Alleviate Poverty in Syria
Syria has been in a state of civil war for nine years, since March 2011. Dire consequences meet civilians from all sides; from danger and violence if they stay and closed borders due to an overflow of refugees if they try to leave. Due to this humanitarian crisis, poverty has affected more than 83% of the population. In this same vein, 8 million Syrian children are in need —both inside and outside the country. As of April 2020, the WFP reported that the cost of a staple basket of food has risen by 111% in comparison to the previous month, due to Syria’s COVID-19 crisis. With these factors at play, initiatives to alleviate poverty in Syria are a welcome respite.

While it may seem that good news is hard to come by, there are a few initiatives in Syria working against the effects of high poverty rates. They tackle these issues from several angles, such as rewriting stereotypes, entrepreneurial education, resource allocation and community development. Here are four initiatives that are working to alleviate poverty in Syria, today.

4 Initiatives to Alleviate Poverty in Syria

  1. MeWe International and the #MeWeSyria Movement: Rewriting Stereotypes – MeWe International Inc. aims to rewrite the narrative about poverty in Syria and Syrian refugees. By using communication skills and narrative interventions as tools, it encourages and promotes healthy psychological skills, leadership efforts and community engagement. The training networks are hosted within Syrian communities and gear toward refugee youth and caregivers, especially within the facets of mental health. Storytelling is a tool MeWe International uses to help people to heal, grow and dream of a better future within communities in poverty in Syria.
  2. The Remmaz and Mujeeb Programs: Entrepreneurial Education – Programs from 2016 and 2017 are continuing to focus on equipping the younger generations in Syria with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their country and support their communities. Leen Darwish founded Remmaz, which teaches students how to code. “This programme is providing young people in Syria with critical business, leadership and entrepreneurship skills and directly linking them to opportunities to generate income,” says Bruce Campbell, UNFPA Global Coordinator for the Data for Development Platform. Aghyad Al-Kabbani, Eyad Al-Shami and Zeina Khalili co-founded Mujeeb, an AI program that creates customer support chatbots in Arabic. Al-Shami quoted, “On the human side, it’s hard. It’s not about building the next Google. But I want to exist. I want to do something.” Their hard work has led not only to easier online communication for people in Syria but also to a great success story for other young, Syrian entrepreneurs. This is a great example of how to alleviate poverty in Syria from the inside.
  3. United World Food Program Initiatives: Resource Reallocation – The World Food Program USA (WFP) has brought a few innovative solutions to Syria that have improved quality of life and the procurement of resources. Technology has been a valued instrument through NGOs like WFP. Moreover, the extension of aid is very much necessary to alleviate poverty in Syria. To counter the needs of 11.1 million people, iris scans prevent robbery while truck convoys carry supplies to hard-to-reach communities. Furthermore, both bakeries and greenhouses (under construction) increase the flow and availability of food. The WFP feeds more than 4.5 million people inside Syria and more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees every month. By addressing hunger on this scale, the most essential needs of the poor are met. Further, they can slowly grow and rebuild their homes and businesses.
  4. UNDP Leaving No One Behind Resilience Program: Community Development – The 2018 Resilience Program based in Syria focuses on four large-scale areas to alleviate poverty in Syria. The initiative works to promote self-reliance through socioeconomic recovery, improving the quality of basic services. Also, it aims to reinforce social cohesion in the community and strengthen local partnerships. The interventions were able to reach around 2.8 million people and contributed directly to around 111,000. The area-based approach rated certain geographical areas by need and ensured that the most crucial needs were met first. The communities with the highest beneficiaries include Aleppo, Al-Hakaseh, Rural Damascus and Lattakia. One of the projects included the improvement of basic services to crisis-hit areas, and these services included:
    • Solid waste and debris management;
    • Repair of water, sewage and electricity networks;
    • Rehabilitation of local businesses;
    • Supporting clean and renewable energy sources; and
    • Emergency repair of electricity and infrastructure.

Washing Away the Stain of War

Two million Syrians alone have benefited from the improvement of basic services. The remnants of war and violence are being cleaned up and removed. Moreover, the stones in the debris that were removed from Bab Al-Hadid were collected on-site. Notably, these stones will be reused in future rehabilitation projects in the same area.

After nine years of civil war and the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, the contributions of these organizations provide relief to Syrians.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Pxfuel

Health App for Youth in Rwanda

Tantine is an app that has been developed for youth in Rwanda. It was created by Sylvie and Sylvain Muzungu Uhirwa to tackle the issue of lack of reproductive and sexual health information. A barrier to sexual and reproductive health information has teens in Rwanda vulnerable to unintended pregnancies and diseases, which can hinder their ability to complete their education as well as find stable employment in the future.

Sylvie and Sylvain Uhirwa are twin medical students at the University of Rwanda who originally won the Youth Spark Innovation Grant in 2015. This grant is an initiative from the Resilient Africa Network in Partnership with USAID and the Makerere University School. It has helped them to build a website containing reproductive health information as well as youth mentorship opportunities.

As one of four initiatives chosen at the iAccelerator challenge 2017, the pair received $10,000 to further develop Tantine. Half of the funds went to developing the Android app and website content, as well as to continue to advance and develop the platform.

The app was recently shared in the Mahama camp of 50,000 Burundian refugees. The app for youth in Rwanda, specifically in the camp, gives reproductive health information via the web. Tantine works with a medical professional and psychological team to deliver this education, mentorship and counseling services.

Sylvie has stated that members in the camp do not have consistent access to wi-fi and do not own smartphones, so “…that’s why we thought of bringing those tablets and establishing a centre where they come and then access the internet in the camp. So we are going to equip them with those tablets and then a router with wi-fi.”

Therese Karugwiza, a gender and human rights program specialist at UNFPA, has stressed the importance of Tantine also targeting youth who may not be in school, as it is crucial that they also have access to this information. By taking Karugwiza’s account into consideration, the Uhirwa twins are putting Rwandan youth on a multimodal track to better reproductive health.

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr

A Look at the Life of Dr. Osotimehin
On June 4, 2017, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, died in his West Harrison, New York home at the age of 68. He led the United Nations Population Agency.

Dr. Osotimehin amassed renown for his work with women’s sexual health and reproductive rights around the world. Additionally, he promotes the UN goals of “preventing maternal deaths in childbirth, meeting all demands for family planning, and eliminating harmful practices against women and girls.” Here is a look back at the rich life of Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

Osotimehin was born on Feb. 6, 1949 in Ogun State, Nigeria. He received a doctorate in medicine from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom in 1979. He became the Nigerian Minister of Health in 2008. In addition, his achievements include an award for the Nigerian national honor and Officer of the Order of the Niger. He also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to eliminate polio and other childhood diseases.

In 2011, Osotimehin assumed the position of the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund. This fund plays a significant role in providing health care and training to midwives to help women fleeing conflict in war-torn countries.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) funds programs that help mothers deliver babies during disasters. Additionally, it prevents violence against women and girls, and argue against female genital mutilation. Unfortunately, the UNFPA has been hit with a series of blows by the Trump Administration, including a $33 million funding cut.

“The world has lost a great champion of health and wellbeing for all,” the UN said in their press release of Dr. Osotimehin’s death. Nonetheless, the “UNFPA is dedicated to continuing Dr. Osotimehin’s grand vision for women and young people and will continue to stand up for the human rights and dignity of everyone, particularly the most vulnerable adolescent girls,” the statement added.

Dr. Osotimehin dedicated his life to helping women and girls around the world. Consequently, countless individuals will dearly miss him.

Kelsey Jackson

Photo: Flickr

5 Things That Will Happen When The US Cuts Funding to the UNFPA
In the late afternoon of Apr. 3 2017, the U.S. Department of State announced that it would end funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The international agency is focused on child health, family planning, maternal health and maternal mortality rates in more than 150 countries. Its mission statement states that it aims to ensure every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

A statement by the Department of State, dated April 4, said it was withholding $32.5 million in funding for the fiscal year 2017 because the UNFPA “supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” U.N. officials have warned the U.S. that cutting funding for this particular agency could cause catastrophe. Here are five things that could happen when the U.S. completely removes itself from funding the UNFPA.

Five Things That Could Occur When The US Cuts Funding to UNFPA

  1. Less Protection Preventing Delivery-related Deaths: The only maternity ward for pregnant Syrian refugee women who have crossed the border into Jordan, at the Za’atari Refugee Camp, is funded by the UNFPA. U.S. funding supports half of that clinic’s budget, meaning that when the U.S. cuts funding to the UNFPA, the maternity ward may no longer be able to support as many women. It might even lose children, something that has never happened before in this ward.
  2. Less Funding towards the AIDS Information Center: Joshua Wamboga, executive director of Uganda Network of Aids Service Organization, said UNFPA has been directly funding the activities of the Aids Information Center. He warned that when the U.S. cuts funding to the UNFPA, a number of activities run by AIC will stall. This will put many vulnerable Ugandan lives at risk.
  3. Defunding Sexual Education Programs: UNFPA also funds a group called Abriendo Oportunidades. UNFPA gave the organization a $100,000 grant in 2004 to open. The organization hires young indigenous women in rural areas, training them to become mentors who teach girls aged eight to 18 about their bodies and sexual and reproductive rights. In the communities that these women teach, menstruation is thought to be a sign of illness or impending death. The organization has reached 14,000 girls in hundreds of Guatemalan communities.

  4. Cut in Funding Programs Designed to Encourage Female Access to Education: In 2012, the cost per girl per hour of education was $1.02. When the U.S. cuts funding to the UNFPA, it will have an immediate effect on this organization’s reach and efficiency and will make it so that Abriendo Oportunidades will need to significantly reduce its implementation or seek supplemental funding in a disadvantaged environment.The UNFPA provides aid for more than 150 countries, most of which do not receive direct aid from the U.S. Reduction in its budget will translate to fewer resources for country-level programming, which in turn will not only restrict further progress in these areas but could cause countries to lose their momentum and jeopardize the achievements made so far.
  5. Possible Reduction in Life-saving Birthing Kits: The UNFPA has saved countless lives with birthing kits given to women in emergency situations. These include a clean tarp to lay down on, a clean tool to cut the umbilical cord and simple, basic supplies that reduce the risk of infections that can kill. When the U.S. cuts funding to the UNFPA, the production and assembly of these kits will decrease, putting many children and their mothers at risk. These kits have decreased maternal mortality rates.

Although most of the effects of the U.S. cutting funding from the UNFPA are negative, the UNFPA plans to continue with most of its programs. It has programs in more than 80 countries focused on equality and women’s rights that will continue to teach young boys and their fathers. It has investments going to midwifery that will yield a 16-fold return on investment. UNFPA teaches political leaders worldwide that sex education is important in their countries. And although the U.S. cut funding to UNFPA, the rest of the U.N. did not, and the U.N. will continue to fund one of its most important programs.

Rilee Pickle

Photo: Flickr