United Parcel Service (UPS) is the world’s largest package delivery company and a global leader in supply chain innovation. The company’s extensive worldwide network makes it a critical link in everyday commerce while providing the necessary infrastructure and expertise to continue operations during crises. Since its establishment, UPS has leveraged its sub-sectors, global partnerships and supply chain intelligence to provide relief for communities across the world in times of need.

The UPS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of UPS, leads the company’s response efforts. The organization donated over $6 million this year to United Nations agencies, humanitarian relief partners, non-profit and international non-governmental organizations.

UPS History of Crisis Prevention

In 2014, an outbreak of the Ebola Virus spread across West Africa, killing 11,325 people. As the second-largest outbreak in history, it highlighted the importance of assembling an efficient system for distributing medical equipment. Later that year, the UPS Foundation joined with Henry Schein, Johnson & Johnson, The World Trade Organization, World Food Program and World Economic Forum to start the Pandemic Supply Chain Network, with the goal of increasing supply chain efficiency. The partnership is a collaboration between public and private sectors that tracks global demand for medical supplies in order to coordinate the allocation and distribution of equipment during large scale public health emergencies.

In 2016, the UPS Foundation partnered with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Rwandan Ministry of Health and Zipline, a drone delivery service providing access to vital medical supplies, to establish the Rwanda Drone Delivery Network. The network is the world’s first drone delivery service whose mission is to provide medicine, vaccines and supplies to remote regions in Rwanda and Ghana. Making basic treatment more accessible is a crucial step toward achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal of universal healthcare coverage, particularly in isolated and underdeveloped areas.

Previously, UPS also joined with the Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction to provide tools and educational resources to healthcare workers about influenza vaccine administration. The organization works with low-income countries to build yearly influenza vaccination programs. These programs provide a strong existing infrastructure for vaccine distribution that can hold up during a pandemic. Through a $50,000 grant, The UPS Foundation funded the vaccination of more than 17,000 individuals in Armenia, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, as well as 130,000 health workers in Vietnam.

COVID-19 Response

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, UPS has taken an active role in supporting international recovery efforts. Through various grants and funding, The UPS Foundation has contributed a total of nearly $21 million toward humanitarian causes in 2020. The company hopes to increase the involvement of private-sector companies in relief efforts through partnerships. These partnerships would provide medical equipment, treatment, food and other basic necessities to vulnerable regions.

UPS joined Project Airbridge, a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and private-sector companies in numerous countries, to expedite the delivery of medical supplies to remote or vulnerable areas. With the help of its existing global supply chain, UPS is operating additional flights between several countries in Asia, Europe and the U.S. to aid in the distribution of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, surgical materials, thermometers and test kits.

UPS is also currently working with three COVID-19 vaccine developers and preparing to facilitate an eventual distribution and rollout. Its subsidiaries Polar Speed and Marken are using their storage facilities, designed to handle fragile and temperature-sensitive materials, to assist with holding and logistics.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, innovation and adaptation are critical skills in developing solutions. UPS has been a leader in supply chain logistics and is now using its expertise to provide global relief. The company’s ability to modify its operations to meet the world’s needs has been tested in the past and continues to show as UPS creates innovative solutions to humanitarian issues, both alone and through partnerships.

Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

Displacement in Burkina Faso
Over the last couple of years, the crisis of displacement in Burkina Faso, a small country in western Africa, has become the most pressing refugee situation on Earth. Violence and lack of resources have forced many into displacement and extreme poverty.

Astronomical Growth of the Crisis

The Displacement in Burkina Faso has been called the current fastest growing crisis of its kind—for the last two years, attacks carried out by armed groups have ravaged villages, causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. Since January of 2019, the number of people displaced in Burkina Faso, which has a total population of 18.6 million, has risen from 50,000 to around 920,000 as of July 2020. The United Nations has recognized that this is the fastest growing population of displaced people on the planet and that activists need to put their resources to work in Burkina Faso as quickly as possible.

Stable But Struggling Economy

Burkina Faso’s people do not benefit from its relatively stable macroeconomic status—Burkina Faso’s economy relies primarily upon agriculture, and though this sector has seen a decline, the rising service sector has allowed the country’s GDP growth to remain 6% in 2019. Yet, Burkina Faso’s people remain largely impoverished: over 40% of its population lives below the poverty line.

The displacement crisis, of course, has not helped the matter. It has caused over 2,000 schools to close, among other major losses in massive fields like medicine. 11,000 teachers felt the impact of this mass closing, and around 300,000 students found themselves without an education.

Lack of Governmental Regulation

Authorities do not know the extent of the situation—the armed groups terrorizing Burkina Faso, some linked with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, have caused the administrative presence in the northern and eastern regions of the country to virtually disappear. Official regulation throughout the nation has deteriorated as a result. Police and other representatives of the state have fled these areas, which have unofficially fallen to terrorist control.

Moreover, the administration of Burkina Faso has resorted to execution without trial; 60 such executions occurred in 2019 alone. These circumstances make it difficult to say exactly how many lives have been affected by this crisis.

Humanitarian Organizations Strain to Help

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other humanitarian organizations need major funding to solve this issue: In response to the massive spread of displacement in Burkina Faso, IOM has begun a project to provide shelter and other resources to displaced people. Through their efforts, IOM delivered on its promise to more than 3,000 people in Burkina Faso. IOM also managed to provide psychological care for over 5,000 displaced people.

However, most of all, IOM needs outside funding to expand the scope of its aid. In June of 2020, IOM appealed for $37.8 million, hoping to extend aid to 460,000 displaced people in Burkina Faso and other neighboring countries.

Displacement and COVID-19

Burkina Faso needs aid for its COVID-19 response as well. The pandemic and displacement in Burkina Faso have created a dual-threat situation for the nation’s people. However, officials at IMO warn that both issues require the world’s attention. Neither of the relief efforts should suffer for the other’s sake—the rise of one issue inevitably worsens the other.

IMO has dedicated itself to solving both problems. They have provided medical supplies and raised awareness, helping over 3,282 displaced people become more aware of the pandemic situation.

Burkina Faso faces an issue that perhaps lies outside the bounds of what its government can overcome alone. Humanitarian agents around the globe need to immediately provide resources in order to alleviate the suffering in this once prosperous nation by helping it fight COVID-19 and its growing displacement crisis.

– Will Sikich
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in South Africa
Reports of COVID-19 fill the news and media daily. From increases in cases and closures to decreases in fatality rates and re-openings, the news channels are consumed by COVID-19 headlines. However, one thing not covered much in the media is how African nations are faring during these uncertain times. South Africa is currently leading the African continent in the number of COVID-19 cases, and there is seemingly no end in sight. Here is a look at the specific impact of COVID-19 in South Africa.

Lockdown

COVID-19 in South Africa follows a similar origin path as the rest of the world, where the virus went undetected or misdiagnosed for weeks, maybe months, before its first confirmed positive case appeared. South Africa, like most nations, went into lockdown in late March. The South African government, as of April 27, 2020, planned to gradually loosen restrictions beginning on May 1, 2020.

The level of strictness for lockdowns varies from country to country. South Africa is one of the nations implementing strict restrictions for its lockdown. The country has been on Level 5 restrictions. Level 5 restrictions prohibit citizens from performing the majority of activities, including leisurely ones such as exercise or going to the convenience store. Furthermore, the police may confront anyone who leaves their dwellings.

Numbers

The reported numbers in South Africa are much lower than those reported around the world. This may be the result of strict lockdown enforcement as opposed to some nations with looser lockdown restrictions. As of April 28, 2020, the African country reported 4,996 confirmed coronavirus cases and 93 deaths. South Africa is also experiencing a recovery rate of approximately 25 percent, which is a significant factor in the government’s decision to begin loosening restriction laws.

Despite large numbers of recovering patients, COVID-19 in South Africa has not gone away. The number of cases continues to rise, much like the rest of the world. On March 5, 2020, South Africa diagnosed its first patient with COVID-19. On April 15, 2020, the nation had a total of 2,605 confirmed cases, with 4,996 by the end of April. Although the virus is not going away anytime soon, South Africans are certainly doing their part to reduce the spread of the virus.

Social Distancing

Social distancing is the practice of remaining apart from others to decrease the spread of the virus. South Africa has been on lockdown and enforcing social distancing since late March, about a month after the nation diagnosed its first COVID-19 patient. On May 1, the government loosened the restrictions to Level 4. Level 4 restrictions consist of the ability to travel nationally, but not internationally. A few small local businesses also opened.

Moving Forward

In South Africa and around the world, people are social distancing and quarantining. For COVID-19 to be successfully tackled in South Africa, the nation must continue to prioritize the health of its citizens and financially support those who are struggling with unemployment and poverty. This will hopefully result in a significant drop in the number of cases in the country. Moving forward, South Africa and other nations around the world should use the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for future pandemics and epidemics.

– Cleveland Lewis 
Photo: Flickr

Understanding the Venezuela Crisis
Venezuela’s socioeconomic debacle has been grabbing headlines over the past few years, especially as the crippling inflation rate—recently eclipsing 10,000 percent—hit the country’s economy and began to unravel its health sector. But these are just two of the key components to understanding the Venezuela crisis and its various impacts as the humanitarian crisis continues to debilitate the region following many years of unrest.

Many Years of Strife

Since the death of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2013 and the appointment of the current leader, Nicolás Maduro, the country has experienced a dire financial crisis as a result of low oil prices and financial mismanagement. Various power struggles and changes within the country’s National Assembly marked the political and humanitarian crisis that ensued.

The country’s military largely continues to back Maduro despite domestic, international and widespread condemnation of his authoritarian government. The political crisis has now spread to all levels of the economy and society, with nearly 4.5 million individuals having fled Venezuela due to the escalating unrest.

Following anti-government protests in 2014 after the victory of Maduro’s party the previous year, the economy and health care sector began their plunge and had all but collapsed by 2016. Malnutrition, child mortality and unemployment rates began to rise as a result. The United Nations estimates that the undernourishment rate in the country has quadrupled since the year 2012, putting more than 300,000 lives at risk due to limited access to medical treatment and medicines. Aid and relief efforts continue to face major hindrances due to mounting strife.

As the economic and humanitarian crisis grew over recent years, there was significant backlash and condemnation from foreign nations including the U.S. followed by significant international sanctions, especially over the increasingly authoritarian measures that Maduro took to pass laws autonomously and virtually unchecked.

Venezuela’s Refugee Crisis

Another dimension to understanding the Venezuela crisis is its refugee crisis as the economic and political problems have resulted in a dire humanitarian emergency. Since the beginning of the crisis back in 2014, over 4.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country. Mass displacement and humanitarian challenges continue mostly unabated due to integration obstacles, immigration and border pressures.

In 2019, the UNHCR-led joint effort, the Regional Refugee and Migrant Rescue Response Plan, along with the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) called for the provision of $738 million in assistance to countries in the Caribbean and Latin America that were dealing with the impacts of the migrant exodus. Unfortunately, the Venezuelan refugee crisis remains one of the most underfunded in the world.

Aid and Other Positive Developments

Throughout 2019, the Venezuelan government under Maduro refused aid relief headed by Brazil, Colombia and the U.S., relying on Russia’s 300 tons of humanitarian assistance instead which included food as well as medical supplies. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been overseeing foreign aid, especially medical and food supplies from Russia and other countries. However, at the same time, aid relief and efforts such as the distribution of crucial medicines have stalled owing to the escalating political crisis and mounting corruption.

The U.S. and President Donald Trump have not only pledged humanitarian financial assistance but have declared their support for the democratic opposition group led by Juan Guaidó. In October 2019, USAID signed a major development agreement with Guaidó’s shadow government, thereby raising aid and assistance to $116 million and allocating a further $568 million to helping Venezuelans displaced by the conflict. Though the U.S. and its allies remain committed to toppling Maduro’s regime and reinstating rule of law, they are in serious conflict with Maduro’s international allies, namely Russia, Turkey and China.

Hope for the Future

The Center for Prevention Action from the Council on Foreign Relations believes it is imperative to consider important policy options to help promote democracy as well as channel crucial humanitarian aid and assistance, perhaps even by means of forced humanitarian intervention and post-transition stabilization.

Even though the Venezuelan crisis at times may seem to be reaching an impasse, it remains possible that the humanitarian and pro-democracy efforts of foreign powers could ultimately lead to a post-Maduro scenario. The year 2020 will be an important year in determining the ultimate fate of the country and the internal power struggles. The international community will hold an indispensable role in helping to create a better understanding of the Venezuela crisis and to help create a promising future for the country.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

refugee crisisThe question regarding what should be done about the refugee crisis is currently one of the most heated debates in Congress. But, where does each Democratic Candidate stand on the refugee crisis? Here are the Democratic candidates on immigration.

Joe Biden

Former U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden, is primarily focused on addressing the Southern border crisis by admitting more refugees and asylum-seekers, particularly from Central America. When referring to refugees and immigrants Biden stated, “We could afford to take in a heartbeat another two million. The idea that a country of 330 million cannot afford people who are in desperate need and who are justifiably weak and fleeing depression is absolutely bizarre.”

Cory Booker

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey similarly plans to expand pathways for refugees and asylum-seekers as well as to address the root causes of migration and the refugee crisis. Not only does Booker hope to increase the cap on refugees but also staffing at the border to assist with interviews and to improve in-country refugee processing. Additionally, Booker plans to investigate the root causes of migration through the lens of corruption, violence, poverty and climate change by creating a role in the State Department. He is committed to spending foreign aid in order to address the root causes of the refugee crisis.

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana hopes to return the refugee admissions target to 110,000 or potentially more. Buttigieg believes letting in more refugees will “help grow our tax base and plug labor gaps as Americans age.” Buttigieg also wants to help other countries resettle refugees and integrate them into society so that resettlement will be mutually beneficial. Ultimately, Buttigieg hopes to change the discussion around immigrants and refugees. He stated on Twitter, “Immigrants and refugees are not a problem that we need to handle; they are an asset to our nation and an essential part of the fabric of this country—our policies must reflect that.”

Amy Klobuchar

The two primary plans Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has for addressing the refugee crisis are reinstating the 110,000 refugees cap while simultaneously increasing spending on foreign aid. In order to process this number of refugees, Klobuchar would reopen the International U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices. Klobuchar would also accept more Muslim refugees into the country because she adamantly opposes the “Muslim Ban.” Klobuchar believes that a strengthened vetting process for visitors and refugees would eliminate any need for this ban. Additionally, Klobuchar plans to increase foreign aid and the State Department’s budget to address the current crisis and deter future crises by promoting global stability.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has a platform of immigration reform that is “grounded in civil and human rights.” He plans to achieve these values by changing the treatment of individuals at the border, such as ending family separation, the detention of children at the border and the detention of asylum seekers while their applications are being processed. Sanders plans to end the United States’ for-profit detention centers entirely. Additionally, Sanders wants to support refugees globally by providing foreign aid to other host countries to create an international community committed to resettling refugees and ending the refugee crisis it created.

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has the most progressive target for resettlement. If elected, Warren aims to resettle 125,000 refugees in the U.S. in her first year in office and then at least 175,000 by the end of her first presidential term. She hopes to address the refugee crisis by providing foreign aid in Central America in order to stabilize this region. Warren plans to implement a system that would make it easier for asylum seekers to get a day in court. She has also stated she will reduce immigration detention for all immigrants crossing the border.

Andrew Yang

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang is most concerned with the crisis occurring in Venezuela. Yang wants to both support the Venezuelan people through humanitarian aid and through distributing foreign aid to the countries that are admitting massive numbers of Venezuelan refugees. Although Venezuela is Yang’s primary concern, he also plans to work with the entire international community in order to address the global refugee crisis. Yang believes that the U.S. should disengage in military efforts abroad attempting to promote peacekeeping because these efforts are causing more destabilization than peace.

There is a lot to consider when choosing who to vote for in the 2020 Presidential Election. However, the refugee crisis has certainly been a priority. There are currently 25.9 million refugees and 41.3 million internally displaced people throughout the world. The need for a president that understands the importance of diplomacy and foreign aid spending when it comes to addressing the refugee crisis is, therefore, imperative.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone Idai Health CrisisOn March 14, 2019, disaster struck southern Africa in the form of Cyclone Idai, a category 2 tropical storm that ravaged through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Idai made landfall in Beira, Mozambique, a large port city of more than 530,000 citizens. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies asserts that 90 percent of Beira has been destroyed in the wake of Idai. The subsequent Cyclone Idai health crisis continues to challenge Southeast Africa.

As Idai strengthened along the coast of Africa, Mozambique and Malawi experienced severe flooding resulting from heavy rainfall. The cyclone destroyed roads and bridges, with a death toll of 1007. Hundreds more are still missing. Sustained winds of over 150 mph damaged the crops, homes and livelihoods of thousands throughout southeast Africa. To top it all off, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are experiencing a major health crisis in southeast Africa in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.

Cholera and Malaria

As of May, more than 6,500 cases of cholera have been reported. This intestinal infection is waterborne, commonly caused by drinking unsanitary water. In Mozambique, a country already vulnerable to poverty, the cholera outbreak exacerbates the adverse effects of Cyclone Idai. Cholera can be fatal without swift medical attention, though prompt disaster relief response and a successful vaccination campaign made significant strides in containing the outbreak.

In addition to cholera outbreak, cases of malaria are rising, with nearly 15,000 cases reported since March 27. Malaria is transmitted through Anopheles mosquito bites, insects that flourish in the standing flood waters of Idai. According to WHO, almost half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, with the majority of cases and deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. Relief efforts prepared for the outbreaks by arming health professionals with antimalarials and fast-acting diagnostic tests.

Cyclone Idai Health Crisis Relief Efforts

The health crisis in Southeast Africa following Cyclone Idai received swift aid response. Disaster relief efforts prepared vaccinations and medications beforehand, ensuring that medical response was efficient and effective. The total recovery cost for the damage inflicted on Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe is estimated at over $2 billion. The tropical storm affected upward of three million Africans.

WHO delivered 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine retrieved from the global emergency stockpile. Further, the organization plans to create multiple cholera treatment centers in hopes of containing the outbreak. World Vision is concentrating their efforts on the spread of this infectious disease. The humanitarian aid group is working alongside UNICEF to distribute cholera kits with soap and water purification tablets.

Rapid aid efforts also met the spike in malaria cases to combat the Cyclone Idai health crisis. WHO secured 900,000 bed nets treated with a strong insecticide to prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. However, children and infants are at major risk, as malaria is considered the third most deadly disease to this population. The hefty humanitarian response and support necessary to help Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe has prompted UNICEF to launch an appeal for $122 million for the next nine months.

-Anna Giffels
Photo: Pixabay

 agricultural sector

Kyrgyzstan is a mostly mountainous country situated between Kazakhstan and China. Its population is mostly Kyrgyz, with an Uzbek minority. Most of the population lives in the flatland regions, with only sparse settlements in the mountains themselves. The country also ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world, with numerous contributing factors to its low GDP, including the agriculture sector in Kyrgyzstan. Since leaving the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan has lacked a reliable source of resources and funds beyond their own borders; and despite trade, they struggle economically with exports.

Compounding poverty, the agricultural sector of Kyrgyzstan also remains underdeveloped despite the nation’s progress. Despite accounting for 40 percent of the country’s labor force, agricultural workers experience widespread poverty and food shortages, especially those living in rural areas. The lack of progress and modernization in this area is coupled with a combination of economic weakness and lack of oversight from a shifting government to create a stagnant environment. However, the aid programs discussed below are boosting the agricultural sector.

Agriculture in Kyrgyzstan is mostly a local affair. Families grow food for themselves in what is called “sustenance farming.” Large-scale commercial farming is still small compared to similar operations in other countries. Despite this, several foreign aid programs have been implemented to improve the agricultural sector.

Aid Programs – IFAD

IFAD is an organization dedicated to helping rural communities in developing nations. Through low-interest loans and investments in helping poor households and communities, they help spur growth in these sectors and countries. In Kyrgyzstan, they focus specifically on improving livestock productivity and improving livestock farmers’ access to better markets.

The funded programs provide training in techniques for rural farmers while guiding them to better markets. These programs teach better business practices, which leads to greater earning potentials for families. Finally, natural disaster insurance is also provided for these same households and communities, protecting families against extreme weather.

USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program

One of two major agricultural endeavors in Kyrgyzstan, the Farmer-to-Farmer project was a program implemented over five years, finishing in 2018. Similar to IFAD, the program focused on families and communities who relied on small farms and agribusinesses for income. This included providing agricultural training to improve yield as well as business training to improve market reliability and profit. Without proper training, small farming businesses often yield small quantities of product not enough to constitute “food security.”
By the time the program was complete, 21 agricultural education assignments were completed. These included the education of local businesses – leading to newly established guidelines and quality standards for food – as well as students and graduate students of agriculture. The program reached a total of 4,320 recipients, with 3672 successfully trained.

Agro Horizon

The other major agricultural endeavor of USAID in Kyrgyzstan, Agro Horizon, is still ongoing. Partnering with several corporations, Agro Horizon has provided over $30 million dollars in aid. The focus has been on the commercialization and industrialization of Kyrgyzstan’s agriculture in an effort to make it more profitable.
The program’s investments have taken several forms, both in modernizing production and processing methods, as well as grants and training opportunities for over 100,000 households. Thanks to a partnership with a local agricultural producer, the first commercial-scale production of safflower seed was launched. Similarly, the first Kyrgyz modern slaughterhouse following international standards was established. The program has already helped establish 1,200 jobs providing more stable income than previous.

There are still many opportunities to improve agriculture in Kyrgyzstan. Areas of untapped potential and continued aid stand to make agriculture in the country not just sustainable, but profitable. So long as aid for the agricultural sector in Kyrgyzstan continues, Kyrgyztan’s agriculture sector might be able to pull itself up from its current state.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

the holdout province
While the world has breathed a collective sigh of relief following the September agreement made by Turkey and Russia – thus halting the advance of troops, the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib has yet to exhale. It remains one of the last rebel strongholds in the conflict. As world leaders work to decide Idlib’s political future, many workers toil to provide aid in the holdout province.

Aid in the Holdout Province

Presently the area known as the holdout province is home to three million people. There are around 1.5 million people living in the area who are internally displaced, having fled to escape previous rounds of fighting. This influx of people has stretched already scarce resources (housing, food and medicine) even more thinly.

The United Nations has been doing its part to help, both inside and out of the diplomatic arena. By running cross-border operations from Turkey, the U.N. has organized a convoy of more than 1,000 trucks to deliver winter supplies, such as blankets, coats, boats, gas stoves and plastic shelter materials. As winter approaches and nightly temperatures become cold – especially for those without proper housing – many will be glad to have the extra warmth.

Through its food assistance arm (The World Food Program or WFP), the U.N. is also doing what it can to give food aid in the holdout province. In October alone, the WFP was able to feed 3.2 million people. Food deliveries were able to reach 14 Syrian provinces, including the more isolated areas of Syria like the Aleppo, rural Damascus and Ar-Raqqa governorates, which fed almost 291,865. Specific packages addressing malnutrition and nutrient deficiency were provided to more than 100,000 children – reaching many in the holdout governorate.

Medical and Psychological Care

Medical attention is difficult to find in any conflict; keeping facilities well supplied and away from the fighting can be an impossible task. In September, four hospitals were damaged in attacks. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is combating this shortage, supporting ten health facilities, as well as two mobile clinics and four emergency response teams. The teams deliver kits stocked with clothing and sanitary supplies. Through the IRC’s efforts, 860,000 patients were treated in 2017, with 80,000 people being treated every month.

Still, while it’s easy to focus on the physical (visible) needs of survivors, the emotional needs of children often – out of necessity – go overlooked. However, the IRC operates a safe space that gives psychosocial support to children as well as providing the children with a place to learn and play. In the future, the IRC plans to distribute kits containing games, books and learning aid through this center. As a consequence of war, children are exposed to the harsh realities of life in a conflict zone; they are denied an education that would enable them to succeed as adults in peacetime. Even small learning toys and aids make a significant difference in light of the alternatives.

Current Negotiations

With the conflict stretching into its eighth year, recent peace talks have been referred to as “a glimmer of hope” by high ranking U.N. members. Syrian representatives have agreed to send 50 representatives to the negotiating committee, and have agreed to speak with 50 representatives from the opposition. Unfortunately, they have refused to ratify any representatives of Syrian civil society in the negotiations. Only fair, fully-represented and public negotiations can truly end the suffering in the country. Until then, aid in the holdout province must continue in order to help these refugees survive.

– John Glade
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Burkina Faso
The history of Western Africa country of Burkina Faso is layered with various conflicts and complicated cultural conduits. The desperation and vulnerability accompanying the Sahel region, a region in Africa between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south, and the food crisis in the region have affected much of the surrounding area, jeopardizing education, jobs and food security. Being in the middle of the crisis, the people of Burkina Faso have suffered immensely. With developmental assistance and diversification of agricultural exports, the crisis will gradually lessen and the economy will strengthen. In the article below, the top 10 facts about hunger in Burkina Faso are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Burkina Faso

  1. As of 2011, chronic malnutrition in Burkina Faso was at 34 percent and acute malnutrition was over 10 percent. Severe and acute malnutrition rates passed the emergency threshold in some parts of the country recently in relation to the Sahel food crisis. More than 10 percent of Burkina Faso children suffer from acute malnutrition. Another 30.2 percent of children experience growth stunting, a symptom corresponding to malnutrition.
  2. External debt increased to $3.6 billion in 2018 from $3.2 billion in 2016. Terrorism rose to 4.52 in 2018, the highest index ever recorded for the nation. Security in the country is frequently linked to limited employment availability, poverty, hunger and desperation.
  3. Though Burkina Faso experienced a boost of gross national income of 95.3 percent between 1990 and 2017 due partly to increased cotton production, it remains among the 10 poorest countries in the world. Around 45 percent of Burkina Faso’s population still lives below the poverty line or has an income lower than $1.25 per day.
  4. Swelling insecurity and sporadic attacks on the borders of Mali and Burkina Faso (and other countries in the Sahel region) plague agro-pastoral regions, forcing families to flee. The conflict and droughts have raged on since 2012 and displaced many, including the 24,000 Malian refugees who fled to Burkina Faso. Levels of violence are proportionate to the levels of child malnutrition and food shortage.
  5. The cost of food in Burkina Faso increased by 2.7 percent between August 2017 and August 2018. At the same time, less money is coming into Burkina Faso as exports fell from 602.2 units in July to 434.8 units in 2019.
  6. Cotton accounts for 70 percent of Burkina Faso’s exports. When Burkina Faso’s government phased out genetically engineered cotton seeds in 2017, cotton production plummeted. Farmers are worried the country will not regain ground unless the agricultural sector modernizes. Mali cotton production surpassed Burkina Faso for the first time in a decade. Studies reported by the Alliance for Science show the introduction of genetically engineered cotton to Burkina Faso led to a 22 percent increase in yield and households gained an average profit of 51 percent. However, the government’s rejection of genetically engineered cotton reversed all this progression, and drought and pasture shortages affected the highly agricultural country as well.
  7. Cotton agriculture employs about 20 percent of the working population, a number that has been challenged due to the struggling production and phasing out of genetically engineered seeds. Seidu Konatey, a local farmer, expressed in early 2018 that if the situation continues through 2019, his farm will abandon cotton production. Refugees and displaced families have very little job security, a number exacerbated by the conflicts in the Sahel region.
  8. Burkina Faso is a great example to show how a lower than the average Human Development Index can affect education. Country’s 1.5 mean years of schooling is well below the low Human Development Index bar of 4.7 years. The average number of school years in sub-Saharan Africa overall is 5.6 years, with Burkina Faso resting at the meager end of the scale.
  9. The World Food Program (WFP) has been helping those impacted by the Sahel food crisis since 2012 by providing treatment for acute malnutrition and dispensing food. WFP also distributes food and assistance to orphans and HIV patients and provides breakfast and school lunches to children in the Sahel region. Supporting farmers’ organizations by linking them with buyers, offering training, and restoring land, WFP combats hunger on many levels.
  10. The number of people from Burkina Faso in need of food quadrupled in 2018. The European Union directed $18.2 million in 2018 to Burkina Faso, ensuring children receive the nutrition and medicines they need. The EU gave treatment to 187,000 children under the age of 5 and launched a new disaster risk reduction program this year. This includes resilience methods such as safety nets and free health care.

Diversification of the agricultural force in Burkina Faso will help strengthen the market and shift the focus from stalling cotton crops toward the production of different products. Projects promoting greater production and technological advances in agricultural work towards lifting the extremely impoverished out of this cycle. Greater exports and modernization of the industry will contribute to less hunger and a more balanced economy that can alleviate food inflation. Humanitarian aid has made a difference, as these top 10 facts about hunger in Burkina Faso show, but millions of people are still in need of food security and medical assistance for acute malnutrition.

– Hannah Peterson
Photo: Flickr

Cuatro Por VenezuelaVenezuela continues to face an extreme humanitarian crisis with a failing economy, medicine and food shortages and violence. Thousands have fled, and many of those that remain are struggling to find the necessary resources to survive.

While there are many complex issues involved, alleviating the crisis in Venezuela is within the reach of virtually anyone who wants to contribute. The Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation is providing the way by collecting donations and resources from individuals throughout the world who want to get involved in the cause.

How Cuatro Por Venezuela alleviating the crisis in Venezuela?

In 2016, The Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation was founded by four Venezuelan women living in The United States. With the vision of fundraising to deliver resource packages to Venezuelans in need, they have made tremendous progress in a short amount of time, delivering supplies to more than 130 hospitals and institutions in 14 of the 23 states in Venezuela.

The foundation’s Health Program focuses on four core objectives: decreasing the medicine and medical supply shortages, preventing complications from chronic diseases, decreasing the resurgence of diseases through vaccinations and prevention methods and decreasing the mortality of hospitalized patients. The annual report for the organization showed that they served 17,375 medical patients last year.

The desperation associated with the medicine shortages and inflation in Venezuela has led to the rise of black markets. While these markets have created greater access to much-needed medicines, this accessibility comes at a great risk. José Oberto Leal, the President at the School of Medicine in Zulia, Venezuela, has “found that a lot of them [the drugs] have not been maintained at proper temperatures.”

The need for organizations, like Cuatro Por Venezuela, that can properly maintain and deliver these very medications is abundant in times like these. Its efforts are vital to alleviating further medical issues for locals in a time when medical institutions are unstable, understaffed and lacking in resources.

Other Projects by Cuatro Por Venezuela

Beyond fundraising and mailing supplies, the organization is getting involved on the ground alleviating the crisis in Venezuela. One of the foundation’s most recent projects, Projecto Nodriza in Petare, Caracas, is delivering food to mothers in the area to use to cook for their families. They are also sending nutritionists to guide local mothers on ways in which they can eat properly and provide proper natal care for their babies with limited resources.

The organization’s Food Program is its newest branch, having started in May 2017. In just seven months, 20,000 meals were delivered to orphanages, nursing homes and to local organizations that cook for the homeless. Meals were also delivered to rural schools, providing students with at least one meal a day on school days and weekends.

As the economy has failed, so too have the school systems in Venezuela. Annual school dropout rates have doubled since 2011, in part due to the inability of many low-income families to buy school uniforms, shoes, backpacks and other required supplies, according to the foundation. Cuatro Por Venezuela is not only addressing the health and food crises but it is also improving access to education for low-income children through a program called Schools with Smiles.

Cuatro Por Venezuela is alleviating the crisis in Venezuela on several levels. In doing so, they are providing a platform for ordinary people to get involved, whether it be through their grassroots initiatives on the ground in local communities or from afar through donations and resource packages. As a U.S. based foundation, Cuatro Por Venezuela’s grassroots initiatives allow them to have a meaningful impact on the lives of the people they serve and ensure that their donors’ dollars are making it to those communities as well.

While solving the grand issues behind the economic crisis in Venezuela may not be in the foundation’s repertoire, making a difference in the lives of those most affected by the crisis is. The efforts of Cuatro Por Venezuela, as well as those of its partners and donors, have and will continue to be a key part of alleviating the crisis in Venezuela.

– Julius Long

Photo: Flickr