Humanitarian Assistance for Elderly RefugeesDespite UNHCR regulations that call for adequate humanitarian assistance for elderly refugees, older people are often not the focus of aid programs. Organizations such as HelpAge International, however, along with UNHCR, are working to improve services and care for elderly refugees by developing a more comprehensive understanding of their struggles and needs.

Lack of Humanitarian Assistance for Elderly Refugees

Older persons, defined by the UN as people over 60 years of age, are particularly vulnerable when displaced from their homes. Lack of mobility, chronic illness or weakened vision can hinder their ability to flee. They may also be reluctant to leave, concerned about becoming socially isolated or physically separated from their families. A study of eastern Ukraine found that approximately half of all the older people remained home when the conflict began and that many were left behind due to their reduced mobility.

Even after older people manage to leave, humanitarian assistance to elderly refugees may not fully address their needs. An Overseas Development Institute report explains that “while humanitarian principles require that aid is delivered in an impartial manner, based on needs alone, in emergencies humanitarian organizations tend to implement blanket, one-size-fits-all programmes that fail to adequately address the specific vulnerabilities of older people.”

One of the primary reasons for this is that elderly refugees make up a small percentage of refugee populations, approximately 8.5 percent. This leads them being deprioritized in favor of larger demographic groups, including women and children. It is estimated, however, that by 2050 there will be more people over the age of 60 than under the age of 12.

Needs of Older Refugees Neglected

Areas in which the needs of elderly refugees are not always properly addressed include safety, protection, nutrition, medical services and mental health. Elderly refugees have a greater risk of experiencing violence, including sexual and domestic abuse. They are also likely to be exploited by family members. These risks are greater for women, those with disabilities and LGBT individuals.

Additionally, older people need food that is easy to eat and digest, and may become malnourished due to their inability to consume regular food. UNHCR reported in 2016 that humanitarian assistance for elderly refugees generally does not meet the food requirements of older people.

Two-thirds of elderly refugees have been found to suffer from poor physical health. In a study about older Syrian refugees in Lebanon, it was found that most of them had at least one non-communicable disease: 60 percent had hypertension, 47 percent had diabetes and 30 percent had some form of heart disease, indicating a need for more comprehensive health services.

Mental health is also a significant area of concern. Older people, who often have a great deal of prestige and important societal roles, find that they lose much of their influence, power and resources when they become refugees. This is partly due to the fact that one of their main resources, life experience, is less relevant in new, unknown settings. Western values and education serve to give more prominent roles to younger people.

The loss of their traditional roles in addition to the trauma resulting from conflict and fleeing was found to have caused depression and mental illness among older South Sudanese refugees in a study published by the Overseas Development Institute. Respondents indicated that they felt isolated from their community and families, sensing that younger generations no longer respected them. They were also concerned that their families would grow tired of having to care for them.  

Uncertainty about being able to return to their homes can also cause psychological stress in elderly refugees. The family of Dagha, a 101-year-old Syrian refugee, stated that she often cries in her sleep and that her greatest fear is that she will die in Lebanon. Dagha reportedly asked her family to promise that they will bury her in Syria.

Providing Humanitarian Assistance

Improving humanitarian assistance for elderly refugees is an attainable goal. Aid organizations have the funding needed to make older refugees a greater priority, and an article in The Guardian explains that “mindset is the main barrier to inclusive humanitarian assistance, not money.”

UNHCR has a renewed commitment to focusing on elderly refugees and has outlined several practices ensuring aid is used to meet their needs. First, it is important to communicate with older people, both about their specific needs and concerns, and the services available to them. Important messages need to be in a format that elderly refugees can access. Working with older people to determine what works best for them is vital.

Older people should also be prioritized in reunification efforts and moving forward they should not be separated from family members. Additionally, the needs of elderly refugees should be considered when designing shelters and settlements.

In response to mental health concerns, aid workers need to improve their understanding of what elderly refugees want out of their lives in new and unfamiliar locations. Many South Sudanese informants stated that they wished to regain the societal and familial roles they had held before leaving.

With the help of organizations such as HelpAge International and UNHCR, humanitarian assistance for elderly refugees will hopefully begin to improve, moving toward fully addressing their needs and concerns. Life for elderly refugees will likely continue to be difficult, but better aid can lessen their struggles and improve their general livelihoods.  

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Hathaway’s Humanitarian WorkActress Ann Hathaway once said, “A role model is somebody who does things because of what they believe in regardless of what other people think.” Hathaway couldn’t be truer to her own words. She is known for captivating audiences on stage and on the screen with one of her best-known roles being Fantine in Les Misérables. The part earned her an Oscar in 2013 for Best Supporting Actress.

However, Hathaway’s talents go beyond acting. She participates in 17 different charities and supports 24 various causes. Hathaway’s humanitarian work knows no boundaries. She supports several non-profit organizations and is fiercely dedicated to advocating for women’s rights.

Four Examples of Anne Hathaway’s Humanitarian Work

  1. One of the many organizations Hathaway has supported is The Lollipop Theater Network. This non-profit strives to show screenings of new movies to sick children who are unable to leave the hospital because of chronic illnesses. In 2008, she organized a screening of Get Smart and The Devil Wears Prada for hospitalized teenagers. In addition to The Lollipop Theater Network, Hathaway both supports and has donated to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading nonprofit organization in pediatric research and treatment for chronic illnesses affecting children.
  2. Hathaway’s humanitarian work extends further than advocating for children. She is continuously fighting for people’s voices to be heard. First, in 2007, Hathaway spoke at The Human Rights Campaign gala, which is known for being one of the largest LGBTQ support and political participation groups in the U.S. Hathaway also actively supports The Creative Coalition, this organization is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group based in the entertainment industry, the goal is to advocate on behalf of First Amendment rights and the importance of public education and the arts.
  3. Along with a diverse list of humanitarian work, Hathaway was chosen in 2016 to be a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador. She is known for being a renowned feminist and uses this platform to advocate for gender equality, especially in regards to motherhood. Disparities still exist between the roles that men and women are expected to take on after having a baby. Hathaway is promoting a more equal division of labor between parents, so that both may achieve a fulfilling home and work life.
  4. Her advocacy for women continued when she teamed up with World Bank-Nike foundation for “The Girl Effect.” In 2010, she spoke at The Adolescent Girls Initiative in Washington D.C. to disclose more information about the project. The program aims to help girls in Asia, Africa, and the Middle-East to achieve higher levels of education and develop skills that are useful in moving from school into the workforce. The program is currently active in seven countries but plans to spread to Haiti and Yemen. So far, the movement has raised $20 million.

Beauty transcends physicality when it comes to Hathaway’s humanitarian work. She continues to spread her influence across multiple different organizations, always striving to use her celebrity status to advocate and give a platform to those without a voice.

– Alyssa Hannam
Photo: Flickr

Notable HumanitariansImproving the world is no small task. It can take great amounts of resources and effort to drive global change. And even with the proper tools, global change can still seem like a distant vision rather than a reality. Usually, this is where the thought process ends. Inspiring change is too daunting a task for most people. But not for everyone.

Notable humanitarians show the world a different way of thinking. They see the complex problems of the world and begin to push towards a solution. In doing so, they set an example for everybody else. So who are these notable humanitarians?

Three Notable Humanitarians

  1. Bill GatesThe Microsoft co-founder knows about humanitarianism. In 1994, Gates and his wife Melinda began a decades-long mission to improve the world, founding what would become the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The organization is a strong force for global health, development and policy advocacy. Since its founding, the organization has contributed billions of dollars towards global issues. This money has funded many global initiatives, especially relating to health and education. The foundation cites continuous collaboration with partners as a key to being effective.

    Gates has made humanitarianism his sole focus. In 2014, he stepped down from his chairman position at Microsoft to concentrate on the foundation.

    The Lesson: Improving the world requires everybody working together.

  2. Kristine PearsonAfter doing research in parts of rural Africa, Kristine Pearson noticed a problem. Despite the spread of community radio stations, many people still did not have radio access.  Much of this was because of issues with electricity coverage. Armed with this knowledge, Pearson set out to make a change. That change came in the form of wind-up and solar-powered radios. Given the energy poverty suffered by many in rural Africa, this was a perfect fit. Using this technology, Pearson has been able to spread radio access to more than half a million people. For those that otherwise would be unable to afford this access, Pearson is a hero.

    When she founded her charity, Lifeline Energy, in 1999, Pearson became a catalyst for change. She was able to help combat poverty through radio. With access to radio broadcasts, rural Africans are better equipped to deal with emergencies, and their day-to-day lives benefit as well. Educational content, news and weather broadcasts are all useful for rural citizens. Pearson made these benefits attainable for many through her notable humanitarian work.

    The Lesson: Social entrepreneurship can improve quality of life in developing countries.

  3. Norman BorlaugNobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug is the definition of a notable humanitarian. Borlaug developed a wheat cultivation method that increased crop yields in Mexico. His background in agronomy allowed him to create innovative ideas for the country. Mexico faced complex agriculture problems, and Borlaug’s work was a breath of fresh air.

    After his original work in Mexico, Borlaug took his methods across the world. His work throughout the 1940s and 1950s created what was later called the “green revolution”. Because of his methods, several countries were able to rise out of famine. In fact, by the end of his career, Dr. Borlaug had saved more than a billion people from starvation.

    The Lesson: Reducing global poverty requires innovative thinking.

Being a humanitarian can take many forms. Creating a charity, spreading radio access and increasing crop yields are just a few of the numerous ways to help others. As seen from the stories of these three notable humanitarians, they can be very effective. Whatever the method, the end goal is the same: to make the world better.

– Robert Stephen

Photo: Flickr

Crisis in YemenThere is currently a devastating humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Many factors are intensifying the suffering being experienced by the Arab world’s poorest nation. The civil war is going on its third year and created conditions for famine, disease and terrorism to flourish. A variety of people and organizations are helping Yemenis in need, yet, it will be a long path to stability.

In September 2014, a group of Yemeni rebels, supported by Iran, overthrew Yemen’s government. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia supplied military forces to reinstate the government, with help from the U.S. The country remains in a civil war.

At least 10,000 people were killed, and two million people were displaced as a result of the war. Those evading conflict are who suffer most. The civil war led to famine, the collapse of Yemen’s healthcare system and a cholera outbreak.

Currently, almost half of Yemenis are food-insecure. Almost 2.2 million children are malnourished, 462,000 of whom have severe acute malnutrition. Furthermore, the cholera outbreak which impacted more than 300,000 people.

The civil war made these issues worse because it caused the healthcare system in Yemen to collapse. Poverty also exacerbates the crisis. Many Yemenis lost all their wealth because of the conflict. They are forced to work more and cannot take time off to stay with sick family in the hospital, nor can they necessarily afford travel expenses and treatment. Furthermore, the malnourishment experienced by a generation of children may set the stage for another impoverished generation in Yemen.

Fortunately, some are stepping in to help. U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN), is pleading for a policy of aiding the country. He wrote a resolution that addressed the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia. He is also asking the U.S. to reprimand its ally Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is blamed for much of the suffering in the civil war. For instance, the country bombed cranes which were used to deliver food and medical aid. Saudi Arabia then proceeded to block the delivery of new cranes.

However, the new Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman recently allocated $66.7 million to the WHO and UNICEF to fight the cholera epidemic. While bin Salman was defense minister, he oversaw the bombing of Yemen. It is unclear if the donation is personally from bin Salman, or from the government budget.

Many other governments are also addressing the crisis in Yemen. Through USAID, President Donald Trump offered $192 million for Yemen. This will add to the $275.2 million the U.S. already gave for Yemeni assistance in 2017. The European Union is also funding humanitarian aid in Yemen. Since 2015, the European Commission gave approximately $199.5 million to help with malnutrition, water sanitation, healthcare, homelessness and more.

The WHO and UNICEF, Oxfam, Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders are among the organizations contending with the crisis in Yemen. Oxfam has been in Yemen for 30 years, building better infrastructure and working towards women’s rights and ending poverty. Save the Children has worked in Yemen since 1963 and fights for children’s rights by offering education, healthcare and food. Doctors Without Borders offers free healthcare and is working hard to alleviate the cholera epidemic.

Life has been shattered in Yemen. One of the poorest countries in the world is being made worse by civil war. Much of the world understands, that as fellow humans, it is our obligation to help end the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. This ideal must spread and continue.

Mary Katherine Crowley

HumanitarianismHumanity is currently producing more data annually than in the rest of human history combined. This data is created all throughout our daily lives, from using mobile phones and social media to just shopping. If analyzed correctly, this information can be used to answer many questions and provide new insights. This massive volume of information is known as Big Data. Big Data is increasingly being used in the humanitarian sector, in a growing movement known as digital humanitarianism.

There are several benefits to using Big Data in humanitarian responses. The most prominent benefit is having access to real-time information, which means that organizations can make more informed decisions by adjusting and adapting plans as the environment changes. Additionally, access to multiple sources increases the reliability of the information.

Big Data can likewise be used to anticipate humanitarian crises. By monitoring sources, patterns and trends, potential crises can be detected and averted. These systems can also be used to improve future preparedness by warning people and seeking their direct feedback.

Several prominent humanitarian organization like Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the U.N. Refugee Agency and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have units working on new technologies in their specific fields.

OCHA, for instance, runs several programs that digitize humanitarian data to make it more readily available. This includes ReliefWeb, a website that provides 24-hour coverage of disasters, conflicts and crises for the international aid community, and the Digital Humanitarian Network, which uses digital networks to support humanitarian response.
This year, OCHA will also open the Centre for Humanitarian Data, the goal of which is to increase the use and impact of data in the humanitarian sector.

However, most humanitarian organizations do not have the staff and resources to cope with the amount of data generated in crisis situations. They thus rely on online activists using crowdsourcing and open source software like Ushahidi and Open Street Maps to map crises. These activists are also part of digital humanitarianism.

Crisis mapping by means of digital humanitarianism is becoming a standard tool in crisis response and has proven useful in several recent events including the 2010 earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the 2011 uprisings in Libya, the 2014 Ebola outbreak and the 2015 Nepal earthquake.

One of the suggested ways to use Big Data in the humanitarian sector is to improve the sharing of information between communities in need and those who aim to help them. Big Data and increased connectivity allow humanitarian organizations to better understand where to target humanitarian assistance.

Helena Kamper

Photo: Flickr

 

The Heroism of Syria's White Helmets
Between rubble, blood and chaos, come the group of voluntarily civil servants. They are known as Syria’s White Helmets, a civil servant group made of local volunteers that act as the first responders to hundreds of daily airstrikes and bombings in Syria. They dig for survivors between fallen concrete walls and twisted metal.

The team grew out of small, untrained units to become a force of search and rescue missions. They have saved the lives of 60,000 since 2014. They are called White Helmets for the color of the hard hats they wear. But, these are just some 3,000 ordinary men who are pushed by their desire to save lives. They are trained in Turkey and they have been successful in their mission which brought the Syrian regime to fury.

Syria’s White Helmets are officially known as Syria Civil Defense and it is now an established on a ground community that is widely recognized and appraised. Their only goal is to save lives and not to get involve in politics. Despite that, the group was criticized by the regime for getting millions in funds from western governments. Their work, however, is purely humanitarian.

Syria’s White Helmets depends mainly on local capabilities. The leader, Raed al-Saleh, said at the U.N. headquarters “We are abandoned.” The group of volunteers decided not to escape the war and not to hold a gun but to wear helmets, pull people out of a wreckage and extinguish a fire. Their heroism was demonstrated in a Netflix documentary told by three White Helmets.

This dedication and courage inspired the global community and Syria’s White Helmets have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Under the motto of “to save one life, is to save all of a humanity,” these volunteers risk everything trying to demonstrate humanity.

It is indeed a story of heroism from the darkest corners of humanity. This unlikely humanitarian act is a symbol of hope for millions of Syrians. Khaled Farah, one of Syria’s White Helmets, said: “We go to save as many people as we can. If one person was alive that’s enough for us to take the risk.”

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr