human trafficking in Syria
In March 2011, protests against the Bashar al-Assad regime began in Syria. Since then, more than 500,000 people have lost their lives. About 5.6 million people are refugees in Syria and 6.2 million people have experienced displacement from the war within the country. These factors make human trafficking in Syria for the purpose of both labor and sex more prevalent due to the Syrian people’s vulnerability.

The Situation

The Syrian government has not held anyone accountable for these crimes. In fact, the government is often complicit in trafficking. Traffickers often force children displaced within Syria’s borders into combat as child soldiers. On the battlefield, regime soldiers use children as human shields or suicide bombers. The regime soldiers also trap women and young girls into marriage or force them into prostitution.

Due to the size of refugee populations, surrounding countries have reduced the number of visas they grant, leaving refugees with no choice but to cross borders illegally. Doing so means their fate is in the hands of smugglers. But, staying in Syria would mean having to survive unconscionable levels of violence and struggling to attain even the most basic resources.

How to Prevent Human Trafficking in Syria

The U.S. Department of State laid out the groundwork for breaking the cycle of abuse in its 2019 report on human trafficking in Syria. The first step is to identify the victims as quickly as possible followed by holding the government of Syria accountable for its own part in the problem. In addition, the report determined that victims should not receive prosecution for any crimes they committed. The final stretch to ensuring human trafficking becomes part of the past is for all those guilty of trafficking to experience prosection. So far, Syrian officials have not enacted any of these policies.

A large part of the issue is that there are no official laws banning human trafficking in Syria. This makes it difficult to identify victims, let alone perpetrators. When prosecuting criminals (such as prostitutes or beggars), the Syrian government does not make efforts to differentiate between trafficking victims and true criminals.  Too often, it punishes people for crimes they would not have willingly committed. The government has not spoken out against human trafficking, making it easy for victims of human trafficking in Syria to fall through the cracks, especially given the state of the civil war.

The Implementation of Sanctions

The lack of attention that Syria has paid to human trafficking has put it at risk of facing American sanctions. This means that the country could potentially face steep tariffs or limits on trading with the U.S. Currently, Syria already faces sanctions due to its association with and sponsorship of terrorist organizations.

Sanctions only worsen the state of poverty in Syria, causing the prices of necessities and goods to skyrocket. Organizations such as Caritas aim to provide food and shelter to anyone who war has affected, but it is an uphill climb. Human trafficking victims receive assistance from organizations like Caritas, but only when victims come forward themselves. Syrian officials make no effort to refer victims to organizations that may help them.

Despite the efforts of the U.S. government and charitable organizations, human trafficking in Syria remains an alarming situation. The government of Syria prevents meaningful change by not taking efforts to aid victims or prosecute traffickers. In order for the situation to improve, the government must stand up to protect its own people. Until then, the state of affairs will continue.

– Maddey Bussmann
Photo: Flickr

Cotopaxi Foundation
The Cotopaxi llama, featured on backpacks, jackets and beanies, has come to stand for more than just a brand; it is also an ideal. Cotopaxi, named after an Ecuadorian volcano, is a Utah based company that produces gear, whether that is hiking gear or clothing. Cotopaxi equips customers to face their environment. However, Cotopaxi’s impact extends far past gear. Its company regards ethical production, sustainability and humanitarian efforts as pillars of its business model. Cotopaxi sends a message with its products for people to “Do Good” through its products and the Cotopaxi Foundation.

What Sustainability Means to Cotopaxi

Angie Agle is Cotopaxi’s Director of Impact and Community Marketing. In an interview with The Borgen Project, she defined sustainability as “operating in a way that will allow future generations the resources they need to secure happy and complete futures.”

Cotopaxi pushes a conscientious business model that limits its environmental impact. It exclusively uses materials with a design to limit waste, such as its signature llama fleece or recycled fabrics. These recycled fabrics mesh together to make each product unique. The results are backpacks or coats with bright colors that stand out in any crowd.

A rip or tear in a Cotopaxi product does not mark the end of its use. Instead of encouraging customers to replace older products with new purchases, Cotopaxi implements a repairs program. The damaged item is fixed and then either resold or donated. Any profits go to the Cotopaxi Foundation. The repairs program allows materials to stay useful and significantly reduces company carbon emissions.

Sustainability, per Cotopaxi’s definition, is consideration for the future. It is not limited to environmental issues but encompasses any and all efforts to help upcoming generations. Cotopaxi’s humanitarian efforts, for example, demonstrate a second way to be “sustainable.”

The Cotopaxi Foundation

Davis Smith, CEO and co-founder of Cotopaxi, cites his childhood as the inspiration behind his company’s philanthropic purpose. Before moving to Utah, he grew up in South America witnessing firsthand how poverty can affect a community. He told Deseret News, “The people I saw every day were just as smart as me, just as hardworking and just as ambitious, but had no opportunity.” He set out to address global poverty in his own unique way; through gear. Five years after Smith founded Cotopaxi, he created an adjacent foundation called the Cotopaxi Foundation to combine giving with hiking.

Cotopaxi allocates 1% of its funds to the Cotopaxi Foundation, which then distributes those funds among carefully selected grantees, meaning that a portion of every consumer purchase goes toward doing good. Cotopaxi’s grantees cover a wide array of well-deserving causes. These include:

  1. International Rescue Committee: Cotopaxi partners with the IRC to help refugees displaced from their home countries. Due to Cotopaxi’s location, its work with IRC generally focuses on the Salt Lake area, holding educational events and contributing to the Cotopaxi Refugee Scholarship Program. To go even further, Cotopaxi connects with refugees through the IRC to offer them employment. This idea originated with Cotopaxi’s long-held tradition of writing thank you cards to customers. As the company grew, thank you cards became an unmanageable task for the existing employees. Smith turned to refugees in need of employment to fulfill the card writing task and has not looked back. The card-writing program through the IRC now includes resume help, interview training and coding instructions to facilitate further employment opportunities.
  2. Fundación Escuela Nueva: FEN is working to address educational inequities around the world. It firmly believes in the power of education to give confidence and hope to an individual and community, fighting to make sure everyone has access to those benefits. With Cotopaxi’s help, it has successfully provided education to over 45,400 children around the world.
  3. UN Foundation-Nothing but Nets: Nothing but Nets is making a big impact with a simple solution. Bed nets protect people from mosquitos while they sleep and have saved millions of lives from malaria. Cotopaxi works with Nothing but Nets to expand its organization to include more Latin American countries and save more lives.
  4. Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps’ impact extends all over the world. However, Cotopaxi’s work with the Mercy Corp centers in Columbia and Venezuela, again paying homage to Cotopaxi’s Latin American roots and namesake. Its partnerships provide Columbian and Venezuelan refugees with assistance ranging from money to medicine.
  5. Utah Refugee Services: Cotopaxi works with Utah Refugees Services to help acclimate refugees to their new environment. Cotopaxi also takes crucial steps to make refugees feel at home and find work. It regularly employs refugees through its repairs program in order to welcome refugees to the community.

The Cotopaxi Foundation allows Cotopaxi to have a two-part function: gear and good or “gear for good” as it puts it. Its donating process, being revenue-based, is special because it creates customer involvement. In fact, the buying of a hiking backpack initiates the purchaser into the giving process. This involvement does not simply make the customer temporarily satisfied with themselves, but it also sets the example of giving back and inspires further change.

Ismael: A Life Touched by Good

Ismael arrived in Utah after fleeing his home country of Uganda and spending two years in a Kenyan refugee camp. His new home offered a new set of challenges as he adjusted to the newness of everything. However, Cotopaxi met him with support, offering him a position as a thank you card writer while he looked for a more long-term occupation.

Ismeal now works as a supervisor over multiple Paradies Lagardère–owned stores. In regards to the help he received from Cotopaxi and its IRC partners, Ismael said that “They showed love for refugees … I was so amazed. Without them, it would be very hard because you know nothing.”

His story is one of many. Cotopaxi continues in its mission to leave the world better than it found it. It sustainably produces gear that hikers trust and give back to their community through the Cotopaxi Foundation. Every backpack or tent with the Cotopaxi llama emblem is inspiring change and doing good.

Abigail Gray
Photo: Flickr

Canada’s Foreign Aid
In 2019, the last year Canada released a complete set on Canada’s foreign aid budget and distribution, its budget increased by 4.9% from the previous year to $4.6 billion. The top five countries that Canada distributed aid to were Ethiopia ($203 million CAD) followed by Bangladesh ($199 million CAD), Afghanistan ($197 million CAD), Syria ($150 million CAD) and Mali ($140 million CAD). Canada has consistently taken part in providing foreign aid during this time period when global health is almost an unavoidable topic and has been one of many countries to step forward to combat the pandemic. Here are five successes of Canada’s foreign aid.

5 Successes of Canada’s Foreign Aid

  1. COVID-19: Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has not only helped fight the virus globally by limiting case counts in its own country, but also by providing funding to vital health organizations and countries. For example, the Canadian government has provided $2 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to assist with vulnerable countries’ preparation plans. Additionally, Canada has further committed $50 million to the WHO, continuing to help with global health efforts surrounding the effects of COVID-19. Canada has also provided China with 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment to help squash the outbreak at the epicenter. Finally, the government is also collaborating with international health regulators like the European Medicines Agency and the United States Food and Drug Administration to find suitable countermeasures to the virus and help vaccine development.
  2. Global Poverty Reduction: Canada’s foreign aid has also gone toward global poverty reduction over the last 30 years. For example, Canada launched the Development Finance Institution as part of Export Development Canada with the aim of increasing private sector investment in developing nations. The government committed $300 million toward this program and the private sector funding will prioritize initiatives in the private sector to back women and youth-led movements. The Canadian government is also trying to create more responsive programs like challenges, micro-funding and other incentive-based funding schemes.
  3. International Disarmament Efforts: Canada also uses its foreign aid in a leadership capacity to guide international disarmament efforts. The country made these strides following the 2001 9/11 attacks that sent shockwaves around the world. For example, Canada was one of the founding members of the G8 Global Partnership Against the spread of weapons and Material of mass Destruction initiative, originally receiving a budget of $20 billion over a 10 year period. Additionally, the former G8 partnership turned G7 led collective has further provided $25 billion in concise and clear programming to aid in disarmament efforts worldwide since the group’s original founding in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Canada has also made a flagship-level contribution with the G7 led Global Partnership program by personally contributing $1.5 billion in projects to aid disarmament methods.
  4. Refugees: Canada is also implementing some of its foreign aid work back home by helping relocate refugees from Iraq and Syria to Canada. In fact, the country welcomed 25,000 refugees by February 2016, along with a further 25,000 refugees by the end of 2016. Canada has also either processed or is still in the midst of processing all the privately sponsored Syrian refugees who applied for amnesty by March 31, 2016.
  5. Sanitation: Canada’s foreign aid has also gone to international clean water measures. Some of Canada’s more notable support projects in developing nations include providing $40 million in funding to the African Water Facility, creating water infrastructure in post-war countries. Canada also gave $17.9 million to Ghana’s Enhanced Wash which allowed communities and schools better water, and the ability to practice better hygiene and further sanitation. Finally, in Peru, Bolivia and Burkina Faso, Canada supplied $17 million to the Food Security Innovation and Mobilization Initiative which allowed communities in these countries to have access to innovative technology. Some of this new technology included water pumps, but altogether the technology aided food security during the dry season.

While Canada has been a major player and helped many nations through foreign aid, Canada is still failing to meet the 0.7% Gross National Income (GNI) target G8 countries committed to by some distance, with only 0.27% GNI committed as of 2019. Canada still has room to improve, not just to alleviate global poverty, but to make good on the promises it made as part of the G8.

Sean Armstrong
Photo: Flickr

4 innovative solutions that are helping refugees

In the world today, there are nearly 26 million refugees who have been forced to flee their homes due to persecution and ongoing conflict. Refugees are among the world’s most vulnerable populations and are at risk of severe physical and mental health repercussions. Despite the limited access to resources and the substandard conditions that refugees face daily, advancements and innovations in refugee camps have eased these burdens. In times of strife and hardship, people can create something extraordinary and beneficial for society. Here are four innovative solutions that are helping refugees manage life in refugee camps.

4 Innovative Solutions Aiding Refugees

  1. Last Mile Mobile Solutions (LMMS), a World Vision program, was created to improve efficacy and accountability in humanitarian service delivery. This innovative technological solution ensures that aid recipients are tracked without error, rations are precisely calculated and dispensed and online reports are immediately accessible for stakeholders and donors who are at the base of key operations. LMMS also helps address issues affecting aid deliverance, including prolonged wait times, inaccurate tracking of supplies and inventory and errors in allotments to families. This program has been established in more than 30 countries by 20 different humanitarian groups, registering more than 10 million aid recipients.
  2. In Jordan’s Za’atari camp, Syrian refugees are converting caravans into serviceable facilities, such as shops, homes and furniture. A 2014 study asserts that nearly 64% of Za’atari’s businesses work from caravans. It is also estimated that approximately 10% of women in Za’atari are operating craft-making and other businesses from these adaptable vehicles. Most of the shops’ shelving, signs, and general household items are made from the same wood paneling that comes from these caravans’ flooring. Through the conversion and adaptive use of caravans, Syrian refugees have shown that there are creative ways to use the resources available to them to obtain a higher quality of life.
  3. Community kitchens in camps such as the Kutupalong refugee camp are equipped with gas stoves, allowing many refugee mothers to feed their families nutritious food and minimizing the dangers of cooking with an open fire. This innovative solution is a frugal choice when it comes to getting daily meals. Because of its implementation, refugees do not have to buy firewood and can better allocate their money toward food and other necessities. Beyond this, community kitchens are much more than safe areas to cook and affordable cooking alternatives. These are places where women get together and empower each other to become leaders in their communities, help each other solve problems and make informed decisions for their families’ well-being.
  4. Hand-made dynamos have changed the tides in Kenya’s Kakuma camp. Kakuma is not connected to the national power grid, so homes and businesses depend on solar power and generators to generate electricity daily. William, a Burundian installation expert, has been the go-to mechanic for dozens of business owners who need electricity in the camp. He once used an old treadmill to build a dynamo and has been redesigning the devices based upon the accessibility of resources, including fans and condensers from trashed air conditioners. In his workshops, William trains refugees so they can bring a set of general skills to meet the challenges in refugee camps.

Refugees and allied partners have shown their resourcefulness and resilience when placed in challenging situations. Many refugees do not allow the substandard living conditions they must reside in to hold back their desire to change the unfavorable systems and their circumstances. Refugees have demonstrated that innovative solutions come in many forms and that building community is key to improving refugees’ quality of life.

—Sarah Uddin
Photo: Flickr

Malaysian RefugeesAlthough the majority of Malaysian refugees reside in or near the country’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur, thousands live outside this area and struggle to access urban centers for crucial services. As a result, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has opened its first outreach and community center outside Kuala Lumpur.

Refugees In Malaysia

Nearly 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with the UNHCR across Malaysia. Currently, refugee community groups estimate that tens of thousands more reside in the country undocumented. Rohingya Muslims make up the majority of Malaysia’s refugee population. Malaysia currently hosts the largest number of Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia. Other refugee populations originate from countries such as Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

Rising Hostility

Although initially supportive of refugees and asylum seekers, Malaysia has become increasingly hostile towards these vulnerable populations. For example, the country is not a signatory to the 1953 UN Refugee Convention. This means it does not recognize the legal status of refugees and asylum seekers. Classified as illegal immigrants, refugees in Malaysia risk arrest, detention, and deportation. Xenophobia towards foreigners has risen in recent years. Many now view Rohingya refugees as a threat to the nation’s social, economic, and security systems.

Malaysia’s refugee populations are especially vulnerable to aggressive crackdowns on immigration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Malaysian authorities have increased immigration arrests in refugee and migrant neighborhoods and turned away nearly 30 boats of displaced Rohingyas since the virus began. Human rights groups warn that the virus could spread through the country’s overloaded immigration detention centers, and reduce the likelihood of refugees seeking coronavirus treatment. The Malaysian government’s COVID-19 relief package excludes refugees despite their need for food and essential services.

The Johor Outreach and Community Centre

As there are no refugee camps in Malaysia, most settle into urban areas of the greater Klang Valley Region including Kuala Lumpur. However, thousands of refugees live outside this region and struggle to access urban UNHCR centers. These refugees have to travel long distances just to access crucial services. UNHCR is working to make essential services accessible to refugee communities living outside Kuala Lumpur through the establishment of outreach and community care centers. The refugee agency has recently opened a model outreach center in Johor, a southern state near Kuala Lumpur, and plans to develop more centers across Malaysia in the coming years.

The Johor Outreach and Community Centre (JOCC) will make essential services accessible to over 16,000 refugees in Southern Malaysia. This will save these vulnerable communities over three and a half hours of travel time and excessive bus fare costs. Moreover, the outreach center is life-changing during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it will bring vital services to Johor’s refugee population while preventing the movement of people and gathering of crowds in urban areas.

The JOCC will be managed by Cahaya Surya Bakti (CSB), a partner of the UNHCR. Since 2013, the Malaysian-based NGO has provided community-based support to Johor’s refugee community. CSB works to ensure the education of refugee children in Johor and develop resilient communities through the establishment of schools, refugee empowerment programs, health services and outreach initiatives like food distributions. The JOCC will help CSB strengthen its existing community-led initiatives and provide a safe space for refugees throughout the state.

The Importance of UNHCR Documentation Services

Outreach and community centers provide critical UNHCR registration and renewal services to Malaysia’s refugee populations. Registering with the UNHCR provides refugees claims of asylum and identification as “Persons of Concern”. UNHCR cards demonstrate official identity and refugee status and are usually respected by Malaysian authorities, protecting refugees from illegal immigration arrests. In addition, UNHCR cards incentivize businesses to employ refugees in the informal economic sector and reduce the foreigner’s fare at public hospitals. Refugees are deemed illegal immigrants with no rights if their UNHCR card is not updated every five years. The JOCC will make UNHCR registration and renewal services more accessible and prevent card expirations from upheaving the lives of Johor’s refugee community. The center will also provide accurate, up to date information on refugee protection in Malaysia, as well as available services.

Looking Ahead

The JOCC is a symbol of hope for refugee populations outside Malaysia’s urban areas. Expanding UNHCR outreach and community centers across the country will give refugees greater access to documentation and essential services. Therefore, this is a vital step in enabling them to contribute to society and rebuild their lives.

Claire Brenner

Photo: Flickr

alphonso daviesAt the age of 19, Alphonso Davies has become the face of Canadian soccer and one of the most highly regarded left-backs in the world. After winning two Bundesliga titles, two German Cups and Bundesliga Rookie of the Season for 2019-20, Davies became the first Canadian to win the European Champions League, club soccer’s most coveted prize. Although the teenager’s incredible skills already shine throughout Europe, his journey from a refugee camp to the soccer stadium is an even more fascinating tale.

Born in a Refugee Camp in Ghana

The Davies family is of Liberian origin. Alphonso’s parents, Debeah and Victoria Davies, once lived in Monrovia, the nation’s capital. When the second civil war broke out in Liberia in April 1999, the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) besieged the capital city. The war caused numerous deaths and displaced more than 450,000 Liberians from their homes, including the Davies parents. They soon fled their homeland and arrived in Buduburam, Ghana. Sheltering in a refugee camp, they struggled every day to find clean water and food. Additionally, as Dabeah Davies recollects, he sometimes had to carry guns just to survive. It was into this difficult life that the little Alphonso was born, in the refugee camp on November 2, 2000.

The Canadian Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP)

By the end of the twentieth century, there were approximately 18 million refugees and counting in the world. The global refugee problem is particularly serious in Africa, which harbors nearly half of the world’s refugees. Liberia, for example, was among the countries generating the most displaced persons at this time.

Without external assistance, life as a refugee would have appeared hopeless. Fortunately, the Davies family learned of the Canadian government’s Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP). This initiative helps international refugees resettle in Canada by providing direct financial support and other essential services. These include port of entry and reception, temporary accommodation and life skills training. The Davies family filled out forms, completed an interview and successfully relocated to Ontario when Alphonso was five. They eventually settled down in Edmonton, Alberta.

The Soccer Starlet

As a child in Edmonton, Alphonso Davies first played soccer in school teams. He then played through Free Footie, a local after-school soccer league for elementary schoolers who cannot afford registration fees, equipment or transportation to games. The coaches immediately discovered Davies’ talent and helped him make rapid progress. Davies joined the Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Residency program at just 14 years old. One year later, he made history as the first player born in the 2000s to play Major League Soccer (MLS). In 2017, only weeks after having obtained his Canadian citizenship, Davies received the call from the Canadian men’s national team. He then became the youngest player to ever play and score on the national team.

The once-in-a-generation talent soon attracted interest from European clubs as well. In January 2019, Davies joined FC Bayern for a then-record transfer fee of $13.5 million. After his soaring season in Germany and strong performance against Chelsea and Barcelona in the European Champions League, the world  knows this soccer star by name. On the Champions League Final night, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, congratulated Davies on Twitter. Trudeau wrote: “A historic moment – you made Canadians proud out there.”

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Despite gaining global recognition as a soccer prodigy, Davies’ feet are rooted firmly on the ground. He has not forgotten the hard days he faced or the help he received. During his 2018 speech at a FIFA Congress, Davies recounted his moving journey from being a refugee in Africa to a professional soccer player in Canada.

Davies also collaborates with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), endeavoring to inspire more refugees using his own story. In April 2020, in support of UNHCR’s COVID-19 appeal, Davies and fellow soccer player from refugee camp Asmir Begović held an eFootball PES 2020 live stream tournament. Their aim was to raise funds for the U.N. Refugee Agency’s COVID-19 response. This initiative ensures that national health plans include refugees and give them access to necessities like soap and clean water.

“I want to use my platform for causes that I care about,” said Davies. “As a former refugee myself I am very grateful for the help my family received, and the opportunities this opened up for me and where it has brought me. I hope that whilst people are keeping themselves and their families safe, they can also help support refugees who have lost everything.”

The success and promising future of Alphonso Davies as a soccer starlet from a refugee camp are beyond inspiring. Talent shines everywhere, so long as it can grow in an environment of support. With growing amounts of governmental and organizational assistance for global refugees, it is not irrational to expect success from young resettled people from all walks of life.

– Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

ngos in lebanonBordered by Syria, Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon is a Middle Eastern nation of almost 7 million citizens. Its history has only grown in complexity since it gained independence from France in 1944. Lebanese people have faced civil war, political and economic instability, border disputes and human rights violations into the present day. Thankfully, many NGOs in Lebanon work to address these issues. NGOs have supported the Lebanese people in suppressing terror, promoting gender equality, ending militarization, advocating for human rights and recovering from the Beirut explosion. Paramount to Lebanon’s security and future are not just improved government and policies, but also these NGOs on the ground.

Terrorism

In 2019 alone, four major terrorist groups posed an ongoing threat to Lebanon’s national security. Three acts of terrorism that year sparked an unprecedented governmental and legislative response. Lebanon is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and recently launched a national Preventing Violent Extremism Coordination Unit. However, the Lebanese people’s long-standing lack of trust in government remains. This is where NGOs in Lebanon come in.

Since 1985, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an American NGO, has promoted peace in Lebanon. The NGO identifies Lebanese entities actively promoting terror from within the government, such as Green Without Borders. The institute proposes counteracting these entities from abroad by publishing research and pushing policies for financial transparency. Its work is therefore vital to an effective government free from ties to terrorism.

Gender Inequality

Even though Lebanese women got the right to vote in 1952, gender inequities and violence remain among Lebanon’s most critical issues. In 2020, Lebanon ranked 145th among 153 countries in closing the gender gap. This ranking represents variables such as economic participation, educational attainment, health, survival and political empowerment. With women holding just 4.7% of parliamentary seats, NGOs in Lebanon are working to pave the way for female representation in government to empower marginalized citizens.

While global humanitarian groups have funded many gender equity campaigns in Lebanon, NGOs in Lebanon, like the feminist collective Nasawiya, spearhead much of the cultural change. Nasawiya advocates not just for the humane treatment and representation of women, but also for all genders and identities within Lebanon. With 11 projects underway, Nasawiya lobbies the Lebanese government and provides resources for women affected victimized by gender violence.

Militarized Justice Systems

Although Lebanon is officially a unitary multiparty republic with a parliamentary system of government, its justice systems are increasingly militarizing. Lebanon’s controversial pattern of suppressing peaceful civilian protests has garnered international attention as its use of military courts grows. In Lebanon, trials in military courts lack qualified judges, permit torture-induced confessions as evidence, issue inconsistent and lengthy sentences and fail to deliver due process. This affects more than just adults. Indeed, the Union for Protection of Juveniles in Lebanon identified 355 children tried before the military courts in 2016 alone.

As the line between the Lebanese justice system and the military blurs, prosecutors have even brought charges against human rights lawyers and activists who oppose them. NGOs like Helem, which advocates for LGBT rights, are working to hold courts accountable to their victims. The International Center for Not-For-Profit Law and other NGOs in Lebanon have launched further investigations into Lebanon’s militarized courts. By publicizing records and providing credible research, they promote justice in Lebanon.

Migrant and Refugee Rights

An estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees and over 250,000 migrant workers from neighboring countries reside in Lebanon. Unfortunately, exclusionary immigration and refugee policies have created a human rights crisis. Migrant workers and refugees in Lebanon work in unregulated conditions, lack permanent residency and are victims of mass evictions. In 2017, 76% of refugee and migrant households lived below the poverty line. Additionally, 77% experienced food insecurity and 36% lacked an employed family member.

NGOs in Lebanon like International Alert advocate both for reforming the justice system and improving refugee and migrant rights. International Alert promotes policies targeted at improving legal conditions for these marginalized populations in Lebanon. Care, another NGO, also works on the ground to provide interim resources and housing for refugees and migrants in Lebanon.

The Beirut Explosion

When 3,030 tons of ammonium nitrate stored near a port in Beirut caught on fire and exploded in early August 2020, at least 200 people died, over 6,000 were injured and several hundred remain missing. The severe damage inflicted on some 70,000 homes left an estimated 300,000 Lebanese homeless. The Lebanese Red Cross met a large part of the urgent need for humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people affected by the explosion. This NGO has provided free medical care to over 23,700 people  through 36 health centers and nine mobile medical units.

The Lebanese Red Cross is also providing shelter for 1,000 displaced families and is expanding to help a projected 10,000 families. Additionally, the organization provides families with food, water, masks, gloves and other supplies. Another facet of this NGO, the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program, reconnects separated families. It also provides mental health and counseling resources for victims.

NGOs in Lebanon Continue the Fight

While the Lebanese people continue to suffer from a legacy of conflict, instability, inequality and oppression, NGOs are working hard to help mitigate these critical issues. NGOs in Lebanon strive to improve human rights to help bring peace and prosperity to this Middle Eastern nation.

– Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sudanese RefugeesMany refugees in Sudan fled on foot to Egypt to escape violent and impoverished conditions in Sudan. About 3.8 million Sudanese refugees currently live in neighboring Egypt, which is a popular destination for Sudanese refugees because the country is accessible on foot and the refugees are still able to receive help from relatives. Egypt is a close destination and for some, it is a stopping point before they attempt to flee to Europe, which is an even more dangerous route. Although they may flee to Egypt, however, many face adversities of discrimination and poverty once there.

Sudanese Refugees

Many Sudanese flee their home country to other regions of Africa due to political conflict and economic turmoil. Refugees in Sudan escape their country on foot to neighboring countries. When the first civil war started about 60 years ago in southern Sudan, Sudanese refugees began to flee to Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Many individuals have fled for different reasons; some flee to obtain better rights, but in particular, many flee to escape religious persecutions. One Sudanese man was targeted due to his Christian faith and the police told him to renounce his faith. The Muslim faith is prominent and individuals who practice the Christian faith have suffered persecution. Since he continued to believe in his religion, the man went to jail where he faced beatings and torture. After spending weeks in jail, the Sudanese man fled to Cairo, Egypt.

Sudanese Refugees Face Discrimination in Egypt

Many refugees in Sudan flee to Egypt resulting in a burden on resources. Overall, Egypt hosts millions of refugees who flee their country’s terrible conditions, only to face racism in Egypt. Some Egyptians will call Sudanese refugees slaves and other ethnic slurs. Some have faced harassment that brings up traumatic memories and flashbacks of violent conditions they experienced in Sudan, including torture and rape. Sudanese children are sometimes bullied in school. Egyptians and even refugees from other countries exhibit this behavior.

Some individuals in Egypt recognize there is a problem and acknowledge that Sudanese refugees are negatively treated. The president of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi calls for his citizens to take action and to not mistreat Sudanese refugees. In 2018, an Egyptian court sentenced a man to seven years in prison for harassing, beating and killing a South Sudanese teacher who worked with refugees in Cairo.

Sudanese Refugees Face Poverty in Egypt

More than 5 million refugees in Sudan left their country to escape poverty but have subsequently faced financial hardships in Egypt. Sudanese refugees in Egypt are provided with 1,500 Egyptian pounds (LE) for every child from the United Nations through the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), with no additional assistance from the state. Thus, it is difficult for the refugees to pay for schools and other expenses. At the same time, it is difficult for a Sudanese refugee to find work in Egypt, even for those with higher education, since the residence permit does not allow work. Many who do find jobs work by cleaning houses and shops.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many refugees in Sudan have faced an increased level of previous hardships. A fifth of foreigners were vulnerable and lost their jobs from the COVID-19 lockdowns in Egypt. In addition, many Egyptians have lost their jobs and in return have been forced to let go of migrant workers from Africa and Asia.

A Sudanese charity has financially helped more than 500 struggling families whose breadwinners have lost their jobs. Eviction has been a major problem for Sudanese refugees in Egypt, some of whom are attempting to return home.

Many Sudanese refugees escape their home country, only to face similar problems. Impoverished conditions continue to follow them within Egypt, although many strive to work harder in the new country. Organizations within Egypt need to help to eliminate discrimination against Sudanese refugees to alleviate their added struggles.

Ann Ciancia
Photo: Flickr

 COVID-19 in Sudan
Sudan, a country in northeastern Africa, has weathered a civil war that resulted in the creation of South Sudan, a coup d’état and food shortages, all within the last decade. The results of these events include a stunted healthcare system and an influx of refugees, which has affected the nation’s response to the coronavirus. With the number of cases reaching tens of thousands, Sudan’s leaders must find a way to keep citizens and refugees safe from the virus. Here are six facts about COVID-19 in Sudan.

6 Facts About COVID-19 in Sudan

  1. As of August 2020, the number of cases in Sudan is continuing to rise. The total number of cases is over 13,000, with 833 deaths. Most of the cases are in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. Since March, the virus has spread to all 18 regions of the country. This is alarming because rural areas do not have the same access to healthcare as the cities.
  2. Sudan’s healthcare system was fragile before COVID-19 entered its borders. Before 2020, an estimated 9.3 million out of Sudan’s 41.8 million people lacked basic healthcare and were in need of humanitarian assistance. With the coronavirus pandemic in full force, community resources and previously accessible services are limited. For migrants and displaced communities, losing what little healthcare they did have puts them at greater risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
  3. The government has restricted movement within the country. Since healthcare infrastructure is still being built, the government is taking containment measures into its own hands. While lockdown restrictions have eased in Khartoum, a curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. is still in effect for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, though a handful of internal borders reopened and are resuming bus transportation, wearing face masks and social distancing are still required. As of August 2020, Port Sudan International Airport remains closed for entering and exiting the country; however, Khartoum’s airport is open for repatriation flights of Sudanese citizens stranded abroad because of the virus.
  4. At the same time as the pandemic, Sudan is experiencing heavy flooding, the worst in a century. As of September 2020, 125,000 refugees and displaced persons are suffering from these floods. Most of the flooding is in regions of East Sudan, Darfur, White Nile and Khartoum. As a result, makeshift shelters, latrines and buildings were destroyed, heightening the risk of disease in general, let alone the risk of COVID-19 in Sudan. Without access to latrines and clean water, many refugees in these communities are unable to wash their hands regularly, an essential COVID-19 prevention measure. Additionally, since the roads are too muddy for transportation to get through, these communities are not receiving the much-needed aid as quickly as they should.
  5. Luckily, global aid organizations are responding to this call for help. Working with the Sudanese government, the UNHCR is providing emergency aid to the refugees and displaced communities across the country. They predict the results of this flooding will be long term and have successfully appealed for support in this endeavor.
  6. Turkey is also assisting in Sudan’s battle against the virus. The organization Turkish Red Crescent’s donation has 1,236 items, including ventilators, masks and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. Irfan Neziroglu, Turkey’s ambassador to Sudan, welcomed the donations when they arrived by way of an airplane in Khartoum.

Sudan was already enduring the aftermath of a war, political unrest and food shortages before the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of that, unprecedented flooding destroyed the lives of over 100,000 refugees and displaced Sudanese. However, this has not stopped the nation’s efforts to contain the virus to the best of its ability. With help from humanitarian organizations, COVID-19 in Sudan will hopefully decline.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr

UNRWA
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was specifically created to help Palestinian refugees after the 1948 Israeli-Arab war. The Palestinian refugee problem has only grown since its formation, so the U.N. has allowed the agency to continue operating.

Palestinian refugees are unique. Every person who was a resident or a resident’s descendant of what is now Israel all have a legal designation as ‘refugees.’ UNRWA now serves four generations of Palestinian refugees, having grown from serving 750,000 to 5.6 million.

The United States Pulls Funding

The United States pulled its funding from UNRWA in 2018. President Trump cited the reason behind the defunding as the agency’s incompetency. The United States had previously been contributing about $355,000 million of UNWRA’s budget.

The United States’ decision affected refugees who rely on UNRWA’s aid for education, health care, protection and basic human needs like food security. In 2017, reports determined that 39% of Palestinian refugees lived in poverty, and very little effort has occurred to assimilate Palestinians into host communities.

Palestine, Israel and the international community, in general, see the United States’ choice as an effort to delegitimize UNRWA and the 5.6 billion Palestinian refugees it serves. Revoking these generations of Palestinians’ refugee status would take away their right to return to their homeland.

Aftermath of Funding Removal

In 2020, the U.N. extended UNRWA’s mandate to the year 2023. However, UNRWA is still struggling financially. Not only did it appeal to the international community to donate a minimum of $1.4 billion for the yearly budget, but it requested another $14 million for COVID-19 emergency aid.

The UNRWA reported that it can only sustain operations until May 2020 with the added health crisis that COVID-19 brought on. It has only raised one-third of its budget. UNRWA’s director stated that the UNRWA must run on a “month to month basis” enduring the biggest financial instability since its creation.

Pleas for Help

The United States made the suggestion to transition the UNRWA’s responsibilities into the hands of the Arab countries that host Palestinian refugees. However, these nations are struggling to fill their own funding gap. Arab countries are suffering from high poverty rates and an influx of refugees from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

UNRWA has also sought the help of NGOs, such as Islamic Relief USA, to fill the funding gap. This is a faith-based organization that works to raise funds and mobilize volunteers for a range of initiatives including UNRWA. It has been helping Palestinian refugees since 1994. Islamic Relief USA has served 1,077,000 people from 2017 to 2019.

The United States government might have cut off funding to UNRWA as a result of flaws within the agency. It might have hoped to delegitimize the Palestinian right of return. Either way, Palestine’s impoverished people need UNRWA’s support. If UNRWA is not successful in gaining new donors, they will lose their access to education, health care and other necessary securities that are human rights.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr