Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR
Across Europe, the world’s finest football teams often sport morally reprehensible betting companies and loan sharks abreast their jerseys. Fans across Europe not only accept but also expect trading moral integrity for financial gain. In December 2022, Nottingham Forest Football Club decided that its football players would wear the crimson-red Garibaldi symbol of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) on their shirts in the premier league to advocate for global change. Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR have forged a partnership that could raise expectations of sporting institutions across Europe.

About the UNCHR

Since its foundation in 1950, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has provided aid to refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and those without a state to call home. The UNCHR is the largest and most significant NGO to wage war against the displacement of the persecuted.

The Issue of Displacement

Despite forward momentum in many socio-economic issues across the globe, there is unprecedented displacement in both the developed and undeveloped worlds. For the first time in recorded history, approximately half of the displaced individuals reside in urban areas.

Displacement occurs due to conflict, violence and persecution, which are all abundant in the modern world. There are active armed conflicts in Palestine, Ukraine and Afghanistan, mass human rights violations in Myanmar and ongoing genocide in China. Consequently, 2021 yielded the highest number of forcibly displaced people the world has witnessed since World War II. Indeed, 89.3 million people forcibly fled their homes in 2021.

How the UNCHR Provides Shelter

As of 2022, more than 6.6 million refugees are living in camps, demonstrating how homelessness manifests as a result of displacement. Whilst camps can provide decent emergency shelters, issues such as isolation, aid dependency, disease, fire, sanitation and personal safety arise.

When all other solutions have been exhausted, the UNCHR constructs settlements for displaced individuals. The UNCHR has formulated a master plan approach, which strives to provide shelter that does not fall foul of the previously stated risks. Well-planned settlements are not prone to fire or disease outbreaks, as sanitation and spacing are well-managed. Food, water, toilets and medical care are all within walking distance of a resident of the ideal settlement. Footpaths should always be well-lit, as there is also a particular emphasis on safety for women.

To avoid the risks that encumber vast refugee camps and settlements, the UNCHR distributes tents and materials from centers in Dubai, Copenhagen and Durban. It also invests in communal shelters and new homes. Furthermore, the UNCHR provides self-help schemes that assist displaced individuals in reconstructing and constructing new homes.

The UNCHR in Pakistan

When a barrage of severe flooding struck Pakistan in late 2022, the UNCHR sprung into action. The enormous monsoon impacted the lives of 33 million Pakistani people, killing more than a thousand. Those who remained faced the grim prospect of homelessness during a natural disaster, as the flood destroyed 300,000 homes and damaged 650,000 more.

During the aftermath, the UNCHR coordinated closely with Pakistani authorities. Tireless UNCHR volunteers helped distribute some 10,000 tents to the devastated Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Balochistan regions. The UNCHR has pledged to assist 50,000 households by providing shelter, food and clean water to the most vulnerable victims of this disaster. In addition to providing immediate relief, the UNCHR is liaising with local authorities to build up stockpiles of essential amenities should the flooding escalate.

Why the Partnership Between Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR is One to Celebrate

Fans of Nottingham Forest should be proud of their club. Sitting in the Trent End or the Brian Clough Stand, they will see the UNCHR featured on red banners, screens and flags. They will hear the announcer pay tribute to the refugees of Pakistan and elsewhere. But most importantly, the 4.7 billion fans who tune in to watch the premier league will see a football club that proudly uses its enormous platform to fight against poverty. If every football team in team Europe were to trade a sponsor for a charity of the UNCHR’s merit, billions of people would have exposure to charitable causes daily. Indeed, if every team in every sport were like-minded, the televised sport could become a vehicle for enormous social change. In the meantime, fans of positive change can celebrate that Nottingham Forest and the UNCHR are making a start.

– David Smith
Photo: Flickr

Syrian Children Refugees
Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, there have been mass casualties, millions of displaced citizens and uncertainty about the country’s future.  According to the UNHCR, the war has forced nearly 5.7 million Syrians to find refuge in Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan, more than half of whom are children. In total, the UNHCR estimates that more than 13 million Syrians have been displaced or forced to leave the country. With the disruption of the war, Syrian children refugees are at a higher risk for mental disorders like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Psychosocial Problems

A 2015 UNHCR review suggests that Syrian refugee children have heightened psychosocial problems such as fear, grieving, withdrawal, hyperactivity, warlike play and behavioral problems. According to a UNICEF report in 2019, there were 8 million Syrian children in need of resources and 10,000 unaccompanied or separated children.

Providing mental health treatment for Syrian children refugees is no easy feat. With refugees spread out among several countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Germany and Turkey and with some still residing in Syria, it is difficult to know just how many children need help.

However, providing mental health treatment for Syrian children refugees is a necessary and time-sensitive issue. The disruptions of the war have created barriers to physical and mental health and could affect generations to come.

Current Treatments and Organizations

As of now, countries around the world offer mental health support for Syrian children. For example, the UNHCR uses a community-based approach to provide the most helpful mental health treatment for Syrian children refugees in different areas. Its child protection programming assists Syrian children in counseling, recreational activities and life skills.

Syrian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also provide care, although they mostly operate outside the country. Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) provides mental health and psychosocial support in Syria and in host countries, such as Jordan and Turkey. It manages eight safe spaces for women and girls in northwest Syria, where counselors provide support for those gender-based violence affects.

However, despite efforts at the local, national and international levels, many Syrian children refugees lack mental health resources. There are many overlapping reasons for the lack of resources, ranging from burnout among mental health officials to financial barriers, medication or supplies.

What Experts Recommend

Experts in medicine, psychosocial support and individuals working closely with the Syrian mental health crisis have proposed several new avenues for helping Syrian children. Isra Hussain, a research assistant and program coordinator with the Global Health Policy Center, pushes for a “multilayered system of response.” Instead of only providing basic mental-health resources, Hussein suggests a coordinated approach involving local officials, public and private organizations and humanitarian agencies.

The American Psychological Association proposes a three-step intervention for Syrian refugee children: culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services, providing services at the client’s preferred location and having trained professionals who can detect mental health difficulties in refugee children.

Apart from direct mental health counseling, Michelle L. Burbage and Deborah Klein Walker with the National Academy of Medicine urge more social and community support for Syrian refugee children. In addition to adjusting support according to different cultural backgrounds and social influences, Burbage and Walker emphasize community outreach and health education to engage Syrian children refugees in mental health programs.

Looking Forward

As the Syrian war continues, more children will undergo life-changing events and potentially traumatizing experiences. It could eventually fall upon the children now to sustain the country’s economy and infrastructure. As many health experts have suggested, it is imperative to address the humanitarian and mental health crisis at hand and look for possible solutions.

– Anna Lee
Photo: Flickr

Safe Spaces for Women and Girls in BangladeshIn light of Myanmar’s persecution of Rohingya people, approximately 850,000 Rohingya refugees have flocked to Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar refugee camps in search of shelter. To protect Rohingya women facing gender-based violence in these camps, UNICEF supports 15 Safe Spaces for Women and Girls in Bangladesh. The spaces not only protect women from partner violence and abuse, but they offer a myriad of services designed to support mental health and foster skills training.

Fostering a Safe Environment

The Safe Spaces’ primary purpose is to protect Rohingya and local Bangladeshi women from gender-based violence in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar refugee camps. Specifically, amid Bangladesh’s nationwide pandemic lockdown in the first half of 2020, UNICEF anticipated skyrocketed rates of sexual exploitation and marital abuse. As a result, these spaces offer psychological care and case management in an open and safe environment.

Beyond protection services, volunteers at these Safe Spaces conduct house visits in communities surrounding the refugee camps. The volunteers share information about the pandemic and raise awareness surrounding gender-based violence. Their door-to-door visits encourage women to report incidents of abuse and shed light on how Safe Spaces for Women and Girls in Bangladesh are attempting to tackle gender-based violence.

Providing New Opportunities

The spaces also provide women with skills training for employment opportunities. According to UNICEF, the spaces teach women how to sew and embroider thus empowering Rohingya refugees to be economically independent once they leave the Safe Space. In fact, UNICEF reports that some women are able to earn over $100 a month, enabling women to provide for their children and gain power in terms of household dynamics. Furthermore, considering that 55% of the camp consists of children under 18, skills training allows young women to get a head start on developing crucial skills for the workforce.

