Many remember the Vietnam War as one of the most appalling in American history, and, as one can image, a harrowing chapter for Vietnam. The 1975 reunification of Vietnam established a brutally oppressive regime, striking fear into the hearts of those who lived in Vietnam. The result was a mass exodus of refugees now known as Boat People. Here are ten facts about Vietnamese Boat People who fled in search of better futures.

10 Facts About Vietnamese Boat People

  1. As the name implies, refugees relied on small boats. Under the new regime of the Republic of Vietnam, leaving the country was initially illegal. While this would change with time and the intervention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), escaping occurred illegally by sea. Many of those who left were families of farmers, fishermen, and people with other rural jobs who had access to boats that were well suited for sailing near shore but were not designed for travel on the open sea. The only option for leaving was by cramming families into small boats.
  2. Diverse communities were at risk. The war devastated the country’s infrastructure. While relief eventually came, it did not reach everyone. To make matters worse, in 1979 the Sino-Vietnamese War left those with Chinese heritage fearing for their lives. As there was already a precedent of executions and re-location to labor camps, people also fled the northern areas of Vietnam, at one point accounting for 70 percent of refugees.
  3. Fleeing Vietnam was dangerous. Partly because a large number of refugees from other countries were in the Indochinese area at the time, it is difficult to estimate exactly how many people fled Vietnam. However, experts estimate up to 1.5 million refugees escaped but a high estimate of 10 percent died from drowning, piracy, dehydration, or otherwise never made landfall.
  4. The crisis went unrecognized until refugee numbers grew. An estimated 62,000 Vietnamese Boat People sought refuge throughout Southeast Asia by 1978. This number rose to 350,000 by mid-1979, with another 200,000 having moved to permanent residence in other countries. At first, countries close to Vietnam accepted refugees and provided asylum, however many of those countries’ policies changed.
  5. Refugees often passed through multiple countries. Boat People initially sailed to countries closest to their own such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. The UNHCR established a temporary agreement whereby these countries, many of which began refusing asylum to further refugees, would serve as “first asylums.” This meant the refugees would only stay there temporarily until they could be screened and enter nations like the U.S. and Canada.
  6. Countries grew less welcoming to refugees as time went on. Despite the 1979 agreement, the number of Vietnamese Boat People increased in first asylum countries faster than they could process. Some estimate that for every refugee who left one of these countries, three more arrived. Hostility towards the refugees eventually increased, while political situations within each country further exacerbated tensions. Hong Kong, for example, refused to accept Chinese economic migrants but accepted Vietnamese refugees, causing conflict between the nations.
  7. Swamped by refugees to the point of exhaustion, Malaysia faced difficult choices when it came to Boat People. The situation worsened to the point that Malaysians pushed back one vessel having approximately 2,500 refugees on board. This was due in part to ethnic tension between Malay Muslims and the native Chinese. Boat People landing in areas largely inhabited by a Muslim populace further aggravated tension. As Robert Miller, the ambassador to Malaysia at the time put itA “From the Malaysian standpoint they have a very delicate ethnic balance in the country… they have an ‘ethnic fault line running the length and breadth of their country between the Malay Muslims and the pork-eating Chinese.” As a result, they, like other Southeast Asian countries, eventually refused to accept further refugees.
  8. “Full asylum” nations showed fatigue as the crisis continued. As more refugees entered the United States, people began to question whether the Vietnamese refugees were fleeing due to fear or financial situations. Suspicion arose and screening processes intensified as fewer nations wanted to house the refugees at all. As Miller put it “From the field we were always pressing for earlier decisions and decisions for bigger quotas. From the Washington perspective, they were pressing us to increase international cooperation –get more countries to take more so we could take less.”
  9. Thousands of refugees found stable homes. Though Vietnamese Boat People constituted a refugee crisis, it soothed over several years. Refugees who passed screening and inspection entered the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia able to begin new lives. While most ultimately flew the last leg of their journey on planes, at least one group made it to Australia by boat. The main solution for refugees resettling included working directly with the Vietnamese government, which eventually sanctioned departures from the country.
  10. Survival stories live on. Fleeing Vietnam was dangerous and offered no guarantee, but survivors found new lives in their new homes. Vietnamese immigrant communities eventually flourished. The UNHRC continued its work making transportation out of Vietnam legal and even encouraged. Nowadays, descendants of those who left in fear can return to discover their heritage and the stories of their ancestors, ensuring that the legacy of Boat People will live on. The preservation of their history and ongoing peaceful relations with Vietnam created a solution that finally materialized.

The fallout from the Vietnam War was, as the fallout from many wars, far worse than anticipated. These stories  and day’s refugee crisis show that people can be far less welcoming to refugees than we might hope. However, the survival of those who lived to tell these stories indicates that dangerous risks can lead to safer futures. These 10 facts about Vietnamese Boat People show that when accepted, refugees can thrive and improve relationships between nations.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

App to Help Refugees in Uganda
Uganda has been accepting refugees for many years. Unfortunately, these refugees have limited access to economic opportunity. That is where LevelApp comes in. The nonprofit Refunite created the app to help refugees in Uganda. The program creates small tasks for refugees to complete in exchange for payment. It is not a substitute for a regular income, but it provides some money on the side that refugees can save for the future. The work pays well too; a refugee may normally make around $1 a day, but the app gives them the potential to make up to $20 a day.

Uganda’s Refugee Crisis

Refugees have been seeking shelter in Uganda for many years now. Here are some facts about refugees in Uganda.

  • The refugee population in Uganda rose by 48 percent in the past year.
  • There are over 1.3 million refugees in Uganda.
  • Over 60 percent of those refugees are from South Sudan.
  • The South Sudanese are coming to Uganda to escape an oppressive government.
  • Many South Sudanese refugees are between 15 and 25 years old.
  • Almost 30 percent of refugees come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • The Congolese are escaping ethnic violence and an Ebola outbreak.

How LevelApp is Helping Refugees

Refugees need to be able to save money if they are to lift themselves out of poverty. The app helps women, who are important in local economies, by giving them tasks they can do from home. Almost 30 percent of users are women and they can use extra money in many beneficial ways. Some ways are to send kids to school, buy livestock and access health care, which might make them less dependent on foreign aid. Another important benefit is that by using this new technology, refugees learn new skills that they can use when they return home.

How LevelApp Works?

Refugees complete simple tasks like categorizing images and datasets. The more tasks they complete, the more money they make. They can download tasks and complete offline, which is important because many refugees do not have access to a consistent internet connection. Refugees can make almost $200 a month with this simple work. As of July 2019, LevelApp had around 1,500 users and the hope is that this number will grow.

The tasks are to help Refunite develop artificial intelligence. The basic tasks refugees complete, like labeling and mapping, help the AI learn. For Refunite, this is a win-win scenario because it is helping refugees climb out of poverty while developing AI.

Unexpected Benefits of LevelApp

While LevelApp is helping to lift refugees out of poverty, there are also some other positive effects. Using the app, refugees are beginning to learn English, which is an incredibly useful language to know. Also, through LevelApp, young people can new people. This is beneficial because a high number of refugees are young, and they are often stuck in limbo socially and economically. The youth often have difficulty making friends and progressing their careers. The app has also benefited the careers of young people by teaching them 21st-century skills that they can use when they return home.

LevelApp is helping refugees by providing an income that they normally would not have. It is a unique economic opportunity that greatly benefits refugees by providing them with 21st-century technological skills to use to access higher-paying jobs when they return home. The creator, Refunite, is also benefitting because the work refugees do for the company helps develop its artificial intelligence program. The company could easily develop this technology at home in the United States, but giving this opportunity to refugees is beneficial to combatting poverty. This app to help refugees in Uganda has created benefits that stretch beyond just poverty reduction and display the need for innovative solutions to global poverty.

– Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

Hiring Refugee Women Can Boost Global GDP
Women and girls make up about half of the refugee population worldwide, but less than half have a paid job. In some countries, such as Germany and Lebanon, females make up just 6 percent of the working world compared to the United States’ 40 percent. Even in the United States, the number is low. Many refugee women do not have paid work because they face violence and discrimination in workplaces, including sexual assault and exclusion. However, if accepted into the working world, hiring refugee women could boost the global GDP by $1.4 trillion.

How Hiring Refugee Women Could Boost the Global GDP

More workers mean more hands to create products. Companies can sell more if they produce more. The global GDP is an annual measurement of all the final goods sold worldwide. Statistically, only four out of 10 migrant women are getting paid to work compared to seven out of 10 men. As mentioned earlier, the gap in women workers is partly due to workplace discrimination and partly to pay gap. In places such as Turkey,  where the pay gap between women and men is highest, the difference in salaries is about 94 cents per dollar. In the United States, where the gap is lower, the difference is 29 cents per dollar. By increasing women’s pay and making workplaces more accessible, women could not only become more motivated to enter the field, but the hiring of refugee women could also boost the global GDP to a total of $2.5 trillion.

Effect of Businesses Hiring Refugee Women

The hiring of refugee women could have a positive impact on the economy and local businesses as well. In 2017, Starbucks Coffee pledged to hire around 10,000 refugees by 2022, which will help give more opportunities for refugee women to go out and seek work. With hiring refugee women, Starbucks hopes to help “a population who seeks a chance to rebuild their lives and have a fresh start.” By giving refugee women a paid job, they are able to start over and put the money towards their families. 

The Pay Gap Status

The way to help employ more refugee women would be to close the pay gap between men and women. Worldwide, only 63 percent of the wage gap has closed, meaning men are making more than women in over half of the world. This rate is highest in countries such as Germany, Lebanon and Jordan. By closing the pay gap, refugee women in these countries will have a steady income to support their families, and make them less dependent on aid from their governments.

Besides economic growth, refugee women can make improvements in society, as well as make personal improvements. In Baalbeck, Lebanon, a Syrian woman refugee named Bushra makes her living by fixing electronic devices. Not only does it bring in a source of income, but it is also making an impact on the world around her, “The role of an electrician is mostly for men,” Bushra says. “But it shouldn’t be exclusively for men. We can work even better than them.” Bushra is one of the few women in the village that has a paid job. She is using her skills to help improve the society around her, while still providing for her family.

Over half of the world’s refugee women do not hold a paying job. If brought into the working world, hiring refugee women can boost global GDP by $1.4 trillion, bringing the total to $2.5 trillion. There will not only be an economic increase but an increase in societal empowerment as well. By encouraging women to use the skills that they have, they will not only improve the production of goods but can use their skills to help others.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about hunger in Jordan
Jordan is located in Southwest Asia with a population of 9.5 million. Although there have been improvements, the country still suffers from high rates of food insecurity. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Jordan.

10 Facts About Hunger in Jordan

  1. Food Security: According to the Global Hunger Index, Jordan is a food secure country where the levels of hunger are moderate. However, the arrival of Syrian refugees is putting pressure on food and water supplies in Jordan. Nonetheless, The World Food Programme (WFP) supports refugees in Jordan by offering them cash and food-restricted vouchers. In 2014, the organization, started its school meal program, which aimed to reach more than 320,000 schoolchildren through 2016, concentrating on the most food-insecure areas in Jordan. In addition, the program provided locally produced date bars three times a week as well as high energy biscuits and fresh fruit during the last two days of the school week.
  2. E-cards: In an effort to fight hunger, WFP created an innovative electronic voucher program known as e-cards. The e-cards are a multi-year collaboration with MasterCard that will help refugees buy their own food. Every month, the e-cards load with $27 for each family member to buy food based on their own specific needs, such as fresh produce. In addition, WFP has provided about $192 million to local economies in Jordan along with refugees in Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Aiding Syrians is WFP’s biggest and most complex emergency operation.
  3. Population: In Jordan, population increase is a major challenge that affects food and water security. In 2014, the population stood at 7,930,491 and continues to grow by 3.86 percent each year. The rise in numbers causes a strain on supplies for survival.
  4. Unemployment: According to the Department of Statistics, unemployment rose to 19 percent in the first quarter of 2019, a 0.6 percent increase compared to the first quarter of 2018. The rate of unemployment among men was at 16.4 percent in comparison to 28.9 percent among women. Due to the global economic crisis of 2008, the Arab Spring, a large number of refugees and the closing of borders with Iraq and Syria all contributed to Jordan’s economic issues. The average income of Jordan decreased, making household food hard to attain and families had to opt for cheaper, less healthy food.
  5. Save the Children: Jordan’s government is struggling to provide for vulnerable refugees and Jordanians. Nonetheless, the Save the Children organization has provided aid, education and protection to children in need. Save the Children is a nonprofit that dedicates itself to helping children around the world. It has been in Jordan since 1985. The organization has protected 38,097 children from harm, supported 129,003 children in times of crisis and given 22,363 children vital nourishment.
  6. Stunting: According to UNICEF, stunting declined from 12 percent in 2002 to 8 percent in 2012, but numbers have not changed much since because of a lack of access to quality food, information on care practices and proper hygiene.
  7. Alliance Against Hunger: Jordan’s poorest people living in rural areas are the most susceptible to food and water insecurity because they own small pieces of agricultural property with low production. However, the Ministry of Agriculture has collaborated with an NGO called Alliance Against Hunger, an organization that helps strengthen agricultural production, assists in local market activity, supports micro-enterprise initiatives and helps vulnerable communities gain access to food and income. In 2018, the organization helped a total of 52,805 people. It helped 52,569 people through food security and livelihood programs and aided 165 people through water, sanitation and hygiene programs.
  8. Diet: In Jordan, the average diet is based on wheat and rice. Due to economic issues, Jordanians are transitioning into an unhealthy lifestyle of consuming a lot of sugar and carbohydrates. Consequently, this causes people, specifically women, to become obese and anemic.
  9. Food Insecurity: According to a study in the United Nations Development Program, 34 to 46 percent of households are food insecure and cannot afford to have three meals a day.
  10. CARE: Due to the influx of refugees from Iraq and Syria, food and water insecurity have been on the rise. The population will most likely double in the next two decades and water resources will become a huge problem for farmers. CARE is an NGO working around the world to end poverty. CARE has worked in Jordan since 1948 to help Palestinian refugees and continues to support Syrian refugees as well.

These 10 facts about hunger in Jordan present areas of focus and improvement to better the country and reduce food insecurity. Despite these challenges, there are several organizations that work towards helping fight food insecurity in Jordan. With the attention and support of political leaders, these issues can come to a stop.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Top Seven Blockchain Projects
Traditional perceptions of blockchain technology involve uses in financial technology and under the table transactions. Blockchain, however, has possibilities far beyond finance and digital currency. By its nature, blockchain provides unparalleled security and transparency. By creating a decentralized network of highly-encrypted blocks, a blockchain system creates a secure, unchangeable ledger. No one person can make changes and the encryption means that it is extremely difficult to hack, thus making blockchain one of the most secure and transparent technologies in the world. This technology has the power to revolutionize poverty reduction. Below are the top seven blockchain projects that represent the most successful blockchain for poverty projects that address real, pressing global issues.

Top 7 Blockchain Projects for Poverty

  1. Agri-Wallet: Agri-Wallet is a mobile app that allows farmers to remotely and securely receive payment for their produce and save money on business expenses. The majority of smallholder farmers do not have enough funding, both due to delayed payments for goods and a lack of access to credit. This is because banks are hesitant to lend to poor farmers that do not have a strong credit history or collateral. Through the blockchain financial ecosystem, Agri-Wallet allows farmers access to small loans and guarantees payment the first week of every month, which has been a major boon to Kenyan farmers. Agri-Wallet has already seen extensive success in Kenya, with approximately 4,000 farmers, 14 suppliers and 25 buyers using the app only one year after its large-scale release.
  2. Mojaloop: In developed countries, some may take access to banking for granted, but 1.7 million adults around the world do not have access to a secure banking system. The Gates Foundation sought to change this by releasing Mojaloop, an open-source solution that allows anyone to build financial services software, providing financial security through blockchain-based encryption. The key to Mojaloop’s importance is its egalitarian nature – a developer does not have to be connected to a major company or bank to develop technology using Mojaloop, and the code bridges all financial products and applications in any given market, providing unprecedented access to financial services for poor populations. The app has already gained the confidence of two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and the Gates Foundation estimates that it will reach 338 million existing mobile money accounts through the entire continent of Africa. In other words, this blockchain for poverty app could provide a flexible, universal banking system to 338 million people in Africa.
  3. Diwala: As of June 2019, there are more than 70 million displaced people worldwide fleeing war, persecution and conflict. The ability to join the workforce of refugee’s new home is critical for their integration into their new community and to rebuild their lives. However, when fleeing a war-torn country, it is difficult for refugees to retain certifications or diplomas. Diwala provides a secure, unchangeable digital resume that verifies a person’s skills, education and certifications that employers can rely on to provide an accurate record. The organization currently works with multiple organizations and universities to help issue credentials via Diwala to further verify education and certifications. Diwala is already bringing digital employment verification to Kenya and Uganda.
  4. BitGive: BitGive’s goal is to provide better transparency and accountability between donors and charitable organizations. The company’s blockchain for poverty product, GiveTrack™, allows donors to trace their donations in real-time to see exactly where their money goes. BitGive’s use of blockchain technology provides high-level security while also providing an unalterable ledger that donors can refer to at any time to ensure their money goes to the cause they want and see the real impact they are having on a community. The use of cryptocurrency also means that BitGive can quickly and efficiently transfer funds across the globe. The organization has seen amazing success, including partnerships with Save the Children and The Water Project.
  5. Goodr: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans waste approximately 30-40 percent of the U.S. food supply, while 820 million people around the world suffer from hunger. Goodr provides blockchain-based supply chain management tools that allow companies, such as airlines, convention centers and other food operations, to redirect surplus foods to food-insecure communities. As an added incentive, Goodr provides companies with blockchain-based ledgers that allow them to track their food and identify areas of waste. During the 2019 Superbowl alone, Goodr rescued over 100,000 pounds of food.
  6. OneSmart: The World Bank considers government corruption a significant challenge in reducing global poverty, particularly because corruption disproportionately affects poor populations. In 2018, UNICEF funded OneSmart’s OS City project to combat corruption and bring more transparency to local and national governments. OneSmart created a blockchain platform that is flexible enough to be integrated with existing city management platforms, allowing for the implementation of blockchain and artificial intelligence throughout government to avoid waste and increase transparency.
  7. SOLshare: SOLshare seeks to help the 1.1 million people worldwide without consistent access to electricity. It is the first-ever peer-to-peer electricity trading network, allowing villages to create mini-power grids by connecting houses with solar panels to other homes in the neighborhood. The blockchain-based platform allows for the fast, efficient and safe transfer of funds between neighbors, allowing for local, independent electricity grids. SOLshare has already brought electricity to 65 million people in Bangladesh and is helping helps poor villages shape a greener future.

People limit the use of blockchain technology by relegating it to banking or shady online transactions alone. The above top seven blockchain projects show that blockchain has value as a tool to develop solutions for multiple global issues. A blockchain is a useful tool that can address multifaceted issues in fighting poverty. Though it is still an emerging technology, blockchain deserves widespread research and support.

– Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

Biggest Global Issues
Hundreds of millions of people around the world experience insufficient living conditions due to environmental factors, displacement, disease, poverty or some combination of the four. Here is a list of the biggest global issues that plague humankind.

The Biggest Global Issues Facing Mankind

1. Food and Malnutrition

  • Food and nutrition are essential for just about every life form on the planet, especially humankind. Although countries such as China, India, Brazil and the United States produce vast amounts of food for the world, about one in nine people will not eat enough food today. Malnourishment leads to the inability of about 795 million people to lead active and healthy lives around the globe.

  • Malnutrition leads to poor health and can stunt development in education and employment. According to The Food Aid Foundation, 66 million school-aged children will go to school hungry today. Consistent hunger in schools is linked to a lack of concentration.

  • World hunger has decreased by about 219 million people within the past two decades. It is through the innovative and ambitious work of organizations like the World Food Programme, in partnership with governments and communities, that the world can fill empty stomachs and provide communities with the resources to fill their own stomachs without aid, overtime.

  • The World Food Programme provides the Home Grown School Feeding Programme to counter the effects of consistent hunger in schools. One model of the  Home Grown School Feeding Programme in Kenya provides school meals to over 600 million schoolchildren. The organization purchases the meals from local farmers which helps boost Kenya’s agriculture-dependent economy. Constant meals in school serve as an incentive for poor families to send their children to school every day and enhance the quality of children’s education by reducing hunger.

2. Access to Clean Water

  • Water covers about 70 percent of planet Earth. Inadequate water supply, water supply access and lack of sanitation kill millions of people annually. Used for drinking and hygiene practices, lack of water sanitation is a leading cause of child mortality around the world.

  • Two days of the year educate the world about one of the biggest global issues facing humankind: the global water crisis. World Water Day and World Toilet Day are reminders that 700 million people around the globe could be facing displacement due to decreased access to fresh water by 2030. Severe droughts are a major reason for displacement. When there is no more water for drinking or for crops and livestock, people must leave their homes in search of a place where there is an adequate supply of water.

  • Within the past two decades, the percentage of countries without basic sanitation services decreased by 17 percent. Forty countries are on track to receive universal basic sanitation services by the year 2030. In the meantime, 88 countries are progressing too slowly in their sanitation advancements and 24 countries are decreasing in their advances toward universal sanitation coverage.

  • The Water Project is committed to providing safe water to Africa. It builds wells and dams to provide access to safe water. The project also delivers improved technology for more sanitary toilets that keep flies away. The Water Project provides and monitors 157 water projects in Sierra Leone including wells, dams and sanitary toilets. The Water Project builds these projects in schools and communities in the Port Loko region of Sierra Leone, serving some 7,000 Sierra Leoneans. The Water Project’s save water initiative impacts over 40,000 people on the continent of Africa.

3. Refugee Crisis

  • The refugee crisis is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind today. Refugees are seeking asylum from persecution, conflict and violence. A grand total of 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their home countries. Some 54 percent of those displaced are children.

  • Developing countries host a third of the world’s refugees. Many refugees reside in the neighboring countries of those they left behind. Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan and Lebanon lead the world in hosting refugees.

  • Asylum seekers from Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan continuously flee ongoing persecution, conflict and violence in their home countries. More recently, four million Venezuelans have fled their home country, 460 thousand of whom are seeking asylum in Spain, Central America and North America.

  • Venezuelans are fleeing dire political unrest and hyperinflation. Shortages in food, water, electricity and medicine also afflict the country. The Red Cross now provides at least $60 million worth of aid to Venezuela, reaching at least 650,000 Venezuelans. The World Vision Organization delivers aid to Venezuelan refugees in Venezuela’s neighboring countries. For example, in Colombia, World Vision provides economic empowerment, education, food and health essentials to some 40,000 refugees.

4. AIDS Epidemic

  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a longstanding global issue. With at least 36.9 million AIDS or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) infections around the world, the disease is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Since 2004, AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by over half. In 2004, almost two million people worldwide died of AIDS-related illnesses, compared to 940,000 in 2017.

  • Organizations like the International AIDS Society, UNAIDS, Kaiser Family Foundation and PEPFAR are dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. These organizations help to ensure that infected people have access to treatment and the opportunity to live healthy lives. Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) are 14 times more likely to contract HIV than boys. The DREAM initiative by PEPFAR and partners prioritizes the safety of AGYW against new HIV infections. PEPFAR is reaching at least 144,000 AGYW in Kenya, one country where HIV infections are most prevalent.

  • Although there is currently no cure, UNAIDS has a Sustainable Development Goal of bringing the number of new HIV infections down to zero by the year 2030. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducts research and analyzes data regarding U.S. AIDS policy and funding, both domestic and globally. It serves as a source of information about AIDS and other global health issues for U.S. policymakers and the media.

5. Eradicating Poverty

  • Poverty is the lack of income necessary to access basic everyday needs and/or living below a specific country’s standard of living. Living in poverty can result in malnutrition,  poor health, fewer opportunities for education and increased illness. With an estimated 783 million people living in poverty, eradicating poverty is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind.

  • Malnutrition, contaminated water, the refugee crisis and the AIDS epidemic all contain some aspects of poverty. Organizations like the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focus on sustainable development strategies to alleviate global poverty. The number of people living in poverty has decreased by half, thanks to the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals have lifted at least one billion people out of extreme poverty within the last two decades.

  • The Gates Foundation is proving that poverty can be ameliorated through Agricultural Transformation. Increasing a country’s food production can counter malnutrition and boost the country’s economy by increasing farmer’s crop productivity. Poverty in Ethiopia has decreased by at least 45 percent since the Gates Foundation first started investing in agricultural development there in 2006. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, is witnessing an overall increase in its economy.

With the help of innovative organizations partnered with governments, the world is implementing practical techniques to help eliminate hunger, water scarcity, AIDS/HIV and poverty from the list of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Eliminating these problems will improve the living conditions of millions of people around the world, including refugees and internally displaced people.

– Rebekah Askew
Photo: Flickr

The United States Can Help Refugees
The world has seen an incessant cycle of violent conflict, famine and environmental catastrophes in recent years. These events have caused an increase in refugees and displaced people to a number that human history has not seen before. To date, a record 70 million people worldwide are displaced. A significant question is how the United States can help refugees.

The United States has not only the resources but an obligation to remedy this ever-growing humanitarian crisis. Through humanitarian assistance, the United States has the ability to curb global instability for national security purposes. It is important to first understand how the United States can help refugees before looking at how to improve the current system.

U.S. refugee policy has historically set the standard for the rest of the world. However, modern policy has not evolved to meet the growing crisis at hand. It is crucial to continue the search for an adequate policy to end the push factors causing the refugee crisis and improve the quality of life for displaced people. The United States can accomplish this goal in two ways: by expanding upon existing humanitarian assistance and restructuring the United States’ current humanitarian system.

How the United States Helps Refugees and Displaced People

The United States has implemented a number of programs to improve the lives of refugees around the world. One such program is the Julia Taft fund. This program supports projects aimed at assisting refugees or refugee returnees to become self-sufficient in ways that are beneficial to their host communities. The fund provides financial assistance to local NGOs, community-based and faith-based organizations that seek to ameliorate the lives of refugees by improving economic conditions in their host communities.

With the support of the Julia Taft fund, the U.S. embassy in Chad helped open a salon in collaboration with a local NGO. The salon opened in April 2019, aims to reduce sexual violence against refugee women in urban areas. The 12 women selected for the project participated in an apprenticeship at a local salon and now have the skill set necessary to run their own business. This example demonstrates that the United States can use the fund to increase the self-sufficiency of displaced people while bringing value to the economy of the local host communities.

The implementation of programs, such as the Julia Taft Fund, demonstrates how the United States can help refugees. This fund provides refugees with the tools to be self-sufficient while also benefitting local economies. In order to continue and expand programs such as this, the U.S. must increase funding and the efficiency of its humanitarian aid delivery system. The United States sets the standard for humanitarian assistance to refugees. The United States must modernize this system for the benefit of global stability and national security.

How the United States Can Better Help Refugees and Displaced People

Increasing the capabilities of the United States humanitarian aid delivery system is crucial to managing the growing number of refugee crises. It is important to ask how the United States can help refugees and what the U.S. can do better to address this issue. The U.S. needs to empower its humanitarian organizations with increased funding and a sound organizational structure in order to address the changing needs of displaced people around the world.

In order to achieve a more efficient and influential U.S. humanitarian system, it is important to maintain and gradually increase funding to the State Department and USAID. The Trump administration is proposing cuts to both of these state entities. The proposed cuts would reduce funding by nearly one-third, from $8.7 billion to $6.3 billion. This potential decrease in funding would cripple the United States’ ability to effectively address the causes and mitigate the effects of refugee crises.

A well funded and autonomous USAID would be better equipped to implement humanitarian response programming for displaced people and their host communities. The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration would simultaneously remain an independent entity focusing on policy and diplomatic responses to refugee crises. This structure would act to create a cohesive diplomatic and humanitarian response to the growing number of crises that impact people around the world.

– Peter Trousdale
Photo: Flickr

Food security for refugeesAround the world, a record number of people have become forcibly displaced due to violence, natural disasters or a variety of other reasons. According to the U.N. Human Rights Council, 70.8 million people are forcibly displaced, and 25.9 million of those are considered refugees. At the same time, millions of people lacked food security around the world. The Peace Corps defines food security as “when families are able to afford and obtain enough nutritious food.” In 2018, more than 700 million people faced severe food insecurity.

Food security and refugee issues are deeply intertwined, as refugees are particularly vulnerable to becoming food-insecure. Worldwide, millions of refugees face food insecurity. Thankfully, many organizations are using their resources to create innovative solutions to provide healthy food to refugees who are not able to afford or access it. Here are three organizations that are improving food security for refugees:

African Women Rising

The Palabek refugee camp in northern Uganda hosts more than 38,000 refugees who have fled the brutal civil war in South Sudan. Humanitarian organizations have been struggling to find a long-term solution to food insecurity in the camp. While the Ugandan government allocates plots of land for refugees to farm on, these plots of land are usually too small for traditional farming techniques to work. However, the NGO African Women Rising (AWR) thinks it has found an innovative solution to malnutrition among refugees. In 2017, AWR introduced the camp to 30 by 30-meter plots of land known as “permagardens”.

AWR’s permagardens are specially cultivated in a way that allows them to maximize the number of crops, trees and plants that can be grown in them. It can take anywhere from a few months to a year to teach someone permagarden farming techniques. The total cost of developing, training and supporting a permagarden is just $85. The gardens primarily grow various fruits and vegetables, which provide vital micronutrients and vitamins that are not present in their monthly World Food Programme portions. Many other organizations are already starting to replicate the microgarden approach in refugee settings, including the U.N., the Danish Refugee Council and USAID.

Sunrise-USA

Sunrise-USA was founded in 2011 by a group of Syrian-American professionals and claims to be one of the world’s leading humanitarian aid organizations focused on victims of war inside Syria and in refugee camps in neighboring countries. In addition, to providing food security for refugees, Sunrise-USA provides refugees with healthcare, orphan sponsoring services, education, water and sanitation. The organization also helps Syrian refugees, who are mostly Muslim, observe Islamic religious traditions such as Ramadan, Udhiya and Zakat.

Within Syria, Sunrise-USA works to deliver badly needed food baskets to besieged cities. These baskets typically contain chicken, eggs, dates, oils, margarine, tuna cans, sugar and powdered milk, and only cost $45 to produce. While the city of Aleppo was under siege, the organization delivered over 5,000 food baskets, as well as two containers of jackets, sweaters and mattresses. Sunrise-USA’s “Feed Them” campaign has delivered food aid to 30,000 families in need and has provided milk and baby formula to 20,000 vulnerable families with children.

Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger)

Action Contre La Faim (ACF) is a French organization that works in more than 45 countries to treat and prevent malnutrition. For more than 40 years, it has provided various forms of food aid where it is needed most. Its 7,500-member staff currently assists 21 million people worldwide. The organization has responded to various humanitarian crises that have generated large numbers of refugees, including the civil wars that have taken place in South Sudan and Syria, as well as the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

In Bangladesh, ACF works to increase food security for refugees who have escaped into the country from Myanmar. Every day, the organization provides 83,000 hot meals and 551,497 liters of water to Rohingya refugees. The organization has also conducted malnutrition screenings for 100,000 Rohingya children and has diagnosed over 11,000 malnourished children. These malnourished children were then referred to ACF’s emergency nutrition programs for treatment through mobile clinics.

As the global refugee crisis continues to intensify, more and more organizations will need to come together to provide both short-term and long-term solutions to food security for refugees. These organizations have shown they are more than willing to rise to this task and have each made a measurable impact on the wellbeing of refugees around the world.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

Organized Crime in the Northern Triangle
Two previously published articles on The Borgen Project’s website have mentioned the issues of violence, poverty and corruption in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA). This article’s focus is on the organized crime in the northern triangle that engenders the violence and corruption, which includes street gangs, drug cartels and paramilitary organizations. Daily life in the NTCA is rife with immediate danger from many different sources.

5 Facts About Organized Crime in the Northern Triangle

  1. Gangs’ Influence: Gangs are a part of daily life, particularly for urban residents in the cities of the Northern Triangle. Gangs control swaths of city territory and young children must learn the boundaries from an early age—or risk being harassed, kidnapped, or even killed. In the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, gang violence is so common that the residents have adapted to it. Fortunately, there are local organizations (along with the help of foreign humanitarian aid) that are working to provide children with safe places where they can play without having to worry about crossing gang borders.
  2. Hard National Borders Exaberates Gang Activity: During the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the Northern Triangle became a focus of U.S. Policy—not for aid, but as a theater of operations in the War on Drugs. This led to a tightening of both the U.S. and Mexico’s southern border. Lack of adequate protection in Mexico and the U.S. put Northern Triangle migrants at risk of violence from paramilitaries and cartels, and detention and deportation from local authorities. Detention comes with its own set of health and safety risks, and deportation is tantamount to a death sentence for many migrants that were fleeing violence in the first place.
  3. Majority of Refugees Fleeing the Northern Triangle are Women and Children: Although there are several factors contributing to the surge of refugees coming from the NTCA, the two main ones are systemic poverty and the threat of gang violence. Many citizens of Northern Triangle countries live on less than $1.90 per day, making them extremely vulnerable to extortion from gangs which pose the threat of sexual violence and even death. In some cases, poverty leads to desperation for young men, prompting them to voluntarily join gangs for day-to-day security.
  4. Violence and Organized Crime in the Northern Triangle: In the last two decades of the 20th century, both Guatemala and El Salvador experienced violent civil wars that resulted in a major shakeup of the entire states’ power structures. Honduras itself was not involved in a civil conflict but the southern regions of the country were used as staging areas for the Nicaraguan contras during their rebellion against the Sandinista government in the 1980s. The end of the military conflicts instead led to a surge in criminal violence, with large numbers of armed and unemployed men forming their own paramilitary organizations, or finding work with street gangs and drug cartels.
  5. U.S. Deportations are a Direct Contributor to the Problem: While gang violence (both domestic and foreign) has been a consideration for the U.S. government for some decades now, methods differ on how to address it. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) usually deport any immigrant that commits a crime on U.S. soil, even if the deportee was not a member of a gang before deportation. This means they have limited recourse upon return to their home countries for reintegration, and tracking deportees after their return is difficult without information sharing. The lack of shared information is something that entities such as USAID and the State Department are hoping to address, via NGOs and independent commissions.

Organized crime in the Northern Triangle is one of the biggest obstacles to promoting stability and welfare in the region, exacerbated by many political and economic factors—the largest being the influence of international gangs. Corruption also enables many of the organized crime entities to operate with impunity, which in turn forces immigrants northward to flee threats of violence, extortion and forced recruitment. However, other articles have touched upon growing international visibility of the corruption—and efforts to fight it—in the Northern Triangle, and the spotlight on corruption has revealed the full extent of these gangs’ power and influence over the region.

In addition, U.S. Congress has introduced legislation targeted at addressing the root causes of migration from the NTCA which includes the threat of gang violence and organized crime. One such bill, the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act already passed in the House of Representatives in July 2019. Click here to encourage your Senators to support this bill when it is introduced in the Senate.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Notre-Dame RepairsThe cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is a cultural, religious, and architectural icon that has stood at the center of Paris for nearly a millennium. For many, this cathedral is a sacred place of refuge, an escape from the world or a childhood memory. On April 15, a fire nearly destroyed the cathedral, severely damaging the spire and roof of the building. In the aftermath of this tragedy, news headlines focused on the noteworthy flurry of donations from billionaires and small donors pledged to Notre-Dame repairs.

After reaching nearly $1 billion just days after the fire, several articles marveled at how easy it was to raise these funds when investing the same amount of money and public support for other pressing issues seems so difficult. In a few op-ed pieces, authors even expressed the sadness and disappointment of how vigorous the funding was to repair a church whose religion preaches helping the poor and oppressed. This begs the question of what else could $1 billion be used for? Here are five different ways the funds for the Notre-Dame repairs could have been used.

What $1 Billion in Aid Could Do Around the World

    1. International Aid: In 2017, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) spent more than $1 billion on agricultural aid worldwide, which includes investment in capital for agricultural and technological development. USAID spent a similar amount on maternal and child health worldwide to treat cases of illness and provide medical technology to assist in childbirth.
    2. World Hunger: Through local partnerships and government leadership, the Feed the Future Inititiaive spent roughly $3.3 billion in agricultural and rural loans between 2011 and 2017 to mobilize farmers and families in developing countries. The average spending per year for this program amounts to about half of what was donated to the Notre-Dame repairs ($0.5 billion), yet the progress made through this initiative has added an estimated value of nearly $42 billion in economic output.
    3. The Refugee Crisis: The Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has requested $783 million to aid the South Sudan crisis where there are an estimated 2.4 million refugees. It raised $783 million in just 24 hours after the Notre-Dame fire. The funds UNHCR has requested for the crises in the countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Afghanistan comes to around $879 million. That money would aid more than a million refugees collectively in the three countries.
    4. Homelessness: In Beijing, China, homelessness is an increasing problem. The Fengtai Shelter, located in Beijing, serves almost 3,000 people annually and receives just $1.2 million each year in aid from the government. With $1 billion, nearly 800 similar homeless shelters could receive $1.2 million in aid.
    5. Climate Change Relief: Alaskan residents have witnessed dramatic changes where whole villages have been sliding into rivers. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said relocating one such village, Newtok, would require anywhere between $80 to $130 million. Given this analysis, $1 billion could be used to relocate roughly ten such villages in Alaska, impacting thousands of people who are being displaced by increasing water levels.

Here are just five different ways that $1 billion could be used towards important problems in the world. These examples go to show the magnitude of what can be done with $1 billion to help the poor and oppressed. Although it is hearting to see so many people rally together to help with the Notre-Dame repairs, it would be an amazing leap to see that kid of dedication put towards humanitarian aid efforts.

Luke Kwong

Photo: Wikimedia Commons