SOUTHINGTON, Connecticut — Norway has had approximately 133,367 COVID-19 cases with 88,952 recoveries as of July 13. The country has experienced more than one COVID-19 lockdown over the past several months. The January lockdown included plans to slowly ease business and school restrictions while organizations distribute COVID-19 relief as a part of the national strategy to support Norway. As the nation struggles with the pandemic, efforts continue to address economic concerns for the nation in areas ranging from food security to employment assistance.
The Food Banks Norway Association
Food Banks Norway works as a support system of food banks and represents seven food banks around the country. It has also been involved with the introduction of the Matsentralen Inladet, a new food bank, in 2021. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increase in food disbursement requests due to an increase in unemployment and other factors in Norway. The Food Banks Norway network helps redistribute food from producers to wholesalers and “collaborates with more than 400 nonprofit organizations” and vulnerable homes in its strategy to support Norway. The network has also incorporated seven U.N. Agenda 2030 goals as a part of its work since 2015.
Food Banks Norway Project Manager Paula Capodistrias informed The Borgen Project in an interview that the network implemented an “internal transport system” in order to “take in larger volumes of food [t]hat could later be distributed among other food banks” during the pandemic. To further keep up with the increasing food distribution demand, Capodistrias identified the implementation of the 2021 Food Stations project as a concurrent effort. The project provides smaller Norwegian communities with surplus food rescued “from local supermarkets and bakeries.”
Food Banks Norway focuses on decreasing food waste from the food industry by redistributing up to 3,000 tons of food annually to facilities located in cities around Norway. A second focus of the association is helping populations ranging from refugees to the unemployed. The “Matsentralen Kitchen” partnership program with the Unikum organization helped provide 7,500 meals from 4,000 kg of surplus kitchen food from April to July 2020. Capodistrias told The Borgen Project that the program contributed to the Norwegian Food Banks receiving “24% more food compared to the same period last year, with a peak of 77% more food received in March 2020.”
Addressing Poverty in Norway During the Pandemic
As approximately 212,700 people in Norway were unemployed to some degree as of August 31, 2020, the Norwegian government has implemented protection protocols and restrictions while initiating unemployment schemes. The Welfare Alliance European Anti-Poverty Network Norway has worked to establish community welfare and poverty alleviation efforts since March 1998. The Alliance comprises 18 partner associations.
The group consulted about proposed changes to the Legal Aid Act proposal in September 2020 by supporting the income and wealth limit being raised to 506,755 Norwegian kroner (about $57,000). This would allow more Norwegians in need to receive legal aid support. Furthermore, the group recommended a deductible adjustment to better reflect the financial ability of low-income citizens to pay their deductibles. Following this, the Alliance consulted about regulations in Norwegian foster homes in September 2020 to better outline how mandatory training for foster parents and follow-up visits for foster homes should occur in Norway.
The government introduced a repayment scheme that lowered employer financial responsibility and simultaneously increased reimbursement support. Employees also received payment more frequently from March to September 1, 2020. After September, the government enacted a program that allowed some unemployed citizens with social security to apply for daily unemployment benefits after a 10-day payment period as a strategy to support Norway overall.
Save the Children Norway and Funding Aid
Save the Children is a children-oriented humanitarian organization. It has focused on four pillars of family protection in the Protect a Generation COVID-19 Response Plan. Prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Save the Children Norway advocated for child protection in regards to welfare, rights and living conditions through a child policy platform. The organization advocates for protection against violence for children and explained how being honest, reassuring and factual to children about COVID-19 can help children feel safe.
The Norwegian government has also prioritized other essential funding for global humanitarian efforts and beyond. Since March 17, 2020, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation has prioritized disbursements and recognized the essential actions its partner organizations have been taking. Even with adjustments to grant schemes, a majority of 2020 project funding went to multilateral organizations, like UNICEF. Norway will also increase its International Fund for Agricultural Development contribution by 40% between 2022 to 2024 in order to support farmers around the world.
A Look Ahead
The Norwegian unemployment rate increased to about 5% during 2020, but the country continues to enact economic relief policies to ensure community welfare. Capodistrias notified The Borgen Project that Food Banks Norway has “a very intense plan for 2021 with a lot of new projects and initiatives where we have a goal to double the amount of food that we will distribute.” This will involve communication and cooperation between donors, and food banks will remain important to the process.
In 2020, the government set out to contribute a total of 4.5 billion kroner to the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. The advocacy organization Global Citizen reported that Norway will donate COVID-19 vaccines to WHO and ACT-Accelerator to help with global COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
The strategy to support Norway contains multifaceted avenues that lead to increased support, economic revitalization and greater protection for vulnerable classes. With time and investment, both monetary and labor-wise, Norway stands to gradually recover as it moves down its current path.
– Evan Winslow