Organizations Helping During the Yemen CrisisLocated on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is a developing country that has faced numerous hardships within the last decade. Known as the worst humanitarian crisis, the country is having difficulties obtaining sustainability as it is currently undergoing a five-year-long war. This has increased poverty and caused uncontrollable famine. In response to the extreme and harsh living conditions, several nations and organizations are trying to provide any sort of relief. As nations contribute funds and donations, it is difficult to believe that one person can make a difference. However, every little bit counts. Here are five organizations helping during the Yemen crisis.

5 Organizations Helping During the Yemen Crisis

  1. U.N. World Food Programme: Yemen is experiencing an extreme shortage of food and everyday necessities. The U.N. World Food Programme supports several countries that lack such necessities. Unfortunately, the organization had to cut food rations in April. However, the U.N. World Food Programme still hopes to aid malnourished families and children in Yemen. It has provided food to 12 million people.
  2. UNICEF: As a non-profit organization, UNICEF finds ways to provide relief and emergency support to those in need. Emergency relief and support may include necessities such as vaccines, water, nutrition and school supplies. During the Yemen crisis, UNICEF has been able to provide support within each government in Yemen. During the COVID-19 crisis, UNICEF has provided testing equipment, respirators and face shields. It is also helping train 30,000 healthcare workers in hygiene and prevention.
  3. Save the Children: More than 12.3 million children are in need of assistance during this horrific time in Yemen. Save the Children is an organization that devotes time and effort to children in need. The organization hopes to provide as much assistance to the children as possible, whether it be food, water, shelter or education. As numerous schools have been destroyed or shut down, Save the Children has transferred numerous training teachers to provide education for the two million children who are out of school.
  4. Baitulmaal and Mona: Baitulmaal and Mona are both small, local organizations within Yemen where volunteers provide meals, medical assistance and supplies to nearby communities. Baitulmaal has provided more than 158, 000 meals as well as antibiotics and medical tests to people in need. Mona has reached tens of thousands of people with food, clothing and hygiene kits. Small organizations are incredibly important to consider as they have the ability to possibly bypass blockades within Yemen.
  5. Doctors Without Borders: Another way people are helping out during the Yemen Crisis is through Doctors without Borders. The organization consists of numerous doctors that travel to foreign countries in hopes of providing any medical assistance needed. Currently, the organization operates within 13 hospitals in Yemen. As numerous medical facilities have been shut down, Doctors Without Borders provides limited medical assistance that is needed during humanitarian crises.

As Yemen experiences supposedly the worst humanitarian crisis, it is necessary to target the several ways people can help. While there are several of organizations providing assistance in the Yemen crisis, these five organizations allow quick and accessible aid towards medical assistance and famine control.

Elisabeth Balicanta
Photo: Flickr

,humanitarian crisesOur world today consists of 195 countries. The sheer volume of people on this planet and the scale of the problems they face can be overwhelming, especially when thinking of humanitarian aid. For this reason, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) began making a yearly emergency watchlist in 2019, highlighting which countries are facing humanitarian crises and require significant urgent aid.

The International Rescue Committee

The IRC has been around since the early 1900s and works globally to improve the lives of those impacted by global health issues, conflict, and natural disasters. They focus on empowering individuals to take back control of their lives. In their U.S. offices, the IRC provides aid to displaced individuals seeking asylum in the U.S.

Generating the List

The IRC analyzes a variety of factors to decide a nation’s human risk, natural risk, vulnerability, and ability to cope during a crisis. These factors are then used to decide which countries are most in danger of humanitarian crises and require the most aid.

10 Countries Facing Humanitarian Crises in 2020

  1. Yemen: Roughly 80% of Yemenis need humanitarian assistance this year, including more than 12 million children. Yemen has been in a civil war for 5 years that has destroyed infrastructure, sanitation systems, medical centers, food distribution capabilities, and has killed roughly 250,000 citizens. Global organizations such as UNICEF agree that the crisis in Yemen is the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”
  2. Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): More than 15.9 million people in the DRC need humanitarian assistance this year. The Eastern DRC has been plagued with conflict and instability for nearly 30 years. This persistent instability has made it difficult for the country to develop infrastructure and food security. The current humanitarian risks in the DRC revolve around food security, Ebola, and Measles. To date, more than 2,000 people have died from Ebola in the DRC, making this the second-largest outbreak in the world.
  3. Syria: 11 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance this year. Since conflict broke out in 2011, more than half of the Syrian population has been displaced. Civilians have been caught in the crossfire of the war between President Assad and opposition groups. These years of conflict have caused extreme damage to Syrian infrastructure, including medical and educational resources.
  4. Nigeria: Close to 8 million Nigerians in the conflict-ridden states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe currently need humanitarian assistance, especially regarding sexual violence. Since 2009, roughly 13,000 civilians have died, and thousands of women and children have been assaulted. This year, 826 allegations of sexual abuse were presented in a report to the UN, but many believe that the number of cases is much higher. The northeast of Nigeria is seeing large levels of food insecurity, displacement, violence, and an outbreak of cholera.
  5. Venezuela: 7 million Venezuelans need humanitarian assistance this year. Due to political conflict, Venezuela is facing an economic crisis that has left 94% of households in poverty. Severe inflation has made the cost of basic goods so high that most Venezuelans cannot afford them. Because of this, an estimated 5,000 Venezuelans flee the country every day.
  6. Afghanistan: More than 9.4 million Afghans need humanitarian assistance this year. Since the 2001 NATO invasion that ousted the Taliban, Afghanistan has been experiencing political instability and conflict. The Taliban now controls more of the country than ever before, and after a failed peace deal in 2019, the country faces another contested election. An additional side effect of the conflict in Afghanistan has been a surge in mental illness. Although Afghanistan does not provide mental health reports, the World Health Administration estimates that more than a million Afghans suffer from depression and more than 1.2 million suffer from anxiety.
  7. South Sudan: More than 7.5 million people in South Sudan need humanitarian assistance this year. Since the civil conflict began in 2013, nearly 400,000 people have died, and millions have been displaced. South Sudan is also facing a massive food insecurity crisis that has been exacerbated by the conflict.
  8. Burkina Faso: In Burkina Faso, roughly 2.2 million people need humanitarian assistance, but the situation is drastically worsening. Armed groups are carrying out attacks throughout the nation. This caused the displacement of more than 500,000 people by the end of 2019. According to the UN 2019 report, the number of internally displaced people (IDFs) increased by 712% from January to December.
  9. Somalia: Roughly 5.2 million Somalis are currently in need of humanitarian assistance. Since the fall of President Muhammed Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has been facing persistent instability and conflict. This conflict has led more than 740,000 people to flee the country. In addition, Somalia is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters due to its underdevelopment.
  10. Central African Republic (CAR): More than 2.6 million Central Africans need humanitarian assistance this year. In 2013, an armed alliance called the Seleka overran the capital of the CAR. Political instability has been rampant ever since. More than a quarter of all Central Africans were displaced, causing food insecurity and underdevelopment.

Although the countries on this watchlist represent 6% of the world’s population, they comprise 55% of those identified to be in need by the 2020 Global Humanitarian Overview. The IRC’s watchlist is an extremely helpful resource that should be utilized for the assessment of which countries are facing humanitarian crises and require foreign aid.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Pixabay

Worst Humanitarian Crises
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) ranks the world’s top 20 countries experiencing the worst humanitarian crises annually in order to identify and aid the countries that need it most. For the 2020 Watchlist, the top five countries experiencing the worst humanitarian crises are Yemen, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Syria, Nigeria and Venezuela. All five were also in the top 10 countries in 2018’s watchlist.

Top 5 Countries Experiencing the Worst Humanitarian Crises

  1. Yemen: For the second year in a row, Yemen is at the top of the list as the worst humanitarian crisis. Most of Yemen’s troubles are due to the civil war that began in 2015. With failed peace talks and a shaky government, the Houthi insurgents, who began the civil war over high fuel prices and a corrupt government, and the Saudi-led coalition of Gulf forces continue to fight. The ongoing conflict has greatly destabilized the country, its infrastructure and its ability to provide services to its people. Around 80% of Yemen’s population (more than 24 million people) need humanitarian assistance. Attacks on infrastructure have further weakened the ability to provide healthcare, education, food, fuel, clean water and sanitation. More than 1.2 million Yemenis face severe food insecurity and around 68% of Yemenis do not have access to healthcare. In 2019, cholera began to spread through Yemen, placing even more pressure on the extremely limited and unprepared healthcare system. The outbreak eventually killed more than 3,700 people.
  2. The Democratic Republic of the Congo: The DRC has been in a state of crisis for nearly 30 years. It began with conflict and corruption fueling under-development and instability in the country. This lead to 17% of the population needing humanitarian aid. Fighting between the military and different ethnic militias is common. Most recently the fighting has been in the East and Central DRC. These internal conflicts have displaced 4.5 million Congolese. These people had to flee their homes and agricultural livelihoods, which also drives up food insecurity. Around 15.6 million Congolese are experiencing severe food insecurity. In 2019, the DRC had both the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history and a measles outbreak. Measles alone has killed more than 4,000 people.
  3. Syria: The home to the largest displacement crisis in the world, Syria has been at war since 2015. As a result, 65% of the Syrian population requires aid. The complex civil war has dilapidated the infrastructure, leaving 54% of health facilities and 50% of sewage systems are non-functional. The conflict has displaced more than 12.7 million Syrians. More than 6 million people are internally displaced and around 5.7 million Syrians are refugees in Europe or neighboring countries.
  4. Nigeria: Nigeria faces internal conflicts in the north, a cholera outbreak and high levels of food insecurity. Around 7.7 million Nigerians need aid, mainly from the northern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. There is a significant difference between the developed areas, like the cities of Lagos and Abuja, and the less developed areas in the north. The north has experienced conflict with Boko Haram, a terrorist group, and its splinter faction, the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP). Operating in Nigeria’s North-East region since 2009, Boko Haram and ISWAP present a dangerous threat to Nigeria’s military. As a result, local militias and vigilantes responded against these groups. Due to the conflicts between the terrorist groups and the militias, 540,000 Nigerians are internally displaced and 41,000 people traveled north into Niger. On top of the ongoing fighting, endemic diseases, such as cholera and Lassa fever, are spreading throughout the country.
  5. Venezuela: Due to the near-collapse of Venezuela’s economy and the continued political turmoil, basic systems that provide food, clean water and medicine are in short supply. Hyperinflation drove up the prices of basic goods and services, leaving households without enough money to purchase food. At least 80% of Venezuelans are experiencing food insecurity. Additionally, only 18% of people have consistent access to clean water. Without healthcare, people are unguarded against disease. With 94% of households in poverty, Venezuelans are compelled to leave the country. By the end of 2020, the IRC estimates that 5.5 million Venezuelans will emigrate. This will cause the largest internal displacement in Latin America and the second-largest refugee crisis in the world behind Syria.

Help on the Ground

There are many NGOs working to alleviate the situation in these countries. Organizations like the Red Cross, IRC and Doctors Without Borders among many others, have been working for years in conflict-heavy countries. For example, Doctors Without Borders set up mobile health clinics to provide maternal health, vaccinations and treat non-communicable diseases in Syria. The International Committee of the Red Cross increased its budget to $24.6 million in 2019 to ramp up efforts to improve “health, water and sanitation” in Venezuela. The International Rescue Committee brought health, safety and education to 2.7 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo 2019. It provided healthcare, supplies and sanitation aid to the area.

David Miliband, the president and CEO of IRC, stated, “It’s vital that we do not abandon these countries when they need us most, and that governments around the world step up funding to these anticipated crises before more lives are lost — and the bill for humanitarian catastrophe rises.” These five worst humanitarian crises in 2020 show the world that there is much work still needed. With continued aid and funding from all governments, the U.N. and its agencies and NGOs, millions of people can receive the help that they so desperately need.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Flickr

types of foreign aid
U.S. foreign assistance is defined as “aid given by the United States to other countries to support global peace, security, and development efforts, and provide humanitarian relief during times of crisis.” In 2019, the United States disbursed a total of $29 billion in foreign aid across all sectors to over 200 countries or geographical areas, amounting to 1% of its total budget. Within each category are many specific sectors, such as agriculture and food security, environment and climate change, gender equality, education, global health and many others. These sectors may overlap, and improvements in one area often lead to improvements in other areas as well, as many of these issues interconnect. Below are five types of foreign aid.

5 Types of Foreign Aid

  1. Military Aid: Military aid is any type of aid given to strengthen security measures within a country. An estimated 33% of total U.S. foreign aid is dedicated to the military sector. In 2018, $33.1 billion went toward military aid. The country that receives the largest amount of military aid from the U.S. is Afghanistan, which received about $5 billion in military aid alone. The country also received $953 million for developmental and other purposes, according to USAID. Contributing to the financial security of other countries may reduce conflict between nations and improve global security as a result. Military aid allows for nations to build relationships with allies, improve democracy, establish foreign military bases or potentially support counterterrorism efforts in other countries.
  2. Economic Aid: Economic aid is a general category that describes transfers that support the economies of recipient countries. The donor can either be an independent country or a large international organization. Aid of this type can be in the form of loans, grants or credits. The most common type of economic aid is Official Development Assistance (ODA), in which money goes toward the development of the recipient’s economy. The U.S. dedicated 0.16% of its total Gross National Income (GNI) to ODA in 2018, according to the OECD.
  3. Humanitarian Aid: The primary purpose of humanitarian aid is to improve the social wellbeing and the living situations for people in the recipient country. This can take place in response to a natural disaster, in which emergency supplies like first aid, water, food and clothing go to a country in need. Organizations may also send services such as healthcare volunteers to help with recovery efforts. In 2018, the U.S. disbursed $6.9 billion in emergency response assistance to foreign countries. For example, the U.S. dedicated about $700 million to Syria during the COVID-19 pandemic, to assist with emergency food, water, sanitation and medical care for vulnerable populations.
  4. Bilateral Aid: The most simple definition of bilateral aid is when a single country gives aid to another. This is a common occurrence within many countries, in which a developed country may transfer resources to a developing country. The donor country may introduce restrictions in terms of how the other country uses this assistance, such as by designating it to a specific sector. A donor country may offer funding through an international organization, but as long as “decisions regarding fund disposal are on balance taken at the donor’s discretion,” then it is still considered to be bilateral.
  5. Multilateral Aid: International organizations disperse multilateral aid, rather than a single country. These organizations, such as the World Bank, the United Nations and around 200 other groups, receive their funding from multiple nations and governments. They disburse that money to countries so they can use it for improvements in a variety of sectors.

Other types of foreign aid include “multi-bi” or “non-core” aid, which donor countries give to international organizations to disperse for a specific reason or to a specific area. Despite having separate categories and sectors, different types of foreign aid can influence one another, and no one type is most important.

– Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Flickr

Syrian refugeesThe Syrian Arab Republic is a country in the Middle East with a rich and unique history that goes back as far as 10,000 years. More recently, political instability led to the Syrian civil war, which has created a humanitarian crisis that extends far beyond its borders. Syrian refugees are now found all around the world, having left their country fleeing the war. This has had a particularly severe impact on Syrian children.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Many Syrians have been forced to relocate in order to escape violence and the indiscriminate bombings of roads, schools and hospitals at home. The U.N. estimates that more than 6 million Syrians are displaced outside of Syria, while another 6 million have fled to other parts of the country. In the Northwest region of Idlib, nearly 900,000 Syrians have fled since December 2019.

Although many Syrian refugees have fled to overflowing refugee camps for temporary relocation and safety, others flee to unstable urban settings instead in the hopes of permanent relocation. As many as 70% of Syrian refugees are living in severe poverty.

This humanitarian crisis was recently worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Syrian refugees’ need for food, medicine and access to clean water has increased. Delays in importing necessities has reduced refugees’ access to these essential items.

The Sesame Workshop: Helping Syrian Children

Of all humanitarian aid for the Syrian refugee crisis, only 2% goes to education. An even smaller chunk goes to support early childhood education. Considering that nearly half of all Syrian refugees are children, this aid is essential.

In 2017, the MacArthur Foundation provided the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Sesame Workshop with a $100 million grant to fund a childhood education program for Syrian refugees. The IRC is an international NGO that has been providing humanitarian resources in Syria since the conflict first began. Sesame Workshop, the creators of the Sesame Street educational program for children around the world, partnered with the IRC to create “Ahlan Simsim,” meaning “Welcome Sesame” in Arabic.

The show will reach Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to provide the refugees in Syria and the surrounding countries with quality education. This new version of Sesame Street is provided in both Arabic and Kurdish.

Ahlan Simsim” has three main characters. Basma is a six-year-old purple muppet with two pigtails. She loves to sing and dance and is best friends with Jad. Jad is also six years old and is a yellow muppet who just moved into the neighborhood. Finally, Ma’zooza is a funny and hungry baby goat who follows both Basma and Jad on their adventures.

These new characters start with the basics: they teach young refugees about fundamental skills, such as emotions and the alphabet. They help their young audience gain educational skills and understand the world around them in a nurturing way. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRC and Sesame Workshop are still providing technological learning opportunities, resources for local implementation and preschool spaces for safe learning and playing. They also continue to advocate for these essential education programs.

Moving Forward

The Syrian refugee population is considered to be the most displaced population in the world. At this point, there are many Syrian children who were born into the conflict and do not know a life without it. The IRC and Sesame Workshop are working to ensure that these children have a stable future in which their lives can be defined by new opportunities.

– Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Celebrities who advocated for YemenYemen is currently facing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. In fact, 80% of 24 million Yemen citizens are in dire need of humanitarian aid and around 50% of them are children. On top of battling high poverty and famine rates, Yemen has also had to handle the rapid spread of COVID-19. Many healthcare workers are volunteering their services while not receiving a salary. Meanwhile, 10.2 million children do not have access to basic healthcare and now their futures are uncertain. Additionally, the ecology issue in Yemen is partially responsible for political instability. Yemen’s lack of a main water source has led to a low supply of food. This unfortunate problem has created many disputes in rural areas over food and water supplies. The quarrels are responsible for about 4,000 deaths each year. These conflicts have led many American celebrities to advocate for the country. Below are five celebrities who advocate for Yemen.

5 Celebrities Who Advocate For Yemen

  1. Halsey: Halsey is an American singer, songwriter and activist who advocates on her social media about the humanitarian crisis Yemen is currently experiencing. She shared that she made a $20,000 donation to help the children who are suffering. Halsey encourages her supporters to shed a light on Yemen’s issue by sharing her post and donating.
  2. George Clooney: Back in 2017, George Clooney, an American actor, film producer, director and activist, began advocating on the crisis in Yemen and other neighboring countries. People know him well for his humanitarian services. At the time, he encouraged all Americans to contribute donations for those suffering on impoverished lands.
  3. Gigi Hadid: The American fashion model Gigi Hadid advocated about Yemen’s crisis through an Instagram story. She brought awareness by sharing a post from an Instagram account named @muslim. In addition, Hadid provided a post with links for her fans to donate.
  4. Ben Stiller: Since 2017, Ben Stiller, an American actor, comedian, film producer, film director and writer has been urging citizens to pay attention to countries facing huge humanitarian crises. These countries include Somalia and its neighboring territories. He posted a two-minute video on his Twitter, informing viewers of how citizens are dying due to the lack of resources in countries like Yemen.
  5. Mark Ruffalo: The American actor and producer who many know for his role in “Avengers: Endgame” has called for citizens to help stop the ongoing illegal war in Yemen. In a video he recorded, Ruffalo informed his viewers that the United States is providing weapons to Saudi Arabia and that Saudi Arabia is using starvation as a tactic of war. He stated that the U.S. involvement is unconstitutional and needs to stop. Ruffalo has urged people to call Congress and vote for the Sanders-Lee Resolution to end the “unauthorized U.S. war in Yemen.”

When celebrities advocate on behalf of countries in need of aid, such as Yemen, they are bringing awareness to millions of their social media followers who were possibly unaware of foreign issues. By informing fans and making generous donations, the celebrities who advocate for Yemen can change and improve the living conditions of the country’s citizens.

Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr

Crisis in YemenTucked between Saudi Arabia and the Gulf of Aden, Yemen is suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – and COVID-19 may be the final straw that wipes the Middle Eastern country off the map.

The current crisis in Yemen arises from a complex history of unrest. From 2010 to 2012, the Arab Spring ushered in a period of political rebellion throughout the Middle East. Accordingly, Yemen’s push for democracy facilitated the rocky transition of power from President Ali Abdullah Saleh to his vice president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Years of domestic hardship followed.

Islamic Houthi rebels and Saleh loyalists capitalized on Hadi’s weak state and seized control of the capital city of Sanaa in 2014. The following year, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates formed a coalition of states to invade Yemen, overpower the Houthi-Saleh rebels and reinstate Hadi’s government. More recently, coalition and Houthi alliances splintered, with Yemen as the battleground for new factions.

According to the Human Rights Watch, Saudi-led coalition attacks constitute a majority of the violence in Yemen, with approximately 12 airstrikes per day. Even so, all competing forces contribute to the bloodshed. Civilian deaths and injuries clock in at 17,500 since the conflict escalated in 2015.

Civil War, COVID-19 and Crisis: Yemen is a City on Fire

The onset of the highly infectious COVID-19 set Yemen’s conflict on fire; what remains is a full-blown crisis. Amid continued violence, 24 million Yemenis – 80% of the national population – are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. COVID-19 has worsened the already scarce supply of sanitation and clean water. Health care facilities have been dramatically reduced in capacity.

Thus far, the world has deprived 12 million Yemeni children of humanitarian aid. Innocent boys and girls are fighting for survival, some of which have yet to utter their first words. Moreover, pre-COVID-19, 2 million children faced barriers to education. Now, Yemen has 7.8 million children without schooling due to nation-wide closures.

The US Role in Yemen: Two Sides of a Different Coin

In the U.S., national headlines oscillate between COVID-19 and Donald Trump’s Twitter, with little to no mention of the ongoing crisis in Yemen. Though public awareness lacks, political action has indeed transpired on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. has funneled $721 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen since 2017. In response to the pandemic, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo directed an additional $225 million in USAID funding to help the resource-stricken country.

Despite seemingly well-intended aid, the U.S. government’s support of coalition states tells a different story. A coalition powerhouse, Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian regime and aggressive military tactics clash against American pillars of democracy and peace. The Saudi-led coalition fly planes fueled by the U.S. military and drop bombs purchased in ongoing munition sales with the United States.

In fact, the U.N. Group of Eminent Experts suspected that the U.S., “may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen through arms sales and intelligence support given to the Saudi-led coalition.”

This year, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to scale back detrimental U.S. involvement in Yemen, ending the practice of the U.S. military refueling aircraft and using intelligence to support the coalition. Ultimately, President Trump vetoed the resolution, and Congress neglected to override Trump’s vote.

In an exclusive interview with The Borgen Project, Rep. Jared Huffman of California explained the significance of the Congressional statement: “I think that tells you that there is bipartisan support for distancing the United States from the military campaign from the Saudis in Yemen and for taking a more humanitarian approach.”

The Future of Fighting Against Crisis in Yemen

The crisis in Yemen presents as convoluted at best and depressing at worst. Fortunately, Huffman sheds light on the efforts unfolding within Congress, and there is a reason for optimism. Huffman declares, “There will be amendments and debates in the days ahead on the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, and I am sure there will be Yemen amendments as part of that. And so, we’ll keep trying. We’re months away from a national election and some changes that could make it possible for us to go even further.”

Hence, war wages on in Yemen as people battle each other and COVID-19. Yet, another battleground begins at the voting ballot; the upcoming U.S. elections could decide the role the government plays in Middle Eastern politics. In addition, those compelled to help Yemen can donate to reputable organizations, such as UNICEF  or Save The Children.

Maya Gonzales
Photo: Wikimedia

Food Insecurity in Iraq
Decades of conflict in Iraq have effectively destroyed what was once the center of human civilization. Many view Iraq as a country very costly to the U.S.—another war from which the U.S. must recover. However, the international community’s job is not done. Today, millions of Iraqis are displaced and suffer from food insecurity, a problem that the government has struggled to control. This article will delve into the background of food insecurity in Iraq and what various groups are doing to combat it.

Governance Issues

The oil industry accounts for 90% of Iraqi government revenue. The crash of oil prices caused a $40 billion deficit in the Iraqi budget, cutting this revenue in half. Iraq’s government has been unable to properly fund various institutions. Combined with a 66% rise in population since 2000, this has placed immense stress on the country’s food supply. Constant conflict and the corrupt management of resources have hindered any ability to keep up with this population boom. USAID labels just under one million Iraqis as food insecure. The World Food Program, however, estimates that this number is closer to two million.

While much focus is on obtaining aid from the international community, Iraq has not necessarily focused as much on reforming its own institutions governing agricultural industry networks. Iraq’s State-Owned Enterprises are involved in every step of food production, processing and distribution. The government attempts to distribute food products and support the industry through its bloated Public Distribution System (PDS), which in 2019 cost $1.43 billion, and its yearly $1.25 billion effort to buy wheat and barley from Iraqi farmers at double the international price. Despite these expensive programs, Iraq still ends up importing 50% of its food supply.

Inefficient growth, processing and distribution methods and a reliance on food imports place Iraq in a delicate position. They are susceptible to global food chain supply network failures and the threat of a budget collapse due to the crash of oil prices. Such an occurrence would likely cause the food system to implode without the current level of government intervention. These governance issues, on top of decades of conflict and displacement, have exacerbated food insecurity in Iraq.

The Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of the aforementioned issues confronting the Iraqi food supply. Cases in Iraq have skyrocketed during May and June as Iraqis faced the decision of staying home without reliable state support and suffering from lack of income or holding onto their jobs and risking infection.

The pandemic has worsened the already pervasive levels of poverty and food insecurity. Inefficient state institutions and bureaucracy have combined with the pandemic to display the fragility of the Iraqi food supply. There have already been severe shocks in the global supply chain. For a government that relies on imports for 50% of its food supply, this pandemic could cause the crisis of food insecurity in Iraq to spiral. The Iraqi government has faced issues of governance for decades. The pandemic has only emphasized these issues while placing millions of Iraqis at further risk of conflict and disaster.

Humanitarian Efforts

The stark problem of food insecurity in Iraq has caught the eye of many different aid organizations, both in the U.S. government and the intergovernmental level. USAID, the primary U.S. foreign aid organization, has spent years trying to help meet Iraqis’ basic humanitarian needs, especially in the face of seemingly endless conflict. USAID has provided almost $240 million in emergency food assistance to Iraqis since FY 2014. This money goes toward food vouchers, food baskets and cash for food, all under the coordination of the World Food Program (WFP), which the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) established with the UN General Assembly.

USAID has also supported WFP efforts to create an electronic distribution platform for Iraq’s PDS, which would allow Iraqis to update their locations, use biometrics for identification and improve overall access to food supplies. The WFP, in turn, supports 280,000 internally displaced Iraqis and 76,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, providing monthly food support mainly through cash transfers. It also provides local, healthy food for over 324,000 schoolchildren in Iraq. The organization is currently looking to expand cash transfers and food access to over 35,000 refugees and 10,000 internally displaced people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FAO has worked with the WFP in Iraq by focusing on agricultural sustainability. To improve food security and Iraqi self-reliance, the FAO has supported livestock production through capital, seeds, fertilizer and resources to counter disease. It also uses “cash-for-work activities” to enhance local markets and support infrastructure in addition to its efforts to promote labor-saving technology to counteract food insecurity in Iraq.

Looking Forward

Poor food access has been an issue for many years, but the pandemic is making the situation worse. Constant conflict and a lack of effective governance are both serious obstacles to creating a stable food environment for Iraqis, but there is a significant commitment from the international community to shore up Iraqi agricultural sustainability and provide support to individual Iraqis. While many are still in dire need of access to food, organizations like these provide hope for the fight against food insecurity in Iraq.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Beirut Explosion
Though there is still uncertainty about the massive explosion that occurred on August 4, 2020, near the port of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, there are some facts and predictions about the health outcomes that it has and will cause. NGOs mobilized humanitarian aid teams immediately after the tragedy in an effort to provide aid. The recent explosion could impact much of the population’s health, considering the mass amounts of ammonium nitrate and other toxins in the air, the falling infrastructure and destroyed hospitals, an increasing lack of access to healthcare and the rising demand for emergency response teams. The following four points are a few of the health outcomes and predictions regarding the Beirut explosion, as well as what organizations on the ground are doing to help those the explosion impacted the most.

4 Facts About How the Beirut Explosion Could Impact Health

  1. The toxins in the air could result in detrimental health impacts for much of the population. The Beirut explosion has a link to the storage of about 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. As a result, when the explosion occurred, it released multiple toxins into the air. The ammonia in the air is a corrosive gas that may cause cell damage, resulting in a burning feeling in a person’s eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract. Furthermore, it can cause lung damage, blindness and death. Additionally, the nitrogen oxides in the air are especially dangerous for those with respiratory issues. These toxins are also dangerous to newborns and pregnant women, and could likely cause premature death. The Lebanese Red Cross called for an immediate dispatch of all members in order to help those the explosion impacted. To date, millions of people around the world have donated to this organization.
  2. The explosion resulted in many casualties and some are still unknown. As of August 5, 2020, the death toll from the explosion was around 135, with many people still missing. There were over 5,000 people injured and four hospitals damaged in the blast. These numbers will likely increase in the coming weeks due to the impact of the blast. Additionally, at least 300,000 homes experienced damage and became uninhabitable, with estimates of around a quarter-million people now homeless, leading to further issues in health outcomes and disparities within the population. However, many volunteers, NGOs and the Lebanese Red Cross have set up base camps near the scene of the explosion and have been offering food, shelter and collecting donations and medical supplies to those who lost their homes. There have been other groups that have set up shelter for those who were homeless previous to the explosion and for those who have lost their homes due to the tragedy.
  3. COVID-19 cases are likely to increase. Due to the number of injured people, as well as the ever-increasing amount of hospital patients from the toxins in the air, there is a possibility that swarms of incoming patients will overwhelm hospitals. Additionally, because the Beirut explosion destroyed four hospitals, the loss of personal protection equipment supplies will likely impact the number of coronavirus patients in the coming weeks. According to the WHO, the tragedy reduced the number of hospital beds by 500-600. Due to the strained healthcare system from COVID-19, many organizations have set up camps and clinics near the scene for those who need medical assistance.
  4. The blast could trigger PTSD, depression and health status deterioration. A 2003 study of survivors of a church explosion in Lebanon found that one year after the explosion, 39% of victims had PTSD, 51% were depressed and 45% reported a deterioration in their health status. These percentages were significantly higher than those who did not experience the explosion. Currently, there are many groups on the ground that are working to support survivors of this explosion through medical assistance, offering shelter and food and giving financial support. The Lebanese Red Cross is working to meet emotional support needs and has trained team members who are providing crisis counseling to the community.

Beirut has a population of nearly 2.5 million people, all of whom may be at risk of detrimental health outcomes from the explosion. When considering the impacts of the toxins in the air, destroyed housing and other vital infrastructure and mental health impacts from the Beirut explosion, it is critical for experts to account for and properly assess present and future health outcomes in order to aid the affected civilians. The most reliable and effective place to donate is through the Lebanese Red Cross. Thirty teams mobilized to work on the ground in Beirut; they worked on rescuing and searching for the wounded, and treating them on-site and/or transporting them to hospitals. Additionally, Lebanese Red Cross teams have provided emergency shelter for thousands of families, with goals to shelter over 10,000 families in the coming months, as well as offer food, water, hygiene kits and PPE to families.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Wikipedia

Humanitarian Aid in Yemen
Today, Yemen is experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. The violent conflict is between the Yemeni government, which has backing from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the Houthi rebels. This conflict has killed thousands of Yemenis, including women and children, since 2014. The war has torn Yemen apart, with more than 20 million Yemenis facing food insecurity and 10 million at risk of famine. Additionally, there is the general disappearance of public services, a shattered economy, abusive security forces and broken institutions. Humanitarian aid in Yemen is crucial, with 80% of Yemenis in need, necessitating a staggering international effort to save the country.

Economic strife and a lack of governance have exacerbated this humanitarian catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of households have no steady source of income. With a Saudi-led import restriction, access to the country via ports and airports is nearly nonexistent, so resources like fuel and general aid have struggled to reach those in need. The Houthis have also inhibited the flow of aid, with the U.N. accusing them of stealing food from U.N. food supplies. This issue is multifaceted, and a lack of effective governance and aid management has left millions of Yemenis to suffer. There are organizations working to provide humanitarian aid in Yemen, despite the obstacles and risks that this conflict has created. Here are three organizations providing humanitarian aid in Yemen.

3 Organizations Providing Humanitarian Aid in Yemen

  1. Yemeni-Americans established the organization Yemen Aid in 2016 with the sole mission of providing aid to Yemenis, no matter their identity or beliefs regarding the conflict. Yemen Aid provides food and medical assistance, promotes water and shelter access and assists in general advocacy efforts. Food baskets are the organization’s primary form of food assistance, providing items like wheat flour, kidney beans, vegetable oil, sugar and iodized salt. Yemen Aid provides support for cities throughout the country, also providing resources like goats, sustainability training, rice-soy meals and supplies to respond to natural disasters. As for medical aid, in April 2020, the organization distributed over $2 million worth of supplies to hospitals that serve 2 million patients annually. It has supported water access by building wells, raising awareness about good hygiene practices and aiding the establishment of a camp for refugees, complete with bathrooms, clean water access and solar power. This organization is one of many taking on the challenge of providing humanitarian aid in Yemen. Its efforts show just how many issues require staunch support to save Yemenis caught in the conflict.
  2. As the primary food assistance branch of the U.N., the largest project of the World Food Programme is in Yemen. The World Food Programme (WFP) tries to feed 12 million Yemenis each month. According to the organization, more than 1 million women and 2 million children are in need of treatment for acute malnutrition. The organization already supports 1.1 million women and children under the age of 5 each month, but WFP aims to expand this outreach to more people suffering from acute malnutrition. WFP provides aid primarily through direct food distribution and food vouchers, with a family of six getting monthly supplies of wheat flour, pulses, vegetable oil, sugar and salt. The organization has a system to provide $12 per person, per month, to beneficiaries for the purchase of food supplies. WFP assists thousands of refugees and allocates snacks for over 950,000 schoolchildren, all while facilitating the delivery of and access to general humanitarian aid in Yemen.
  3. The humanitarian medical support nonprofit Doctors Without Borders provides medical aid in countries that conflict has hit hard. In Yemen in 2018, Doctors Without Borders worked in 13 hospitals and supported more than 20 health facilities. This was despite attacks on the medical staff, which forced the organization to suspend aid in some locations. With both violence and the COVID-19 pandemic all but destroying and overwhelming the health system in Yemen, Doctors Without Borders provides invaluable support. In 2018 alone, the organization did over 500,000 outpatient consultations, admitted over 60,000 patients to hospitals and assisted over 24,000 births. The nonprofit also supports surgical care for those caught in indiscriminate air raids and skirmishes, while providing donations and technical support to hospitals throughout Yemen.
Clearly, Yemen is a microcosm of many different aspects of humanitarian strife and conflict. The war between the Houthis and the Yemeni government has decimated the country, and some international actors have contributed to the conflict more than they have helped to mitigate its effects. Fortunately, the larger international community recognizes how serious this issue is, and many, like the three organizations above, have rallied to take it on. While Yemenis are still suffering and at even greater risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the efforts these organizations showcase do provide hope for the seemingly insurmountable task of providing consistent, reliable humanitarian aid in Yemen to save those suffering from bitter violence and a lack of support since the conflict began.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr