Proxy Wars and Their Impacts Proxy wars are one of the major categories of conflict that contribute to humanitarian crises around the world. The war can take place between multiple countries, or a country and a nonstate actor like a politically violent group. Proxy wars are often ideological and hold ties to a country’s religious systems. Multiple proxy wars can occur simultaneously around the world. In addition, multiple states can back proxies within other states, which can be seen in both Syria and Yemen.

What is the Appeal of Proxy Wars?

Using proxies has tactical advantages. According to a 2018 article by Philip Bump in the Washington Post, there were “around 5,000 American service member deaths” in the Iraq war. This leads to why countries use the proxy strategy and avoid direct warfare with an adversary. A country sponsors the military operation of a different country to do the fighting. Countries like the U.S. can avoid sending U.S. troops into war, and consequently, avoid loss of life and increased civilian risks.

What are the Down Sides to a Country Involved in a Proxy War?

One of the primary examples of why proxy wars are not beneficial is the risk of prolonged conflict. Being involved in a proxy war can include aiding a country by giving them weapons, money, or planning and assessment help. In the short term, proxy wars are seen as a way to avoid direct conflict for a country. However, proxy wars can actually increase spending and political costs as well.

Another example of why proxy wars can create more problems is the issue of accountability. After the transfer of weapons, funding or assessment help, the country or nonstate actor has those resources. Additionally, it makes the final call as to how those resources are used and allocated. This creates a problem with corruption where the original intent a country has in giving aid may not be fulfilled by the receiver of this aid. The weapons could be used to attack civilians or given to other parties in the war that they were not intended for.

What are the Human Costs in Proxy Wars?

Two of the current and most devastating proxy wars are happening in the Middle East, specifically in Yemen and Syria. The two countries are prime examples of how state sponsored militant groups and coalitions interact in warfare. It also shows how the larger regional powers fight their ideological battles for power and domination. Saudi Arabia in the Gulf and Iran in the North do this by intervening in civil wars in smaller countries that are vulnerable to collapse. Both wars also exemplify major issues like extreme poverty and famine, internal displacement and mass humanitarian need. All of these factors impact civilians and their security.

What is the Status of Yemeni Civilians and the Proxy War?

In Yemen, a number of different actors joined together to form two adversarial groups who fight primarily in the West. The Northern region of Yemen is controlled primarily by the ‘Houthis,’ a militant group backed by Iran who observe the Shiite faction of Islam. The Southern portion of Yemen is primarily controlled by the coalition forces which include Saudi Arabia and its ally, the UAE. The U.S. also supports this faction as well, this is the Sunni faction of Islam’s side.

The war in Yemen has grown into one of the largest humanitarian crises globally. Around 24 million people are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance, as well as four million displaced people. Due to the location of the fighting, many people have fled out of the Western region. They fled away from ports where much of the contested land is and where the primary armed conflict takes place. The civilian casualties have been severe, with around 100,000 killed in the last five years of war.

What is the Status of Syrian Civilians and the Civil War?

The proxy war in Syria is the other major proxy conflict in the Middle East. The peak of international interest and coverage occurred in 2013 when chemical weapons were first reported to have been used against Syria. This led to a very contentious situation regarding whether or not international human rights would be upheld. The conflict and its effects are still very much present in the country. There are estimated to be 6.2 million internally displaced people in Syria, as well as 5.6 million registered refugees who have fled the country. The Syria Observatory for Human rights reports that the civilian casualties and other human rights violations have recorded “560,000 deaths over 7 years” from 2011-2018.

Ultimately, the end of many of these wars is still out of sight. Understanding these conflicts and how their detrimental effects impact civilians will hopefully change the narrative around proxy wars at the national level. These conflicts are responsible for some of the largest humanitarian crises on the planet. Hopefully, with continued reporting, the devastation proxy wars cause will be better illuminated.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Pixabay

Child Hunger in IdlibThe Syrian conflict continues to rage through this pandemic. The locus of fighting has shifted to the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo. Since 2019, the Syrian government — with support from Russia — has engaged in various bombing campaigns in the region and sent ground forces as well. Idlib is clearly feeling the effects of this violence. The need for aid in the province grows alongside the increasing size of the humanitarian crisis. One particularly important but overlooked aspect of the devastation in Idlib is the rising cost of food. Child hunger in Idlib is a result of the rise in levels of food among the youth due to price increases.

The Issue

Child hunger in Idlib — for infants in particular — has become an area of concern as COVID-19 has become more prevalent throughout the country. One big factor is that food has generally become much less accessible. According to The New Humanitarian, “‘An infant needs one container of formula per week, but the price has risen to $12,’ up from $9 three months ago … For many parents, that sum is out of reach.” This increase in price manifests itself often in the form of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). The disease primarily affects children under the age of 5, is highly dangerous and often turns life-threatening. Effects of SAM include a process known as “stunting,” which limits the physical growth in very young children. Stunting and other effects of SAM lead to other problems later in life for these children.

Another frequent issue is malnutrition in pregnant and breastfeeding women. It not only affects them personally but impacts the growth of their infants as well. The New Humanitarian also reports a rise in SAM hospital cases over the summer of 2020. The ratio jumped to 97 out of 1,692 people screened from the January status of 29 out of 2,199. This is likely a lower estimate given the number of people who cannot get screened or don’t have access to testing. Time is of the essence after receiving a SAM diagnosis. Once a child with this condition reaches 2 years of age, they will likely deal with the consequences of SAM for the rest of their life.

Fighting Worsens the Problem

Child hunger in Idlib — and in Syria more widely — is deeply concerning. The issue is compounded by the broader poverty levels and violence that plague the entire country. As a result of the fighting, the majority of  Syrians are internally displaced from their homes.

There is no clear end in sight to the fighting between rebel forces and the Syrian state military. Refugee camps are essentially at capacity and can’t withstand an influx of people if the civil war persists. Additionally, COVID-19 continues to ravage the country, which will likely increase the number of Syrian refugees and displaced persons.

In addition to the housing issue, food scarcity is prevalent in the country. Food options are usually unavailable or unaffordable. As such, many Syrians rely on foreign assistance and aid from NGOs as resources for food.

Aid

There are, however, numerous aid organizations and NGOs working to provide food security and address the growing refugee crisis. They are especially targeting the northwest, where Idlib is located. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is an organization working to expand health care access to those who need it. SAMS also provides meals to both children and adults at risk of food insecurity. Yet another part of their work focuses specifically on care for those with Severe Acute Malnutrition.

SAMS fights against child hunger in Idlib and throughout the rest of the country. They report that in 2019, the last year for which data is available, SAMS performed more than 2.5 million medical services for the Syrian population, at no or greatly reduced cost. Since 2011, they have provided more than $207 million worth of aid and medical resources as well.

SAMS and other similar organizations are vital to the survival of millions of Syrians. However, there is still more to be done. The international community must redouble their efforts to provide resources to those displaced and malnourished. Everyone must work to end the violence that has been a constant in the country for so long.

Leo Posel
Photo: Flickr

Save the Children’s Work in YemenSince the civil war in Yemen started in 2015, conflicts have left the country facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. In the five years since the violence broke out, more than 3.6 million people have fled the country, and 24 million people, about 80% of the entire country, are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance—a figure that includes 12 million children. Two in three people in Yemen are not able to afford food, leaving half of Yemen in a state of near starvation. Over 70% of the country faces a severe shortage of food, safe water and healthcare, and there have been over one million cholera cases, 25% of them being of children. Save the Children in Yemen is working to aid children affected by the humanitarian crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Yemen Crisis Amid COVID-19

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Yemen has plunged deeper into poverty. The health care system is crumbling, with 50% of health facilities not operating and a lack of basic equipment, such as masks and gloves as well as medical equipment to treat COVID-19 like oxygen and ventilators. Health care workers are working without an income. Yemenis children under the age of 5 now experience the highest rates of acute malnutrition ever recorded, the number reaching half a million children in southern Yemen.

Even before the pandemic, a child died every 10 minutes due to preventable diseases, such as diarrhea and malnutrition, as there are no doctors in 20% of Yemeni districts. Amid the Yemen crisis, children are killed and injured, their schools are shut down and health care facilities are closed. With the situation leaving children more vulnerable than ever, the danger driven by war and poverty is now even further amplified by the pandemic.

Yemen’s unstable health care system is nowhere near equipped to handle the surge of COVID-19 cases amid the pandemic. In the entire country, there are only 500 ventilators and four labs for COVID-19 testing for a population of nearly 30 million. Despite the lack of preparation and available resources, there have been more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases in the country as of October 2020. The number of malnourished children under the age of 5 could rise to 2.4 million by the end of the year.

Save the Children Leading Child Aid in Yemen

Save the Children is the largest aid organization in Yemen that aims to provide basic needs and assistance to vulnerable children in the country. Since the organization started assisting Yemenis children in May of 2015, it has reached more than three million kids. Save the Children has protected 55,608 children from harm, supported 1,784,041 children during the crisis and helped 98,127 parents provide their children with basic needs.

With the support of donations, Save the Children has kept 75 of its health care facilities operating. Especially for displaced or refugee children, it is almost impossible to practice social distancing and sanitary precautions, thus increasing the risk of spreading the virus. To combat this, Save the Children is distributing sanitary supplies and providing health care to protect vulnerable children in Yemen.

– Mizuki Kai
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela
Venezuela is a Latin American country located in the northern region of South America. It has been under an oppressive regime since 1999. The country was once a prosperous oil-rich country. However, the past and present leadership of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro have led to economic collapse and horrible conditions that its citizens face every day. These conditions have caused 4.6 million Venezuelans to flee since 2016, accounting for 15% of the country’s current population. Here are five facts about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

5 Facts About the Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela

  1. The ever-increasing hyperinflation of the country leaves its citizens with virtually worthless income. With a recorded inflation rate of 9586% in 2019, the income earned by Venezuelans can come out to be as little as $0.72 per workday. The bolivar currency that has been used for decades in the country has become almost useless since many goods and services are being charged in U.S. dollars at a regular U.S. price point. With an exchange rate of 1 VEF (Bolivar) to $0.10, something as simple as a pound of apples is now valued at $18. Buying food, hygienic supplies and clothing can now cost months’ worth of income for a household.
  2. Venezuelan women who try to find refuge in neighboring countries are often kidnapped and forced into sexual exploitation. There is a growing migration rate of Venezuelans to other countries to find better living conditions. Many of these migrants illegally cross the border, which makes them vulnerable to xenophobia and exploitation. Accounts of the prostitution of hundreds of young girls crossing borders by bus or foot at a time are common in the neighboring country of Colombia. Migrating Venezuelan women face other dangers as well. From January to August 2019 alone, 27 Venezuelan women were killed in Colombia. The majority of the incidents were related to sexual violence.
  3. Basic goods in supermarkets are extremely scarce, expensive and require waiting in line for hours. With prices already soaring and taking up most of the income of Venezuelans, there is a dangerous scarcity of basic items such as toothpaste and drinking water. Families line up outside of supermarkets the night before or stand in long lines of up to four hours in hopes of food being available. The scarcity of virtually every product including basic medicine and hospital equipment has increased the maternal mortality rate by 65%. The infant mortality rate also increased by 30% in recent years.
  4. There are frequent power outages, which lead to higher water insecurity. Like the scarcity of basic items, utilities such as running water and electricity have suffered a shortage in Venezuela. The electricity blackouts cause water shortages that can last up to two weeks. As a result, citizens are forced to use contaminated water. This in turn arises concerns of infections and diseases such as Hepatitis A and typhoid fever. In March 2019, many areas in the country went 10 days without electricity. Notably, on March 25, 14 of Venezuela’s 23 states experienced a complete outage. During this time, men, women, children and newborns had to resort to showering with sewage water or dirty water collected during rainfall.
  5. The autocratic president, Nicolas Maduro, tampers with elections and throws political opponents in prison. The party and president in power hold full responsibility for the situation in the nation. The rigged election process keeps them in power, in spite of the crisis. In the last elections of 2018, bribery with nation benefit cards and other forms of aids were used to get the president re-elected. Supporting an opposing leader or party is becoming harder since the Maduro regime has arrested more than 12,800 people linked to anti-government protests and beliefs. Notably, Leopoldo López was held under house arrest for almost four years after calling people to the street to protest the government.

Who is Helping?

Several organizations have taken the initiative to combat the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. One of these organizations is the South American Initiative, which has been using monetary donations to feed starving children and adults, helping approximately 23,500 people. The initiative also supports Venezuelan refugees in camps in the nation and neighboring countries, providing almost 71,000 meals. The organization has raised $48,903 for aid.

The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has been ongoing for over 20 years. Scarcity, inflation, corrupt leadership and refugee exploitation are some of the many problems the nation faces. Thankfully, there are efforts from organizations to help relieve Venezuelan citizens. However, much more needs to be done before the crisis can be completely eradicated.

Veronica Spinelli
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Crisis in ZimbabweCurrently, many members of Zimbabwe are experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises of all time. Due to its devastating economy and food and water shortage, it has been rampant in many poverty areas in Zimbabwe. Especially with the COVID-19 crisis, this moment is critical for an international response in rehabilitating Zimbabwean communities susceptible to poverty.

The Causes of Zimbabwe’s Economy on the Humanitarian Crisis

A large factor in Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis is its problems that stem from its economy. As of now, extreme poverty has exceeded 34%, subject to at least 5.7 million people in poverty. As of this year, Zimbabwe’s inflation rate increases up to 500%. However, even with the inflation wages and salaries have remained relatively the same, escalating more financial deficits. As a result of the massive influx of inflation, food insecurity has surged and power-based utilities have drastically declined. Additionally, agriculture and electricity have been a large shortage in vulnerable communities of Zimbabwe.

Even with loans such as the World Bank, IMO and the African Development Bank, Zimbabwe still accumulates more than $8 billion. Additionally, the average middle class is only paid up to $1.80 per day and barely able to sustain themselves. Although with its devastating economy, Zimbabwe has tried several mechanisms in rehabilitating its structure. For example, in 2009 they tried eliminating the US currency entirely in its country to avoid confusion and inflation. Additionally, they tried investing in bonds and electronic money. Unfortunately, these methods have only exacerbated the problem of inflation in its current economy.

The Effects of Zimbabwe’s Economy on the Humanitarian Crisis

As a result of its astronomically high inflation rates, many members of Zimbabwe, especially children, have been subject to extremely inhumane conditions. For example, more than 76% of children in Zimbabwe are currently living below the poverty rate. At least 90% of infants experience malnutrition and stunted growth. Additionally, the World Food Program estimates that the country would need more than $200 million in reparations in order to bring its country out of poverty. To make matters worse, Zimbabwe has also been experiencing extreme food shortages from the several droughts it has endured this past year. As of now, the country only sustains on below 100,000 tons of grain. Zimbabwe consumes about 80,000 tons of maize per month itself. Due to the rampant droughts and the underperforming economy, the poverty rate may increase by more than 5%.

Government Censorship and Suppression of Protests

Along with its conflicts in the economy, the militia imposed by the government has also been suppressing peaceful protestors. This further invigorates the public about the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. These protestors are advocating for more government solvency over Zimbabwe’s frequent power outages and food shortages. For example, during August 2019 local militia placed several attacks on innocent protesters, killing at least six people. Then in mid-January 2020, nationwide protests struck a violent response from the security force and militia. They killed at least 17 people, raped 17 women and raided over 1,000 protestors.

In addition, journalists and other political officials are often silenced on violent and unstable matters in the country. An important state official, Viola Gonda, was harassed for filming local police officers attacking street vendors. This was due to the lack of reform with certain legislation, such as the Protection of Privacy Act. There were frequent loopholes of defamation that interfered with the protection of local journalists.

Initiatives to Rehabilitate Zimbabwe

Although Zimbabwe is suffering through a tremendous crisis, its large public exposure gained more efforts to replenish impoverished areas. For example, the International Monetary Fund has sent a task force to advise Zimbabwe on how to deal with its hyperinflation and decreasing revenue in the economy. Additionally, in February 2020, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his financial consultant plan on request a $2 billion loan package in order to provide its citizens with sustaining jobs and resources. As an immediate solution, UNICEF has provided $11 million in order to improve water and sanitation services. Zimbabwe also received over $240 million for its food shortages. UN Secretary Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon claims that the United Nations will show stronger support in aiding Zimbabweans, providing a positive outlook over its current problems. This will happened when Zimbabwe shows promise in the reparations of its political power and economic power.

NGOs that are Helping the Humanitarian Crisis in Zimbabwe

Along with international organizations, smaller projects are providing aid to local Zimbabweans who are suffering through these tough times. For example, Action Against Hunger, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to combat malnutrition, has made numerous strides in aiding local communities in Zimbabwe. They also launched an emergency project in 2018 to help Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, recuperate the damages after its devastating droughts. Following similar goals and accomplishments, the International Rescue Committee has been dedicated to aid and supply resources to impoverished areas in Zimbabwe since 2008. Its main objectives are providing a direct supply for food shortages, donating vouchers for farmers to increase harvests and plantations and drilling wells to make clean water more accessible.

Even with its downfalls, there are numerous relief efforts to help the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, especially during a global pandemic. With a large global response, there is a strong likelihood of lessening Zimbabwe’s economic and political adversities and raising people out of poverty.

Aishwarya Thiygarajan

Photo: Flickr

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