Information and news about civil war

Countries Recovering from WarCivil war often erupts in countries that suffer from perpetual poverty. At the same time, war only serves to intensify poor living conditions in regions that are already vulnerable. In countries ravaged by war, people are displaced, infrastructure is destroyed and often entire industries are disrupted, destroying the resources that a country needs to keep its people alive. This devastation often persists even after a war is over. However, several formerly war-torn countries are making significant strides when it comes to post-war reconstruction and sustainable development. Here are three examples of countries recovering from war today.

3 Examples of Countries Recovering from War Today

  1. Yadizi Farmers are Recultivating Former ISIS Territory
    When the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIS) swept through the Sinjar region of northern Iraq in 2014, they displaced millions of farmers who relied on that land to make their living. ISIS persecuted the local Yadizi people for their religious beliefs and tried to destroy their farms in order to prevent them from ever being able to live in Sinjar again. In 2015, the allied Kurdish forces retook Sinjar, but the devastation of the land and the constant threat of land mines has since caused many Yadizi farmers to fear returning to their homeland.However, the Iraqi government has begun funding post-war recovery efforts in order to allow the Yadizi people to take back their land. A Yadizi woman named Nadia Murad, winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, has started a project called Nadia’s Initiative. A group called the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has also begun to clear landmines from the land of the displaced farmers. Although progress has been slow, partly due to limited governmental support in recent years and heavy regulations on the transportation of fertilizer, the region is slowly but surely recovering.
  2. The Central African Republic is Working on Protecting its Forests
    After years of political instability and a series of coups, as of 2016, the Central African Republic has a democratically-elected president for the first time in its history. Although the election of President Touadera signaled a step in the right direction toward peacebuilding, there are many areas that still need to be addressed.One particular problem for the Central African Republic is the widespread practice of illegal logging. The country’s forests are one of its biggest resources and wood is its top export, but corrupt public officials have allowed a massive trade in illegal lumber to arise, threatening the sustainability of the forests and undermining recovery efforts. Forest managers attempt to stop the problem but are often threatened by public officials who profit from the illegal lumber trade. However, many in the Central African Republic are working on changing the status quo. In 2016, the country renewed an accord with the European Union that incentivizes the country to reform forestry laws and crack down on illegal logging in exchange for favorable trade agreements. This renewal of the country’s greatest natural resource will help post-war recovery by strengthening its income from trade, building relationships overseas and giving resources for the reconstruction of damaged buildings.
  3. South Sudan is Using Mobile Money to Reignite the Economy
    The country of South Sudan is in the middle of recovering from a civil war that lasted five years and killed about 400,000 people. Part of the devastation wreaked by this war was the collapse of the South Sudanese economy, as cell towers were destroyed, trust in financial institutions was eroded and corruption began to overtake the country’s banks. According to AP News, “Around 80 percent of money in South Sudan is not kept in banks” primarly because most residents are rural and live too far from the major cities where the banks are located. Of course, there are other barriers as well, including the fact that only 16 percent of the population has a government ID (which means more expensive withdrawals and no money transfers) and concerns about the stability of the country’s banking system.As a part of the country’s post-war recovery, the South Sudanese government is working with mobile carriers to create a system called mobile money, in which people can bank from their phones instead of relying on the country’s physical banks and ATMs. This system allows people to easily participate in the Sudanese economy and since studies have shown that having access to services such as banks helps economic growth, the mobile money boom will be invaluable to South Sudan’s post-war recovery. The government is also working on setting up biometric identification for all citizens to use in banking, and on restoring damaged mobile infrastructure in order to make services like mobile money available anywhere.

Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Sudan Genocide
The grave human rights abuses and mass slaughter in Darfur, West Sudan between 2003-2008 was the first genocide of the 21st century. The Sudanese government and the Janjaweed (government-funded and armed Arab militias) targeted civilians, burned villages and committed many more atrocities. Below are 10 facts about the Sudan genocide.

10 Facts About the Sudan Genocide

  1. The long term causes of the Sudan genocide stem from the two prolonged civil wars between the North, that promoted Arabisation and a Middle-Eastern culture, and the South, that preferred an African identity and culture. The First Sudanese Civil War began in 1955 and ended in 1972 with a peace treaty. Eventually, unsettled issues reignited into the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1983 and lasted until 2005, however. Both civil wars occurred due to the southern Sudanese rebels’ demands for regional autonomy and the northern Sudanese government’s refusal to grant it.
  2. The direct cause of the genocide during the Second Sudanese Civil War revolves around allegations that the government armed and funded the Janjaweed against non-Arabs. This supposedly led to the southern rebel groups, the Sudan Liberian Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, attacking a Sudanese Air Force base in Darfur in 2003. The government countered with widespread violent campaigns targeting non-Arabs and southern Sudanese civilians, which turned into genocidal campaigns.
  3. The United Nations estimated that the attacks killed at least 300,000 people and led to the displacement of 2.6 million people. Of that number, 200,000 fled and found refuge in Chad, which neighbors Sudan to the west. Most of the internally displaced people (IDP) settled in the Darfur region, which counts 66 camps. According to a UN report, the lack of law enforcement and judicial institutions in these areas generated human rights violations and abuses, including sexual violence and criminal acts of vulnerable IDPs.
  4. The government and militia conducted “ethnic cleansing” campaigns, committing massive atrocities. They targeted women and girls, deliberately using rape and sexual violence to terrorize the population, perpetuate its displacement and increase their exposure to HIV/AIDS. The government and militia conducted ‘scorched-earth campaigns’ where they burned hundreds of villages and destroyed infrastructures such as water sources and crops, resulting in the dramatic famine. These acts are all war crimes that still prevent IDPs from returning to their homes.
  5. In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened investigations regarding the alleged genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan, which produced several cases that are still under investigation due to the lack of cooperation from the Sudanese government. The ICC dealt with the genocide in Darfur, the first genocide it worked on and the first time the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred to the ICC.
  6. A military coup in April 2019 overthrew the former President of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, allowing the country to secure justice and address the wrongs committed between 2003-2008. Indeed, the prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, urges the UN Security Council to extend the UNAMID’s peacekeeping mission to 12 months and the new government of Sudan to transfer Omar Al Bashir and two other war criminals to the ICC.
  7. Omar Al Bashir was the first sitting President that the ICC wanted (it issued the first arrest warrant in March 2009 and the second in July 2010) and the first example of the ICC incriminating a person for the crime of genocide. However, the ICC still cannot move forward with the trial until Omar Al Bashir receives arrest and becomes present at the ICC (in The Hague).
  8. The UNSC created and sent the peacekeeping force UNAMID (composed of the United Nations and the African Union) to Darfur in 2007, which operates to this day. The mission deployed almost 4,000 military personnel to protect civilians threatened by violence, especially in displacement areas and on the border with Chad. In addition, UNAMID facilitated humanitarian assistance by protecting and helping in the transportation of aid to isolated areas and providing security for humanitarian workers. The UN decided to extend the mandate of the UNAMID until October 31, 2019.
  9. Although the fighting stopped, there is still a crisis in Sudan; the UN estimates that 5.7 million people in Sudan require humanitarian support and can barely meet their basic food needs. There are many NGOs actively working to provide aid, such as Water for South Sudan, that works to ensure access to clean water to rural and remote areas, and the Red Cross, that provides medical care across the country due to its collapsed public health care system. Despite these efforts, there is still an unmet funding requirement of 46 percent in humanitarian aid as of 2018.
  10. In September 2019, a new government established with a power-sharing agreement between the military, civilian representatives and protest groups. According to Human Rights Watch, Sudan’s new government should ensure justice and accountability for past abuses. Moreover, the constitutional charter (signed in Aug. 2019) entails major legal and institutional reforms, focused on holding the perpetrators accountable for the crimes committed under al-Bashir’s rule, as well as eliminating government repression and ongoing gender discrimination.

These are just 10 facts about the Sudan Genocide which are essential to understanding the current events happening in Sudan. Despite the peak of violence in Sudan in 2019 which killed hundreds of protestors, the country finally has a new government and it seems willing to right the wrongs committed during the genocide. The new prime minister Abdullah Adam Hamdok expressed in front of the UN in September 2019: “The ‘great revolution’ of Sudan has succeeded and the Government and people and will now rebuild and restore the values of human coexistence and social cohesion in the country as they try and turn the page on three decades of abhorrent oppression, discrimination and warfare.”

– Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Nepal
Straddled by two of Asia’s growing giants, India and China, Nepal features vast, mountainous landscapes and people from diverse ethnic cultures. However, the nation remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Here are 15 facts about poverty in Nepal.

15 Facts About Poverty in Nepal

  1. Poverty Rate: Twenty-five percent of the Nepali population lived below the poverty line in 2011. However, the country has seen a significant improvement compared to a rate of 41.8 percent in 1996 and 30.9 percent in 2004.
  2. Malnourishment: High food prices and limited access to farming in rural areas contribute to hunger in Nepal. Around 5 million people in Nepal do not have sufficient nourishment. Additionally, more than 85 percent of people rely on small scale agriculture as their main form of sustenance.
  3. Civil War: Nepal experienced a civil war between 1996 and 2006, the effects of which the country still feels today. Conflict within a country often coincides with increasing poverty rates, as it limits the transportation of resources, health care access and a healthy job market.
  4. Corruption: Nepal’s government holds a reputation for being corrupt. Abuse of authority leads to an unfair economic system and unequal distribution of resources thereby perpetuating the issue of poverty in Nepal. Countries often feel the effects of corrupt government bureaucracy during natural disasters.
  5. Natural Disasters: Natural disasters have heavily afflicted Nepal, such as the 2015 earthquake which destroyed infrastructure, homes and economic growth. An already struggling economy and little political stability often exacerbate the effects of earthquakes in Nepal. Between the main earthquake in 2015 and the aftershock that came two weeks later, 8,970 lost their lives and 22,303 people became seriously injured. Estimates determine that the total value of the damages from the earthquake and aftershock are equivalent to $7 billion.
  6. Infant Mortality Rates: A lack of health care and access to education in impoverished regions, for which there are many in Nepal, contribute to high infant mortality rates. In 2016, for every 1,000 children born in Nepal, 34 died before their fifth birthday.
  7. Geography: The geography of this country makes it difficult to effectively alleviate poverty. As a landlocked and mountainous region, the development and transportation of resources are cumbersome in Nepal. Furthermore, Nepal experiences political pressures from neighboring countries that can interfere with resource distribution.
  8. Infrastructure: Nepal’s roads are often in rough condition and the seasons heavily affect them. Delays, flat tires and small spaces are common. Because of their rural location, distance and terrain isolate much of Nepal’s population from employment and economic opportunities. Lack of basic infrastructure and access to transportation services makes it difficult for those in poverty to access markets and services.
  9. Agriculture: A lack of advanced farming methods also makes it hard for the country to make progress against poverty. Eighty percent of Nepal’s population lives in rural areas. In 2017, agriculture made up nearly one-third of the Himalayan country’s GDP. Additionally, over 85 percent of its people relied on agriculture as their main form of sustenance. However, outdated methods are slowing the farming pace, and Nepal’s government continually fails to provide proper infrastructure to farmers.
  10. Education: Prior to 1951, only members of the upper class received an education. Since then, the Nepali government began expanding the reach of education. However, when the country introduced private education, the gap between rich and poor children only widened. Poor children still have low rates of access to education and many children leave school to work or help at home. Nepal as a whole has a literacy rate of only 65 percent. Furthermore, the quality of education remains low, as the teachers themselves often have very little schooling.
  11. Forced Labor and Human Trafficking: Nepal is a source, transit and destination country for forced labor and human traffickers. Lack of education for women and children leave them particularly vulnerable. Many women will agree to marriages through matchmaking companies and find themselves in a domestic slavery situation instead. In desperation, parents will allow people to take their children in exchange for education opportunities. However, these children often end up in false orphanages to garner donations from tourists.
  12. Sanitation: Access to basic sanitation is still a major problem in Nepal. Nearly 10.8 million people are without access to basic sanitation and 16 percent of the population practices open defecation. Organizations such as the Global Hope Network have sought to educate inhabitants of villages about the health issues associated with these systems, and have begun building more sanitary infrastructure in places without access to toilets.
  13. Rice Production and Economic Growth: In 2017, Nepal produced 5.2 million tons of rice, the most ever recorded. This helped the country grow economically by 7.5 percent and greatly reduced its poverty levels. During this same time period, Nepali foreign workers sent significant amounts of remittances and inflation rates stabilized for the time being.
  14. SAMBHAV: There are many nonprofits working to alleviate poverty in Nepal from the ground up. Organizations such as SAMBHAV are beginning with the education system. This group has reconstructed schools and moved them to more convenient locations in order to increase attendance. SAMBHAV also renovates and rebuilds schools so that students can study in modern, clean and safe classrooms, often adding sanitation facilities where they did not previously exist.
  15. Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity is also working on the ground in Nepal to address the housing crisis. Currently, the organization, alongside its partners, is building 2.3 houses per hour.

The issues contributing to these facts about poverty in Nepal are many, but the country is making progress. The country’s poverty rate has seen significant improvement over the past two decades, and recent economic successes should continue that trend, leading to a better quality of life for more and more Nepalis. Efforts of volunteers and nonprofit organizations have the potential to make a big difference. These 15 facts about poverty in Nepal highlight the various issues that contribute to the problem and the impact they have on the country.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Healing for Guatemala

Guatemala, a country with a rich Mayan past, has a history riddled with trauma and violence which contributes to the country’s poverty level today. After a 36-year civil war that tore the country apart, healing for Guatemala has just begun. While the civil war and accompanying genocide of its indigenous people ended in 1996, the country and those affected have struggled to hold military leaders accountable, to find their missing loved ones and to have the world recognize the pain and suffering that took place from 1960 until 1996.

Civil War and Genocide

The civil war hit a peak in violence in the mid-1980s, when General Efraín Ríos Montt formed a coup and overthrew the government. General Ríos Montt started a bloody genocide where over 200,000 indigenous Mayan Indians were killed or forcibly disappeared, having yet to resurface today. General Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide in 2013 after being found guilty of massacring 1,771 members of the Mayan Ixil group. Despite this ruling, the conviction was overturned shortly after and General Ríos Montt died while a retrial was underway.

Throughout their country’s violence and unrest, the indigenous Mayan people remain very proud of their culture and want to uphold their traditions.  While around half of the population in Guatemala is indigenous, these Mayans have suffered through exploitation, discrimination and marginalization. Today, healing for Guatemala means protecting and celebrating the Mayan culture in the face of extreme violence and terror. One long-held tradition of the Mayan people is backstrap weaving, which is a method of weaving beautiful and intricate textiles for clothing and other material uses.

Illiteracy and Language Barriers

Many Mayan women today are still living well below the poverty line (which means living on less than $1.80 per day) and many indigenous women are illiterate. Only 73 percent of women over 15 years of age in Guatemala are literate, a proportion that is vastly skewed toward women who live in cities, not in the rural countryside of the Mayan people. Numbers of Mayan women who are illiterate are unknown because births are often not registered with the state of Guatemala. It is estimated that roughly 60 percent of the indigenous population are illiterate. Due to extreme poverty, in which nearly 80 percent of indigenous families fall, one in two children under the age of five is malnourished.

Many of these Mayan women do not speak Spanish, the official language of Guatemala. These women only speak their Mayan language, of which there are 21 in Guatemala alone. Because these women do not speak Spanish, they are forced to sell their meticulous weavings to a Spanish-speaking middleman for much lower prices. Because of the low rates these women bring home from their weaving, they often have no choice but to pull their daughters out of school to help bring in money for the household. Only one in four indigenous girls over the age of 16 stay in school while the remainder typically start working to help their household.

The Formation of Trama Textiles

During the height of the violence, when it was dangerous and possibly deadly to wear Mayan clothing, the Mayan women of the Guatemala Highlands formed Trama Textiles, a woman-owned cooperative focused on backstrap weaving. As Mayan men were “disappearing,” the women of the community banded together in order to support themselves and their families. They did so by doing what they always had: backstrap weaving.

Weaving with Trama Textiles not only provides a way for these women to deliver clothing, money and other support to their families, it also helps these women deal with their trauma. The 400 members of this artisan cooperative work together, exploring different colors and designs in their textiles. With the sense of empowerment and purpose the cooperative gives them, they are able to grow stronger and work towards a better future. At Trama Textiles, the women weavers who are producing the product are the ones setting their own pricing, not a middleman. Trama Textiles helps these women to uphold Mayan traditions while ensuring a better future for their children.

Trama Textiles provides a place of relief for many indigenous Mayan women of Guatemala. Not only is it delivering healing for Guatemala it is helping women in indigenous villages form a community in which they thrive. These women who are often illiterate and do not speak the same language as one another are able to come together to run a cooperative. They earn money and valuable business knowledge while showing the rest of the nation that peace and healing are possible after a violent and turbulent past. This process, with the help of Trama Textiles and other cooperatives like it, will help pull indigenous communities out of the poverty that the 36-year civil war imposed on them. With a rise in income, these rural communities will be able to let their children finish their education, which will continue the cycle of pulling them out of poverty. Cooperatives like Trama Textiles are imperative in healing for Guatemala and all those affected by the genocide.

– Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Pixabay

Newly released U.N. data suggests that violence decreased in the Central African Republic in the aftermath of a peace deal between the government and armed groups in February 2019. While it is yet unclear whether this peace deal will be successful in the long-term, this represents a small bit of hope for the Central African Republic, which has been entrenched in a civil war since 2012.

Organizations including the U.N., USAID and Mercy Corps have been providing humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic, and a successful peace agreement may change the humanitarian context in the country.

Conflict Overview

In December 2012, armed Muslim groups, organized into a coalition known as the Seleka, attacked the Central African Republic government, seizing the capital city and staging a coup in early 2013. Anti-Balaka — Christian armed forces — rose up in response, committing violence against primarily Muslim civilians and contributing to the displacement of innocent citizens.

Although the new government officially disbanded Seleka forces, many ex-Seleka fighters initiated revenge attacks. Both the ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka groups have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to the U.N. and other human rights groups. The continuing violence caused thousands of deaths.

The government maintains control of the capital, but armed groups who continued fighting dominate the rest of the nation. In addition to ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka forces, a number of other armed groups joined the conflict, many of which were already in existence. These include The Central African Armed Forces (FACA), Revolution and Justice (RJ), The Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), The Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), The Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ), Union of Republican Forces (UFR), The Popular Front for Recovery (FPR) and The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The widespread conflict caused by these groups has had disastrous effects on the economy of the Central African Republic, causing approximately three-quarters of the population to live in poverty, with nearly 650,000 civilians displaced.

Humanitarian Aid

In response to the crisis, several international actors became active in the nation, providing humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic.

Mercy Corps began working in the Central African Republic in 2007, in response to its already high poverty rate. It estimates that 2.9 million people in the Central African Republic need humanitarian assistance, noting that basic services, including clean water, health care and education, are scarce.

In the Central African Republic, some of the work that Mercy Corps does involves providing assistance to displaced families, operating support centers for victims of gender-based violence, leading child protection committees, constructing wells to provide clean water and training community leaders to manage disputes and help maintain peace.

In addition to Mercy Corps, USAID also provides humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic primarily through funding for humanitarian partners. USAID helps fund programs by organizations such as Oxfam, Plan International and UNICEF in the Central African Republic to provide relief to victims of violence and displacement.

According to USAID, the U.S. government provides the most humanitarian funding to the Central African Republic, with more than $173 million provided in 2018 and early 2019. Following the U.S. are Germany and the European Commission, both contributing just over $50 million. Other countries, including Sweden, the United Kingdom and Canada, also made significant contributions.

Finally, the U.N. is active in the Central African Republic through its peacekeeping organization known as MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic). MINUSCA was established to protect civilians and disarm militia fighters. The U.N. has 15,000 personnel providing humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic and working towards peace.

New Developments

The government and 14 armed groups reached a peace deal in February 2019, after talks began on Jan. 24. Though whether the deal will ultimately be successful is still unknown, this represents a crucial step in ending the cycles of violence that kept the Central African Republic trapped in poverty and suffering.

In the aftermath of the peace deal, MINUSCA noted that between January and June 2019 there were only 565 incidents of human rights violations or abuse, including rapes, violent attacks and the recruitment of children into armed groups. Between January and June in 2018, there were 1,674, nearly three times as many incidents. MINUSCA is reluctant to be optimistic, however, as peace talks failed in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Musa Gassama, the director of the human rights division of MINUSCA, stated the armed groups still control much of the nation.

The U.N. Special Representative for the Central African Republic, Parfait Onanga-Nyanga, noted that support from the international community is crucial to successfully implementing a peace agreement.

Moving Forward

A successful peace deal would not stop the need for humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic in the near future, but it could alter the humanitarian context. Increased assistance may actually be needed if peace is achieved. Indeed, internally displaced persons and refugees will need assistance in returning to their homes and re-establishing their lives there.

The need for humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic will continue to be high, even in the aftermath of the conflict. Hopefully, organizations such as USAID and Mercy Corps will continue to be active in the nation, adapting to new contexts and working to benefit as many civilians as possible.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in the Democratic Republic of CongoMajor, violent conflict and extreme, rampant poverty have gripped the Democratic Republic of Congo, a large nation in the center of Africa. The Congolese people have faced decades of government and humanitarian failures that have greatly impacted their quality of life. These 10 facts about life expectancy in the Democratic Republic of Congo paints the circumstances the nation faces as well as the human impact of its problems.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in the Democratic Republic of Congo

  1. The Democratic Republic of Congo has a male life expectancy of 59 years of age and a female life expectancy of 62. The overall average life expectancy in the Congo in 2017 is 60 years of age. This average ranks the Congo far below the worldwide average and illustrates the dire situation in the nation.
  2. The probability of dying under five years of age is 9.1 percent. According to the World Health Organization, 91 out of 1000 births in 2017 died before reaching the age of five years old.
  3. The probability of dying between the ages of 15 and 60 is between 28.1 percent and 23.2 percent. A quarter of the population of the Congo dies before reaching 60 years old. Two hundred and thirty-two females out of 1000 die before 60 while 281 out of 1000 males die.
  4. The ongoing Congolese civil war greatly affects children. One of the most undeniable factors affecting the life expectancy of the Congolese people is the Congo Civil War. While everyone in the nation has suffered due to the conflict, the practice of child soldiers may be a reason for limited life expectancy. According to the Human Rights Watch, the Congo’s military enlisted children “between twelve and twenty years old” in its armed forces. The conditions for these child soldiers “appear to be deplorable” and leave many open to becoming “victims to epidemics.”
  5. The violence in the Congo has been widespread and devastating. The Congolese civil war and subsequent violence had been one of the worst humanitarian crises in world history until very recently. Dubbed “Africa’s World War” by observers, the war has claimed up to six million lives by both violent means and humanitarian failures. The Congolese people are still feeling the impacts of the war today as civil, governmental or health conditions are still unacceptably poor.
  6. The infant mortality rate is abnormally high. Despite the worldwide infant mortality rate decreasing dramatically due to an epic global effort, the infant mortality rate in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains a troubling sight. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 237,000 infants died in 2015. The neonatal deaths are extremely high in the Congo with 98,000 deaths in 2015.
  7. The maternal mortality rate is also much higher than the worldwide average. Childbirth remains a dangerous endeavor in the Congo with a maternal mortality rate of 693 deaths per 100,000 childbirths. The high maternal and child death rate is due, in large part, to the fact that “an estimated 70 percent of Congolese have little or no access to health care,” according to USAID. The lack of safe, quality health care for those most vulnerable in the Congo puts many mothers and children at risk.
  8. The Congo has a significant problem with many rare and preventable diseases. The overall lack of health care in the Democratic Republic of Congo has left millions vulnerable to many diseases that are not commonplace in the Western world. There were reports of malaria, leprosy and tuberculosis in 2015 with 1.6 million reports of malaria, over four thousand reports of leprosy and a tuberculosis death rate of 70 per 100,000 people.
  9. The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is improving. Despite these 10 facts about life expectancy in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is hope. Thanks to an increase in global attention to the Congo, the environment for the Congolese people is improving. According to USAID, the Congo government has “increased its allocation for health in the overall country budget from 3.4 percent to 8.6 percent.” In addition to USAID providing health care services at “1.793 health facilities [and] serving over 12 million people,” health in the Congo has improved as mortality under five years of age has decreased. The percentage of vaccinated children has increased and the nation has been polio-free for years.
  10. There are many nonprofits and NGOs helping to improve the Congo including the International Rescue Committee. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been in the Congo since 1996 “providing emergency assistance and humanitarian aid to those affected by violence.” Even more than twenty years later, the IRC remains in the Congo “providing health care, shelter, water, sanitation and emergency supplies.” Organizations like the IRC have worked tirelessly to improve the Congo, and due to its hard work, it has aided 2.3 million people since it started working in the area.

The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been quite dire. The Congolese people are in desperate need of additional support, aid and attention, but there is still hope. These 10 facts about life expectancy in the Democratic Republic of Congo should draw awareness to the Congo’s situation and possibly inspire action.

– Zachery Abunemeh
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Health care in Yemen

Yemen is currently in the midst of a violent civil war. The war has had a destabilizing effect on Yemen’s health care system. The Yemeni people face high rates of malnutrition, a cholera epidemic and a lack of access to necessary medical resources. This article provides 10 facts about health care in Yemen, the war’s effect on health care and the role of foreign aid in addressing the country’s health problems.

10 Facts About Health Care in Yemen

  1. Because medical facilities in Yemen lack access to necessary resources like clean water, diseases that are treatable elsewhere become deadly. Approximately 80 percent of Yemeni people are malnourished, forced to drink unclean water and cannot afford health care, making them more susceptible to diphtheria, cholera and other diseases. The current civil war has also been greatly destructive to infrastructure and health care in Yemen.
  2. Bombing frequently damages hospitals in Yemen and it is difficult for hospitals to maintain electricity and running water in the midst of airstrikes. Continuous fighting leaves little time to address structural damage and meet the needs of the Yemeni people. Families are often required to bring the sick and injured to hospitals without the aid of ambulances. All but one of Yemen’s 22 provinces are affected by fighting.
  3. Within less than a year of fighting in Yemen, airstrikes hit 39 hospitals. Troops from both sides of the conflict blocked outside access to the country, preventing the flow of medicine needed to treat diseases, such as cholera. This puts the Yemeni people, especially children, at risk; 144 children die from treatable diseases daily and more than 1 million children are starving or malnourished.
  4. Yemen’s rural populations lack easy access to hospitals and medical care. Rural facilities, such as those in the northern mountains, cannot provide adequate food to patients. The lack of food in many hospitals prevents successful treatment of malnourishment.
  5. The cholera epidemic began in Yemen in 2016, a year after the beginning of the civil war. By 2017, the disease spread rapidly. In 2019, cholera is still a serious problem in the country. It caused 2,500 deaths in Yemen within the first five months of 2019.
  6. Nearly one million cases of cholera were reported by the end of 2017. Yemen’s cholera outbreak is more severe than any other outbreak of the disease since 1949. Poor water filtration and sanitation triggered the outbreak’s severity.
  7. Around 80 percent of Yemen’s population, including 12 million children, require aid. During the first half of 2019, cases of cholera in children rose dramatically. 109,000 cases of cholera in children were reported between January and March of 2019. Nearly 35 percent of these cases were found in children below the age of 5.
  8. Between 2015 and 2018, Doctors Without Borders provided aid to 973,000 emergency room patients in Yemen. Volunteers for Doctors Without Borders treated about 92,000 patients injured by violence related to the war, treated 114,646 cases of cholera and treated 14,370 cases of malnutrition. Doctors Without Borders provides vital support to the health care system in Yemen.
  9. USAID cooperates with UNICEF and WHO to provide health care aid to Yemen, with a special emphasis on the health of mothers, infants and children. In 2017, USAID trained 360 health care workers at 180 facilities to treat child health problems. The facilities also received necessary resources from USAID. They also work with the U.N. Development Program to improve working conditions throughout Yemen, including the health care sector.
  10. During the 2018-19 fiscal year, USAID provided $720,854,296 in aid to Yemen. This aid funded a variety of projects, such as repaired water stations to ensure improved access to clean water. The U.S. also funds WASH, a program intended to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene. The ultimate goal of WASH is to improve health care in Yemen, especially for the rural poor.

Yemen’s health care system is in dire need of aid. The country’s government, overwhelmed by war, cannot serve the medical needs of its people, especially in light of the ongoing cholera epidemic. The efforts of USAID and other relief organizations can provide the support that Yemen’s health care system needs at this time.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

Civil War in Libya

On Feb. 15, 2011, the first civil war in Libya, also known as the Libyan Revolution, began. The Libyan Revolution was fought between Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and opposing rebel forces who wanted to overthrow Gaddafi’s oppressive government. The war lasted over eight months until Gaddafi was captured and assassinated in October of that same year.

Post-Civil War

A year after the war ended, two major political groups emerged into power, the General National Congress and the House of Representatives, also known as the Tobruk government. The HoR allies with General Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army whose leadership resembles that of Gaddafi’s.

As rival governments, the GNC and the HoR both seek control over Libyan territory and oil. Consequently, the Libyan Political Agreement was proposed to resolve the conflict, mandating the division of power between both governments. Under these terms, The Presidency Council was created. The PC presides the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and is currently led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

Despite the agreement, more violence and instability ensued in Libya. Nevertheless, major actors like Haftar continue to violate terms mandated by the agreement. In particular, Haftar rejects the LPA and continues to oppose the GNC. In 2014, Haftar launched Operation Dignity, a campaign against Islamist militias. However, Libya Dawn, a pro-Islamist coalition, opposes this campaign and also seeks control over Libyan territory.

This breakout of violence spawned a second civil war in Libya.

The Current State of Libya

Today, the battle between rival factions is still ongoing and further exacerbated by the presence of terrorist groups, including ISIS. These groups have gained footholds in Libyan territories and seek control, training and recruiting members on Libyan grounds.

Moreover, the GNA mobilizes local militias to fight Haftar’s more organized and disciplined army. At the end of 2018, casualties in Libya reached 7,695 deaths with as many as 20,000 injured.

Having lost control over most of eastern Libya, Haftar has expanded the LNA westward. In April, the LNA advanced into the capital of Tripoli. Haftar has also launched several airstrikes into the city. Since the invasion of Tripoli, the U.N. Health Agency reported that 443 people have been killed and 2,110 have been wounded.

Humanitarian Concerns

The civil war in Libya has become an international issue, prompting the displacement of thousands of Libyans and causing a humanitarian crisis on the European border. About 90 percent of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe come from Libya. In 2018, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that more than 1,111 migrants from Libya died or went missing while crossing the Mediterranean.

The European Union provides resources and training to Libyan coast guards to intercept migrant boats entering Europe. The coast guard sends refugees who are entering Europe back to Libyan detention centers, where they suffer inhumane conditions including torture, kidnap, rape and trafficking. Libyan detention centers hold nearly 6,000 migrants and asylum seekers. However, these migrants consist not only of Libyans, as Libya is a transit point for other migrants from Africa.

Aside from fleeing groups, nearly 1.3 million people in Libya are in need of humanitarian assistance. Thousands are living in unsafe conditions, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. Within Libya alone, civil war has internally displaced 200,000 people as of October 2018.

Influence of Foreign Powers

The civil war in Libya is also highly diplomatic. All actors rely on external powers to support their efforts by providing funding and weapons. The civil war is sometimes seen as a proxy war between foreign powers because of their influence on internal actors.

The civil war in Libya impacts foreign powers, causing national security and economic concerns. Between ISIS’ increasing foothold in Libyan territory and thousands of refugees seeking asylum in Europe, the United States and the U.N. are concerned about national security. Additionally, many international oil companies rely on Libya’s oil production, and the conflict may disrupt oil prices.

The U.S. and the U.N. officially endorse the GNA, while Gulf states, such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, endorse the LNA. In April, the U.S. and the U.N. appealed for a truce between the LNA and GNA in Libya. However, Haftar refused.

Nonprofit Organizations

Amid the violence and instability pervading Libya, several nonprofit organizations are working to mitigate the crisis. These organizations have committed to providing civilians aid and protection amid the civil war in Libya.

Among the organizations helping Libyan civilians is the International Rescue Committee. The IRC works on the ground, providing urgent care and protection to Libyans in conflict-ridden areas. Additionally, the IRC has multiple health centers and shelters across Libya that provide medical care and supplies.

The UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency, is another organization helping civilians amid the conflict. The UNHCR aims to protect Libyan refugees by providing life-saving assistance, such as medical care and access to water and sanitation facilities, in 12 different disembarkation points in western Libya. The UNHCR works to resettle refugees and reunite families and advocates for alternatives to refugee detention centers, including care arrangements for children and family tracing. While conflict plagues Libya, the people of Libya can seek some hope and comfort in the efforts of nonprofits on the ground.

Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Heritage

Where is Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped island off the southern coast of India. It is home to more than 21 million people, despite consisting of only 25,332 square miles. Its largest city, Colombo, has a millennia-long history as a prominent trading port and is currently a popular tourist destination.

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka was previously a British colony called Ceylon and kept that name until 1972. It is governed by an elected president and unicameral parliament with a prime minister, as well as a judicial branch. The most popular languages are Sinhala, Tamil and English with several other indigenous dialects. The country is overwhelmingly Buddhist with significant Hindu and Muslim minorities and a small number of Christians (primarily Roman Catholic). Religion plays a significant role in the lives of Sri Lankans.

Sri Lankan Civil War

Similar to British rule in Rwanda, the British colonial government favored the Tamil people, an ethnic minority concentrated in the northern and eastern regions. The British gave the Tamil people a position in the colonial government and Sinhalese land. After Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, the government deported many Tamil people and greatly reduced its power in favor of the Sinhalese majority. Ethnic tensions rose in the following years, exacerbated by differences in religion, income and development. This tension gave birth to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or the Tamil Tigers which advocated for an independent Tamil state. In 1983, the Tamil Tigers attacked Sri Lanka government troops, starting a 26-year civil war.

It is estimated that 100,000 people died in the conflict, with atrocities and human rights abuses committed on both sides. The Tamil Tigers are notorious for its use of child soldiers and suicide bombers, forcibly recruiting Sri Lankan civilians or using them as human shields. Accusations have pointed to the Sri Lanka government shelling their own designated safe zones, food distribution lines and hospitals. People have also accused the government of mass rape and ethnic cleansing. Attempts to bring perpetrators to justice have been slow-moving.

A New Economy

Since the end of the war in 2009, Sri Lanka’s economy has grown by 5.8 percent every year. The economy is transitioning from a rural base to an urban manufacturing base, especially in the garment industry. This increasing wealth has expanded the middle class and reduced the poverty rate from 15.3 percent in 2006 to 4.1 percent in 2016. There have also been significant improvements in public health which have paved the way to some of the highest life expectancies in Asia; 72 for men and 78 for women. In less than a decade of peace, Sri Lanka became a development success story.

Political Unrest

Despite the unprecedented economic success, Sri Lanka is not immune to political extremism and unrest. In 2018, president Maithripala Sirisensa fired the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe. The country installed Mahinda Rajapaksa, a former president accused of serious human rights abuses, in his place. Wickremesinghe refused to accept his replacement, effectively giving Sri Lanka two competing prime ministers for several months before being re-appointed. With such recent political unrest in Sri Lanka, it is unlikely that it will reach nonviolent political stability in the near future.

– Jackie Mead
Photo: Flickr

Letters of HopeThe civil war in Syria has now entered its ninth year. Through the fog of a seemingly endless war, even the United Nations lost track of the number of lives lost in the conflict. The last estimate in 2016 placed casualty numbers well over 400,000. The remaining Syrians are not only battling for their country, but also for their hope. The CARE Letters of Hope initiative wants to help with that.

Today in Syria

In January of 2018, Turkey launched an assault on Syria’s northern regions to push out Kurdish rebels in control of the area around Afrin. In April, the United States, Britain and France carried out multiple punitive strikes on Syrian targets in response to various claims of a chemical attack in Douma. Now in 2019, the future of the conflict and the ramifications of U.S. plans to withdraw troops from the nation remain unknown. In the face of such great uncertainty, Syria not only needs extensive aid in reconstructing the country but hope that there are still people who recognize Syrians’ humanity and distress.

The Letters of Hope Initiative

With over 12 million of their countrymen displaced and scattered, Syrian refugees need hope, acceptance and a kind word now more than ever. It is because of this need for connection among refugees and the outside world that the CARE Letters of Hope initiative was born. In 1945, 22 American organizations came together to assemble life-saving care packages to World War II survivors in danger of starvation; CARE was born. By May of 1946, 15,000 packages of U.S. Army surplus food parcels reached the harbor of Le Havre, France. These parcels were designed to provide one meal for 10 soldiers. $10 was enough to buy a CARE Package, which was received by its addressee overseas within four months.

More recently, in response to the Syrian crisis, CARE started sending a new kind of package: encouraging letters addressed to refugees. This project, named the Letters of Hope initiative, began in 2016 when the original WWII CARE Package recipients living in the U.S. started writing letters of support to Syrian children. By doing so, they started “bridging the great distance and circumstances that separated them.” That simple act inspired thousands across the globe to send their own letters that kept the movement alive and well to the modern day.

The Letters of Hope initiative has also started branching out into schools. Its website now provides downloadable junior-high classroom lessons with the aims to “build understanding, empathy and connections between American students and young refugees around the world.”

The Fledgling Fund

The Letters of Hope initiative is made possible in part by support from The Fledgling Fund. The Fledgling Fund is an organization that explores the impact that documentary films and other forms of visual storytelling have on social change and advocacy. By creating awareness of humanitarian crises through engaging content, the Fund is able to emotionally move an audience to action. In tandem, Letters of Hope and the Fledgling Fund are vying to tell a story of hope and compassion for Syria and other nations in need without excluding Syrians and other oppressed people from the narrative.

Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr