being fully implemented.

Public Utilities and Food Security

Another dimension to know about poverty in Lebanon is the lack of public utilities available to the people. The most famous, touching a majority of people, is the lack of electricity the state provides, forcing the Lebanese people to reach out to owners of private generators to have a few hours of electricity a day. However, this alternative has a considerable cost to Lebanese households. The fuel that powers the generators comes from abroad, requiring payments in USD and making it impossible for many to subscribe to this service amidst the severe economic crisis the country is going through.

A more recent issue Lebanon must face as a result of the War in Ukraine is the wheat crisis and with it a risk of shortage in bread production. The country imports more than 60% of its wheat from Ukraine. The urgency of this new issue also depends on the government’s capacity to secure enough quantities before any increase in the price of wheat.

Education

The numerous challenges Lebanon has faced over the past three years have also had their effect on education. According to UNICEF, 260,000 Lebanese children risk interrupting their education. Whether it is the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the students to stop their studies because of the lack of means to pursue them online, the destruction of some schools in Beirut after the port explosion and the economic crisis forcing some schools and universities to increase their tuitions making them unaffordable for many.

Efforts to Help Lebanon

A year ago, the World Bank approved a $246 million project to provide 147,000 households with basic needs as well as cash transfers. More recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached an agreement of $3 billion with the Lebanese government to help Lebanon get out of the crisis. On another note, local NGOs are playing an important role in helping people in need. Private actors are also taking initiatives to benefit from this situation, by enhancing made in Lebanon products, thus relying less on imports.

Hence, having presented everything to know about poverty in Lebanon, shows clearly that the country is not in its best phase. However, hope is always there with small steps taken towards a better future and especially with a young generation who is learning from the mistakes of the older. Helping Lebanon is therefore helping a country full of potential and showing once again that it will rise despite all.

Youssef Yazbek
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Laos
Laos, known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is the only landlocked country located in Southeast Asia. It ranks as one of the region’s poorest countries, ranking 122 on the human development index. While the country has significantly reduced its poverty rate over the years, its people are still susceptible to falling back. Fortunately, various organizations as well as the United States government have continued to provide aid and elevate Lao society. Here are some innovations in poverty eradication in Laos, involving initiatives like UNICEF and the Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF).

Modifications in Child Education

Low completion rates in education have always been an issue in Laos, especially in regions such as the southern province of Saravan. UNICEF with the support of the Hong Kong National Committee has been training pre-primary teachers on effective teaching, learning and class management that center around children. This includes the use of learning corners, creating through local sources and children learning while at play, as well as access to distributed materials, which include coloring books, picture books and storybooks. Around 50 pre-primary teachers that received this training for 2021-2022 benefitted more than 4,000 children in Saravan’s southern province.

Improved Access to Water and Hygiene

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF worked with 23 schools in the Sarvan region to construct water stations, toilets and promote water hygiene activities. The benefits for the children have led to children not having to defecate in open areas, practicing proper handwashing techniques with soap and students going home to teach their families proper handwashing techniques. All factors incentivize cleanliness, which lessens the likelihood of disease.

People-to-People Ties with the United States

With Barack Obama being the first sitting U.S. President to visit Laos, the U.S. and PDR continue to work together through a harsh historical legacy to open a new era of bilateral relations. Because 70% of Laos’ population is under 30, the United States is using exchange programs that include Humphrey, Fulbright, the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program and Obama’s Young Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) to engage and elevate the next generation of young leaders. English teaching programs will also emerge by introducing more teachers and language experts, improving English-language skills and increasing connectivity between younger generations of both countries.

The Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF)

The World Bank has been part of the PRF since its inception in 2002, empowering Lao villagers and improving village infrastructure. This has resulted in 165 villages establishing 915 Self Help Groups, totaling more than 10,000 members (85% female) between 2012 and 2019. About 15 of 23 pilot Village Nutrition Centers are still in operation as of 2016, allowing members to use products provided to continue making nutritious meals. PRF infrastructure activities have resulted in 87% of target households participating in voting on village priorities, with women identifying 90% of the subprojects. With such positive progress, preparations are currently underway to further improve both livelihood and nutrition activities.

As it stands, innovations in poverty eradication in Laos have been able to elevate the Lao people through historical hardship. While the country’s poverty rate has significantly decreased from 48% to 18% from 1993 to 2019, the implementation of further innovations in poverty eradication in Laos will need to continue, thus increasing the livelihood of the Lao people.

Jerrett Phinney
Photo: Flickr

Slovak Republic Foreign Aid
According to the World Bank, the Republic of Moldova oversaw a reduction of extreme poverty in 2011 from 7% to a rate of 3.1% in 2013. Although the Republic of Moldova has made remarkable progress in reducing extreme poverty, the republic remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. However, the Slovak Republic’s foreign aid is helping communities in Moldova garner clean drinking water and more.

About the Republic of Moldova

The problems facing the Republic of Moldova in reducing poverty include a domestic economy that is highly dependent on agriculture and remittances, a severe drought in 2020 that obstructed agricultural production and the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside the problems, Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine has put further strain on Moldova’s administrative capacity as the country is quickly approaching a point in which Moldova can no longer safely accept more refugees. The Republic of Moldova’s Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita asked the U.S. on March 6, 2022, to send more humanitarian aid assistance in response to  Moldova taking in more than 120,000 displaced people as a consequence of the war in Ukraine.

According to the United Nations 2020 Voluntary National Review on the Republic of Moldova, the country is working towards clean water access for the population. The road towards clean water for Moldova requires addressing the insufficient investment in the management of wastewater. It will also require renewed efforts in water resource management. The problems remain in part due to the lack of institutional reforms and how 54% of the drinking water samples do not meet the sanitary and chemical norms for drinking water quality.

The Republic of Moldova has increased its population’s access to water sources by 9%, to 82.1% at the end of 2018. Furthermore, the proportion of the rural population with access to water supply sources leaped from 56.9% in 2014 to 71.2% in 2018. One can credit this achievement in ensuring access to water sources for the Moldovan people to the continuing combined efforts of the Republic of Moldova, the Slovak Republic and the United States.

A Brief History

The Slovak Republic’s foreign aid programs warrant attention because this government recently joined the fight in eradicating poverty in developing countries. The Slovak Republic initially implemented its foreign aid programs in 2007 with the establishment of the Slovak Agency for International Development Cooperation. The commitments of the programs were expanded upon when the Slovak Republic joined the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD in 2013.

Slovak Republic’s Foreign Aid Today

The scope of the foreign aid programs varies. The Slovak Agency for International Development Cooperation (SAIDC) lists three ‘Programme Countries’ including Georgia, Kenya and Moldova. The government also has several ‘Partner Regions’ in which the cooperation provides foreign aid assistance including Eastern sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and the Western Balkans.

In 2020, the Slovak Republic provided $140 million in foreign aid, which represents 0.14% of the 2020 gross national income (GNI). This is a marked increase in foreign aid spending for the country. It places the country as the 26th largest Development Assistance Committee country when comparing the official development assistance it provides to its GNI.

To understand the work that the Slovak Republic’s foreign aid is doing, it is important to take a look at the programs the Slovak Republic is implementing in the Republic of Moldova. The problems that the Republic of Moldova is facing range from a stalemated conflict to complex political, economic and social developments, as well as emigration causing social problems, particularly in rural areas.

Additionally, the problems have compounded due to what SlovakAID deems as development challenges including most of the working-age population going abroad to work, long-term problems with the quality of water resources and drinking water supply, inefficient waste management, the existence of environmental burdens and weak development of the business community. Several of the problems facing the Republic of Moldova today result from inadequate infrastructure, especially water supply and treatment infrastructure which consequently further strains the agricultural sector of the economy.

Goals of SlovakAID in the Republic of Moldova

The three objectives of SlovakAID in Moldova encompass sharing Slovakia’s transition experience supporting a democratic stable Moldova, improving the quality of life and health of citizens via sustainable water management and improving the performance of the business sector.

How is the Slovak Republic Addressing These Problems?

The Slovak Republic employs a range of developmental tools varying from the provision of grants and financial contributions provided by the embassies of the Slovak Republic, Sharing Slovak Expertise programme activities, projects for the deployment of volunteers and expert volunteers, government scholarships and financial contributions.

Progress Towards Prosperity

SlovakAID is leading a project that seeks to improve the quality of life for people in the Ialoveni municipality in Moldova through improving access to clean drinking water and raising awareness about water management. SlovakAID initially started this project in January 2020 with a deadline of March 2022. SlovakAID’s project will support the provision of quality water and sanitation infrastructure, which includes the rehabilitation of 1,035 meters (3,395 feet) of the water connection system to ensure access to reliable drinking water. SlovakAID is also raising awareness regarding water management and environmental responsibility through education campaigns.

The Slovak Republic and its foreign aid recipients have already seen success in similar programs it has completed. In September 2021, the Slovak Republic, in collaboration with Shingala Azad NGO, successfully installed two water wells and a water reservoir that now supplies sufficient water to the people living in the municipalities of Shekhka and Hasan Ava in Iraq. This program’s success was due in part to educational programs raising awareness on water management similar to how SlovakAID is running in the Ialoveni municipality in the Republic of Moldova.

Exciting Developments in Development

According to USAID Administrator Samantha Powers, the Slovak Republic is a foreign aid success story in its own right, joining the EU in 2004 and becoming an international development donor after receiving USAID support between 1990 and 2000. On February 3, 2022, Administrator Samantha Powers and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Ivan Korčok held a meeting and signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

This memorandum calls for an additional three years of collaboration between SlovakAID and USAID. Through the previous MOU the Slovak Republic and USAID jointly supported community development in Moldova, enabling North Macedonia to continue making progress in its path towards joining the European Union and helping those without housing in Belgrade access clean water, sanitation and essential health care.

With this new MOU implemented, the Slovak Republic alongside USAID has renewed its continued commitment to eradicating extreme poverty around the world. Investment in the Slovak Republic via U.S. foreign aid and USAID has shown continued returns on investment. The Slovak Republic has since affirmed its place in the fight against global poverty as the country recently became the 26th highest donor of foreign aid on a GNI per capita basis. Among other returns on investment, the Slovak Republic has been able to branch out its developmental efforts in the neighboring Republic of Moldova and assist far from home in municipalities in Iraq. The Slovak Republic has made great leaps in foreign assistance, but there is much more progress that needs to occur, hence the new MOU is an exciting development for further development.

Chester Lankford
Photo: Flickr

Food insecurity in GhanaMany consider Ghana “one of the most stable and democratic countries in West Africa.” However, poverty rates are high, standing at 25.5% in 2020, according to the World Bank. In the last 30 years, Ghana has made great progress in reducing poverty from a 49% poverty rate in 1990 to a 13% poverty rate in 2018. Still, inequalities exist between the north and south of the nation as well as between the urban and rural populations. During the lean season in 2020, the World Food Programme noted that more than 21,000 people suffered from food insecurity in Ghana, particularly in the northern region.

Difficulties in Northern Ghana

Food insecurity in Ghana is more severe in the north of the country largely due to climatic issues. In the northern region, 90% of Ghanaian households depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, however, this region only has one rainy season in comparison to the south, which has two rainy seasons. This climatic difference impacts food production and worsens both poverty and food insecurity in Ghana’s north. Farmer also face other issues such as “low [market] prices, poor road infrastructure, lack of access to finance, inadequate markets, post-harvest losses, insufficient education and knowledge[and] unsustainable farming systems.” Due to an agricultural dependence among rural people, food insecurity and poverty largely affect rural populations.

The World Food Programme (WFP) Combats Food Insecurity in Ghana

The WFP’s work in Ghana, in general, focuses on four key areas to fight food insecurity in Ghana.

  1. Private Sector Collaboration. To address stunting and nutritional deficiencies, the WFP provided support to the private sector to supply and promote “affordable and safe fortified nutritious foods.” For example, the WFP gave technical and financial assistance to two companies and linked these manufacturers to local small-scale farmers. The two Ghanaian companies manufacture Tomvita and Maisoya, which are fortified foods that improve the nutrition of pregnant and breastfeeding women. The companies aim to extend production to supplemental foods for children.
  2. Nutritional Assistance. The WFP partners with various government institutions to fight against food insecurity in Ghana and address nutritional deficiencies. The partnership aims to ensure citizens consume nutritious local-based diets and learn behaviors conducive to good health. The WFP also supplies electronic vouchers to supplement the nutrition of pregnant or breastfeeding women and children younger than 2.
  3. Food System Resilience. The WFP connects small-scale Ghanaian farmers to local markets “to increase the availability, access and utilization of staples foods” such as “maize, millet, cowpeas and soybeans.” So far, the WFP has connected “10,000 smallholder farmers to two industrial agro-food processing companies that produce specialized blended nutritious foods.” The WFP also aims to strengthen the food supply chain and ensure proper “post-harvest facilities, technologies and services” to improve the quality and safety of foods.
  4. Policy-Making Assistance and Capacity Expansion. The WFP is offering its support and services to improve Ghana’s existing programs and develop policies that focus on combating malnutrition and establishing adequate food systems. This involves connecting Ghana’s national school feeding initiative to the country’s agricultural arena. The WFP helps Ghana to implement food security monitoring measures and establish guidelines to “improve food quality and safety and emergency preparedness.”

Impact in Numbers

According to a WFP Ghana Country Brief published in August 2021, for the year 2021 overall, the WFP aimed to help 45,000 people through nutritional assistance. In August 2021 alone, more than 4,500 people “received direct food assistance through vouchers.” If one looks at the gender proportions of beneficiaries, women formed 72% of the beneficiaries while men accounted for 28%.  Moreover, in 2021, the WFP helped 22,020 small-scale farmers to increase their capacity and connect to markets.

Even though the WFP is seeing success in improving food insecurity in Ghana, worsening environmental conditions like drought stand as additional barriers to food security. Through ongoing support in strengthening the country’s food systems and resilience overall, Ghana can remain out of famine.

– Ander Moreno
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in South SudanSouth Sudan is an East African nation with a population of more than 11 million people. After decades of civil war, South Sudan declared independence in 2011 and is now a war-torn nation with failing institutions, a corrupt and violent security force and a population in abject poverty. The fledgling nation quickly descended back into civil war, further hindering any efforts at reconstruction. Since South Sudan’s independence, USAID programs in South Sudan have been providing humanitarian aid to alleviate human suffering, foster sustainable economic growth and mitigate conflict.

Food Security in South Sudan

Food security is one of the largest issues plaguing South Sudan, and as of February 2022, 8.3 million South Sudanese out of a population of 11 million are severely food insecure. To address the crisis of food insecurity, USAID launched a program initially to operate between 2017 to 2020, which was then extended to August 2022, called Sustainable Agriculture for Economic Resiliency Program in South Sudan (SAFER). The SAFER project ultimately seeks to increase the productive capacities and sustainability of South Sudan’s agriculture sector.

In 2018, the SAFER program promoted sustainable crop production by conducting “community-based participatory planning” exercises to identify production constraints and propose interventions to remedy those constraints. During the same reporting period, the SAFER also provided technical assistance and training to lead farmers, village facilitators and NGOs in micro-irrigation, water management and seed production.

In addition to providing direct agricultural assistance, this program also trains local farmers in basic financial literacy, bookkeeping and marketing plans. In 2021, the SAFER program helped facilitate 25 agricultural enterprise groups to develop business plans regarding leadership structure, finances and marketing strategies.

Conflict Mitigation in South Sudan

South Sudan is a remarkably diverse nation with 64 different ethnic groups. Since 2013, South Sudan has become a nation embroiled in civil war and violence with different groups of people taking different sides for different goals. With a precedence of violence and civil war, USAID programs in South Sudan need to mitigate communal conflicts and rising tensions in order to promote stability, thereby also reducing South Sudanese poverty.

The active USAID Viable Support to Transition and Stability (VISTAS) program is a conflict mitigation program that started in 2013 “to promote peaceful coexistence,” foster “a more informed community” and facilitate a greater degree of trauma awareness to advance reconciliation between diverse communities. In 2018, the program hosted a conference in Jebel Boma County with traditional authority representatives, women leaders and youth leaders from Jie, Murle, Kachipo and Toposa to converse on key issues plaguing South Sudan regarding child abduction, gender-based violence, cattle raids and road ambushes.

Dissipating Ethnic Conflicts and Misinformation

Despite the remote locations and conflicts between the Jie, Murle, Kachipo and Toposa ethnic groups, the conference did lead to the development of resolutions and action plans to address inter-community conflicts. VISTAS has also provided technical assistance to media outlets to decrease potentially conflict-inducing miscommunication and misinformation while promoting interdependency through livestock and trade and conducting 196 trauma awareness sessions in 2018.

One of the most important facets of VISTAS is promoting a more well-informed society to prevent conflict through decreasing information asymmetry. To this end, VISTAS has assisted the development of independent media outlets, trained local journalists and set up community learning centers. USAID supplied these community centers with laptops, books and internet access to allow people with little formal education to educate themselves. While the independent media environment continues to face setbacks from the government and security forces, VISTAS has enabled the Juba Monitor and Radio Tamazuj to continue operating as the media outlets both represent large independent media networks designed to deliver information in an objective manner.

The Necessity of USAID Programs

With a poverty rate of 82%, according to the World Bank, today, more than 50% of South Sudan “still depends on emergency aid to survive” and millions are now displaced from the ongoing violence. USAID programs in South Sudan, while not enough to address the root causes of South Sudanese poverty, are necessary to alleviate abject poverty, ensure the survival of millions and develop a plan for long-term stability.

– Alexander Richter
Photo: Flickr

Economic Collapse in Lebanon
Poverty continues to loom over Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities, leaving them to battle with deteriorating living standards and several health hazards. Lebanese people’s quality of life sank to an unprecedented low due to many reasons. One of the most prominent reasons for the economic collapse in Lebanon is the Lebanese government’s immense amount of debts that add up to the “equivalent [of] 150% of national output.”

Lebanon’s Economic Landscape

Some financial experts describe the Lebanese government’s economic system “as a nationally regulated Ponzi scheme where new money is borrowed to pay existing creditors.” Adding to the nation’s troubles, the corrupt elite in Lebanon exploited the country’s foreign aid and income post-civil war and continue to do so to this day. The indebted government struggled to make ends meet, which led to the devaluation of the national Lebanese currency. While the economic collapse affected all citizens residing on Lebanese land, the already dire standard of life of the Lebanese lower-class became worse in several ways.

5 Ways the Economic Collapse in Lebanon Impacts Disadvantaged People

  1. Unlivable Wages: The official Lebanese currency, the Lebanese pound, “lost more than 90% of its value.” This extreme devaluation plunged the Lebanese further into poverty. The minimum wage in Lebanon’s value decreased from the equivalent of $450 monthly to what is now worth around $30 per month. As a consequence, “a family’s budget just for food is around five times the minimum wage,” says the Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut.
  2. Medicine Shortage: Due to the scarcity of foreign currency in the country, Lebanese pharmaceutical companies struggle with importing or manufacturing life-saving medicine. To counter this shortage, in July 2021, the Lebanese government lifted subsidies on most life-saving medicine. While this development affects the entire Lebanese population, those with limited or no income experience the greatest impact as medicine now becomes a luxury most cannot afford.
  3. Life-Threatening Power Outages: As the Lebanese economy continues to suffer, the government struggles to import fuel and maintain power generators. As a result, low-income neighborhoods across the country barely receive one hour of electricity per day. This circumstance proved to be extremely destructive as companies, bakeries, schools, grocery stores and even hospitals scaled back operations or completely closed down. Such closures made access to life-saving medical operations, as well as food, extremely challenging.
  4. Unemployment as a Result of Scarce Fuel: Due to the economic crisis, private and public sectors are incapable of importing essential fuel and gasoline. To combat the extreme gasoline shortage in the country, the Lebanese government raised gasoline prices by 66% in August 2021. As a result, many low-income independent contractors, such as taxi drivers and bus drivers, could not afford to work anymore. Due to the recent unemployment of low-income families’ primary breadwinners, the Lebanese working class plunges deeper into poverty.
  5. Deteriorating Diets: Lebanon’s most vulnerable people continue to miss one important component at their dinner tables: meat. As the country’s currency continues to devalue, the prices of meat soar. Toward the end of 2020, “fresh and frozen cattle meat prices” in Lebanon increased by 110%, according to a World Bank assessment. Moreover, the prices of chicken witnessed a 68.4% increase over the last few months. With no other affordable protein sources readily available, malnutrition threatens Lebanon’s impoverished and hungry people. Furthermore, UNICEF reports that “three in 10 families” assessed in April 2021 “had at least one child” missing meals.

Beit El Baraka

As the factors mentioned above overlap, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) launched several initiatives and efforts to aid Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities. One of the most prominent NGOs currently operating on a large scale within Lebanon is Beit El Bakara. The NGO is dedicated to helping Lebanon’s vulnerable families by covering medical expenses, paying bills and tuitions and providing meals and essential services. Since its launch, Beit El Baraka’s team helped more than 128 families pay their electricity bills, paid 93 families’ rental costs, covered the cost of treatment for 1,681 patients in need and refurbished 3,011 homes across 62 Lebanese areas.

The economic collapse in Lebanon is becoming increasingly dire. Without help, Lebanon and its people could face a catastrophic fate as more than half of the population sinks below the poverty line. Therefore, aiding the Lebanese population should be a top priority of the international community.

– Nohad Awada
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Green Trade
Following the impacts of COVID-19, many developing countries are attempting to rebuild their economies and alleviate the financial hardships of the people facing these impacts. Prior to the pandemic, the International Energy Agency predicted that renewable energy would expand by 50% between 2019 and 2024. As of 2022, it seems many nations are more focused on economic advancement rather than avoiding environmentally dangerous actions. Many world organizations are advocating for “greening trade” as a new growth strategy that could protect the environment and benefit nations with high poverty levels as a consequence of the onset of COVID-19. Green trade has the potential to transform developing countries.

What Does Greening Trade Mean?

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), greening trade involves promoting sustainable measures to engage in trade that do not pollute land or water. The process focuses mainly on engaging in trade with renewable energy and energy efficiency markets. Greening trade helps the environment while maintaining trade relations for economic prosperity.

Evidence of Success in Greening Trade

In 2019, Palgrave Communications reported that the green trading industry generated $1.3 trillion in the United States economy alone. The industry has created 9.5 million full-time jobs in the U.S. In China, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that a mix of carbon taxes and green investment could have the potential to increase China’s GDP by 0.7% and create more than 12 million jobs by 2027. It is clear that green trade has created success in major economies globally.

How Can Greening Trade Reduce Poverty?

The World Trade Organization (WTO) released a study in January 2022 suggesting that more trade in green technologies could help developing nations transition to a low carbon economy. This is an advantage for nations with impoverished populations because new guidelines by WTO may require green practices in the future. In consideration, implementing green policies could prepare developing countries for future trading markets while preventing the countries from lagging behind.

Greening Trade Begins in Developing Countries

In September 2021, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative hosted an event to explore opportunities for green trade with Europe’s new Green Deal. The event occurred in hopes of encouraging the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to do the same. The AfCFTA is projected to bring 30 million Africans out of poverty simply by means of trade and would benefit from engaging in green trade to maintain trade relations with the United Nations. The recent African Green Recovery Action Plan states that “for the COVID-19 recovery to be sustainable, it must link a green recovery with an inclusive recovery.” The plan insinuates that marginalized groups and those in poverty can benefit from green plans.

The World Bank states that Vietnam should use its resources to promote green trade to maintain a competitive edge in international markets and generate new, innovative jobs for the unemployed to combat pandemic-induced poverty levels. Green recovery is crucial in the post-COVID-19 era to improve the conditions of those in poverty, specifically in developing countries that have the opportunity to rebuild.

Ways to Green Trade

UNEP suggests four ways that governments can actively engage in greening trade:

  1. Enforce strong environmental laws and regulations both at a national and international level.
  2. Have governments create trade rules and agreements that promote environmental awareness.
  3. Promote intergovernmental cooperation on green trade through improved monitoring, green trade finance and sustainability impact assessments.
  4. Identify stakeholder initiatives to green trade and supply chains to craft policy that complements such efforts.

Green trading is a relatively new industry and its full economic potential has not yet come to fruition. If developing countries take advantage of engaging in green trade now, these nations could be setting themselves up for the future of trade in general while benefiting their economies.

 

Rachel Reardon
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Vietnam
Elderly poverty in Vietnam is a significant issue considering that Vietnam currently has one of the highest rates of aging populations in the world. Right now, Vietnam is still a young country, despite the fact that its elderly population has increased from 4.9% in 1975 to 7.9% as of 2020. There is reason to have some concern over the aging population. Even just between 2009 and 2019, the elderly population older than the age of 60 increased by 2%. The World Bank has calculated that Vietnam could be the country that is aging fastest globally.

A Closer Look at Elderly Poverty in Vietnam

This aging is due to an increase in life expectancy, which rose by 21.6 years from 1950-1955 to 2010-2015, as well as a decrease in fertility rates in developing countries, from 6.1 children in 1950-1955 to 2.7 children to 2010-2015. By 2050, the percentage of Vietnamese people older than 60 could be one-third of the population, doubling from 11.9 million to 29 million. Among other implications, an aging population in Vietnam could devastate the quality of life for elderly Vietnamese people, especially those already in poverty.

The Need to Work

According to a statistic from the United Nations broadcasted by Channel News Asia, 40% of the Vietnamese elderly population are still working in some capacity, well beyond the normal retirement age in comparison to other nations. Even with work, the Vietnamese elderly’s typically low-income salaries cannot provide the benefits of proper care and shelter. According to CNA Insider, about seven out of 10 elderly people in Vietnam work in the “informal sector,” holding jobs such as trash collectors, taxi drivers and street vendors, all of which can be taxing on an elderly person.

The elderly in poverty in Vietnam have even more financial difficulty as they face higher medical costs with their growing ages. About 39.9% of the elderly in Vietnam exhibit some level of poverty and must rely upon pensions from their government for their basic needs. Yet, these pensions have limitations. Only about one in five of the Vietnamese elderly qualify for pensions; a person younger than the age of 80 must “be officially identified as poor” to receive benefits, a very broad title that many in poverty do not obtain. With age, this lack of support pushes into poverty many elderly who were not formerly impoverished.

Specific Vulnerability

According to a study published in the Journal of Population and Social Studies, despite an overall concern for the Vietnamese elderly, specific groups face an increased likelihood of enduring poverty in comparison to others. Elderly Vietnamese people who live in rural areas are more susceptible to poverty than those in urban areas. The elderly who do not identify with the majority ethnicity in Vietnam, Kinh-Hoa, are also more likely to experience poverty. Such disparities in poverty among the Vietnamese population have led to discussions about how Vietnamese policy can better support minority groups and those in rural areas in addressing the overall issue of elderly poverty in Vietnam.

Growing Support

Many organizations and nations are joining in the effort to alleviate elderly poverty in Vietnam. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency recently teamed up with the World Bank to launch an initiative to develop Vietnamese policy aimed at establishing new structures of state elderly care. This plan seeks to establish better social services to address the elderly in poverty in Vietnam. The initiative consisted of three phases of programs from August 2019 to April 2020 and considers the policies of countries like Thailand, which offers case studies of elderly policy. The former programs mentioned educated policymakers in Vietnam about new models of elderly care. Such a move by Japan also brings hopes of further cooperation between the two nations, which have traditionally had tense relations.

The United Nations Population Fund has also begun working with the Vietnam Committee on Ageing in order to offset the rapidly increasing older population’s effects on the economy. In doing so, the U.N. seeks to develop multiple programs that provide socioeconomic development within Vietnam while supporting the elderly who are in desperate need of government assistance. For example, the U.N. worked with Vietnamese leaders on a resolution in 2017 that called for “population work” to examine how people of different ages experience the rapidly aging population in Vietnam. The U.N. is continuing to support Vietnam with its vast data resources to better develop a policy for elderly care.

Furthermore, global institutions are making an effort to support nations’ elderly populations. The future is bright for the Vietnamese elderly in poverty, but much more work is necessary to ensure that they have a good quality of life. Supporting global institutions that aid the elderly in poverty can help in the fight against general global poverty.

– Rachel Reardon
Photo: Flickr

Remittances to Venezuela
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) defines remittances as “money transfers from citizens working abroad” as a contribution to the household income of their families in their home countries. The IMF sees remittances as a “lifeline for development,” especially in impoverished countries such as Venezuela. In Venezuela, the influx of remittances is growing rapidly and represents a large source of foreign income for Venezuelans. While remittances typically take the form of cash transfers, crypto remittances to Venezuela are playing a larger role in facilitating international transactions and becoming a vital source of income for Venezuelans, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic while the country faces hyperinflation and U.S. economic sanctions.

The Role of Remittances in Global Poverty Reduction

Remittances directly bolster the income of households that receive these payments and provide essential resources for the impoverished. The value of remittances lies in the fact that governance issues often linked to “official aid” do not impact remittances. Instead, remittances are able to circumvent “red tape” because the money goes directly into the pockets of the impoverished. According to the World Bank, “a 10% increase in per capita official remittances may lead to a 3.5% decline in the share of [impoverished] people,” further showing that remittances play a key role in poverty reduction. Harnessing technology and non-traditional approaches for remittances allow Venezuelans the opportunity to send and access this funding in a faster and more efficient way.

The Resiliency of Remittances

Experts expected remittances to decrease due to job insecurity abroad as a result of the pandemic. However, the flow of remittances remained resilient. According to the World Bank, remittances to developing countries only dropped 1.6% in 2020. Digitization of payments allows for a steady flow of remittances to countries like Venezuela —  according to a report by Global System for Mobile Communications, “international remittances processed via mobile money increased by 65% in 2020.” In 2018, United Nations member states adopted the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which recognizes the importance of remittances in the development of poverty-stricken countries such as Venezuela.

Cryptocurrency in the Context of Hyperinflation

As the bolivar continues to depreciate in Venezuela, cryptocurrency functions in a way that circumvents hyperinflation. Cryptocurrency is a decentralized form of currency, where its value does not stem from fiat currency or natural resources, but instead, derives from user demand. In 2021, the Venezuelan government introduced the 1-million-bolivar bill, which is equivalent to about $0.52, in an attempt to remedy the impacts of hyperinflation and economic sanctions. Venezuela has experienced hyperinflation due to falling oil prices, resulting in the government printing vast quantities of currency as a potential solution, but this only further devalued the bolivar. Increasingly, residents are turning to digital forms of payments. For example, street vendors in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas are accepting digital coins as a form of payment.

5 Benefits of Crypto Remittances to Venezuela

  1. Stability: Cryptocurrency remains steady compared to fiat currency, especially during times of inflation.
  2. Lower Fees: Commission fees for crypto remittances are lower in comparison to international transfer fees from companies like Western Union.
  3. Money and Time-Saving Costs: Research shows that crypto remittances “produce a 1% saving of income” because of the reduction of travel and wait time when sending remittances.
  4. Safety: Because Venezuela stands as “one of the most insecure [nations] in Latin America,” residents face the risk of theft when traveling with cash. Digital currency offers a degree of security and protection for people as their funds are stored on their devices.
  5. Continuing the Flow of Remittances: As the Maduro regime takes steps to further regulate remittances while rejecting foreign humanitarian aid, decentralized currencies could allow residents to continue receiving essential monetary flows.

Remittances to Venezuela’s Unbanked Population

According to the Global Findex Database, in 2017, close to 73% of Venezuelans had bank accounts and digital forms of receiving money are increasing each year as inflation devalues fiat currency and hyperinflation threatens the affordability of basic needs. More than 50% of transactions in the country use the U.S. dollar, and in 2020, experts projected that annual remittances would climb to $4 billion. The viability and sustainability of digital remittances, specifically cryptocurrency forms, are becoming more popular.

GiveCrypto Uses Cryptocurrency to Provide Aid to Venezuelans

As Venezuela continues to experience a financial crisis, cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, offers a degree of stability as an inflation-proof asset. Many nonprofits implement cryptocurrency in their strategies to bring aid to Venezuelans. In 2019, U.S.-based charity, GiveCrypto, “provided temporary assistance to hundreds of vulnerable families in Venezuela through weekly crypto deposits worth around $7,” which is equivalent “to the monthly minimum wage” in the country. This aid helped families purchase food and other essential goods.

In addition to aid, the organization provides resources that educate people about crypto apps to ensure that people have complete control of their digital currency. Efrain Pineda, the program manager, says, “We want to show that people who are not techies or investors can also benefit from this technology. Anyone can use crypto to protect themselves from inflation and make their daily life easier.”

Cryptocurrency Offers Hope for Venezuelans

With little end in sight for hyperinflation, Bitcoin is gaining traction as an alternative as traditional payment methods become regulated and overloaded. Venezuela ranks fourth globally for Bitcoin trade, and as more people flee Venezuela, digital forms of remittances continue to be an invaluable source of income for residents who remain.

– Jennifer Hendricks
Photo: Flickr