Cultivating Camaraderie Between Communities

Although Safe Spaces were originally designed for Rohingya refugees, they are now open to local Bangladeshi women as well. As a result, Rohingya and Bangladeshi women have bonded over their similarities—such as facing gender-based restrictions in daily life. These centers’ emphasis on psychological support and skills training allows both Rohingya and Bangladeshi women to foster tight-knit relationships within the sanctuary.

A Hopeful Future

As hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people still reside in Cox’s Bazar as of late 2022, Safe Spaces for Women and Girls in Bangladesh continue to protect women from outside threats. In Safe Spaces, women learn the necessary skills for entering the workforce while fostering relationships with other women in their communities. By empowering persecuted refugees, Safe Spaces are effectively cultivating a brighter, more optimistic future for thousands of Rohingya women across Bangladesh.

– Emma He
Photo: Flickr

Urban Diseases
People generally consider non-communicable diseases “urban” diseases due to the fact that they usually occur among older people who live in generally more developed and urban areas. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019, NCDs accounted for seven of the top 10 causes of death in the world. This study by WHO, which analyzed data from 2000 to 2019, observed a rise in deaths from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other NCDs. The study also showed that heart disease is killing more people over the years, with almost 9 million deaths from heart disease in 2019. Deaths as a result of diabetes have also increased by 70%.

In general, many consider NCDs to be more frequent in urban settings and often overlook them in refugee camps where the primary concern is communicable diseases arising from poor hygiene or diet. However, refugee camps such as the Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda are seeing a sharp increase in NCDs and are struggling to deal with this rising challenge.

The Case of Mahama Refugee Camp in Rwanda

The Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda is experiencing a sharp rise in cases of NCDs among refugees, as The Guardian reported that more than 1,200 people have been registered with NCDs by the camp’s health centers. The medical team continues to see new cases each month as well. The camp, which the UNHCR estimated houses around 47,700 refugees as of 2021, is facing increasing difficulties with this sudden onslaught of urban diseases.

In an interview with The Guardian, Dieudonne Yiweza, a senior regional public health officer for the UNHCR said that “Before, we could see (NCDs) were affecting older adults and elderly people. Now, they are affecting children and young people.” Yiweza also reported that patients between the ages of 10 or 15 were having strokes. Due to refugee camps already being low in supplies, professionals often overlook such cases until they cause serious disabilities. The limited resources, as Yiweza said, mean that health centers at the camp do not have the training to deal with such cases.

According to The Guardian’s profile on the camp, one of the reasons for this rise in urban diseases is simply the limited housing and bad diet at the camps. One community health supervisor, Liliose Mukankuranga, told The Guardian that “These people don’t have anything. They are sick but there’s no support and they have nothing to eat.” Poor diet combined with the living conditions of displaced individuals can all greatly increase the probability of contracting NCDs. Moreover, due to the unexpected nature of NCDs developing in refugee camps where the primary concern has always been communicable diseases, medical facilities are either underprepared or simply unaware.

Solutions

One medical doctor at the Mahama camp told The Guardian, “When people develop complications, they cannot afford care on their own. The interventions are very expensive. We need to be here raising awareness, starting treatment early to prevent complications.” The fact that many refugee camps do not receive enough funding and only have what they need to deal with communicable diseases means that medical professionals often overlook any presence of NCDs.

Some headway is occurring, as the UNHCR introduced Community Based Health Insurance (CBHI) for urban refugees in 2019. The program aims to provide financial support for refugees to get access to health care facilities. Rwanda has also had prior success with HPV vaccination programs in 2011, as well as being on track to becoming the first country in the world to wipe out cervical cancer with a successful elimination program. Implementing similar policies to address other urban diseases could potentially help millions of refugees living in Rwanda.

Umaima Munir
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Access among Asylum Seekers
Historically, migrants, particularly asylum seekers and refugees, experience several barriers when it comes to accessing health care and also face increased risks of various illnesses and health complications. Difficulties faced by refugees have intensified amid the COVID-19 pandemic and with the introduction of the Nationality and Borders Act, a piece of legislation that increases the standard of proof required to obtain permission to receive asylum and support in the U.K. By educating the public and advocating for vital policy changes, the U.K. is striving for improved health care access among asylum seekers and refugees.

An Interview with Dr. Dominik Zenner

Dr. Dominik Zenner is a general practitioner in London and also specializes in infectious disease epidemiology. Prior to this, he worked as the senior migration health advisor for the European Union and European Economic Area.

Dr. Zenner confirms the increased vulnerabilities of migrant populations to infectious diseases. He cites a systematic review from the 2018 Lancet Commission series on migration and health, which found that, on average, deaths from infectious diseases are higher among migrants than among native populations.

One can attribute these vulnerabilities to infectious diseases in part to migrants’ “origin and circumstances,” Dr. Zenner says. Furthering this vulnerability are barriers to effective treatment. According to Dr. Zenner, health workers in the U.K. may be “less familiar with some illnesses, including tropical diseases, risking a delay in diagnosis.”

The Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely increased existing vulnerabilities in both direct and indirect ways. Even before the pandemic, many migrants were unsure of their health care entitlements and how to access health care. The WHO ApartTogether survey shows that during the pandemic itself, one out of every six undocumented migrants did not seek medical support for themselves or their household when suffering from COVID-19 symptoms. However, twice as many respondents with citizenship or permanency accessed health care services when faced with these symptoms.

Dr. Zenner names “closures and inaccessibility” as significant barriers to health care, specifically “the shift to teleconsultations,” which can be more difficult for migrants to access. A study by his colleagues revealed an approximate 20% drop in consultation rates for migrants during the first year of the pandemic. This stands in sharp contrast to the approximate 9% drop in consultations for non-migrants.

Housing and COVID-19

Poverty, housing and COVID-19 are also closely connected, with the COVID-19 mortality rate increasing for those from low-income backgrounds. The living conditions of poorer people, such as densely populated living spaces, increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Dr. Zenner also discusses living conditions in refugee camps. These camps face “increased transmission of respiratory viruses, alongside decreased access to care, with high-density camps seeing the worst of this.” Some camps’ locations in remote areas may heighten risks, meaning that “emergency care and ambulances might not arrive there fast enough.” In general, Dr. Zenner states that camps are definitely “not ideal human habitats.”

The Nationality and Borders Act

The Nationality and Borders Act may exacerbate the health care access struggles faced by migrants. The act’s introduction of a higher burden of proof to gain refugee status could make it harder for asylum seekers to access health care support and security. Dr. Zenner highlights the concern of the increased difficulty gaining refugee status with these changes, which could lead to “adverse health outcomes and worse health care access for those seeking safety.”

Dr. Zenner’s travels and visits to refugee camps support his view that “health care access should be universal, not just in terms of legal eligibility but accessibility.” However, this is currently “not always the case for many migrants and definitely not for asylum seekers,” he says.

Roles and Responsibilities of the UK Government

Dr. Zenner says U.K. aid cuts have resulted in “research projects promoting our knowledge of infectious diseases being downsized or canceled, further limiting scientific advances.” He argues that access to care can be an even bigger issue than eligibility and that more signposting and support services for migrants are necessary. “The government should ensure that there is access to free care for everyone. We have witnessed tragedies; mothers unable to access maternity care and being criminalized when they can’t afford treatment. These tragedies are entirely preventable,” he says.

When asked about the U.K.’s divergence from WHO guidelines, Dr. Zenner says “for most areas, divergence is for good reasons.” For example, the U.K. has “conducted more TB screenings than initially recommended by WHO, but this turned out to be the right idea and set a precedent.”  In fact, the U.K. plays a key part in informing WHO guidance.

Provisions for Future Improvement

Some measures to improve health care among asylum seekers and refugees are visible in the U.K. These are available at a local level, from organizations offering mental health support services, and at a government level with the NHS Low Income Scheme, through which migrants and other disadvantaged groups can apply for financial aid to cover health costs.

Also, GP practices can register new patients without a passport and there is no obligation to ask for proof of immigration status. Doctors should not deny registration to those who cannot provide documents and the rules are flexible in this regard.

Dr. Zenner strongly feels that “the needs of migrants should be addressed as a matter of urgency,” not only to benefit individuals but also for public health reasons in general. This includes sustainable and robust funding and a recognition that there will be no equality until vulnerable communities receive sufficient support.

– Lydia Tyler
Photo: Flickr

Reduce poverty with microfinance
In order to implement its programs to help Palestine refugees in the Middle East, the United Nations created the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in 1949. UNRWA is working to help and protect all registered Palestine refugees in the area. The major part of the budget of UNRWA is coming from the U.N. Member States through voluntary contributions. UNRWA is a very unique agency as it is the first time that an organization has dedicated itself to helping a specific group of refugees for such a long time.

UNRWA is especially in charge to fight against poverty among the Palestine refugees. According to the numbers of the World Bank, more than 20% of the population of Palestinian territories are living below the poverty line of $5.50 a day.

For instance, in Lebanon, 70% of the active population of Palestine refugees living in the country did not have employment in 2019. Furthermore, the Palestine workers in Lebanon were the first victims of the crisis in Lebanon that occurred in 2019, as the Palestine workers were the first ones who experienced expulsion or a reduction of 50% of their wages.

Among the various tools that UNRWA uses to counter poverty among Palestine refugees and within the Palestinian territories, it utilizes its own Department focused on microfinance.

Microfinance, a Tool to Counter Poverty

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, Microfinance can be defined as “the activity or business of providing financial service to poor people or new businesses in poor countries.” As a matter of fact, microfinance services help organizations to support on a financial level poor people. Microfinance includes several financial tools such as loans and subsidies. With such financial resources, those poor people can improve their income as well as their livelihood. Indeed, they are using them for instance to create their own companies and cover their debts and so to have a new start in their life. This would only but allowing them to emerge from poverty to a more stable economic situation and ensure their financial sustainability.

When it comes to UNRWA, it established its own Microfinance Programme in 1991 in the city of Gaza to provide financial assistance to Palestine refugees but also to the poor and marginalized people among the locals. Then, the UNRWA Microfinance Programme was extended to the West Bank in 1994 and to Syria and Jordan in 2003 to help even more Palestine refugees and to reduce poverty with microfinance.

Microfinance is another tool that UNRWA uses to reach its goal entitled “A Decent Standard of Living.” This goal’s objective is to eliminate extreme poverty among Palestine refugees and marginalized groups in the Middle East and also to grant them new opportunities to develop their economic resources.

Microfinance, a Modern Financing Tool to Help Palestinian Refugees

The UNRWA Microfinance Programme developed many loans for Palestinian refugees and marginalized groups in the Middle East throughout the years. The goal was to reduce poverty with microfinance. Currently, the Programme has gathered nine different loans to help those in poverty implement small businesses and micro-enterprises or help families cover the education fees of their children.

About four of the nine loans focus on helping companies to grow and to create jobs. One of them is the microenterprise credit in order to help small businesses, less than five workers, which do not have access to credit. Another loan is the microenterprise credit plus, which aims to help small business to grow and develop. For small-scale companies with more than five workers, it is possible to ask for small-scale enterprise lending. The last loan within this category is targeting the owners of small-business by offering them some tips on how to develop their companies through small and medium enterprise business training, with donor grants paying for all costs.

Then, two of the nine loans are supporting the entrepreneurs by helping them with the creation and development of their startups. The Mubdarati – Youth Startup Loan is helping men and women between 18 and 30 to create their own businesses. The Start-Your-Business Loan Product provides funds to start-ups that people aged more than 30 years established.

The three remaining loans aim to help low-income families in covering costs for items like health care and education. The women’s household credit is supporting women in their daily life, helping them to establish activities that would generate income for them, which would help them increase household assets. As housing is an important right, UNRWA created the housing loan product to help poor families access property in 2006.

The last of the nine loans is the consumer loan product, which aims to help families pay for their children’s education or for health expenses.

The UNRWA’s Microfinance Programme’s Accomplishments

Since its creation in 1991, the UNRWA’s Microfinance Programme has granted more than 475,000 loans with a combined value of $531.41 million. Women have received 41% of this money and 28% has gone to youth since 1991.

Through those loans, the UNRWA is deeply involved in building a better economic situation for Palestine refugees in the Middle East and helping reduce poverty and unemployment with microfinance.

– Evan Da Costa Marques
Photo: Flickr

Moldova is Helping Ukrainian RefugeesA former republic of the Soviet Union, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries, with a poverty rate of 26.8% as of 2020. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova faced economic hardship, widespread corruption and political instability, but made progress between 2006 and 2015 toward national poverty reduction.

However, since early 2020, Moldova has experienced a series of intense economic shocks beginning with the COVID-19 pandemic that led to an estimated loss of nearly 8% of jobs across the nation, disproportionately affecting young workers. In 2020, Moldova also experienced one of the worst droughts in recent decades, which reduced agricultural production by 34%. In late 2021, the European gas crisis adversely affected the nation for several months, which increased gas prices by 400%, until Moldova’s government signed a new contract with a Russian-controlled gas company. By February 2022, Moldova was beginning to recover from these shocks, but the sudden outbreak of war when Russian forces invaded Ukraine threatened Moldova’s immediate economic recovery and future trajectory.

How Moldova is Helping Ukrainian Refugees

Despite the nation’s challenges, Moldova’s government and citizens have made remarkable efforts to help Ukrainian refugees. Since the start of the war, more than 460,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion have traveled through Moldova, with nearly 100,000 refugees choosing to remain in the nation. The Moldovan government immediately set up facilities for refugees, offering medical and psychological assistance at the war’s onset. Officials also extended the right to live and work in Moldova to Ukrainian refugees, along with access to health care services and education. Notably, 95% of the refugees are staying with Moldovan families.

Humanitarian Organizations Supporting Moldova’s Efforts

UNHCR, the U.N.’s Refugee Agency, has assisted the Moldovan government through a series of measures, expanding its staff by nearly 100 members in the nation since the crisis began. The agency is helping Ukrainian refugees and supporting the work of local authorities in Moldova by offering access to information, health and legal services, child protection services, initiatives to prevent human trafficking and gender-based violence as well as offering transportation to European Union countries. A core component of the UNHCR’s response effort is a cash assistance program that allows Ukrainian refugees to receive around 2,200 Moldovan Lei (equivalent to $120) each month. The process is facilitated through enrollment centers and mobile teams that help refugees enroll, and the program has already helped more than 50,000 refugees in Moldova receive cash.

The World Bank has also implemented initiatives to help Moldova build economic resilience and mitigate the impacts of the war in Ukraine. In June 2022, the World Bank allocated $159.24 million to Moldova as part of an Emergency Response, Resilience and Competitiveness Development Policy Operation (DPO). Moldova’s government remains committed to its social and economic developmental reform agenda, and this relief funding will allow the government to support the country’s immediate needs while also providing momentum for long-term recovery efforts.

– Oliver De Jonghe
Photo: Flickr

Climate Migration
As global temperatures continue to rise, those in the hottest regions of the world face an impossible choice. They can either endure malnutrition, economic malaise and political instability or run the gauntlet of relocating to greener pastures. Affecting more than 20 million people every year, climate migration poses a serious threat to countries in Central America, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. As people relocate domestically and internationally, they strain their new community’s and their own recourses, leaving both vulnerable.

Exacerbating Already Existing Issues

In Guatemala, climate migration exacerbates many of the issues it already faces. Rapid increases in temperature as well as prolonged droughts followed by violent flooding have destroyed agricultural harvests, forcing many into overcrowded urban centers or seeking refuge in the United States. Since much of the country’s economy is dependent on agriculture, this will increase malnutrition and poverty rates, damaging an already struggling nation.

These effects will only become worse as temperatures continue to rise, with 1.5 million people expected to flee Mexico and Guatemala every year by 2050, according to The New York Times.

Similarly, climate migration in other regions can cause dramatic economic and political harm. Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to this, as increased temperatures quicken a process known as desertification, in which arid land becomes unusable while coastal regions succumb to rising sea levels and more frequent natural disasters.

For the Philippines and many island nations, marine life degradation and higher sea levels threaten the livelihoods of millions reliant on the sea, creating a host of political and economic issues, according to the OECD report. This will only lead to increased climate migration and further internal disruption.

Affecting the Progress

Looked at from a larger perspective, climate migration threatens to undo decades of progress in the fight against global poverty. Both the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have highlighted the current and potential threat that climate migration poses. In regions like the Sahel desert, water shortages have catalyzed armed violence, displacing more than 3 million people, according to UNHCR. Should the international community ignore this pressing issue, climate migration could become an even greater issue.

Solutions

However, it is not too late to curb the effects of climate migration. With the threat of mass environmental exodus, more organizations have spotlighted the issue, urging nations to protect climate refugees. The Biden Administration emphasized climate migration in a report before the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) released a report in 2021 on how countries like the United States could prevent climate migration from worsening. One proposed suggestion was that the U.S. should allow those fleeing climate-related disasters to seek refugee status.

As more focus is drawn to this alarming phenomenon, increased research is allowing scientists to make estimates as to where climate migration will be strongest and how to fix the issue in the long run, according to The New York Times. Environmental protection policies and aid toward refugees are solutions that tackle the problem from important angles and are becoming more prominent as migration due to weather becomes a larger part of the fight against poverty.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Pixabay

 Migration in Brazil
As one of the largest and most populous nations in the Americas, Brazil has long served as a safe haven for immigrants around the world. In fact, migration in Brazil includes people from Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. Immigrants in Brazil, in turn, have brought many economic and cultural benefits to the nation.

First Wave of Brazil Migration

Brazil’s first wave of non-colonial immigration began in the late 1800s; from 1870 to 1930, between 2 and 3  million migrants from Europe, Asia and the Middle East sailed to the nation in search of a new home. The abolition of slavery spurred the influx of foreigners. Landowners around the country believed that immigrant laborers would help Brazil form a wage-based economy similar to European countries. However, in 1891 Brazilian elites also sought to “whiten” their nation by enacting racist laws which welcomed European immigrants while banning those from African and Asian nations. Brazilians saw Japanese immigrants as an exception to this rule. They viewed Japanese immigrants as essentially European in their mannerisms and industrial habits. In 1935, a federal deputy commented, “The Japanese colonists are even whiter than the Portuguese.”

Continued Brazil Migration

Brazil has aggressively sought out foreign workers to grow its economy. After World War II, for example, the government encouraged workers from Spain, Syria and Lebanon to move to the country, correctly assuming that the laborers would aid Brazil’s industrial sectors. By 1970, 115,000 Spaniards and 22,000 Syrian-Lebanese called Brazil home.

In the following decades, the nation saw a wave of Korean immigration. These families, like those before them, saw Brazil as a land of social mobility. They purchased cheap visas into Bolivia or Paraguay and used the relaxed border laws to enter Brazil.

Informality Supports Undocumented Immigrants

Brazil’s attitude towards immigrants stands out in its informality. While undocumented immigrants do not always receive encouragement to enter Brazil, there remain no current policies that discourage them. In addition, Brazil’s government has frequently created legalization programs that help unregistered citizens gain documentation. The three most recent of these programs gave more than 100,000 foreigners the right to permanent residency in Brazil.

More than 40,000 of those 100,000 foreigners originated from Bolivia. The country of 11 million has struggled for years financially, and as a result, many have flocked to the surrounding nations of Chile, Peru and Brazil. Currently, more than 130,000 Bolivians officially reside in Brazil, although the Brazilian Embassy in the Bolivian La Paz estimates that in total, more than a million Bolivians live within Brazilian borders. This leaves a vast majority of these immigrants undocumented and subsequently subjected to long hours and low pay in the clothing factories and sewing shops where they typically work.

Venezuela: The Largest New Immigrant Population

The largest immigrant population currently residing in Brazil, however, is not Bolivian but Venezuelan. Venezuela is currently experiencing the largest recorded refugee crisis in the history of the Americas, due to political turmoil and widespread poverty. Brazil’s government has been generally supportive of these immigrants. In August 2018, for example, when the state of Roraima requested to close its border with Venezuela, the Brazilian Supreme Court denied the request on constitutional grounds.

Currently, Brazil houses more than 260,000 Venezuelan refugees. The government has granted asylum to more than 20,000, and a two-year residency permit was made available to purchase in 2017 if certain applicants do not qualify for asylum. A 2020 program titled Operação Acolhida (“Operation Welcome”)  funds more than 10,000 plane tickets to help Venezuelans travel to Brazil and is helping 50,000 to get to cities around Brazil. 

Mutually Beneficial into the Future

Brazil has gained many cultural benefits from the enormous amount of immigrants living within its borders. School children and adults alike enjoy Japanese manga and anime; similarly, Brazilian jiu-jitsu would not have been possible without the sumo wrestling the Japanese brought. Kibe, a simple croquette that bars and street carts around Brazil sell, comes from the Middle East via Lebanese immigrants. Stores owned by Korean families provide many items in a typical Brazilian’s wardrobe. 

Some organizations worry that as President Jair Bolsonairo continues to lead the country, Brazil will become less hospitable to migrants. One of the president’s first moves in office, after all, was to pull out of a United Nations migration accord that had been signed the previous month. “We will never withhold help to those in need, but immigration cannot be indiscriminate,” he wrote on Twitter. Still, it seems that the principles of migration in Brazil have generally stayed the same under Bolsonairo. The nation continues to house many from struggling Latin American countries; this February, it also became the first nation in the world to grant humanitarian visas to Ukrainians. 

Migration in Brazil has been a symbiotic process for many years. Brazil has been hospitable towards immigrants, more so than most large countries; and those immigrants have repaid the nation through their work and their culture. One hopes this relationship is able to remain mutually beneficial long into the future.

– Finn Harnett
Photo: Flickr

NGOs in UkraineUkraine has a long history of political turmoil and foreign interference since it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. From the annexation of Crimea in 2014 to Russia’s covert war in the Donbas, Russia has consistently engaged in undermining the territorial and political integrity of Ukraine. Remaining in line with these actions, on February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladamir Putin authorized a military invasion, or what he dubs a “special military operation,” against neighboring Ukraine. During the first week of the invasion, 1 million refugees fled the destruction and warfare taking place in Ukraine. In light of the destruction that the Russian invasion caused, NGOs in Ukraine are trying to funnel much-needed aid from international donors to Ukrainians.

Medical Assistance

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to an abysmal shortage of necessary medical supplies. Ukraine is “facing shortages of zeolite,” a necessary material for the manufacturing of medical oxygen, and by March 1, 2022, UNAIDS announced that Ukraine has “less than a month’s” supply of HIV/AIDS medication. In addition, Ukraine has had to abruptly pause efforts to contain Polio “as health authorities shift to emergency care.”

With the lack of medical supplies, NGOs in Ukraine, including Doctors Without Borders and Project HOPE, have been funneling medical aid to alleviate the critical medical shortages in Ukraine. Doctors Without Borders is organizing kits of both medicine and medical equipment to alleviate Ukraine’s medical shortages from Doctors Without Borders’ logistical bases in Bordeaux and Brussels. To increase the supply capacity for medical assistance, Doctors Without Borders is also establishing warehouses in Western Ukraine.

Project HOPE, with more emphasis on supporting Ukrainian refugees, is operating in Eastern Europe to deliver crucial medical supplies to fleeing Ukrainians in coordination with government agencies. In Moldova, Project HOPE has been coordinating with Moldova’s Ministry of Health to deliver medical supplies for Ukrainian refugees, which includes an Interagency Emergency Health Kit designed to assist 10,000 individuals for a span of three months. The Interagency Emergency Health Kit consists of one ton of medical resources, such as medical supplies, topical treatments, oral therapeutics and medical devices.

Refugee Assistance

Aside from NGOs in Ukraine delivering medical assistance, NGOs are also operating outside of Ukraine in Eastern Europe to support refugees. In particular, “CARE’s partner organization” is operating with aid workers on the Slovak-Ukrainian borders to establish heated tents for people to rest as well as sanitation facilities and portable toilets. For refugees, emergency relief teams are also providing “crisis intervention and psychosocial assistance” services.

The organization People in Need is also providing heated tents, designed to provide a space for Ukrainian refugees to rest, capable of holding up to 200 individuals. The organization is also providing water, hygiene items, food and SIM cards for communication on the Slovak-Ukrainian border. Furthermore, People in Need has also established facilities for Ukrainians waiting for border control near Velky Berezny to vet them.

The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is critical: the U.N. estimates that an additional 4 million individuals “may flee Ukraine.” While the Russian invasion of Ukraine is dim, there is hope as NGOs in Ukraine are providing aid and local organizations are working to alleviate the refugee flow from Ukraine into Eastern Europe.

– Alexander Richter
Photo: Flickr