Information and news about civil war

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

refugee crisis in Uganda
The refugee crisis in Uganda is due to its central location to several countries that have been in civil war in recent years. In fact, some have characterized Uganda as an underground railroad of differing proportions. Uganda has borders with South Sudan, which has been in a civil war since late December 2013, while Rwanda, which experienced one of the worst genocides in history in 1994, is still feeling the ripple effects among certain areas and individuals in the country. Meanwhile, violence has plagued the Democratic Republic of the Congo in certain eastern areas near Uganda’s border. Burundi and Somalia, though not bordering countries, are nearby and both have experienced civil wars and other conflicts in the recent millennium. Here are five facts about the refugee crisis in Uganda.

5 Facts About the Refugee Crisis in Uganda

  1. Uganda has over 1.423 million refugees, with the majority coming from South Sudan through its northern border. However, the refugees also enter through the country’s southern border, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania. The Tanzanian border area, known as Isingro, hosts the Nakivale refugee settlement which was one of the only settlements that did not have South Sudanese or Sudanese refugees. In fact, this settlement mostly consists of Congolese refugees.
  2. The refugees currently in Uganda come from eight prominent countries in Africa including South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda, Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia. Each of these countries has experienced a civil war in the past 30 years and most have suffered one in the past two decades. That being said, many of the individuals who experienced those trying times are still alive. When new violence occurs, many decide to leave earlier versus later because they remember the atrocities from just 20 to 30 years prior.
  3. The largest refugee group by origin is from South Sudan, accounting for roughly 62 percent of refugees and over 880,000 individuals in Uganda. South Sudan is the closest country and its most recent civil war halted in 2019.
  4. One of the largest settlements that South Sudanese refugees primarily use is Bidi Bidi in northern Uganda. It is roughly 234 square kilometers and people use the land for both residential and agricultural needs. To put it in context, 234 square kilometers is roughly the size of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
  5. The United Nations Refugee Agency’s 2020 budget for Uganda is $333 million. This is about $50 million lower than its 2019 budget, even though the refugee crisis is once again ramping up after the steep decline in 2018. In fact, the total number of refugees per month has been steadily increasing by about 10,000 to 20,000 since October 2018.

While the influx of refugees to Uganda has been mostly due to conflicts in surrounding countries, it is also because of Ugandan generosity. In fact, the policies Uganda has instituted and the funds it has generated to support refugees indicate that Uganda does not believe they are a problem. Rather, it treats refugees as humans who have a want and need to cultivate, provide for their families and move around freely. Uganda also grants refugees government aid, similar to most of its citizens, through health care and educational opportunities.

While experts expect the refugee crisis in Uganda to continue, funding from The United Nations Refugee Agency as well as Uganda’s generosity should help the refugees substantially. Hopefully, the refugee numbers will start to reduce in the upcoming years.

Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Pixabay

Economic Crisis in Lebanon
Lebanon is a small country in the Middle East that Syria and Israel borders. Once known as a prosperous leading regional center for finance and trade, the nation’s civil war crippled the economy. This traumatic event in Lebanese history eventually led to an economic crisis in Lebanon.

Economic Crisis in Lebanon

In 1975, civil war, Syrian occupation and clashes between Israel and Hezbollah destabilized Lebanon. Although Lebanon remains steady in economic freedom, it has encountered rough patches regarding politics. The economic crisis in Lebanon eerily compares to the current Syrian crisis. Both Lebanon and Syria have endured hardships of civil war and faced a surge in refugee intake.

Nearly 1.5 million Syrians have taken refuge in Lebanon as a result of the nation’s own civil war. The refugee intake has negatively impacted Lebanon’s finances, service industry and environment. The crisis has also driven 200,000 people into poverty and left nearly 300,000 unemployed. The environmental effects have slowed down the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to nearly nothing, worsening the economic crisis in Lebanon. In 2018, the Lebanese growth rate was just 0.2 percent. As of 2020, Lebanon carries a $90 billion debt, which is about 170 percent of the nation’s GDP.

The second leading age group in Lebanon is the youth group. This makes it difficult for those in impoverished families to maintain a steady income or complete their education due to the demand in the workforce. The demand has also forced women who would normally take on household responsibilities to work low wage jobs for additional income. Due to the enormous refugee intake, Lebanese workers face much higher competition for jobs. The 1975 Civil War severely damaged the nation’s economy. Because of the war, Lebanon’s national output reduced by half and the nation lost recognition as a Middle Eastern banking hub.

The Fight Against the Crisis

In the fight for better living conditions for those living in poverty, Lebanon’s government launched the National Poverty Targeting Program (NPTP) in October 2011, implemented by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The goal is to establish a national targeting system for the government. The system aims to improve the living conditions of the people, particularly those struggling in extreme poverty. The total cost of the NPTP was $9.34 million.

Habitat for Humanity has also been working to improve and provide housing for those in poverty in Lebanon since 2001. Habitat for Humanity builds, rebuilds, renovates and rehabilitates houses through partnership models to reach families in need of housing services across Lebanon.

The World Bank called for the formation of a new cabinet and said that it expected Lebanon to hit a recession by 2019. The World Bank comprises of many foreign donors who have pledged billions of dollars towards the aid that Lebanon desperately needs.

Lebanon has one of the world’s highest debts at 170 percent of GDP. Political conflict in the nation, as well as regional disputes, have impacted economic growth. With aid in place, it is hopeful that the economy can reboot despite the high poverty and unemployment rates that plague the nation. For now, thanks to the organizations that offer aid to the nation, the Lebanese people are maintaining a good and steady quality of life.

Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr

Tackling the Civil War in Libya
Violence broke out in Libya in 2011 as a result of anti-government protests in Benghazi and Tripoli that ultimately resulted in over 200 deaths. The Prime Minister at the time, Muammar al-Gaddafi, blamed the protests and general societal unrest on al-Qaeda, despite the rise in protests being largely influenced by other uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia as part of the Arab Spring. Eventually, the opposing National Transitional Council was recognized by multiple nations, including the United States, as Libya’s legitimate government representative. This opposition-led movement arose out of a defection from Gaddafi’s government. His government was one that the Libyan people saw as corrupt, and Gaddafi himself was alleged to have committed crimes against humanity. Since its spring to legitimacy in 2011, the National Transitional Council has found itself situated in a civil war in Libya.

Civil War in Libya

Rebel groups form and commit acts of terrorism amidst international discussions on ways to help Libya transition to democracy. Gaddafi was eventually killed in October of 2011 and the nation’s freedom was announced in Benghazi just days afterward. However, this did not mean peace for the nation, as conflict has continued to engulf citizens as the war in Libya continues.

Some sources claim that the civil war in Libya technically began in 2011 and has continued since then, while others argue that violence renewed itself in 2014 and that the present war in Libya should be considered to have started from this point. Regardless of the timeline dispute, it is clear that the country has struggled with stability following Gaddafi’s death. This instability has made it difficult to rebuild necessary government institutions, a problem that has worsened over the years as more armed groups have spread throughout the country and attempted to lay claim to the territory.

Plans to End the War

With the war continuing all the way into 2020, some international groups have laid out new comprehensive plans to tackle the civil war in Libya. The UN Support Mission in Libya has recently launched a process consisting of three parts meant to bring the warring parties together for negotiations. These talks will hopefully consist of topics such as the current economic situation and security matters.

The first piece of this project was launched very recently on January 6, 2020. Representatives from both parties were able to meet in Tunis to primarily discuss economic and financial issues entangled within the war in Libya. For now, this is progress. The second part of this initiative will involve security issues like a ceasefire, the arms embargo, counter-terrorism efforts and disarmament practices to quell violence. Now that the first part of this UN-led initiative has taken place, it seems that there is renewed hope for tackling the civil war in Libya.

The UN is not the only organization with plans to address the war in Libya, however. An initiative known as Libya Vision 2020 has come alive thanks to the efforts from the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies based in Tripoli. This plan aims to specifically target developmental projects in the nation that look to recover from the war in Libya. It plans to accomplish its goals by implementing peace, security, rule of law, governance and public sector reform and above all, a stable democratic institution. Of course, a comprehensive plan like this first requires the war in Libya to at least take a turn toward negotiations before moving forward with any sort of developmental efforts.

International Support

The international community should keep an eye out for ways to help Libya. The United States, in particular, should consider immediate action, both for the interest of helping potentially end the war in Libya as well as benefiting the nation as a whole. The United States could potentially play an integral role in developing a credible framework for negotiations to take place. The U.S. currently supports the previously created Government of National Accord, which was negotiated through the UN. The continued alliance of the U.S. government, combined with the willingness of U.S. officials to consistently work with international organizations like the U.N. and Libyan forces, could lead to substantial progress toward mitigating the crisis in Libya.

All in all, hope for Libya is not lost. The country needs a comprehensive plan and intervention in order to be pulled from this crisis, but it is in no way impossible. Hopefully, the new decade will bring peace and prosperity to a nation that has been plagued with conflict for nearly ten years.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

The road to peace in sudanPeace in Sudan has proven to be a challenging goal. Sudan has been fraught with violence from the beginning. British and Egyptian forces relinquished Sudan in 1956. With imperialistically-sanctioned divisions between the north and south and little institutional direction, the new nation was immediately thrown into confusion and instability. The first military coup occurred two years after independence. Since then, peace in Sudan has been an abstract concept that the nation desperately needs but has only seen intermittently.

Conflict after Conflict

Economically, Sudan has been heavily reliant on oil since the discovery of oil fields in what is now South Sudan. The country began exporting oil in 1999. Ultimately, Sudan secured the industry’s overwhelming importance in the accumulation of the country’s revenue. In 2011, oil exports accounted for 98 percent of the revenue for the southern government. The discovery of oil has had a longstanding effect on tensions between the north and south, specifically, regarding who controls the trade and reaps the subsequent benefits. Although oil reserves are abundant in the south, the north established the refineries and trade hubs.

Frustrations over the regions’ codependency have manifested in intense fighting between the north and south.  Conflicts over the small, oil-rich region of Abyei in 2002 is a good example. The oil industry has remained at the core of the lack of peace in Sudan because of its role in perpetuating regional struggles.

South Sudan

The conflict between northern and southern Sudan was not brought upon merely by oil. For more than 50 years, South Sudan was overwhelmed with civil wars, experiencing only brief periods of peace. The first civil war began in this region in 1962. Unfortunately, conflict is still prevalent in the country today. This decades-old conflict now consists of unending violence and countless accounts of human rights violations. The U.N. reported events taking place in the country such as ethnic and sexual violence, which may amount to be war crimes. These circumstances serve as a consistent threat to solidarity or reconciliation in Sudan.

The Sudanese civil war was largely due to colonizer-enforced divisions between northern Muslims, southern Christians and Animists. In fact, former president Omar al-Bashir was responsible for the unrelenting assault on the lives of southern Sudanese. For 30 years, Sudan was under the control of Omar al-Bashir, who ruled ruthlessly as a pro-Arab dictator in continuous oppression and violations of human rights. Beginning in February of 2003, he brutally ordered the systematic killings at Darfur, a region in western Sudan.

Anti-government groups accused the al-Bashir administration of neglect. Subsequently, an onslaught of ethnic cleansing ensued, displacing more than 3 million people and taking the lives of over 400,000. The conflict ended only when South Sudan was at last granted independence through a referendum obtaining the backing of 99 percent of voters in 2011. However, the longstanding friction between the north and south still plagues the two countries today.

Glimpses of Peace and Hope

There have been many attempts to end conflict and strife in order to protect the lives of Sudanese directly affected by the ongoing violence perpetrated by dictatorship, neglect and oppression. The U.N. Security Council intervened in 2003, in order to provide humanitarian relief in an attempt to stabilize the region. For example, in Darfur, it created the United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) in 2007, which allows for current, ongoing facilitation of peace talks between rebel groups and the government of Sudan. UNAMID has allowed for peacekeeping operations to provide mediation to conflicting groups and aid to civilians affected by continuing violence.

A breath of fresh air came in 2005 when the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in a historic resolution to lead the country on a road to development and stability. This was the start of a hopeful understanding between conflicting groups in Sudan to invest in the distribution of resources in order to begin bettering the lives of its people. Most recently, in 2019, the Transitional Government of Sudan and Darfur armed forces signed a peace agreement in an effort to express both sides’ willingness to establish peace in Sudan.

Sudan is seemingly seesawing between one conflict and another. Where peace is established or agreements are reached in one area, violence ensues elsewhere. Protests are not uncommon, but the people of Sudan are fighting for democracy and to bring attention to the necessity of elections and a civilian-led government. Peace in Sudan is not an impossible task. With the combined determination of international organizations and internal efforts to establish inclusive institutions, Sudan has hope of bringing itself out of its violent past.

Jessica Ball
Photo: Flickr

Countries Recovering from War

Civil 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