Information and news about civil war

Okere CityThe city of Okere Mom-Kok began as a project created to rebuild more rural communities destroyed in the wake of the Ugandan Bush War in the 80s. With the death of roughly 100,000 to 500,000 people, this war plagued the Northwestern region of Uganda the most. This project is already spreading throughout the country and reaching global headlines because of the progressive, sustainable methodologies offering accessible living alternatives.

The Ugandan Bush War

From 1980 to 1986, the Ugandan Bush War (also known as the Luwero War) ravaged several Ugandan villages. The conflict began with former General Idi Amin’s rise to power. Early in his presidency, Idi Amin established a military dictatorship. The Uganda National Liberation Front soon overthrew him. Originally implemented by Tanzania to replace Idi Amin, the UNLF’s regime lasted from early 1979 until it was eventually dismantled due to the attacks of Amin loyalists in 1980.

Detached groups of Amin loyalists massacred most of the Ugandan National Liberation Army. With the attacks on the previous Ugandan prime minister, Apollo Milton Obote, and the capturing of most villages along the West Nile, the Uganda Army wreaked havoc in Northwestern Uganda until internal conflict resulted in the separation of the insurgent group. This division generated a new, opposing group known as Uganda National Rescue Front.

Not long after, Obote regained office in 1981 and inspired the emergence of even more rebel armies. In 1982, however, the National Resistance Army, Uganda Freedom Movement, Uganda National Rescue Front and the Nile Regiment came together to create the Uganda Popular Front.

The conflict did not stop there, as the ex-soldiers continued to rebel against the new government well into 1994. Following Idi Amin’s presidency, President Yoweri Museveni took office in 1986 after allying with the rebellions that toppled the reign of his predecessors. President Museveni is currently in the sixth term of his presidency and suppressed the continuous attacks.

The Situation Today

An estimated 1 million Ugandan’s lost their lives throughout the 80s and early 90s. The end of the Ugandan Bush War left the remaining villages uprooted and their residents devastated. President Yoweri Museveni is still working to rebuild the toppled infrastructures of these villages and the Ugandan economy as a whole. The increasingly innovative solutions invented in Okere Mom-Kok are one prime example of the efforts.

The City of Okere

The city of Okere is located in the Otuke District, Uganda and consists of 14 villages, each with about 200 people. Made famous for its shea trees, Okere City is the inspiration for Marvel’s “Black Panther.” The shea tree is currently in high demand due to its scarcity after the war. Furthermore, their energy-efficient components make them very coveted.

This area was hit the hardest and is still recovering, thus the pioneering of greener and more sustainable living technologies. From the use of shea butter as a charcoal substitute to solar energy being accessible to the entire network of villages, the city of Okere continues to thrive and evolve. The main village currently consists of a church, markets, schools, clinics and several other crucial establishments.

Okere City is one of the many villages left destroyed by the Ugandan War and is still building towns essentially from the ground up. But this development created greener, more accessible technologies and spread throughout the country. The future for Okere City is bright and illuminates a beacon of hope for the livelihoods lost throughout the travesty that was the Ugandan Bush War.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

The Liberian Civil War
Freed American slaves founded the country of Liberia. It boasts a reputation as an African state that upholds many western values. English is Liberia’s official language, and the country modeled its constitution after the United States’ constitution and named its capital Monrovia after James Monroe. Additionally, Liberia literally means “Land of the Free.” For 130 years, this uniquely American country celebrated independence and economic power. Then in 1980, members of the Krahn ethnic group overthrew the governing body and executed the president and 13 of his aides. This violent coup d’état led to a civil war nearly a decade later, which lasted until 2003. Today, the country is working through the lasting effects of The Liberian Civil War.

The Current State

The Liberian Civil War subjected Liberia’s 4.61 million citizens to tremendous pain and terror. According to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the war killed an estimated 250,000 people. Another 1 million experienced displacement from their homes and had to go abroad as refugees. For years, the United States government and other African nations have hosted these refugees. However, repatriation has proven to be difficult due to the instability of Liberia’s economy.

In 2019, the Human Development Index (HDI) ranked Liberia in the low human development category. This means that Liberians are losing out on “a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living,” according to the HDI’s basic dimensions of human development. Along with this, “Currently 38.4% of the population is food insecure, 25% of the population does not have access to drinking water and just 17% have access to basic health services.”

The 14-year civil war tested the nation and the livelihoods of many who suffered. Despite this, a glimmer of hope exists for the country. Work is underway to reverse the trends that the violent conflict set forth more than 40 years ago.

Action Against Hunger (AAH)

Food security, water accessibility and health services have proven to have experienced the most damage due to Liberia’s post-war economy. As a result, aid has been mainly targeting these sectors. NGOs, IGOs and the Liberian government have each worked to improve the lives of Liberian citizens.

In the fight against food insecurity, Action Against Hunger (AAH) has greatly impacted Liberia. In 2019, AAH’s team in Liberia reached 301,507 people through screenings and treating malnutrition. AAH has also partnered with Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance in Liberia to further its work. AAH advocates on the local and national levels for more support to improve general nutrition statuses all around the nation.

Water Accessibility

Water accessibility is another struggle throughout the country. After the war, Liberia’s new government developed a program called WASH. The intent of the program was to improve water quality, sanitation and general hygiene. USAID—the largest donor to the WASH sector—focuses on and addresses the infrastructure surrounding accessibility and sanitation. The program is also expanding services to both rural and urban communities. As a result, more than 353,000 new people have access to improved drinking water and nearly 154,000 have access to improved sanitation.

Malaria and Ebola

Following these fronts, general health services in Libera have exhibited positive growth. The Ebola outbreak that ravaged sub-Saharan Africa put Liberia’s health system to the test and cracks began to show. In the wake of the epidemic, the CDC expanded its focus beyond malaria intervention by investing in stronger “laboratory, surveillance, emergency management and workforce capacities to respond to disease outbreaks in support of the Global Health Security Agenda.” The CDC also teamed up with Riders for Health in the fight against Ebola. Since 2015, the partnership has transported over 300 relay stations to help rapid diagnosis of the disease. The country has not fully recovered from The Liberian Civil War but these organizations are striving to help it meet that goal.

Looking Ahead

Years of devastation due to war shook the country’s institutions to the core. But as time progresses, the improvements within Liberia are unmistakable. Efforts by NGOs, IGOs and the Liberian government alike provide hope for a recovered Liberian economy. Sustained efforts will allow Liberia to put its civil war in the past.

Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr

Colombia's National Development PlanWhile Colombia has magnificent landscapes and rich cultural history, the country is also rooted in deep political and economic inequality. In 2018, Colombia’s poverty rate stood at 27.8%; this measure defines poverty as those living on less than $5.50 a day. Unfortunately, Colombian households led by women are more likely to be impoverished. Thus, Colombia finds itself in need of reform. Hopefully, poverty will decrease with the implementation of Colombia’s National Development plan.

A Look Into Colombia’s Recent History

Colombia’s poverty rates and development plan cannot be explained without the inclusion of the country’s last five decades of civil unrest. Colombia’s civil war involves the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARQ), the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Colombian government. The conflict largely revolves around the call for economic reform. The FARQ and the ELN were founded in the 1960s to “oppose the privatization of natural resources and claim to represent the rural poor against Colombia’s wealthy.”

Although the FARQ and the ELN cite good intentions, Colombia’s civil war “has left as many as 220,000 dead, 25,000 disappeared, and 5.7 million displaced over the last half-century.” The U.S. State Department calls these groups terrorist organizations. Unfortunately, the consequences of this civil war, like all other civil wars, had devastating effects on the countries’ social and political spheres. In 2016, the Colombian Government and the leaders of the FARQ signed a peace agreement, hoping to bring unity to the country.

The National Development Plan

However, three years later, the promises of reinsertion, protection programs and rural remain unfulfilled, and the violence continues. Thankfully, this could change with Colombia’s National Development Plan (PND). This proposal “combines the government’s financial resources with grassroots participation which the government calls ‘co-creating together,’ a form of engagement that will play a key role in building sustainable peace.”

Launched by President Ivan Duque in 2018, Colombia’s National Development Plan has a budget of $325 billion. The plan hopes to address societal, social, economic and political issues within the country. But, its most ambitious goals rest on “education, employment, entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability.”

Eradicating Poverty

One major goal of the PND is to bridge the gap between the economic classes, eradicating extreme poverty. Today, 1.9 million Colombians are in extreme poverty; the government hopes to implement the Sisben IV program, which “will see State resources delivered to the most vulnerable members of society through subsidies.”

The PND aims to alleviate poverty by stimulating the economy in a multitude of ways; state subsidies are just one example. For instance, Colombia plans to develop creative industries, “such as visual arts, software development and cultural industries.” The national administration also plans to reduce unemployment by more than 1% through the creation of 1.6 million jobs. Additionally, “The plan is also targeting the development of international trade and the promotion of foreign investment in Colombia as a means of increasing the capacity of the economy.”

Education and the Environment

Increasing employment and subsidies will certainly help the economy directly. But, the PND also hopes to improve the economy in the long-run by developing education systems and improving the environment. For example, the PND hopes to increase participation in the public education system. Administrators aim to double “the number of students who are attending a single session school day from 900,000 to 1.8 million.” In terms of the environment, President Duque’s plan aims to invest $3 billion in sustainable development and to plant “180 million trees in order to stimulate a rejuvenation of the environment.”

For five decades Colombia has dealt with internal strife, leaving the country torn in the political, social and economic arenas. Colombia’s most vulnerable population, the poor, has seen little improvement in recent years. Colombia’s civil unrest and high poverty rates left little hope for the future. However, the 2018 National Development plan sparks the potential for change. The plan proposes both direct and long-term solutions for poverty through investments in education, employment, the environment and the economy. Hopefully, Colombia’s National Development plan will benefit its impoverished communities.

Ana Paola Asturias
Photo: Flickr

solar microgridsThe United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) helped establish three solar microgrids in rural Yemeni communities. Earlier this year, the British charity Ashden honored the scheme as one of 11 recipients of its prestigious Ashden Awards. These annual awards recognize initiatives whose efforts to deliver sustainable energy have produced important social and economic advantages.

Solving a Fuel Shortage and Economic Crisis

Yemen’s energy infrastructure cannot transport power to rural towns and villages. Thus, many of these communities depend upon highly-polluting diesel generators. However, longstanding conflict and crippling embargoes have made fossil fuels scarce and expensive. Moreover, oil prices have fluctuated in recent years, and poverty has skyrocketed. This crisis has affected approximately three-quarters of Yemen’s population. Current estimates indicate that more than two out of five households have been deprived of their primary source of income. It’s also been found that women are more acutely impacted than men.

Now, the energy situation is shifting. The UNDP has provided funding and support to three different groups of entrepreneurs that own and operate solar microgrids. The three are located in Abs in the district of Bani Qais in the northwest and in Lahij Governate in the south. Their stations provide clean, sustainable energy to local residents and at a much lower price. The solar microgrids charge only $0.02 per hour as opposed to the $0.42 per hour that diesel costs.

Such savings for households and businesses have greatly impacted the local economies. Not only can people work after sunset, they also possess more disposable income. According to Al Jazeera, approximately 2,100 people have been able to save money and put it toward creating their own small businesses. These include services for welding, sewing, grocery stores and other shops. So far, a total of 10,000 Yemenis have benefitted from the energy provided by the three solar microgrids.

Empowering New Leaders in Business

The entrepreneurs who founded and now run the microgrid facilities in Bani Qais and Lahij Governate are young men. However, the power station in Abs is completely owned and operated by women. These Abs women receive training in necessary technical skills and study business and finance.

Some expected the scheme to fail due to the sophisticated knowledge it required and the relative inexperience of the facilities’ operators. Well, one year has passed, and the solar microgrids are running at full capacity. The project thus offers a valuable model for creating jobs in a country where civil war has shattered the economy and hobbled basic infrastructure.

Specifically for the women in Abs, though, a steady income and the ability to provide a much-needed service have increased their self-confidence. These women can feed their families and use the university educations they each worked for to a great extent. As the station’s director explained, their work has even earned them the respect and admiration of those who used to ridicule them for taking on what was once considered a man’s job.

Looking to the Future

The success of the UNDP’s project’s first stage shows a possible solution to Yemen’s problem of energy scarcity. The UNDP now works to find funding for an additional 100 solar microgrids. Since civil war began in 2015, both sides have tried to limit each other’s access to the fossil fuels that Yemen depends upon. Pro-government coalition forces have prevented ships cleared by the U.N. from unloading their cargoes in the north. On the other side, Houthi-led rebels have recently suspended humanitarian flights to Sanaa, the country’s largest city and its capital. This is all in the midst of hospitals struggling to care for patients during the pandemic.

The UNDP’s solar microgrids are a source of hope among the many conflicts plaguing Yemen. More still, it is likely others will soon follow in the footsteps of the three initial young entrepreneurs. These solar microgrids stations have empowered Yemeni communities to build better and more sustainable futures and will for years to come.

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Child Hunger in IdlibThe Syrian conflict continues to rage through this pandemic. The locus of fighting has shifted to the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo. Since 2019, the Syrian government — with support from Russia — has engaged in various bombing campaigns in the region and sent ground forces as well. Idlib is clearly feeling the effects of this violence. The need for aid in the province grows alongside the increasing size of the humanitarian crisis. One particularly important but overlooked aspect of the devastation in Idlib is the rising cost of food. Child hunger in Idlib is a result of the rise in levels of food among the youth due to price increases.

The Issue

Child hunger in Idlib — for infants in particular — has become an area of concern as COVID-19 has become more prevalent throughout the country. One big factor is that food has generally become much less accessible. According to The New Humanitarian, “‘An infant needs one container of formula per week, but the price has risen to $12,’ up from $9 three months ago … For many parents, that sum is out of reach.” This increase in price manifests itself often in the form of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). The disease primarily affects children under the age of 5, is highly dangerous and often turns life-threatening. Effects of SAM include a process known as “stunting,” which limits the physical growth in very young children. Stunting and other effects of SAM lead to other problems later in life for these children.

Another frequent issue is malnutrition in pregnant and breastfeeding women. It not only affects them personally but impacts the growth of their infants as well. The New Humanitarian also reports a rise in SAM hospital cases over the summer of 2020. The ratio jumped to 97 out of 1,692 people screened from the January status of 29 out of 2,199. This is likely a lower estimate given the number of people who cannot get screened or don’t have access to testing. Time is of the essence after receiving a SAM diagnosis. Once a child with this condition reaches 2 years of age, they will likely deal with the consequences of SAM for the rest of their life.

Fighting Worsens the Problem

Child hunger in Idlib — and in Syria more widely — is deeply concerning. The issue is compounded by the broader poverty levels and violence that plague the entire country. As a result of the fighting, the majority of  Syrians are internally displaced from their homes.

There is no clear end in sight to the fighting between rebel forces and the Syrian state military. Refugee camps are essentially at capacity and can’t withstand an influx of people if the civil war persists. Additionally, COVID-19 continues to ravage the country, which will likely increase the number of Syrian refugees and displaced persons.

In addition to the housing issue, food scarcity is prevalent in the country. Food options are usually unavailable or unaffordable. As such, many Syrians rely on foreign assistance and aid from NGOs as resources for food.

Aid

There are, however, numerous aid organizations and NGOs working to provide food security and address the growing refugee crisis. They are especially targeting the northwest, where Idlib is located. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is an organization working to expand health care access to those who need it. SAMS also provides meals to both children and adults at risk of food insecurity. Yet another part of their work focuses specifically on care for those with Severe Acute Malnutrition.

SAMS fights against child hunger in Idlib and throughout the rest of the country. They report that in 2019, the last year for which data is available, SAMS performed more than 2.5 million medical services for the Syrian population, at no or greatly reduced cost. Since 2011, they have provided more than $207 million worth of aid and medical resources as well.

SAMS and other similar organizations are vital to the survival of millions of Syrians. However, there is still more to be done. The international community must redouble their efforts to provide resources to those displaced and malnourished. Everyone must work to end the violence that has been a constant in the country for so long.

Leo Posel
Photo: Flickr

Alleviate Poverty in Syria
Syria has been in a state of civil war for nine years, since March 2011. Dire consequences meet civilians from all sides; from danger and violence if they stay and closed borders due to an overflow of refugees if they try to leave. Due to this humanitarian crisis, poverty has affected more than 83% of the population. In this same vein, 8 million Syrian children are in need —both inside and outside the country. As of April 2020, the WFP reported that the cost of a staple basket of food has risen by 111% in comparison to the previous month, due to Syria’s COVID-19 crisis. With these factors at play, initiatives to alleviate poverty in Syria are a welcome respite.

While it may seem that good news is hard to come by, there are a few initiatives in Syria working against the effects of high poverty rates. They tackle these issues from several angles, such as rewriting stereotypes, entrepreneurial education, resource allocation and community development. Here are four initiatives that are working to alleviate poverty in Syria, today.

4 Initiatives to Alleviate Poverty in Syria

  1. MeWe International and the #MeWeSyria Movement: Rewriting Stereotypes – MeWe International Inc. aims to rewrite the narrative about poverty in Syria and Syrian refugees. By using communication skills and narrative interventions as tools, it encourages and promotes healthy psychological skills, leadership efforts and community engagement. The training networks are hosted within Syrian communities and gear toward refugee youth and caregivers, especially within the facets of mental health. Storytelling is a tool MeWe International uses to help people to heal, grow and dream of a better future within communities in poverty in Syria.
  2. The Remmaz and Mujeeb Programs: Entrepreneurial Education – Programs from 2016 and 2017 are continuing to focus on equipping the younger generations in Syria with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their country and support their communities. Leen Darwish founded Remmaz, which teaches students how to code. “This programme is providing young people in Syria with critical business, leadership and entrepreneurship skills and directly linking them to opportunities to generate income,” says Bruce Campbell, UNFPA Global Coordinator for the Data for Development Platform. Aghyad Al-Kabbani, Eyad Al-Shami and Zeina Khalili co-founded Mujeeb, an AI program that creates customer support chatbots in Arabic. Al-Shami quoted, “On the human side, it’s hard. It’s not about building the next Google. But I want to exist. I want to do something.” Their hard work has led not only to easier online communication for people in Syria but also to a great success story for other young, Syrian entrepreneurs. This is a great example of how to alleviate poverty in Syria from the inside.
  3. United World Food Program Initiatives: Resource Reallocation – The World Food Program USA (WFP) has brought a few innovative solutions to Syria that have improved quality of life and the procurement of resources. Technology has been a valued instrument through NGOs like WFP. Moreover, the extension of aid is very much necessary to alleviate poverty in Syria. To counter the needs of 11.1 million people, iris scans prevent robbery while truck convoys carry supplies to hard-to-reach communities. Furthermore, both bakeries and greenhouses (under construction) increase the flow and availability of food. The WFP feeds more than 4.5 million people inside Syria and more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees every month. By addressing hunger on this scale, the most essential needs of the poor are met. Further, they can slowly grow and rebuild their homes and businesses.
  4. UNDP Leaving No One Behind Resilience Program: Community Development – The 2018 Resilience Program based in Syria focuses on four large-scale areas to alleviate poverty in Syria. The initiative works to promote self-reliance through socioeconomic recovery, improving the quality of basic services. Also, it aims to reinforce social cohesion in the community and strengthen local partnerships. The interventions were able to reach around 2.8 million people and contributed directly to around 111,000. The area-based approach rated certain geographical areas by need and ensured that the most crucial needs were met first. The communities with the highest beneficiaries include Aleppo, Al-Hakaseh, Rural Damascus and Lattakia. One of the projects included the improvement of basic services to crisis-hit areas, and these services included:
    • Solid waste and debris management;
    • Repair of water, sewage and electricity networks;
    • Rehabilitation of local businesses;
    • Supporting clean and renewable energy sources; and
    • Emergency repair of electricity and infrastructure.

Washing Away the Stain of War

Two million Syrians alone have benefited from the improvement of basic services. The remnants of war and violence are being cleaned up and removed. Moreover, the stones in the debris that were removed from Bab Al-Hadid were collected on-site. Notably, these stones will be reused in future rehabilitation projects in the same area.

After nine years of civil war and the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, the contributions of these organizations provide relief to Syrians.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Pxfuel

Rising Poverty in Lebanon
Before COVID-19, Lebanon was already facing an economic crisis, and rising poverty in Lebanon was a growing concern. As a result of COVID-19, the country’s economy is failing. The pandemic threatens to push up to 75% of the country’s population to poverty. A country with one of the highest debts in the world, Lebanon has now defaulted on its debts. Inflation has risen, putting many members of the middle class at risk of poverty. The people of Lebanon blame corruption and mismanagement for the problems that are plaguing the country.

Lebanon’s Political Dysfunction

From 1975 to 1990, Lebanon experienced a civil war that religious tensions caused. Ultimately, Lebanon’s new government decided to adopt a system based on confessionalism, which gives religious groups a strong voice. The president of Lebanon must always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the house a Shia Muslim. However, government action has been slow as a result. It took Lebanon 12 years (from 2005 to 2017) to pass a state budget. Increasingly, people in Lebanon have been calling for an end to this political system, which is not only fragmented and ineffective but also filled with corruption and meddling from countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Inflation and Rising Poverty in Lebanon

In 2019, the World Bank predicted that Lebanon’s poverty rate would increase as a result of the country’s economic problems. Inflation had already risen — but not by the margins that the country has seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lebanese currency has now lost over 80% in value. With the devaluing of its currency, Lebanon is experiencing an increase in prices on goods. Many people are struggling to afford meals, as food prices have increased by 190% in comparison to last year. Meanwhile, the price of clothes has increased by 170%.

Inflation is a vicious cycle, influenced by both suppliers and consumers. Suppliers in Lebanon — such as supermarkets and shop owners — are unable to sell as many goods, because people are unable to buy as much. In addition, the pandemic shut down certain aspects of the economy, preventing people from receiving wages and having money to spend. As a result of the economic crisis, banks imposed limits on how much money people could withdraw, which increased financial uncertainty for many citizens. Without sufficient support from their government, the people of Lebanon face a desperate future.

Rising inflation is not the only disruptor to many people’s lives in Lebanon. Access to reliable electricity is becoming more of a concern. According to the Human Rights Watch, power cuts are disrupting life in Lebanon. People face hurdles in storing food and disruptions to work, while also worrying about health risks for family members who depend on electrical medical equipment.

Support for Refugees and Citizens

The pandemic is also affecting refugees from Syria. There are close to 1 million registered refugees in Lebanon — more refugees per capita than any other country. The World Food Program is currently providing aid to refugee families.

To help with the crisis in Lebanon, local groups like Mission Joy and the COVID-19 Task Force for Lebanon have donated 960 food parcels and 400 hygiene kits. The World Food Program is also working to help hundreds of thousands of citizens, as many families are financially constrained and struggling to meet rising food prices. Currently, Lebanon is negotiating with the IMF for more loans to help its economy. With help from international organizations, Lebanon can hope to provide a more secure economic future for its people.

Joshua Meribole
Photo: Flickr

Yemeni child soldiers
Yemen is a young country struggling through many internal problems. A civil war began in 2015 between the Yemeni government, with backing from Saudi Arabia, and the Houthi rebels. Now, it has become a conflict involving international leaders and is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the last 100 years. This is partly due to the mass exploitation of Yemeni child soldiers. It is very difficult to discover the exact number of recruited children due to the fluid roles of children, associated with family shame and fear. However, numbers ranged from about 3,000 to 50,000 children as of 2019.

Growing Up

Many Yemeni child soldiers have faced unfathomable hardships even before fighting. They have been constantly fleeing their homes to avoid airstrikes and war zones. Because of this, 3.4 million children are out of school and many are trying to earn the little money they can like Salah, who is about 11, and whose family cannot afford meals every day. Starvation and disease-ridden camps have been the way of life for thousands of families since the war began five years ago.

Conversely, schools recruit children in regions with access to education through “indoctrination” from lectures. The Houthi movement’s founder gives these lectures and transcribes them into booklets known as “Malazem.” During this, children as young as 10 view graphic images of the war and others who have died for the cause. This encourages them to do the same. A mother told the Group of Experts, a partition of the U.N. Human Rights Council, that she fears for her son’s future. She also said that such practices are prevalent across the region.

Recruitment also occurs in surrounding countries like Sudan, a country also struggling from domestic conflicts. Approached at 14, Hager Shomo Ahmed had received an offer of $10,000 in exchange for his service in the war. Like many children, this was dire for his family, as they became penniless after others stole their cattle.

Persuaded and desperate for food, purpose and money, thousands of children like these entered the war.

During the War

From both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels, many Yemeni child soldiers went to the front lines. More than 1,000 have been coerced to fight.

Some dragged bodies from the field (sometimes even their own family), others would do kitchen services and others trained to use rifles. Naji, Younis and Saleh, Yemeni child soldiers who were around 11 and 13 at the time, recounted stories like these. A Saudi rehabilitation center that has helped about 400 boys has created a safe space for these stories.

A psychiatrist at a Marib rehabilitation center, Mayoub al-Makhlafi, says children have suffered as fighters and servants. Staffers recount children’s descriptions of experiencing beatings and sexual abuse from their own commanders.

Many, promised with money and non-combatant roles, find themselves in traffickers’ hands and training camps. Some are sent to patrol checkpoints 12 hours a day. Others are the first to be dispatched as human bodyguards. The young foot soldiers have no other option since they are lured with knowledge of a steady income sent home or depicted as martyrs.

The war has killed over 2,000 Yemeni child soldiers, as UNICEF reported in 2018. However, due to poor access to Yemen and limited data collection, these numbers are could be much higher.

Surviving After

Younis and his mother, Samira, shared the nightmares he used to have about the Houthis taking him again and how his mother would comfort him back to sleep.

In Dhamar, Yemen, a teacher places a photograph on desks of 14 former students during the Week of the Martyr, a celebration that the Houthi government enforces to continue its propaganda about the honor of fighting. The children, mostly fifth and sixth graders, mourn their friends. Those who do not die find themselves in displacement camps, like 14-year-old Morsal. Like many of his comrades, Morsal suffers from panic attacks, aggressive behavior and hearing loss from airstrikes and explosions.

Fifteen-year-old Mohammad’s father, Ali Hameed, details a time before the war and how his son had started working after graduating high school. He sadly continued to when his son left to join the Saudi coalition and then went missing. Some of the boys from Mohammad’s unit were able to flee and return home and the Houthis captured others. Mohammad was not part of either group.

Others like Hager, who had lost 180 men in his unit, were able to return home. By earning some money for his service, he was able to buy his family 10 cattle to restore their livelihood.

Relief Efforts

Coping with such traumatic events is extremely difficult for adults. However, the horrors are greater for children. Fortunately, The Wethaq Foundation for Civil Orientation developed eight rehabilitation centers across Yemen. As of 2019, it has helped 2,000 Yemeni child soldiers in psychological support and children’s rights education.

Internationally, the Child Protection and Children Friendly Spaces programs, initiatives of UNICEF, have given over 600,000 children psychosocial support through individual counseling, reading, cooperative games and family reunification, as of 2018 in Yemen.

Victim assistance is another crucial sector for children who have lost limbs. Such assistance is possible through Prosthesis and Rehabilitation centers in Yemen for children with disabilities as a result of the war. These centers receive support from the International Committee of the Red Cross. In just 2019, they have been able to provide over 1.1 million Yemenis emergency care in 18 hospitals that the IRC supports, and given food, essential home supplies, cash grants and access to clean water to 5.7 million Yemenis.

Broadly focused groups like War Child, working in North and South Yemen, have offered assistance to more than 30,000 children and families. War Child provides psychosocial support through coping mechanisms for trauma, recreational activities and legal support to enable school enrollment. Through school restoration and cash assistance to families, it is able to provide better futures for children.

Supporting these groups and others, vital for long-term recovery, is essential to nurturing the Yemeni child soldiers who have fallen victim to this waging war and the millions of civilians in the entire region suffering from starvation, displacement and great loss.

– Mizla Shrestha
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in YemenWar and conflict exacerbate existing poverty. According to the World Bank’s 2007 Global Monitoring Report, fragile states, defined as those in civil war or without legitimate authority to make collective decisions, account for one-fourth of global poverty. In low-income countries, poverty rates average 22%, whereas, in states with conflict, the rates skyrocket to 54%. Poverty in Yemen is no exception to this trend. Yet, the world may consider Yemen the example of conflict exacerbating poverty if fighting continues. The 2019 United Nations Development Project (UNDP) report, Assessing the Impact of War in Yemen, estimates that Yemen could rank as the poorest country on Earth by 2030 if the conflict continues. Here is some information about the relationship between conflict and poverty in Yemen.

Yemen’s Civil War

The seeds of Yemen’s conflict began because of the disorganized power transitions that the 2011 Arab Spring prompted. However, 2015 marks the descent into a foreign-backed civil war. Since then, fighting between the Northern rebel Houthis has continued to decimate civilian communities and exacerbate poverty. Iran has backed this fighting, because of Shia religious interests, along with the remaining Yemeni government. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-majority countries trying to curtail Iranian influence have also supported it.

The 2019 UNDP report outlines poverty rates in both conflict and no conflict trajectories and shows that without conflict, Yemen’s poverty rate could drop dramatically. Though the country’s poverty rate started rising in 1998 due to poor economic growth, the conflict that began in 2015 increased the depth of poverty by 600% showing the relationship between conflict and poverty in Yemen. The amount of Yemen’s population that now lives in poverty, defined as less than $3.10 a day, hovers around 75%. UNDP projections suggest that 65% of that number could live in extreme poverty by 2022, meaning that they would exist on less than $1.90 a day.

Already struggling with poverty before the conflict, fighting in Yemen compounds the problem by destroying critical infrastructures, like hospitals. On top of that, the pre-2015 economy flatlined. However, the most harmful effect is on food supply. As Yemen relies on imports for over 90% of its food products, the war’s blockades and bombings prevent stable food transportation from ports. Oxfam International reports that two-thirds of Yemen’s population cannot predict where their next meal will come from.

Future Projections

Many say that Yemen suffers the worst humanitarian crisis in the world and such suffering will only increase with continued conflict. For example:

  1. By 2022, the UNDP report projects that 12.4 million Yemenis could live in poverty and that 15.8 million Yemenis could live in extreme poverty if the conflict persists.
  2. It also suggests that the depth of poverty could increase to 6,000% by 2030 compared to the rate of poverty in pre-war Yemen.

However, if the conflict ends soon, Yemen would stand 8% closer to the UNDP’s sustainable development goals of no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education and gender equality than it did in 2014. If the conflict ends, the total projected poverty in 2030 would underperform 2014 levels by 3.1 million.

Foreign Aid to Address Poverty

To address poverty in Yemen as well as poverty in other war-torn states, organizations have recently implemented academic findings on the relationship between poverty and conflict.

Borany Penh, founder of the international data science and research firm, Dev-Analytics, and a researcher at the USAID Learning Lab says that “cross contributions from academic fields are beginning to clarify the kinds of solutions to poverty and conflict possible through institutional partnerships.” Penh argues that fixing the disconnect between academic literature and on the ground efforts would remedy less successful poverty reduction efforts in fragile states. Recent USAID funding acknowledges this point and now incentivizes partnerships among such fields.

For example, to better address poverty in Yemen, USAID currently funds the Yemen Communities Stronger Together (YCST) grant which supports projects and institutions that focus on social cohesion in poverty-reduction efforts. Scholars, organizations and businesses qualify for YCST. This variable grant allows the intersection of academia, nonprofit organizations and businesses to combat poverty while capitalizing on stabilization opportunities. So far, YCST gave out two $30 million awards and plans to report on its impact after the three-year implementation period ends.

On the Ground

In addition to coalition forming efforts like YCST, decreasing poverty in Yemen requires logistic strategies for navigating conflict and fighting poverty. Many nonprofits help via basic aid services, but to do so, they must create solutions to disperse aid while circumventing war zones. The World Food Programme (WFP) found great success in this arena.

Understanding the limitations of transportation in Yemen, WFP attempts to spread food imports as widely and directly as possible. Through the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service and partner organization, Logistics Cluster, food aid reaches four major cities including Aden, Hodeidah, Sana’a and Djibouti, via air and sea routes. Each month 12 million Yemenis now access WFP food rations because of reimagined delivery systems.

However, in areas with viable markets, WFP works to provide cash assistance which, while fighting hunger, also bolsters the economy. The WFP provides food to school children too. Targeting devastated areas of Yemen, the WPF incentivizes education while addressing childhood malnutrition with a school lunch program that provides small meals to 680,000 students. This reflects the new nonprofit focus on sustainable poverty recovery rather than long-term reliance on service distribution.

Many other organizations have devised new ways of bringing aid to Yemen as conflict persists. However, as Penh argues and the institutions highlighted above actualize, linking nascent poverty and conflict studies to field practices is the most hopeful strategy for fighting poverty in Yemen and other fragile states. By ending the conflict which causes such extreme poverty, countries should not face dire projections that place their populations at risk.

– Rory Davis
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in YemenMany consider Yemen, a country located in the Middle East, to currently be undergoing the worst humanitarian disaster in the present time. Before the start of the war, which broke out in 2015, Yemen was already struggling to control the health crises that were plaguing the country. Violence and other aspects of war resulted in an emergence of even greater needs for healthcare in Yemen. An estimated 100,000 Yemeni people died due to war violence alone. Conflict and war have killed 100,00 people in Yemen while “indirect causes such as starvation and disease” have resulted in the deaths of an additional 131,000. Here are four facts about healthcare in Yemen.

4 Facts About Healthcare in Yemen

  1. Civil War: Yemen’s healthcare system was already in a fragile state before the civil war and ultimately collapsed as a result of the war. The collapse of the healthcare system left the country in a state of desperation for humanitarian aid. There are an estimated 24 million people out of a population of 29 million that are in need of some sort of medical aid. Another 14.4 million people are in an acute need for aid. The failed system resulted in a major decline in the number of operable facilities for healthcare in Yemen, with less than half of the previously functioning facilities still operating. This, in combination with extensive damage to the country’s infrastructure, has left 80% of the Yemen population without sufficient access to healthcare services.
  2. Malnourishment: Yemen’s already existing struggle to fight malnourishment became an even greater challenge due to the war, which has worsened the food insecurity crisis. About 56% of Yemen’s population is currently experiencing crisis-level food insecurity. Thus, malnourishment is one of the biggest health issues plaguing the country, creating an even greater need for access to healthcare in Yemen. Children are by far the most vulnerable to suffering from malnourishment. In fact, 2 million Yemeni children, all less than 5 years old, suffer from acute malnourishment.
  3. Disease: In 2017, Yemen experienced the largest cholera outbreak in recent history. Cholera is a bacterial infection that emerges from people ingesting water or food that the feces of an infected person has contaminated. The spread of this disease occurs more rapidly in areas without access to adequate sewage systems and sources of clean drinking water. Since 18 million people in Yemen are unable to access clean water and sanitization services, they face an increased vulnerability to contracting and spreading cholera. As a result of this heightened risk, reports estimated that there were one million cases of the disease in the country in 2017 alone. An additional estimated 991,000 cases occurred between January 2018 and September 2019. The lack of access to healthcare in Yemen further exacerbated the outbreak, resulting in thousands of deaths, despite cholera being an infection that is easy to treat. On top of the cholera outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic has become another threat to healthcare in Yemen with a reported 260 cases and 54 deaths.
  4. Outreach: Due to the government’s inability to support the system, healthcare in Yemen relies on outside aid. The International Organization for Migration is working to reopen and restore 86 healthcare facilities people initially deemed inoperable. The IOM also manages “nine mobile health teams” to provide healthcare to those unable to get to operable facilities, with four of those teams providing emergency health services to migrants arriving on the coast of Yemen. Another organization, The International Committee of the Red Cross, provided medical facilities with medication and emergency supplies, resulting in medical relief of 500,000 people in the first half of 2018 alone. The International Medical Corps is another organization contributing to aid by providing health professionals with training and supplies, in addition to supporting 56 health centers across Yemen. Through that support, the organization provides adequate outpatient care to malnourished children, in addition to mental health services such as counseling. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and already at-risk population, the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan received an extension from June to December 2020. The U.N. and its partners are seeking $2.41 billion solely for fighting COVID-19 while continuing to provide aid for those that the country’s ongoing humanitarian emergency has affected.

Despite barriers to outreach, such as inadequate funding, there is an ongoing effort to stabilize and improve the state of healthcare in Yemen amid the violence of civil war. Efforts by the United Nations and numerous other humanitarian organizations are occurring to combat health issues related to circumstances of war, malnutrition and disease, while also providing Yemeni people with tools and training to treat and prevent further health complications.

– Emily Butler
Photo: Flickr