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Cabo Delgado crisis
Mozambique, a southern nation located in East Africa, is one of the poorest nations in the world. Cabo Delgado is its northernmost province and is rich in natural gas and rubies.  A mix of political tensions, Islamist militancy and inequality have provided fertile ground for Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado crisis

Background of the Crisis

Violence erupted in Cabo Delgado in 2015 and continues today as clashes between the militant group al-Shabab and state security forces.  Members of al-Shabab feel that the state does not provide for those in Cabo Delgado who do not belong to the elite. To date, almost 3000 people have died and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. In particular, Mozambican children are suffering heavily from physical and mental challenges.

Physical Challenges to Children: Displacement

The Cabo Delgado crisis has displaced over 336,000 children from their homes. Children flee from their homes on short notice to escape violence. They often travel long distances, sustaining injuries as a result of their journeys. Within the span of one month from June to July 2021, the number of children fleeing alone from Cabo Delgado increased by 40%.

Physical Challenges to Children: Hunger and Violence

Children impacted by the Cabo Delgado crisis also suffer from starvation. A UNICEF SMART survey analysis indicates that 33,000 children in Cabo Delgado are severely malnourished. Still, this number does not even take into account the children who have fled the region.

Some children are even subject to kidnappings and extreme violence. In the span of 13 months, ending in August 2021, over 50 children, mostly girls, were kidnapped. Additionally, there have been reports that children as young as 11 were beheaded.

Mental Challenges to Children: Trauma and Education

In addition to physical challenges, children displaced by the Cabo Delgado crisis also suffer from severe mental distress and trauma. This is often a result of children witnessing horrifying scenes including the murder of their own parents.

The Cabo Delgado crisis also challenges children’s access to education. Cabo Delgado has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in Mozambique. Thus far, the conflict has destroyed 221 schools, jeopardizing children’s access to essential learning.

Helping the Children of Mozambique

The Mozambican government has taken steps to try and improve life in provinces impacted by the Cabo Delgado crisis. In March 2020, the government created the Northern Integrated Development Agency to provide humanitarian aid and support economic growth and youth employment in Cabo Delgado and other provinces impacted by the crisis.

The international community has tried to help diffuse the Cabo Delgado crisis by strengthening the government. In April 2021, the World Bank agreed to provide $100 million to the government of Mozambique to support displaced civilians with basic infrastructure and job creation.

Save the Children

Save the Children, the international humanitarian organization, is helping.  It recently worked to reunite 63 Cabo Delgado children with their parents and caregivers. The organization provides foster homes and other forms of temporary accommodation for displaced children.  It also provides mental health and psychosocial support service. In addition, Save the Children works with the Mozambican government and other partners to combat malnutrition and provide improved health programs for children. Thus far, the organization has provided support to more than 25,000 children in times of crisis and vital nourishment to almost 15,000 children.

The Mozambique government, global financial leaders including the World Bank, and international humanitarian organizations including Save the Children are making strides to improve life in Cabo Delgado. While much work still remains, these groups are alleviating the suffering of children who are caught up in the Cabo Delgado crisis.

– Savannah Algu
Photo: Flickr

Data Center in LoméIn July 2021, the African country of Togo took another step in its efforts of digital transformation and economic progress as it opened Togo’s first data center in the capital city of Lomé. The construction of the data center in Lomé began three years ago and was funded by a loan from the World Bank and the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Project. The facility is part of the government’s plan for economic development and digital advancement. As Togo attempts to cement itself as a West African hub, Togo has risen about 50 spots in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report in the last couple of years.

Poverty and Economic Development in Togo

Togo has made strides in growth leading up to 2020, but even pre-pandemic, past poverty levels were still high. More than half of the population has been living under the poverty line for years prior to the pandemic, according to the World Bank. The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation have lent the government a hand in improving conditions for its people by putting resources into the financial, energy, transportation and manufacturing sectors, which played a major role in Togo’s jump from 137th to 97th place in the Doing Business 2020 report.

Digital Transformation of Togo’s Economy

With investments into Togo’s digital economy and infrastructure, the country plans to grow in its wholesale broadband market and cheapen service costs for its people. The government aims for a complete structural reformation of the Togolese economy. In the hopes of job creation and modernization of key institutions, Togo’s data center was constructed as a part of the long-term investment into digital technology.

Hawa Cissé Wagué, the World Bank resident representative for Togo, tells the World Bank that the pandemic has displayed the necessity of increasing Togo’s digital infrastructure in order to improve services and economic productivity. So far, Togo’s data center and its development have mildly restored its reputation and its future looks bright as foreign investment ramps up with a number of prominent banks in the region choosing to operate and do business within Togo.

Impact of the Data Center in Lomé

The secure, quality and reliable nature of the advanced technology makes the investment into the data center significant in the long run for the Togolese economy. The locally stationed data center will directly impact the surrounding community by providing employment opportunities within the facility itself but it will also have a ripple effect and extend throughout the country, according to government plans. Distributed data centers offer lower transaction costs as well as convenience when it comes to digital regulations. The centers also come with lower geopolitical risks and are safer for data storage.

– Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr

Combatting Elderly Poverty in EthiopiaThough Ethiopia has one of the fastest-growing economies in its region, it remains one of the poorest nations in the world with a per capita annual income of $883 in 2019. Along with many inevitable health and wellness concerns that come with old age, a rising concern for seniors is deepening poverty.

Elderly poverty in Ethiopia poses a major threat to the well-being of older people, leaving them particularly vulnerable to economic insecurity in countries without social protection systems that offer high coverage and adequate benefits. However, important developments have been made in Ethiopia to support the aging population and combat elderly poverty.

Gender Dynamics within Elderly Poverty

Gender inequality manifests in elderly poverty, with older women being at much greater risk to experience poor living conditions than older men. The U.N. outlines multiple factors that contribute to this phenomenon, arguing “women’s lower labor force participation, the large number of women who are self-employed, and the fact that women often have shorter and interrupted careers due to childbearing and rearing” contribute to older women being particularly vulnerable to poverty.

Pension coverage is also often significantly lower for women because there is a gender-pension gap. The gender pension gap refers to several factors that contribute to fewer women receiving pensions than men. This is indirectly impacted by gender discrimination built into the pension system itself, “including the disproportionate exclusion of women from being automatically enrolled into a pension scheme.” In comparison to the 287,666 men who received civil servant pensions in Ethiopia in 2018, only 31,222 women received the same pension.

Policy Progress

In 2018, only 15% of Ethiopia’s older population received any kind of social protection. As stated by HelpAge, “Older persons have virtually no access to either formal or informal savings and loans opportunities. Unless supported by civil society, poor older Ethiopians are unable to engage in regular saving activities.” Given the large coverage gap in social protection for the elderly, many argue that the nation should explore a dedicated social pension to combat elderly poverty in Ethiopia.

Despite its flaws, Ethiopia has made notable progress in the world of social protection interventions in the last few years. Two World Bank-funded projects have been instrumental in laying the groundwork to support seniors: the Ethiopian Rural Productive Safety Net Program, which launched in 2005, and the Urban Productive Safety Net Program (UPSNP), which launched in 2016.

The Ethiopian Rural Productive Safety Net Program is designed to support the Government of Ethiopia in improving its rural safety net systems. There is a specific focus on nutrition and food security, flood and drought risk management, and rural infrastructure and service delivery. Expanding the safety net in rural Ethiopia is central to supporting the lives of the thousands of seniors who live outside a city center and need social programs and systems to maintain a liveable quality of life. The UPSNP is designed with similar features but targeted towards poor households in urban centers.

Moving Forward

HelpAge outlines a few key recommendations to improve elderly poverty in Ethiopia, including increased advocacy from citizens toward local government and more awareness around the issue itself. Moreover, the organization argues an increased focus on older women is necessary, especially widows, in social protection interventions.

There is a long road to dismantling elderly poverty in Ethiopia, but the creation of necessary systems to support the aging population has proven to be a viable start. Knowledge, advocacy and cooperation with the government to address systemic issues within pension plans can definitely move the needle forward to alleviate poverty within the elderly community.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Flickr

Middle-class jobs in Indonesia
Less than 16% of workers hold middle-class jobs in Indonesia, with the majority of the population earning even less. With the COVID-19 pandemic making it significantly harder for people to maintain jobs, Indonesia is working to increase the number of jobs accessible to those suffering from poverty. However, while Indonesia successfully created 2.4 million jobs every year from 2009 to 2019, few offered middle-class benefits. Providing more middle-class jobs can be beneficial to people living in poverty. There are a few things to prioritize in expanding middle-class jobs to Indonesians in underserved communities. In order to increase the availability of middle-class jobs, it is important to focus on methods that will help people have more job opportunities.

The Benefits of Middle-Class Jobs

Increased availability of middle-class jobs benefits every citizen in Indonesia. Focusing on ways to create middle-class jobs can help alleviate poverty in the nation. Families with middle-class jobs live a better life and have access to essential resources. Middle-class workers enjoy the guarantee of more money and increased outcomes within the workforce. Workers feel more comfortable in a middle-class job with different resources available to guide them.

The Need for Middle-Class Jobs in Indonesia

When it comes to alleviating poverty in Indonesia, middle-class jobs help both those living in poverty as well as those no longer suffering from it. The lack of structural transformation, laborers’ transition across economic sectors over time, plays a huge role in the low number of middle-class jobs. Over the 17-year period from 2000 to 2017, Indonesia’s structural change only contributed 1% value per capita annual growth.

Other areas requiring emphasis include health and education. Only 43% of the labor force completed more than a lower-secondary education. Policies that focus on benefits received from middle-class jobs can encourage more people to want a middle-class job. It is also important to be attentive to different skills that are necessary for certain jobs. This includes informing Indonesians of what they need to know so that the people can be eligible for more opportunities. From emphasizing the importance of school to helping those in need, prioritizing these things can help increase the number of middle-class jobs.

Possible Solutions

There are other barriers preventing the creation of middle-class jobs in Indonesia and contributing to the nation’s poverty. Making adjustments to businesses within the country will make it easier to increase the availability of middle-class jobs. For example, households are responsible for two-thirds of Indonesian jobs, while larger employers and companies are scarce. There needs to be more focus on creating policies such as tax incentives and providing resources for workers. Another thing to consider is increasing middle-class jobs by improving the country’s workforce. Teaching younger citizens the skills essential to current jobs is one way to accomplish this.

On Track to Success

The COVID-19 pandemic brought more challenges to Indonesia, which resulted in many citizens not having employment. Some areas that need more attention to increase the availability of middle-class jobs are the education system and manufacturing industries. It is also important for the government to create policies to help workers. Indonesians will greatly benefit from working middle-class jobs with increased pay and greater access to much-needed resources. With these measures, one can be optimistic about alleviating Indonesia’s poverty levels.

– Chloe Moody
Photo: Flickr

<span class="imagecredit">On April 12, 2013, the World Bank approved funding for the National Horticulture and Livestock Productivity Project (NHLP) in Afghanistan. Under this governmental program, greenhouses are distributed to families across Afghanistan’s provinces. More than 300 Afghan women in the province of Kapisa alone are able to grow food year-round for their families with some women even becoming the sole breadwinners of their family due to farming made possible through the NHLP’s distributed greenhouses. The United Nations implemented the Community-Based Agriculture and Rural Development project (CBARD) in Afghanistan in 2018, a program that involves similar creations of greenhouses in Afghanistan. CBARD has led to the construction of 70 greenhouses in the Ghormach district alone. As the success of micro and commercial greenhouse distribution through both the World Bank and U.N.-initiated projects has grown, the importance of long-term and community-based anti-poverty solutions has become clear internationally.

Greenhouse Distribution

The NHLP has reached 291 districts across all 34 provinces in Afghanistan, covering more than 500,000 citizens, half of whom are women. Each greenhouse costs 25,000 afghani (or around $320) to build, with recipients selected “based on financial need and access to at least 250 square meters of land.” After distributing these greenhouses, the NHLP also provides classes for participants on how to cultivate vegetables and apply fertilizer made from organic waste.

With the goal of tailoring the CBARD project to Afghanistan’s agriculture, the U.N. aims to benefit an estimated 46,000 households across the nation. As part of this general agricultural program, greenhouses are implemented as “key infrastructure” across the region. The U.N. explains that due to cultural and security concerns throughout many provinces, it has also focused on the implementation of micro greenhouses so that women can grow crops inside their homes. With the CBARD program currently active in the Badghis, Farah and Nangarhar provinces, the program has built hundreds of micro and commercial greenhouses for farmers.

The Need for Year-Round Food

Greenhouses in Afghanistan have provided access to produce during winter months while also providing a general improvement in food quality. This is especially beneficial for children and pregnant women who are vulnerable to malnutrition. Saima Sahar Saeedi, NHLP social affairs officer, explains to the World Bank that these greenhouses aim to reduce childhood malnutrition with children able to “eat the vegetables grown in their own family greenhouses.”

Due to Kapisa province’s especially cold winter climate, many families are unable to grow produce such as wheat, potatoes and vegetables throughout the year without the help of greenhouses and are unable to afford produce at a local bazaar. Some greenhouses in Afghanistan even help families sell crops. One recipient, Roh Afza, tells the World Bank that the money she made from selling her greenhouse produce is used to buy “clothes, school uniforms, notebooks and books for [her] children.”

The U.N.’s CBARD program has focused on the Badghis region specifically, where citizens depend on agriculture as their primary occupation. With an increase of droughts, however, much of the population has turned to poppy cultivation, which requires less water than other crops. Poppy cultivation not only requires an entire family to work but results in minimal profits and reduces the fertility of the soil. The CBARD program aims to reduce the dependence on poppy cultivation in the region by implementing greenhouses for the production of crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.

The Global Success of Greenhouses

The success of both the U.N.’s CBARD program and the World Bank’s NHLP initiative include achievements in combating malnutrition, poverty and food insecurity through both micro and commercial greenhouses. Greenhouses have also furthered agricultural progress and livelihoods in rural Jamaica as well as Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan. The U.N. and World Bank’s greenhouse implementation programs create long-term, community-based solutions in combating food insecurity, poverty and malnutrition.

– Lillian Ellis
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Every Last One CampaignWorld Vision is a humanitarian organization established in 1950 to help vulnerable people “reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.” Since its start, World Vision has assisted in several crises throughout the world such as the Ethiopian famine in the 1980s and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa in the 1990s. In 2015, World Vision launched a campaign known as Every Last One. The campaign spans eight years and amounts to $1 billion. Overall, its goal is to provide relief, assistance and opportunities to approximately 60 million vulnerable people worldwide by 2023. The aid seeks to empower people “to lift themselves out of poverty.”

Campaign Context and Details

World Vision notes that around 689 million people all over the world live in extreme poverty. This specifically translates into subsisting on less than $1.90 a day. The COVID-19 epidemic has introduced additional challenges to vulnerable people across the globe. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic could potentially thrust 150 million people into extreme poverty by the close of 2021. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse decades of poverty reduction progress globally as well as strides made in education and health.

For this reason, the humanitarian organization has framed its Every Last One campaign in terms of “life, hope and a future.” The life aspect involves providing people with “access to clean water and essential healthcare” services. Hope refers to training and equipping teachers, parents and pastors with the skills and resources needed to “protect children from violence” and supply emergency relief aid to people facing natural disasters and other humanitarian crises.

Finally, the concept of a future focuses on economically empowering people to create “improved and resilient livelihoods” through education initiatives, books and training as well as recovery loans for those affected by the pandemic. In all its work, World Vision strives for gender equality, acknowledging that empowering girls and women is essential for reducing global poverty. To date, the call for donations and investments continues.

Financial Transparency and Accountability

World Vision has provided evidence that the Every Last One campaign is economically viable. On its website, the humanitarian organization has posted its financial reports and financial highlights of 2020 as a gesture of accountability. These highlights indicate that the organization has dedicated 88% of its operating expenses toward initiatives that help “children, families and communities in need,” with the remaining 12% set aside for management and fundraising efforts.

Moreover, the organization’s financial reports indicate that it received a grand total of $1,233 million in revenue in 2020, the majority of which came in through “private cash contributions.” It has also worked on decreasing overhead expenses by 3% from 2019 through improved stewardship practices. These figures indicate that World Vision has a sustainable system in place to make the most impact and ensure that disadvantaged people receive the most benefit.

Contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals

World’s Vision’s Every Last One campaign may prove instrumental in assisting the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The U.N.’s target to end global poverty by 2030 is the first among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicated in the United Nations’ Agenda. The Agenda itself recognizes that meeting such a goal within the given time frame would require massive global mobilization and collaboration among various groups and organizations. Therefore, World Vision’s own initiative may play a significant role in realizing the U.N. SDGs.

– Jared Faircloth
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disasters in TurkeyThe year 2021 is setting records in extreme heat and droughts, and Turkey is currently facing its worst heatwave in 30 years. On July 28, 2021, wildfires began to spread across the southwest coastline of Turkey. A total of 156 destructive blazes erupted and killed nine people, during these natural disasters in Turkey. The strong winds, low humidity and temperatures above 204 degrees Fahrenheit helped spread the fires quickly and made it extremely difficult to work towards putting out the fires. According to the Mugla municipality, wildfires have already affected more than 230,000 acres in Turkey.

Under Fire

Disputes have emerged as to whether or not Turkey’s government was prepared to handle such natural disasters. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is receiving criticism for not purchasing properly equipped firefighting planes despite knowing that Turkey often faces wildfires.

The fires began in mountainous southwest Turkey, meaning ground intervention was not possible. Despite the Turkish Aeronautical Association containing previous fires with planes, the government claimed to have no water-dropping planes in inventory.

Floods Follow Fire

Changing weather is causing more extreme environmental events throughout the world, and Turkey is facing several of these disasters. By August 9, 2021, heavy rainfall helped put out all but two fires. Just days after, starting August 11, 2021, Turkey faced flash floods that swept through the Black Sea Coast. With a current death toll of 77 and 47 people still missing, the torrents of water and debris are devastating from these Natural DIsasters in Turkey.

The most heavily hit area is Kastamonu province, where apartment buildings experienced destruction after the Ezine river burst its banks. Additionally, the floods collapsed buildings, destroyed bridges, clogged the streets and cut the power supply. Over 1,700 people were evacuated, with boats and helicopters rescuing many citizens.

Natural Disasters and Poverty

There is a clear connection between natural disasters and poverty; natural disasters disproportionately affect poor people. Following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Turkey’s poverty rate rose above 12%, meaning that these natural disasters will heavily affect many people. Unfortunately, the Turkish government did little to deal with the economic impact of COVID-19, and the lack of support contributed to rising poverty levels.

When facing poverty, any amount of impact on assets or consumption levels is a threat. Often, those facing poverty have to accept living in more risky areas due to affordability, which can lead to devastating outcomes during natural disasters. Additionally, people in low-income countries have less infrastructure to protect them.

A World Bank report found that the impact of extreme weather events on poverty is even more devastating than previously thought. Each year, natural disasters cause consumption losses of $520 billion and push 26 million people into poverty.

Often, events like these increase the damage to buildings, infrastructure and agriculture. These losses only represent the losses of those wealthy enough to lose something, and they fail to show the magnitude that the world’s poor suffer. With this idea in mind, the World Bank warns that natural disasters are a huge impediment to ending global poverty, and it is essential that poor people receive social and financial protection from unavoidable disasters.

The Good News

Poland sent firefighters, police officers and equipment to Turkey in order to help deal with the fires and flooding. Additionally, hundreds of Turkish volunteers banded together to help fight the fire. Volunteers formed a human chain to help carry equipment to firefighters and even put out a hillside fire with instruction from fire crews.

Turkish Philanthropy Funds has set up a Wildfire Relief Fund in order to provide support during the wildfires in Turkey. This support includes provisions of food and emergency aid to help those affected.

– Jacqueline Zembek
Photo: Flickr

Philippines Won Olympic GoldOn July 26, 2021, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz made Filipino and Olympic history. After 97 years of competing at the Olympic games, the Philippines secured its first-ever gold medal when Diaz won the 55-kilogram category of women’s weightlifting at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She also set an Olympic record when she lifted a combined total of 224 kilograms.

Making Something Out of Nothing

Diaz grew up in a large family in the Philippines with few resources. “We were poor back then,” she said. “When I was a kid, I told [my mother] I wanted to work in a bank and count money.” She never imagined becoming an Olympic weightlifter, but after she started weightlifting as a child, she never looked back.

Diaz had to work with limited training supplies due to her family’s economic standing. When she began weightlifting, she only had access to plastic pipes holding concrete weights. When she was 11, she participated in a local weightlifting competition, where she received a barbell. Diaz eventually broke the barbell bar from training with it so much.

Causes of Poverty in the Philippines

The Philippines is a small, multi-island country in Southeast Asia that has faced many years of economic struggle. The following are factors that cause a high poverty rate in the Philippines.

  • Slow economic growth and little poverty aid. The Philippines has struggled to deliver consistent economic growth for the entire nation. When economic booms do happen, they rarely help poverty-stricken communities. The nation also has frequent crisis periods that cause inflation, which further hurts low-income communities.
  • Trouble expanding the agricultural sector and creating quality jobs. Many Filipino citizens, especially low-income citizens, face difficulty finding a job with good pay. This is largely due to a lack of development in the agricultural sector. Without growth in the agricultural sector, overall economic growth is difficult.
  • Rapid population growth and resulting income inequality. The country’s population is quickly rising, creating a larger gap between economic classes and increasing poverty throughout the country.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Bank, “The COVID-19 pandemic may have resulted in the national poverty rate increasing from 16.7% in 2018 to an estimated 21% in 2020, even after accounting for the effects of government subsidies (e.g., the social amelioration program).”

Learning to Adjust

Growing up in poverty in the Philippines prepared Diaz for the tough times ahead. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Diaz found herself stuck in Malaysia due to travel restrictions between countries. There, she had no access to a weight room, much less the correct training equipment for her weightlifting competitions.

However, Diaz was used to making do with what she had. She created a weight bar out of a wooden pole and large water bottles in order to train. A video of her snatching and squatting with the makeshift barbell went viral after her Olympic victory.

Diaz’s Olympic win was one for the history books. She proved that coming from poverty does not necessarily mean that one should count a person out. A lot of work still needs to occur in the Philippines, but when Diaz won the Olympic gold, she gave light and hope to her country.

Riley Prillwitz
Photo: Flickr

Gaza WomenSince 2011, the European Union opened its market to Palestinian exports, including all agricultural products. For many years, Palestinian farmers have taken advantage of this trade deal by exporting herbs to Europe where the herbs are turned into cosmetics and beauty products. Now, however, women in Gaza have taken it upon themselves to synthesize the herbs into cosmetic products they can sell themselves. In a factory in Gaza city, four female employees are extracting essential oils from herbs, which then becomes the main ingredient used to make beauty and personal care products. The herbs cultivated include rosemary, basil, mint, thyme and chamomile and all originate from women-owned farms.

Oxfam Australia Supports Women in Gaza

As part of its initiative to help countries recover from the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxfam Australia worked with partners in Gaza and ran listening workshops to understand how the pandemic affected 32 women-led businesses in order to understand their challenges and how to support them.

In a summary of the workshops, Oxfam’s Economic Justice team found that, despite the proliferation of women (60%) working in the “shadow economy” or informal economy, women possess the will to grow small businesses and achieve greater market penetration. But, the pandemic has put a great strain on their efforts, especially the efforts of micro or small women-led businesses as women have had to significantly minimize or halt their production because the required COVID-19 protocols jeopardize the minimum profit gained. Further, the team found that Palestine’s weak market demand and absence of a culture supporting local products add to the burden of small businesses.  Ultimately, these findings inspired Oxfam’s support of several women-led businesses in Gaza, including the women-owned cosmetic factory.

The GG Cosmetics Range

With a range of up to 17 products including cleansers, body washes and shampoos, the Gaza cosmetic brand is titled GG  stands for “Green Gold,” which is the name given to mint by farmers of Northern Gaza. One of the women leading the business tells Reuters that “When you hold the product, you feel like you are taking something from the earth — with no additives.” So far, 50 stores sell the products, including 30 pharmacies across Gaza. In one of the pharmacies selling the brand, a pharmacist says that she likes the products because “they are natural and have no chemicals in them.”

Sustainable in More Ways Than One

According to the World Bank, about 50% of people in Gaza are unemployed and more than 50% of Gaza’s people live in poverty. Considering these statistics, support from organizations such as Oxfam is essential. As well as encouraging sustainable sources of income for Palestinian women and their children, the GG cosmetic business also promotes plant-based cosmetics, which are far less harsh on the skin than conventional makeup.

Overall, efforts to localize the manufacturing and sale of cosmetics in Gaza are empowering women and creating opportunities for future women entrepreneurs. In this way, women become financially independent and are able to provide for themselves and their families. These efforts, in a time of extreme oppression and strife in Gaza, are helping to “embroider the blueprint for both liberation and sovereignty, for resistance and remedying the aftermath of oppression.”

– Annarosa Zampaglione

Photo: Flickr

Haiti-United States RelationshipIn 1804, Haiti gained its independence from France, yet it took until 1862 for the U.S. to recognize Haiti as a nation. In the 20th century, U.S. military forces began a 19-year military intervention in Haiti that lasted until 1934. Despite being the “second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere after the United States,” Haiti has struggled to maintain a consistent and reliable democracy, according to the Office of the Historian. The Haiti-United States relationship has significantly strengthened over time, with the United States as a regular donor to Haiti. In an already unstable nation, the recent assassination of Haitian President Moïse in July 2021 has led to further instability in the nation, prompting urgent humanitarian assistance.

Contemporary Haiti-US Economic Relations

Following the 2010 earthquake that paralyzed Haiti, the United States provided more than $5 billion worth of aid aimed at supporting “longer-term recover, reconstruction and development programs,” according to the U.S. State Department. In the aftermath of the earthquake, U.S. economic efforts have allowed for:

  • The creation of close to 14,000 job opportunities in the apparel industry for local Haitians.
  • About 70,000 farmers were able to improve their crop yields with the introduction of “improved seeds, fertilizer, irrigation and other technologies.”
  • A stronger police force that has expanded to more than 15,300 members.
  • Progress in “child nutrition and mortality, improved access to maternal healthcare and the containment of the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
  • Greater access to basic healthcare services in more than 160 health centers across Haiti.

As “Haiti’s largest trading partner,” the U.S. is involved in Haitian sectors such as “banks, airlines, oil and agribusiness companies” as well as “U.S.-owned assembly plants,” according to the U.S. State Department. Tourism, medical supplies and equipment, modernization of Haitian infrastructure and clothing production are areas of opportunity for U.S. businesses.

Despite the successes of the Haiti-United States relationship, the World Bank estimates that, in 2020, almost 60% of the Haitian population lived in poverty. These statistics make Haiti the most impoverished nation in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Political Unrest in Haiti

A shift from communism to democracy in Haiti has the ability to strengthen the Haiti-United States relationship and provide economic stability. Political and civil unrest has been ongoing since July 2018 and “violent protests” in the nation exacerbate Haiti’s plethora of issues. Among other issues, a growing unemployment rate, inflation rising to 20% and the Haitian currency depreciating by 30%, contribute to an ailing nation. Furthermore, the nation experiences regular fuel shortages and businesses struggle to keep their doors open. Due to the high poverty rate, about 33% of the population faces “crisis- or emergency-level food insecurity.”

While Haiti showed signs of promise when it held a democratic presidential election in 2017,  its “local and parliamentary elections” that were scheduled for October 2019 did not occur. Because democracy in Haiti is not consistent, this leads to nationwide instability and unrest.

The Assassination of President Jovenel Moïse

On July 7, 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and his wife, Martine, were attacked in their residence in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The president was killed in the attack and his wife was severely injured but did not suffer any fatal wounds.

Moïse’s presidency, which began in February 2017 after winning an annulled 2015 election and a second election in 2016, “was marked by controversy.” His appointment sparked protests throughout the country, with citizens citing “economic underperformance and corruption” as the reason. Since the beginning of 2020, Moïse ruled by decree and allegedly attempted to grant himself and close confidants “immunity from prosecution” on several occasions. In 2020, human rights abuses connected to gang violence caused two members of Moïse’s government to be sanctioned by the U.S. government.

US Solidarity and Support

U.S. President Joe Biden has spoken on the future of the Haiti-United States relationship following Moïse’s assassination. Recently, Biden released a statement of mourning over Moïse’s assassination and uncertainty about the future of Haiti. “We condemn this heinous act and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moïse’s recovery. The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” says Biden.

The instability in the aftermath of Moïse’s assassination leaves the future of the Haiti-United States relationship in question. However, by committing to democracy, the Haitian government can work toward a stronger economic partnership between the two nations.

International Aid to Haiti

UNICEF is working to provide aid to more than 1.5 million Haitian people experiencing “constrained access to clean water, health and nutrition, disrupted education and protection services” amid the political instability and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, UNICEF reported that “Haiti is the only country in the Western Hemisphere where not a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has been received.”

To address this, “UNICEF will support the distribution, transportation and storage of COVID-19 vaccines” to improve the vaccine rollout. Starting three years ago, UNICEF has provided 920 solar-operated fridges in Haiti, “to strengthen the cold chain, mainly in remote areas where electricity is unreliable.” Today, 96% of Haiti’s health centers possess solar fridges for medicinal cold storage.

By mitigating Haiti’s domestic hardships, there is greater hope for a stronger Haiti-United States relationship in the future. The efforts of global humanitarian organizations provide a glimmer of hope in a tumultuous political landscape.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr