Category Archives: Business

economy and business news

Venezuela Doubles Down on Chinese Money to Reverse Crisis

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday that new investments from China will help his country dramatically boost its oil production, doubling down on financing from the Asian nation to turn around its crashing economy.

 

Already a major economic partner, China has agreed to invest $5 billion more in Venezuela, Maduro said following a recent trip to Beijing, adding that the money would help it nearly double its oil production.

 

“We are taking the first steps into a new economic era,” he said. “We are on track to have a new economy, and the agreements with China will strengthen it.”

 

A once-wealthy oil nation, Venezuela is gripped by a historic crisis deeper than the Great Depression in the United States. Venezuelans struggle to afford scarce food and medicine, many going abroad in search of a better life.

 

Venezuela’s inflation this year could top 1 million percent, economists predict.

 

After two decades of socialist rule and mismanagement, Venezuela’s oil production of 1.2 million barrels a day is a third of what it was two decades ago before the late President Hugo Chavez launched the socialist revolution.

 

Maduro says under the deal, Venezuela will increase production and the export of oil to China by 1 million barrels a day.

 

However, China is taking a strong role in its new agreements. Over the last decade China has given Venezuela $65 billion in loans, cash and investment. Venezuela owes more than $20 billion.

 

The head of the National Petroleum Corporation of China will soon travel to Venezuela to finalize plans on increasing oil exports.

 

Russ Dallen, a Miami-based partner at brokerage Caracas Capital Markets, said the influx of money appears to be investments China will control.

 

“The Chinese are reluctant to throw good money after bad,” Dallen said. “They do want to get paid back. The only way they can get paid back is to get Venezuela’s production back up.”

 

Venezuela also agreed to sell 9.9 percent of shares of the joint venture Sinovensa, giving a Chinese oil company a 49 percent stake. The sale will expand exploitation of gas in Venezuela, the president said.

 

Maduro also recently launched sweeping economic reforms aimed at rescuing the economy that include a creating new currency, boosting the minimum wage more than 3,000 percent and raising taxes.

 

Economist Asdrubal Oliveros of Caracas-based firm Econalitica said he doubts that Venezuela can reach the aggressive goal to boost oil exports to China by one million barrels a day given problems faced by the state corporation PDVSA.

 

“Increased production I see as quite limited,” Oliveros said. “The Chinese companies alone have neither the muscle nor the size to prop up production.”

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European Nations Plan to Use More Hydrogen for Energy Needs

Dozens of European countries are backing a plan to increase the use of hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels to cut the continent’s carbon emissions.

 

Energy officials from 25 countries pledged Tuesday to increase research into hydrogen technology and accelerate its everyday use to power factories, drive cars and heat homes.

 

The proposal, which was included in a non-binding agreement signed in Linz, Austria, includes the idea of using existing gas grids to distribute hydrogen produced with renewable energy.

 

The idea of a “hydrogen economy,” where fuels that release greenhouse gases are replaced with hydrogen, has been around for decades. Yet uptake on the concept has been slow so far, compared with some other technologies.

 

Advocates of hydrogen say it can solve the problem caused by fluctuating supplies of wind, solar, hydro and other renewable energies. By converting electricity generated from those sources into hydrogen, the energy can be stored in large tanks and released again when needed.

 

Electric vehicles can also use hydrogen to generate power on board, allowing manufacturers to overcome the range restrictions of existing batteries. Hydrogen vehicles can be refueled in a fraction of the time it takes to recharge a battery-powered vehicle.

 

On Monday the world’s first commuter train service using a prototype hydrogen-powered train began in northern Germany.

 

The European Union’s top climate and energy official said hydrogen could help the bloc meet its obligations to cut carbon emissions under the 2015 Paris accord. Miguel Arias Canete told reporters it could also contribute to the continent’s energy security by reducing imports of natural gas, much of which currently comes from Russia and countries outside of Europe.

 

Kirsten Westphal, an energy expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said encouraging the use of hydrogen as a means of storing and transporting energy makes sense, but added the overall goal for should be reducing fossil fuels rather than pushing a particular energy alternative.

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European Nations Plan to Use More Hydrogen for Energy Needs

Dozens of European countries are backing a plan to increase the use of hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels to cut the continent’s carbon emissions.

 

Energy officials from 25 countries pledged Tuesday to increase research into hydrogen technology and accelerate its everyday use to power factories, drive cars and heat homes.

 

The proposal, which was included in a non-binding agreement signed in Linz, Austria, includes the idea of using existing gas grids to distribute hydrogen produced with renewable energy.

 

The idea of a “hydrogen economy,” where fuels that release greenhouse gases are replaced with hydrogen, has been around for decades. Yet uptake on the concept has been slow so far, compared with some other technologies.

 

Advocates of hydrogen say it can solve the problem caused by fluctuating supplies of wind, solar, hydro and other renewable energies. By converting electricity generated from those sources into hydrogen, the energy can be stored in large tanks and released again when needed.

 

Electric vehicles can also use hydrogen to generate power on board, allowing manufacturers to overcome the range restrictions of existing batteries. Hydrogen vehicles can be refueled in a fraction of the time it takes to recharge a battery-powered vehicle.

 

On Monday the world’s first commuter train service using a prototype hydrogen-powered train began in northern Germany.

 

The European Union’s top climate and energy official said hydrogen could help the bloc meet its obligations to cut carbon emissions under the 2015 Paris accord. Miguel Arias Canete told reporters it could also contribute to the continent’s energy security by reducing imports of natural gas, much of which currently comes from Russia and countries outside of Europe.

 

Kirsten Westphal, an energy expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said encouraging the use of hydrogen as a means of storing and transporting energy makes sense, but added the overall goal for should be reducing fossil fuels rather than pushing a particular energy alternative.

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Africa’s Youth Population, Poverty Spurs Gates Foundation’s Giving

Africa has the globe’s fastest-growing youth population as well as 10 of the poorest countries, a volatile combination that warrants making it “the world’s most important priority for the foreseeable future.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation lays out that argument in its second annual report on progress toward sustainable development goals set by the United Nations for 2030. This Goalkeepers Data Report, released Tuesday, urges targeting Africa with the same kind of investment intensity that lifted once-poor China and India into the ranks of middle-income nations.

Sixty percent of Africans are younger than 24, numbers that Melinda Gates emphasized in a phone interview earlier this month with VOA’s English to Africa Service.

“If the world makes the right investments in health and nutrition and education,” she said, it could unleash the potential of “an amazing generation that has unbelievable ingenuity.”    

The report notes that while the youth population is booming in Africa, it’s shrinking elsewhere in the world. For example, the median age is 19 in Africa – and 35 in North America. Populations are expected to soar by 2050 in the 10 poorest countries: Benin, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Zambia. 

Melinda Gates described the foundation as a “catalytic wedge,” whose investments can fuel beneficial projects and programs.

“We start getting things going” with many partners on the ground “working in culturally, contextually sensitive ways,” she said. “We take some risks, but ultimately it’s the governments who scale them up, and that work is done in deep partnership with many people around the globe.”

The Gates Foundation is the biggest of U.S. funders aiding Africa, such as the Ford, Rockefeller, Conrad N. Hilton, Carnegie and Open Society foundations, the website Inside Philanthropy reported in 2016. 

Earlier this year, it observed that charitable giving by Africans is growing, too.    

To date, the Gates Foundation has invested more than $15 billion “in projects relevant to Africa,” the report says, while promising to spend more. It has targeted three areas for investment: health, education and agriculture.

Health: The foundation subsidizes a range of health programs, from childhood vaccination and good nutrition, but it gives special attention to family planning and HIV interventions.

Among countries that have risen economically, “every one of them allowed voluntary access to contraceptives to women,” Gates told VOA. “We know if men and women can space the births of their children … there are more opportunities then for those children and their families. Girls can stay in school” and, when educated, are better able to provide for their families.

“Those people create amazing opportunities and new jobs in the economy,” Gates added.

The U.S. government is the biggest donor in global family planning and reproductive health, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit focused on health issues. U.S. spending on that front was at $608 million in fiscal year 2018, though the Trump administration has proposed reductions for 2019. Funding levels can reflect domestic and international political debates, especially over abortion, KFF’s website notes. It adds that, since 1973, the government has banned “direct use of U.S. funding overseas for abortion as a method of family planning. …”

The report praised Rwanda for building “an effective health system” that has brought about “the steepest drop in child mortality ever recorded.” In 2005, the country recorded 103 deaths per 1,000 lives births; a decade later, the death rate dropped to 50.

As for HIV infections, the report acknowledged progress in Zimbabwe, where a fourth of all adults were infected in 1997, the peak year of the epidemic.

“Since 2010, new infections are down by 49 percent, and AIDS-related deaths are down by 45 percent,” it noted. But it warned that the youth boom could bring a reversal without continued support for treatment and prevention methods.

Education: While school enrollment and literacy rates have improved, as the United Nations reports, that’s not enough.

“We need to get the quality of education to come up, much like Vietnam has done,” Melinda Gates told VOA.

Students in that country, labeled as low income until 2010, ranked among the best in the world in science in the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s most recent assessment of 15-year-olds.

Agriculture: “… We need to make sure that we help countries move from subsistence farming to making real investments” supporting larger-scale operations so people can feed themselves, Gates said. 

Ghana provides a good example, she and the report noted.

With its current agricultural productivity and innovations such as new hybrid varieties of maize, the country’s “poverty rate is projected to fall from 20 percent in 2016 to 6 percent in 2030.”

But, the report observed, “There is ample room for Ghana’s agrifood system to keep developing.” For example, “cocoa, the country’s main export crop, is sold raw and processed outside the country. Meanwhile, almost half of all processed foods consumed in Ghana are imported.” Buying food processed in Ghana would keep more money in the country and generate jobs, it said.   

Since 2000, more than a billion people have risen from extreme poverty, a level that the World Bank sets at $1.90 a day. Melinda Gates attributed that rise to “investments the world made systematically in human capital: in health, in education, in agriculture. …

“A lot of the gains that we’ve seen can drop back, particularly with a growing population,” she said. “So our message to the world is keep your foot on the gas. Keep the accelerator going.”

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Africa’s Youth Population, Poverty Spurs Gates Foundation’s Giving

Africa has the globe’s fastest-growing youth population as well as 10 of the poorest countries, a volatile combination that warrants making it “the world’s most important priority for the foreseeable future.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation lays out that argument in its second annual report on progress toward sustainable development goals set by the United Nations for 2030. This Goalkeepers Data Report, released Tuesday, urges targeting Africa with the same kind of investment intensity that lifted once-poor China and India into the ranks of middle-income nations.

Sixty percent of Africans are younger than 24, numbers that Melinda Gates emphasized in a phone interview earlier this month with VOA’s English to Africa Service.

“If the world makes the right investments in health and nutrition and education,” she said, it could unleash the potential of “an amazing generation that has unbelievable ingenuity.”    

The report notes that while the youth population is booming in Africa, it’s shrinking elsewhere in the world. For example, the median age is 19 in Africa – and 35 in North America. Populations are expected to soar by 2050 in the 10 poorest countries: Benin, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Zambia. 

Melinda Gates described the foundation as a “catalytic wedge,” whose investments can fuel beneficial projects and programs.

“We start getting things going” with many partners on the ground “working in culturally, contextually sensitive ways,” she said. “We take some risks, but ultimately it’s the governments who scale them up, and that work is done in deep partnership with many people around the globe.”

The Gates Foundation is the biggest of U.S. funders aiding Africa, such as the Ford, Rockefeller, Conrad N. Hilton, Carnegie and Open Society foundations, the website Inside Philanthropy reported in 2016. 

Earlier this year, it observed that charitable giving by Africans is growing, too.    

To date, the Gates Foundation has invested more than $15 billion “in projects relevant to Africa,” the report says, while promising to spend more. It has targeted three areas for investment: health, education and agriculture.

Health: The foundation subsidizes a range of health programs, from childhood vaccination and good nutrition, but it gives special attention to family planning and HIV interventions.

Among countries that have risen economically, “every one of them allowed voluntary access to contraceptives to women,” Gates told VOA. “We know if men and women can space the births of their children … there are more opportunities then for those children and their families. Girls can stay in school” and, when educated, are better able to provide for their families.

“Those people create amazing opportunities and new jobs in the economy,” Gates added.

The U.S. government is the biggest donor in global family planning and reproductive health, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit focused on health issues. U.S. spending on that front was at $608 million in fiscal year 2018, though the Trump administration has proposed reductions for 2019. Funding levels can reflect domestic and international political debates, especially over abortion, KFF’s website notes. It adds that, since 1973, the government has banned “direct use of U.S. funding overseas for abortion as a method of family planning. …”

The report praised Rwanda for building “an effective health system” that has brought about “the steepest drop in child mortality ever recorded.” In 2005, the country recorded 103 deaths per 1,000 lives births; a decade later, the death rate dropped to 50.

As for HIV infections, the report acknowledged progress in Zimbabwe, where a fourth of all adults were infected in 1997, the peak year of the epidemic.

“Since 2010, new infections are down by 49 percent, and AIDS-related deaths are down by 45 percent,” it noted. But it warned that the youth boom could bring a reversal without continued support for treatment and prevention methods.

Education: While school enrollment and literacy rates have improved, as the United Nations reports, that’s not enough.

“We need to get the quality of education to come up, much like Vietnam has done,” Melinda Gates told VOA.

Students in that country, labeled as low income until 2010, ranked among the best in the world in science in the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s most recent assessment of 15-year-olds.

Agriculture: “… We need to make sure that we help countries move from subsistence farming to making real investments” supporting larger-scale operations so people can feed themselves, Gates said. 

Ghana provides a good example, she and the report noted.

With its current agricultural productivity and innovations such as new hybrid varieties of maize, the country’s “poverty rate is projected to fall from 20 percent in 2016 to 6 percent in 2030.”

But, the report observed, “There is ample room for Ghana’s agrifood system to keep developing.” For example, “cocoa, the country’s main export crop, is sold raw and processed outside the country. Meanwhile, almost half of all processed foods consumed in Ghana are imported.” Buying food processed in Ghana would keep more money in the country and generate jobs, it said.   

Since 2000, more than a billion people have risen from extreme poverty, a level that the World Bank sets at $1.90 a day. Melinda Gates attributed that rise to “investments the world made systematically in human capital: in health, in education, in agriculture. …

“A lot of the gains that we’ve seen can drop back, particularly with a growing population,” she said. “So our message to the world is keep your foot on the gas. Keep the accelerator going.”

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ADB Ramps Up Pacific Presence as Aid Donors Jostle for Influence

The Asian Development Bank said on Tuesday it is expanding its presence in the Pacific islands, at a time of competition for influence there, opening seven new country offices and expecting its loans and grants in the region to top $4 billion by 2020.

The pledge from the Japan-led bank comes amidst a vigorous new campaign by the United States and its allies to check China’s rising sway in the region, where it has sought deeper diplomatic ties and emerged as the second-largest donor.

The battle for influence in the sparsely populated Pacific matters because each of the tiny island states has a vote at international forums like the United Nations, and they also control vast swathes of resource-rich ocean.

The ADB said it will open offices in the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu, as well as expand missions in Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

“The new country offices will allow ADB to have more regular contact and substantive communication with government and development partners,” the bank said in a statement.

Its overall assistance to the Pacific, which stands at $2.9 billion, is expected to surpass $4 billion by 2020, it added, with the money destined for economic and social development projects and disaster resilience.

China has likewise pledged to keep lending to a region where it says its aid is supporting sustainable development.

However, it has spent $1.3 billion on concessionary loans and gifts since 2011, stoking concern in the West that several tiny nations could end up overburdened and in debt to Beijing.

Australia in particular, which has long viewed the Pacific as its backyard, has been critical of some Chinese aid projects, and a former foreign minister has warned that the lending could undermine the long-term sovereignty of recipients.

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ADB Ramps Up Pacific Presence as Aid Donors Jostle for Influence

The Asian Development Bank said on Tuesday it is expanding its presence in the Pacific islands, at a time of competition for influence there, opening seven new country offices and expecting its loans and grants in the region to top $4 billion by 2020.

The pledge from the Japan-led bank comes amidst a vigorous new campaign by the United States and its allies to check China’s rising sway in the region, where it has sought deeper diplomatic ties and emerged as the second-largest donor.

The battle for influence in the sparsely populated Pacific matters because each of the tiny island states has a vote at international forums like the United Nations, and they also control vast swathes of resource-rich ocean.

The ADB said it will open offices in the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu, as well as expand missions in Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

“The new country offices will allow ADB to have more regular contact and substantive communication with government and development partners,” the bank said in a statement.

Its overall assistance to the Pacific, which stands at $2.9 billion, is expected to surpass $4 billion by 2020, it added, with the money destined for economic and social development projects and disaster resilience.

China has likewise pledged to keep lending to a region where it says its aid is supporting sustainable development.

However, it has spent $1.3 billion on concessionary loans and gifts since 2011, stoking concern in the West that several tiny nations could end up overburdened and in debt to Beijing.

Australia in particular, which has long viewed the Pacific as its backyard, has been critical of some Chinese aid projects, and a former foreign minister has warned that the lending could undermine the long-term sovereignty of recipients.

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In Florence’s Wake, Uncertainty Haunts Migrant Workers

Francisco Javier Jaramillo and Victor Chavez should be picking sweet potatoes at a North Carolina farm and sending much-needed money to their families in Mexico.

Instead, Hurricane Florence has forced the migrant workers to evacuate their farm and seek refuge at a school-turned-shelter near the tiny hamlet of Spivey’s Corner, where they sleep in school hallways, wait and worry.

“If the sweet potato fields are flooded, we cannot work. If we cannot work, we will be sent home. We will have nothing,” said Chavez, 39.

When Florence tore through the Carolinas last week, bringing wave after wave of wind and rain, the storm not only disrupted a harvest but also jeopardized its harvesters.

Known for its fields upon fields of sweet potatoes, tobacco and peanuts, North Carolina’s agricultural engine is powered by more than 83,000 migrant workers.

Many come from Mexico and other Latin American countries to toil on restrictive contracts working fields that double as floodplains when the weather sours.

The contracts guarantee a certain number of working hours but that can be nullified if a farmer declares an act of god if, for example, fields are so flooded or hurricane-battered their crop cannot be salvaged. That would mean these workers get sent home without the hours, or money, promised.

A spokeswoman for North Carolina’s agriculture department said there are no estimates yet of the extent of crop damage.

At peak harvest in 2016 there were more than 83,000 migrant workers on North Carolina farms, according to the Employment Security Commission.

Workers on an H2A visa for temporary agricultural workers are among the most vulnerable people hit by a hurricane, according to advocates, lawyers and outreach workers who talked with Reuters. They have the least means to cushion the blow and the most to lose.

“H2A workers are very isolated, very vulnerable,” said Lariza Garzon, with the Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry. “They may not know their rights.”

Lee Wicker, deputy director of the 700-farmer North Carolina Growers Association, said maybe decades ago that might have been true but now resources are in place to ensure workers have the supports they need.

About 20,000 of the workers come to North Carolina every year on H2A visas, which tether them to an employer on whom they rely for housing, transportation and, in many cases, information about the outside world, said Caitlin Ryland, a supervising attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina’s farmworker unit.

They are frequently housed in areas close to farmland that can be prone to flooding, Ryland said.

Wicker said that sometimes happens, but said storms like Florence have outsize effects.

For workers like Jaramillo and Chavez, in a precarious labor position and with limited access to outside information, leaving camps for a few days to wait out a storm can be daunting.

Misinformation is rampant: many believe fleeing a storm can get them deported and barred from returning.

If their employer reports them as having abandoned their job, under the terms of the H2A visa it can start the clock ticking on having to leave the United States, Ryland said.

Fleeing for their lives in the face of a storm does not count as abandoning a job, she said, but many workers may not know that.

A spokeswoman for North Carolina’s Department of Labor wrote in an email that “the Agricultural Safety and Health Bureau has not received any complaints from migrant workers concerning unsafe housing conditions due to the storm.”

Five migrant workers Reuters spoke with at a supermarket outside Clinton, in Sampson County about 35 miles (56 km) east of Fayetteville, had elected to stay in their work camps despite the threats presented by the weather.

Explaining why he stayed, Miguel Hernandez motioned to the cement blocks used to build his barracks in an area under a flash-flood warning – surely they could withstand a storm, he said.

But Luis Alberto, a 25-year-old migrant worker from the Mexican state of Nayarit, was scared for his life when he and four friends decided to go to a shelter several miles away.

Luis Alberto, who asked not to use his last name, regularly sends money home to support his family. What worries him now is what happens next — if the crop is destroyed, if they cannot get the contracted hours of work they need.

“We want to know what is going to happen to us,” he said. “Can we keep working? Will we be sent back to Mexico?”

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In Florence’s Wake, Uncertainty Haunts Migrant Workers

Francisco Javier Jaramillo and Victor Chavez should be picking sweet potatoes at a North Carolina farm and sending much-needed money to their families in Mexico.

Instead, Hurricane Florence has forced the migrant workers to evacuate their farm and seek refuge at a school-turned-shelter near the tiny hamlet of Spivey’s Corner, where they sleep in school hallways, wait and worry.

“If the sweet potato fields are flooded, we cannot work. If we cannot work, we will be sent home. We will have nothing,” said Chavez, 39.

When Florence tore through the Carolinas last week, bringing wave after wave of wind and rain, the storm not only disrupted a harvest but also jeopardized its harvesters.

Known for its fields upon fields of sweet potatoes, tobacco and peanuts, North Carolina’s agricultural engine is powered by more than 83,000 migrant workers.

Many come from Mexico and other Latin American countries to toil on restrictive contracts working fields that double as floodplains when the weather sours.

The contracts guarantee a certain number of working hours but that can be nullified if a farmer declares an act of god if, for example, fields are so flooded or hurricane-battered their crop cannot be salvaged. That would mean these workers get sent home without the hours, or money, promised.

A spokeswoman for North Carolina’s agriculture department said there are no estimates yet of the extent of crop damage.

At peak harvest in 2016 there were more than 83,000 migrant workers on North Carolina farms, according to the Employment Security Commission.

Workers on an H2A visa for temporary agricultural workers are among the most vulnerable people hit by a hurricane, according to advocates, lawyers and outreach workers who talked with Reuters. They have the least means to cushion the blow and the most to lose.

“H2A workers are very isolated, very vulnerable,” said Lariza Garzon, with the Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry. “They may not know their rights.”

Lee Wicker, deputy director of the 700-farmer North Carolina Growers Association, said maybe decades ago that might have been true but now resources are in place to ensure workers have the supports they need.

About 20,000 of the workers come to North Carolina every year on H2A visas, which tether them to an employer on whom they rely for housing, transportation and, in many cases, information about the outside world, said Caitlin Ryland, a supervising attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina’s farmworker unit.

They are frequently housed in areas close to farmland that can be prone to flooding, Ryland said.

Wicker said that sometimes happens, but said storms like Florence have outsize effects.

For workers like Jaramillo and Chavez, in a precarious labor position and with limited access to outside information, leaving camps for a few days to wait out a storm can be daunting.

Misinformation is rampant: many believe fleeing a storm can get them deported and barred from returning.

If their employer reports them as having abandoned their job, under the terms of the H2A visa it can start the clock ticking on having to leave the United States, Ryland said.

Fleeing for their lives in the face of a storm does not count as abandoning a job, she said, but many workers may not know that.

A spokeswoman for North Carolina’s Department of Labor wrote in an email that “the Agricultural Safety and Health Bureau has not received any complaints from migrant workers concerning unsafe housing conditions due to the storm.”

Five migrant workers Reuters spoke with at a supermarket outside Clinton, in Sampson County about 35 miles (56 km) east of Fayetteville, had elected to stay in their work camps despite the threats presented by the weather.

Explaining why he stayed, Miguel Hernandez motioned to the cement blocks used to build his barracks in an area under a flash-flood warning – surely they could withstand a storm, he said.

But Luis Alberto, a 25-year-old migrant worker from the Mexican state of Nayarit, was scared for his life when he and four friends decided to go to a shelter several miles away.

Luis Alberto, who asked not to use his last name, regularly sends money home to support his family. What worries him now is what happens next — if the crop is destroyed, if they cannot get the contracted hours of work they need.

“We want to know what is going to happen to us,” he said. “Can we keep working? Will we be sent back to Mexico?”

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Report: UN Poverty Targets Remain Off Course

Aid money urgently needs to be redirected to the poorest countries in order to reach the United Nations’ goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, according to a report.

The London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says middle-income countries receive more aid than the 30 poorest nations. It also warns that at least 400 million people will still be living on less than $1.90 a day, despite government pledges to eliminate all extreme poverty.

In northern Ethiopia, teams of workers dig irrigation channels through orchards and grain fields. Such projects have turned arid plains into fertile farmland, which has quadrupled agricultural production.

The report from the ODI credits Ethiopia’s “Productive Safety Net Program,” launched in 2005, with lifting 1.4 million people out of extreme poverty. It also enabled Ethiopia to avoid another famine during severe droughts in 2010 and 2015.

In contrast, neighboring Uganda has seen extreme poverty levels rise recently, after a rapid reduction in previous years.

“One of the reasons is because climate change is starting to have an impact in that country,” said Marcus Manuel, author of the ODI report. “Now in Ethiopia, they’ve managed, with a lot of support partly from the U.S., to have programs that support farmers when a sudden climate or weather event happens. In Uganda, they didn’t. So when they had a drought, that led to a real increase in poverty. So it’s a matter of having the right systems in place.”

Ethiopia’s program, the largest of any low-income country, pays beneficiaries to work on public works projects such as irrigation, roads, schools and health clinics, which helps to create long-term poverty relief.

Such programs are vital in ending extreme poverty, according to the ODI report. The report says there is an annual funding shortfall of $125 billion in the three core sectors of education, health and what it terms social protection transfers, or welfare.

“You need to do economic growth to do part of things, and you also need investment in the social sectors,” Manuel said. “You need to have both sides of the coin to make this work. Donors are investing both in growth and in social sectors, but they’re not investing it in the right countries to nearly the extent that’s needed. And, in particular, in this report we’ve identified 29 countries which can’t afford the investment needed in the social sectors and donors are not giving enough money to that group of countries.”

The statistics show middle-income countries receive more aid than poorer countries, whose share of global aid has fallen over the past six years from 30 percent to 24 percent.

In addition to better aid allocation, the report says more donor nations need to reach the U.N. goal of allocating at least 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to aid budgets. Without urgent action, the authors warn the goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 will remain out of reach.

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