Information and news about civil war

Facts about Yemeni refugees

Though it has not drawn as much international attention as the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the ongoing civil war in Yemen has devastated an already struggling country.

One reason for the lack of attention is because the Yemen conflict has produced a smaller number of international refugees. Yet, almost 200,000 people have fled the country and more than 2 million have been internally displaced. Below are ten facts about Yemeni refugees and the volatile situation that has led to a protracted civil war.

  1. Most Yemeni refugees are foreigners themselves. Yemen has long been viewed as the entry point to the Middle East.  This is the case for many people coming from poorer countries in Africa since Yemen borders Saudi Arabia, a wealthier country home to huge numbers of guest workers.
  2. A large number of Yemeni refugees are internally displaced. As of December 2015, there were an estimated 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Yemen. This is almost 10 percent of the population.
  3. Even prior to the war, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East. This means that Yemeni refugees have scarcer resources to draw upon than refugees from other war-torn countries in the region.
  4. Many of the refugees from Yemen are now living in other poor countries. Of note, 33,000 Yemeni refugees now live in Djibouti and 32,000 in Somalia, two countries that are highly unstable and major producers of refugees themselves.
  5. Yemen’s geographic position makes it difficult for displaced persons to leave the country. Yemen is located at the corner of the Arabian Peninsula and its land borders include one of the most inhospitable desert terrains in the world. Several of the closest countries by sea are themselves highly unstable and violent.
  6. Historically, Yemen has been a generous acceptor of refugees. It is the only country in the Arabian Peninsula to be party to the 1951 U.N. Convention and the 1967 Protocol on Refugees. Yemen has welcomed refugees from countries in the Horn of Africa that suffer from persistent civil strife and repressive governments, like Somalia and Eritrea.
  7. Yemen’s civil war is locked in a stalemate. This means that the number of Yemeni refugees may increase  as the nation’s infrastructure continues to be destroyed by war.
  8. Yemen’s internal divisions have deep historical roots. During the colonial era, the north was controlled by the Ottoman Empire and the south by Great Britain. During the Cold War, North Yemen was capitalist while South Yemen was communist.
  9. Water scarcity has reached crisis levels in Yemen. This is one of the most important facts about Yemeni refugees and it also affects the entire population. According to The Guardian, 50 percent of Yemenis struggle to obtain clean water and the capital city of Sanaa may run out of water in the near future. As is the case for many conflicts around the world, water scarcity and control of water supplies are key issues.
  10. Yemen’s population has a high percentage of young people. Over 40 percent of the population is 14 years old or younger, and more than 20 percent falls in the 15 -24 age range.

Raising awareness of these facts about Yemeni refugees is important. Refugees all over the world flee from war and civil strife to seek refuge and find a better life, not just from Syria and Iraq. The facts here may not be an exhaustive list of the Yemeni refugee situation, but they provide insight into the issues this country faces on a daily basis.

Jonathan Hall-Eastman

Photo: Flickr

United Nations Humanitarian Chief, Stephen O’Brien, called a meeting of multiple U.N. agencies in July to discuss immediate action regarding deteriorating humanitarian conditions within the conflict-ravaged nation of Yemen, as fears of widespread famine within the country continue to grow.

Officials agreed to raise the caution of humanitarian emergency in Yemen to Level Three, the highest humanitarian crisis level within the United Nations, after the World Health Organization (WHO) provided updated statistics regarding the severity of conditions within the Arab world’s most impoverished country.

The WHO recently announced that an estimated 21.1 million Yemenis currently require significant humanitarian aid, with an additional 13 million people faced with a food security crisis and 9.4 million people exercising limited to no access to basic water resources.

Health officials have stressed the adverse effects these conditions will have on the national population, as inadequate access to these essential resources will increase the risk of water-borne diseases, such as cholera, and the persistence of widespread malnourishment.

In addition to Yemen, the United Nations has placed the nations of Iraq, Syria and South Sudan at Level Three of humanitarian emergency in recent months due to consistently escalating conflicts within these regions. The U.N. Humanitarian Office states that declaring a top-level humanitarian emergency allows for the mobilization of extended aid funding and an organization-wide deployment of staffing personnel.

A U.N. official familiar with agency operations within Yemen stated after this summer’s emergency meeting that an additional 11.7 million citizens will be targeted for humanitarian assistance provided by additional resources mobilized by the Level Three declaration.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the U.N. envoy for Yemen, stated last week in a press release that Yemen is, “One step away from famine,” after noting that only two million Yemeni citizens were in need of humanitarian assistance two years ago.

Houthi Shiite rebels and military forces allied with former President Ali Abduallah seized Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, in September and have been conducting military operations against Sunni militants, local separatists and tribal militias allied with current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. President Hadi was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia after the invasion of Sana’a by Houthi forces last year

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States has been conducting airstrikes within Yemen against Houthi rebel forces since March. The conflict has resulted in 3,083 fatalities and 14,324 casualties since its onset last year according to the most recent estimates of the WHO.

Ahmed also urged all contingents within the regional conflict that erupted earlier this year to participate in a humanitarian ceasefire during the month-long celebration of the Muslim holiday Ramadan in order to ease the delivery of humanitarian aid resources.

The U.N. envoy to Yemen outlined multiple solutions to the conflict which included, “The need for a ceasefire, an orderly withdrawal of Houthi forces from cities, monitoring and verification mechanisms, an agreement to respect international humanitarian law and not to hinder the deployment of humanitarian aid operations; and a commitment to engage in talks mediated by the United Nations.”

James Thornton

Sources: Big Story, Middle East Monitor
Photo: The Telegraph

Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, has experienced numerous violent conflicts over the past few decades. This is mainly due to an inequality in access to power and resources. Corruption is commonplace in Yemen’s relatively weak government, and conflicts are only exacerbated by poor infrastructure, high unemployment, food insecurity and limited social services. Currently, competing groups are fighting for control of the government, resulting in a scenario akin to a civil war. Those loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee the capital in February, have come up against a group of Zaidi Shia rebels called Houthis. Regional tensions and instability have increased.

Before the current conflict, many children were already out of school, and few completed secondary education. Primary enrollment stood at 73.8 percent, with a 60.4 percent completion rate. There was a large gender gap, with 85.2 percent of boys enrolled and only 62 percent of girls. Secondary enrollment was much lower, with only 33.5 percent attending. The gender gap persisted, with 43.6 percent of boys attending and 20.7 percent of girls. Literacy rates were also low: 65 percent of the population over the age of 15 could read and write.

The conflict has had a large negative impact on the education system in Yemen. 1.8 million children are out of school. 3,600 schools have been directly affected: 248 of these schools have been damaged, 270 have been repurposed for housing internally displaced citizens and 68 have been occupied by armed groups.

Because schooling has been interrupted for many students, UNICEF has been holding catch-up classes for over 200,000 students who have been unable to go to school for over two months due to conflict. These classes are intended to prepare students in grades 9 and 12 for their national mid-August exams, which they must pass to earn a basic or secondary school certificate. Yemen’s Ministry of Education has played an important role in mobilizing teachers and designating temporary learning spaces in areas where schools were destroyed. UNICEF has also been providing free resources such as notebooks and pencils.

Yemen’s school year is set to begin on September 5, but this could change depending on the security situation. UNICEF is currently trying to raise $11 million to help struggling students and fix schools that have been damaged by conflict. This money will go to rebuilding schools, supplying more teaching and learning resources, training teachers and community workers and running a back-to-school campaign. Education is crucial for Yemeni children to help themselves, their families, their communities and their country in the face of conflict.

Jane Harkness

Sources: BBC, Index Mundi, UNICEF
Photo: USAID


After years of stalled negotiations, eight international aid organizations have finally been granted legal status in Turkey. The decision, announced in the days leading up to Turkey’s parliamentary elections last month, will allow the NGOs to more efficiently conduct humanitarian work in neighboring Syria.

The international NGOs, including the Norwegian Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), provide assistance to Syrians affected by the ongoing civil war. The groups distribute much-needed food, water, medical aid and housing materials. With Turkish legal status, aid workers can more easily cross the border into Syria.

Most NGOs working in Syria have their offices “for legal and security reasons” inside the southern Turkish border. For many of these organizations, bureaucratic technicalities have slowed the registration process. MSF says that the Turkish government took eight years to review its application.

Tensions between the government and rival parties could also be to blame for the delays. MSF representative Aitor Zabalgogeazkoa explains, “We’ve been perceived as supporting the Kurdish agenda, for working in the southeast, but we simply worked there because more difficult displacements were happening in the east of the country.”

A Turkish government official reported that 42 international NGOs working in Syria are now legally registered in Turkey. Organization leaders hope that the recent changes will lead to improved relations with Turkish authorities.

Legal recognition ensures that the NGOs receive tax bonuses and waived export fees for goods bought in Turkey. It also allows the groups to more easily rent office space and handle bank transactions.

The newly registered NGOs will also be cleared to work, for the first time, with Turkey’s rapidly growing refugee population. As the civil war in Syria drags on, the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey is expected to reach two million by the end of the year.

The international humanitarian community has praised the recognition of the eight NGOs as a “step in the right direction” for Turkey. Many believe that the announcement signals a change in Turkey’s management of the humanitarian crisis.

The NGO decision comes at a transitional time for Turkish politics. In the recent general elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 13 years. The loss has effectively destroyed the president’s attempts to amend the constitution and expand his executive powers. In the coming weeks, his party will attempt to form a coalition government.

Despite President Erdoğan’s seemingly autocratic tendencies, the AKP has been the most pro-refugee of the four parties in parliament. While in power, the AKP has spent close to $6 billion accommodating the Syrian refugees. However, the president’s “open door policy” for Syrians has become increasingly unpopular as Turkey’s economy has declined. Some anti-Syrian demonstrations have even turned violent, with Turks attacking refugees with knives and sticks.

While the Syrian refugees could not vote in last month’s elections, they have a lot riding on the impending government changes. Experts say that the turning tide of public opinion will likely force the new government to tighten restrictions on the Syrians.

Caitlin Harrison

Sources: Vice News, IRIN News, IRIN News 2, The Guardian
Photo: IRIN News

In 2015, enrollment for higher education in Ethiopia reached only 8%, compared to the 32% global average enrollment rate. While enrollment numbers fall short, Ethiopia’s education system has improved since the end of their civil war in 1991.

Recovering from the damages of civil war is a difficult task and Ethiopia has been successfully making education a top priority. In 1990, 7.5% of government expenditure went to education and in 2009, 23.6% of government expenditure started going to education.

Most of the challenges for the infrastructure of higher education in Ethiopia are due to funding cuts and lecturers being committed to political parties. Anonymous workers at many universities say the schools require students to join the party and that spies report what is being said in the classrooms.

Over the next two years, Ethiopia plans to expand the number of universities to 42, an increase of 40 universities since 2000. The University of Jimma, which opened in 2013, has become one of the top research schools in Africa for materials science and engineering. Materials science and engineering is seen as the one of the most important fields for development and alleviating poverty in Ethiopia.

For primary education, the World Bank helped provide more than 78 million textbooks to students and improved conditions for teaching and learning in 40,000 schools through the General Education Quality Improvement Project. Teachers are becoming more qualified and many more are earning a three-year level diploma level.

Enrollment in primary education rose 500% from 1994 to 2009 with 15.5 million students in school. Today, 67.9% of school-aged children are attending primary school, a dramatic increase since the end of the civil war. Their progress in education exceeds the numbers of other war-stricken countries, such as Liberia, where only 40.6% of children are enrolled in primary school.

USAID is impacting the lives of 15 million children in primary school by improving their reading levels. In 2010, reading performances were low, and one-third of second grade students were non-readers. With the help of USAID, Ethiopia is experiencing an increase in reading and writing skills and more involvement from parents.

As primary and secondary education in Ethiopia strengthens, it is hopeful students will enroll in higher education and take part in PhD programs, which few Ethiopians have a chance to achieve. University of Jimma’s engineering department graduated their first 18 PhD students without any funding from the government.

The university staff volunteered their time to help students with the opportunity of gaining a high degree that will help propel those living in poverty and improve development in Ethiopia.

“You only need a couple of weeks in Ethiopia to realize that materials science is a priority,” says Pablo Corrochano, associate professor at Jimma. “Even in the capital you’ll experience cuts in power and water; in rural areas it’s even worse.”

Donald Gering

Sources: The Guardian, ODI, Social Progress Imperative, USAID, World Bank
Photo: Pathfinder

Number of Refugees
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently reported that nearly 60 million people were forcibly displaced in 2014, which is the highest number of refugees ever recorded. Of those displaced, over 38 million were displaced within the borders of their home countries. The amount of refugees worldwide is now so high that every 1 in 122 people is displaced or seeking asylum. Of those refugees, only 126,800 of them were able to return home, and over half are children. Additionally, the majority of these refugees live in protracted displacement for at least ten years, and many have children during this time.

So where are the refugees coming from? Where are they going and why?

The majority of these refugees are fleeing the civil war in Syria and most of them are going to Turkey. But with such high rates of displacement, the problem is clearly widespread. People are fleeing from sub-Saharan Africa, Myanmar and Central America. The main driver in the displacement is civil war.

Experts are calling this the worst refugee crisis since World War II. With the advancements we have made globally since World War II, we should not be seeing such record-breaking highs in displacement rates. The situation in Syria is not likely to be resolved anytime in the near future,due to the widespread destruction and Islamic hold on the nation.

As we see a more prolonged period of civil war in various countries around the world, we will continue to see high displacement rates and see these displaced people staying displaced for longer periods. The mass migrations of populations around the world have huge implications on changing culture, foreign relations and the economy.

These displaced people start to make up subpopulations in their own countries or in neighboring countries and bring with them their culture. It is no easy feat to integrate into these other countries and refugees often face harsh discrimination that results in low living conditions, inadequate access to basic services and low employment rates. These displaced people face human rights violations, even after fleeing horrific circumstances, and the governments that accept them are faced with the strain they place on their own nation. We can expect to see more internal and external tension in these countries.

Because 53 percent of all refugees worldwide come from only three countries – Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia – solutions can be targeted. But first these solutions need to be developed. There needs to be an international focus on reducing the rates at which people are fleeing. The most pressing issue is that of civil war because it destroys a nation’s infrastructure on all levels. Civil war often involves widespread human rights violations both during and after the conflict, as the huge masses of people that fled the conflict face additional problems elsewhere.

The problems that arise from civil war, including but not limited to displaced persons, are spread across large geographical areas. By addressing the three major sources of the world’s refugees, we can hopefully prevent the problem from expanding any further. Displacement is largely a political issue and to alleviate it, there must be agreements and regulations set forth by the world’s political leaders.

– Emma Dowd

Sources: CNN, Foreign Policy 1, Foreign Policy 2
Photo: Al Jazeera America

Za’atariAccording to NPR, approximately four million Syrians have fled from Syria and the civil war that has ravaged the country with violence and conflict for almost five years now. Thousands of Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan; many specifically to one of Jordan’s largest refugee camps, Za’atari.

Za’atari, first opened in 2012, features market-like structures along its main street where goods such as vegetables, basic household equipment and clothes can be purchased.

Shelters consist primarily of tents or shacks with tin roofs. Food and clean water are scarce, along with adequate sanitation and clothing. Za’atari reached 60,000, full capacity, in 2013. As a result, a new camp was built just 20 kilometers away. Approximately 40 percent of all refugees living in Za’atari are children under the age of 12.

According to a report by the United Nations, entitled “Living in the Shadows,” one in six Syrian refugees is currently living in extreme poverty in Jordan, lacking basic human needs such as food, clean water, clothing, shelter and education. Many children and teenagers were forced to drop out of school after being displaced or fleeing from their homes and have not returned to school. Duties in the family, such as businesses or taking care of the home, take priority over education in desperate times for the Syrian refugees.

Almost 50 percent of all refugee shelters in Za’atari have no heat, while another quarter of the shelters lack any sort of electricity.

The U.N. report said that as the Syrian conflict approached its fifth year, many refugees were becoming “increasingly dependent on assistance, with Jordan’s resources and infrastructure being stretched to the limit.”

Jordan currently holds a registered Syrian refugee population of about 620,000, with around 100,000 living in camps.

Northern Jordan has been dramatically altered by the Syrian civil war. Since the uprising began in March 2011 right across the border in the city of Deraa, Jordanians have experienced the conflict via the thousands that have crossed into their country through the towns of Jabir and Ramtha.

– Alaina Grote

Sources: BBC, The Economist, Oxfam America, UNHCR

Photo: Flickr

south sudan
The Republic of South Sudan declared independence on July 11, 2011 after a 40-year civil war. Now, South Sudan celebrates a bitter third birthday as the region is as dangerous as it has been for decades.

Fighting broke out in the capital city of Juba in December 2013 and the situation has deteriorated since then. Reports estimate that thousands of people have died while 1.5 million people have been displaced due to conflict. The U.N. Security Council has reported an even more sober statistic: over half of the 12 million people who comprise the population of South Sudan will be attempting to relocate, facing starvation or death by the end of 2014.

By all accounts the tragedy is palpable, especially in the capital of South Sudan. Streets that were once filled are now quiet and many girls report they do not attend school because they are too scared to travel there.

The problem that looms above all else for South Sudan is that of malnutrition and dehydration. Malnutrition has had an impact on hundreds of thousands and children under 5 are at the highest risk of fatalities. Additionally, dehydration is leading to a near epidemic of cholera in South Sudan, with children under 5 again suffering a high mortality rate. Up to 75 percent of the population in Jonglei, Unity and the Upper Nile face the threat of death by malnutrition.

UNICEF and the United World Food Programme (WFP) have responded to this crisis by increasing initiatives aimed at curbing malnutrition and dehydration. The joint effort is spearheaded by a Rapid Response Mechanism that will fly teams into remote areas within the country to provide humanitarian aid in otherwise unlikely locations. The teams will deploy supplies like water, sanitation goods and hygiene supplies typically via airdrop.

Emergency workers will land on the ground and help in a one-on-one capacity by providing nutritional supplements to children under 5 who are at risk of becoming malnourished. These workers will also identify children who have been separated from their families and make an effort to reunite them. Fifteen missions have been deployed already and they hope to ramp up efforts and have up to as many as 30 a month beginning in July.

If UNICEF and the WFP have taken the necessary emergency steps, USAID has provided some of the building blocks for long-term support for South Sudan with their Let Girls Learn initiative. The international campaign is a response to the Boko Harem kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls earlier in the year. In South Sudan, USAID has committed to providing education for 150,000 people with some 60,000 of those being women. USAID has also created programs where women can learn to be teachers and improve their professional skills.

– Andrew Rywak

Photo: UN

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tajikistan, a small country between Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and China, erupted in a civil war between the Moscow-backed government and Islamists.

The war lasted for five years, greatly hurting the nation’s economy. Around 50,000 people were killed and more than 10 percent of the population fled the country. The war only came to an end in 1997 when the United Nations facilitated a peace agreement.

Since the civil war, the economy of Tajikistan has not recovered and the country is currently Central Asia’s poorest nation. Almost half of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is earned by its citizens working out of the country. Meanwhile the nation itself relies on the economies of Russia and China, as well as oil and gas imports.

During the war one in every five schools were destroyed. Since the war, Tajikstan has worked to improve the country’s education.

Tajikistan currently has an enrollment of 97 percent for primary school, 80 percent for secondary school, and 17 percent for tertiary school. Late entry, combined with the early dropout of school aged children, especially girls, lower Tajikistan’s attendance for later schooling.

Although there is a very high rate of literacy, other issues affect its educational system.

Salaries paid to teachers are very low, which leads to low staffing and poorly qualified teachers in schools. This is in part due to the lack of government spending on education. In 1991, 8.9 percent of the GDP was spent on education. In 2005, this figure was down to 3.2 percent.

Due to the negative effects of the civil war on the Tajikstan economy and the immense loss of life, the school systems have been suffering ever since. Although the government has been working to improve access to education, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

– Lily Tyson

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, Eurasia
Photo: Asianews

Since the Syrian civil war began to flare in 2011, more than 2 million Syrians have fled the country in order to seek refuge and safety. Most of the refugees — about 1,130,000 of them — have relocated to Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon. Other countries are granting immigration visas, humanitarian visas or loosening up their asylum grants in order to aid the cause.

José Mujica, president of Uruguay, has taken the cause into his own hands. He has decided to not only open up his country, but also his very home to 100 Syrian orphans, all put in their current position by the conflict. Although this appears to be an unusual and bold move, Mujica is the right man to execute it.

José Alberto Mujica Cordano spent the 60’s and 70’s as a member of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, where he was shot six times and spent 14 years in jail, only being released when Uruguay returned to a democracy in 1985. He believes his background and time spent in jail has helped form his outlook on life.

Mujica has been President of Uruguay since 2010. He has gained worldwide popularity as “The World’s Poorest President” because of his choice to donate 90 percent of his salary to charities and small entrepreneurs throughout the country, leaving his salary at about $775 a month. He drives a Volkswagon Beetle and lives in a farmhouse right outside of Montevideo with his wife, where they work the land themselves. He says this about his lifestyle:

“I’m called the poorest president, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,” and “I may appear to be an eccentric old man… But this is a free choice.”

He also stated at the Rio+20 summit in June that if all countries consumed at the same rate as the rich ones, then we would be adding further harm to our planet. Thus, envying their status and wealth does nothing for them.

The plan is for the children to begin arriving around September from refugee camps in the Middle East. The exact number of people is still to be decided, since the Uruguayan government has to work out the expenses, and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) protocol calls for orphans to be relocated with at least one relative.

Mujica is facing a bit of backlash from the Uruguayan people because he deviated from the original plan to consult his constituents about the issue, but he made the decision without doing so. He is also getting bad reviews for doing this international aid move when there are orphans in Uruguay that need assistance as well.

Lucia Topolansky, Mujica’s wife, says their decision to take in the Syrian orphans is one to “motivate all the countries of the world to take responsibility for this catastrophe.”

The UN is hoping to relocate another 30,000 refugees this year, and if other countries follow José Mucija’s example, they may have success in the relocation process.

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: BBC, SHOAH, Elite Daily
Photo: The Guardian