Germany During COVIDCOVID-19 forced Germany to adapt to a new reality as it heavily impacted poverty, unemployment and inequality rates. NGO coalitions are supporting Germany during COVID-19 by providing relief sources for vulnerable individuals and children. On December 16, 2020, Germany initiated a COVID-19 lockdown that received an extension until March 7 to keep citizens safe from new COVID-19 variants. As Germany had suffered approximately 3.4 million cases and 3.1 million recoveries by May 5, 2021, the country has needed to adapt to a new reality during 2020. Government and NGO support formed the backbone for this transition.

Caritas Germany Association

Caritas Germany is a Catholic Welfare Charity Association that pioneered Catholic charity work in Germany since 1897. Recently, the association integrated safe volunteering methods while maintaining services in Caritas hospitals, elderly care facilities and other centers. It even created online services to train people as online counselors as part of a COVID-19 strategy to support Germany.

Approximately 693,082 people work with the association to support 13 million beneficiaries. To maintain contact with everyone during COVID-19, Caritas Germany utilized the Youngcaritas volunteer platform to teach people how to use digital devices through remote tutorials. Caritas Germany’s Press Spokeswoman, Mathilde Langendorf, talked with The Borgen Project. She explained that “our big aim is that no one falls through, that we continue to be able to reach out to people.”

Caritas’ counseling services received an “enormous boost from the pandemic,” making its aim even more crucial. The coalition trained thousands in counseling online during the first year of COVID-19. Langendorf described how 3,000 new people sought help every month on Caritas Germany’s online counseling platform in 2020. The platform even initiated two new counseling topics, regarding young adults and migration, in addition to the 15 already available.

In December 2020, Caritas Germany received 750,000 euros from the Generali insurance company. Langendorf told The Borgen Project that the funds will go toward approximately “21 [COVID-19] projects in 12 locations.” The projects range from training people to use digital tools to help families cope with the challenges of homeschooling.

The Association for Development Aid and Humanitarian Aid (VENRO)

The VENRO Germany coalition represents and advocates for the interests of 140 NGOs while strengthening NGO engagement in the field of development cooperation and humanitarian aid. VENRO’s 2017 to 2022 strategy focuses on protecting human rights, reducing poverty and conserving natural resources. Managing Director, Heike Spielmans, told The Borgen Project that VENRO Germany’s members include “almost all major German NGOs in this field.”

The coalition advocated for decreasing the value of government grants that NGOs have to match with their own funds from 25% to 10%. Spielman’s described how the coalition anticipates progress in a campaign “focused on a supply chain law to make companies take responsibility for their production and sourcing overseas with regard to human rights and environmental protection” before national elections in September 2021.

Government Policies Supporting Germany During COVID-19

A 2017 project authorized by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) was still in progress when COVID-19 hit. The project seeks to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 10 from the UN Agenda 2030, where no one is left behind. To continue this work, authorities implemented tax and unemployment schemes for vulnerable populations as companies reduced hours and even closed. Germany passed a bill in March 2020 prohibiting landlords from terminating leases or evicting tenants for unpaid rent. The bill also provides rent extensions until June 30, 2022.

On February 12, 2021, Germany’s Federal Government expanded the Bridging Aid II into the Bridging Aid III and Restart Help application portal for companies of all sizes to provide a restart grant of up to 7,500 euros until June 30, 2021. Businesses and self-employed individuals can apply for monthly assistance of up to 1.5 million euros.

Beyond the in-country support, Germany’s government also increased its 2020 humanitarian assistance in Venezuela in a virtual donor conference in May 2020. It promises to increase its contributions by 4 million euros, bringing the total to over 50 million. Germany also seeks to aid refugees. As its refugee cap decreased from 5,500 to 1,178 refugees in 2020, Germany is working to migrate the remaining refugees in 2021.

A Look Ahead

Germany’s government and NGOs stepped up to support Germany during COVID-19’s debilitating effects. Yet another example is how the German Parity Welfare Association, which represents 10,000 NGO organizations, transferred member seminars and workshops online to introduce NGO members to topics ranging from protecting child rights to digitizing work processes during COVID-19. Another NGO, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Germany, is helping German NGOs acquire laptops for beneficiary employment support, PPE and vaccinations. With so many organizations willing to help those in need, Germany can be optimistic about its future.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

displacement in MozambiqueThe ongoing insurgency in northern Mozambique started in 2017. Four years later, the revolt has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people becoming displaced.  The UNHCR has stated that as of March, the number of displaced people in Mozambique nears 700,000 and the total may exceed one million people by June 2021. As a result of this dire situation, Mozambique’s population is more susceptible to food insecurity and malnutrition. Additionally, those suffering from displacement in Mozambique are at an increased vulnerability to this continuing violence.

Violence in Cabo Delgado

The province of Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique has the highest population of people suffering from food insecurity in the country. According to The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), 770,000 people in Cabo Delgado are suffering from crisis and emergency levels of food insecurity. The community is desperate for aid, but it has been a struggle to obtain.

The violence in Cabo Delgado has interfered with the ability of humanitarian aid to provide people with food, water and health services. However, community members have stepped up. Displaced people have been able to find support from host communities in neighboring provinces. This decreases displacement issues but exacerbates the food crisis. Taking in extra families may jeopardize the food security of the host communities. It places an increased demand on already limited supply of resources.

Humanitarian Response

The nonprofit organization Doctors Without Borders has been helping Pemba, Cabo Delgado’s capital, since 1984. The nonprofit has seen a growing mental health crisis among the displaced people that come to Pemba. In response, Doctors Without Borders has also utilized games and activities to give people a place to grieve their losses and share their stores. The nonprofit has used conversation circles as a tool to allow people to safely express their emotions, as the experiences of many internally displaced people is traumatic. Doctors Without Borders also has a focus on physical health. The organization has built latrines in Mozambique and provided internally displaced people with clean water. Additionally, the nonprofit has teamed up with Mozambique’s Department of Health to respond to COVID-19, HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis C.

Save the Children is another humanitarian aid organization working in Cabo Delgado. So far, the organization has reached over 70,000 people, 50,000 being children. In Cabo Delgado, more than 27% of children have been displaced by violence and are unable to attend school. Save the Children offers adolescence programs that provide children with nutrition and the support they need to complete their education. There are also programs for younger children to ensure they don’t suffer from malnutrition and can attend pre-school. In terms of mental health, Save the Children provides therapy to help children deal with the trauma of being displaced. The organization also works toward prevention in addition to treatment, specifically through politics. Save the Children collaborates with the local government to mitigate the effects of displacement in Mozambique. The joint effort strives to prevent illness, strengthen agriculture and prepare children to be self-sufficient through formal skill training.

Looking Forward

Mozambique is in a difficult position to combat the persisting violence within the country. It cannot fight this crisis alone. The country needs aid from outside organizations. As the violence continues, displacement in Mozambique becomes a growing issue requiring a stronger humanitarian response. However, there is hope thanks to organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Save The Children. With continued and increased humanitarian aid in conjunction with the local government’s efforts, displacement in Mozambique can be diminished and the country can strive toward an end to its persisting violence.

Gerardo Valladares
Photo: Flickr

USAID Support to Yemen
USAID support to Yemen has been incredibly necessary for the past six years. As Yemen enters the sixth year of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, over 20 million people are on the brink of starvation. There are many factors causing this crisis to persist.

Religious Conflict

The rise of the Houthi movement, fueled by the Shiite rebellion to overthrow the Sunni government, began in 2014. Since then, the former Yemeni president not only joined the insurgence but also died at the hands of the rebels. From airstrikes that the Saudi government issued to the expansion of religious polarization, Yemen’s population remains in the middle of the turmoil.

Humanitarian Issues

Currently, 1.8 million children die each year on average primarily due to malnutrition. Before the start of the internal conflict, the economy was already on the decline. Now, most families lack access to basic necessities like food and vaccinations. The issue is not that these commodities are not physically available. Inflation has caused items such as drinking water or fruits and vegetables to no longer be affordable or accessible.

Still, in the early stages of development, the structural and financial state of Yemen has only worsened in the past six years. Though coalitions exist to help fight the rebellion and offer further support for Yemen, the Houthi continues to retaliate only continuing the warfare. This results in more than 17,500 innocent civilians either severely injured or deceased since the beginning of the war.

USAID Support to Yemen

The United States remains one of the largest donors of support for Yemen and provides help to over 8 million people each month. On March 1, 2021, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced almost $200 million in humanitarian aid for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. So far, the U.S. has donated approximately $3.4 billion in support of Yemen. While this includes funding towards the United Nations Food Program, the money also helps provide rehabilitation for the economy as well as communities across the country.

The crisis has left the general Yemeni public with dwindling medical support, food and water, and stay caught in the crossfire. With no end in sight, USAID support to Yemen is essential. Without help from the U.S., the statistics aforementioned could perhaps double over the next while. Moreover, although people may best know USAID for contributing financial support, it also works to move other donors into action. With continuous support each year, USAID is the main source of hope and support for not only Yemen but also other countries facing extreme poverty.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid in JordanThe U.S. provides foreign and humanitarian aid to countries around the world. In the country of Jordan where more than one million of its people live in poverty, humanitarian aid goes a long way. Providing aid from the United States means stronger U.S.-Jordan relations. Of the top 10 countries that received the most aid from the United States in 2019, Jordan was ranked at number three. Without a doubt, the U.S. provides for the overall well-being of this crucial ally through humanitarian aid in Jordan.

The Importance of Humanitarian Aid

The U.S. provided $1.5 billion worth of humanitarian aid to Jordan in 2020. The U.S. has additionally provided $1.7 billion to specifically help Syrian refugees in Jordan from the time the Syrian crisis began. This aid has been extremely crucial considering that many Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan in search of safety. Some of the aid contributes to updating medical facilities and enhancing critical infrastructure, which helps support the refugee crisis.

The U.S. and Jordan are also part of a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding that both countries signed in 2018. Under this Memorandum, the U.S. will provide $6.375 billion worth of assistance to Jordan over a span of five years. Much of this assistance helps improve infrastructure and contributes to the construction of schools across Jordan. The United States has also trained Jordanian citizens in various skills in the U.S. itself. By doing this, the U.S. is giving Jordanians a chance to take the skills back to their own country to start businesses or to apply for higher-skilled jobs in Jordan, which will all stimulate the economy of Jordan.

An Increasing Population

The humanitarian aid and other forms of assistance that the U.S. provides to Jordan are important for a variety of reasons. Jordan has also become home to refugees that have fled from conflict in Iraq. In just the last 20 years, there has been a population increase of 10 million within the country. Such a large increase in population in just a short time has raised the cost of living within Jordan. The healthcare system of the country has been stressed along with the education system and the available water supply due to this intense population growth. Humanitarian aid in Jordan is all the more important because it helps alleviate the strain.

How Providing Aid Benefits the US

Humanitarian aid in Jordan helps the U.S. in several ways. Both countries have similar values and goals with regard to peacekeeping, such as a positive Israel-Palestine relationship. Additionally, both countries want “an end to violent extremism that threatens the security of Jordan, the region and the entire globe.” Jordan’s commitment to bring lasting peace between Israel and Palestine and eradicate terrorism in the region assists broader U.S. interests. The reason Jordan is so invested in the Israel-Palestine relationship is that Jordan is home to many Palestinians, most of which are the descendants of Palestinian refugees. Therefore, Jordan feels a deep sense of responsibility to the Palestinian people.

U.S. humanitarian aid in Jordan has far-reaching benefits. Aid is vital to the well-being of the Jordanian people, its Syrian refugees and the broader relationship between the U.S. and Jordan.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

CARE’s Aid to EgyptDespite the richness of Egypt’s history, the country faces several issues that affect the nation’s people. Among them are education, women’s rights, agricultural development and governance. However, the organization called CARE is working extensively to help resolve these pressing issues in Egypt. CARE’s aid to Egypt provides the necessary support to a struggling population.

Current Issues in Egypt

Egypt’s education system has made a number of improvements. As of 2017, the literacy rate in Egypt among youths was at 94%. Furthermore, the amount of elementary-aged children in Egypt not attending school has decreased to 50%. One particular concern regarding the Egyptian education system, however, is the increasing population in Egypt. The population increase puts strain on the educational system because it leads to overcrowded classrooms, capacity shortages and a greater need for educational funding to support this.

Women’s rights in Egypt is another issue of concern for the country. In 2015, the Global Gender Index gave Egypt a rank of 136 out of 145 countries regarding inequities between men and women of Egypt. This low ranking is evidenced by the fact that women’s participation in the labor force is only 26% in comparison to 79% for men. Furthermore, women’s literacy stands at 65% in comparison to 82% for men.

Agriculture is vitally important to the Egyptian economy. About 11.3% of Egypt’s GDP comes from this sector. Of the entire Egyptian workforce, around 28% of it is employed in the agricultural sector. Upper Egypt relies heavily on agriculture with 55% of the population employed in the sector. The Egyptian agricultural sector struggles due to the use of traditional farming methods that hinder productivity and do not align with international standards.

CARE Addresses Egyptian Education

One of CARE’s focuses regarding Egyptian education is children who live in poverty. CARE works to ensure that children still have access to education despite the economic situation they find themselves in. CARE works to improve education in Egypt by assisting the Egyptian Ministry of Education (MOE). The MOE has what is called Readability Units to help improve literacy among students. CARE works directly with these Readability Units to better improve teaching methods and monitor the progress of both students and teachers.

CARE Supports Women’s Rights

CARE helps to support women’s rights by fighting gender-based violence (GBV) in Egypt. CARE’s women’s rights program helps support efforts to raise awareness about GBV and provide assistance to survivors.

The Safe Cities Free of Violence project has been protecting Egyptian women and girls since 2012 by ensuring GBV-free, safe neighborhoods in specific areas. Through field activities, people are educated on gender-based violence matters. Furthermore, survivors are provided help through four pillars: health access and medical care, safety, legal and psychosocial. During the 2016-2017 period, the GBV program directly benefited more than 16,000 women and girls.

CARE’s aid to Egypt also helps women economically by using the village savings and loan associations (VSLA) strategy. The purpose of the VSLA is to give lower-income people the opportunity to save money and access loans to improve economic stability. This also contributes to ensuring financial inclusion for impoverished people. Since 2009, the VSLA has helped more than 54,000 people, 95% of whom were women.

CARE Helps Agriculture and Governance

CARE recognizes that the traditional agricultural practices in Egypt are not the most beneficial or productive. CARE reaches out to small-scale farmers to teach them more efficient farming techniques to better improve their productivity. Our Children’s Wheat program has provided agricultural training to 172 farmers growing maize. An additional 2039 farmers were trained on growing wheat crops productively.

Furthermore, CARE has long been working toward improving governance in Egypt. Focusing on regional level governance, CARE wants to better improve the way regional governments provide for citizens. CARE also wants these regional governments to be more accountable when it comes to addressing the needs of citizens. It has established governance and social accountability initiatives and practices to ensure improvement in this area.

The Road Ahead

Despite the hardships Egypt faces, the country is receiving significant support from CARE. This support is especially significant in areas where the government lacks the resources to fulfill the needs of its citizens. CARE’s aid in Egypt provides hope to a struggling population for a future that goes beyond simply surviving to fully thriving.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Women and Children in YemenThe impacts of the war in Yemen continue to cause tremendous humanitarian suffering, with more than 24 million people in need of assistance. The persisting armed and political conflicts in Yemen have already reversed human development by 21 years, leaving around 19.9 million lacking sufficient healthcare and 16.2 million experiencing food insecurity. The humanitarian crisis disproportionately impacts women and children in Yemen as they are more vulnerable to mortality, malnutrition, violence and health issues.

Women and Children in Yemen

In 2019, more than 12 million children in Yemen needed humanitarian assistance and 2 million children were not attending school before COVID-19 even set in. In 2020, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Acute Malnutrition analysis analyzed 133 districts in southern Yemen. The analysis reveals a 15.5% increase in young children experiencing severe acute malnutrition. This fact puts 98,000 children at risk of death unless an urgent intervention exists.

In 2018, Yemen’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) value was 0.834 compared to the world average of 0.439. This reflects the female struggle to improve well-being due to gender disparities that affect reproductive health, education, employment and more. The conflict and impact of COVID-19 in Yemen have increased food insecurity and affected nutrition and access to health services, leaving at least 250,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women requiring malnutrition care in 2020.

The crisis in Yemen has disproportionately affected women and increased their rates of poverty, hunger and displacement.

The Effects of the Crisis in Yemen on Women and Children

  • Increased gender-based violence and sexual violence.
  • Roughly 75% of the displaced population consists of women and children.
  • Increased widowhood leaving women susceptible to poverty.
  • Lack of adequate healthcare access can severely damage women’s reproductive health.
  • Increased incidents of child marriage.
  • Lack of educational access due to destroyed infrastructure and school closures.

Save the Children

Save the Children is the largest aid organization in Yemen. Its teams are assisting children in receiving essential care. The organization, which began responding to the crisis in Yemen in 2015, has provided more than 3 million children with life-saving care. The teams attend to children younger than 5 years old who are experiencing malnutrition. Save the Children also has temporary learning programs in place to address the lack of education during the conflict. The organization has also supported nearly 100,000 parents to secure the basic needs of their children.

UNICEF

UNICEF responded to the crisis in Yemen by providing physical, mental and medical health care services to children and families. In 2019, UNICEF reached more than 390,000 children and parents/guardians with psychosocial support. UNICEF also gave measles inoculations to more than 556,000 children and reached 2.3 million children under 5 with primary healthcare services.

Women, Peace and Security (WPS)

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda aims to strengthen women’s participation, reallocate power and protect women’s rights in various countries. Women’s organizations, civil society, government agencies and U.N. entities collaborated to develop a National Action Plan (NAP) for Yemen in 2019 that aligns with the WPS Agenda to protect women and increase women’s involvement in political, economic and social expansion. The NAP should meet its goals between 2020-2022. The main objectives are:

  • Increase women’s engagement in decision-making roles.
  • Prevent violence against women and increase women’s protection from violence.
  • Provide support to girls and women affected by violations and abuse.
  • Make efforts for women’s empowerment and education.
  • Include women in humanitarian aid and relief programs.

The above organizations and strategies work to ensure the health, protection and well-being of millions of women and children in Yemen. This support can safeguard the world’s most vulnerable groups during times of crisis and conflict.

Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

involvement in the war in YemenPresident Biden announced his plan to end all U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen in February 2021. The President stated the U.S. will take on a mediator role with a focus on ending the war instead. This reversal is one of many steps Biden feels will serve as a course correction for U.S. foreign policy. The Trump administration and many others prior have often taken the side of foreign authoritarian leaders all for the sake of stability. This has only aggravated the humanitarian crises in conflict-riddled countries like Yemen. The U.S. is working to remedy its contribution to the dire state of war-torn Yemen.

Effects of the War in Yemen

The military conflict created mass instability throughout the country of Yemen. As a result, Yemen experienced extreme poverty, starvation, violence and the displacement of millions of people. Thus, the situation in Yemen has been labeled as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. More than 24 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. This includes more than 12 million vulnerable children.

About 4.3 million people have lost their homes due to displacements. Additionally, more than 230,000 people have died as a result of the consequences of war and conflict in Yemen. This includes more than 3,000 children. Furthermore, more than 20,100 airstrikes have been conducted on Yemen. The Obama administration conducted an estimated 185 airstrikes over eight years while the Trump administration conducted nearly 200 in four years. These attacks contributed to more than 17,500 deaths and injuries. Moreover, the airstrikes have destroyed schools, hospitals, water wells, civilian homes and other essential infrastructure.

USAID in Yemen

While the U.S. has played a significant role in creating the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, the nation is also the leading contributor of foreign aid to Yemen. According to the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), the U.S. has provided more than $1.1 billion of foreign aid to Yemen since 2019. This aid has provided funding for food, shelter, medical care and other essential resources. In addition, USAID states that the U.S. allocates funding for development initiatives that focus on helping put the country on a stable path to recovery and prevent continued dependence on humanitarian aid.

The U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen is shifting from tactical to mediation. This is putting the nation on the path to recovery. Furthermore, the end of the war benefits Yemeni civilians and the U.S. economy. As the U.S. is pulling out of the offensive efforts, the foreign aid provided to Yemen can be fully utilized.

President Biden emphasizes the importance of this decision in his foreign policy address, stating, “this war has to end.” He decided to take a step in the opposite direction of the last two administrations, including the Obama administration in which he served as vice president. Additionally, President Biden claims this decision to be one of many in a plan to restore U.S. emphasis on diplomacy, democracy and human rights.

Kendall Couture
Photo: Flickr

Failed Humanitarian AidSeveral failed humanitarian efforts can be attributed to the fact that some programs developed with good intentions fail to take into account the local context in which they are implemented. Others are simply poorly executed. But, no matter the type of failure, failed humanitarian aid projects teach valuable lessons. If heeded, these lessons can ensure the success of future programs.

Unanswered Calls to a GBV Hotline in Kenya

Research shows that domestic violence affects 35% of women worldwide. Additionally, male partners are responsible for 38% of the murders of women.

Furthermore, gender-based violence across the globe perpetuates poverty. For example, violence and the fear of violence, affect the performance of girls and women in their educational pursuits as well as employment. It often results in girls dropping out of school and women leaving their jobs, thereby limiting their independence.

In 2015, NGOs like Mercy Corps and the International Rescue Committee implemented a toll-free hotline in Kenya. The hotline intended to make it easier to file reports of gender-based violence (GBV) and speed up criminal investigations and litigation.

Investigative reporting revealed that for parts of 2018, the gender violence hotline was out of order. When it was working, sometimes the experts manning the hotline were not escalating reports to the police. In addition, there were other staffing and technical issues. Also, several police officers were not aware that such a hotline existed.

Abandoned Cookstoves in India

Indoor air pollution is a leading risk factor for premature deaths globally. Global data reveals that death rates from indoor air pollution are highest in low-income countries.

In 2010, former U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, launched the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves initiative. The U.N. backed the $400 million initiative with the intention of reducing indoor air pollution in India.

Most of the clean cookstoves built were abandoned four years later, despite initial success. There are several reasons for the abandonment. Research found that the clean cookstoves required people to pay closer attention while cooking and necessitated longer cooking times. The stoves would also break down and then went unrepaired. Households also found it restrictive that the stoves could not be moved outside.

Repurposed Public Restrooms in Kenya

One in three people worldwide do not have access to improved sanitation and 15% of the world resort to open defecation. Lack of proper sanitation increases the risk of infectious diseases and diarrhoeal diseases. It is important to acknowledge that unsafe sanitation accounts for 5% of deaths in low-income countries.

On World Toilet Day in 2014, the Ministry of Devolution launched a program to construct 180 public toilets in the Kibera slum. The arm of government involved in construction built the toilets and sewer lines that would connect to the main sewage line. Local youth groups managed the restrooms. Water shortages and sewer lines in disrepair quickly decommissioned multiple toilets. The youth groups did not have the resources to address these issues so they then decided to rent out the restroom spaces for other purposes.

Focusing on the Lessons

These failed humanitarian aid projects were well-intentioned and there are key lessons to learn from each case.

The failed hotline in Kenya demonstrates the importance of program monitoring and investment follow-through. Efforts to foster awareness had little impact and staffing and technical issues went unaddressed.

The unused cookstoves in India show the importance of understanding the day-to-day needs of the people the program intends to help. The desire to cook outside while avoiding extended cooking times swayed people away from using the stoves.

The restrooms in Kenya lacked sufficient monitoring once handed over to youth groups. The youth groups also did not have the necessary support or resources to address the challenges that quickly became insurmountable financial obstacles for the groups.

By taking these lessons forward to new projects, people can leverage the understanding of failed humanitarian aid projects of the past as a way to promote future success.

Amy Perkins
Photo: pixabay

Yemen's humanitarian crisisCaught in a civil war rife with ongoing violence costing thousands of lives, Yemen is currently the most impoverished country in the Middle East and is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is a matter of urgency as roughly 24 million Yemenis depend on foreign aid for survival.

Houthis Terrorist Designation

On January 10, 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Yemen’s Houthis group would be designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. The designation went into effect on January 19, 2021, only a day before the new presidential administration would see Pompeo exit his position. This decision has drawn international concerns and criticisms as it is feared that the label would pose major challenges to U.S.-Yemen relations.

As foreign aid must go through the Houthis in order to be allocated to the people of Yemen, this act would further complicate the distribution of essential aid from the U.S. and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Meanwhile, it has equally evoked a necessity to put the spotlight back on Yemen’s dire state of relentless and unforgiving civil war.

Conflict and Corruption in Yemen

Since North and South Yemen unified in 1990 to form the present state of Yemen, the country has struggled with internal unity due to the inherent religious and cultural divide among citizens. However, these differences became increasingly visible in 2014, when Yemen experienced a period of unrest throughout its population after Yemen’s president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, lifted fuel subsidies, threatening an aggravated state of poverty and food insecurity throughout the nation.

Frustrated with the pervasive corruption within the administration, widespread protests would encourage the Houthi rebels to consolidate power and take over Yemen’s Government the same year. In an effort to regain control over the region, Saudi Arabia utilized military intervention to overthrow the Houthis with the aid of foreign powers such as France, the United States and the United Kingdom. However, this conflict only set the stage for the calamity to come.

Since the Houthi takeover and the Saudi-led intervention, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has seen more than 200,000 fatalities recorded as a result of direct and indirect effects of the country’s civil war.

Signs of Promise

While the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization throws a wrench into the already complex relationship dynamic between the United States and Yemen, there are three signs of promise:

  • Following Pompeo’s announcement, the United States exempted organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Nations to continue essential aid to Yemen and allowed for exports of agricultural commodities and medicine.
  • On January 25, 2021, the United States approved a month-long exemption that would allow transactions to take place between the U.S and the Houthis.
  • The new secretary of state, under the Biden Administration, Antony Blinken, has pledged to review the terrorist designation of the Houthis — a reassuring statement for the stability of aid to Yemen’s people.

Despite this setback, the designation has nevertheless raised an opportunity to bring our attention back to Yemen’s tumultuous state. Revitalized efforts of diplomacy may inspire more substantial action in order to address Yemen’s growing humanitarian crisis.

Alessandra Parker
Photo: Flickr

Helping Hand“My favorite part of Helping Hand packing days is seeing everyone work together. The entire group helps each other with deciding which category an item should go into and where to find that category’s box.” In an interview with The Borgen Project, Bisma Ahmed talked about her experience participating in the packing events organized by Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD). “It makes me feel great knowing that children in need across the world will be wearing the very clothes I am packing.”

Helping Hand for Relief and Development

Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) is a nonprofit organization that fights global poverty by improving access to clean water, feeding the hungry, providing healthcare and rebuilding places affected by natural disasters. In addition to emergency relief, it also has long-term development programs. These include efforts to promote education and literacy, orphan support campaigns and rehabilitation and disability programs. In the 15 years that it has been in service, Helping Hand has worked in more than 85 countries across the globe.

Focusing on the Vulnerabilities of Asia and Africa

The main areas that Helping Hand addresses are countries in Asia and Africa as most of the 689 million people living below the poverty line are in these two continents. A few notable countries that have benefited from Helping Hand’s work include Pakistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Somalia, Tunisia, Kenya and Haiti. The organization also provides benefits to refugees including the refugees of Rohingya, Syria and Palestine.

In 2019, through the long-term empowerment program, Helping Hand assisted 6,140 vulnerable people with skills development training in Pakistan, Jordan, Afghanistan and Kenya. In 16 different countries, 19,100 children, including orphans and refugees, received an education through Helping Hand scholarships and education programs. The organization also provided daily healthcare to 160,900 Rohingya refugees and benefited 1.2 million people through its water, hygiene and sanitation programs.

The organization’s recent campaigns include the Beirut Relief Fund, the HHRD COVID-19 Crisis Response, and most recently, Global Winter Revisions, a campaign allowing donors to send winter packages to places where they are needed most.

Packing Day: The Mid-Atlantic Region

Every year, the U.S. regions of Helping Hand set a goal for how many containers of clothes to send as aid overseas. The 2020 goal was to send 10 40-foot containers.

Now and then, the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region of Helping Hand has packing days where volunteers come together and sort donated clothes for shipment to the needy all around the world. Naveed Ahmed, the regional manager for Helping Hand’s Mid-Atlantic area, explained the benefit of the Helping Hand packing days. “The purpose is many, in my opinion. We’re engaging the local community and we’re opening our doors to show what Helping Hand is all about.” According to Naveed Ahmed, most of the success of the packing days comes from the organization’s personal connections with local donors, including large businesses and companies.

Helping Hand packing days have been going on in all of its U.S. regions since its founding in 2005. In 2019 alone, the $55 million worth of clothing items or in-kind gifts benefited 12 million people in 10 different countries.

The clothing items go wherever the team believes the need is. Helping Hand holds offices in Jordan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Haiti and Kenya, making the organization fully part of the clothes distribution process. The teams in those areas inform the U.S. national team of the amount and types of clothing that are needed. The U.S. regions then start collecting, packing and sending the clothes out.

Typically, the packing events surround a specific global issue or national relevance. For example, the last packing event that the Mid-Atlantic region had was for Giving Tuesday. The packed donations went toward the Helping Hand Winter Relief Campaign. A week later, they had another packing event, this time dedicated to loading the boxes into the containers.

Packing for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The Mid-Atlantic region has a packing day for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January. “We usually like to have a day of service on that day,” Naveed Ahmed said. “Usually, students and volunteers from all over the state will come out and be part of the packing day. It is a great day to show appreciation to a great leader like MLK and for us all to do the part of service he and many others have done over decades.”

The efforts of Helping Hand give hope for the future, ensuring that the lives of struggling people around the world are made a little easier.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr