EUs Progress in ChadThe European Union (EU) is one of the major donors to Chad, a country where 46 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The reasons for the high amount of people living in poverty include the fact that the country finds it difficult to accommodate the more than 300,000 refugees it houses, occasional droughts destroy food security and there is poor healthcare and inefficient farming techniques. In 2018, the EU’s progress in Chad stems from providing more than $74 million in humanitarian aid to Chad.

Influx of Refugees

With more than 46 percent of Chad’s population living in poverty, it’s difficult for the government to even provide aid to the native population. The EU is helping Chad by providing basic needs, such as healthcare, food, shelter, water and sanitation. It also provides care for refugees, host communities and internally displaced people. The refugees arrive from neighboring countries Sudan and the Central African Republic, amounting to more than 300,000 refugees fleeing to seek protection and job opportunities in Chad. Though Chad doesn’t have the capacity to take care of these refugees, outsiders like the EU, are providing aid to those in poverty.

Agricultural Practices

Another way to show the EU’s progress in Chad through its focus on agricultural self-sufficiency and self-reliance. More than 80 percent of Chad’s labor force involves agriculture. Agriculture also accounts for half of Chad’s GDP. One major way EU is helping Chad prosper is by providing efficient and sustainable farming techniques. A lack of capital has created a major strain on the government helping its citizens, so the EU is also helping by providing financial assistance.

The country of Chad is divided in half by the Sahara Desert in the north, the Savanna in the south and the Sahelian belt in the center where the transition from desert to Savanna takes place. The environment makes it difficult to farm, and poor farming practices contribute to poverty conditions. The government of Chad believes the future lies in the mobilization of the private sector, including improving the business environment concerning agriculture and mining. The EU’s involvement is helping to improve the lives of millions of people in Chad who struggle to find clean water and produce an adequate amount of crops.

Seeds for Solutions is a project aimed at helping host camps and villages. This project is located in the eastern portion of Chad where Sudanese refugees and Chadians work together to cultivate crops. The region is arid, but the fields are provided daily water thanks to an irrigation system maintained through solar energy. The advanced farming technique helps yield a greater output of crops. About 70 percent of harvested crops are sold, and the farmer’s family then consumes the rest.

Training Programs

In partnership with the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Lutheran World Federation, the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations helped to create a vocational training center where people are taught masonry, carpentry, mechanics and sewing. Estelle, a young Chadian woman, is one of the hundreds of Chadians taking part in the program. “In our country, women are in the field or in the kitchen; I want to participate in the construction of my village and my country,” stated Estelle during her nine-month training at one of the four vocational training centers in the country.

The UNHCR and its partners are involved in hosting income-generation activities for refugees and citizens. The IT centers are involved in teaching sewing, masonry and carpentry, and have more than 300 students. The income and products from these activities enable the people to accomplish the EU’s goal of improving self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

The EU’s progress in Chad is visible through the many programs implemented to help alleviate poverty. Although conditions in Chad are still far from perfect, the EU is providing some important resources to help improve the lives of the people in the country.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Women RefugeesGlobally, various disasters and conflicts displace approximately 68.5 million people—half of whom are women—and force them to turn to refugee camps in order to fight for survival. But these women refugees are not on their own.

A global campaign, “Girls’ Education and Empowerment,” is headed by a nonprofit organization known as Girl Rising. Girl Rising sheds light on refugee crises which affect women and girls the most. Since 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows that a multitude of factors, such as persecution, violence, conflict, natural disasters and human rights violations displace refugees. Of the millions of refugees, more than 50 percent are under the age of 18.

Girl Rising: Examples of Progress

Upon the launch of the global campaign in the year 2012, Girl Rising’s goal was to change how people value and invest in girls and girls’ potential. To complete this goal, the organization created a media-driven campaign and grassroots programming with on-the-ground partners in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For 2019, the organization wants to expand its on-the-ground partners to include Kenya and Guatemala. To date, results for Girl Rising’s efforts include girls re-enrolling in school, parents deciding against early marriage, girls learning their rights and teachers creating gender-equal classrooms.

Release of “Brave Girl Rising: A Refugee Story”

As a way of bringing awareness to challenges faced by refugee women and girls, Girl Rising produced and launched a film titled “Brave Girl Rising: A Refugee Story.” Released on International Women’s Day in 2019, the 20-minute film told the story of a 17-year-old girl, Nasro, in Dadaab refugee camp, one of the world’s largest refugee camps. In order to capture the true, raw reality of life in these camps, Girl Rising wrote and made the film in collaboration with other refugees.

One of the founders of the Time’s Up movement and powerful women’s advocate, Tessa Thompson, is the voice of the film. Poet, Warsan Shire, was in charge of writing the screenplay. To promote the film, the social change agency, Amplifier, had the street artist, Ashley Lukashevsky, create art. The film also received support from the projects founding partner, Citi.

In collaboration with Girl Rising, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) had a hand in the creation of this film. The IRC is an organization that works to respond to humanitarian crises. The committee helps to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing and power to people who have been greatly affected by conflict and disaster. They engage with girls, their parents, caregivers and community leaders to combat harmful gender norms and practices.

Many people and organizations have come together to bring awareness to refugee crises and women refugees in creative ways. The continued advocacy and fight to end these crises has to be consistent and passionate to make a change.  

– Lari’onna Green
Photo: Google

Refugee Food AssistanceFor more than 60 years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has upheld its commitment to end global poverty, providing desperately needed refugee food assistance today. USAID works in more than 100 countries. It primarily provides humanitarian assistance, promotes global health and supports global stability. All around the world, more than 25 million people face refugee crises. And among these 25 million people, more than half are young children.

Food Assistance

USAID assists refugees by providing emergency refugee food assistance to 25 countries. In particular, USAID’s food assistance reaches Lebanon, Jordan, Ethiopia, Chad, Uganda and Bangladesh. One of the world’s biggest refugee camps lies in the southeastern corner of Bangladesh, in Cox’s Bazar. There, an estimated 868,000 Rohingya refugees seek safe haven. In order to escape western Myanmar, refugees must travel on foot through forests and turbulent waters. Often times, refugees do not have enough food for the trip and witness the deaths of loved ones. By the end of this journey, many refugees have nowhere to live and no source of living. Fortunately, USAID’s programs offer assistance.

Furthermore, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace and the United Nations’ World Food Programme partnered to assist those seeking peace, who lack a home and food. USAID and WFP provide packs of high-energy biscuits as meal replacements for arriving refugees. Moreover, USAID gives WFP resources to buy rice from Bangladesh’s national rice reserve. However, it takes time to distribute food to refugee camps. USAID even supports CARE International, which provides U.S. imported food to Cox’s Bazar.

Relief Tactics

Altogether, USAID programs lay out plans for permanent and stable recoveries using four types of relief tactics. Firstly, USAID provides locally and regionally purchased food, which is more quickly accessible than imported food. Secondly, if local food is unavailable, USAID provides U.S.-grown food. Thirdly, if imported food distorts local prices, USAID offers paper or electronic food vouchers. These vouchers allow refugees to purchase local food and support local communities. Fourthly, if more flexible solutions are required, USAID supplies cash, mobile or debit card transfers.

Beyond relief tactics, USAID helps improve global stability. Every year, USAID assists more than 40 to 50 million people worldwide with emergency food assistance. In 2018 alone, USAID gave more than $690 million to help refugees around the world. Overall, numerous countries benefit from USAID. By providing refugee food assistance, USAID plays a huge role in helping millions living in extreme poverty.

Fita Mesui
Photo: Flickr

War in SyriaSyria’s civil war has been raging on for eight years now. The conflict has created a huge population of 5.7 million refugees in critical need of humanitarian assistance. The resulting humanitarian crisis is one of the worst the world has seen in recent years. Several organizations are on the ground trying to provide humanitarian solutions for the victims of war in Syria.

Syrian Democratic Forces

Recently, the Islamic State (IS) made its last stand to desperately hold on to the last tiny piece of territory it has, a small town in Eastern Syria called Baghouz. In September 2018, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) initiated what they hope to be their final military push to reclaim IS turf. The operation has been excruciatingly slow and deadly.

Civilians are struggling to slip out of the militants’ grasp and into the global humanitarian community. The SDF is working to help extract the civilian families out of the last holdout of IS fighters. It is believed that several thousand people are still huddled together in the final IS enclave. The people pouring out of Baghouz to seek shelter from the war in Syria pose a huge humanitarian challenge.

Almost 40,000 civilians have already left the diminishing IS territory, but the flow was severely interrupted when IS fighters closed off all exit roads. IS extremists were obstructing civilians from escaping, using them as human shields from airstrikes. Now, small groups of refugees sneak out into humanitarian corridors with the help of smugglers. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a humanitarian organization working to help refugees escape the war in Syria and to monitor refugee movements.

Save the Children

Children escaping from the war in Syria are especially in need of humanitarian assistance. Beyond food, health services, education and other basic needs, child refugees require mental health services. Syrian refugee children consistently show signs of psychological trauma. Save the Children is striving to provide necessary services for Syrian child refugees. Among other things, they are working to establish recreational spaces and centers for unaccompanied children in the refugee camps. They provide mental health and socializing services in a safe environment for war-weary children.

According to Save the Children, the war in Syria has made it the most dangerous country in the world for children. In Syria, 5.3 million children need humanitarian assistance. Children are not only the victims of violence but also the targets of abduction and recruitment into armed groups. In three refugee camps in North-East Syria, there are more than 2,500 children from at least 30 different countries.

There is much work to be done, and Save the Children emphasizes that the organization is in dire need of more support. Extra funding is necessary to provide case management and protective services for more children. Foreign children need their countries of origin to facilitate repatriation. Save the Children urges the international community to help preserve family unity and aid those returning to their countries of origin from the war in Syria.

Other Humanitarian Organizations

Humanitarian organizations help 700,000 people each month in North Eastern Syria. In March, Brussels will host a pledging conference to raise more funds for humanitarian aid to Syria. In 2018, various nations collectively raised $5 billion for Syrian relief. In Syria, the United Nations aid feeds around 3 million people each month, and U.N. medical assistance has treated nearly 3 million patients.

The U.N. and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been cooperating to transport and deliver large amounts of aid to refugee camps in Syria. On February 6, the largest of such shipments arrived in Rukban, a refugee settlement in the demilitarized zone established by the major warring parties. The majority of Rukban’s inhabitants are women and children. The convoy included 133 trucks loaded with food, health and nutritional supplies, hygiene materials, education items, children’s recreational kits and vaccines. The aid came at a critical time to help save the lives of at least 40,000 people who live in the settlement.

The Syrian Society for Social Development (SSSD) is another humanitarian organization working to enhance the lives of marginalized Syrians. They improve and provide schools, community centers, safe spaces, elder care facilities and other communal programs. Since the beginning of the conflict, they have been able to increase the scope of their assistance in both geographical range and by the number of people helped. Their programs have benefitted more than 1 million people.

There are organizations doing everything they can to help Syrian refugees survive and return to a peaceful life. Thanks to the efforts of thses humanitarian organizations, refugees, who have been surrounded by airstrikes and extremist violence, have shelter against the harsh Syrian winter.

Peter Mayer

Photo: Flickr

Special Education in refugee camps
Lack of education is a contributing factor to the cycle of poverty. The 1989 ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’ and the 1951 ‘Refugee Convention’ emphasizes the fact that access to education is a basic human right. However, approximately half of the world’s refugee children are out of schools. Access to schooling becomes increasingly difficult when countries enter conflicts and develop refugee camps.

The United Nations passed the ‘Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ in 2006. The declaration clearly stated disabled peoples’ right to an education. This right is only accessible in 28 percent out of 193 states, and although there are many initiatives to support special education in refugee camps, further support is needed to help refugees with disabilities obtain and maintain the education they need.

Classification of Disabilities

Disability can be categorized into two branches: mental disability and physical disability. A mental disability is any mental disorder that affects the everyday life of an individual, and examples include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, intellectual disabilities and schizophrenia. A physical disability is an impairment of the body and/or a person’s motor abilities. These are either acquired at birth or as a result of a traumatic experience and include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and amputations.

Obstacles Faced by Refugee Children

Special education in refugee camps is not an easy task to accomplish, and there are many obstacles that refugee children with disabilities must face in order to receive an education. The first obstacle is very simple to notice — the challenge of getting to school. In many large refugee camps, there are typically no more than a few schools that children can go to and children usually walk to school. For people with physical disabilities, transportation can pose a great problem, especially as most infrastructure is not built to accommodate disabilities. For example, an 8-year-old girl named Hayam lives in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan and suffers from muscular dystrophy. Hayam had to take a quarter-mile walk to her school every day, and her illness made this very difficult.

Another obstacle for people with disabilities is the misunderstanding of physical and mental disabilities in many communities. In many cases, people are taught to fear and look down on people who have disabilities. There are situations in which parents of able-bodied children do not want to have students with disabilities in the same classroom as their child for fear that their child’s education will be harmed.

Furthermore, integration into schools for refugee students can be a difficult task due to political, cultural, religious or linguistic differences. It can be extremely hard for schools to deal with these differences and misconceptions if they lack necessary resources, and such status is incredibly harmful to refugee children with disabilities as it can make it very difficult for them to receive schooling. Refugees are also likely to have PTSD and other related mental disorders due to witnessed trauma, and such effects can harshly affect education if there are no treatments for mental disorders that make it difficult for children to pay attention in class or attend school at all.

Organizational Support

UNICEF and Mercy Corps helped 100 students in the Za’atari refugee camps in Jordan. The two organizations have given wheelchairs to students who have physical disabilities and cannot walk. In another part of the world, the Karen Women Organization (KWO) works in Burma to support special education in refugee camps and rights for the disabled. Not only does KWO aim to ensure increased levels of education, but the organization also aims to support and expand care to children who have disabilities and educate the community.

In 2003, the KWO started the Special Education (SE) Project that runs in every Karen refugee camp. SE Project gives instruction to teachers in the schools and families at home to fully maximize the disabled child’s well-being and reach their goal of integration into society. KWO also helps to combat the misconceptions by creating various activities and workshops for those who are able-bodied and those who are not.

A nongovernmental organization helping refugees receive mental healthcare is the International Medical Corps (IMC). The IMC knows that mental illness is a huge limiting factor for education and they work to make sure there are ways that refugee children can acquire treatment. The group works with local partners in refugee camps to create spaces to talk and provide activities for children and adolescents to develop healthy habits and create relationships. IMC connects children to local youth support and sets up sustainable mental healthcare.

An Unalienable Right

Education is an unalienable right of every person, and special education in refugee camps is crucial for enabling the most endangered people to achieve this right. It is critically important that various organizations and governments continue to build systems that support the abilities of all, especially those most vulnerable.

– Isabella Niemeyer

Photo: Flickr

South Sudan Refugees The South Sudan refugee crisis is Africa’s largest and one of the world’s largest refugee crisis. In April 2018, there were 296,748 South Sudan refugees recorded and around 1.76 million were internally displaced within the country. Although there has been a recent promise of peace and end of the current ongoing civil war in the country that caused these migrations, it is still unsafe for the displaced people to return home.

Difficulties for Return

Although some conflict has subsided in parts of South Sudan since the promise of peace in September, some aid organizations are deeming it unsafe for refugees to return to their homeland. These organizations also believe it is highly unsafe for women and children to return to South Sudan. Around 65 percent of women and girls in the country have reported being sexually assaulted. This, in addition to the high rate of children who have experienced some sort of violence or trauma, creates a hostile environment for vulnerable refugees.

The other factor is that those internally displaced, who are the most likely to return home, have not been adequately informed about their return options or that a safe journey has not been completely planned for them. There is also not sufficient planning for the long term in potential returns areas to provide ongoing aid. There is significant aid manipulation within the country as some armed groups have been known to redirect aid meant for civilians and use it for their own purposes. The government has even restricted aid from certain communities by insisting on that area’s instability.

UNHCR Help

However, the UNCHR has offered an aid solution, rather than having these refugees return to an unstable environment. The organization has recently appealed for $2.7 billion to aid refugees in their host countries and the internally displaced people. Many of the refugees in host countries are living in crowded and unsustainable conditions. In some areas they are only able to access five liters of water per person a day, many schools are without teachers and health clinics are without either doctors or medication. This strain of resources has caused tensions between the refugee and host communities.

The money proposed by the UNCHR plans to help make the communities shared by host nations and refugees sustainable by providing adequate resources for the mass influx of people. The organization believes that social cohesion between the two groups is the key to allowing them to survive and eventually thrive.

Work of the Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also been providing great aid to South Sudan refugees. The organization has been focusing on helping food insecure communities in South Sudan and its host countries by providing emergency relief and sanitation facilities. They have also provided these communities with the means to provide for themselves by equipping them with seeds, farming tools, and fishing nets.

As the UNCHR, ICRC, and other organizations work to help South Sudan refugees and displaced communities become stable and fit for survival, they provide these people with the hope of a safe and meaningful return home. These refugees desperately need aid so that they can survive in their new communities and come back to their home country.

– Olivia Halliburton

Photo: Flickr

Art for Refugees
Throughout history, art has been a respite for many who lived through trauma. Refugees live their lives in an almost constant state of precarity. Refugee children typically have a higher rate of experiencing many mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Art for refugees can help them express their feelings, grow in self-confidence, and develop problem-solving skills. There are a number of art initiatives which aim to help refugees cope with psychological stressors. Some are located in refugee camps, while others are located in resettlement cities, but they all have the same goal of providing an outlet for expression. Some such initiatives are listed below.

The Za’atari Project

The Za’atari Project is an art therapy program started by Joel Artista in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. Za’atari is composed of Syrian refugees. This project serves as a bridge between the Jordanian and the Syrian communities and serves as a way to foster further understanding.

Adult artists and educators team up to create programs to enhance the lives of children living in refugee camps. These programs are both expressive and educational. They teach children about topics such as health and hygiene all while fostering healthy ways of articulating feelings. These projects include painting murals, wheelbarrows, tents and kites that allow the children to play.

The Exile Voices Project

Exile Voices is a project started by renowned photographer, Reza. This project offers a photography program to refugees in the age group of 11 to 15 in the Kawergosk camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Exile Voices aims to tell refugee stories through the voices of refugees themselves.

Partnered with the UNHCR, Reza set out to empower these children on how to use the most powerful tool that they have–their own voice. Photographs from many children in the Kawergosk camp were lined along the Seine River in Paris, France in 2015 to show people the importance of art for refugees.

Art for Refugees in Lebanon

In 2017, 1 out of every 6 people in Lebanon was a Syrian refugee. This put significant pressure on schools to make the resources available for education. To tackle rising tensions in schools, the Skoun Association started an art therapy program within schools to help refugee and Lebanese students express themselves in healthy ways.

The art therapy program allows the students to overcome the trauma they experienced and helps to strengthen social bonds. It allows students to see themselves as children first. It also helps them forget the places of disconnect.

The Amsterdam Painting Project

In Amsterdam, refugees are housed in the Bijlmerbajes prison. The Amsterdam Painting Project aims to turn the prison space into something more welcoming, one that is full of renewed hope and life. This project aspires to serve as a bridge within the community and empower refugees to become more involved with one another.

The project was founded by Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn. These two Dutch artists set out to promote community art by improving living conditions. The Project is funded by the Favela Painting Foundation, a group that has also completed projects in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Florence, Italy.

Clothes, food, shelter and other basic necessities will always be required in refugee camps or in resettlement cities. There is, however, also a need to ensure the mental wellbeing of refugees and create an outlet for them to share their experiences. Art is an excellent way to create this outlet. It allows refugees to tell their own stories and to express themselves productively. Most importantly, the idea of ‘art for refugees’ is one of the most effective ways to heal those minds that have been traumatized for a long period of time.

– Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Lebanon

While the Syrian civil war and other conflicts in the Middle East continue to make international headlines, the refugee crisis caused by these conflicts has slowly faded from the public eye. Many countries around the world are now focused on more immediate internal problems. For Syria’s neighboring countries, though, the refugee crisis continues to be an impactful part of their society.

Lebanon is one of these countries. This country shares most of its land border with Syria, and this made it an obvious place for war refugees to flee. The government has allowed many to remain in the country. Estimates say that there are still more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and this is only part of the country’s refugee population.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Life for Syrian refugees in Lebanon today is complicated, to say at least. While they are allowed to stay within the country, a combination of unfriendly government policies and heavily-strained infrastructure mean that few can maintain a high quality of life. Residency laws are difficult to navigate, leaving many fearful of arrest and open to exploitation.

Good work is hard to find, and 71 percent of Syrian refugees live below the country’s poverty line. This lack of financial resources helps explain why more than 200,000 refugee children were kept out of school in 2016. This education gap will only lead to more economic vulnerability in the long term.

Compounding these difficulties is the legitimate strain that 1.5 million refugees put on a Lebanese population that totals only six million. The Lebanese residents of some host communities are outnumbered by refugees. Since the start of the crisis, government spending and debt have risen while GDP has dropped and expenses have mounted. The economic troubles have heightened perception of refugees as a drain on Lebanese society and many want them to return to Syria. Of course, many Syrians would like to return home as well, especially given the conditions in Lebanon.

With the war continuing to progress, though, the United Nations does not recommend that refugees return. President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and his government continue to make returning difficult even for those that would like to take the chance. Beyond the obvious physical danger of the ongoing conflict, a strict military draft and the threat of property seizure for the many refugees who are left without formal documentation for their homes are harsh deterrents for many people.

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

It’s important to note that Syrians are not the only refugees in Lebanon. A population of around 270,000 Palestinians has settled in a few dozen U.N. camps around the country. Many of these people (or even parents of these people) have been in Lebanon since the Palestinian war in 1948. Today, these camps are essentially considered permanent settlements, and their longevity is part of what has inspired a more aggressive governmental push to ensure that Syrian refugees are only settled temporarily.

Palestinians in Lebanon have always been considered a separate legal class, with restricted access to certain public facilities, educational paths, careers and job opportunities. Many are forced to take low-paying, informal jobs.

The Syrian crisis has made life even more difficult for them, as both refugee groups must now compete for the same undesirable jobs. In 2015, 23 percent of the Palestinian population in Lebanon was unemployed. That number was only 8 percent before the crisis. Conditions are even worse for the 33,000 Palestinians who were living in Syria and have since become refugees in Lebanon as 93 percent of these people are reliant on U.N. aid as their primary source of livelihood.

International Aid for Refugees

While international news has largely moved on from the crisis, international aid continues to be involved in Lebanon and other similarly-strained countries. Thousands of families receive aid from U.N. groups, nonprofit organizations and other groups like the World Bank, to supplement governmental support and their own limited personal resources.

These sources of aid can be effective at reducing poverty, but many have been geared at short term solutions so far. As budgets and international aid dry up, support for the refugees in Lebanon will likely be most effective if it focuses on the long term effects. Groups like Habitat for Humanity are hoping to improve living conditions by building new homes and renovating old buildings as well as water and sanitation facilities. The UNHCR also has plans to shore up Lebanese infrastructure as part of the international effort.

However, with the instability in the region and the ongoing pressure to return to Syria and Palestine mounting, permanent solutions may not be a winning political idea in Lebanon. Time will tell, but in the meantime, it is vitally important not to forget the millions of people- Syrians, Palestinians, Lebanese and others- who are still impacted by the Syrian refugee crisis.

– Josh Henreckson

Photo: Flickr

Lampedusa, migrants
In 2016, more than 65 million people were displaced around the world. While a majority of these people were displaced within their own countries, millions still fleed to search for a new home. Many of them tried and successfully reached Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In popular media, the island Lampedusa began to appear in tandem with the migrant crisis. This article will answer the questions of what is Lampedusa and how it is involved in the refugee crisis.

What is Lampedusa?

Lampedusa is an eight square mile island located in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located roughly 70 miles from Tunisia, which actually makes it closer to Africa than Europe. It is a part of Italy and is populated by approximately 6,000 people.

In recent years, thousands of migrant arrived in Lampedusa. In 2013, over 13,000 migrants came to this small island by boat. This is a sharp decrease from 60,000 people that passed through the island in 2011. However, this large influx of migrants continues and puts a large pressure on the island. What is Lampedusa doing to house migrants?

Lampedusa, being a tiny island with a very small population, does not have the resources or the housing to hold the sharp influx of migrants. The remnants of an old naval base are used to help house migrants while they wait to get sent to another part of Italy to have their case heard.

However, this base only has a capacity of 800 people. In some cases, it used to house thousands of migrants. Migrants are supposed to stay for only a few days on the island but reports have shown that most of them stay for two to three weeks before leaving. During the day, migrants wander the streets since the shelters are only meant to be used during the night.

Migrant’s Health Problems

Many migrants contract diseases in their journeys to Europe due to the fact that they are in overcrowded boats, vans, buses and rafts for long periods of time. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health recently released a study examining migrants headed to Italy and Greece and nearly 40 percent of the participants reported that they contracted an illness in their route to Europe.

Migrants also suffer stress and trauma in their journeys since many are mistreated and abused by smugglers. Some also witness deaths of people traveling with them due to dehydration or suffocation in rafts. If migrants are arriving in bad conditions, what is Lampedusa doing to help them?

Although Lampedusa lacks resources, that does not stop locals from providing food, blankets and other forms of hospitality towards the groups of migrants arriving. The people of the island are helping those who arrive in every way possible, directly affecting poverty reduction of migrants. In 2011, 2014, and 2016, the island was nominated for a Noble Peace Prize for the locals’ generosity.

The Order of Malta

From the more administrative side, the Order of Malta helps Lampedusa with the rescuing and health treatment of migrants that arrive by sea. Since the Orders’ involvement with Lampedusa, it has rescued over 55,000 people. The ships also provide medical services to migrants. Between 2008 and 2013, the Order of Malta provided medical services to over 4,000 people.

As the migrant crisis continues the situation in Lampedusa remains critical. While the people of Lampedusa and the Order of Malta continue to help migrants that arrive, they lack adequate resources to meet all of the migrant’s needs.

However, it is important to acknowledge the work that is being done. It shows that even though Lampedusa is overstretched, its people and communities are still willing to help and harbor migrants in their search for a better life in Europe.

– Drew Garbe

Photo: Flickr

International Rescue Committee

At the end of 2018, a year unfortunately marked by natural disasters and violent conflict, the global community is looking for ways to cope with international extreme poverty levels measuring at 10.7 percent and provide help for the 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.

Recent figures published by the U.N. Refugee Agency reveal how almost one person is forcibly displaced from its home every two seconds as a result of the conflict, persecution or natural disaster. This vast number of people struggle to access and achieve basic human rights such as education, health care and employment.

According to many in the humanitarian field, this problem is expected to continue and even increase. Natural disaster-related displacement and impoverishment are expected to increase as a result of increasingly severe natural disasters as a product of climate change.

The International Rescue Committee

Although the situation is grim, there are numerous organizations and institutions fighting to safeguard the rights of impoverished and displaced people throughout the globe. One such group, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), has done so since 1933 when it was founded on the suggestion of a prominent group of American intellectuals that included the German-born physicist Albert Einstein.

The IRC, located in the United States, is a humanitarian nonprofit organization that has a mission to respond to humanitarian crises and support the people that are affected by crisis recover from their losses. Operating through 191 field offices in over 30 countries, the IRC has a broad diversity of projects underway that attempt to effectively address crises.

In 2017 alone, the organization helped nearly 23 million people access primary health care and provided 1.14 million children with schooling and other educational opportunities. In addition to their international efforts, the IRC also works in 27 cities in the U.S. in order to help newly settled refugees adjust to life in the country.

How the International Rescue Committee Works

The International Rescue Committee prioritizes evidenced-based impactful programs, fast and effective rescue and relief efforts and follows what they call better aid strategies. The IRC differentiates itself from other nongovernmental organizations with its commitment to ensuring that each of the aid or relief programs it runs are based upon solid, appropriate evidence or is at least contributing to the creation of new evidence.

Additionally, in terms of speedy response, the group has pledged to organize health care, distribute cash and deliver clean water within 72 hours of a disaster. “Better aid“, as the organization describes it, represents refocusing of aid and relief strategies to make quantifiable improvements in the areas in which the organization works (health, economic well-being, safety, education and power) while also being cost-efficient and effective.

Practically, this means devoting more time and energy to cash transfers that have been proven to effectively help people in need at a quicker pace and at lower costs. This also means adhering to evidence-based practices that make the most impact for a limited amount of resources. Additionally, the IRC is focusing on updating the way the humanitarian community approaches protracted displacement.

Protracted Displacement

Protracted displacement refers to the increased duration of displacement and refugees separation from home. The longer-term of refugees staying in host communities have posed a challenge to the traditional mold of humanitarian assistance and has pitted refugees in a burdensome relationship to their asylum governments.

In the International Rescue Committee’s effort to address protracted displacement, the organization is advocating for the advancement of a new model that connects international institutions, donors, refugee host-governments and nongovernmental organizations in a combined effort to shape longer-term sustainable development that incorporates displaced populations not as liabilities, but as contributors in a new economic partnership.

Interventions by outside bodies in the form of providing access to capital, employment, cash transfers and other strategies can uplift displaced communities and help them recover economically while at the same time benefiting host-governments by creating a new labor force willing to work for their place in the country. With new creative planning, like the one being done at the International Rescue Committee, mutualistic relationship between refugees and their hosts can be formed.

Hope for Tomorrow

In the years to come, it is highly unlikely that the crises of poverty, displacement and conflict will dwindle. With the effects of climate change creeping in upon us, bringing stronger and more frequent natural disasters, conflict and higher numbers of displaced people, there’s much work to be done in addressing the problems that will follow.

In that regard, the forward-thinking work being done by the International Rescue Committee and other similar organizations to rethink humanitarian relief strategy is an uplifting piece of news. Hopefully, it signals the impoverished and displaced people of the world that they are not forgotten.  

– Clarke Hallum

Photo: Flickr